REVIEW: Tim Hortons Pulled Pork Sandwich (Canada)

Tim Hortons Pulled Pork Sandwich

Over the last few years several fast food joints have gotten it into their heads to try serving pulled pork. (Perhaps because of improvements in Cryovac technology? But I’m not sure.) A really good pulled pork sandwich, at least up here in the Great White North, is a rare beast indeed; even restaurants that specialize in the stuff have a hard time getting it completely right.

Predictably, these fast food approximations of a barbecue staple have ranged from “that’s alright, I guess,” (Wendy’s) to “oh my god, why would this restaurant soak paper towels in barbecue sauce and then serve it as pork?” (Burger King, because of course the worst version of this trend comes from Burger King).

Tim Hortons’ version is relatively straightforward: it’s topped with crispy onions and served on a ciabatta bun.

Given the rarity of good fast food pulled pork, it might shock you to hear that this particular sandwich isn’t awful.

It’s not great, mind you, or even good –- but it’s not awful. In this case, that’s almost a win.

Tim Hortons Pulled Pork Sandwich 2

The worst pulled pork sandwiches reduce the meat to a sloppy, off-putting mush, and that’s not the case here. It’s kind of dry and it’s kind of soft, but it still has some texture.

Weirdly, it’s saucy but not saucy, like it was cooked in a sauce that has mostly evaporated away, leaving some flavour and a lot of grease.

The flavour is tangy and a little bit sweet; it sorta-kinda tastes like barbecue sauce, but not really. It tastes more like barbecue-sauce-flavoured chips than like actual barbecue sauce, if that makes any sense. It’s not necessarily bad, just… off.

As for the meat itself, there are vague hints of that distinctive flavour you get when you reheat pork — but for the most part, any flavour even vaguely resembling porkiness has been steamrolled by the sauce.

Tim Hortons Pulled Pork Sandwich 3

Then there’s the substantial ciabatta bun, which is grilled in a panini press, giving it a hearty crunch. The bread is usually the best part of a Tim Hortons sandwich, and though it was actually a good quality bun, it’s absolutely the wrong choice for this particular sandwich. The texture and flavour of the bread completely dominates the pulled pork. Though whether that’s even a bad thing is debatable in this case.

The onions are the typical crispy fried onions you can find in a bag at the supermarket. Between the tangy barbecue sauce and the assertive crunch of the bun, they may as well not even be there. They add nothing and are completely superfluous.

I’ll give the Tim Hortons Pulled Pork Sandwich one thing: it was very easy to score. It’s clearly a five out of ten. It’s basically the platonic ideal of a five out of ten review. It’s neither particularly good nor particularly bad; it’s a shrug in sandwich form.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Item: Tim Hortons Pulled Pork Sandwich
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: It isn’t gross. The pork could be worse. Good quality bun.
Cons: Sauce tastes off. Overwhelming bun. Useless onions.

REVIEW: Cadbury Oreo Creme Egg (Canada)

Cadbury Oreo Creme Egg

How did the Oreo Creme Egg not already exist? It just feels right, doesn’t it?

It feels like the last few years of Creme Egg varieties has been leading up to this moment. Now all we need is a Creme Egg-flavoured Oreo so that the whole world can fold in on itself, like two Ron Silvers touching each other in Timecop, but on a cosmic scale.

Before I go any further, I need to talk about how amazing the new Creme Egg packaging is. I think I can say without an ounce of hyperbole that it’s the greatest thing to happen to humanity since the invention of the printing press. Gone are the days of struggling to remove the foil wrapper in one clean piece, and having to contend with fiddly little half-stuck pieces of foil that make you want to hurl yourself head-first through a plate-glass window.

Instead, you just pull apart the seam on the two pieces of egg-shaped plastic and it pops open, effortlessly revealing the Creme Egg bounty within. The whole process takes less than one second, and it is glorious. Whoever invented that packaging deserves a vigorous round of high-fives, back-pats, and hearty handshakes.

But this isn’t a packaging blog (if it were, trust me, that packaging would score 10 out of 10. No… 100 out of 10. DON’T FIGHT IT, JUST LET IT HAPPEN), so I guess I should talk about the chocolate egg nestled within that magnificent package.

I had feared that they might take the lazy way out and take a regular Creme Egg, remove the orange food colouring, throw in some Oreo bits and call it a day. But the extent to which they have successfully Oreoified the Creme Egg is kind of breathtaking.

Cadbury Oreo Creme Egg 2

The egg itself, however, is unchanged, right down to the classic star-surrounded-by-circles exterior design. This is the egg’s biggest stumbling block. Not that it’s bad quality chocolate; it has a nice creamy melt and that distinctive Cadbury milk chocolate flavour. But it’s very sweet, and when combined with the even sweeter filling, it’s sugar overload. A dark chocolate version would be perfect, but since that doesn’t even exist for the standard Creme Egg, I think it’s wishful thinking.

Cadbury Oreo Creme Egg 3

The filling is pretty amazing, though. It’s completely different from the O.G. Creme Egg, with a frosting-like, less sticky consistency that’s impressively Oreo-y without being overbearing (it’s slightly lighter and creamier than actual Oreo filling). The crunchy bits of Oreo cookies interspersed throughout the filling add more flavour and texture than you’d imagine. They give the egg a cocoa-tinged flavour and satisfying amount of crunch while further cementing its Oreo pedigree.

Cadbury Oreo Creme Egg 4

The whole thing is still two or three notches more cloying than I’d like it to be, but it definitely has a mellower, less throat-burningly sweet flavour than the classic Creme Egg. I could easily see myself eating more of these, and I usually top out at one Creme Egg per year, thanks to its in-your-face sweetness.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Item: Cadbury Oreo Creme Egg
Purchased Price: $0.97 CAN
Size: 34 grams
Purchased at: Longo’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Nails the Oreo flavour. Crunchy cookie bits. Not as overbearingly sweet as a standard Creme Egg. The greatest packaging in the history of packaging. Timecop.
Cons: Still sweeter than it should be. Lack of a dark chocolate variety. PTSD-esque flashbacks of opening the old foil packaging.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Italian and Greek McTasters (Canada)

McDonald's Italian McTaster

I’m going to admit it: I liked the McPizza.

I ordered it quite a few times during its brief but memorable life, and I mourned for its little pizza soul when it inevitably got pulled from the menu (because let’s face it, pizza at McDonald’s was never going to be a thing, as much as they pushed hard to make it happen).

It’s okay, McPizza: you’re in McDonald’s heaven now, partying with the Super Hero Burger and trading war stories with the McDLT.

So when I heard that McDonald’s was taking another culinary excursion to Italy (and stopping off in Greece for good measure), I got pretty excited. It’s never going to fill the McPizza-sized hole in my heart, but then is anything ever going to fill that hole? No. The answer to that question is no.

McDonald's Italian McTaster 2

Happily, the Italian leg of Ronald McDonald’s European tour was actually pretty satisfying. The Italian McTaster consists of a Junior Chicken patty, topped with lettuce, tomato, parmesan and herb sauce, and parmesan flakes, all on a ciabatta bun (dubbed an “artisan-style bun” in a further attempt by the fast food chains to make the word artisan completely meaningless).

McDonald's Italian McTaster 3

I enjoyed it. The herby, slightly garlicky sauce works in tandem with the salty Parmesan to give the sandwich a nice zingy kick of flavour, and the lettuce and tomato adds some welcome freshness. The chicken was a standard-issue Junior Chicken patty, and the chewy ciabatta bun suited it quite well.

However, like a vacation that doesn’t quite know when to end, the Greek McTaster wraps things up on a sour note.

McDonald's Greek McTaster

It consists of a standard beef patty (the smaller one, not the Quarter Pounder or the Angus) topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, and Mediterranean olive sauce. It’s basically a Greek salad on a burger, which doesn’t sound like a horrible idea in theory, but the execution is off. Despite the inclusion of assertive flavours like salty feta and briny black olives, the flavour here is oddly muddled and far more muted than you’d think it would be. It’s a half-hearted melange of flavours that never comes together or stands out in any meaningful way.

McDonald's Greek McTaster 2

The mediocre patty doesn’t help matters, though after the uncharacteristically tasty patty in the last McDonald’s burger I reviewed, its badness is actually weirdly comforting. McDonald’s beef shouldn’t taste particularly good; it should be inoffensively lousy, with a dry, crumbly texture and no particular flavour. That’s just the way things are supposed to be.

McDonald's Greek McTaster 3

A patty like that needs the toppings to do the heavy lifting, and the toppings here just aren’t up to the task.

Although the chewy, dense ciabatta bun works quite well in the Italian McTaster, the bun proves to be a little bit too hearty for the diminutive beef patty. It’s overwhelming.

The quality difference between the two McTasters becomes even more pronounced when you have both sandwiches in front of you and you’re alternating between the two. The Italian has a nice contrast of textures, with flavours that really pop. The Greek…does not have those things.

So for those keeping track: the McPizza-sized hole in my heart? Still unfilled. Your move, Ronald. Your move.

(Nutrition Facts – Italian McTaster – 370 calories, 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 12 grams of protein. Greek McTaster – 330 calories, 17 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 14 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Italian and Italian McTasters (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 CAN (each)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Italian)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Greek)
Pros: Italian has a nice combo of crispy chicken and tasty toppings. Chewy bun suits the chicken well.
Cons: Greek features a mediocre patty with bland toppings that can’t quite save it. Chewy bun overwhelms the small hamburger. Profound McPizza-related sadness.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Jolly Burger (Canada)

McDonalds Jolly Burger 1

Ever since McDonald’s (and pretty much every other fast food joint) started storing pre-cooked patties in those weird food drawers, their burgers have ranged from “dry” to “super dry” all the way to “oh my lord is that dry.”

Imagine my shock and befuddlement, then, when not only was the Quarter Pounder patty in my Jolly Burger not dry, but actually kind of juicy. A juicy patty at McDonald’s? Where’s the weird, pebbly texture? Where’s the dessicated beef that crumbles into dry little meat granules? What is this wizardry?

I don’t know if McDonald’s have somehow improved their process, or if I just got lucky with a one-off burger that happened to be fresh from the griddle. I suspect the latter, but I would love to be wrong.

McDonalds Jolly Burger 2

The patty even had a decent beefy flavour that I would categorize as “not unpleasant,” so basically the whole experience made me wonder if Ronald McDonald had snuck into my house and Incepted me.

But of course, the bigger question is how the toppings were; even if I just got very lucky with the patty (and I suspect that I did), the toppings will be more consistent no matter which McDonald’s you go to.

They were pretty tasty!

McDonalds Jolly Burger 3

The star of the show is the creamy peppercorn sauce. It tastes kind of like a variation on peppercorn gravy, with a sweet, pleasantly zesty flavour, and a kick of savoury oomph that complements the burger well. 

The grilled onions were a touch undercooked, with a bit more bite than you’d probably want, but otherwise added more savouriness and blended quite well with the peppercorn sauce.  

The combined sweetness of the sauce and the griddled onions might have been sweet overload, but the two slices of melty processed white cheddar added a nice dose of saltiness to round out the sweet.

McDonalds Jolly Burger 4

As for the one piece of leaf lettuce, it seemed present more for colour than anything else; it added nothing to the taste or texture of the burger.

The whole thing comes on a cross-split bun, which basically tasted like a slightly denser, heartier version of what you’d find on a Quarter Pounder. It was a good fit for the burger at hand.

McDonald’s bills this burger as “holiday-inspired,” and yeah, with the gravy-like sauce and the savoury grilled onions, I can see it. It’s not exactly a turkey dinner, but it’s probably about as holiday-appropriate as you’re going to get from the golden arches.

(Nutrition Facts – 540 calories, 28 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1220 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 8 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein..)

Item: McDonald’s Jolly Burger (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.69 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Juicy, mildly flavourful patty. Blend of zesty peppercorn sauce, savoury grilled onions and salty cheese is quite tasty. Hearty cross-split bun.
Cons: Slightly undercooked onions. Borderline too sweet. Getting Incepted by Ronald McDonald.

REVIEW: The WORKS Reese PBC Stuff’d Burger (Canada)

The Works Reese PBC Burger

Do I have to write this review? Can I just type the word “nope” a few hundred times, include some photos, and call it a day? Because seriously: NOPE.

On the surface, the Reese PBC Stuff’d Burger seems like it should be an interesting novelty, cut from the same cloth as a doughnut burger, a McGriddle, or a Twinkie wiener sandwich (okay, I don’t think that last one exists outside of UHF, but it should). Sweet and salty novelty sandwiches aren’t exactly fine dining, but they can be tasty.

Stuffing (and topping) a burger with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups seems, if nothing else, like it should be fun.

Again: NOPE.

Eating it is absolutely not fun, unless you consider eating disgusting food to be fun, in which case it’s a barrel of laughs.

The Works Reese PBC Burger 2

Aside from the peanut butter cups, the burger is also topped with a couple of strips of bacon, and a fairly generous pile of crispy onion strings.

I don’t think I can be emphatic enough: do not, under any circumstances, order this hamburger. It is a disgusting, piping hot slurry of sickly sweet Reese’s goo and shoddy, dry beef.

You shouldn’t underestimate how face-burningly hot this thing is. I cut it in half, spent several minutes taking photos, and still managed to burn the Dickens out of my tongue on the first bite.

I’m not going to say that’s because this is a malevolent, hell-spawned creation of pure, unrequited evil whose sole purpose is to inflict as much anguish as possible on the world, but… if the shoe fits.

The Works Reese PBC Burger 3

Aside from the mouth-searing temperature, the flavour is completely out of whack; it’s all cloying sweetness with no balance whatsoever. The crispy onions add some texture but are completely overwhelmed, and the bacon may as well not even be there.

The burger basically tastes like dessert, only with beef and onions. It’s just wrong in a very fundamental way.

It probably doesn’t help that the beef is awful — dry, tough, and studded with bits of sinew and gristle, it’s actually shockingly bad considering that burgers are this restaurant’s stock-in-trade.

The longer I ate it, the more oppressive it became; I finished it, but I’m not sure why.

It’s pretty clear that this was created entirely to get as much media attention as possible, with no regard at all for flavour. And on that level, I guess it’s a success? But ordering and eating it is essentially a metaphorical middle finger from The Works to you. They want that sweet, sweet free press; all the people who have to suffer through actually eating it are just collateral damage.

So for those keeping score, that’s The Works: 1, humanity: 0.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on The Works website.)

Item: The WORKS Reese PBC Stuff’d Burger (Canada)
Purchased Price: $15.98 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: It’s food, I guess?
Cons: An affront to humanity. Shoddy beef. Off-putting flavour. Cloyingly sweet. Face-meltingly hot. Literal hot garbage.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap (Canada)

McDonald's Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap

Over the last few weeks, an overwhelming amount of attention has been paid to McDonald’s breakfast menu — specifically, to the Golden Arches finally ceding to popular demand and serving that menu all day.

Sadly, despite being bombarded with news articles and ads, we don’t get to partake in your newfangled “all day breakfast” up here in Canada. So I had to suffer the indignity of leaving the house before 10:00 AM. On a weekend. Like a farmer.

I think the first thing I have to note is that the name of these wraps just does not make sense at all. More-Ning? What does that even mean? What’s a Ning? Why would I want more of it? I guess it’s supposed to be a pun? Apparently someone at McDonald’s didn’t get the memo that puns are supposed to make sense.

Inscrutable wordplay aside, McDonald’s has introduced two breakfast wraps: Sausage & Hash Brown, and Kale & Feta.

I went with the Kale & Feta, which consists of scrambled eggs, feta cheese, baby kale, and a few slices of tomato, all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. That’s it. No sauce, no seasoning — it’s literally just those four ingredients (mostly kale) crammed into a dry tortilla.

This was especially off-putting in the first few bites, which consisted entirely of plain kale and tortilla; it was surprisingly horrifying. There are some vegetables that can be eaten on their own without any dressing or accompaniment; kale is not one of them.

Things improved somewhat once I got to the other three ingredients at the centre of the wrap… but not by much.

There’s something missing here; it doesn’t taste good. It’s not the quality of the ingredients, which were fine. The scrambled eggs were a little dry and way underseasoned, but they were decent enough. And they were downright gourmet when you compare them to the rubbery yellow slabs of sadness that they pass off as eggs at some other fast food joints (Tim Hortons, I’m looking squarely in your direction).

The kale and tomatoes were both reasonably fresh, and the crumbled feta gives the wrap a bit of a salty kick, trying valiantly bring some flavour and personality — an uphill battle that it just can’t win.

McDonald's Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap 2

It’s odd; though the ingredients are all okay, they don’t taste particularly good in this configuration. I’m gonna be blunt: this thing tastes like you went dumpster diving at a health food store and then crammed a few ingredients at random into a tortilla.

What this wrap really needs is something — anything — to lubricate things and provide some flavour. Maybe if the kale had been tossed in a vinaigrette, or if it had been cooked, then this wrap could have been half-way edible. But here — raw, undressed, and abundant — it was a bit of an endurance test.

I actually really enjoyed McDonald’s last foray into the world of kale, the I’m Greek-ing Out salad (which also had the benefit of being named with a pun that actually made sense), so I’m not inherently biased against kale at McDonald’s.

But though that salad was ostensibly healthy, it had enough dressing and other tasty bits to remind you that you were at McDonald’s, and not the cafeteria at your local gym. The Kale & Feta McWrap, on the other hand, tastes like health food through-and-through. It’s tastes like the type of health food that gives health food a bad name.

It might just be the worst thing I’ve ever had from McDonald’s — and I tried the McOnion Bits.

(Nutrition Facts – 400 calories, 19 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 420 milligrams of cholesterol, 840 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fibre, 3 grams of sugar, 21 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $3.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Decent eggs. Fresh veggies.
Cons: Tastes like a health food store dumpster. Ingredients don’t work well together. Dry. Raw kale overload. Desperately needs some kind of dressing. McOnion Bits flashbacks.