QUICK REVIEW: Jamba Juice Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

Jamba Juice Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

The thought that popped into my head when I took my first sip of Jamba Juice’s Pumpkin Protein Smoothie was, “Is this is what French kissing a jack-o-lantern tastes like?”

While Jamba’s usual autumn smoothie, the Pumpkin Smash, tastes more like a pumpkin pie, this new one tastes more like actual smashed pumpkin put into a cup. It also looks like chunky tomato soup or what the Headless Horseman would puke after getting drunk about not being able to find his head again.

Both smoothies have the same “pumpkin spice blend” with pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but the vegetable flavor stands out more than the sweet spices in this protein-pumped version. A 16-ounce serving has six grams of fiber, and it tastes like it has six grams of fiber. I’m also thinking the added almond milk, chia seeds, and whey protein might play a role in making it taste a bit more vegetable-y. Totally not a word, but let’s make it one.

Jamba Juice Pumpkin Protein Smoothie 2

While the first sip was a turnoff, because I was expecting something that tastes more like a pie, I found myself enjoying it more and more with every following sip. Those later sucks from the straw had a sweet vegetable flavor that’s enhanced by the spices, especially the cinnamon. I definitely didn’t think pumpkin pie while drinking it, but I also definitely didn’t think about dumping it down my kitchen sink.

Think of Jamba Juice’s Pumpkin Protein Smoothie as the Diet Coke version of the Pumpkin Smash in terms of flavor. It’s not as good, there’s significantly less sugar, and there are folks who will think it’s gross, but there are people who will like it. And I am one of them. To be honest, it’s weird that something that was off-putting at first quickly became something that was on-putting. Totally not a word, but let’s make it one.

Purchased Price: I forgot
Size: 22 fl. oz.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (22 fl. oz.) 320 calories, 6 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Giant Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger

Wendy s Giant Jr Bacon Cheeseburger

Of the many endearing 1990’s family comedies involving sports, I tend to think Little Big League is the most underrated. Freed from the dopey animal plot lines of Air Bud, and thankfully eschewing the preposterous sports medicine that allowed Henry Rowengartner to overtake Chet Stedman in the Cubs’ rotation, Little Big League’s oxymoronic title lends itself to the story of 12-year-old Billy Heywood becoming manager of the Twins, proving he has big league ability despite his junior high stature.

This is more or less the plot line of Wendy’s new Giant Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger.

From its paper wrapping to its basic bun and those adorable little fresh and never frozen hamburger patties you’ll get on any of the other five Wendy’s “Jr.” burgers, the Giant Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger overcomes the eye test and competes at a premium level.

This is a five-tool burger if I ever tasted one. Each bite hits for beefiness, smokiness, cheesy goodness, while also excelling in the value and filling departments.

Wendy s Giant Jr Bacon Cheeseburger 2

Unlike other value menu burgers, the beef flavor isn’t one of several. It dominates each bite, supplemented by the familiar milky and smoky tastes of the melted cheese and bacon. Put another way, it actually tastes like a bacon cheeseburger and not a kid’s burger that piles the minimal amount of beef, bacon, and cheese beneath a bun and calls itself a bacon cheeseburger.

Wendy s Giant Jr Bacon Cheeseburger 3

Granted, this is not a juices-running-down-your-fingers burger, but it doesn’t need to be. In some ways, it reminds me of the Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburger, except without that dried texture and chargrilled flavor of Burger King’s regular burger patties, and without the distraction of ketchup, mustard, and pickles to obscure the taste of the beef. Not usually a huge fan of mayo, but I found it a perfect match for the Giant Jr., subtly enhancing those meaty and cheesy notes.

Wendy s Giant Jr Bacon Cheeseburger 4

While the flavor is definitively big league, the burger misses hitting it out of the park. Stacking the toppings maximizes the flavor of each bite but it doesn’t lead to more bites; at the end of the day, it’s still a 5-bite burger, which means you’ll be chomping on the nuggets in your combo meal wishing you had more burger. Additionally, the bun has a tendency to fall apart, while the single tomato slice and iceberg lettuce get in the way.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen this movie before. In Little Big League, Billy Heywood retires soon after his meteoric rise as manager. And the Giant Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger will only be available for a limited time. Here’s hoping it becomes a trailblazer for future little big burgers everywhere.

(Nutrition Facts – 540 calories, 38 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1080 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.00 combo with drink, fries, and nuggets
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Unprecedented beefy flavor for a value menu burger. Double portions of crisp and smoky bacon and gooey, melted cheese. Great deal as a $5 meal with fries, nuggets, and a drink.
Cons: Too much good stuff for a small and lackluster bun. Still “eats” like a value menu burger. Non-premium toppings. Excessive use of baseball metaphors.

QUICK REVIEW: Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard

Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard

While I love all things fall, I am not amongst the crowd that mainlines PSL by day and does lines of pumpkin spice out of a hollowed out Jack-o’-lantern by night. That said, I do consider pumpkin pie itself to be a pillar of the season.

Dairy Queen seems to agree as the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard rises from the most sincere DQ pumpkin patch around this time every year. Having enjoyed this Blizzard in the past did not diminish my delight at the sight of a spice covered mountain of whipped cream thrusting far above the confines of its container.

This isn’t merely the subconscious overcompensation of the Blizzardista though, as a spoonful of the plentiful whipped cream, pie filling, and crust is integral to capturing the flavor of the genuine article.

The first bite immediately and boldly declares that this is pumpkin pie ice cream. It’s not as deep or as true to the flavor as I find in the likes of Talenti’s Pumpkin Pie Gelato for example, but that is comparing apples to pumpkins and this Blizzard more than captures the essence of its namesake. The only trick this treat plays is leaving the cinnamon notes more ghostly than corporeal, especially when the crust comes into play.

Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard 3

I don’t know what dark pact DQ made to prevent the pie crust pieces from becoming soggy, but it was worth every drop of blood. While lacking a tad in flavor, they remain uniformly crunchy and plentiful from the first bite to the last and add a needed textural contrast.

Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard 2

Despite not being my favorite Blizzard, I find myself looking forward to Dairy Queen’s take on pumpkin pie as a herald of fall while the weather still warrants a frozen dessert. If your homemade recipe is more haunted house prop than delicious seasonal staple, the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard is a worthy dairy-based alternative.

Purchased Price: $0.99* (regular $2.89)
Size: Mini
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Mini) 360 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 41 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.

*I only paid $0.99 for mine due to DQ’s BOGO of equal or lesser value for $0.99 deal.

REVIEW: Chick-fil-A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl

Chick fil A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl

The pancake platter. The breakfast sandwich. Burritos of all shapes and sizes and varying degrees of sodium. Let’s face it: None of them are anywhere near as primal as the breakfast skillet, which, thanks to the ever-increasing demand to diversify menus, has finally made it to Chick-fil-A in the form of the new Hash Brown Scramble.

This is pretty groundbreaking stuff, if you ask me. Okay, so it’s not a taco with a shell made out of a freaking egg, but considering every diner in America has some variation of layered meat, potatoes, eggs, and cheese, you might say it’s long overdue for the drive-thru. And while Taco Bell has a version of the skillet on the breakfast value menu, let’s be real: It’s a dollar and it’s from Taco Bell.

If the classic breakfast skillet inspires images of loosening your belt, then the Chick-fil-A Hash Brown Scramble will elicit a sigh of relief from cardiologists everywhere. I’m not saying it’s good for you, but considering it comes in a side salad container, it left me wondering if I should have ordered a biscuit on the side.

Chick fil A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl 3

I decided against it, because I thought it would defeat the purpose of building the skillet around the hash browns. And man, those hash browns are good. Even though the counter person forgot my jalapeño salsa, I thought the earthy, crispy tater tot-like rounds delivered tremendous potato flavor. It played beautifully with the saltier nuggets and buttery eggs. I had seven of them in my scramble, which contributed enough crunch and potato flavor without making me feel like I was eating a bowl of French fries.

Chick fil A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl 5

Even though the hash browns and chicken are good, there was something off about the whole thing. At first, I was tempted to chalk it all up to my missing salsa, but even after I added hot sauce and ketchup for sweetness and heat, I realized the culprit had less to do with an absence of flavor and more to do with a contrasting flavor.

Chick fil A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl 2

While cheese makes pizza, hamburgers, and basically everything else in life good, its uneasy relationship with the succulent and slightly sweet pressure-cooked nuggets is, at best, contentious. Both flavors contribute salt to the potato flavor, but the milky flavors of the slightly melted cheese dissipate the otherwise excellent taste of the chicken. What emerges are two distinct flavor profiles in the scramble, which, while good, never comes together in its entirety.

Overall, I’m glad Chick-fil-A decided to retool its breakfast options by giving the humble hash browns a place at the table. And while I’m not a fan of mixing Chick-fil-A’s chicken with cheese, the flavors of the hash browns, chicken, and eggs are enough for me to overlook the extraneous contribution from those annoying Chick-fil-A cows.

(Nutrition Facts – Full nutrition facts not available, but according to the menu board it has 450 calories.)

Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Bringing the diner skillet to fast food menu boards. Hash browns have excellent potato flavor and a crispy, tater-tot like texture. Chicken is on point as always. Surprisingly filling for size.
Cons: Milky flavors of the cheese don’t play nicely with the chicken. Lacks a bit of “umph” without salsa. Hash browns have a tendency to get soggy if you wait too long to eat.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco

I’ve heard of eggshells, but an egg AS a shell?! What the…

Let me clear the air here, I love Taco Bell breakfast. The A.M. Crunchwrap should win them whatever a Michelin Star is. If there was a location closer to my house, I’d have breakfast there weekly.

When it comes to fast food innovation, no one can compete with Taco Bell. So far they’ve given us “shells” made from Doritos, chicken, waffles, now an egg?! Other restaurant chains may try to match their creativity, but in the end, the marketing geniuses at Taco Bell always retain the belt.

So, you’re probably wondering, is the Naked Egg Breakfast Taco worth the extra morning drive time?

Well, it’s interesting.

I’m gonna go ahead and skip past the fact I’m not a big fan of the word “naked” when pertaining to food and get to the review.

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco 2

It’s not exactly the most photogenic menu item Taco Bell offers, that’s for sure. It looks like a three-day old omelet. The fried egg “shell” does its best to show off a yolk, just so you know what you’re eating.

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco 3

The taco came with a cardboard sleeve that I found inconvenient to eat out of, so I ditched it. Once I did, I realized why it was there. As you might expect, a fried egg taco “shell” is greasy. It’s probably best to eat it with utensils, but that kinda kills the novelty of eating a taco, right? Also to be fair, it’s not much greasier than a McGriddle cake.

Using an egg as a “shell” is all good in theory, but in order to keep some stability, it had to be firm. The egg was overcooked. I’d compare it to a rubbery hard-boiled egg white that got cold almost instantly.

The taco comes filled with cheddar cheese, nacho cheese sauce, seasoned potatoes, and the sausage crumbles I opted for.

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco 6

The “warm layer” of cheddar cheese they promised was actually congealed plastic, but it did act as a glue to hold the taco together. I thought there was way too much of it, but when I opened the taco to check out the other ingredients, they all kinda spewed out.

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco 5

The other three inner ingredients were tasty. I have no complaints there. The zesty nacho sauce added a (this is gonna sound gross) lubricant, and I’ve always been a fan of their seasoned potatoes. The sausage crumbles were standard fare.

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco 4

So overall, it’s kind of a mixed bag. You have a rubbery egg, some plastic cheese, and then the good warm inner contents. Mixed together, it’s not bad, but I absolutely missed a tortilla to tie everything together.

The Naked Egg Breakfast Taco is a cool gimmick, but unless you’re trying to cut a few carbs from your morning, I see no reason to ever get this over other superior Taco Bell menu items. It’s a one time purchase.

(Nutrition Facts – 300 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 170 mg of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fun little gimmick. The inner ingredients all worked well. Taco Bell innovation. A.M. Crunchwrap is the G.O.A.T.
Cons: Rubbery egg “shell.” Plastic cheese. Greasy. Pretty small. The word “naked” pertaining to food. Not even close to the other breakfast options at Taco Bell.