REVIEW: Wendy’s Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger

Wendy s Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger

Oh Wendy, you flame-haired temptress of the square-shaped beef patty.

Does your daddy know how you gently lull me into your old-fashioned restaurants with a diabolical siren’s song of always-fresh, never frozen promises, only to leave me standing alone, naked and ashamed, clutching desperately to a lukewarm baked potato and a couple of double-stacks, mildly disappointed but always willing to take the blame nevertheless?

Lessons never learned, the most recent entry in the current Smokey Mountain jamboree of fast-food foodstuffs we’re seemingly in the middle of, the new Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger, is a timely tune the beloved freckled-face spitfire is warbling to all within hungry earshot, promising the rich flavor of “smoky” portabella mushrooms, “smoky” mushroom aioli, crispy fried onions, Asiago cheese, and three strips of Applewood-smoked bacon on top of its signature beef and buns.

Which, of course, all sounds absolutely entrancing, a medley of taste sensations crafting a ballistic ballet to an overture of distinct flavors as my mouth waters while simply standing in line, the professional photography teasing me with spilling sides of dense fungi and even denser cheese product, bacon scintillatingly peeking out with onion strings mingling sensually in the glistening drippings. And so then, order up, I take a bite deep and lovingly into it. And another. And then another

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As the singular sadness of dine-in disappointment starts to set in, Wendy’s has desperately made another promise they apparently couldn’t keep; while absolutely loaded with said onions, mushrooms, and aioli, they are brutally rendered mostly flavorless and obsolete thanks to a spectacularly greasy overkill from the Wendy’s beef and especially from the Applewood-smoked bacon.

Don’t get me wrong — it makes for a good bacon burger of sorts, but there might as well be no ‘shrooms at all on the thing, lest they simply need a name-brand filler to plump up this jam, unnecessarily loading it for dramatic sales effect.

Hey, it looked great in the pictures.

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However, these same toppings are additionally offered on the similarly-named Smoky Mushroom Baked Potato, the must-have tuber of the year. Where they failed in burger form, Wendy’s wonderfully hits the top of the pops here, with the smoky zest of the sautéed mushrooms fully loaded and blending magically with the cheese drenching and moderate drizzle of bacon bits on top of a damp baked potato still soaking in its own sweat. It paired like a prince with my *sigh* double-stacks.

In the pantheon of Wendy’s hits or misses, the Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger is to be considered a flawed flop, but it’s got a hell of a B-side in its Baked Potato variant that’ll go on to be a cult favorite. Regardless, I’ll always keep an ear out for whatever your next pied pipings of edible tidings will be Wendy, but only ‘cause I’m a sucker for a redhead holding square-shaped slices of beef. ¡Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – (single) – 760 calories, 440 calories from fat, 49 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1310 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 36 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Makes for a great bacon cheeseburger. Plump with plenty of ingredients. Potato companion worth the add-on.
Cons: Can’t taste the mushrooms over the meat. Too much bacon. Almost too greasy.

REVIEW: Mix by Sprite: Tropic Berry

McDonald s Mix by Sprite Tropic Berry

Like many surly teenagers in the 90s with nothing better to do than loiter, I hung out way too many hours for my own good at the Target up the block from my house. The electronics department was a social hub for most of the boys in the neighborhood due to the fact that they had every current gaming system out in the open and set on free play. None of that demo nonsense that Sears did.

This was all well and good until the one of the managers would let us know in no uncertain terms that we had to buy something or leave. Squeezing every last minute of gameplay we could, those of us with a few spare quarters would pool together about 75 cents to buy a bottle of this new beverage that was seemingly only available at Target: Clearly Canadian.

With its sticky sweet, syrupy “clear” taste that mingled deliriously with a decidedly crisp berry sensation, we passed the bottle around like grade school hoboes warming themselves around an 8-bit barrel fire. Looking back, it was a flavor out of and ahead of it time, especially during the crystal cola wars of the 1990-somethings. Sure, after pounding three or four at a time, it gave us the worst headaches and a little bit of nausea on the way home to dinner, but for that price to stay and play, who gave a good gosh-darn.

It’s been a flavor sensation that I have been nostalgically chasing for almost 20 years and, while I always knew it would be those flavor wizards at Sprite that would probably be the ones to resuscitate that drinkable emotion, I had no idea it would be found on accident while I was looking for the Hi-C Orange Lava Burst cold filtered water button on a McDonald’s drink fountain.

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Going by the fake corporate DJ nom de plume of Mix by Sprite: Tropic Berry, this is most definitely the second coming of that Mountain Berry or Western Loganberry Clearly Canadian if there ever was one, right down to the high-fructose headache after excitedly slurping two large-sized cups of the carbonated beverage when, as an adult, you should really know better.

The typical lemon-lime zest of Sprite that we’ve come to expect is pushed down the taste scale pretty low to point of being barely noticeable as the artificially-flavored tropical (which tropic though?) berry (which berry though?) dominates proudly. It also comes complete with a tongue-coating aftertaste that will definitely call for at least a full cup of PowerAde Mountain Berry Blast cold filtered water to swig around as you leave the restaurant. Or Wal-Mart, if you’re in nasty and/or in Oklahoma.

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Mix by Sprite: Tropic Berry is definitely worth tracking down and most definitely worth the taste, if only for curiosity’s sake. While it is far too sickly sucrosed-up to be an everyday thing, it’ll make for a delightful once a week treat as you nosh on a Big Mac and fries. Just keep that bottle of aspirin on the ready. ¡Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – (small only) – 100 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: Large
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great berry taste. Surprisingly crisp. Extremely refreshing.
Cons: Can be too much of a sweet thing. Bad aftertaste.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Sliders

Carls Jr Charbroiled Sliders

Carl’s Jr. is a very fine fast-food establishment but one that very infrequently, if ever, enters into my thought processes when deciding on where to score some fast and easy burgers, mostly because the one that is closest to my house is a great place for getting accosted and stabbed in the parking lot and the inside really isn’t all that better. Let’s just say that if I was kidnapped and held hostage there, Snake Plissken would probably have to be sent in to find me.

So seeing as how I’m not ready to meet my maker as of yet, I tend to frequently miss out on their Superstar meals and All-Star deals. So when I decided to write up these new Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Sliders, know that I not only did so taking my life (and my stomach) in my own hands, but also filled with the knowledge it could be my last meal. The things I’ll do for The Impulsive Buy.

That being said, after stuffing a few phone books down my pants, prison-style, any type of mild assault would have been absolutely worth the scars because these Charbroiled Sliders are simply to die for.

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Above and beyond the culinary erectile dysfunction that is the McDonald’s tired $1 cheeseburger, Carl’s Jr’s $1 Charbroiled Slider is a true revolutionary moment in time for budgetary eaters. It featuring an overgrown slider-style burger that is practically comparable in size to anything on most value menus, but with the much-needed addition of an obviously high-quality slab of beef – charred to sweaty perfection, natch — on a thick and toasty sturdy bun, and then double-downed with pickles, onions, and American cheese.

It’s even boxed like a White Castle just to rub salt in the wound because if you’ve ever had a White Castle slider, you know it really ain’t all that. If Carl’s could appropriate a Crave Case while they’re at it, then I’d be all set for the weekend.

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In addition to the single Charbroiled Slider, Jr’s is also offering these minor meaty miracles in double and triple options that have to be eaten to be believed. The $1.50 Double Charbroiled Slider is more of the same, but with twice the meat and twice the cheese and twice the value of a McDouble or Double Stack, at least in girth and the self-confidence in how to use it.

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Finally, for a mere two bucks, we have the greasy goliath that is the Triple Charbroiled Slider, but don’t let the name fool you: this towering inferno is a home run in all respects. Tripling the meat and cheese and clogs in my arteries, you have to practically unhinge your jaw to bite into the meaty mound of vaunted value that we’ve got here.

Once again, this tempting trio is ridiculously available only for a limited time and I can see why: Carl’s has got to be taking a monetary hit on these babies, right? Either way, as long as they’re available, might as well make their financial loss your weight gain, champ, and order a bag or two. ¡Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – (single only) – 230 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 410 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: Single
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Insanely cheap. High-quality meat. Charbroiled flavor. Surprisingly huge.
Cons: Limited-time only. No Crave Case option.

REVIEW: KFC Smoky Mountain BBQ Chicken

KFC Smokey Mountain BBQ Chicken

Over the course of this here blessed lifetime, I have come to consider myself quite worldly in the grand scheme of most things barbeque. I’ve sampled and enjoyed the various takes and numerous styles of this homegrown culinary tradition throughout this sticky-fingered country, leaving a long trail of broken hearts and used wet wipes along the way. With that little preamble said and done, I have to admit the new KFC Smokey Mountain BBQ chicken has left me a little more perplexed than usual.

While it claims to be something of a mixture of the various “sweet, smoky flavors of Southern BBQ” — interpret that however you will — the vague drenching of this supposed sauce on my two-piece seems to have more in comparison with the off-putting artificial flavoring of BBQ-seasoning dusted on a bag of cheap store-brand potato chips than any tried and true ‘que creation I’ve ever come in contact with. It’s really the only thing found in nature that, after numerous unlikable bites, I can honestly compare it to.

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Having been a moderate fan of KFC’s attempt at Georgia Gold honey mustard barbeque (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, its moderately gentrified take on Nashville Hot Chicken), this generalized take on what it consider to be Smokey Mountain flavors, seemed half-hearted at best, right down to the chintzy drizzle over my extra crispy pieces. They resembled nothing like the glorious coating on every photogenic cut of poultry in every piece of promotional material.

Of course, like most KFC products, the chicken itself was right on, juicy and tender, hot and crispy and served with a kitchen fresh smile. The problem here is totally with the Smokey Mountain sauce, which is comically salty and overly sweet to a fault, necessitating more than the daily recommended allowance of trips to the soda fountain to swish and spit that mouth-binding fraudulent Southern sass that the Colonel wrongfully thinks represents said mountainous regions.

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Now, with all that being said in regards to both the two-piece bone-in or three-piece tenders meal, I will casually admit that the sauce does work better when you order it as part of its totes adorbs Chicken Littles menu, the plump sesame seed buns, pickles, and mayonnaise working together as an excellent buffer, bringing out the more flavorful qualities of the Smokey Mountain sauce as a probable condiment while religiously oppressing the glaring flaws of its main reason for being.

Even though I’m always eager to see whatever concoctions the flavor wizards deep in the Dixieland Laboratories of the KFC Sassafrassin’ Sauce Studios come up with next, this is definitely one that should’ve gone back for a little more quality control testing, honey. Until then, I’ll just keep sneaking in my pocket-sized flask of Cholula Green Pepper hot sauce to pro-actively blanket that two-piece extra crispy myself. Ya’ heard, KFC?

(Nutrition Facts – 2-piece chicken only – 260 calories, 150 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 22 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 2-piece (drumstick and wing)
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Makes a good condiment for a sandwich. Chicken Little fits in a />
Cons: Too salty. Tastes like cheap BBQ chips. Skimps on sauce.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Nacho Fries

Taco Bell Nacho Fries jpg

Let’s not beat around the Bell with each other here, alright Hoss?

If you’re a regular reader of a website called The Impulsive Buy, more than once after picking up a bagful of Chalupas and Meximelts from the nearest Taco Bell drive-thru, chances are you’ve probably then driven across the street to the McDonald’s (or whatever burger joint is closest) for an order or two of those famous large fries, hot out the fryer and ready to dip in that quintessential Taco Bell cheese sauce.

I know I have. Like yesterday.

But it’s alright, baby. In the world of fast food, there ain’t no shame in this game. Let’s face it: French fries go great with just about everything, from the finest cuts of aged Wagyu beef to the lowliest no-name prison-approved Nutraloaf. It’s an American classic (yeah, I said it!) and finally, the culinary geniuses at our fave faux-Mex eatery, Taco Bell have come to their senses and are now offering them as part of their beloved dollar menu.

While at first I was mostly excited about all the gas money I’ll be saving, now I know I’ll probably use the aforementioned cash to buy more of these Taco Bell Nacho Fries, because, amigos, its take on papa fritas is the bomb.

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Cut thicker than most other fast food chains’ and absolutely coated with dangerously covetous Mexican seasonings (exactly what seasonings and from where in Mexico, we’re never told), these deep-fried darlings are perfectly crispy, surprisingly dense, and have a thick “twice-fried” feel to them that few places know how to get right and if they do, you gotta by a terrible roast beef sandwich to pair with them. I’m looking at you, Arby’s.

Sadly, the serving size is quite small, even for a dollar menu offering, but, truth be told, these fries do manage to pack a lot of flavor in such a singular container, with or without the nacho cheese dipping sauce. So order two servings and everyone’s happy. Additionally, ketchup is available, but — hello Mild, my old friend – that good ol’ reliable T.B. hot sauce works even better as a potato condiment, complementing the mysterious Mexican spices with just enough heat to provide a smooth finish and pleasant enough aftertaste.

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In a surprising twist of fate, besides the one buck incarnation of these Nacho Fries, the Bell is also offering them in Supreme ($2.49) and Bell Grande ($3.49) variations. Both use said fries as a bed for nacho cheese, ground beef, tomatoes and sour cream, with the Bell Grande doubling everything for a dollar more. While it’s a completely unnecessary gesture — seriously dudes, the Nacho Fries were good enough — it’s not wholly unwelcomed either. Just don’t look for it to replace the Nachos Bell Grande anytime soon, unless you order both and mix ‘em together, trough style.

That being said, Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries have definitely moved to the top of the “must order” list and deserves to be part of the regular menu, if there is truly any justice in this cold, heartless world. The only problem with that, however, is now when I go to McDonald’s, I’ve gotta go across the street to get my preferred fries from the Bell. What a deliciously wonderful problem that is to have. ¡Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – Nacho Fries only – 320 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 620 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy, perfectly seasoned, and affordable.
Cons: Small serving size. Might be addictive. Limited time on menu?