REVIEW: Popeyes Golden BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Remember that catchy Popeyes jingle? “Love that chicken from Popeyes!” However, its chicken is not the only product I adore from the fast food chain. Its array of unique sauces is equally impressive, from tangy to spicy. In fact, there are so many that even the McNugget Buddies might be a tad envious of the variety Popeyes has to offer.

The newest, a BBQ honey mustard, is on Popeyes’ Golden BBQ Chicken Sandwich. It features the same buttermilk-battered all-white meat chicken breast, barrel-cured pickles, and butter-toasted brioche bun as the chain’s famous Classic Chicken Sandwich. So it’s the original, with the new sauce swapped for the mayo. If you enjoy the other sandwiches Popeyes offers, this BBQ honey mustard is also available in the Blackened and Bacon & Cheese varieties.

The condiment makes the menu item look more monochromatic than it usually does. If not for the pickles, it would be a golden brown chicken breast with a golden sauce on a golden bun. At least with the original, the white mayonnaise provided some contrast. But, taste-wise, the BBQ honey mustard is a step up from the mayo. Or maybe I feel that way because I’ve eaten the original multiple times, and my taste buds wanted a change.

Whoever made mine didn’t skimp on the topping, which was liberally applied to both buns. Despite the generous squirts of sauce, the soft, sweet brioche bun kept the sandwich together. The tangy and sweet sauce with a hint of smokiness is a delicious condiment that complements the crispy chicken breast and all its seasonings. There’s no kick to it, so those who are heat-adverse need not worry. While the chicken, bun, and sauce made for a tasty sandwich, I thought the pickles were unnecessary and got in the way of the creamy topping’s taste. They added their usual tanginess and crunch but were okay in this sandwich. I’d probably get it without pickles if I get this limited-time-only offering again before it leaves.

I’ve had the other saucy Popeyes Chicken Sandwiches, like the Truff Hot Sauce and Buffalo Ranch ones. But I enjoyed this Golden BBQ Chicken Sandwich more than those, and I think I might like it as much as the original.

Purchased Price: $6.99
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 620 calories, 32 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1550 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 28 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Summer-Berry Refreshers

Summer.

A time when the days are long and the nights are short. A time when you hope your deodorant’s claim of lasting 24 hours is accurate. A time when you’re very likely to sweat bucket if you hang outside for any decent length of time during the day. Okay, maybe not buckets, but you might perspire so much that you could fill a Tall-sized Starbucks cup with sweat. To replenish the liquid you’ll lose this summer, Starbucks has a shiny new Summer-Berry Refresher, available in cup sizes from Tall to Trenta, which you can reuse to find out how much you sweat during these upcoming hot months. I hope you don’t fill a Trenta-sized cup.

Starbucks says the drink is “a sweet summer blend of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry flavors, shaken with ice and poured over raspberry flavored pearls that deliver a delicate and deliciously sweet burst of summer fun.” There are also versions that come mixed with either lemonade or coconutmilk. I decided to hydrate myself with the regular one.

The beverage looks more Instagrammable than my photos make it out to be. According to Starbucks, this is its first blue-colored drink. Well, primarily blue because the many raspberry pearls create a purple-red pearl pillow for the Summer-Berry base to sit on. I love how the ice spheres and blue base combine to look like a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. I could stare at it until the clouds have faded, I mean, until the ice has melted.

Its smell and taste reminded me of an ice pop. Although the base has multiple berries, I thought the blueberry stood out more. But the drink got raspberry-heavy when the fruit-flavored liquid trapped in the pearls was released as they exploded between my teeth. That’s when this Refresher really tasted like a blue raspberry popsicle. Crushing the ice between my molars kind of made me feel like I was chewing on an ice pop and doing stuff my dentist would disapprove of.

I’ve had popping boba before, so the sensation of chomping down on these pearls is not new to me. But I’ve always found that making them explode in my mouth is soothing and that my teeth can experience what my feet feel when they step on bubble wrap.

Starbucks’ Summer-Berry Refresher is like summer in a cup with a blue sky color, pearls that pop like fireworks, and a flavor that’s like a summer frozen novelty. It’s a great way to beat the summer heat and make you feel refreshed.

Purchased Price: $6.75
Size: Venti (24 fl oz)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 75 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Buttery-er Ritz Crackers

In the land of limited editions that dare to make the consumer want to try something more extreme or risky, we have the new, tame, and enticing, Limited Edition Buttery-er Ritz Cracker. Not extra butter, not heaps of butter, not movie theater butter — although an Ultimate Butter version in 2016 apparently took that dive — just the non-threatening and seemingly safe Buttery-er.

Before going into this, I should note that I love original Ritz Crackers. Growing up, there were two elite plain and buttery crackers — Nabisco’s Ritz and Kellogg’s Club. Ritz Crackers were always the preferred base for a ridiculous amount of squishy, squirt-y Easy Cheese or cream cheese, and Club Crackers felt like the more elegant, refined buttery choice for proper cheese and/or meat. As an adult, my favorite iteration of a Ritz is the fudge-covered one that pops up for the holidays — an absolutely underrated pinnacle of the modern sweet and salty snacking era.

Diving into this new Buttery-er version is a very familiar and satisfying experience. Soft and crumbly with a perfect amount of salt and a lovely golden buttery flavor throughout. My initial thought is that they are, indeed, more buttery, or, apologies, buttery-er. However, it isn’t an aggressive or artificial flavor like a Jelly Belly jelly bean; it’s simply a richer foundation to an already rich cracker. They also feel softer and more crumbly with an even quicker melt-in-your-mouth sensation than the original that’s been promising a “bite of the good life” since the 1930s.

Fun fact: both the original and these new limited edition Ritz Crackers contain no butter, and are vegan. Any buttery presence in one versus the other is the density of the science-flavored oils. The ten extra calories and half a gram more fat per serving in these, as opposed to the original, would imply a heftier hand in dosing that fatty flavor.

But is it all just a mind trick? There’s only one way to truly find out: a side-by-side taste test. Eating an original Ritz cracker and then the new Buttery-er version right after confirms what I thought prior to having the control cracker — it’s more buttery, and it’s subtle. The limited edition leaves a slightly more pronounced buttery oil feeling on the tongue than the OG, similar to movie theater butter, but much less intense. This makes sense because the “butter” at most theaters is also butter-flavored oil.

The Buttery-er Ritz Cracker is a lusher, slightly elevated experience from its already elite predecessor that I’m happy I found and tried. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if they made this the full-time recipe, but unless you’re a cracker completist, you don’t NEED to rush out to find these before they’re gone.

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 13.7 oz
Purchased at: Nob Hill
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (5 crackers, 17g) 90 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Sour Patch Kids Oreo Cookies

Oreo cookies? Great.

Sour Patch Kids? Great.

Frosted Flakes? They’re gr-r-reat, but they have nothing to do with this review. This review is for Sour Patch Kids Oreo. Surely, that combo couldn’t possibly be great, right?

We’ve reached the “dart throwing” phase of Oreo flavor variants. While those kids from the sour patch have invaded cereal and ice cream recently, I didn’t have Oreo on my Sour Patch Bingo card.

These bizarre confections are starting to pop up in stores. I was able to snag a 4-pack at 7-Eleven, and I’m thankful that’s all I got. Like actual kids, I think four is the absolute max anyone can handle.

Both the cookies and the crème are speckled with colorful Sour Patch Kid-flavored dots, which, unfortunately, aren’t chewy. They mimic the crystalized sugar that coats the kids.

The sour batch of sour patch smells really good fresh from the package, but nothing like a cookie. It’s Sour Patch by way of Pixie Stick. If you’re wondering why I know the distinct smell of Pixie Sticks… let’s just say I was a Very Dumb Kid, and some Pixie Sticks may have made their way into my nasal cavity.

The Oreo cookie has a bit of a graham flavor, but I don’t think the SPK flecks really come through with much flavor. It’s a hint –- the ghost of a Sour Patch Kid. Innocence lost.

The flecks in the crème, however, definitely pop, but they’re sour, so it’s kind of off-putting. Something about a simulacrum of a dairy product being sour just doesn’t sit right. As far as the actual flavor, it reminded me of sour orange sherbet more than anything, but I think most people would know these are Sour Patch-inspired.

Once I ate the cookie whole, I came up with a weird overall flavor and texture profile in my head. Picture a package of Fun-Dip, but for some reason, the powder got moist and turned into a goopy mud. That. Why that? I don’t know, but even the bland cookie acts as a little bit of a sour neutralizer like the Fun-Dip stick does.

I don’t think these are very successful as a flavor, but as a gimmick… sure, why not? It’s fun. It’s weird.

I definitely think orange is the fruit flavor that comes to the forefront, so just picture orange Sour Patch Kids and bland Teddy Grahams in one bite. A kid would probably like that, no?

I have to add the fact that the aftertaste on these is kinda awful. Malic acid just lingers on the side of your tongue. SPKs are supposed to be sour and THEN sweet, but here, it’s the opposite. The sourness gets more and more pronounced as you chew, and it takes a while to dissipate.

So, not great, but probably the best they could’ve done. If you’re interested, just go to 7-Eleven like I did. Wait until the dart hits Frosted Flake Oreo Cookies to get a family pack.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2.40 oz package
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 Pack/4 Cookies) 290 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and less than 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Gatorade Limited Edition Midnight Ice

Gatorade Midnight Ice, as its angsty color and name suggest, is a bit of an oddball. Most of the better-known Gatorade variants hint at their flavor via their color, like the grape-flavored light purple Riptide Rush, or blatantly call out the flavor in their name — you can’t get more straightforward than the orange, well, Orange. But it’s hard to put a finger on what fruit this black drink is supposed to evoke. It’s as if this emo-looking Gatorade is lamenting, “No one understands me!” In fact, it seems like the whole point of this flavor is to be mysterious and slightly spooky. Just look at the promo photos, which present Midnight Ice as an inky abyss darker than a vampire’s soul!

Unfortunately, as soon as you lay eyes on this flavor in real life, it’s apparent that its color is way closer to purple than jet black. And also… it tastes pretty similar to any other cool-colored Gatorades I’ve had. If you gave me a blind taste test of Midnight Ice and, let’s say, Cool Blue and Fierce Grape (and yes, I did have to pop onto the helpfully color-coded Gatorade Wiki to find those names instead of using my usual pet names for them, plain old “Blue” and “Purple”), I’m not confident I could tell the difference.

But of course, that comparison is only helpful if you’ve had a similar Gatorade flavor before. How would I describe this to someone with no frame of reference?

Honestly, I think the “purple=grape” association is so hard-wired that that’s my immediate comparison, even though upon further reflection, the taste doesn’t really feel as grape-y as the color does. When I close my eyes and open my mind, what comes to mind is that Midnight Ice is a rich yet mellow blend that’s kind of sweet, kind of tart, kind of tangy, kind of salty, and more than kind of artificial tasting… and yet all of these seemingly conflicting flavors work. It’s vaguely reminiscent of cough syrup yet so drinkable that the prospect of consuming a 28-ounce bottle feels comforting, not repulsive. It’s refreshing, the kind of more-exciting-than-water-but-still-not-too-overwhelming beverage that’s easy to crave and chug, whether you’re exercising, recovering from an illness, or just trying to beat the heat. All in all, while the drink isn’t as remarkable as its stark marketing would suggest, it’s definitely tasty, a fine addition to the Gatorade line (though I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to find it again since it’s only available in 28-ounce bottles at 7-Eleven or packs of 20-ounce bottles at Walmart).

I compared Midnight Ice to an emo teen earlier, but while those kids usually defend their style by asserting, “It’s not just a phase,” Midnight Ice can’t say the same. It’s a limited edition, so I’d recommend trying it soon if you want a fun new sports drink… or if you’re just trying to develop a more discerning palate for differentiating between similarly colored Gatorade flavors.

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 28 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per bottle) 190 calories, 0 grams of fat, 160 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 21 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.