Anyone think today’s habanero is yesterday’s jalapeño?
Let me explain. Remember back when people started to accept spicy food as the norm instead of food you dared other men to eat to prove who had the bigger wang?
That’s when manufacturers started to use jalapeño on everything as a spicy alternative instead of just “bbq hot.” Compulsive in our nature, we just kept wanting more and more. As hot and spicy began to register on palettes, we wanted something higher on the arbitrary Scoville scale. “Give us more heat,” we cried.
I guess it’s comforting the habanero pepper is becoming ubiquitous. It demonstrates how as a society we’ve become accepting of heat. However, the savvy are looking for the next thrill (I see you becoming yesterday’s news soon, ghost peppers). And you know… part of me is sad because the mystique, if there was one, is eroding. I can’t think of a better example than Sriracha. Now, even talentless hacks at restaurants use it, and incorrectly a great deal of the time.
When you ask someone what a jalapeño taste likes, you’re more likely to get a response describing those cheap pickled jalapeños since most fast food/bad Tex-Mex places will use them. I don’t really want that for the habanero I love.
Yet, if others follow McDonald’s suit, I have nothing to worry about. In the spirit (or curse) of competition, all the fast food chains are going through something of a renaissance. McDonald’s is not immune to change and facing another shaky quarter, it’s probably in their best interest to do something to turn around the profits.
In response, McDonald’s recently introduced the new Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder. Oh yes, the habanero’s presence is felt, unlike the actress who plays Melisandre from Game of Thrones. Harsh as it is, I’ve seen discarded toenails that express emotion better than her.
Anyhow, the habanero is the star (and rightfully so) in this sandwich. I’m partial to Quarter Pounders over Big Macs because I do love that “meaty” taste and heft of a Quarter Pounder. Plus, I find that some places put too much Big Mac special sauce and my face ends up looking like someone forgot to tell me they were going to “release.”
This variant is made with white cheddar, thick (and it is thick) Applewood-smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce, and a habanero ranch sauce encased in a “bakery-style” bun. I wish it came with the American cheese because the white cheddar was kind of tasteless. What was not tasteless was the orange-colored habanero-ranch sauce.
On the first bite, that beefy taste and crispy slabs of bacon complimented the cold crunchy lettuce and surprisingly thick slice of tomato. The bacon deserves a special mention; it truly was thick and tasted of a bacon slice fresh out of a hot pan, incredible! Again, the cheese was like a wallflower at a party or the stupid black olive on top of a deviled egg, pointless and forgettable. The smokiness of that beef melded well with the salty bacon and of course, there was that tang from the habanero ranch sauce that held the sandwich together.
However, the payoff wasn’t how good the burger first tasted, it’s what came after.
I love habanero. It’s like the quiet friend we all have that has a really dry sense of humor and when they eventually say something, it’s a gem. The habanero’s heat has that pulsating ache that lingers on your tongue. I couldn’t believe it; McDonald’s captured the essence of a habanero.
The habanero ranch sauce itself at first tasted of a roasted pepper that was slightly sweet and playfully bitter. Then there was a hint of that milky ranch until the prevalent heat crashed in Kool-Aid man-style and instead of shouting “Oh Yeahhhh!”, it screamed something unintelligible and then smashed itself into pieces as the kids lapped up the pools of artificial sweetener.
Impressive of all, the heat didn’t invade and takeover the taste with each bite even though the spiciness grew exponentially in my mouth. This was a well thought-out burger, except for the cheese. It was so good, it had me wanting another.
I guess the only other critique is the bun, I love that non-fancy iconic McDonald’s bun and this “bakery-style” bun felt wrong. It tasted fine, but I hated it for some reason. Although, it’s a minor quibble.
Now please don’t believe that you will be wiping beads of sweat from your forehead or that your tongue will be crying for a milkshake to relieve the pain as you sniff the snot from your running nose. This is McDonald’s after all and not some Szechuan house that Adam Richman would visit to eat the hottest and largest dreck it offers. However, the level of heat coming from this fast food burger is impressive and it is totally discernible that you are eating a habanero and not some diluted “peppery” blend.
I’m enjoying the many menu-shifts and risks these chains are taking. I know it won’t last forever so we should enjoy it for as long as we can or at least until our arteries can hold out.
(Nutrition Facts – 610 calories, 31 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1180 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 37 grams of protein.)
Item: McDonald’s Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder
Purchased Price: $4.99
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: The habanero’s heat is just spectacular. The smokiness of the beef, the crisp and fatty saltiness of the bacon and the roasted flavor of the habanero ranch sauce. The renaissance of fast food menu items circa 2012-2013. The roasted taste of the habanero combined with the milky ranch. Quarter Pounders rule.
Cons: The white cheddar cheese did absolutely nothing for the burger. That stupid actress that plays the fire priestess in Game of Thrones. Bakery-fresh-style-bun-stinks. The whoring out of Sriracha sauce. Discarded toenails…yuck.