REVIEW: Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad

Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad

Why do we put fruit in our salad?

It’s always such a gamble. Either the combination of the salty dressing and sweet fruit tastes weird or the fruit itself is on its last soggy leg because it’s not fresh enough to eat on its own. If I have a choice, I usually go for the salad with the least fruit and the most bacon. Although Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad has fruit and no bacon, I’m thoroughly impressed with it.

I never jump fork first into a fruit-filled salad because I’m paranoid of: a) bad, edges-are-fraying-black lettuce b) worms in my berries. Please don’t ask me about either traumatizing experience; it’s not too far from what you’re imagining.

So, I examined the Summer Berry Chicken Salad for acceptable freshness. Per Wendy’s marketing collateral, the lettuce is chopped in-house daily and there are 11 different greens – not just iceberg lettuce. In real life, the “11 different greens” just sit on top of the iceberg lettuce. But, to Wendy’s credit, the salad does seem fresh – no pink oxidization or rotting lettuce.

Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad 3

Then, I examined each strawberry slice and blackberry very closely for worms, mold or general sogginess. Surprisingly, none of the three ew-factors were in sight. I almost believe it when Wendy’s says the berries are “fresh, hand-picked.” If you’re wondering how long it took me to examine the berries, there really weren’t that many berries – a few strawberry slices and two blackberries at MOST. I did order the half-size salad, so I half-sized my expectations accordingly. Also, I’d rather have quality over quantity.

In between the greens and berries were the feta cheese crumbles and chicken pieces. I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken was warm. The smell of chicken was a little overwhelming, but the warmth was a nice contrast to the cold salad. The feta cheese crumbles were fine on their own but magical with the Marzetti Simply Dressed Light Blackberry Vinaigrette. The feta added a creaminess to the tangy and sweet vinaigrette. Speaking of the vinaigrette, I was expecting Pepto-Bismol pink because of the white opaque packaging. However, the vinaigrette came out a nice, natural beet-like color.

Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad 2

Lastly, the apple crisps (a.k.a. healthy croutons) were served on the side. I wanted my buttery croutons, dammit! But, I tried the apple crisps individually and they were good enough that I could see myself snacking on them. The subtle apple flavor got lost in the overall mix of the salad but was crucial to the crunchy goodness of the salad.

All salad elements together made for a really well-composed salad – a little bit of sweet, a little bit of salty, a little bit of crunch, and a little bit of creaminess. It was also a very visually appetizing salad (for a fast food joint) – fresh green, vibrant pinks, and deep purple/blues. Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad is on par with salads from more premium chains like Panera, but it’s about $2 less than said premium chains.

As the Fall Equinox is rapidly approaching, I’m sad the fast food world will be a little less fresh and less delicious when the limited time Summer Berry Chicken Salad goes away.

(Nutrition Facts – half-sized salad – 210 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 420 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 18 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: Half-size
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Could really be fresh, hand-picked berries. Well-composed salad. Visually-appetizing.
Cons: Overwhelming smell of chicken. Not that many berries.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs

An éclair looks like a chocolate bar donut and sounds like some kind of frou frou French gizmo. I can practically hear my high school French teacher scolding: “Don’t you dare forget that accent aigu above the eh (how “e” is pronounced in French)!” But, if you’ve tried to make éclairs, you’ll quickly realize that this classic French pastry deserves to be embellished with that dang accent because of how complicated it is to make.

So what business does Hershey’s have with éclairs? Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs of course! Yep, sounds odd to me too. But I taste-tested these with an open mind. After trying these babies, Hershey’s can make all the frozen ready-to-eat desserts they want!

Instead of instant gratification, I had to thaw the mini éclairs for two hours in the fridge or 30 minutes at room temperature. I jokingly complain, but I’ll take a 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time any day. Unfortunately, my first red flag was that there was freezer burn; little ice crystals were hugging each of the mini éclairs. But, there’s no way to tell if the freezer burn was user error. So, I’ll give Hershey’s the benefit of the doubt – maybe I didn’t get the box into the freezer quickly enough from Walmart. The packaging does warn not to refreeze!

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs 2

Either way, because of the freezer burn, the mini éclairs didn’t look great thawed. The ice crystals melted down and made the chocolate look like it was balmy with sweat. Yum, sweaty chocolate. Surprisingly, the overall structural integrity of the oblong choux pastry remained intact. I expected the pastry itself to collapse after the freezer burn thawed out.

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs 3

I got through each mini éclair in three swift bites. The crème inside was very luscious and did not have an oily mouthfeel. Paired with the Hershey’s chocolate glaze, it was like I was eating creamy, milk chocolate goodness. The combination was also not sickeningly sweet; I’m not a fan of desserts that are cloyingly sweet. The glaze reminded me of the outside of a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone. And, like a dipped cone, the chocolate wrapped each choux pastry perfectly and the ratio was perfect – just enough for the amount of pastry.

The chocolate glaze was the choux pastry’s saving grace because the pastry itself wasn’t great. Could I tell the éclair had been frozen? If I didn’t personally thaw them, I might not have been able to. But, there was something about the pastry texture that clearly wasn’t fresh. It’s like fresh bagels vs. the day-old bagel pile – it tastes about the same but it’s missing that fresh dough elasticity and spring.

I could totally see myself bringing Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs for a potluck and shamelessly taking credit for making them. But, Hershey’s must think we’re all ants because these mini éclairs are teeny-tiny! This is ‘MURRICAA!! However, Hershey’s is staying true to the essence of an éclair with this mini innovation. After all, éclairs were named after lightning because people eat ‘em (especially me) lightning quick!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 éclairs – 270 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.52
Size: 10.58 oz box/about 20 pieces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time. Luscious crème. Creamy, milk chocolate goodness like a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone.
Cons: Freezer burn. Sweaty chocolate. Choux pastry = day old bagel pile. Éclairs for ants.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S’mores Rolls

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls

The Pillsbury Doughboy is back at it again but this time on the s’mores bandwagon and he’s totally woo-hooing for the wrong team! Like most bandwagoners, it’s not entirely his fault. He’ll soon realize that s’mores-flavored products are quickly joining the ranks of other craze-du-jour-flavored products. Cue the lineup of failed Pumpkin Spice, Red Velvet, Apple-flavored products because it’s all hype & poor execution, buddy!

I’m sad to share that the Limited Edition Pillsbury Grands S’mores Rolls are no exception. To sum up the experience: shaky start, better second half but ultimately still couldn’t deliver.

Here’s the play-by-play:

After the satisfying Pillsbury packaging pop, a pungent chocolate-esque smell creeps its way into my olfactory receptors. I say chocolate-esque because it smells like most artificial packaged chocolate smells: sickeningly sweet and nothing like what real chocolate smells like. Offensive foul for the Doughboy.

As the dough oozes its way out of the popped container, I am geeking out a little bit about the icing packaging. I was wondering how Pillsbury would fit icing in their neat cylindrical package. While it does mean I’m one roll short, the icing itself is packaged like it’s a part of the dough roll – in a small, plastic cylindrical container at the end. Clever!

Of course, I can’t help but try the white icing goop. It unfortunately and fortunately doesn’t taste like anything. I say unfortunately because if this is supposed to be the marshmallow part, it fails miserably like an airball. I also say fortunately because I’ve been known to eat all icing before it actually makes it onto the baked good.

The naked, uneven dough plops look really unappetizing on the baking sheet. They’re different sizes because it was hard to rip apart evenly. Sloppy pass here, Pillsbury.

The packaging says to bake for 23 – 29 minutes so I set my oven timer for 26 minutes – middle ground is safe right?! While the rolls were baking, the chocolate filling actually started to smell like my favorite thing in the world: fresh baked cookies! I could smell the chocolate filling warming up from artificial chocolate to rich deliciousness.

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls 2

After some risin’ and golden brownin’, the rolls come out looking way better than how they looked going in. However, I immediately notice that it’s a little crispy on the outside. This could absolutely be user error, but this never happens with the biscuits!

Before I begin the daunting task of icing the 350 degree Fahrenheit swirls, I try the roll sans icing. Gnawing my way through the sweet chocolate filling, I notice that there’s a slight savoriness to the dough itself – very reminiscent of Pillsbury biscuits. That biscuit-like savoriness proves to be the saving grace for the tasteless icing. When I do canvas on the icing, like Durant and Westbrook, the icing and more-savory dough work real well together.

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls 3

However, the icing to roll ratio is completely off; I only got through about three rolls before I ran out of icing. When I ran out, I turned to ice cream instead. I’m all about textures and temperatures and ice cream is the perfect complement. Icing, schmicing!

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls 4

While Pillsbury has a strong overall record, the Limited Edition Pillsbury Grands S’mores Rolls just can’t pull off the W. The dough itself is hard to work with and over bakes way too easily. Its teammates – chocolate filling and icing – can’t make up for the dough’s overpowering oafishness. As Limited Edition S’mores Rolls fades into irrelevance, I’ll be posted up at Cinnabon. Better luck next limited edition season!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Roll with Icing – 300 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 17.5 oz.
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Rolls come out looking & smelling way better baked. Smells like fresh baked cookies! Savory dough works well.
Cons: Artificial chocolate = offensive foul for the Doughboy. Naked, uneven dough plops. Icing, schmicing!

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Pretzel Breakfast Sandwich

Carl's Jr. Pretzel Breakfast Sandwich

I love celebrating food holidays.

There’s Bagel Day (2/9), Potato Chip Day (3/14), Chinese Almond Cookie Day (4/9), Animal Cracker Day (4/18), Clams on the Half Shell Day (just kidding, don’t celebrate it, but it’s an actual food holiday on 3/31) and Pretzel Day (4/26)! Thanks to Carl’s Jr., I celebrated Pretzel Day first thing that morning with their new Pretzel Breakfast Sandwich.

Deviating from their breakfast biscuit ways, Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s brought in Auntie Anne’s for some pretzel expertise. Growing up, I always wished that my aunts were as cool as Anne and Jemima. The point is, I love me some Auntie Anne’s pretzels – definitely a mall staple. So naturally, I was way too excited for this collaboration.

I unfortunately set myself up for a let down because I didn’t read the product description beforehand – I just assumed “pretzel” meant something that would be like Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels, but in bun form. So, I expected coarse salt diamonds glittering on top of a dark brown carb mountain. Instead, the bun is more like a saltless, flattened poop emoji.

Carl's Jr. Pretzel Breakfast Sandwich 2

The pretzel roll just doesn’t get me going like soft pretzel does. It’s soft but too chewy. The soft part is very much like a dinner roll, but it’s a miss on the pretzel part. I get that pretzels themselves do have more of a bite to them but when I’m also trying to chew through ham, egg, and cheese, it doesn’t create a good mouthfeel.

Also, coming from a person who practically inhales her food – don’t judge me, I know there are other food inhalers out there – the extra 3-4 chews are unwelcome. Lastly, it’s completely missing that Auntie Anne’s pretzel fragrance a.k.a BUTTER (I hope you read that in Paula Deen’s voice). A pretzel is not a pretzel without the buttery fat – erm, I mean goodness?!

Carl's Jr. Pretzel Breakfast Sandwich 3

The rest of the sandwich has all the components of a hearty and satisfying breakfast sandwich. The first thing I noticed was the cheese on cheese; you can’t miss it because it’s melting everywhere onto the wrapping and bun. It’s a little messy and reminds me of Kraft Singles but it’s actually American and Swiss cheese. Taste-wise, there’s no distinction between the cheeses, but I don’t mind.

The cheese overload does get to be a bit much, but the extra sodium in the smoky ham helps to cut through the bun and cheese. If ham is not for you, the other porky options are bacon or sausage. The final component is the pillowy yellow egg. The egg actually looks like something that could come off of my pan at home.

But, what’s the point of being a Pretzel Breakfast Sandwich if the pretzel part doesn’t deliver? I’d actually prefer to eat this on a biscuit.

BRB, going to the mall for some real pretzels now.

(Nutrition Facts – 520 calories, 210 calories from fat, 23 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 210 milligrams of cholesterol, 1770 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 24 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Celebrating food holidays! Components of a hearty and satisfying breakfast sandwich. Cheese on cheese.
Cons: Flattened Poop Emoji. Chewy. Lack of pretzel’s buttery goodness.

REVIEW: Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Over the years, competitors have come out swinging – stuffing crusts with hot dogs, creating delivery cars with pizza ovens, and paying Peyton Manning.

Last year, Little Caesars tried to play ball with the Bacon Wrapped Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza. Dialing it back, Little Caesars’ latest contribution to realm of ridiculous pizza innovation is their new Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza. I’ve learned from my day job that if you throw the adjective “premium” in front of your product or offering, it’s a sure win!

Continuing to sip on my haterade, I conclude from the rectangular box that my pizza isn’t round. What! Choquée! The box does proudly tout that Little Caesars is America’s Favorite Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza. Detroit is home to a lot of great things like the Detroit Lions, so what could go wrong here? Kidding.

Because Little Caesars is carry-out only, the eau d’pizza had about 20 minutes to permeate my car. I’ll give Little Caesars this – if they bottled the tantalizing pepperoni aroma, I’d buy it. When I got home, I expect it to look as glorious as it smells but the squares look really plain, small, and sad. Product description reads: “Four corners of perfection weren’t enough, so we gave you eight!” Honestly Little Caesars, I would’ve been fine with one, good round pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 3

While I can look past size, the pepperoni pieces were clearly just haphazardly thrown on. It looks like the one time I tried to play ring toss inebriated. I do appreciate that the pepperoni wasn’t marinating in a puddle of oil like competitors’ pepperoni pizzas.

While the overall pizza is hardly as ooey-gooey as it is in the ads, two slices down and I’m heavy breathing. I find myself feeling relieved that the cheese isn’t molten lava because it’s as if an entire cheese wheel was melted down and stuffed into the contents of this square dough. It’s like the dough and cheese have fused into one; I’m not quite sure where one begins and the other ends – there’s cheese on top, cheese in the middle, cheese in the crust. Alls I know is that my stomach is stuffed like this pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 4

I’m amazed that a single square slice somehow holds everything with such grace – no collapsing soggy crust whatsoever like other competitors’ stuffed crusts and not dry and hard like some Sicilian-style pizza I’ve had. Conclusion: Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza is the Spanx of pizzas. Like Spanx, it’s somehow containing and holding in all the cheese. The little muffin top forming over my jeans is a stark contrast to the pizza’s remarkable composure. Damn, I knew I should’ve worn my stretchy pants.  

This really does remind me of elementary school cafeteria pizza. But, this conjures fond memories for me like a square pizza patronus (where my Gryffindors at?!). Like all elementary school meals, it looks unappetizing and has way too much sodium; but if you count the pepperoni as your daily serving protein and tomato sauce as your daily serving of vegetables, you have a square meal. Get it? *buh dum tss*

Square pizza = square meal. Ha! No? Okay, fine. Fair.

Dad jokes aside, I will admit it’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely one of the better fast food chain pizzas. I still think that pizza shouldn’t be square but the this one can be the exception.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Little Caesars
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Eau d’pizza could be bottled and sold. Spanx of pizzas – will induce heavy breathing. Square pizza patronus.
Cons: Deceptive – doesn’t look as good as it smells and cheese isn’t ooey-gooey as advertised. Square.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry’s flavor gurus have wizarded four new Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert flavors: Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Coffee Fudge Caramel, and P.B. & Cookies. Yes, autocorrect keeps reminding me that “wizarded” is not a real verb but the flavor gurus’ work is food magic.

While my body is still processing lactose like a champ, I have many friends who can no longer enjoy lactose-filled foods – even with Lactaid! But, is Ben & Jerry’s giving my lactose-intolerant friends the real deal with this Non-Dairy innovation? I’m particularly skeptical of Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey because it’s a brazen move to try to replicate a tried & true flavor.

There’s only one way to settle it – a good ole taste-off.

As I open both pints and get ready to dig in, Rocky IV flashes before me. Regular Chunky Monkey is Rocky – now wildly successful and the crowd-pleasing favorite. It used to be the underdog because banana ice cream isn’t OG like vanilla or chocolate. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is Ivan Drago – designed to perform and to mirror the best of the best.

*DING DING DING*

The first round, taste, goes to regular Chunky Monkey. Unlike the full-fat Chunky Monkey, Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey doesn’t have a creamy buffer so the banana flavor is reminiscent of banana-flavored Runts. Runts were one of the worst candies in the childhood trick-o-treat plunder and of course, the banana-shaped runt was the worst flavor of them all. It’s not looking so hot for Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey.

Chunky Monkey and Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey are neck-and-neck in Round Two – texture. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey takes the win. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey’s overall texture is surprisingly identical to the regular Chunky Monkey. How is Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert made with almond milk?! Vegan ice creams are typically made with fattier substances like cashew milk or coconut milk. I don’t know what kind of almond milk Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield drink but the almond milk in my fridge is most closely related to murky water. ALMOND MILK SORCERY!!!

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 2

(L – Non-Dairy, R – Regular)

Round Three, mix-ins, is a swift win for regular Chunky Monkey. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey’s packaging claims that it’s “so boldly loaded with chunks & swirls.” While I can clearly see the superior distribution of the fudge chunks and walnut pieces in Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey, the Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey fudge chunks have a sandy texture and are also less deliciously rich. It’s a rookie error of quantity over quality – tsk, tsk Non-Dairy!

Instead of ring girls holding up round cards, it’s just me holding up two spoons – alternating bites of ice cream and Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert at lightning speed. Brain freeze? Yep, numerous times.  

Now, we’re in the 15th & final round (and I’m finally almost done with both pints). Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey goes the distance; it’s not melting as quickly as regular Chunky Monkey. Regular Chunky Monkey is puddling into pools while Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is melty but definitely looks more solid.  

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 3

The taste-off is over and it’s a close call. Regular Chunky Monkey edges out Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey. However, like Rocky & Drago, Chunky Monkey & Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey can co-exist! While Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is not an exact replica of the regular Chunky Monkey, it’s pretty damn close.

As a lactose-lovin’ gal, Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey wouldn’t be my go-to because it doesn’t have the full-fat richness, fragrance. But, some Ben & Jerry’s is better than no Ben & Jerry’s; Non-Dairy is a really great option for lactose intolerant/vegan folks. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey Frozen Dessert won’t be in the Flavor Graveyard any time soon.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 260 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.79
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Almond Milk Sorcery!!! Superior distribution of the good stuff. Coexist with regular Chunky Monkey like Rocky & Drago! Goes the distance.
Cons: Banana-flavored runts. Sandy fudge chunks.