REVIEW: McDonald’s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich

McDonald s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich Crispy

For many years, I thought American fast food was a shining beacon of liberty, creativity, and ingenuity —- in short, everything that won two world wars, put a man on the moon, and bequeathed the world such celebrities as the Jonas Brothers.

Reality, a hip college-aged friend of mine tells me, is often disappointing, although I think she stole that from a movie. Such is the case when you consider the rather pedestrian domestic offerings of chains like McDonald’s in relation to its overseas menus. Thankfully, we get to bask in a little international culture for the summer, as the Golden Arches have rolled out its “Worldwide Favorites” menu.

The Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, an import from Canada, suggests an especially light and summery offering. You can get the sandwich in either a grilled or crispy version but because you only live once and can drastically reduce said life through gluttony, I got both.

McDonald s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich Crispy Halved

Structurally, the crispy chicken sandwich holds up better than the grilled. Mine was well presented with multiple leaves of lettuce and surprisingly fresh Roma tomato slices tucked into a toasted, buttered Artisan bun. The crispy chicken was plenty juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside — everything you would want it to be, but for some reason it tasted just okay.

McDonald s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich Toppings Crispy

The viscous tomato and herb sauce is less sweet or acidic than it probably should be, and what’s left is a garlicky sauce that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The mozzarella, warm but unmelted, cheesy but not milky, is serviceable. But like watching Canadian football, it’s not preferable.

McDonald s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich Grilled

I found that the grilled chicken version tastes better than the crispy one if only because there is a warm succulence to the grilled poultry that melts the cheese more completely than the crispy version.

McDonald s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich Tomatoes

The tomatoes and lettuce add a more pronounced relief to the protein and gooey cheese, but they also add structural instability. In rather cartoonish fashion, the contents of my sandwich squirted themselves almost completely free of the bun, of which the button half was basically useless. Also, there are onions on both sandwiches. They’re fine if not a little annoying.

Overall, the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich is a little bit better than fine but not quite a solid good despite it’s obviously fresh ingredients and relatively sound engineering. If anything, the sandwich makes you appreciate the tried and true regular McDonald’s menu a bit more, while still cultivating a healthy curiosity for the warmth of drive-thrus on distant (or relatively close) foreign shores.

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 700 calories (Crispy); 530 calories (Grilled) Full nutrition not available at publication time.

REVIEW: Fillows Creme Filled Cereal (Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme and Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll)

General Mills Fillows Hershey s Cookies  n Creme Cereal

Can I say that of all the cereal types here-to-now discovered by humanity, stuff-filled cereals by far have the most potential? Yes, I know corn loops, toasted oat rings, whole wheat squares, and (maybe) even sweet seasoned crisped rice all have roles to play in a complete breakfast, but the flavor-stuffed cavities of cereals like Kellogg’s Krave are structurally in another dimension.

Think of them as the chocolate eclairs of the cereal world. Don’t like eclairs? Fine, a creme-filled donut. And thanks to General Mills’ new Fillows cereal, we now have a competitor to Kellogg’s Krave.

Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme

General Mills Fillows Hershey s Cookies  n Creme Cereal Wading in Milk

Call me an overly visual taster, but the appearance of chocolate squares with the promise of a creme filling inside made me expect the taste of Oreo cookies. However, I was massively disappointed when, on the first bite, the cloying taste of nothing but vanilla and sugar assaulted my taste buds. With the oh-so-slightest hint of cocoa on the backend, each square felt like a façade, as if I’d been served a veggie burger instead of a bleeding disc of cow. This marked the high point of my cereal disillusionment for the day.

To be fair, Hershey’s do not make Oreo cookies; they make Cookies ‘n’ Crème candy bars. And with that as a baseline, I tried the cereal again and appreciated it more for its unabashed vanilla sweetness. Still, there are some off flavors going on — notably, an artificial marshmallow taste that really seems to come out in milk. They don’t help the cereal stay true to either cookies ‘n’ creme the bar or the flavor.

General Mills Fillows Hershey s Cookies  n Creme Cereal Spoon

That, to be honest, might be part of the problem. Cookies ‘n’ Creme Fillows are too sweet to be enjoyed with milk, and probably on the verge of being too sweet for most people as a snack (full disclosure: I’m not like most people). But at least when eaten dry the cocoa becomes a little more rounded, with a mild but enjoyable Cocoa Puffs flavor. It’s lost in milk, though, which makes the cereal a slight disappointment.

Purchased Price: $3.64
Size: 22 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll

General Mills Fillows Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Cereal

The legacy of bakery-inspired cereals is a mixed bag. While there are some great ones — such as Kellogg’s bygone Cinnabon cereal — more often than not even the good ones don’t really taste like donuts or french toast or cinnamon rolls.

Let me be real with y’all: Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Fillows legitimately tastes like a cinnamon roll. What’s more, they might even be better than an actual Pillsbury cinnamon roll.

General Mills Fillows Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Cereal Wading in Milk

Like the Cookies ‘n’ Creme Fillows, these are overwhelmingly sweet at 19 grams of sugar per 52 grams of cereal. However, the sweetness feels like a match with the concentrated cinnamon flavor. Even eaten dry, there’s a certain richness in each square, mimicking the gooey buttery interior of a cinnamon roll. This flavor heightened in milk, where the squares take on an indulgent churros appeal.

General Mills Fillows Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Cereal Spoon

Granted, when you review cereal you learn to write a lot of vague crap, but let me state this unequivocally: This is the best Cinnamon Roll cereal I’ve had in 30 years of eating processed sugar for breakfast. Buy this.

Purchased Price: $3.64
Size: 22 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 10 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

Overall, it’s good to see General Mills partner with Hershey’s and Pillsbury to join the filled cereal market. While the Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor doesn’t seem to work in a cereal, they’ve definitely found a winner with the Pillsbury Doughboy. Let’s hope it sticks around.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Frosty Cookie Sundae

Wendy s Frosty Cookie Sundae

What is Wendy’s Frosty Cookie Sundae?

Back in the day (Read: The first two or three years of the decade) Wendy’s toyed with numerous Frosty variations, including waffle cones, shakes, and parfaits.

But, after the past few years of relegating the Frosty to a value menu afterthought and French fry delivery system, the chain is giving it a decadent dessert spin by adding chocolate chunk cookie bites and Ghirardelli Chocolate Sauce. It’s available in vanilla and chocolate for a cool two bucks.

How is it?

It’s amazing, which is saying something given that it’s “just” a Frosty with the addition of cookie pieces and chocolate sauce. The thing is, this is a chocolate chip cookie lover’s kind of sundae, complete with thick, chewy, chocolate-chunk loaded cookies pieces that taste like they’ve been broken off a fresh cookie (even though they’re not).

Wendy s Frosty Cookie Sundae Chocolate Syrup

Slathered in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Sauce, each bite has both richness and sophistication, giving the familiar sweet cocoa taste of the Frosty an indulgent appeal. As far as deconstructed cookie sandwiches go, this is at the top of the list (oh, and there most definitely is a list).

Is there anything else you need to know?

Wendy s Frosty Cookie Sundae Cookie Closeup

Plan your bites carefully, making sure to dig below individual cookie pieces to envelop a healthy dose of Frosty with each spoonful. Make no mistake: The moist, buttery, cookie pieces and rich chocolate syrup are the main attractions here and eating them too quickly or on their own will leave you slightly disappointed as you slurp the remaining Frosty.

Also, slight bummer that the sundae can’t be ordered with the double chocolate chunk cookie.

Conclusion:

For a chain that’s put much of its recent effort into revamping its premium sandwiches, Wendy’s has created a surprisingly good dessert item that can definitely stand on its own.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 410 calories, 15 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 49 grams of total sugars, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Brownie Dough Blizzard

Dairy Queen Brownie Dough Blizzard

What is the Brownie Dough Blizzard?

One of Dairy Queen’s new summer Blizzard treats. Refusing to be categorized as cookie dough or brownie batter, brownie dough is, as far as I can tell, basically a chewy brownie ball of no special significance. Dairy Queen is serving them blended with soft serve, choco chunks, and cocoa fudge to complete the chocolate trinity.

How is it?

Two words: Wonderfully chocolatey.

Also, chewy and crunchy.

Dairy Queen Brownie Dough Blizzard Spoonful

To be sure, there’s no difference in the Blizzard’s flavor or composition from Dairy Queen’s Choco Brownie Extreme Blizzard Treat, which, instead of “brownie dough,” uses “chewy brownie pieces.” The dough balls in mine were chewy and modestly fudgy, punctuated by bursts of crunchy and sweet chocolate thanks to a plentiful supply of choco chunks. Unfortunately, there were no extra-chewy end pieces. But there was ice cream, which, blended with fudge, made a classic chocolate and vanilla twist base.

Is there anything else you should know?

Dairy Queen Brownie Dough Blizzard Brownie Chunk

If you’re the kind of person who cannot refrain from leaving a comment about how these dough balls are in no way, shape, or form as good as the brownies you made after watching Alton Brown’s 2002 Good Eats episode “Art of Darkness II,” I’m going to preempt you and tell you that you’re right. But they’re still pretty okay.

Conclusion:

Semantics aside, if you like brownies, which most human beings do, you should like this Blizzard. It’s a good mixture of crunchy and chewy chocolate textures swimming in an ocean of creamy soft serve — in other words, the perfect summer treat.

Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Mini
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Mini) 400 calories, 17 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 46 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt

In 30 years of eating food, I’ve experienced the following:

  • Certain foods look amazing to eat and are amazing
  • Certain foods look disgusting to eat and are disgusting
  • Certain foods look amazing to eat and are disgusting
  • Certain foods look disgusting to eat and are amazing

Wendy’s new Peppercorn Mushroom Melt falls into the lattermost category. A beautiful cheeseburger, this is not. However, what it lacks in Instagram quality food pornage it more than makes up for in the umami-bomb-dot-com sphere.

Essentially a regular menu item that combines the chain’s attempts at on-again-off-again mushroom cheeseburger concepts, the melt nails the drool-worthy steakhouse burger taste thanks to layers of meaty flavors.

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Innards 1

I don’t say this lightly. I trend towards the less-is-more category when it comes to toppings, and with asiago cheese, sautéed and roasted mushrooms, peppercorn aioli, and crispy fried onions, there’s a natural hesitance to ask what exactly Wendy’s is covering up.

In this case, the doubt is unfounded; the quarter pound cheeseburger patty anchors the flavors, remaining beefy and juicy beneath all the toppings. The asiago cheese is a great compliment. Full-bodied and a tad nutty, it pairs wonderfully with both the beef and the peppercorn aioli, creating enough of a gooey cheesesteak effect to leave you with a familiar taste that also manages to surprise.

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Innards 2

But it was, surprisingly, the two ingredients that I had the least hope for that took the burger to another level. The mushrooms and crispy fried onions introduce contrasting textures that up the seasoning level in the burger and just work. The mushrooms, in particular, have a deeper and fire-grilled flavor that tastes a step above most fast food sautéed mushrooms, while the crispy onions have a cravable haystack onion tone.

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Side View

Complaints are minor, but worth noting. The first is that construction is an issue: both the onions and mushrooms jumped ship with even the slightest bit of handling. It’s a problem exacerbated by a tendency to stick to the bun and threaten the integrity of the burger.

The second is the lack of a sweet contrast to the otherwise rich flavors. Undoubtedly, the decision to go with crispy haystack onions will leave some people happy and others (myself included) slightly wishing Wendy’s would have gone with caramelized onions like the bygone McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound burger.

Still, we can’t have everything, and McDonald’s caramelized onions notwithstanding, the Peppercorn Mushroom Melt is a welcome addition to Wendy’s permanent menu, even if it does sorta look like a dog threw up between a hamburger bun.

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: Single (1/4th pound; also available as Double and Triple)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 690 calories, 42 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1110 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 31 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Arby’s Cajun Fish Sandwich

Arby s Cajun Fish Sandwich

When I think of things that scream Americana, I think regional flavors, wholesome activities I never learned to do like fishing, and chicly decorated fast food restaurants that blare Kacey Musgraves music from their dining room halls. It makes sense, then, that Arby’s decided to welcome in 2019 with a regional take on its seasonal fish sandwich.

Now, I’m not from Louisiana, but I did once rack up a $103.67 bill at a John Besh restaurant. So, I have some experience with the stereotypical (and delicious) Cajun flavors, including the bayou’s take on aioli, remoulade.

Nominally, the remoulade makes Arby’s newest variation of its fish sandwich “Cajun.” I say nominally because Arby’s could have gone the extra mile and stacked shrimp, crawfish, and andouille sausage on top of the triangular fish stick that constitutes the (not-meat) of the sandwich. Overkill? Maybe, but we are talking Arby’s. If venison and pork belly can make it into the fast food world, then shellfish can’t immediately be ruled out.

Arby s Cajun Fish Sandwich Fish

The lack of gumbo-on-a-bun notwithstanding, the sandwich has some Cajun flavor. Emphasis on the some. The remoulade is zesty, with a slight back-heat and just enough sweetness to give that iceberg lettuce a bit of extra flavor, and a composition somewhere between creamy and bumpy (yes, bumpy). But, much like the fish itself, it’s relatively plain, like a slightly spicier version of tartar sauce (which, coincidentally, has nothing to do with steak tartare.)

Arby s Cajun Fish Sandwich Toppiings

Even with the double-sided application, the remoulade fails to achieve optimal bun-protein-sauce ratio, mostly due to the oblong state of the fish and the circumference of the bun. This result is different tasting bites—some more prominent with the fish, others more bun, still others the whole fish and caboodle. And while the fish is executed perfectly — crispy, mild, flaky — it begs for a more assertive guiding flavor.

I get it: Each year, fast food chains attempt to position themselves in the fish sandwich wars with a “new” and updated take on what is actually a very boring sandwich blueprint. And, sometimes, something as simple as adding a sauce makes all the difference. But in the case of Arby’s Cajun Fish Sandwich, the remoulade is a little too mild, and a little too sparse to do the bayou justice.

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 590 calories, 260 calories from fat, 29 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1060 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of total carbohydrates, 43grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein.