REVIEW: Jack in the Box Pumpkin Spice Shake (2017)

Jack in the Box Pumpkin Spice Shake  2017 1

If you decide to share your purchase of Jack in the Box’s new Pumpkin Spice Shake on social media, Jack would like you to use the hashtag — #OMGPumpkinSpice.

This new shake shouldn’t be confused with Jack in the Box’s Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream Shake that we reviewed in 2013 or the Pumpkin Pie Shake that we reviewed way back in 2004. #OMGThisBlogIsSoOld

This updated pumpkin spice shake features real ice cream blended with pumpkin spice syrup and is topped with whipped cream, gingersnap cookie crumbles, and a cherry (mine didn’t come with one). The cookie crumbles appear to be the only difference between the 2017 Pumpkin Spice Shake and the one that came before it.

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The ice cream and pumpkin spice syrup in my cup weren’t mixed well. But after some intense stirring, I got it to the color in its promotional photo. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make me think of pumpkin spice. Instead, it reminds me of the walls at my doctor’s office.

The shake’s flavor is almost as non-festive as it looks. There’s a wisp of pumpkin spice, but I don’t want a wisp. Also, the whipped cream doesn’t help. It dilutes the flavor even more.

But the doctor’s office-colored cloud has a silver lining.

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The ample gingersnap cookie crumbles amp up the flavor of the shake with ginger and cinnamon. Although they move it away from being a pumpkin spice shake and move it towards being a gingerbread shake. But they also take it from blah to rah and kind of make up for the fact that the pumpkin spice flavor isn’t strong.

The ones that topped mine weren’t crumbles. Instead, they were straw-clogging chunks that surprisingly maintained their crunchiness as they sat in the dairy.

Full disclosure: I prefer Jack’s original Pumpkin Pie Shake over the version that came out in 2013 because its pumpkin spice popped. This latest iteration might be even weaker than the previous version, but the cookie crumbles add that punch I want. Although, if I think about it, maybe the shake itself is light because it might be overpowering if both it and the cookies provide strong flavors.

Overall, thanks to the cookies, I do think this version tastes better than the previous one, and I’d buy it again. But I don’t think it beats the original. #OMGItsGood

(Nutrition Facts – Regular – 860 calories, 41 grams of fat, 30 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 112 grams of carbohydrates, 92 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.19*
Size: Regular
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Gingersnap cookie pieces take this shake from a blah to rah and kind of make up for its lack of pumpkin spice flavor. Cookie pieces maintain their crunchiness.
Cons: Shake base has a weak pumpkin spice flavor. Its color reminds me of my doctor’s office. Whipped cream dilutes the already weak pumpkin spice flavor. Gingersnap cookies make it taste more like a gingerbread shake than a pumpkin spice shake.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Arby’s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich

On a confidence scale of 1-10, with 1 being the Browns winning the Super Bowl and 10 being the chances we get too many pumpkin spice-flavored products every fall, my confidence in Arby’s making a good chicken parmesan sandwich is about a 5.

On one hand, it’s Arby’s, which means A) It’s not Taco Bell, and B) The meat should be good. On the other hand, it’s Arby’s, which means the marinara is probably sitting in a box in the back and not simmering in a pot with fresh herbs and minced garlic while being stirred by someone’s nonna.

But then again, Arby’s new chicken parm sandwich is no ordinary one —- it’s a chicken parm sandwich with meat. Now I commend Arby’s for taking the Ron Swanson approach of eating several different animals in one bite with its Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich, but the pepperoni ruins this sandwich.

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It’s not the pepperoni’s fault, per se. I mean, we’re above Hormel quality here and under other conditions the pepperoni’s salty, unctuous flavor would be optimal. But it’s so loud and salty that it dominates each bite.

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This is an issue because the rest of the sandwich’s components fail to stand out. The buttermilk chicken is bland, tasting mostly of soggy breading and onion powder. I expected the marinara to pick it up, but even though the much-feared saccharine tomato taste wasn’t there, the sauce was flat and (again) too salty, lacking any memorable tomato flavor.

Even the bun, which Arby’s has paired so wonderfully with various brisket and brown sugar bacon sandwiches, is just sort of there, like the mindless carbs of a forgettable bread basket at a dying chain restaurant.

The one exception is the mozzarella, which is beautifully melted to that stretchable texture and has a nuanced flavor you’d expect from a panini. But here again the pepperoni dominates, canceling out what should be a premium ingredient.

I tend to give Arby’s the benefit of the doubt, and I’m a huge fan of the quality they’ve committed themselves to. But considering the run of successful brisket, brown sugar bacon, and pork belly sandwiches they’ve strung together, the Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich is a letdown.

It feels weird typing this, but this may be one case where we have the meats might be we have too many meats for our own good.

(Nutrition Facts – 610 calories, 28 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 1900 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Not want for meat. Really good melting action on the mozzarella. Moist and plump chicken breast. Marinara wasn’t horrible for fast food. Great if you love pepperoni.
Cons: Forgettable chicken. Overpowering pepperoni. Marinara sauce lacks balance. Virtually impossible to eat and not spill sauce on yourself.

REVIEW: Arby’s Cookie Butter Shake

Arby s Cookie Butter Shake

Arby’s releases a brand new cookie butter shake the very same week Oreo debuts its cookie butter cookies? Hmmm, very interesting.

Was it a mere coincidence? Or something more nefarious, like the cookie butter gods strong-arming companies into spreading their flavor for world domination????!!!! Then again, the flavor has kind of been growing in popularity so maybe that’s just it too.

The drink has a vanilla base mixed in with a cookie butter syrup and it is topped off with whipped cream and Biscoff cookie crumbles. It is described by Arby’s to be indulgently sweet with cinnamon spice. Following the debut of the Oreos that I thought were fantastic this shake has a tough act to follow.

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It’s off to a good start with the toppings. Even though the whipped cream is your run of the mill type, it happens to be very creamy and goes great with the Biscoff cookie crumbles that shine on the first bite. Arby’s definitely didn’t cut corners with these as going with the well-known Biscoff brand was a great choice. They are crunchy, very buttery, and have a noticeable cinnamon spice flavor at the end. The texture pairs greatly with the soft and fluffy whipped cream. I just wish there were more!

After eating most of the topping, I was excited to dive into the rest of the shake to continue my cookie butter adventure. Unfortunately, though, it was a kind of a letdown. My shake was a bit thick so it was a struggle to get it up through the straw. When I was able to suck it up you can definitely taste the vanilla base but after that it varies a lot between each sip.

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I could occasionally pick up some cinnamon and spice, but very faintly. There was definitely a more overt buttery flavor and it was tasty, but a tad too sweet at times. It just needed a little bit more of the spice because all the other flavors related to cookie butter shined through.

For example, if a friend handed me this and said it was a brand new butterscotch milkshake, I would be like “yum!” Or if they said just kidding it’s in fact a new caramel shake I would be like “delicious!” Cookie butter just didn’t immediately come to mind when thinking about the flavor of the shake itself.

Don’t think for a second, though, that I didn’t enjoy the shake as I finished the entire thing. All 960 calories and, good heavens, 139 grams of sugar of it. Next time this is available I’ll probably get a small and use it to wash down the cookie butter cream that I am scraping off the Oreo cookies to really hedge my bets and get maximum flavor. Oh, and also to please those cookie butter gods who went to a lot of effort for these to come about.

(Nutrition Facts – Large – 960 calories, 30 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 670 milligrams of sodium, 155 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 139 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: Large
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Legit cookie pieces. A pretty delicious milkshake overall. Cookie butter gods trying to take over the world.
Cons: Shake flavor that kinda tastes like cookie butter but also kinda tastes like it could be at least three other things. Playing second fiddle to Oreo cookies. Calories and sugar content that is better left unacknowledged.

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.

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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: 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.

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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.

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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.