REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders

McDonald s Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders

Do you trust your taste buds?

It’s an honest question; and no, not in the existential crisis proceeding when you learn that all the loops in Froot Loops taste the same (they do) but in drawing on a memory of something you ate in the past and comparing it to something you ate today.

I bring this up because last year McDonald’s released its Sweet N’ Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders, and I liked them. This year, they released what seems like a similar product — Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders — but I can’t say the same thing.

McDonald’s is advertising the Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders as “smoky,” “juicy,” and “mouthwatering.” They are none of the preceding, and certainly not worthy of the “whoo!” the McDonald’s website claims you’ll say after eating them.

“Meh,” perhaps. “Woo,” please.

McDonald s Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders 2

For starters, they’re not much to look at. It may be fast food, but it’s also 2019, and when your premium tenders are broken and sagging in an oversized box, that says something about preparation.

McDonald s Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders 4

It also says something about your preparation — and maybe even the conception — when my tenders are soggy and have little crunch when ordered during the Noon to 1 p.m. lunch hour. They had no genuine crisp or crackle in the breading. Inside, they were dryer than McDonald’s tenders I’ve had in the past, with none of the succulence white meat needs to be anything other than boring.

McDonald s Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders 3

But perhaps the biggest letdown was the sauce. Where last year’s Sweet N’ Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders nailed the Honey BBQ flavor, the BBQ sauce on this year’s Spicy BBQ tenders leaves much to be desired. It’s not as sweet or bold as last year’s version but carries the same ho-hum level of spiciness — a little cayenne on the back end, some garlic powder, maybe enough black pepper to let you know that hey, we didn’t lie entirely in our marketing.

I tend to treat chicken tenders like pizza, falling back on the theory that they can never be truly repulsive. But I’m also a big believer in opportunity cost, and as the list of McDonald’s menu items I would have rather spent money on grows, my relative enjoyment of a disappointing product dissipates. My suggestion? Get the buttermilk tenders and sauce them separately. You may like them.

Purchased Price: $4.59
Size: 4-count
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (4-count) 580 calories, 27 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1950 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 41 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Heath Caramel Brownie Blizzard

Dairy Queen Heath Caramel Brownie Blizzard

What is the Dairy Queen Heath Caramel Brownie Blizzard?

It’s the new Blizzard treat you spotted after you went back to Dairy Queen for your eleventh Pumpkin Pie Blizzard in the last two weeks. With Heath candy pieces added to a mix of chewy brownie pieces, caramel, and Dairy Queen soft serve, the new treat is trying to be a caramel brownie with a bit of toffee crunch.

How is it?

Dairy Queen Heath Caramel Brownie Blizzard Top

Surprisingly complex for what seems like a flavor that would have already been tried before. Since Heath pieces tend to be the most overlooked candy mix-ins ever, you never quite know what you’re getting when they’re included. But the hard crunch of the pieces is a good textural contrast to the slightly chewy and chocolatey brownie pieces, which are plentiful enough to give the Blizzard a chocolate flavor that makes the caramel aspect taste both rich and familiar.

Dairy Queen Heath Caramel Brownie Blizzard Mix ins

While the caramel flavor hangs in the background, the burnt sugar toffee of the Heath gives the Blizzard a new appeal that keeps it from getting boring.

Is there anything else you should know?

The level of your enjoyment for this will likely vary by the quality and quantity in which yours is made. That’s because the vanilla base seems like the wrong choice to host the established chocolate-caramel synergy, which was a letdown in the spoonfuls that didn’t get brownie pieces. And while the Heath pieces give the Blizzard an added element, they don’t define the baseline flavor the way that the brownie pieces do.

Conclusion:

Dairy Queen doesn’t make a bad Blizzard, and this Heath Caramel Brownie one is no exception. But I tend to think the line between very good and mind blown is pretty discernible, and this latest Blizzard doesn’t reach the latter category. It’s a shame Dairy Queen didn’t go all out and double down on the chocolate and caramel.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: Mini
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Mini) 370 calories, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 44 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Maple Creme Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Maple Creme Oreo Cookies

Poor maple.

Since the dawn of seasonal snack food proliferation and the veritable arms race of limited-edition flavors, it’s been getting overlooked each fall by pumpkin spice and any combination of apple flavors. And while it seems obvious maple would make its way into prime-time cookie form, it sure took its sweet time. Hell, it took Oreo 25 other flavors to even consider maple!

Frankly, Maple Creme Oreo Cookies are long overdue, especially given the fact that people have been smuggling Dare Maple Leaf Crème cookies across the Canadian border for as long as I can remember.

Limited Edition Maple Creme Oreo Cookies Creme

Like any rational human being, I eagerly enjoyed my first Maple Creme Oreo by twisting the cookies ends off and licking the crème, which looks like peanut butter. More viscous than regular Oreo creme and slightly gritty, it has a delicate depth and slightly unprocessed flavor. These are not woodsy, warming, or even caramel, all flavors associated with darker colored maple syrups. But for what they lack in a romantic conception of drizzling maple syrup over pancakes after a long day of chopping wood in Vermont with our best flannel shirt, they make up in general appeal.

Limited Edition Maple Creme Oreo Cookies in Package

In that light, the creme does hit a maple note, although one that straddles a slightly-more-sweet-than-it-needs-to-be mixture of corn syrup and light brown sugar. You’re getting maple flavor, but you’re not getting maple syrup — a sensation complicated by the Golden Oreo wafers.

While the creme is far too sweet on its own, the Golden Oreo wafers help balance out the taste. When I first bit into one, an odd but welcomed memory of Golden Grahams surfaced on my tongue. I’m not sure if the wafers received a slight flavor change for the cookie, or if was the combination of being stuck to the maple-flavored creme, but the taste was different and better than the average Golden Oreo.

Limited Edition Maple Creme Oreo Cookies Wafers

In any case, the wafers had enough complexity to dull the sweetness while rounding out the maple flavor, making the complete cookie chomp the preferred method for eating these.

While Oreo could have gone a lot of different ways in pairing the maple flavor, I tend to think the simplest variation is often the best. It definitely works here, and although Maple Creme Oreo Cookies are not quite as good as Canada’s Maple Leaf Crème cookies (which are made with real maple syrup), they’re still good enough on their own to deserve consideration to be in the regular lineup.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size:12.2 oz. package
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 cookies) 140 calories, 6 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of total sugars, 13 grams of added sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Krave Cereal Cinnamon Crunch and Strawberry Crunch

Kellogg s Cinnamon Crunch Krave Cereal

I give Kellogg’s a lot of credit with Krave. In an era when new cereal concepts barely last a year, the British import has stuck around with surprising popularity, much like The Office except without the musical exploits of Creed Bratton.

I credit this to a few things, one of which is the decision to add “more chocolate” to Krave. I’m old enough to remember when you’d bite into a cereal biscuit only to get—more biscuit. Today’s original and Double Chocolate Krave avoid the dreaded hollow biscuit, a trend that continues in the two newest additions to the Krave family -— Cinnamon Crunch and Strawberry Crunch.

Why the “Crunch” in their titles? I couldn’t tell you. The Krave Biscuits share the sub-optimal snacking qualities of their forbearers, each with a delicate, crumbly texture that sogs and saturates in milk.

Kellogg s Cinnamon Crunch Krave Cereal 3

When I was younger and less at risk for a whole host of health problems associated with excessive empty carbohydrate intake, I thought it was taboo to combine assertive flavors like cinnamon and chocolate in cereal. Turns out, the two are hardly fish and cheese, and Cinnamon Crunch Krave turns out the very best in the seemingly symbiotic relationship of cocoa and cassia.

Kellogg s Cinnamon Crunch Krave Cereal 4

A strong churros flavor coats each square, with a lickable, stick-to-your-beard sugary coating blooming into an admirable chocolate taste. In milk, this only gets better. What ensues is a flavor similar to Chocolate Toast Crunch but the chocolate is more concentrated. It is, unexpectedly, one of the better chocolate cereals I’ve had in recent memory.

Kellogg s Strawberry Crunch Krave Cereal

Strawberry Crunch Krave didn’t score as high. The strawberry powder tastes… interesting, which is about as cliché and proverbial as it gets but is nevertheless the most apt description. Overall, it has a kind of toasted sugar taste that doesn’t quite match the succulent and slightly tart sweetness of actual strawberries. It’s also noticeably artificial, much like the sticky granules that covered the short-lived Strawberry Tiny Toast cereal of a few years ago.

Kellogg s Strawberry Crunch Krave Cereal 4

Those hoping for some Neapolitan synergy sans vanilla will be disappointed; even in chilled Vitamin D fortified whole milk, the richness that makes strawberry and chocolate an actual thing is MIA. The chocolate competes with the strawberry powder, combining for two disjointed tastes that never come together in the classic Valentine’s Day combination. The cereal isn’t bad, but it’s a relative letdown.

As seems to be the case with many cereals released in pairs, Kellogg’s has at least one winner among its new Krave varieties. And, while Strawberry Crunch will probably win a few niche fans who were deprived actual fresh fruit as children, my gut feeling is that Cinnamon Crunch will take its rightful place on the shelves next to the other varieties. And, like an offbeat British sitcom, it might just stick around for more than a few years.

Purchased Price: $3.64 (each)
Size: 17.3 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cinnamon Crunch)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Strawberry Crunch)
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup w/o milk) 180 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

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.