REVIEW: Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill (Canada)

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill

I misread this item at first, and thought “wow, Creamy Chocolate Chili?? Yes please!”

Sadly, the real deal — an attempt to replicate the success of the venerable Iced Capp — isn’t quite as interesting.

The Tim Hortons website describes the Creamy Chocolate Chill as “a delicious combination of real cream and layers of chocolaty goodness.” It’s basically a chocolate milk slushie, though it’s not particularly creamy, nor does it have much of a milky flavour.

It tastes more like Yoo-hoo than like chocolate milk, though the “real cream” claim does make me a bit puzzled at the lack of creaminess.

The flavour is mostly just sweet, with a very mild chocolately hit. If you’ve ever had chocolate milk made with Nesquik syrup (and went very heavy on the syrup), then you have a good idea of what this tastes like.

It’s so sweet. As someone who recently watched Fed Up and is suddenly, horrifyingly cognizant of such things, this drink has a lot of sugar. Fifty grams, which is 11 grams more than a can of Coke, which is — according to that documentary at least — essentially the beverage equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.

Even if you don’t care about such things (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t. I don’t, aside from my recent documentary-induced paranoia), that’s a lot of sugar just from a taste standpoint. This is a very, very sweet drink. It’s kind of one-note sweet.

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill 2

Still, there are certainly worse things on the menu at Tim Hortons. It’s not as good as an Iced Capp, because at least that has flavours slightly more complex than “cocoa + sugar overload,” but it’ll get the job done. If you drink this on a hot day, it will fulfill its purpose of being a cold, refreshing beverage.

It also has a good balance of iciness and liquid; typically, with an Iced Capp, you eventually end up with a sizable mound of mostly flavourless ice slurry. That wasn’t the case here.

The real weak spot is the chocolatey, vaguely cream-like foodstuff that adorns the top of this drink. It bears about as much resemblance to real whipped cream as I do to George Clooney (you probably don’t know what I look like, but let me assure you, I look very little like George Clooney).

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill 3

It has an unpleasantly thick, paste-like texture with absolutely no dairy qualities; it’s just sweet and gluey, like a demented, off-brand Cool Whip gone horribly awry. I’d strongly recommend asking for the drink without it, as it adds nothing but useless ornamentation. And even at that, it’s a pretty resounding failure – I mean, I think we can all clearly see what it looks like, right? Do I need to say that it looks like poop?

Because it looks like poop.

(Nutrition Facts – 380 mL (small) – 380 calories, 16 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 50 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill
Purchased Price: $2.59 CAN
Size: Small (380 mL)
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cold and refreshing. Mildly chocolately flavour. Nice balance of liquid and ice.
Cons: Ridiculously sweet. Not very creamy. One-note flavour. Horrifying cream-like topping. Looks vaguely scatological. Not chili.

REVIEW: McDonald’s CBO (Canada)

McDonalds CBO (Canada)

McDonald’s Canada is pushing the CBO pretty hard. Where I live, at least, there are billboards all over town proudly proclaiming this sandwich to be “the next legend.” Obviously, McDonald’s has high hopes.

I should probably note that the Canadian CBO is, oddly enough, different than the CBO introduced in the States a couple of years ago. This one is a chicken sandwich, topped with CBO sauce, lettuce, bacon, and crispy onions, served on an onion bun.

The most noteworthy thing about this sandwich is probably the weirdly hard time I had ordering one.

At the first McDonald’s I visited (yes, there was more than one), I ordered it, sat down, opened the box, and found that a few of the crispy onions had fallen out of the sandwich. They were green, which I found odd; even odder was how spicy they were. Clearly, these were not crispy onions at all, but crispy jalapeños.

I brought this to the attention of the confused-looking girl behind the register. A manager emerged from the back. Eventually, he told me that they ran out of crispy onions and decided to sub in the jalapeños instead.

That strikes me as an odd decision, since crispy onions and jalapeños taste completely different, but hey, I don’t run a McDonald’s. What do I know?

He offered to make me another sandwich without the jalapeños. I told him no, I needed to try the sandwich as it’s supposed to be. He stared at me plaintively. “Man, I’m going to have to throw it out!” Though I was tempted to ask him how, exactly, that was my problem, I instead politely apologized and eventually wound up with some cash in my pocket, on my way to a second McDonald’s.

McDonalds CBO (Canada) 2

Thankfully, there were no jalapeño shenanigans to be found at the second location, so I was able to try the real, non-adulterated CBO. The End.

Oh wait, I guess not The End, this is a review, isn’t it? I still have to tell you about the actual sandwich.

It’s fine, if a bit boring. Honestly, my jalapeño-related mishaps were probably more interesting than the sandwich itself.

I’m not sure if the chicken patty is the same one they use in the McChicken; I suspect that it isn’t (it looks a little different, at least), but it tastes very similar. As far as reconstituted chicken sandwiches go, I’ve certainly had worse, but there really isn’t much that pops out about it. It’s pretty bland.

I will say, however, that chicken in my sandwich was piping hot, and clearly freshly cooked. That’s basically the McDonald’s equivalent of finding a four-leaf clover, so that was fun.

McDonalds CBO (Canada) 3

McDonald’s describes the CBO sauce as a “creamy pepper sauce,” and it basically just tastes like regular mayo with flecks of pepper in it. If you told me it was McChicken sauce, I’d have no reason not to believe you.

As for the bacon, it’s actually bacon pieces instead of actual slices of bacon, which was probably not a great idea — the soft little bits get lost among the other elements of the CBO, and add almost nothing to the sandwich, other than a vague saltiness.

Happily, the crispy onions that I worked so hard to try suited the sandwich pretty well, and were probably the CBO’s most assertive flavour. Between that and the onion bun, this sandwich definitely earns the O in CBO.

McDonalds CBO (Canada) 4

That pretty much sums this sandwich up, in fact — it tastes like an oniony McChicken. But I guess Oniony McChicken doesn’t quite have the same ring as CBO, so here we are.

I’m honestly a little bit baffled that McDonald’s is giving a sandwich as boring as the CBO such a strong marketing push. It isn’t bad, but there’s just nothing about it that’s particularly memorable.

(Nutrition Facts – 680 calories, 36 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1160 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 10 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s CBO (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tasty crispy onions. Decent quality chicken.
Cons: Boring sandwich. Soft, pointless bacon bits. Plain sauce. McDonald’s running out of ingredients and making random substitutions.

REVIEW: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

If nothing else, I’ll say this about the Burger King location I visited: they’re super efficient.

I visited around noon, and they were quite busy. After I ordered, I walked about three steps to the left, to the area where they bring the food. There was a burger sitting on a tray. Since I had literally just finished ordering my burger seconds ago, it didn’t even occur to me that it was mine.

There was a smiling man standing behind the counter. We locked eyes. Why was this guy staring at me? Didn’t he have anything better to do? Was my fly down? The man pointed to the tray and told me it was mine. I don’t know if the words just didn’t compute, or if he wasn’t speaking loudly enough, but I asked him to repeat it. He did.

This still made no sense to me. Even if the burger was pre-made, how did he get it from under the heat lamp and over to my tray so quickly? There was maybe two seconds between me finishing up my order and walking over to where he was standing. So I clarified: “No, I ordered the Pepperoni Bacon Whopper.” His smile didn’t quite fade, but it wavered. He was clearly starting to lose his patience. “Yes sir, that’s yours.”

My eyes narrowed. I thanked the guy — more a question than a statement — then picked up the tray and took it to a table.

I unwrapped the burger, half expecting to find a regular Whopper. Glancing at the sad-looking burger in front of me, flattened and misshapen, I initially thought I was right. But what’s this? Is that a piece of bacon poking out from the bun? I took a peek inside, and yep, there was the pepperoni.

You’re probably wondering, “Why are you dwelling on this? It’s a fast food place; of course the food came fast.” Fair enough. Maybe you had to be there, but it was a startling display of efficiency. I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified.

Anyway: the burger. The Pepperoni Bacon Whopper is, as the title implies, a Whopper with pepperoni and bacon on it. It’s also got a couple of slices of American cheese, because, yeah, why not?

My conundrum as to whether or not to be impressed or horrified was quickly answered after I took my first bite: horrified. Because not only was this burger not hot, it wasn’t even warm -– it was room temperature. I don’t know exactly how long it was sitting out, but I’m going to say a while.

I will charitably call it lukewarm, but in reality, it was leaning more towards cold. I considered asking them to make me a new one, but by the time this thought occurred to me, I was already two or three bites in, and the idea of losing my progress and starting over from scratch with a brand new burger was too much for me to handle. I earned those bites; no one was going to take them from me.

The patty itself was easily the burger’s worst offender. It was unpleasantly bitter, with that distinctively acrid, stayed-on-the-grill-for-a-couple-of-minutes-too-long flavor that characterizes pretty much any hamburger you get from Burger King these days.

It was also insanely dry. And I don’t just mean dry in that fairly typical way that characterizes most fast food burgers. No, this wasn’t that. This was capital-D Dry. I’ve had a pretty ridiculous amount of hamburgers in my lifetime, and this was probably one of the driest ones I’ve ever had.

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada) 2

It was tough, with a pebbly texture and a slightly gamy, vaguely off flavour that peeked through whenever you weren’t tasting the charred bitterness. It’s a flavour that announces in no uncertain terms that this is shoddy beef that has doubtless been sitting in a drawer for a disturbingly long period of time.

The pepperoni was pretty good, at least. It was standard-issue pepperoni, with that very familiar flavour that you’ve no doubt tasted on hundreds of pizza slices over your lifetime. On a better burger it would have been a bit overwhelming, but here I was very happy for the flavour of the patty to be overwhelmed; my arms were wide open. It wasn’t overwhelming enough, in fact. The taste of that patty still managed to muscle its way through and go straight for my gag reflex.

The thin slices of bacon, however, never had a chance. I knew they were there because I saw them, but I couldn’t taste them. At all.

The cheese, though it added some creaminess, also got lost among the burger’s more assertive flavours.

The other toppings (the standard Whopper veggies, ketchup, and mayo) were fine. The tomato slices weren’t mealy and the lettuce had some vague crunchiness, so I’m going to call that a win. The bun was a little bit clammy, but otherwise okay.

As a parting gift, the burger left an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste that lingered for most of the afternoon.

So no, sorry Burger King — you continue to be the Andy Dick of fast food chains. You were okay in the ’90s, but no one wants you around any more. The sad thing is, putting pepperoni on a burger is a decent enough idea, but to quote Switch from the Matrix: not like this. Not like this.

(Nutrition Facts – 860 calories, 56 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 2.5 grams of trans fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 1590 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: A burger that’s ready mere seconds after ordering it, as if by wizardry. Tasty pepperoni. Fresh condiments.
Cons: Apparently even a wizard cannot conjure up a burger and make it taste hot and fresh. Bitter, over-charred, absurdly dry burger patty. Pointless bacon. Terrible aftertaste.

REVIEW: Harvey’s Stuffed Cheeseburger (Canada)

Harvey's Stuffed Cheeseburger 1

There’s something irresistible and just a little bit illicit about a hamburger that’s stuffed with cheese, isn’t there? I mean, biting into a juicy hamburger patty only to be greeted by melty, oozing cheese — who can resist that? At the same time, you know it’s something you probably shouldn’t be eating. To paraphrase R. Kelly, your mind will be telling you no, but your body… your body will tell you yeah.

Still, though it’s an amazing idea in theory — and a simple one no less — can a fast food chain, burdened by the rigors of mass production, get it right? Burger King tried it a few years back, but instead of stuffing the burger with a molten core of cheese, they just mixed bits of cheddar into the beef. This removed the gooey cheese pocket altogether (i.e. the whole reason why stuffing a burger with cheese is so appealing) and greatly diminished the cheddar flavour by interspersing it so thoroughly with the beef.

Leave it to Burger King to get something as simple as stuffing a hamburger with cheese wrong.

Harvey’s is generally a cut above BK, so I sort of figured they had a better chance of getting it right. My biggest problem with Harvey’s in general is that all of their burgers have that vaguely rubbery, somewhat hot-doggy texture that most industrially produced frozen patties tend to have. This is a little less pronounced with their higher-end Angus burgers, which seems to be the foundation of the stuffed cheeseburger, so that’s good at least.

Harvey's Stuffed Cheeseburger 2

Happily, I can say rather conclusively that this burger gets the fundamentals right: yes, it is properly stuffed with cheese, and yes, that cheese is oozy and melting. So that’s Harvey’s – 1, Burger King – 0.

The burger itself is typical Harvey’s; it has that oddly chewy, processed texture, but it’s still better than the average frozen burger (it at least retains some beefy flavour and texture, which is more than I can say for some of the bottom-of-the-barrel frozen patties that I’ve had).

As is the traditional Harvey’s way, you can choose your own toppings from behind the glass; I tried to top my burger as close to the publicity shot as possible, so I went with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. The burger in the picture is also topped with ketchup and mustard, but since I didn’t want to overwhelm the taste of the cheese, I went with mayo instead.

The aforementioned molten core of cheese is fairly abundant, and though it falls somewhere in the taste/texture spectrum between Kraft Singles and Cheez Wiz, it’s satisfying. It doesn’t have the strongest cheddar flavour, but it’s certainly fine for what it is. It’s also nicely spread out inside the patty — aside from the outer edges, pretty much every bite has cheese (note to self: start a band so you can release an album called “Every Bite has Cheese”).

Let’s face it — there’s very little here that tastes like real anything, but it’s pretty good in the same way that a Twinkie is pretty good (actually, I prefer Twinkies, which I like more than I should probably admit in a public forum, but you get what I mean). It’s far from a perfect burger stuffed with cheese, but it’s still a burger stuffed with cheese. Try to resist that. I dare you.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on the Harvey’s website.)

Item: Harvey’s Stuffed Cheeseburger (Canada)
Purchased Price: $6.49 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Harvey’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Melty, gooey core of cheese. Decent hamburger. Realizing that you should always listen to your body over your mind.
Cons: Cheese only mildly tastes like cheese. Burger is vaguely hot-doggy in texture. Not as good as a Twinkie.

REVIEW: Burger King Poutine á la Burger (Canada)

Burger King Poutine á la Burger (Canada) 1

I think a poutine might just be the most flexible junk food on the planet. You can top it with pretty much anything. Buffalo chicken? Sure. Hamburger? Why not! If you can dream it up, you can put it on a poutine.

Even still, Burger King’s Poutine á la Burger made me a bit wary. Not because it’s particularly weird, but because, honestly, Burger King isn’t my favourite fast food joint. And by “isn’t my favourite,” I mean it’s my least favourite. I actually used to like it a lot — but they’ve gone downhill quite precipitously over the last 15 years or so. It’s gotten to the point where, these days, a visit fills me with a kind of slow-burn horror that makes me very tempted to just turn around and walk out the door.

Even still, thanks to my childhood affection for the place, I occasionally find myself back there, hoping for the best.

The Poutine á la Burger is simple enough: it’s a regular poutine, topped with a chopped burger patty, mustard, ketchup, and pickles.

Nothing here was particularly good. I don’t think I need to tell you that Burger King’s fries aren’t that great, but I’ll do it anyway: Burger King’s fries aren’t that great. They’re standard mediocre battered fries, which pretty much taste the same wherever they’re served. I suspect that most fast food joints that serve them get them from the same supplier (it tastes that way, at least).

The curds weren’t much better. The main test of a good cheese curd is whether or not it has “squeak” – a subtle squeaking noise that a fresh curd makes when you bite into it. I tried one of the unmelted ones on top, and not only did it not squeak, it had a weirdly mushy, almost mealy texture that was unpleasant and quite unlike any curd I’ve had before.

The gravy was probably a bit more thick and gloppy than it should have been, and was otherwise run-of-the-mill bland canned gravy.

As for the chopped burger patty, it was standard Burger King, with that very distinctive flame-broiled flavour. It also had an unpleasantly gamy taste that generally comes from reheating meat one time too many.

The mustard, ketchup, and pickles were mustard, ketchup, and pickles. Even Burger King can’t mess that up.

I’ll bet you think you know where this review is going. Well, here comes the M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist.

Burger King Poutine á la Burger (Canada) 2

All the elements here ranged from passably mediocre to outright gross, so this should have been horrible, right? And in the first few mouthfuls, where I was paying attention to each individual element, it was horrible. But then something odd happened. I started enjoying it. It had all coalesced into something surprisingly tasty.

The curds, once melted by the gravy and the fries, lost their mealy texture. The fries, with their crispy battered coating, stood up well to the abundant gravy. The vinegary bite of the pickles and mustard added a much-needed punch of flavour to the bland gravy. And the gamy taste of the beef was drowned out by the sweetness of the ketchup and the poutine’s other flavours, leaving only a vague beefiness that gave the dish a bit more substance and oomph.

I’m a little bit baffled, honestly. All logic and common sense says that this poutine should have been offensively gross. Each individual component was sub-par, putting it kindly. And yet… and yet, it wasn’t gross. I enjoyed it. It’s as if all the bad canceled each other out and created something that was inexplicably good.

I can barely wrap my head around it. The poutine is objectively awful; I know this. And yet it was weirdly compelling, like a roadside accident that you just can’t stop staring at. About halfway through I told myself to stop eating it, that it was no good, that it was too much, that I’d feel sick. But I couldn’t. I didn’t stop until I had scraped the bottom of the bowl.

I wish I hadn’t eaten this, to be frank. Nothing about it made me feel good, physically or mentally.

Physically, well, that should be fairly obvious. If you pick this thing up, it has heft. I’d be shocked if it weighed less than a pound. Maybe even two. I made the mistake of eating it during my lunch break at work, and I returned to the office clutching my perilously full belly and wanting nothing more than to take a very long nap.

Mentally, it made me question everything about who I am, right down to my very core. Do I have bad taste? I didn’t think so before, but now I’m not so sure. Enjoying something that’s so clearly shoddy has upended everything I thought I knew about myself.

I really don’t know what else to say. I went to Burger King that day to review the Poutine á la Burger, only for it to review me. It peered deep into my soul and found me wanting. It knew who I was, who I am, who I will always be.

It knew everything.

(Nutrition Facts – 880 calories, 46 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1490 milligrams of sodium, 95 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, and 24 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Poutine á la Burger (Canada)
Purchased Price: $4.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: In spite of itself, it is surprisingly tasty. Look, I liked it, okay? Don’t make me say more.
Cons: Run-of-the-mill battered fries, mediocre gravy, gross curds, off-tasting beef. Realizing that you like this despite all that and therefore have terrible taste in food. Having your soul laid bare. Self doubt.

REVIEW: KFC Sweet Chili Crunch Chicken (Canada)

KFC Sweet Chili Crunch (Canada) 1

You’ll have to forgive me if this is a particularly short review; KFC’s Sweet Chili Crunch Chicken is essentially just their Hot & Spicy Chicken, but with a drizzling of sauce on top.

However, KFC’s promotional materials seemed to indicate that the chicken itself is different, which didn’t quite jive with what I was tasting.

I decided to call my local KFC to figure this out, which made me feel very reportery (reporter-esque? Reporter-like? Yeah, I’m gonna go with reporter-like. That sounds legit). I’m like Woodward and Bernstein, only instead of rooting out deep-seeded political corruption in the highest government offices, I’m finding out about fried chicken. That’s about the same, right?

Anyway, what I was told is that it actually is slightly different from the standard Hot & Spicy Chicken. The guy I spoke with said very similar, but that the chicken in the Sweet Chili Crunch is actually a little less spicy — I guess because of the presence of the chili sauce?

Either way, it’s similar enough that I doubt you’d be able to tell the difference unless you ate the two side-by-side. I know I couldn’t.

This basically leaves the Sweet Chili sauce as the differentiator. It’s fairly standard-issue stuff, and pretty much tastes like any number of similar Thai-style sauces you can get at the supermarket. It’s very sweet, with a mild garlicky bite, and an even milder hint of spice. If the prospect of spicy fried chicken is what’s drawing you to this item, look elsewhere. The heat level here registers at more of a mild tingle than anything else.

Though the drizzling of sauce initially comes off as odd and a bit stingy, it’s definitely for the best. If the pieces of chicken had been dunked in the sweet sauce, it probably would have overwhelmingly cloying; in the quantity provided, it adds some vague sweetness and a tiny bit of heat, but definitely doesn’t overwhelm the chicken.

KFC Sweet Chili Crunch (Canada) 2

Anyway, it’s good, because KFC’s standard-issue Hot & Spicy Chicken is good, and that’s basically what it tastes like. It’s nice and crunchy, with that distinctive KFC flavour. I know a lot of people don’t like KFC for various reasons, but I’m generally a fan, despite what my last couple of reviews might lead you to believe. This particular batch of chicken was overcooked and a bit on the dry side, but that’s pretty much the luck of the draw.

For six bucks the meal comes with three pieces of dark meat (a drumstick and two thighs) and an order of fries, so it’s not a bad deal, though I’m not a big fan of KFC’s fries. I’m not crazy about battered fries in general -– I like battering and deep-frying things as much as the next guy, but fries are already delicious as they are. No batter necessary.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 thigh piece – 390 calories, 29 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Sweet Chili Crunch Chicken (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99 (CAN)
Size: 3 pieces and fries
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy, tasty chicken. Sweet chili sauce isn’t over-applied.
Cons: Not very spicy. Not much reason to order this over the standard Hot & Spicy chicken.