REVIEW: Jack Daniel’s Baby Back Ribs

Ribs made with Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce have been gaining some momentum recently, with recipes containing the famous whiskey winning legitimate awards in Southern barbecue competitions. Naturally, T.G.I. Friday’s has to strip the wholesome appeal away and bastardize the crap out of it by having the frightening amalgamation of *NSYNC known as Guy Fieri screaming at you to try them. It’s not just chain restaurants jumping on the boat, though; these ribs have made their way to your local supermarket.

Now you can try the ribs without having to withstand the deafening loudness of T.G.I. Friday’s as a gaggle of drunk frat brah’s hit on your date. It’s better in an intimate setting, on a lazy weekend with the game on. In a way, Jack Daniel’s appeals to the tailgaitin’ Southerner in all of us with these refrigerated boxes of booze-glazed ribs. I’ve been dying to try something that can get me drunk and fat simultaneously. It’s not hedonism – it’s efficiency.

Within eight minutes, you have a pound of real, unprocessed ribs ready to eat as you watch Peyton Manning and Brett Favre sell you TV’s and toothpaste during the increasingly-frequent commercial breaks. That isn’t to say that the ribs don’t have their flaws. Brett Favre spends most of his free time playing jean-football with his buddies in the mud, but even he would find these ribs to be messy.

The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, which sounds awesome until you try to actually pick up the rib and watch the meat cascade onto the plate. It kind of takes the visceral satisfaction out of eating a rib. When you’re me, you need moments like those to keep you going. And this is going to make me sound like a teenage girl, but the whiskey is really, really strong. I’m not the type to indulge in Smirnoff Ice and Hypnotiq, but these ribs really do taste like they were dunked in a bottle of Jack.

I could lie and tell you that I sucked it up and pounded a few shots of Jack while I was eating, but I ended up dousing the ribs with ketchup and mixing it with the sauce. It was delicious after that. I had completely emasculated myself, but I figured that watching large men in tights jump on top of each other for six straight hours would have done that to me anyway.

(Nutritional Facts – 1/3 box – 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 120 mg of cholesterol, 990mg sodium, 31 grams of carbs, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 21 grams of sugar, 25 grams of protein, 2% Vitamin A, 2% Vitamin C, 2% Calcium, and 10% Iron)

Item: Jack Daniel’s Baby Back Ribs
Price: $7.99
Size: 16 ounces
Purchased at: Albertsons
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Real, unprocessed ribs. Tastes awesome when mixed with some ketchup. Sealed and microwaveable in less than ten minutes. Brings together booze and fatty meat in one package.
Cons: Meat falls off the bone by shear force of gravity. Whiskey is overpowering if you are a wuss like me.

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.