REVIEW: Wendy’s Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich

Jack and Wendy went to the levee to fetch a pail of water in preparation for her new spicy innovations. Jack fell down and broke his crown because Wendy’s Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich blew away his expectations.

That’s how the nursery rhyme should be updated because Wendy’s take on sriracha is impressive. My complaint with most fast food “spicy chicken” is that it’s never actually spicy. Wendy’s takes the pedal to the medal – quite possibly in a Lexus Sriracha IS – and delivers. It’ll make any O.G. Huy Fong Sriracha fan tear up.

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich 2

They say you eat with your eyes first and Wendy’s nailed it with the vibrant but non-off-putting colors – the orange/red palette with the sriracha-infused bun, golden chicken breast, red onion, fresh green spring mix in a bright red box was working for me. Maybe there was some food psychology at work there.

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich 3

I was also impressed by the size and poundage of the sandwich. Wendy’s didn’t skimp on the ingredients. There was a large piece of breaded chicken overflowing from the bun, a solid layer of spring mix and an appropriate amount of bacon.

The first thing I did was taste-test the bacon because soggy and stringy bacon can ruin a sandwich. Crispy? Check! The thick-cut bacon was a thing of beauty. I then proceeded to devour the sandwich. The breading itself was already a little bit spicy so I was enjoying the heat. On my third bite, I got to the sriracha aioli in all its glory and boy was it packing heat! As a balance to all the heat on heat on heat, I appreciated the red onion. It not only added a brightness to the sandwich – visually and taste-wise – but it also added a pleasant textural crunch.

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich 4

About half way through, my nose started to run a little bit from the heat; the sriracha taste bud onslaught was in full force. Each sniffle exponentially increased my love for this sandwich. I loved the “afterglow” as well; my mouth had a pleasant spicy tingle after each bite. Related to the hefty size and poundage, every bite had the perfect ratio of chicken, spring mix, red onion, sriracha aioli, and bacon.

If I had to nitpick, I couldn’t taste the sriracha jack cheese at all. It was completely overpowered by the spice in the chicken breading as well as the sriracha aioli. I also don’t think the sriracha-infused bun added anything. It was a soft bun, but nothing about it seemed sriracha-infused because there was no heat to it. Also, the more I stared at the orange-colored bun, the odder I thought an orange-colored bun was.

Regardless, I didn’t mean to eat the entire thing but I did because it was so dang good.

(Nutrition Facts – 670 calories, 35 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1690 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 39 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.39
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Wendy’s packs heat and makes any O.G. Huy Fong Sriracha fan proud! Crispy thick-cut bacon is a thing of beauty. Red onion works well. Pleasant spicy tingle after each bite.
Cons: Sriracha jack cheese and sriracha-infused bun didn’t really taste like anything.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Confetti Cake Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Confetti Cake Ice Cream

I decided that it was only fitting to celebrate my birthday early with Ben & Jerry’s Confetti Cake Ice Cream especially since one of my favorite things in the world is Yellow Confetti Cake a la Pillsbury – with all the confetti frosting and confetti fixin’s, of course!

When I peeled off the lid, there was something about the brightly-colored Fruity Pebble-colored confetti that made me real giddy. After taking only a couple of seconds to admire its beauty, I dug in immediately. I was very satisfied by the ice cream’s scoopability. There’s nothing more annoying than having to chip away at ice cream that has frozen over like an ice block, but Ben & Jerry’s usually never does wrong in this department.

Unfortunately and fortunately, the Confetti Cake Ice Cream tasted more like a crappy supermarket confetti cupcake. You know the ones that I’m talking about – the 12-pack of cupcakes in clear packaging located in the bakery section next to the equally crappy sugar cookies. I use the word “crappy” in an endearing way because there’s something I love about them; maybe it’s the nostalgia factor of eating one too many in elementary school.

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Confetti Cake Ice Cream 2

The ice cream reminded me of supermarket cupcakes for two reasons. First, it tasted overwhelmingly like vanilla confetti frosting. Like your first bite into a supermarket cupcake, you usually just get a mouthful of frosting because the ratio of frosting to cupcake is way off. Second, because you’re basically eating straight frosting, there’s a greasy mouthfeel that accompanies your first bite. I was quite bewildered at how I was picking up that greasy, rich feel. Was it just in my head? How the heck does Ben & Jerry’s do that with ice cream?

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Confetti Cake Ice Cream 3

As I continued to carve confetti caverns into the pint, I felt underwhelmed by the cake pieces. I could barely taste them through the vanilla confetti frosting taste. Also, it didn’t seem to add anything to the overall texture because the confetti bits themselves already added a slight crunch.

I will say that adult-me prefers eating Ben & Jerry’s Confetti Cake Ice Cream over supermarket cupcakes. Seems like a win – I get all the nostalgia without having to eat an actual crappy cupcake. But, I think a touch of yellow cake would help to break up the vanilla frosting monotony – think cake batter and confetti cake having an ice cream baby. I ended my early birthday celebration with a confetti-cake-frosting-flavored burp. Shout out to my fellow November babies!

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 280 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 9 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, and 10% calcium.)

Purchased Price: $4.28
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Imitation is the finest form of flattery – all the crappy supermarket confetti cupcake taste without having to actually eat a crappy cupcake. Great scoopability.
Cons: Tastes exactly like crappy supermarket confetti cupcakes. Cake pieces were gratuitous. Yellow Cake > Vanilla Cake.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Triscuit Pumpkin & Spice Crackers

Limited Edition Triscuit Pumpkin & Spice Crackers

Call me basic, but I am all about the pumpkin spice craze. However, when I first heard about Triscuit’s attempt to sit at the pumpkin spice table, I was completely taken aback by Pumpkin & Spice. Please carefully note that strategically placed ampersand, you hipsters.

As I was opening the box, I was wondering to myself what Pumpkin & Spice even meant. Is it sweet? Spicy? Savory? I had no idea what to expect so I was imagining worst case scenarios of it tasting like a Yankee Candle or overzealous holiday potpourri.

I was disappointed that the box smelled mainly like cardboard with a hint of nutmeg & cinnamon (see what I did there with the ampersand?). In case you ever want to season your cardboard, nutmeg & cinnamon really complements the smell of cardboard! The crackers themselves just looked like a regular Triscuit in all its beautiful whole grain glory that could’ve been woven by Rumpelstiltskin himself.

Limited Edition Triscuit Pumpkin & Spice Crackers 2

The first bite was a subtle brown sugar, cinnamon-y crunch. After a few more crunches, it just tasted like a regular Triscuit. To test for flavor consistency, I continued eating. Half a box later (whoops!), I concluded that it was just a regular Triscuit with a dusting of pumpkin spice and sugar. Meh. It wasn’t offensive, but not as tasty as regular Triscuit (my record is a whole box in under 15 minutes.) Plus, because it’s so subtle, it was like the sweetness started to become less and less noticeable the more I ate.

Triscuit is always pushing itself as an appetizer to be topped with garnishes, so I had to try it. The box’s “3 steps to Delicious” panel comprises of gouda cheese, cranberry sauce and sage leaves but ain’t nobody got time for that! I slapped some cheddar cheese on it because cheddar’s mildness works with everything…except Pumpkin & Spice. While the sweetness is subtle as previously mentioned, I just couldn’t get past the sugary notes. Triscuit are supposed to be savory!

If you stuck these with these a batch of regular Triscuit at a party, no one would be able to tell the difference. People would probably just assume the sweetness came from cross-contamination from neighboring appetizers. As a result of its lackluster attempt, Pumpkin & Spice definitely doesn’t get to sit at the pumpkin spice table. Back to the kids’ table with Pumpkin Spice Twinkies and Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies, Triscuit!

(Nutrition Facts – 6 crackers – 120 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 9 oz box
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Didn’t taste like a candle or holiday potpourri! Same Triscuit texture and addictiveness.
Cons: Weak attempt to cash in on the pumpkin spice craze. Triscuit are supposed to be savory!

REVIEW: Limited Edition Frosted Caramel Apple Pop-Tarts

Limited Edition Frosted Caramel Apple Pop-Tarts

Anyone else feel like their teeth are going to fall out when they eat a caramel apple?

The hardened caramel should seriously be considered on the list of dental no-no’s right up there next to chewing ice (I’m guilty). So, for the most part, I avoid caramel apples. But, Frosted Caramel Apple Pop-Tarts bring all the joy of Caramel Apples but in toaster pastry form.

Sort of.

Out of the trusty shiny packaging, a corner of the pale toaster pastry tumbled out typical Pop-Tart crumbliness. No immediate artificial/pungent odor tumbled out with the crumble though, which is always a good sign! I took a closer nose-pection of the goods. It smelled just like Tootsie’s Caramel Apple Pops.

Luckily, I have a pretty positive association with Apple Pops but it’s a little odd that a toast pastry smells like a candy. The Pop-Tart itself looks like a regular Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart but with a neon green squiggle down the middle and neon is never a good color for food.

For a Pop-Tart, the flavor progression is surprisingly complex. The first bite was all apple flavoring. Think Hostess Apple Fruit Pie but with a better crust to filling ratio (aka the filling isn’t gooping everywhere). The apple flavoring was followed by a warm maple, caramel sweetness. This pushed it over the edge of sweetness for me, but right at that point a sour apple tartness emerged.

Limited Edition Frosted Caramel Apple Pop-Tarts 3

After the first couple of bites, I looked more closely at the filling. It looked like half & half filling with a darker half and a lighter half so I tried each half as separately as I could. The lighter half was the apple part of the filling and tasted pretty standard. The darker half contributed the warmer maple, caramel flavor as well as the tartness. Kellogg’s R&D definitely tried to go above and beyond for this one.

Limited Edition Frosted Caramel Apple Pop-Tarts 2

Somewhat dissatisfied, I put these babies in the toaster oven for a quick toast. After warming it up, I found it odd that the edges weren’t a more golden brown color like other warmed pop-tarts. Typically, Pop-Tarts taste best warm, but not this flavor. While the apple, maple and tartness meshed a little better together, the sour apple after-taste became even more prominent and made it taste even more like the lollipop candy.

These should be renamed Caramel Apple Pops Pop-Tarts. I wouldn’t be disappointed if Kellogg’s did not bring this Limited Edition flavor back. Long live Pumpkin!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 180 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12 pastries/box
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: R&D put in work – tried to replicate a Caramel Apple as closely as possible.
Cons: Tastes just like Caramel Apple Tootsie Pops. Too sweet. Why doesn’t it toast?!

REVIEW: Starbucks Chile Mocha

Starbucks Chile Mocha

Some like it HOT and I am one of those humans.

No, I’m not talking about the 1950’s movie starring Marilyn Monroe, but the Scoville scale. Just in case you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about: the Scoville scale measures the heat of a pepper from 0 units (bell peppers) to 16MM units (pure capsaicin). I can realistically only handle up to a habanero (350K units) so I’ve been on a mission to increase my capsaicin tolerance.

Along comes Starbucks’ latest drink innovation, the Chile Mocha. I drink Starbucks religiously (who else spent way too much money on Starbucks for Life) and I like heat. Advertised with “ancho and chile spices” and “for those mornings that need an extra kick,” I expected the Chile Mocha to dazzle my taste buds.

In true Goldilocks-fashion, I had to try all three: the Frappuccino, the hot mocha, and the iced mocha. Unfortunately, the only thing consistent about the three was that they all came with too much whipped cream.

I started with the Frappuccino. Nothing about the Frappuccino tasted like chile or even mocha for that matter. It was so sickeningly sweet that it tasted toffee-like; maybe the barista used the toffee nut syrup instead of Chile Mocha powder. So, heat was nonexistent. I even tried the Spiced Mocha topping on top which looked like straight cayenne/paprika but actually also had sugar crystals mixed in.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 2

The powder fondly reminded me of a less concentrated version of Lucas Mexican Candy. However, cayenne is only 50,000 Scoville and paprika is, if you’re lucky, maybe 100 Scoville units. Instead of ordering the Chile Mocha Frappuccino, I might as well have just ordered a plain ol’ coffee frap for $1 less and 90 less calories.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 3

I moved onto the iced mocha next. I was immediately a little off-put by the powder sitting at the bottom of the drink. I tried mixing it but the powder at the bottom was just out of straw reach. After my first couple of sips, I felt a very slight warming/heat sensation in the back of my throat. FINALLY!

However, it was short-lived as it quickly neutralized. While the iced mocha was a little more coffee-forward, it still erred on the too-sweet side. Disappointed, I proceeded to eat the whipped cream with tasty wannabe Lucas Mexican Candy power and left the rest of the drink.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 4

Lastly, the hot mocha. At this point, my high expectations were demolished. But, the fact that my first sip actually tasted like a mocha was a great start. Unlike the iced mocha, the heat actually built up. At first, I thought it was way too subtle but as I drank more, I concluded that this level of heat probably works for people not trying to burn off their taste buds (unlike me). If it were any spicier, it would likely be too spicy for some folks. I also really enjoyed the temperature contrast of the cold whipped cream with the hot mocha.

Net-net, stick with the hot mocha. I know it’s still 90 degrees in certain parts of the country, but fall is right around the corner! For my fellow capsaicin enthusiasts, I’m dropping a Ghost Pepper Mocha suggestion in Starbucks’ inbox.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall 12 oz (Hot Chile Mocha with whipped cream) – 270 Calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams total sugars, 10 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: Varies
Size: Tall
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chile Mocha)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Iced Chile Mocha)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Chile Mocha Frappuccino)
Pros: Fondly reminiscent of Lucas Mexican Candy Power. Hot Chile Mocha.
Cons: Too much whipped cream. Frappuccino and Iced Mocha are sugar bombs. Minimal heat.

REVIEW: Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Stuffed Hash Browns

Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Stuffed Hash Browns

Ahhh, the hash brown – a breakfast favorite since the 1890s.

So, who dare mess with this American staple? Even McDonald’s didn’t dare to. Ronald cut hash browns into its recognizable rounded-corner rectangle shape but left the shredded spud relatively true to its roots. But, oh ho ho, in comes Jimmy Dean! While Jimmy Dean does have some breakfast cred, the hash browns heritage deserves so much better than Jimmy Dean Stuffed Hash Browns.

They had so much potential. They remind me of Hot Pockets but with a better carb casing: hash brown > some enriched flour pocket. Like Hot Pockets, Jimmy Dean’s Stuffed Hash Browns are efficient; instead of having all your breakfast components separate, it’s all packaged into one neat potatoey vehicle. Alas, efficiency doesn’t always equate to best tasting.

Of the three flavors – Sausage & Cheese, Meat Lover’s, and Bacon & Veggies – I go for Meat Lover’s for more bang for my buck. From the frozen outside, there is no indication of what the insides are like. It just looks like a really thick McDonald’s hash brown. There are also random pieces of shredded potato pieces as if Jimmy Dean strategically placed them to create the illusion of real potato in the potato mush. Nice try.

Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Stuffed Hash Browns 2

The prep process is really easy and Hot Pocket-like – place it into its shiny sleeve and microwave for two minutes. I wanted it extra crispy so, per the instructions, I impatiently waited an extra five minutes. It looks the same frozen and heated – maybe a smidge more golden.

Unfortunately, the warm Stuffed Hash Browns also starts to ooze oil from its deep-fried visage. This leads to a greasy mouthfeel and greasy residue on my fingers. The grease on grease on grease is kind of like what you’d expect from fried chicken. Except you expect that amount of oil from fried chicken, not from a hash brown brick.

Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Stuffed Hash Browns 3

To Jimmy Dean’s credit, the insides are stuffed. But, it all tastes the same – salty and porky. I expect some textural difference between bacon, sausage and ham, but nope, it’s just mush. I can also see the gooey cheese but I somehow can’t taste the mozzarella or cheddar until about half-way through. Moar cheez, plz.

The crispy potato outside definitely helps with texture. The outside is by no means fresh-outta-the-deep-fryer crispy but at least it isn’t just baby food mush. I also appreciate that the insides aren’t scalding hot like the insides of Hot Pockets. Thank you for not burning my taste buds off, Jimmy Dean!

On that disappointing note, I also learned that the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” saying was coined by a marketer trying to sell more cereal. Our breakfast-centric lives are a lie and so are Jimmy Dean Stuffed Hash Browns.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Piece – 260 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 820 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 4 stuffed hash browns
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Like a Hot Pocket with a better casing. One neat hash brown vehicle for breakfast. Crispy-ish hash brown.
Cons: Efficiency ? Better Tasting. Oozing oil. Grease on grease on grease. Salty and porky – all the same mush. Moar cheez, plz.