REVIEW: Wendy’s Cinnabon Pull-Apart

Okay, let’s play a word association game. Ready? When you say Wendy’s, I say… Cinnabon! What, you don’t understand why Cinnabon would be associated with Wendy’s? I don’t really get it either, but nonetheless, these two fast food giants are collaborating on a new treat that can only be found on Wendy’s breakfast menu, the Cinnabon Pull-Apart.

As the “Pull-Apart” in the name suggests, this isn’t one big treat like the rolls Cinnabon is best known for; instead, it’s a monkey bread-esque cluster of smaller dough nuggets clumped together, which you eat by simply breaking off each bite-size component.

Or that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway, but I didn’t find the experience quite so seamless. My piping hot Pull-Apart was actually pretty hard, so liberating the chunks required way more effort than was probably intended. I guess that’s why it’s not called the Cinnabon Gently-Fall-Apart (and I guess that’s also why a fork comes with it), but I do think it’s fair that I expected my fast food breakfast to be a little more convenient to consume.

The huge glob of congealed cream cheese frosting on top didn’t help with that either; the archetypical Cinnabon frosting is way more liquidy, so it doesn’t impede your mouthful, but this solid glob was so ginormous that the only way to even get to the Cinnabon bits seemed to be either eating the whole frosting blob in a couple big bites (no thank you) or expending yet more effort to attempt to distribute it more evenly, a graceless task as its thick consistency wasn’t exactly spreadable.

By this point in the review, my frustration with this dish is surely apparent, but you might still be hoping that it ended up tasting amazing enough to be worth all the hassle. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ll have to go ahead and dash that hope.

Apparently, my Pull-Apart’s reluctance to do its first job, pulling apart, was a signal that it would also fail at its second job, tasting good. The first sentiment that came to my mind after managing my first mouthful was “dry” (actually, it was more like “dry, dry, dry, dry, dry”; I didn’t love or even really like the cream cheese frosting and its too-tangy sickly sweetness, but I was at least grateful it made me feel a little less like I was eating sand). The second sentiment that came to my mind was “yeasty.” The very distant third — like, this afterthought didn’t occur to me until maybe a full minute after my first bite — was, “I guess there was a whisper of cinnamon in there too.” There’s, of course, a handy visual cue for which bites of this ‘bon will be more flavorful — the dark cinnamon swirls are slightly softer and sweeter than the rest of the stiff, bland dough — but even they’re lackluster.

Granted, if you’re a diehard Cinna-fan you might find more to enjoy than I did, but if you’re on the fence about whether to try this, trust me that it’s not worth waffling over. In fact, I think a waffle would be a much better way to get your sweet breakfast fix.

Purchased Price: $3.69
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 550 calories, 26 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 70 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Chizza

Junk food history lesson incoming: the U.S. is just the latest stop on Chizza’s world tour. KFC’s fried chicken/pizza hybrid debuted in the Philippines in 2015 and has appeared in several other countries since. For those of us who are encountering this limited-edition item for the first time, though, it is sure to inspire many questions, such as “How is it pronounced?” (I’ve heard “cheese-uh” but I’m partial to “cheat-za”) and “Isn’t it more similar to chicken parmesan than pizza?” (sure, but “Kentucky Fried Chicken Parmesan” wouldn’t sound as catchy).

Of course, the most important question is, “Is it any good?” My answer: it’s Chizz-amazing.

Unaware that it came in different sizes, I was caught off guard when the employee taking my order asked if I wanted a full or half order, but it all made sense when, after perplexedly opting for the full, I opened the box and was greeted by two massive fillets. An unsatisfying portion is a common reason for me to deduct points, but Chizza is in no danger of getting dinged in that regard. Even from under its dense coating of mozzarella, marinara sauce, and pepperoni, I could tell how plump and juicy the abundance of chicken was. And promisingly, the toppings were applied so generously that, for perhaps the first time in my reviewing career, my meal looked just like the one in the promotional pictures (even down to the barely melted strands of shredded cheese).

As a born-and-bred New Yorker, I’d never usually eat pizza with a fork and knife, but this was a special occasion—and this steamy, saucy behemoth was absolutely not finger food—so I cut right in and was rewarded with a beautiful bite.

Unsurprisingly, the chicken was pitch-perfect, succulent on the inside, and perfectly seasoned and crisped on the outside, but it shared its spotlight with the pizza ingredients quite magnanimously. On their own, they weren’t especially special — the cheese was slightly chalky, the herby flavor of the sauce was more of an aftertaste, and the surprisingly hot pepperoni was otherwise pretty straightforward — but mingling in one mouthful with that charming chicken, they came together to create the perfect proportions of savory, salty, and spicy.

I had been thrilled to try Chizza for the novelty appeal, but I hadn’t expected to genuinely love it. I think it worked so well because of how tender my chicken was. Fast food can be hit or miss, and if you happen to get unlucky with dry chicken, I can see this being a real slog. But since I was blessed with such a solid foundation, the toppings could really only enhance it. At that, they did a wonderful job.

Aside from a lame duck piece of chicken, the only other big complaint I can imagine is the fact that, unlike most other offerings from KFC, this one’s not easily portable. But I think even the most diehard on-the-go-eater would be wise to stop and smell the pepperoni; no matter how you slice it (or pronounce it), Chizza is worth sitting down for.

Purchased Price: $10.88
Size: Regular
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 820 calories, 47 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 195 milligrams of cholesterol, 2250 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 66 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Cheesy Chicken Crispanada

While others were gearing up for the Super Bowl, I was busy with my own personal Super Bowl, the Taco Bell Live Más LIVE event, which featured a whole lot of product news, including the announcement of the limited-time-only Cheesy Chicken Crispanada, a delightful bit of wordplay whose combination of “crispy” and “empanada” lives gamely up to the legacy of such hero portmanteaus as the “quesarito.” But is its taste equally impressive?

As a quick, handheld, Mexican-inspired comfort food packed with carbs, meat, and cheese, this offering fits perfectly into Taco Bell’s menu, but that familiarity has the downside of rendering it not particularly exciting.

Though this is a savory snack (unlike Taco Bell’s previous empanada, the no-longer-available Caramel Apple variant—RIP), the fried dough coating glistened in a way that reminded me of sweet treats like zeppole or beignets. My first bite of the crispy corner had a surprisingly deep, almost nutty flavor. I had expected the outer shell to be little more than a vessel for what was within, so I was intrigued that it had such a distinctive character. And that snap when I bit into it certainly lived up to the crispiness promised by the name!

Of course, I couldn’t get the whole picture without tasting the inner contents. Unfortunately, I also couldn’t taste the inner contents without burning the heck out of my tongue (and my hand when I accidentally allowed some of the molten filling to leak out, but that can probably be chalked up to user error).

This delicacy was fittingly, as the kids would say, pretty fire. (For my fellow olds, that means it was good!) The seasoned shredded chicken swims in a sea of cheeses, of which my discerning palate could pick out two different types: orange and white. Taco Bell’s press release, helpfully, is a bit more specific—the blend contains cheddar, mozzarella, and “Monterey pepper jack.” (I thought “Monterey Jack” and “Pepper Jack” were two separate things, but eh, I’ll bite my already-burnt tongue.) The press release also sings the praises of the presence of garlic, tomato, and onion, but honestly, I didn’t notice those at all. Oh, and if you want to add some additional hot flavoring to that hot temperature, the Crispanada comes with a side of Spicy Ranch sauce.

This all tastes pretty yummy, so perhaps my biggest complaint is that the filling didn’t, well, fill the entire empanada. It was primarily slathered onto one side, leaving most of the meal hollow. That airiness, combined with a portion on the more diminutive side, means that if you’re trying to make a meal of this, you’ll probably want to order two. You could also just opt for the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada Deluxe Box, which, in addition to its namesake, nets you a Chalupa Supreme, Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, medium fountain drink, and an order of Cinnamon Twists.

Ultimately, this item isn’t revolutionary, but it doesn’t really need to be. Those who generally like Taco Bell’s cheesy, chicken-y confections will enjoy it, and those who don’t… well, at least they can look forward to everything else announced at Live Más LIVE, like Baja Blast gelato!

Purchased Price: $4.49
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 280 calories, 15 grams of fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Smash’d Potato Bowl

If you’re a fan of KFC’s Famous Bowls, get ready to be bowled over (heh) by the chicken chain’s newest offering, the similarly-themed-but-even-more-tater-filled Smash’d Potato Bowl. I get the line of thinking: fried chicken is often eaten with sides, which are often potato-based, and said potato-based sides often come with toppings, so why not give customers a meal that “smashes” all of these favorites together in one forkful (or, in the case of the utensil my local KFC provided, sporkful)?

This bowl begins with a base of mashed potatoes, which are then covered in a layer of fries, doused with cheese sauce, and then sprinkled with bacon bits. (The press release says there’s a three-cheese blend thrown in as well, but my meal gave no indication of that, so it was either really well-hidden or just not important enough to be remembered). You’ll notice that I didn’t actually mention chicken because it’s optional. If you opt for it, it comes in the form of five nuggets. Vegetarians, though they may not be KFC’s target audience, rejoice! … Oh, wait, there is still bacon even in the nugget-less variant, so vegetarians, stop rejoicing! Anyway, KFC’s nuggets are too “finger lickin’ good” for me to resist, so of course I had to add them.

All of these ingredients sound pretty promising, but unfortunately, throwing them together didn’t really wow me. In fact, what the haphazard mishmash made me think of more than anything was a school cafeteria lunch. The mashed potatoes were silky, pleasantly avoiding the grittiness and graininess that can sometimes creep in, but they had an odd aftertaste that made me want to focus on the other ingredients as much as possible. The fries were more delicious than I’d thought they’d be, crispy and savory on the outside but surprisingly and appealingly soft on the inside, but something about eating fries and mashed potatoes together did feel a bit ridiculous, even for an admittedly whimsical eater like me.

The thin, slightly tangy cheese sauce, to be frank, was gas-station quality. And while the bacon bits actually did impress me with how chewy and not-stringy they were, they were so concentrated in the center that the excess kept falling from my spork and getting lodged in the nooks and crannies of the bowl, so while they appeared pretty plentiful, most of them didn’t make it to my mouth. It didn’t shock me that KFC’s famous chicken, so juicy and zesty, was my favorite part by far, but it’s sad to think that the best bit of this is the one that’s optional.

KFC’s Smash’d Potato Bowl does deliver on the starch-stuffed combo it promises, but your mileage may vary: the more noticeable thing it delivered for me was a hankering for a plain old order of chicken and fries — hold the elusive bacon, synthetic-tasting mash, and underwhelming cheese, please.

Purchased Price: $7.61
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 760 calories. Other nutritional information was unavailable at the time of review.

REVIEW: Native Girl Scouts Trefoils Body Wash

NATIVE sells body washes, deodorants, and shampoos, which, thanks to its pleasantly surprising new partnership with Girl Scouts, are now available for a limited time with the distinctive aromas of Thin Mints, Trefoils, or the still-evocative-but-slightly-less-signature scents of Coconut Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Lemon. Their bottles cheerfully explain that “Girl Scouts shower the world with kindness and optimism,” and so the point of this unexpected crossover is to “Bring that can-do energy to your day.” Fair enough — few things in this world put me in a more positive mood than cookies, after all.

Amidst such a sea of choices, I committed to the Trefoils Body Wash, which attractively combines my favorite Girl Scout cookie with the toiletry I’m most likely to have somehow just run out of AGAIN.

To get to the heart of this review: how did the body wash taste?

Kidding, kidding!

NATIVE’s website describes this as “a scrumptious shortbread scent \[that] blends notes of vanilla, lemon, and buttercream.” I describe it as “sickly sweet,” but I don’t necessarily even mean it negatively. If you’re buying a body wash based on a sugary snack, I assume you’re into that kind of thing, but just stopping at “sweet” isn’t enough. I really do need to stress that this is so overwhelmingly strong-smelling that I half-expected that I’d be trailed by a hoard of hungry Keebler Elves after using it. Of the notes listed, I detected buttercream the most, as the smell is undoubtedly… well, buttery and creamy. Vanilla was definitely discernible too, though I can’t say I made out more than maaaaybe the tiniest whiff of lemon as an afterthought. If I’d had to smell this without knowing what it was, though, I probably would have guessed birthday cake — it reminded me more than anything of a super-saccharine, sprinkles-and-frosted-loaded milkshake.

I really wanted to see how accurate this was to the scent of an actual Trefoil cookie, But sadly, Girl Scouts aren’t set to start hawking their wares in my area for another month, so I did what any desperate dessert fan would do and sought out a copycat recipe for comparison instead. My homemade “tre-faux-ls” were not quite as picturesque as the real thing, but their scent wasn’t extremely far from that of the body wash — it was just way less heavy on that cloying buttercream.

As a food reviewer, I don’t think I’m super qualified to comment on more about this dye-free body wash than its cookie-ish-ness; I did like the texture and feeling of cleanliness after using it, but the gimmick of being themed after a beloved nostalgic treat was really the draw for me, so I can’t truly say how this would stack up against more traditional body washes.

If the prospect of smelling like a giant baked good and craving one every time you catch a whiff of yourself unsettles you, I would not recommend buying anything from this NATIVE x Girl Scouts collab. But if, like me, you’re seeking a signature scent as tasty as your favorite tidbit, there’s a lot to like here. Just remember, as the bottle ever-so-helpfully disclaims: “Our scents are sweet, but do not eat.”

Purchased Price: $9.84
Size: 18 fl oz bottle
Rating: 7 out of 10
Purchased at: Target