REVIEW: Burger King Philly Melt

I’m a fan of melts in general. Creamy, indulgent cheese smothering an unctuous protein, all wrapped in a warm cocoon of toasted bread, is hard for a tummy-focused girl like me to resist. While my favorite melt of all time is the tuna melt (Let’s hear it! Tuna Fish Protein Supremacy!), I like a good patty melt once in a while, too. Unfortunately, the latest offering from a certain corpulent monarch, the Burger King Philly Melt, is not all that great.

According to BK, the sandwich features two Whopper Jr. patties topped with peppers, onions, Swiss cheese, and Savory Royal Sauce on Toasted Bread. However, there are a couple of problems here.

First, the bread is the biggest disappointment. It looks like the top is toasted to buttery perfection, but looks are deceiving here. The bread has virtually none of the texture of toasted bread and not much flavor; the look is just for aesthetics. I don’t know if they somehow failed to toast it or just toasted it very lightly, but it’s not quite right. Considering how dominant the cheese is here, having that contrasting, crisper texture would have added a lot to the experience.

Second, the Swiss cheese and the “Savory Royal Sauce” blur together to the point that I didn’t realize they were two separate entities. The overall flavor of Swiss is nice, and while it’s mild, it overpowers the sauce.

The peppers and onions were too soggy to add much texture, but to be fair, I did have to wait until I got home to eat the sandwich; maybe if you get the Philly Melt fresh off the line, the veggies will be a little crisper. I could experiment with this, but to be honest, I don’t feel curious enough to order it again. Flavor-wise, the vegetables break up the wall of cheese a little with a fresher flavor, but it’s fairly subtle; the onions don’t taste caramelized, and the green pepper is neutral as can be. Maybe the flavors would have been stronger if the pieces had been chopped larger, especially the green pepper, but as it stands, they don’t add as much as one would hope.

Obviously, the big draw here is the cheese, and in that department, Burger King delivered. The Swiss flavor is pleasantly mild, and having every bite enrobed in the cheese sauce gives you your money’s worth. They may not have nailed the Philly Melt, but they got the key component right. The only problem with the cheese is that, because it’s so mild compared to the beef, the taste of the flame-grilled patties is very prominent.

Burger King may have reached for the moon with the Philly Melt, but they didn’t land among the stars. They did, however, hit a low-altitude asteroid cluster, so it’s not all bad news. If you love patty melts, this will probably not be an incarnation that will knock your socks off. But taking a pleasant, veritable swim in a pool of liquified Swiss cheese is enjoyable enough that it’s worth a shot.

Purchased Price: $5.49
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 590 calories, 38 grams of fat, 16.1 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 970 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 28.3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Chocolate Java Mint Frappuccino

Mint can be a tough flavor to nail. It’s nearly always refreshing, but too much of it tends to become reminiscent of toothpaste. This is the downfall of a lot of mint chocolate ice creams. It’s not impossible though. Wendy’s did a great job with its Peppermint Frosty during the holidays last year. It somehow managed to perfectly replicate the taste of an Andes mint, despite the fact that the Frosty contained no chocolate. I’m still wondering what foul sorcery Wendy’s used to pull THAT off.

But enough about Frosties. We are here for Starbucks’ new Chocolate Java Mint Frappuccino today. Frappuccinos are too indulgent for me to consume on a regular basis, so I was excited to have the opportunity to drink one with zero guilt…well, minimal guilt. Normally I prefer my fancy coffee drinks without whipped cream and sprinkles, but here that’s a big part of the experience, so I had the whole Megillah. I hope you appreciate the way I’m gallantly falling onto the sword for all of you here.

I had this twice. The first time I got it, the barista didn’t add the mocha to the drink, and it was an assault of pure mintiness. I didn’t realize a component had been left off, so I thought it was supposed to taste like that, totally chocolate-deficient and toothpaste flavor-adjacent. I was prepared to give it a 5 out of 10, but then we realized the drink had been made incorrectly, so I bought another one at a different Starbucks. This time, I watched the barista make it. You better believe I watched her squeeze that mocha bottle.

The result? What a difference some chocolate makes, although I think we all kinda knew that already. With the chocolate, the drink still had some of the refreshing quality of mint, but it was tempered by the earthy, indulgent flavor of the chocolate. If anything, this incarnation of the drink leaned too far in the chocolate direction, which I say with the caveat that I don’t think “too much chocolate” can be considered a downside.

The Frappuccino chips did their thing and added little pops of a different chocolate flavor, and while I only was able to eat the Chocolate Mint Cookie Sprinkles at the finish, they were delightful little bits of cookie goodness. The one drawback this drink had was that neither time did I really get the taste of coffee. I tasted it in a few sips the first time, then the second time, my palate was so overloaded with the other components that I couldn’t taste coffee at all. A lot of people may not care, but I like my Frappuccinos to taste like coffee.

Hot days are coming, and this drink will probably make a lot of Starbucks customers very happy with its ability to be both cooling and just a little bit sinful. Personally, though, I’m getting a plain Coffee Frappuccino next time: I’m just missing the “Java” that was supposed to be in the Chocolate Java Mint.

Purchased Price: $4.95
Size: Tall
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 340 calories, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 47 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, and 75 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Butter Pecan Crunch Frozen Coffee

Remember years ago when Dunkin’ used to have a drink called the Coffee Coolatta? Remember how it was the perfect level of sweetness, with just enough pure coffee flavor to scratch that itch for the real stuff without ever descending into bitterness?

If you don’t remember, you may be familiar with Dunkin’s Frozen Coffee, the drink it introduced to replace the Coffee Coolatta in 2017. In theory, Frozen Coffee has a more pronounced coffee flavor and is supposed to be an all-around better concoction. However, I just tried one on a whim a few weeks ago and found the coffee taste too sharp (and I’m someone who often drinks black coffee), while the whole thing danced just below the level of being sickeningly sweet. Maybe I got a bad batch, but it was just too much of a good thing. I appreciate what Dunkin’ was trying to do, but I miss my Coolatta something fierce.

Now, with the Butter Pecan Crunch Frozen Coffee, is it time for me to make peace with this new reality? According to Dunkin’, the drink has Frozen Coffee, Butter Pecan Swirl syrup, and Cocoa Caramel Sprinkles. The beverage is topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and “even more” Cocoa Caramel sprinkles. I didn’t really taste the sprinkles in the drink itself, however.

At first, the drink had that pronounced coffee flavor that I didn’t enjoy with my previous Frozen Coffee. “I knew I couldn’t trust this blasted Frozen Coffee!” I thought, dejected. But as I sipped, something began to happen; the gentle sweetness of the Butter Pecan Swirl syrup tempered the flavor, creating a more mild, almost original Coolatta-like flavor. The flavor addition definitely had some butteriness, but I didn’t really get a nuttiness. I think the overall sweetness might have overwhelmed my palette to the point that I couldn’t really taste anything subtle.

Overall, I liked this so much that I slurped it down really fast and got a stomachache; hey, it’s hard to be a sweets fan with limited tummy real estate. The consequence of this though is that the whipped cream didn’t have time to melt that much, so I was drinking pure whipped cream through a straw by the end. While sucking up the whipped cream, I got the sprinkles, representing the “crunch” in the title.

I don’t know if it would have been a significantly different experience if I consumed it more slowly; maybe if the whipped cream had more time to melt, I would have got the sprinkles in the drink, making for a more “crunchy” treat. However, the Frozen Coffee itself is pretty dense; it’s not like waiting for your whipped cream to melt into a latte, where it can easily disappear into the drink and mix with it. I would say that I’m going to buy it again to investigate this melting theory, but let’s be honest: if I repurchase it, I’ll just shove it all into my face really fast again.

While I personally could do without the whipped topping and just enjoy the drink itself, this is a delightful indulgence. Even so, I still want the original Coffee Coolatta back. Is that so wrong?

Purchased Price: $4.09
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 630 calories, 22 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 103 grams of carbohydrates, 97 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad

Years ago, I used to order Wendy’s salads fairly often. That was in the dark time before I became aware of the wonderful, fiber-rich elixir that is Wendy’s Chili. Sometimes in the years since, I would look at Wendy’s menu to see what new salads it had come out with, strawberry-this and arugula-that, would say, “hmm, interesting,” and go back to devouring my piping hot concoction of beany bliss.

But it just came out with a Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad, and I’ve always had a positive impression of Cobb salad; it’s the kind of salad I think I would like to order in a diner if I could ever resist ordering pancakes in a diner. I’ve always felt that hard-boiled eggs don’t get nearly enough recognition for how nutritious and tasty they are, and this is a good usage of them. I had this salad twice: once with bacon and once without. I would tell you why this happened, but it’s more fun to leave it a mystery — let’s just say mistakes were made.

This salad, which Wendy’s PR claims to have spent copious time and energy developing, includes grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, chopped tomatoes, crispy fried onions, diced egg, ranch dressing, and Wendy’s signature lettuce blend. It also has cheese shreds, which the press release does not name, but they’re in there. The only thing that’s a little surprising here is the crispy fried onions, which are not a typical Cobb salad ingredient, but they do add a welcome bit of crunch.

Normally I’m pretty stingy with dressing on my salads to keep the calorie count down, but here, I was pretty liberal with the ranch because I know that’s part of the experience. See what I endure in the name of science? The result was about as indulgent as you can get while still technically eating salad.

The tomatoes tasted nice and fresh, which was an excellent start. The applewood smoked bacon is absolutely delicious and good in all the ways that bacon should be, but you don’t get that much of it, so it makes less of a difference to the end product than I thought it would. What does matter, and it matters a lot, is the chicken. It’s moist without being slimy and pleasantly salty without being over-seasoned. And Wendy’s gives you A LOT of chicken; I kept finding pieces hiding among the lettuce long after I thought I had finished all of it. Now, is this the same grilled chicken Wendy’s currently uses for all its salads? Probably, but if so, it’s a lot better than I remember from when I ate the salads a lot.

The only ingredient that doesn’t really work here is the cheese. The ranch and the eggs steal the show as the “fatty” components, leaving the bland cheese with nothing to do.

I probably won’t order it again soon, but that’s because, after this one little dalliance, I remain in a committed relationship with Wendy’s Chili; otherwise, I probably would. It’s nothing exciting, but it’s a reliable classic done right.

Purchased Price: $7.99
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Salad w/ranch dressing) 680 calories, 50 grams of fat, 12.5 grams of saturated fat, 270 milligrams of cholesterol, 1340 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Breakfast Taco

I think we’ve all gotten a little sloppy with our fast food naming conventions. Put something inside a tortilla shell and we’ll call it a taco. That’s pretty much what I was expecting from Dunkin’s new “Spring” item, the Breakfast Taco. I figured it would just be some eggs, cheese, maybe a little bacon, and…wait, Dunkin’ already makes that. It’s called the Wake-up Wrap, and it’s been on the menu for ages.

I was concerned: Was it possible that Dunkin’ was relaunching almost the exact same product under a different name? Who do they think they are, Taco Bell?

But no, Dunkin’ made something that’s not only different from its other offerings but hard to find anywhere in fast food breakfast land: a taco with a flavor profile that bespeaks its Mexican origins.

First, there are two versions: plain or with a bacon topping. I wanted to actually taste all of the subtle flavors without having to deal with that overbearing bacon flavor, so I went with the first option.

The taco starts with corn. Dunkin’ calls it “fire-roasted corn,” but it didn’t taste particularly roasted to me; it was just a pleasant, sweet flavor. Not overly sweet or syrupy, but just the natural sweetness of the vegetable. At first, the corn was so dominant that it was hard to discern the other flavors, but it’s a dish with surprising depth. I noticed more subtle flavor notes as I ate, which is an experience I don’t often get with breakfast food.

One of those subtle flavors is from the jalapenos. I need to be clear that this is not a very spicy item; the heat is mild and just quietly adds depth. Sometimes, when I make curry for dinner, I make it with only a smidgen of spices so that my spice-timid 7-year-old will eat it. That’s the kind of heat level this is: you know it’s there, and that’s enough.

I also picked out the herbaceous bite of cilantro, which adds a lot of brightness. More prominent is the melted sharp white cheddar cheese, which adds a dairy tang to the proceedings. It isn’t noticeable in every bite but offers a nice, salty contrast when it pops up.

Lastly, there is a “tangy” lime crema, but I only really tasted it at the very end of the taco, when all I had left was crema and a little tortilla. It could have just been my taco, or maybe the crema is another ingredient that is meant to be subtle.

Dunkin’ could have bunted the ball here and just made glorified scrambled eggs in a tortilla shell, but it went the extra mile and is offering customers a novel experience, not just different from other Dunkin’ menu items but different, period. Will it win out over more cheesy, eggy, bready foods in my personal breakfast rotation? Maybe. While I may not order it every time I go to Dunkin’, I’m really glad the option is there. I take my hat off to Dunkin’ for trying something new.

Purchased Price: $2.59
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.