REVIEW: KFC Hot Shot Bites

KFC Hot Shot Bites

In the ever changing fast food world, there are still a few things you can take to the bank. Aside from the universal appeal of McDonald’s French fries and the undisputable fact that Taco Bell always tastes better after a few beers, you can pretty much count on whatever is being billed as the latest “spicy” item to be not really that spicy. Sure, there are a few exceptions (I’m looking at you, Chick-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich), but for the most part, the fast food execs calling the shots know many of us are wimpy gringos who really can’t handle the flaming stuff.

That, or they know their employees would find a way to screw it up when it came time to serve it.

Hence, the case of KFC’s new Hot Shot Bites. You matriarchs out there can relax, because these are not, as they say in the Dixie, “slap yo mamma silly” hot. In fact, depending on the KFC you walk into, you might find them even less seasoned than their Original Recipe Bites.

Which brings me to perhaps the most tried and true hallmark of fast food: consistency, or lack there of. Yes, you might as well fetch the cheese board, because I’m about to do some whining when it comes to KFC’s remarkable record of inconsistency.

I went to two separate KFC’s to buy the Hot Shot Bites, and in both cases was presented with something that was being sold as the authentic Hot Shot Bites. The first occasion found me receiving what looked more like Popeyes Rip’n Chicken than anything else; with dry, stringy meat that displayed no red hue, absolutely zero heat or spice, and more cornflake-like breading than actual meat.

We’ll get back to those impostors later, because my second trip (to a completely different KFC) at least managed to turn up the Mars red-hued nuggets that matched the promotional photo.

KFC Hot Shot Bites Innards

The good news was the batch I received on the second trip contained moist and juicy meat right out of the fryer. The bad news? The breading, which was oily and falling off as soon as I touched the Bites. While I’m sure eating the Bites is healthier this way, it definitely also reduced the heat level. However, the problem with these Bites is that heat level wasn’t high to begin with.

KFC Hot Shot Bites Orange Hue

Crunching on the exterior breading, I detected a noticeable but very restrained cayenne and black pepper flavor that you might associate with Tabasco sauce. True, it’s got a kind of buttery-Buffalo style aftertaste because of how oily the Bites are, but unless you’ve been living in the Arctic Circle, I doubt you’ll find the Bites hot and spicy.

Now, back to those impostor Bites. Remember those? I actually returned to the KFC selling the impostors after buying what I’ll call the real Hot Shot Bites (“hot” being used in the most liberal of applications), and I brought along one of the real Bites to compare.

After asking the manager about the discrepancy, I was assured the Bites I received from the first store were “up to standard,” and was shown, much to my amazement, the exact same impostor Bite I received on my first trip (lack of red hue and all). What do I make of it? Well, you’ve got me. All I can opine is what I’ve noticed to be a record of inconsistency at KFC franchises, a record which makes getting something truly spicy akin to playing the fast food lottery.

All things considered, the real KFC Hot Shot Bites aren’t bad. No, they’re not very spicy or hot, but they’ve got enough flavor to eat sans sauce, and when cooked properly, are succulent and juicy. Still, they’re not nearly as good as Chick-Fil-A’s now discontinued Spicy Nuggets from a few years back, and that’s assuming you get a good batch.

In that case, perhaps the best question isn’t, “Can you take the heat?”, but rather, “Are you feeling lucky?”

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Other KFC Hot Shot Bites reviews:
Grub Grade
Brand Eating

Item: KFC Hot Shot Bites
Purchased Price: $3.99 (combo with a side and drink)
Size: 6 pieces
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Moist and succulent white meat. Has buttery Buffalo sauce aftertaste thing going on. Crunchy breading. KFC’s Sweet Kernel Corn (the most underrated fast food side in the world, if you’re asking me).
Cons: Inconsistent spicing and cooking by location. Not actually slap-yo’-mamma hot. One note in cayenne heat. Breading falls off too easily. A bit oily. Fast food manager rage.

QUICK REVIEW: Tropical Citrus Rockstar Energy Water

Tropical Citrus Rockstar Energy Water

Purchased Price: $1.59
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Hydrating. If you enjoy kicking your heart with 200 milligrams of caffeine, you will like this. Contains typical Rockstar Energy Drink ingredients. Sugar free. Zero calories. Provides 100 percent of your daily vitamin C.
Cons: If you hate the amount of flavor VitaminWaters have, you’ll hate this. Tropical citrus flavor was a bit odd and it almost doesn’t do a good job of masking the bitterness of the caffeine. Way too easy to drink. Artificial sweeteners more noticeable as it gets warmer.

Nutrition Facts: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 100% vitamin C.
Other reviews: Caffeine King, Caffeine! The Energy Blog

REVIEW: Valencia Orange Starbucks Refreshers

Valencia Orange Starbucks Refreshers

We all have a little King Kong inside of us: an otherwise docile, gentle animal that lives in our minds that, when he’s happy, he does his cool gorilla thing. Probably eats bananas and swings in his hammock while catching up on Darwin.

However, when we get dehydrated, that inner King Kong gets angry, causing us to go bonkers, resulting in an array of side effects including (but not limited to): throwing random objects, running through traffic-filled streets, and impulsively roaring at the top of the Empire State Building. (This explains the curious behavior patterns of many New York tourists.)

Thankfully, Starbucks noticed this public dehydration problem and, hoping to relieve many of our inner King Kongs from lashing out, released their line of Refreshers and, in a city that has more Starbucks than grocery stores, I decided to stop in and give this new Valencia Orange Refreshers a go.

Valencia Orange Starbucks Refreshers Ice, ice baby

Tart, cold, and icy as all get-outs, “refreshing” stands as the best descriptor one can pin to this golden-hued sucker.

James Bond would appreciate that the preparation for Refreshers require it to be shaken, not stirred. The experience of slurping this bad boy down is akin to taking a Valencia, a Clementine, and a naval orange, smooshing them in a compressor, and creating a sugary fruit juice box from it.

Taken as a whole, it tastes of Tang or a gentler Sunny-D with a hint of overripe peach at the end, which may or may not be the implied “apricot” mentioned in the description. There’s also a tinge of bitterness and, if I close my eyes, a tart zing, most likely from some combo of the orange peel floating around and caffeine. It’s a nice dimension to what would otherwise be a strictly sweet drink.

Despite the orange-filled nature of this mélange, not a hint of pulp can be found, something my pulp-free spirit is pleased to discover. It does, however, come with a slice of Valencia orange. My specimen was a slender, middle-of-the-road slice, which was nice to gnaw on as I trotted my lightly caffeinated, 80-percent-Vitamin-C-fortified derriere through the streets of Midtown.

Valencia Orange Starbucks Refreshers \Prescription for dehydration

If you’re a fearless daredevil (and I know you are), you have the semi-secret option of mixing this with other Refreshers or cold tea. If you add a bit of the Berry Hibiscus and/or Passion Tea, it further emphasizes the tart/bitter dimension that plays off the sugary sweetness of the overall Hi-C-orangeade effect taking place within. I’m not sure why it’s so excellent, but, just like why “Y” is only sometimes a vowel, some things are best left unexplained.

Post-gulp, the half cubes of ice are great for crunching, although, in my case, many melted in the 94-degree heat of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which dulled the flavor. If you want a stronger concentration of orange-juice-box flavor, consider skipping the ice.

Overall, this is a success in my books. I can’t quite distinguish the specific Valencia orange-ness of it, but I don’t give a hoot. It tastes like grit-free Tang, and every growing girl needs Tang. The price point is a bit too steep for my liking, but it’s worth it for an occasional cool-off on a hot day. Starbucks mentions that these will only be around for a limited time, but I’m hoping they’ll end up being like a Macy’s One Day Sale: they say it’s for a limited time, but it keeps going and going and going…

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces (Tall) – 70 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 15 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein, 80% Vitamin C.)

Other Valencia Orange Starbucks Refreshers reviews:
Serious Eats
Brand Eating

Item: Valencia Orange Starbucks Refreshers
Purchased Price: $3.54
Size: 12 oz. (Tall)
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Grit-free Tang. Juice boxes. Vitamin C. Lightly caffeinated. Crunchy ice. Freedom to mix it with other Refreshers. Happy gorillas in my head.
Cons: Orange flavor may hinge too sweet if you’re not into Tang. Limited time. Pricey. Ice dulls the flavor. Angry King Kong. Commercials for Macy’s One Day Sales.

QUICK REVIEW: Quaker Müller Früt Up Lowfat Yogurt with Fruit Mousse

Muller Frut Up Strawberry Blueberry Lemon Lowfat Yogurt with Fruit Mousse

Purchased Price: $1.00 each
Size: 5.3 oz. cup
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Splendid Strawberry)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Blueberry Bliss)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Luscious Lemon)
Pros: Fruit mousse is light and creamy. Strawberry and blueberry have authentic fruit flavor and ingredients.. Lemon is very tart – could eat a whole cup of mousse alone. Mousse and yogurt textures work well together. Mousse-to-yogurt ratio is just right.
Cons: Shape of cup can make getting mousse and yogurt in the same scoop difficult. Yogurt is bland without mousse. Blueberry mousse has a less strong flavor that makes it pedestrian with the plain yogurt. Lemon may be too tart for some.

Nutrition Facts: Splendid Strawberry – 140 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, and 15% calcium. Blueberry Bliss – 140 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, and 15% calcium. Luscious Lemon – 150 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, and 15% calcium.

REVIEW: Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage

There are certain cravings that make sense.

I want an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Watching Chris Davis go yard at the Yard, I feel a sudden urge for peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Other cravings are a little more “out there,” but understandable given extenuating circumstances. It’s what excuses adding pork rinds to your milkshake after a night at the bar, or what allows pregnant women to justify eating Pillsbury brownie mix right out of the bowl. Some cravings, though, just make no sense whatsoever.

Take me and canned meat. Growing up with a bountiful supply of, well, your typical American upper-middle class food, I always had the blessing of fresh meat to eat during my formative gastronomic years. Likewise, in college, I enjoyed an all-you-can-eat dining hall which, despite being a young man with a plan, did not leave me with a necessary reliance on any sort of can. And having never lived through a natural disaster, been subjected to a dinner party at a Doomsday Prepper’s home, nor decided to engage in any kind of cross-oceanic voyage that would make canned food a necessity, you might surmise that I should have no attraction to the canned meat aisle to begin with.

You, my friend, would be wrong.

Quite the opposite, really. My fixation on canned meats knows no limits, which is probably why the 53 cent can of the new Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage captured my imagination.

First, a word on perspective. My romanticized version of canned meat aside, I’m still a realist when it comes to these kinds of products. At less than a pack of the really cheap gum (you know, the one with the multicolored striped zebra), I realize I’m getting something which probably has no taste whatsoever of the chicken, beef, and pork which I’m told make up each sausage. By the same token, I can dull my expectations of full bodied maple flavor when it comes to “syrup type sauce.” Just a quick recap of the hierarchy of syrup and such:

1) Maple Syrup

2) Pancake Syrup

3) Syrup-Type Sauce

Clearly we fall below the gourmet line. Actually, we even fall below the school cafeteria line, but who’s judging? Well, besides me. Now, about this aroma. There really is no experience short of a career as a dump truck driver that will prepare you for the initial waft of a freshly opened can. “Fresh” is the operative word here.

Overall, the smell strikes boldly of truck stop leftovers. Not just your generic Route 66 truck-stop leftovers, mind you. I’m talking Western Pennsylvania scrapple drowned in a weak corn syrup liquid which proudly claims a hue bordering on Diesel brownish-yellow and “if your pee is this color, please consult a doctor immediately.” Yeah, that kind of leftovers.

If you’ve never had a Vienna sausage, the best way I can describe it is like a cheap hot dog, only the size of your thumb. It’s a bit slimy on the outside, with an initial rubbery bite and a bit of pasty consistency on the finish. It doesn’t really taste like meat, but bad smell and all jokes aside, it’s not completely objectionable.

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage Syrup Closeup

If you’re not averse to eating highly processed meats you might even find it “meh.” That said, you probably will need something to jazz it up. That’s where the “syrup type sauce” comes in. But who are we kidding? Calling this stuff a sauce is like calling watered down Pepsi a sauce. The consistency is that of water, with no body in texture and little, if any, flavor to the sweetness. It’s just kind of there, and what’s more, only has seeped into the sausages in moderate amounts. What it creates is a mildly sweet-salty combination, but only one on the atomic level. All things considered, it tastes exactly like you’d expect; a mini cheap hot dog with some sugar poured on it.

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage Toothpick

While the epicurean toothpick method is highly preferred in most “snack from the can when nobody is looking” occasions, consider that the fine folks at Armour want you to remember that these are “Great with Breakfast!” To this end, I must admit, they are not.

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage Waffle

And should you take it upon yourself to whip sliced pieces of Syrup flavored sausage into your favorite waffle batter, you will in fact yield an utterly insipid waffle with burnt pieces of said Vienna Sausage. Unless you prefer your waffles burnt on the outside, chewy on the inside, and just kinda weird tasting all over, I recommend passing on this cooking application of the product.

At 53 cents a can, Armour’s new Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausages might be the most economical way of getting your sweet and salty fix on this side of pouring a Splenda packet and salt packet in your mouth simultaneously. Nevertheless, the latest and greatest creation from Armour serves as a tried and true reminder that you get what you pay for.

I can forgive highly processed meat that doesn’t taste like meat. I mean, that’s what canned food is all about. But I was really expecting more from the syrup. to this end, I have to proclaim this bold innovation in canned food a failure. Oh well. I guess there’s always SPAM.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 sausages with syrup – 120 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 510 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage
Purchased Price: 53 cents
Size: 4.75 oz. can
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Not completely detestable. Extremely cheap. Has kind of the salty-sweet thing going on, albeit in a leftover truck-stop diner food kind of way.
Cons: But, why? Syrup looks like gasoline. Not desirable by any means. Syrup lacks body, depth, or noticeable flavor outside of high fructose corn syrup. Sausages taste like cheap hot dogs out of a can, which technically they are. Cravings that make no sense.