REVIEW: Wendy’s Harvest Chicken Salad

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad

You know that meme that says “name a more iconic duo” and then hits you with a pic of anything from Keenan and Kel to a guy jumping off a bridge with another guy watching the Cleveland Browns?

I tend to think apples and walnuts fall into that category of stuff that belongs together.

Apples, walnuts, feta, bacon, chicken, and cranberries? Now we’re complicating things. Perhaps that’s why I’m ambivalent towards Wendy’s new Harvest Chicken Salad, which not only attempts to Noah’s Ark-it out of pretty much every Wendy’s salad ingredient but also skates a little too close to the regular-menu Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Fruits

I don’t mean to imply Wendy’s homage to autumn-in-salad-form isn’t good. Like most of Wendy’s salads, the ingredients push into fast casual territory. Skin-on red and green apples are crispy and mildly sweet; the chicken juicy and slightly smoky; the vinaigrette tangy and a tad bit tart. Add in crunchy, meaty glazed pecans (which were left off the first full-sized salad I ordered, unfortunately), and you’re looking at a filling meal.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Bacon

But then there’s the bacon, complicating things. It’s not bad in and of itself since, duh, it’s a scientific impossibility that bacon detracts from anything and because Wendy’s makes really good bacon -— thick cut, substantial, with a great balance of fat and smoke. But I have no idea why it’s on this salad. Not only did it arrive on my full-size salad (I bought another half-sized one later since Wendy’s forgot my walnuts) in strips meant for sandwiches, but it took away the spotlight from the apples and walnuts.

Much like the bacon, the feta cheese feels out of place, like me when I show up to a wine and cheese party with a six pack of Shinerbock. Perhaps Wendy’s didn’t want to infringe on the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, but the salty, mostly flavorless feta lacks the tang and funk of blue cheese that helps complement the apples. Even goat cheese would have been a better option than feta, especially since it’s tangy and has a slight sweetness that would have played well with the oddly-included dried cranberries.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Closeup

I’m usually a big fan of Wendy’s salads, and while I loved the quality of the ingredients featured in the Harvest Chicken Salad, I can’t deny there’s a genuine lack of cohesion binding the salad together. Is it jump off a bridge because the Browns still haven’t won since 2016 dysfunctional? Goodness no. But when your iconic duo gets lost amidst even well executed extra ingredients, it’s time to get back to your bread and butter — or apples and walnuts.

(Nutrition Facts – Full Size – 570 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1300 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 37 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.79
Size: Full
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Apples are surprisingly crisp and flavorful for a prepackaged salad. Great execution on individual ingredients, especially the juicy chargrilled chicken. Meme potential in the apple and walnut combination.
Cons: Too many ingredients crowding up that apple and walnut synergy. Feta cheese is a real disappointment. Why are their cranberries in this salad? Botched salad construction.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Sweet N’ Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders

I love the insolence of Honey BBQ.

Think about it. In an oversaturated food landscape where barbeque has become hyper-regionalized, all about the smoke, and increasingly shaped by other cuisines, Honey BBQ announces itself as unapologetically one-note.

Where other barbecue sauces hit you with a variety of flavors from fruity to tangy to smoky to hot, Honey BBQ essentially announces itself as the potluck contribution of Winnie the Pooh.

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders 2

At the risk of glancing over the “Spicy” in McDonald’s new Sweet N’ Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders, that’s basically the story with the latest LTO from the Golden Arches. Sure, there’s a slight kick of cayenne on the backend of the tenders, but it’s more “hmm” than anything else.

Heatseekers be warned, these are not a reincarnation of Chick-fil-A’s unicornish Spicy Chicken Nuggets. If you’re looking for genuine heat, these are not the tenders you’re looking for.

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders 4

The thing is, they don’t have to be. The first bite of the first tender was chicken tender heaven. Suddenly, marketing buzzwords like “crispy,” “juicy,” and even the highly suspect, if not potentially reprehensible, “finger licking” carry meaning beyond a 30-second radio spot cliché.

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders 3

For chicken tender aficionados, that first bite is less a taste sensation and more a moment, as if the combined flavors of every horrible-for-you food came together and created a slow-motion music video of you chomping away.

The glaze, meanwhile, is a double-edged sword, one that invites you to lick the sticky-sweet goo as you would a popsicle, but at the cost of precious crispiness on the part of the tender’s breading. While excellent as far as Honey BBQ goes, the sauce was inconsistently applied.

While I’d avoid sticking the c-word label on the tenders, I’ll be the first to admit that to some taste buds they may seem cloying. Such is the biological reductionism of Honey BBQ, which functions at its best when paired with crispy, fatty foods like those $1 Wise Honey BBQ potato chips it sells at Dollar General, or, as I’ve found, boneless all-white meat chicken strips at McDonald’s.

If you can make peace with this, you will like these tenders. If not, well, there’s always a petition to get Chick-fil-A’s spicy nuggets to go national.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 pieces – 640 calories, 27 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1780 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 39 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.19
Size: 4-piece
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nails the Honey BBQ flavor. Addictively saucy. Tenders stay fairly crispy despite excess moisture. Gives “all-white meat” a good name.
Cons: Spice is modest and not exactly caliente. Inconsistent saucing. Terribly, terribly messy to eat.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Berry Burst Chicken Salad

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad

As a marketing writer for a semi-large organization, and as a perpetual bullshitter, I tend to appreciate the subtle ability of words to transform the same old thing into something completely different.

Let’s put our cards on the table: a straight description doesn’t work anymore. Nobody wants what is. Everyone wants what is ideal.

Case in point, what was the Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad seven years ago became the Summer Berry Chicken Salad two years ago and now has morphed into the Berry Burst Chicken Salad.

Granted, there are some slight variations, but who actually remembers a slight switcheroo in a cheese or a berry or a dressing?

For what it’s worth, what is basically the same salad from 2011 and 2016 is still delicious. Although, perhaps to stay consistent with the times, we should say it’s still delicious AF. Regardless, the salad has that rare ability to make you stop and say, “Wait, that came from Wendy’s?

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad 4

If you still haven’t had Wendy’s revamped grilled chicken, which debuted two years ago, get with the times, man. It’s juicy, succulent, and it has flavor like something grilled on one of those short-season Food Network summer grilling shows. I can’t believe I just said that about white meat. Anyways, the chicken is more than passable and a few notches above any pre-packed salad you’d find in the grocery store.

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad 3

I was really impressed with the berries, particularly the strawberries, which had a slightly macerated taste and texture that was sweet without being cloying or overripe. The blueberries were by and large plump and ripe, their modest sweetness pairing nicely against the salty feta cheese. Both the cheese and the smoky, crunchy almonds, give the salad a hearty feel — perhaps even a burst.

The biggest drawbacks are the dressing and the amount of lettuce. The sweetness of the dressing tends to be a little too much with the berries. It’s like putting ketchup on my ketchup flavored potato chips -— both delicious, less so together. As for the lettuce, I feel like Elaine Benes might be cool with it, but when I’m fairly full and there’s still a forest staring back at me, sans chicken and berries, the ratio is a little off.

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad 2

I told myself I wasn’t going to look at the past reviews of Wendy’s Chicken/Almond/Berry salad combos when scoring the Berry Burst Chicken Salad. Well, lo and behold I have no self-control and saw past scores of 8 and 9. Given that nothing much has changed, but more importantly, given that this is still a great salad, a 9 seems more than appropriate.

(Nutrition Facts – Full size – 460 calories, 17 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1090 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 29 grams of sugar, 7 grams of fiber, and 41 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.79
Size: Full size
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: “Lots of fresh strawberries and blueberries” — literally ripped this line from the 2011 review, which is still applicable. Grilled chicken is a step above 2011 version. Well composed salad with super fresh ingredients. Crunchy almonds and feta cheese create good contrasts in flavors and textures.
Cons: Raspberry vinaigrette is like putting ketchup on ketchup potato chips. A little too much greenery. Lingering debate over the connotation of “chicken salad” vs. “salad with chicken.”

REVIEW: KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich

I’ve often wondered why KFC doesn’t join the 21st century and put a regular chicken sandwich on its menu. And no, I’m not talking rectangular-ish chicken sliders or carbless heart-attacks-waiting-to-happen, I’m talking about a regular-sized bun with a decently-sized fried, all-white chicken breast in the middle.

The introduction of the new Crispy Colonel Sandwich ends my hypothetical smatterings when it comes to this question; available in variations featuring KFC’s various chicken flavors (Nashville Hot; Georgia Gold; Smokey Mountain) it’s also available in a regular extra crispy version with mayo and pickles, the seemingly now standard fare when someone decides to put fried chicken between a bun.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 4

The good news is that the chicken steals the show and lives up to its crispy billing. Actually, I was blown away by how good the all-white meat chicken patty was. Granted, calling it a patty is a bit of a misnomer -— think a supersized extra crispy tender, or perhaps a boneless, skinless chicken breast. But the balance of crispy breading and moist interior meat nailed the texture element, while KFC’s much-beloved herbs and spices provided more than enough flavor.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 3

The problem is that it’s a rather kindergarten-ish attempt at sandwich construction, at least as far my local KFC is concerned. The bun – already ridiculously thin, tasteless, and crumbly – was absolutely murdered with mayo, which both drowned out the pickles and failed to enhance the flavor of those famous 11 herbs and spices.

With the laws of physics working against me, I abandoned the soggy underside, which had already marred the underneath crispiness of the chicken. While I realize mayo can be more divisive than cilantro (which I decline to comment on at this time), I do try to keep an open mind to such things. But I have to say the addition and amount of the globby mayo brought the sandwich down a few notches.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 2

And yes, for the record, a simpler treatment, such as Chick-fil-A’s buttered bun, would have been preferable. As for the comparison, everyone seems to want when it comes to these chicken sandwich faceoffs? It’s hard to say; Chick-fil-a cooks their chicken differently, in different oil, and with different spices. In some ways, it’s an apples to oranges comparison. I will say, though, that from a chicken element alone, I like KFC’s Crispy Colonel more than similar offerings from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.

All in all, KFC’s rather pathetic treatment of everything outside of the chicken in its long-awaited chicken sandwich answers a lot of questions for me. Namely, why KFC hasn’t committed to a regular sandwich in the past. That said, the execution of a nearly perfect chicken patty — crispy outside, juicy inside, plenty of flavor in the breading — makes me wonder if the colonel just needs to plan a different line of attack — one that pairs his famous chicken with a bun and condiments that enhance and don’t detract from the sandwich.

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 25 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 24 gram2 of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 (sandwich); $5 (Fill-up Box)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Excellent balance of extra crispy breading and juicy, moist interior chicken. All white meat. 11 herbs and spices. Good value as a $5 Fill-up Box.
Cons: Bun is a complete afterthought. Mayo detracts from flavor of the sandwich and reduces underside crispiness. Expensive as just a sandwich. A bit small. Not being able to give a 7.5 rating.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Signature Crafted Garlic White Cheddar Burger

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar

Less than a football field away from the closest McDonald’s to my apartment is a Wendy’s. Said Wendy’s has a sign touting fresher is better. Said sign corresponds to a commercial Wendy’s runs about their fresh never frozen beef. Said frozen beef is a reference to the McDonald’s 90 yards away.

Correction: Was.

In case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s is making the great leap forward. And, apparently, that leap to fresh beef starts with the rollout of the Signature Crafted Garlic White Cheddar Burger.

Which is convenient because if the moon is made out of cheese, and the cow jumps over the moon, it really is one small leap for mookind. But I digress.

Say what you will about fast food burgers in general, but McDonald’s burgers have (had?) a specific taste and texture that some people happened to like in a kind of lowbrow comfort fast food sort of way.

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar 2

The new patties are definitely a step away from that. With visible surface browning and what appeared to be sea salt on the patty, the beef looked like something I could have made at home. And the taste is altogether beefy —- more nuanced, rounded, and meaty than I remember. But the patty, aside from tasting drier than the average Quarter Pounder I’ve had in the past, didn’t taste well-seasoned or particularly succulent. As someone who grills a lot of burgers myself, I’d compare it to ground sirloin. Beefier, yes, but noticeably leaner and less flavorful.

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar 3

The good news is the burger construction is engineered for what my friend calls the executive bight. Carefully placed lettuce and tomato, as well as the slightly sweet bun, do wonders to round out the taste. Meanwhile, the garlic chips and aioli leave a distinct and savory garlic flavor that brings together all the flavors and makes your breath smell like the equivalent of three roasted heads of garlic.

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar 4

While I wanted to love (and I mean LOVE) the sharp white cheddar cheese, its flavor on the burger is less impressive than its flavor on its own. Unlike past McDonald’s “cheddar” cheeses, the slice actually has a bit of funk, but within the burger it gets lost amidst the beef and the garlic aioli and chips. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s sort of a waste of an otherwise perfectly good slice of cheese.

There was a time when I might have said $5.19 is too much for a burger. Well, that time was in college and considering I’m about to be 30 and no longer use “adult” as a verb, I’m willing to pay $5.19 for a good fast food burger. And make no mistake about it, the Signature Crafted Garlic White Cheddar Burger is a good burger by fast food standards.

Just be prepared to eat a Tic-Tac afterwards.

(Nutrition Facts – 620 calories, 300 calories from fat, 33 grams of total fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and 31 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.19
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Beefier fresh beef patty than traditional McDonald’s burgers. Excellent double whammy of garlic taste. High quality ingredients make $5.19 price tag a bargain.
Cons: Leaner-tasting patty lacks juiciness and richness. Quality of cheese is lost against garlic flavor.