Taco Bell Volcano Taco

Why must Taco Bell insist on painting the taco shell red for their Volcano Taco to let you know that it’s spicy? Most of us are probably functionally retarded during the times we’re eating there at two in the morning, but it doesn’t give them carte blanche to rub it in our faces. We shouldn’t take this lying down, no matter how fat and lazy their food has made us!

This is Taco Bell flipping us off with one hand and biting their thumb with the other. We already knew that their product wasn’t healthy, but now they’re basically admitting the food is by no means real or to be taken seriously. You might as well swing by the drive-thru window and ask for a cup of Play-Doh so you can make your own taco shells at home.

Aside from the food coloring, I was excited about the prospect of a new affordable taco with a “cheesy lava sauce” that would allow me to spew fire and blow smoke from my head. As I was figuring out the logistics of trying how to make a taco stand up for a picture, I had two of my buds perform an informal taste test.

The first looked rather disgusted and deadpanned that it “tastes like old mayonnaise” as he reached for a bottle of beer.

The second response started off more promising. “I like it better than a regular taco,” he nodded, before continuing, “I’d probably give it a 4 out of 10.”

Apparently, he doesn’t like Taco Bell’s regular tacos very much.

I agree with his score, but not with his original assessment. Taco Bell’s original tacos are unabashedly generic Tex-Mex tacos, but they typically hit the spot. Even doused with hot sauce, the smattering of iceberg lettuce does an admirable job of being a refreshing palate cleanser.

With the Volcano Taco, the cheese sauce overwhelms all of the other ingredients and leaves you with a rather tangy aftertaste. I wouldn’t say that it tastes like bad mayonnaise, but it does have a pretty thick and heavy mouth feel which threw me off a bit. In regards to the heat, I’d say that the red shell warning was unnecessary. It’s moderately spicy, but it’s not anything that will have you blowing fire or reaching for the nearest icy beverage.

Unless, of course, it’s to wash the taste out of your mouth.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 taco – 240 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 490 milligrams sodium, 14 gram of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.)

(Editor’s Note: The folks at Fast Food Critic also reviewed the red-shelled one.)

Item: Taco Bell Volcano Taco
Price: 89 cents
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Cheaper than most of their items that come with cheese sauce. Moderately spicy. The ability to breathe fire.
Cons: Not nearly as spicy as advertised. Tangier and thicker sauce than I expected. Sauce masks the taste of lettuce, beef, and shredded cheese. Aftertaste is not pleasant.

Genuine Broaster Chicken

Fried chicken has always been like a hot booty call: ready and satisfying any time I had the urge, but bad for me and probably more dangerous and full of chemicals than I’d like to admit. This is why my first taste of the healthier Broaster Chicken was the culinary equivalent of finding Jesus in a tortilla. Questions came flooding down the previously frozen glacier of my head: Where has this been all my life? Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Is this all a dream?

Thankfully, I wasn’t in a bad 80’s sitcom and the chicken was in fact real. Broasted chicken, as I am told by their website, is pressure-cooked with some secret method using a secret marinade which cuts the fat nearly in half while retaining the meat’s moisture. I still don’t understand how they got the word “broasted” from a method of pressure frying, but I’ve gone far beyond the point of caring.

If I sound like a corporate shill, it’s because I want to run into every KFC and start violently shaking people by their shirts as I screamed obscenities at them. KFC is no doubt delicious, but it pales in comparison to this magical chicken that I consumed. The crispy and light skin was topped with delectable cajun spices. The best part is that a patting with a napkin yielded no grease spots. If I ever saw a dieter throwing the skin away, I would almost certainly have to run and tackle the person.

Inside the first piece was the juiciest breast meat ever, which seems almost oxymoronic by typical fried chicken standards. The other piece of chicken was the best use of a thigh since gymnast Shawn Johnson used her running back-like legs to win gold during the Olympics.

Sold in select delis and restaurants around the nation, I’m assuming that the quality of Genuine Broaster Chicken may vary. If done right, as with this Huckleberry’s location in Orange County, it should come to you cooked to order with a Korean lady warning you that the chicken is still hot. She will offer you hot sauce, but you decline, already anticipating the natural flavors of this miracle bird.

It is at this point that you will embrace the majesty of your lips caressing the chicken. And in this moment of ecstasy you will think of me. This will probably be very confusing for you until you take your next bite and go on for the rest of the meal without a care in the world.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 breast – 315 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 139 mg of cholesterol, 1360mg sodium, 5 grams of carbs, and 43 grams of protein)

Item: Genuine Broaster Chicken
Price: $5.99 (2-piece combo)
Purchased at: Huckleberry’s Sandwiches and Chicken (check store locator at Broaster.com)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Less fat than regular fried chicken. Breast meat is actually very moist. Skin is not greasy at all and well-flavored with cajun seasonings. Skin is light yet very crispy.
Cons: I’m assuming that quality may vary depending on the location. Getting tasered for shaking people at your local KFC. Thinking of me during your moment of ecstasy.

Burger King Fresh Apple Fries

When I first heard that Burger King sold apple fries, I naturally assumed that they were deep-fried like their potato brethren’s namesake. I recall that when chicken fries first hit the market, my brain engulfed itself like a neutron star in a defensive state of shock, panic, and excitement. They didn’t live up to the hype, so I figured that this was their finishing salvo – a one-upping of Taco Bell’s caramel apple empanada that would dash any child’s hopes of a healthy existence.

It was not until after I ordered the “fries” that I learned that my anxiety was gravely misguided. Burger King’s apple fries are merely apples cut into the shape of thick-cut French fries. Kind of a cop-out, I thought, especially since they were going at $1.59 for a 2-ounce bag. Still, I was glad to have something remotely fresh and healthy in my mouth after I finished inhaling my Whopper combo.

I was surprised by the freshness of the apples, as they managed to stay clean and crispy with a refreshing bite of tartness to go along with the mellow sweetness. Of course, none of this elaborate description is necessary if you’ve ever eaten an apple. You know, that thing that’s supposed to keep the doctor away? Yes, I admit that I have forgotten what it had tasted like too.

The thing that turns this from cut fruit into kid-friendly treat is the accompanying packet of caramel sauce from which you will try to squeeze every last drop from the packet as if it contained the last vestiges of the antidote. The package is only half an ounce, but its potency will almost trick your brain into believing that you’re eating a caramel apple. Brain deception like this is key in practicing any type of diet – just ask any of those vegans who insist on serving tofurkey’s every Thanksgiving.

The apple fries are a bit pricey on their own, but you can substitute it for free when you’re ordering a Kid’s Meal, or presumably any other type of meal you may order. It’s a good way to treat your kids to something wholesome or to placate your conscience about the Triple Whopper you’re scarfing down. Either way, everyone wins and you can finally start to keep that creepy family doctor at bay.

(Nutritional Facts – Apples – 1 packet – 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 6 grams of carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 8% Vitamin A, 35% Vitamin C, 4% Calcium, and 0% Iron. Caramel Sauce – 1 packet – 35 calories, 0 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs, 0 grams of dietary fiber, and 5 grams of sugar)

Item: Burger King Apple Fries
Price: $1.59 (free to substitute with regular fries)
Size: 2 ounces (apples), 0.5 ounces (low-fat caramel sauce)
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Good alternative for French fries, especially in a Kid’s Meal. Comes with frypod box. You will try to suck the caramel sauce out of the packet. Low on fat and refined sugar.
Cons: Pricey if you buy it on it’s own. Portion of 2 ounces is pretty small. Technically still just cut fruit with a condiment.

REVIEW: Nissin Choice Ramen Savory Herb Chicken

If you’ve ever experienced any financially lean years, you’ve most likely eaten enough ramen to have it circle the globe several times over. During this time, lunch was not a matter of what bistro to hit up, but what flavor packets to mix together. You know, for that exotic taste of the orient. You probably also never took a moment to make light of the fact that you were your heftiest during these “lean” years; your brain being too bogged down by the tremendous amount of fat in your head to appreciate concepts like irony and humor.

This is never a good time in anyone’s life, but Nissin’s new Choice brand of ramen noodles promises to help you get you through these years looking slim and feeling like a worthwhile contributor to society. At around two for a dollar, they’re still affordable, though not in that “buy ’em by the ration crate” sort of way that regular ramen can be when it’s on sale. The package boasts lower fat, less sodium, and a fancy-sounding “Savory Herb Chicken” flavor that is meant to distinguish it from lesser ramen.

The back of the package reveals that their secret is in a new air-drying technology that means that the noodles are not deep fried. From my tried and true formula of “Food + Deep Fry = Good x 2 (type of coating),” I figured that these noodles would not be as tasty. The noodles are no longer a two-layered brick, but rather a disc that conforms more easily to the perimeter of your pot. I garnished with green onions and a sprig of cilantro for a half-assed presentation that made me feel like I actually cooked something.

My first impression was that the noodles were about as good as I could expect packaged ramen to be − not gummy, not too soft, and with just the right amount of firmness. The soup, however, was a different story. With just 25% less sodium than the notoriously salty regular ramen, you would expect the flavor to be just right. The soup turned out to be bland and muted with no hint of herbs in it whatsoever.

Choice ramen could be a great product if the soup base had any flavor whatsoever. I would pair the surprisingly tasty noodles with a regular ramen packet, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of “lower sodium” and thus the appeal of “healthy” ramen. Damn you, soup packet, why must you go and embarrass my poached egg in such a way? Head back to the factory and come back with a healthy version of MSG.

(Nutritional Facts – Half package – 140 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 480mg sodium, 28 gram of carbs, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 10% iron)

(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Amy for suggesting the Nissin Choice Ramen. Ace’s blood pressure would also like to thank Amy.)

Item: Nissin Choice Ramen Savory Herb Chicken
Price: 49 cents
Purchased at: Northgate Market
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Healthier version of one of the unhealthiest items on the open market. Affordable, though not stupidly cheap like regular ramen. Noodles maintain a nice, reasonably firm texture as you’re eating.
Cons: Not a lot of flavor in the flavor packet at all. Noodle to soup ratio is a little too high for my liking. Healthier, but not exactly health food.

La Choy Beef Chow Mein

I feel like I haven’t been putting my Asian-ness to good use on The Impulsive Buy. Crashing my car last month was proof that I‘m giving credence to my heritage in my day-to-day life, but I wanted to take that Eastern expertise to a food review. Luckily for me, Wal-Mart sells various ethnic cuisines of questionable authenticity and it was easy for me to pick something out that looked intriguing.

Usually, “intriguing” for me means “so ridiculously ludicrous and insulting that I bet no other site has reviewed this.” This time, however, La Choy’s Beef Chow Mein genuinely looked like a tasty meal. As soon as I opened it up, though, I soon realized that things out of cans are rarely gourmet and never fresh. The top can, which contained brown gravy with a few specks of beef, resembled a premium soup that Alpo would make for dogs. The bottom can contained blanched bean sprouts, baby corn, carrots, water chestnuts, celery, and red pepper. Almost all of the mix was soggy bean sprouts.

It suddenly occurred to me that this chow mein had absolutely no chow mein in it. Maybe I‘ve been eating too much bastardized Chinese food, but I had always thought that chow mein was basically noodles with some sort of vegetables mixed in. I went to Wikipedia to restore some semblance of sanity to the situation, but they confirmed my initial suspicions that chow mein was indeed noodles. Which begged the question: What the fuck am I eating?

Whatever it was, it wasn’t anything that I would ever order at Panda Express. After mixing the vegetables with the beef sauce and simmering it for a few minutes, I tried some and savored the taste of limp bean sprouts in a sauce that tasted like something from a can of Chunky Soup. Mmm…mmm! I also loved the fact that the small portion seen on the can has more beef than the entire contents of what they’re really selling. That’s what I like to call value for money!

Even through my disappointed sarcasm, I couldn’t help but feel bad about the purchase. Can tasty Asian food ever come out of a can? Are we doomed to be stuck in the realm of takeout food? I pondered these questions as I put my chopsticks in the sink. Even baby corn’s intrinsic awesomeness couldn’t save the rest of the pan from going into the trash.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 cup – 90 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 mg of cholesterol, 880mg sodium, 11 grams of carbs, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 8 grams of protein, 40% Vitamin A, 25% Vitamin C, 4% Calcium, and 10% Iron)

Item: La Choy Beef Chow Mein
Price: $2.50
Purchased at: Wal-Mart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Comes in two separate cans so you feel like you’re actually making your own meal. Variety of vegetables theoretically make it interesting. You can add more beef or tofu to it in order to make it edible.
Cons: Vegetables have little to no texture. No chow mein in the chow mein. Can of “beef” is almost all sauce.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Philly Steak and Cheese Croissant

If Hot Pockets were a movie franchise, it would probably be Batman. Like Batman, the Hot Pocket has a crusty exterior but a center that burns hotter than a thousand blazing suns. Anyone who’s ever scorched their taste buds on a Pocket after not waiting the recommended minute can attest to this. Both franchises bring comfort to lonely nerds everywhere who will always make every new iteration a commercial success. Finally, and perhaps most regretfully, both are marred with tremendous cheesiness in the middle − Hot Pockets with a mysterious processed cheese sauce and Batman with Joel Schumacher.

The mystery sauce is no more, however, as Hot Pockets has finally decided to integrate real cheese into their product. This is definitely one of life’s pleasant surprises, like finding a dollar under your couch or witnessing MILFy Travel Channel host Samantha Brown turn into a filthy slut on her new show. It just goes to show that even simple things that are unexpected can bring pleasure to your life. If they ever decide to make it with real meat, my head would almost certainly explode with joy.

Indeed, the meat is still the same processed “beef steak” that shares textural similarities with silicon foam. To its credit, the flavor is similar enough to real chopped steak to be passable. With the peppers and cheese inside, you won’t really notice the difference. And let’s be honest; when you find yourself enjoying a Hot Pocket, you’ll probably be too drunk to care.

The addition of real cheese is immediately noticeable. The naturally stringy texture is a nice of pace from the typical radioactively bright orange sauces that Hot Pockets typically deploys. The croissant crust is flakier and more flavorful than the regular Hot Pocket crust and can almost make you forget that you’re eating a frozen sandwich product in a cardboard sleeve. Overall, this is one of the best Hot Pockets on the market and one of the few that you shouldn’t be ashamed to eat.

I pray that this is a sign of things to come and that we will never see the Hot Pockets equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze again.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 pocket – 340 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, 550mg sodium, 34 grams of carbs, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, 6% Vitamin A, 0% Vitamin C, 20% Calcium, 10% Iron, 15% Thiamaine, 10% Riboflavin, 8% Vitamin B12, 10% Niacin, 15% Folic Acid, and 10% Phosphorus)

Item: Hot Pockets Philly Steak and Cheese Croissant
Price: $2.00
Purchased at: Albertsons
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Same flavor as an authentic Philly Cheese Steak. Addition of real cheese makes it taste like something that humans should actually eat. Croissant crust is flaky and flavorful. Samantha Brown acting like a slutty sorority girl.
Cons: Still uses spongy processed meat. Eating something out a cardboard sleeve still feels humiliating. Mr. Freeze.