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.

REVIEW: Dark Chocolate Oreo Cookies

Dark Chocolate Oreo Cookies

What is Dark Chocolate Oreo?

A chocolate sandwich cookie filled with a dark chocolate creme — otherwise known as the Oreo you would have been excited for had Oreo not concurrently released a Carrot Cake flavor.

How is it?

Chocolatey in every sense of an adjective that is not strictly governed by the FDA. There is definitely an extra level of cocoa satisfaction in the creme, which is thicker than most Oreo fillings and almost ganache-like in body.

Dark Chocolate Oreo Cookies 2

However, even though the creme makes you go, hmm, that’s almost artisanal for about 0.7 seconds, any notion of sophistication is quickly dispelled due to the overwhelming sweetness of the creme.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Dark Chocolate Oreo Cookies 3

Even though Oreo missed a chance to capitalize on the dark chocolate flavor by swapping out the standard wafers for dark cocoa ones, the entire cookie is still better and more chocolatey than the standard chocolate version.

Dark Chocolate Oreo Cookies 4

Although, to be honest, that isn’t saying a lot. Also, sugar is the first ingredient. Why? Because it’s always the first ingredient in Oreo cookies, that’s why. And it absolutely kills any of that deep dark cocoa aftertaste you might expect.

Conclusion:

An 82 percent fair trade organic cocoa bean inspired cookie, this is not. Still, considering some of Oreo’s clear misses in the chocolate category, the Dark Chocolate Oreo is respectable enough for those of us who tend to be a little less picky in our cookie binges.

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12.2 oz. package
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 6 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, 12 grams of total sugars, 12 grams of added sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich

Why don’t more fast food chains utilize the croissant?

I mean, everyone loves croissants. From the buttery, flaky layers to that rich aftertaste and the feeling of international sophistication you get when rolling the “oi” to create what might pass as a French word, croissants are hard to hate on.

There is, it turns out, a lot of good reasons why croissants get shafted in fast food development. They smoosh easily, they’re incompatible with burgers, and their lineage is much more developed in the deli spectrum.

Perhaps that’s what makes Wendy’s new Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich so intriguing. Not only does it capitalize on the popularity of the sweet and salty fried chicken applications – pairing a maple glaze with Wendy’s homestyle chicken breast and Applewood smoked bacon – but it also uses a “flaky croissant bun” as the anchor.

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich 2

Forgetting for a second that the artistic representation of Wendy’s croissant bun looks like the emoji for dog poop (SORRY BUT IT’S TRUE), the bun fails to make the sandwich. More like a spongy brioche than a flaky croissant, it lacks the rich croissant aftertaste or light, airy texture. Perhaps most telling, it doesn’t stand out when paired with the heavy ingredients.

And yeah, those other ingredients are heavy. It’s not that Wendy’s homestyle chicken breast is terrible, it’s that its spice blend, extra crispy texture, and saltiness dominate the sandwich. The bacon and swiss cheese are, as they usually are at Wendy’s, on point as individual ingredients, but as a whole sandwich, they come together in a salty, somewhat meaty, and weirdly sweet way that gives new meaning to ambivalence.

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich 3

Weirdly sweet is, I think, an apt description for the maple glaze. The sweetness is muted, cut by a bit of butter and a dissatisfying bite of apple cider vinegar. What you’re left with is a viscous fluid that doesn’t know if it wants to be a salad dressing, a baste, or drizzle-on-pancake maple syrup. If a sweet and salty sensation is supposed to awaken your taste buds, this is more like hitting the snooze 4 or 5 times before stumbling out of bed.

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich 4

Ultimately, Wendy’s misses the mark when it comes to the Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich. Heavy, salty, and without any relief, it’s not so much a guilty pleasure as it is a slightly underwhelming representation of chicken and waffles. And, let’s be real — a fast food croissant “bun” ain’t no waffle.

Purchased Price: $5.69
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 680 calories, 34 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1450 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 41grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 38 grams of protein.

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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.