REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Advice to my 3-year-old self from the future:

1) Don’t put Barbie in the microwave.
2) Alistair Cookie is your mentor. Watch him. Glean from him many morals.
3) Remember: Play-Doh hamburgers are not actual hamburgers, even when you dip them in Ranch dressing.

Somewhere down this list, I’d probably put, “Try, just try, to eat your carrots.” While I always liked my broccoli, it’s the carrots that gave me grief as a kid. They’re sweet, but stringy. Woodsy, but super “orange-y.” Absolutely mushy when overcooked, but slap me sideways when done right. I hate them. But I love them.

So I’m celebrating my love/hate relationship. And celebrations demand sugar and sugar demands cake and cake demands to be deep-fried. That’s the scientific chain of events, right?

Well, that’s what Krispy Kreme thinks with their newest iteration on deep-fried toroids, all gussied up to resemble carrot cake.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Deep fried cake of vegetables

Devotees of the dense cake doughnut, celebrate: this dough is a solid cake specimen, sturdy enough for the deepest dip in your tea/coffee/milkshake. While perhaps a smidge dry, it’s chock full of a cinnamon-sugar-honey sweetness accompanied by specks of raisin nibs and carrot shreds that give it a little zing. Said carrot and raisin nibbles may not be abundant in number, but are present enough to add their trademark sweetness without making the doughnut taste like Old McDonald’s Farm.

And the frosting. It’s everywhere. On the doughnut. On my fingers. On my elbows (how did it get there?). I love it. The film of cream-cheesish frosting/glaze on top is a smidge tangy, but mostly adds a sugary sweetness that rounds out the out-of-season (but still delicious) blend of fall spices. There’s even a sheen of regular sugar glaze beneath the cream cheese icing for extra sweetness. All this melted sugar leaves a slight film of oil and glaze on your hands, but, so long as you have some napkins and don’t wear neatly pressed white linen gloves all the time, this shouldn’t be a problem.*

*I just realized: Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny will both have this problem. Take off your gloves, guys!

What’s better is, as you make your way to the center, you uncover the crispy little bit in the middle of the doughnut’s ring. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that ring where the doughnut hole was carved out. It’s crunchy, sweet, gooped with frosting, just on the cusp of being burnt. My favorite. This is why I spend them dolla dolla bills.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Yes, that is a mug from the Museum of the History of Tow Trucks

In an unofficial endorsement of the food pyramid, Krispy Kreme is providing you with a prime opportunity to overachieve in your life by consuming both fruit (raisins) and vegetables (carrots) via cake.

Unless my taste buds are undergoing some sort of reverse trauma from a hyperglycemic fit, the end result was tasty: the cake was cinnamon-y, the carrots were present without being stringy or overbearingly “orange-y,” the cinnamon and nutmeg gave some subtle spice, there was deep-frying going on, a few raisins splattered here and there added chewiness, and the tangy frosting added some cheesy zing. I may have even detected a hint of citrus zest in there? Oh, Krispy, you sneaky, conniving, brilliant conglomeration. Not a perfect ‘nut, but pretty good.

(Nutrition Facts – 340 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut
Purchased Price: $1.10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Krispy Kreme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Solid cinnamon cakey goodness. Deep-fried. Cream cheese icing. Sugary glaze. Chewy raisin bits. Good for dipping. Fulfilling fruit/vegetable requirement via cake. Morals gleaned from Alistair Cookie.
Cons: Cake gets a little oily. Could maybe use more carrots/raisins. Crestfallen pineapple lovers. Reflecting on the foolishness of my three-year-old self. Consequences of putting Barbie in the microwave.

REVIEW: Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King

Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King

I thought what made Burger King’s Big King special was its middle bun AND the thousand island-style dressing. It turns out I’m as wrong as the guy who bids $75,000 for a Price is Right Showcase that consists of a year’s supply of sunscreen, two jet skis, a trip to Hilo, Hawaii, and a 2014 Kia Forte.

With the release of Burger King’s Mushroom & Swiss Big King, I learned the special sauce isn’t so special. I also learned the middle bun is the crown that make a Big King a Big King.

In case you can’t see everything in that blob of fast food ingredients above, the Mushroom & Swiss Big King features two beef patties, sautéed mushrooms, a slice of Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, a sesame seed bun, and the important middle bun.

Mine also ended up with a rogue slice of American cheese, but there’s no thousand island-style dressing. Of course, I’m pretty sure adding a sweet and tangy sauce to a mushroom and Swiss burger would’ve been gross.

And now that we know it’s the boring middle bun that makes a Big King a Big King and the thousand-island dressing isn’t there to stifle creativity, I expect Burger King to create many Big King variations in the future. Perhaps the Whopper has passed the variety burger baton to the Big King, so we’ll soon be seeing a Rodeo Big King, a Texas BBQ Big King, and a Western Big King.

Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King Topless

As you can see above, the burger is loaded with mushrooms. Okay, maybe you can’t see them all in that overzealous application of mayonnaise. But I assure you there were a lot of them because I could feel all the mushroom rubberiness in my mouth.

When I ate the Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Grillers back in the 2011, I complained about it having too much mushroom flavor. But with the Mushroom & Swiss Big King, I’m going to complain about it having too little mushroom flavor. Yes, there was some here and there, but with that many mushrooms, I expected almost every bite to taste like I was nibbling on Papa Smurf’s house.

I’m going to blame the mayo.

While the mayonnaise does a great job at preventing mushrooms from falling out of the burger and making the Swiss cheese slice feel more melted than it really is, it also does a good job at making this burger taste more like a mayonnaise and Swiss burger than a mushroom and Swiss burger. Having less mayo might’ve helped, but those sad, rubbery mushrooms didn’t have a lot of flavor to begin with.

Overall, the Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King is a mediocre burger and I think someone should take away its crown. It’s not horrible because the beef patties had a pleasant meatiness to them, and even with all that mayo, the sandwich wasn’t messy. But it tastes like a simple double cheeseburger that accidentally had a few mushrooms dropped onto it during the lunch rush.

(Nutrition Facts – 560 calories, 37 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 760 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King
Purchased Price: $4.39
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Lots of mushrooms. Mayo does a great job at preventing mushrooms from falling out. Decent beef patties with good flavor. Winning a Price is Right Showcase.
Cons: Lots of mushrooms don’t have lots of flavor. Mayo does a great job at preventing mushroom flavor from standing out. The middle bun being the reason why a Big King is a Big King. Going over when bidding on a Price is Right Showcase.

REVIEW: Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon and Garlic Parmesan)

Sonic Ultimate Cheese & Bacon Cheesy Bread Dog

Is there any sight that makes you want to scream “America!” more than a hot dog? Well, I guess the American flag. Oh, and a bald eagle. A soldier in uniform. Eating loaded cheese fries a monster truck show. Rappers sipping on purple drank in music videos. Playing video games on the toilet. The government spying on us. Going to other countries and asking, “Don’t you speak English?” Hulk Hogan.

Okay, so there are plenty of other things that say America more than a hot dog, but the fact is the beef treat still says America, and in a different voice depending on what city you are in, as places like New York and Chicago are famous for the toppings they use. There’s also pretzel buns, which totally changes the game of a dog.

Now, Sonic is changing the game again with the new Cheesy Bread Dogs.

The last time I was excited by a hot dog to the level the Cheesy Bread ones brought me to was my first and only time at Wrigley Field in 2010, when I ordered a famed Chicago Dog.

A Sonic Drive-In obviously isn’t as scenic and majestic as Wrigley but if I imagined really hard the concrete turned to grass, my car seat to a seat in the bleachers, and my Sonic car server person (their official title, I’m assuming) morphed into Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Usually in my dreams I’m the one delivering hot dogs to Starlin! I mean… that’s never happened.

I did go into a slight panic when the Sonic worker brought the food to my car, as I had never eaten at the drive-in before and was not sure if these people get tipped or not. He dropped a “well, have a nice day,” and then hesitated before leaving, so I’m assuming I was supposed to tip him. Great, like I need more bad karma!

I ordered both varieties, Garlic Parmesan and Ultimate Cheese & Bacon, but what you want to know about is the cheesy bread, right? I hope so; otherwise I look like a damn fool.

Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog Bun

The first thing you’ll notice before you even taste the bun is how greasy it is. I use a lot of napkins to begin with but I really went over board on these. You can just poke it gently and your finger would be glistening like you just wiped your sweaty brow, which maybe you got from playing pickup basketball, or walking your dog on an exceptionally sweltering afternoon.

This minor inconvenience is quickly dismissed once you taste the bread though. It’s very doughy, and kind of reminded me a stuffed crust pizza because of the cheese flavor, which was a pleasant cheddar. It is a thick bun, too, and I’d be careful ordering two as you may come to regret it later. I know I did. But that’s one for the vault.

The better of the two was easily the Ultimate Cheese & Bacon. Why? AMERICA! It’s the same thing as the Cheesy Bacon Pretzel Dog Sonic offers, but when you replace the pretzel bun with cheesy bread you really get one ultimate cheese and bacon experience, hence the name of the hot dog. It’s a hot mess of cheese, bacon and grease, and I’m using hot mess in a good way. The salty bacon, mild cheddar on the bun, and creamy, sharp cheddar cheese sauce blend together in an explosion of tasty, salty goodness.

The only knock is it’s a bit salty. I happen to enjoy salt so it was fine by me but if you’re not in love with a salty taste I would look to the Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Bread Dog.

Sonic Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Bread Dog

It has a creamy garlic parmesan sauce and onions. I was a bit confused by this one, as I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the sauce, and the onions seemed out of place to me. I think the onions could easily be lost and the dog would be just fine. The sauce seemed out of balance to me, as it was unlike other garlic parmesan sauce I have tasted. I suspect too much or too little of one of garlic or parmesan. Still tasty but could have been better.

Again, the cheesy bread makes these dogs quite filling (especially the Ultimate Cheese & Bacon) so unless you want to see how both taste, just order one. Maybe complement it with a nice slushie? Don’t complement it with tip confusion though. Seeing that Sonic worker do a sad Charlie Brown walk after not receiving a tip has been in my nightmares ever since!

(Nutrition Facts – Ultimate Cheese & Bacon – 550 calories, 290 calories from fat, 32 grams total fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 60 milligrams cholesterol, 1580 mg sodium, 47 grams total carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 21 grams protein. Garlic Parmesan – Not available on website.)

Item: Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon and Garlic Parmesan)
Purchased Price: $2.89 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Garlic Parmesan)
Pros: Bun is cheesy, doughy, and delicious. Ultimate Cheese & Bacon ingredients blend perfectly. America! Hulk Hogan. The power of imagination.
Cons: Bun is annoyingly greasy. Unbalanced garlic to parmesan ratio in sauce. Purple drank. Spying government.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (Canada)

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 1

Remember when McDonald’s was unabashedly a burger joint? This was before people like Eric Schlosser and Morgan Spurlock entered the scene and made people look at the Golden Arches a bit more critically.

Seemingly overnight it was decided that if parents are foolhardy enough to take their child to McDonald’s on a daily basis and the kid inevitably grows fat and unhealthy, that’s Ronald’s fault, not the parents’. McDonald’s went into damage control mode, falling over itself to introduce healthy items like salads, wraps, and apple slices (never mind that the average McWrap is almost as calorific and fat-laden as a Big Mac).

Of course, burgers are still McDonald’s bread and butter, but they almost seem ashamed of that fact. Here in Canada, I can’t even remember the last new burger they added to the menu. The Angus Third Pounders, I guess? And that was a few years ago. As someone who can remember when McDonald’s used to reliably come out with a new burger every month or two (or every month exactly under the Burger of the Month promotion that ran for a while in the ’90s), it makes me a bit sad.

But let me stop ranting and get to the matter at hand: McDonald’s latest new non-burger item, the Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?). It consists of crispy shrimp, grilled vegetables, lettuce, and Thai sauce, wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 3

The shrimp is surprisingly okay. The breading is nice and crispy, and the medium-sized morsels aren’t terribly overcooked. They’re a bit tough, but for the most part they avoid the rubberiness you might expect. They almost seem to be there more for texture than anything else; there’s a very vague shrimpy flavour, but otherwise the veggies and the very sweet sauce were clearly dominant.

Still, when it comes to something with as much potential to go wrong as seafood, I’ll take no flavour over bad flavour. No one’s going to confuse them for shrimp from a good seafood restaurant, but for what it is, it’s not bad. It helped that they were hot and fresh in my McWrap, but obviously your mileage may vary.

The veggies are the usual assortment of stir-fry selections — carrots, peppers, peas, bamboo shoots, etc. They’re fine; like with the shrimp, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were fairly well cooked. They’re soft without being mushy; firm without being crunchy and undercooked.

The obligatory lettuce does what the obligatory lettuce always does — it adds some fresh crunchiness and makes you feel like maybe you’re eating something healthy.

The sauce is the same one from the Sweet Chili McWrap. It’s sweet and tangy, with a bit of a garlicky hit and the faintest undertones of spiciness. It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that stayed with me all afternoon, but other than that it’s not bad. It’s a sauce that would feel right at home at a Panda Express — with the overall effect being that the wrap tastes like they took a dish from that restaurant and wrapped it up in a tortilla with some veggies.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 2

It’s not bad. I think it adds up to less than the sum of its parts, because while there’s nothing about it that was outright bad, I can’t particularly foresee a scenario in which I’d ever want to order it again. It’s certainly not my favourite of the McWraps (that would be, oddly enough, the entirely vegetarian Santa Fe McWrap), but if you’re curious about how McDonald’s has handled shrimp, you won’t be horrified. That’s a ringing endorsement, isn’t it? “You won’t be horrified.” Feel free to quote me on your marketing, McDonald’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1310 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fibre, 16 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crispy shrimp. Well-cooked veggies. Decent sauce.
Cons: Shrimp is slightly overcooked. Sauce has an unpleasant aftertaste. Inspires apathy. Makes me remember how much I miss the Burger of the Month.

REVIEW: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub

I don’t know how authentic they are, but Italian sandwiches as we know them in North America are pretty much the best. Tender veal — deep-fried to perfection — slathered in a tasty tomato sauce, possibly topped with melty cheese and hot peppers, all on a crusty Italian roll? The best. They’re pretty much the definition of comfort food.

So when I found out that KFC had their own take on one of these sandwiches, I was intrigued. Maybe a little nervous too, coming off my last KFC experience, which was fairly disastrous. But mostly intrigued.

It’s part of their Filler line of subs, which basically consist of two chicken strips laid end-to-end on a nine inch bun, topped with various condiments. This particular one comes with sliced mozzarella and “savoury marinara sauce.”

The woman behind the counter asked if I wanted it spicy, and of course I said yes, because that is always the correct answer to that question. “Do you want this sandwich spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want these chips spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want your car wash spicy?” “I… don’t know what that could mean, but… yes. Yes, I do want that car wash spicy.”

Spice tends to improve things is what I’m saying.

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 2

The bread was weird. Though it appears to be crusty, almost like a baguette, in actuality it was as pillowy soft as a hot dog bun. It wasn’t bad — it suited the sandwich well enough — but the discrepancy between how it looked and how it tasted was pretty jarring.

The two chicken strips in my sandwich were, sadly, radically different in quality. The first half of the sandwich featured chicken that had been ravaged by time; the meat was dried out and had been drained of all heat. If you had measured it, I’m pretty sure it would have been precisely at room temperature. The breading wasn’t quite soggy, but it wasn’t crispy, either.

The chicken strip in the second half, however, was fresh, juicy, and tasty, with a satisfyingly crispy exterior. Its quality differential was a little bit off-putting, but at least one half was good I guess?

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 3

The marinara sauce was awful. I know that the flavours of food are technically subjective, but this was objectively, mathematically horrible. It had the acrid tang of the absolute bottom of the bottom of the barrel. You could practically taste the can it came out of.

I’m pretty sure it’s the result of a KFC exec commanding his underlings to find the absolute cheapest tomato sauce on the market, and then being like “This still tastes vaguely like real tomato sauce. CHEAPER.”

It tastes like a potent mix of tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, and sawdust. I suspect it also contains the tears of orphaned children, but that’s just conjecture on my part. If it’s possible for marinara sauce to be worse than this, I haven’t tasted it.

The mozzarella was fine, at least. It tasted like real cheese and not like the waxy, processed cheese food you might expect given the caliber of the tomato sauce. The heat of the sandwich wasn’t even close to enough to melt it, however. The cheese on the fresh side of the sandwich had softened a bit; on the other side, it was fresh-from-the-fridge cold.

As for the so-called spice, it was negligible. I think it was the least amount of heat you can apply to something and still in good conscience call it spicy.

I think KFC’s heart was in the right place when they created this — in theory, it should have been quite good. But the execution is just way off. Particularly that sauce… Yikes, that sauce.

(Nutrition Facts – 910 calories, 37 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 97 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fibre, 13 grams of sugar, and 48 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)
Purchased Price: $6.79 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Freshly cooked chicken is pretty tasty. Real cheese.
Cons: Stale chicken is not so tasty. Weirdly soft bun. Unmelted cheese. Worst tomato sauce of all time.