REVIEW: Sonic Buffalo Chicken Dip Bites

I have always been a snack fiend. I tried to be a more “three square meals” person, but it didn’t really stick. Instead of fighting it, I’ve accepted it and embraced it. When I opened the Sonic app to order a drink, a screen showing its new Buffalo Chicken Dip Bites came up. Seeing the picture of the tiny empanada-looking snack, I immediately added them to my order.

Sonic recently added the Buffalo Chicken Dip Bites as a limited time item. Each piece is a crispy fried pocket filled with cheddar cheese, Buffalo sauce, and chicken. By default, you are given a cup of ranch to dip them in, and they are available in quantities of 3, 5, or 7.

The outside wrapper was absolutely fascinating to me. It looked similar to an empanada or even a ravioli, but ate like a wonton. The crispiness and chew were reminiscent of the wontons I’d get from my local Chinese takeout restaurant. It walked that line of crunchy but not brittle. I was worried the outside would be the weakest part of the item, but it ended up being its strength.

The Buffalo chicken dip mixture was fine but didn’t wow me in the way I had hoped. I am sure some of you are saying to yourself, “Holly…it’s a fast food item. What do you mean ‘wow’ you?”

In recent years, Sonic has stepped up many of its flavors. At least to me, they’ve been more willing to try bolder and unique food offerings to varying degrees of success. I was looking forward to a spicy, flavorful filling with the Buffalo chicken dip, but it fell flat. I was hoping for that strong spice I find present in most iterations of “Buffalo,” but instead got a La Croix interpretation.

Dipping into ranch only made the bite milder in flavor and added nothing to my eating experience. If I were to get them again, I would probably get a side of Buffalo sauce to dip them in to see if that would bring the flavor to the level I had expected. It was just a bummer to have a unique item that did not quite live up to what I wanted.

The Sonic Buffalo Chicken Dip Bites didn’t deliver the spicy snack I had hoped for, but I think the presentation with the tiny fried shell has much potential for future snacks. Spice tolerance is a fairly subjective thing, so if you enjoy the more mild Buffalo flavor, these will probably be a hit. However, if you’re looking for a more cayenne pepper-forward Buffalo taste, these will probably not satisfy you.

Purchased Price: $4.29
Size: 5 pieces
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (5 pieces) 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Limited Edition Ultimate

Video games partnering with soda brands to cross-promote is such a natural partnership. It’s a synergy of two things that already tend to be consumed by the same people and often allows for a bump in sales/game play. This summer, Coca-Cola partnered with Riot Games’ massive game League of Legends to release a new limited edition drink under their Creations banner: Coca-Cola Ultimate. Described as being +XP (experience point) flavored, the sixth addition to the Creations line is just as odd and unique as the other offerings.

+XP is often earned in games through tasks/challenges that contribute to you gaining a level, so I was extremely interested to see how they would interpret that concept into a flavor. Its smell was that of a sweet berry that almost gave me the vaguest hint of Pepsi Blue. Don’t worry, to all that hated that drink; the initial aroma was the only thing that reminded me of the divisive blue beverage.

The first sip was overwhelming to my pallet as it didn’t match the berry smell. I should have known better with the Creation line than to assume it would taste how it smelled. Taking my time to savor the soda, I tasted peach on the front with a hint of citrus on the back. The tried and true Coca-Cola flavor isn’t really present. The sweetness you expect from a Coke is absolutely there, but the signature “cola” taste is barely there.

The lack of a strong cola flavor didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. While I am sure that will turn some off, I genuinely enjoyed that this tasted like a whole new concoction because other Creations varieties drank like “Coke with added flavor.”

When researching the connection between the drink and League of Legends, I was a little bummed to find it wasn’t inspired by anything directly from the game. However, you can access some interesting benefits by scanning the QR code on the bottle or can. It will take you to the Coca-Cola Creations page, where you can access different activities tied to the game. It’s worth noting you don’t have to buy the drink to access these benefits: in-game missions can yield you an exclusive emote, AR lenses can turn your likeness into an LoL emote, and you can add your face into a video to share.

While I cannot speak to whether or not I gained XP drinking Coca-Cola Ultimate, it was an overall enjoyable drink. The connection to League of Legends doesn’t seem as deep as other soda x game collabs have been, but I think it will work in Coke’s favor: LoL fans can enjoy in-game rewards and limited edition soda fans can enjoy a new offering.

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 20 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 240 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 65 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Bottled Paradise Drink and Pink Drink

Starbucks’ popular Pink Drink and Paradise Drink are the latest beverages to be bottled and sold on shelves. As a fan of both, I was excited to give them a try to find out how they stack up to those made by a barista.

Both ready-to-drink beverages have less than 5 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce bottle, which is a fraction of the 35-45 milligrams in the Tall-sized (12 ounces) versions offered at Starbucks locations. Not sure why, but it’s worth a note.

Paradise Drink is the latest addition to the Refreshers menu (June 2022). I wasn’t shocked to see it get the bottled treatment this quickly because when it hit locations last year, it was selling like crazy as it captured a “summer in a cup” flavor thanks to its use of pineapple and passion fruit. I generally enjoyed the drink when I got it in the cafes but found the pineapple overpowering. I know the freeze dried fruit chunks contributed to that, but even trying the drink without them, I sometimes found the pineapple to be a little too much. Thankfully, the bottled version offers a much more balanced experience.

Getting a taste of the passion fruit made for a more complex flavor as opposed to the cafe version that made my tongue feel like it was being slapped by a pineapple. It’s not overly sweet and has a nice tartness. The coconut milk cuts down on the drink’s acidity and makes for a smoother sipping experience. It’s enjoyable straight from a chilled bottle and certainly is “summer in a bottle.”

It was only a matter of time before Starbucks would release a ready-to-drink version of its famous Pink Drink. Hundreds of TikTok videos swear by their copycat recipes, but none have ever really scratched the itch. Thankfully, this bottled Pink Drink is a dead ringer for the cafe version. The taste of the sweet strawberry is very present, with the coconut milk bringing a slight nutty creaminess. I know there is supposed to be acai, but it is overshadowed by the intense strawberry flavors, just like the cafe version. Unlike the Paradise Drink, I found this much more concentrated with its taste and quite a bit sweeter.

It was fine straight from the bottle but shined when poured over ice, and doing so allowed for the more concentrated flavors to mellow. Much like the Paradise Drink, the lack of freeze dried fruit didn’t take away from the experience or taste. It will be worth keeping some on hand to bridge the gap between Starbucks visits. I enjoyed it, and I think it will be fairly popular.

Purchased Price: $3.18 each
Purchased at: Walmart Neighborhood Market
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Paradise Drink), 9 out of 10 (Pink Drink)
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) Paradise Drink – 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 29 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Pink Drink – 150 calories, 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Yellowbird Nacho Fries

We are living in a golden age of artisanal hot sauces. Thanks to YouTube shows like Hot Ones, these lesser known regional brands are seeing their products gain popularity on a national stage. Taco Bell is doing its part to help bring these sauces into the spotlight by working with brands to create unique condiments for its menu items. It did it before when it offered the Loaded Truff Nacho Fries featuring TRUFF Hot Sauce and are doing it again, but this time with Yellowbird Sauce.

Yellowbird was started in Austin, Texas in 2013 by a couple with a backyard garden and a dream. Today they have a thriving online commerce, and their partnership with Taco Bell stands to put them into the national spotlight. Yellowbird Nacho Fries use the fan favorite Nacho Fries as a base for the toppings that include steak, tomatoes, sour cream, nacho cheese, cheese, and the Yellowbird sauce. Described as a “spicy habanero ranch,” it takes Yellowbird’s Classic Habanero Hot Sauce and blends it with ranch to give it a sweeter, more creamy taste.

Habanero-based hot sauces are always a bit hit or miss for me. They either use too many other flavors to mute the spice or not enough that it’s just a tongue-burning experience. The Yellowbird sauce strikes a wonderful balance that gives you that heat from the peppers, but it never burns in an uncomfortable way. The taste upon the first bite was slightly sweet with a hint of the pepper and a slight heat kick came at the end.

I was able to isolate the sauce enough to get a good taste of it on its own, but overall it got lost by the overwhelming amount of sour cream on the fries. Nacho Fries are in their best form when used as a base for a cheese fry dish. They are hardy and hold up well to the onslaught of ingredients while still bringing their own cumin-forward flavor.

To me, the steak added more of a textural difference to the item than a flavor, but Taco Bell steak has never been amazing. The two cheeses (nacho and shredded cheddar) worked well with the headlining sauce by adding a salty element. Taco Bell tomatoes are essentially decoration by offering no real taste to the dish.

When the titular sauce wasn’t overshadowed, the Yellowbird Nacho Fries were great. I was disappointed to see that the version of the sauce being used in Taco Bell isn’t currently for sale as a standalone item, but I hope that will change. It offers a good habanero flavor without worrying about the overwhelming spice that can come with it. This item is a super limited time (April 27th being the reported last day), so get it while you can. I recommend asking them to go easy on the sour cream when ordering.

Purchased Price: $6.49
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 order) 490 calories, 30 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1240 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Double Down (2023)

When the KFC Double Down was released nationwide in 2010, it instantly became part of the cultural zeitgeist. It was joked about on late night shows and pointed as to why Americans were so obese. Yet, in the four years it was on the menu, I never tried it. However, once it was gone, I regretted not taking the time to seek it out.

Thankfully, many companies have learned that nostalgia is a great way to boost sales, and my chance to try the sandwich has come. The KFC Double Down was rereleased on March 6th and is (currently) only expected to be offered for four weeks. In lieu of buns, there are two 100% white meat chicken Extra Crispy filets. Between them are two slices of cheese, two slices of bacon, and Colonel’s real mayo or spicy sauce. As I always like to try the original version first, I opted for the mayo over the spicy.

Usually, the 10-minute travel from the restaurant to home can have a negative impact on an item, but in the case of the Double Down, it ended up working in its favor. Before leaving, I checked to make sure my order was correct and noticed the cheese was unmelted. When I got home, it was perfectly gooey after sitting in its foil bag.

I was actually shocked by the size of the sandwich. I knew it would be big, but it was bigger than I thought. Cutting it in half was easy and made eating it a less daunting experience.

I got about as perfect of a first bite as you could possibly want. The crispy, tender chicken filet was a great base for the melty cheese, smokey bacon, and creamy mayo. The familiar blend of KFC spices shined but didn’t overpower the sandwich. All four ingredients worked together to create a unique flavor that made me understand why people started petitions to bring back the Double Down.

My only real issue is the lack of nutritional information. I like being somewhat informed about what I’m eating, but KFC has only released the calorie numbers. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as looking at the original sandwich’s stats, as the 2023 version is 410 calories more than the 2010 one. It’s safe to assume the other numbers must also be much higher.

While I cannot compare it to the original, the 2023 KFC Double Down was an absolute delight. Gimmick foods rarely live up to the hype, but the Double Down certainly exceeded my expectations. It isn’t an item that I would eat with any regularity, but I would love to see it receive the Shamrock Shake treatment and be released yearly for a limited time.

Purchased Price: $8.99
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 950 calories (other nutrition numbers aren’t available)