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.

REVIEW: Burger King Spicy Chicken Fries

I’m not sure chicken fries are a product that anyone was really asking for. No one eats chicken tenders and then says, “You know, I’d like these to be thinner. A lot thinner.” At least, I’m pretty sure no one does; you do you.

Needless to say, I was skeptical about the potential appeal here with Burger King’s new Spicy Chicken Fries. I expected them to be dry little strips of chicken fried to oblivion, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am enough of a fried food enthusiast that sometimes, I actually like over-fried food in a masochistic sort of way. But I wasn’t expecting anything that would be good in any sort of objective sense of the word.

However, after getting these out of their paper carton, adorned with a scowling cartoon chicken (unlike the non-spicy chicken fries, which feature a happier chicken), I took my first bite. My first immediate thought was that I wished the serving size was bigger, which pretty much tells you all you need to know right there. But I am supposed to write more than a few sentences, so I guess I should carry on.

The spice level is just about perfect. These things are about as spicy as the (excellent) Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets, or perhaps just a tad spicier. It’s a zingy kind of spicy that stops just short of making your nose run. If you want something really spicy that’s going to give you a Nashville Hot Chicken kind of feeling, these are not going to do it, but let’s be realistic: nobody goes to Burger King looking for that kind of experience. That said, if you paired these with the quite good BK Mexican Chicken Sandwich I reviewed just a few months ago, it would be a lovely meal for a spice fan.

Perhaps more important than the spice level is the chicken, which is really moist and flavorful. A lot of fried chicken products are dry (like, say, oh I don’t know, DAIRY QUEEN — you know what you did, DQ. Stick to ice cream.) But these are just perfectly moist little mouthfuls that have real chicken flavor, not just that generic, salty fast-food-protein flavor.

The breading is interesting: it’s more like the breading you get on a mozzarella stick than a chicken nugget or tender, which works nicely. But to be honest, I barely noticed the outside shell when I was eating. Logically I know that the spicy flavor comes from the outside layer, but beyond contributing spice, the grainy breading stands back and lets you go to Happy Succulent Chicken Land without getting in your way.

I did not think to try the fries with any of the sauces, but honestly, I think that would be a waste. These things don’t need anything else.

Do you know what would be awesome, though? If BK made these spicy chicken fries in a larger, chicken tender format and really entered the competitive fried chicken world. Give KFC a run for its money, BK. I’ll be rooting for you.

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 9 pieces
Rating: 10 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 250 calories, 14 grams of fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 750 mg sodium, 17 grams carbohydrates, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 0 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, and 14 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Burger King Mexican Original Chicken Sandwich

I feel like there’s some really clever joke that does something with the idea, “Hey, you got your Taco Bell in my Burger King!” but I can’t actually think of the joke; I just know it’s out there, somewhere, in the ether. Maybe “My Burger King may taste like Taco Bell today, but at least my Dunkin’ doesn’t taste like Arby’s!” Nah. I’m going to need to workshop this one.

We’ve been getting some dinners from Burger King lately since the BK in the area is right on the way home from my daughter’s dance class, so it was very convenient to try out this new sandwich. Apparently, there are other special chicken sandwiches on offer right now: an Italian-style and an American-style, but the Mexican is the only new offering — others are returning fare.

I’ve always been fond of the BK long-and-thin chicken sandwich, so it was an appealing package right out of the paper sack. When I opened the sandwich up to see its beautiful innards, I saw a whole bunch of green specks that looked a bit like grains of rice. Later, I would find out these are little pieces of fried (and crunchy) jalapeno. I purposely didn’t look up the components for this item before tasting it so I would take note of what I was actually tasting and not what I was “supposed” to taste, so the little green bits were mysterious at first, although now I can’t imagine what else they could have been besides jalapeno. The other spicy component is a queso that is slathered on the buns.

For the first few bites, it was just a regular BK chicken sandwich. I asked my husband, “Are you sure you got me the Mexican one?” He gave me a “How stupid do you think I am?” look and I sheepishly returned to eating my strangely-oblong sandwich. Fortunately, it was at that point I started biting into the little jalapeno crumbs of joy and a pleasant spice began burning my mouth. This is actually pretty spicy, with the queso cheese bringing most of the heat, but as I’ve mentioned recently, I am new to spicy food so my “really spicy” might be someone else’s “meh, whatever.” That said, this sandwich was about as fiery as my food can get before it becomes a problem and I need a drink (and possibly some consoling), so it’s definitely not bland.

So, between the jalapeno and the queso, there’s definitely some spicy action going on here, but is it really “Mexican?” I can’t decide. With those two components, the sandwich definitely should taste Tex-Mex, but something about the stolid flavor of the original BK chicken sandwich seems to fight against that. I definitely want to have it again though, so it’s clear BK did something right. Even though they don’t carry the brunt of the spice quotient, those tiny little green jalapeno fried bits are addictive; as soon as I finished my sandwich, I ate all the little jalapeno pieces that had fallen onto my wrapper.

There’s something in me that doesn’t want to give this sandwich a high score because it’s not “really” Mexican, but….so what? More importantly, it was delicious, and deliciously spicy. Now I have a new dinner order for dance class nights.

Purchased Price: $5.29
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 680 calories, 31 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1900 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 28 grams of protein.