REVIEW: Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts

Note: This guest review was written by our internet pal Russ Shelly from What’s Good at Trader Joe’s.

You don’t have to take Bowling for Soup’s word for it: 1985 was an odd year.

I mean, check this out – any further proof needed? Recorded and released as a single for Live Aid’s quest against world hunger, David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of the Martha and the Vandellas classic “Dancing in the Street” is, well, perhaps the zenith of well-intentioned goofiness the mid-’80s offered. Or so I think, I was only like three years old and preoccupied with Sesame Street. Perhaps more interestingly, the video proves that because two things (in this case, Bowie and Jagger) that are awesome separately aren’t necessarily great when streams are crossed and forces combined.

Think about it. Chocolate and gum. Pickles and ice cream. Could you picture Freddie Mercury with Gimlee’s beard? Hard no.

Once again, though, two all-time classics, in the name of combating hunger, come together in the new Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts Sandwich, currently being test marketed in Pittsburgh as well as the great Virginia cities of Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. Fried chicken. And donuts. That’s all, that’s it. Big question: is this another Bowie/Jagger or is it more Bowie/Mercury?

The answer, of course, is a little bit of each.

First, take a look at this behemoth. My goodness. It’s a full-sized fried chicken filet bookended by two full-sized glazed donuts, served warm and drippy and gooey. There’s no way anyone could eat this while driving. Or even manage a full bite: the sandwich is too colossal. Human mandibles are not meant to chomp something of this size – it’s simply impossible. It’s a two-hand job for sure.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Bun

Aside from its size, what’s most impressive about this chicken donut sandwich is the quality of the donuts themselves. It’s doubtful the Colonel is making 4 a.m. wake up calls for freshly made donuts at each store, so to have fresh, warm donuts within minutes of ordering is some sort of fast food management marvel.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Sugar

And not just that – they’re legitimately good. Crispy on the outside and warm and cakey on the inside, there’s almost like a funnel cake vibe to them, except in larger form, and instead of being doused with powdered sugar, there’s a syrupy sweet plain sugar glaze amply gooped all over the place. And while the donuts weren’t as melt-in-your-mouth as, say, fresh made Krispy Kreme, they were soft and comforting, but a bit crumbly if smushed to create a more manageable bite.

If you’ve had KFC chicken, you’ll know what the filet tastes like. Just fried chicken. Heavy on the crispies, decent seasoning, a little peppery. Not awful, but not Chick-Fil-A or Popeyes either. Just all right.

Together, though? It’s not as awful as I imagined it potentially being, but there’s room for improvement. First, with the respective size of the donuts and the filet, it was hard to get a lot of bites with a decent representative sample of each in there. Many seemed to be a little too heavy on the carby and not the clucky side. Even if both get their way in, though, there’s something amiss.

Logically, a salty/sweet flavor profile ought to be in play, but it’s not. The sugar glaze overpowers a lot of the chicken and saps its strength. There’s not anything that bridges them – instead of sugar glaze, how about maple or honey? That seems a better play to me. That might also fill the gap between what makes chicken and waffles such a success while this particular interpretation isn’t nearly as inspiring.

To any KFC bigwigs reading this, here’s my two cents, and contact me for any royalties. First, use one donut and not two. Slice it bagel style so there’s half the carbs. The donuts are big and fluffy enough; they can handle it. The kindly counterperson who chatted me up while my order was readying stated that she had not seen a single person finish a whole sandwich that week simply because it was too big. Second, instead of glazing the donuts with pure sugar, switch to maple or honey glaze and put it atop the chicken instead of drenching the dough. That’d make it probably more enjoyable.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Tray

Chicken and waffles is definitely a thing, and in KFC’s case, with a little tweaking, chicken and donuts can be, too. Indeed, there’s also the option of ordering a chicken and donut basket combo. To be honest, the whole shebang was more enjoyable served up that way. At $5.99 for the sandwich or $7.99 for a combo with potato wedges and soft drink, this particular KFC excursion wasn’t regrettable but is unlikely to be repeated. We definitely weren’t dancing in the street after.

Purchased Price: $5.99 (sandwich only)
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Not available.

REVIEW: Arby’s Venison Sandwich

Arby’s Venison Sandwich

Note: This guest review was written by our internet buddy Russ Shelly from What’s Good at Trader Joe’s.

Tension and anticipation filled the cool early morning, day after Thanksgiving air. The nervous glances and small talk only added to the edge. The crowd was gathering, just moments before opening, and we all knew what we there for. The only question was, who would be first, and who would be left empty-handed. There were just limited quantities, after all. We all knew it.

Slowly, the manager approached. The door was going to be unlocked. This was the moment. We all pressed in, just waiting for that click…

The kindly manager opened the door, nervously smiled and cheerfully said, ”Welcome to Arby’s!”

What, you thought we were lining up at Macy’s on Black Friday for $50 off an at-home hair removal kit? Don’t be ridiculous, this was all about the Arby’s Venison Sandwich being testmarketed at select stores only.

Gotta say it: For this sandwich, Bambi’s mom has got it going on. It’s a very simple construct: A 5.5-ounce slab of marinated deer steak, a semi-generous splash of juniper sauce, and onion straws all held by the typical Arby’s star cut bun used in their other specialty sandwiches.

Arby’s Venison Sandwich 3

Let’s break it down, starting with the obvious star: the venison. Apparently from farm-raised deer in New Zealand, the meat is marinated in a simple spice blend of garlic, salt and pepper, with the pepper being the strongest element. The steak is slow cooked, sous-vide style, for several hours resulting in a tender, medium-well cooked steak that is lean without any elements of stringiness or chewiness. If you’re not familiar with venison as an edible meat, think high quality beef, and that’s a decent enough approximation for the uninitiated. There’s not a lot of inherent gamey flavor, which some will see as a plus.

Arby’s Venison Sandwich 2

The sauce and straw sidekicks really add to the overall appeal. It’s a sweet-style barbecue flavor for the sauce, with juniper berries adding a unique, slightly sweet yet tart tinge. Maybe the berries were my deer’s last meal. That’s…perhaps morbid. But it’s a good thing, as the berry flavor adds a “wild” dimension that a typical BBQ sauce wouldn’t. The onion straws put in a clean, crispy bite, with a little grease, with the onion flavor helping bridge the gap between the garlic and pepper of the deer and the sweetness of the sauce. In a lot of ways, the onion straws are like Lebowski’s rug: easy to overlook, but they really tie it all together. No cheese or lettuce or tomato here, and none are needed.

If there’s a weak spot for the sandwich, it’s the bun. Not that it’s bad bread – it isn’t. But it’s much bigger than the deer steak, and while it’s up to the task of holding it all together without getting overwhelmed, the overall feel of the sandwich is that it’s a tad too bready. Where the steak was a little thinner, or there wasn’t as much onions or sauce, the bread really took over and dampened the much more flavorful elements.

The Arby’s Venison Sandwich was rolled out in a testing phase in only 17 Arby’s locations nationwide, most of them in popular hunting areas. Gathering by the amount of camo in the crowd, and the fact that I had only about the fourth most impressive beard (male division), it’s a hit. Within twenty minutes, the store I was at (Bellevue, PA) had sold out of at least 75 percent of its allocated inventory…and that is slow sales compared to other restaurant sites. But then, again, it was 10:20 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, so much of the nation was either a) shopping for $5 off electronic toothbrushes or b) recovering from riding the turkey-and-gravy train from the day before.

I’ll admit I wasn’t even hungry when I sat down to eat the sandwich, but when my first was polished off, it was good enough for me to consider having my second right then and there. I settled for taking it home and reheating for dinner, which worked better than one would expect.

Gauging by the enthusiasm of the rest of the dining room as well as the friendly Arby’s managers roving around asking for input, there seems to be a good shot of the venison sandwich catching on as a much wider release. It’s superb meatcraft, and I already can’t wait for the commercials with that deep gravelly booming voice.

Here’s to hoping that in 2017 the venison will be coming to an Arby’s near you.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: $5 (test market price)
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Expertly made venison. Awesome sauce. Being lucky enough to eat not one but two of these before any of you even had a chance.
Cons: A bit too bready at points. Reliving the death of Bambi’s mom.

GUEST REVIEW: Taylor’s Tonics Cafe Azteca

Taylor's Tonics Cafe Azteca Sparkling & Spiced Espresso Cola

(Editor’s Note: This guest review come from Aaron, one of the The Soda Jerks. The best way I can describe The Soda Jerks is to compare what they do with what Conan O’Brien did on his old NBC Late Night show. While Conan showcased bands you’ve probably never heard of, The Soda Jerks review sodas you’ve probably never heard of.)

I honestly don’t know what I’m in for with this current review. Let’s just cut to the chase. I have a bottle of Espresso Cola in front of me and it’s a bit unnerving. It’s unnerving because without looking at the ingredients label I can’t even imagine how much caffeine is in this thing. It’s unnerving because I’m not the biggest fan of coffee flavored anything… including coffee. Finally, it’s unnerving because it’s from the makers of Chai Cola and that was a pretty powerful drink in its own right.

The official name of this beverage is Taylor’s Tonics Cafe Azteca Sparkling & Spiced Espresso Cola. That my friends is a name. Even abbreviated the name becomes T.T.C.A.S.A.S.E.C. making it no shorter than the word musketeer. I’m not sure what that proves but you get the example regardless. The label adoring this bottle is sepia through and through, giving the bottle a fake “Old Westerny” feel. Ingredients of T.T.C.A.S.A.S.E.C. are as follows: Sparking water (infused with Fair Trade Coffee, Cocoa, Cinnamon Bark, and Cayenne), Evaporated Cane Juice, Natural Flavors of Vanilla, Mocha, and Spice, Citric Acid, and Natural Caffeine (40mg). That is one impressive, and daunting, ingredient list for a cola. I guess all we can do now is give it a huff.

Let’s crank up the scare factor for Ol’ Aaron just a bit more. This smells just like an iced coffee. I smell no cinnamon, no vanilla, no cocoa… just coffee. I can only hope that the bitter aroma escapes the bottle as the sweet, sweet, flavor rests inside. Here goes something! Let me make sure I take this bottle and “Rock Gently” as the instructions instruct.

WHOA! Too. Many. Flavors. Without taking another sip for the moment I tasted coffee, cinnamon, cayenne, and cocoa in that one sip. They weren’t blended together in a smooth friendly way either. Each of those individual flavors attacked my mouth in a cruel and menacing way. With the second sip, the coffee flavoring seems to have either died down or my taste buds are instantly used to it now. The cinnamon/cayenne acts as if it’s being forced to be consumed and it’s using all its power to not be. It’s tiny nails slide down the back of my throat giving me one of the harshest mouth feels I’ve had in a very long time, if not ever.

The cocoa only comes in at the end of the terrible roller coaster. The cocoa isn’t a nice guy either, not in the slightest. Cocoa is the guy that ruins those roller coaster pictures they sell after the ride. In this case, he’s flipping you off while his friend vanilla seems to be embarrassed to even be there. There they sit behind you and your family, keeping you from owning one of those overpriced memories.

Cafe Azteca tastes as if someone decided to make their own soda with all the ingredients they love but they have no idea how to make soda. “Sure we’ll throw in some coffee, and some cocoa, and maybe a little cayenne. Stir it real good, and WHAMO!”

I’ve now had four sips and winced with each one. I’ve been very aware that this soda isn’t for me for quite some time now. I’m sure Cafe Azteca has a strong market somewhere… probably with people who like coffee soda (all six of them). My stomach is bubbling something fierce, and I really don’t want to drink this anymore. I must suffer and take a fifth sip though. By taking this fifth sip I’ll be able to tell if Cafe Azteca makes me wince five out of five times. Who cares if something happens four out of four times… five is where it’s at! Let’s find out.

I’ve got to be the simplest simpleton on the planet for doing that, of course I winced. Cafe Azteca is one of the top three worst sodas I’ve ever had. I’ve never been to Mexico but it seems that Cafe Azteca is just another way for Montezuma to get his revenge.

Verdict – Do Not Buy!


For more reviews of sodas you’ve never heard of, go and visit The Soda Jerks.