REVIEW: Taco Bell Loaded Taco Fries, Loaded Taco Fries Burrito, and Flatbread Tacos

Taco Bell Loaded Fries Burrito Split

Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries are back!

Taco Bell’s flatbread is back!

Taco Bell’s potatoes are back!

Taco Bell’s Volcano Sauce is back!

Taco Bell’s chihuahua is back!

Okay, those last two aren’t true, but can’t we dream?

Loaded Taco Fries and Loaded Taco Fries Burrito

Taco Bell Loaded Taco Fries Far

When Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries return, they usually comes with a new loaded variation that I assume was developed by having interns throw every ingredient the chain offers up into the air and having another intern catch as many of them as possible into a burrito-sized tortilla that’s attached to their head with a graduation cap.

This time the intern caught seasoned beef, crispy red strips, lettuce, nacho cheese sauce, spicy ranch, tomatoes, and cheese, and it’s called Loaded Taco Fries. There’s also a burrito version with all of that inside the same tortilla used by Taco Bell’s R&D interns.

Taco Bell Loaded Taco Fries Closeup

I might be wrong about many things, like how Taco Bell uses its interns, but I think this is the first time lettuce has appeared on Nacho Fries. And after seeing a lettuce layer on top of my order, I wondered if someday we’ll see a Taco Bell Loaded Taco Fries Salad. Just throwing that out there if a lot of lettuce gets caught in a tortilla, Taco Bell.

Obviously, the Nacho Fries are the highlight of both items. Their seasoning blends well with the much more bold seasoned beef, nacho cheese sauce, and spicy ranch. Also, the tomatoes brought a nice acidic burst. As much as I enjoyed eating both, all the flavors meld better in the burrito.

Taco Bell Loaded Fries Burrito Fist Bump

I mean, look at the cross-section shot above. I just want to fist bump it. Sure, the fries are not at all crispy, but they give the burrito a notable heft and thickness. Also, it’s just so cool to see fries in a burrito.

Taco Bell Loaded Fries Burrito Girth

Other things about the two menu items. The red strips maintain a decent crunchiness on the loaded fries, while the ones in the burrito were unsurprisingly soggy because it’s trapped in a tortilla with sauces and moisture. Also, I could’ve sworn the spicy ranch was hotter than what I experienced with these. On a scale of 10, it’s a one or two. Maybe my tolerance has changed?

Taco Bell is also offering both with black beans instead of seasoned beef. I apologize to our vegetarian readers for not trying those. Feel free to slap my face with lettuce leaves through your screen.

Purchased Price: $4.29 (Loaded Fries), $3.99 (Burrito)*
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Loaded Fries), 8 out of 10 (Loaded Fries Burrito)
Nutrition Facts: Loaded Taco Fries – 560 calories, 36 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of sodium, 1010 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Loaded Taco Fries Burrito – 590 calories, 30 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 1120 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.

Flatbread Tacos

Taco Bell Flatbread Tacos Both

The Flatbread Tacos come in three varieties — Loaded Chicken, Beefy Potato, and Loaded Black Bean. I didn’t try the black bean variety, so I apologize to our vegetarian readers again. Feel free to pelt me with dried beans through your screen.

The Loaded Chicken comes with grilled chicken, lettuce, avocado ranch sauce, cheese, and tomatoes. The beefier and potatoier version comes with seasoned beef, nacho cheese sauce, and potatoes.

Taco Bell Flatbread Tacos Beefy Potato

Between the two, I enjoyed the Beefy Potato one SIGNIFICANTLY more than the Loaded Chicken. It reminds me of the Taco Bell Beefy Potato-rito, and if you’ve had anything with seasoned beef and nacho cheese sauce, you’ll have an idea of what this tastes like. I’m a little surprised it didn’t come with a smoky or spicy sauce, but it’s still a gosh darn goodie the way it is.

Taco Bell Flatbread Tacos Loaded Chicken

With the chicken version, the flavors of what’s inside aren’t that bold to begin with, and they’re toned down by the flatbread, making the taco taste bland. That toning down also happens with the Beefy Potato, but the seasoned beef and nacho cheese sauce flavors do a better job at coming through the flatbread than the tender grilled chicken and avocado ranch.

Purchased Price: $2.89 (Loaded Chicken), $1.89 (Beefy Potato)*
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Loaded Chicken), 7 out of 10 (Beefy Potato)
Nutrition Facts: Loaded Chicken – 270 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 580 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein. Beefy Potato – 310 calories, 13 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 700 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

*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 Premium Chicken Nuggets

Arby s Premium Chicken Nuggets Spill

Until I sat down to write this and started Googling for background info, I had absolutely no idea that Arby’s — noted proprietor of meat — didn’t have chicken nuggets on its menu. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the chicken tenders and just assumed it also served poultry in a more nuggeted form; maybe it’s because when traveling to the land of curly fries and Beef’n Cheddar, who feels it necessary to order nuggets?

I never had before, and, in case you don’t feel like reading a full review of Arby’s new Premium Chicken Nuggets, I probably won’t again. That isn’t to say they are appalling or abhorrently bad; they’re just… boring.

Arby’s touts its new offering as having “100% chicken breast,” which seems legit and is pretty par for the course, I guess. It’s offering them in Arby’s kids’ meals (as a 4 or a 6 piece) and as a 9-piece solo meal or as part of its “2 for $6” promotion, which also includes the Classic Roast Beef and the Classic Beef’n Cheddar. And while $3 for 9 nuggs is a reasonable deal in today’s market (Maybe? To be fair, I haven’t comparative nugget priced in a while.), you’d be better served doubling up on the B&C, honestly.

Arby s Premium Chicken Nuggets Innards

The thing about these is that there is nothing special about them. The seasoning is bland (and by “bland,” I mean “non-existent”) and the nuggets themselves are drier than a mummy’s tongue. These things are no different than frozen nuggets that come from a truck that maybe you’d find at a neighborhood swimming pool or waterpark snack bar. Fresh from the fryer (and these were), they are hot and salty.

Arby s Premium Chicken Nuggets Shapes

Additionally, they are decently sized. Unlike McDonald’s or Wendy’s uniformly sized nuggets, these are all like snowflakes, like the kind you’d get at, oh, say, Chick-fil-A. The smallest piece was the size of two Hershey’s Kisses mushed-up together, and the biggest was the size and shape of an obese walnut. If you’re getting them for $3 as part of the promotion, it’s a reasonable deal; if, however, you’re getting them in the meal or as a solo item ($3.99), you’re moving out of the “good deal” territory.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a perfectly acceptable sauce delivery vehicle, these will do. You know, like almost any other nugget. If, however, you want a nugget that can headline based on the strength of its own merit, this isn’t the one for you. Arby’s would do well to stick with the RB and leave the chicken to those who typically traffic in bird.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9-pieces
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (9 nuggets) 470 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat,75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1360 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 38 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Smoked Vanilla Cold Brew

Dunkin Smoked Vanilla Cold Brew Grab

What is the Dunkin’ Smoked Vanilla Cold Brew?

Sweet and spicy? Been there, done that. Sweet and salty? Played out! Sweet and smoky? Hmm, is Dunkin’ on to something here?

How is it?

Dunkin’ is, in fact, NOT on to something here.

Let’s just clear the air first – this is a weird flavor choice. I guess I see why Dunkin’ would do it. It does look cool on paper, but it’s always had a vanilla representation on the menu, and the “smoke” element really didn’t set it apart at all. It’s not all that “smokey.” All I can really say is, the vanilla flavor seemed to have a unique lingering effect to it, so maybe I’ll just credit that to the smoke…?

I always get one swirl just to sweeten my cold brews up a bit, and my choice varies by the day. I’ve had em all, and there really hasn’t been one that I dislike. Smoked Vanilla reminded me of a combination of two of ’em – Vanilla and Caramel.

Dunkin Smoked Vanilla Cold Brew Cup

The flavor was vaguely Werther’s Original, which sounds great as I type it, but “vaguely” is the keyword there. It was like those Werther’s soft caramels with a vanilla filling or those “Cow Tail” candies that I think only me and 43 other people eat. I love those, so even a hint of that flavor was welcome.

That’s all good and well, but it wasn’t what I was being sold. Where’s the smoke? I’m struggling to even hypothesize what “Smoked Vanilla” was supposed to taste like. Maybe it really was just a slightly caramelized vanilla flavor, and they absolutely nailed it.

Anything else you need to know?

Dunkin Smoked Vanilla Cold Brew Bottom

I use oat milk as my dairy, so that may have counteracted the smoke. Who knows? I’m just trying to think of any reason why I didn’t get any. I wasn’t expecting it to taste like brisket, but I expected some sort of intriguing smokiness.

This brew also had sweet cold foam, and it didn’t even last the walk from the Dunkin’ lobby to my car. I apologize, but I can’t even really tell you if it added any flavor to the drink whatsoever. Foam doesn’t really last in a cold iced drink, so I’m not even sure what I was expecting. From what I recall from the last time I had it, it was just a generic sugary sweetener.

Conclusion:

Hey, we’ve got another option to sweeten our drinks. Ya really can’t be too mad about that. If you’re expecting this to taste like a flambeed dessert or something, you’re probably gonna be let down.

Will Smoked Vanilla last as a flavor? I doubt it, but you may think it delivers a lot more than I did, so give it a shot. It’s like the “smoke-heads” love to say, “Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.”

Purchased Price: $4.29
Size: Medium
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 190 calories, 3 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 mg of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of total carbohydrates, 36 grams of total sugars, 0 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Blizzard

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Blizzard Top

What is the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Blizzard?

It’s the July Blizzard of the Month made with soft-baked Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies and mini chocolate chip morsels mixed with Dairy Queen vanilla soft serve.

How is it?

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Blizzard Nondescript Cup

Despite the nondescript appearance, complete with the nondescript cup it was served in, this is a top-notch Blizzard. DQ has done numerous varieties of cookie dough Blizzards in the past, and I’ve never really loved any of them. The cookie dough always seems a little gritty because it’s not really cookie dough; it’s “edible” cookie dough. What’s the difference? Regular cookie dough, as in the kind you would use to make cookies, has raw eggs and uncooked flour in it. That makes it unsafe to eat, even though we have all done it. I’m not suggesting that you should eat raw cookie dough, but I think we can agree that it does taste better.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Blizzard Cookie Bits

The soft-baked cookies in this Blizzard come pretty close to tasting like raw cookie dough, and they have a really nice non-gritty texture and taste much better than the cookie dough in other Blizzards.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Blizzard Chips

As for the mini chocolate chip morsels, DQ is not messing around when it says mini morsels. They are tiny, and even though they deliver some chocolate flavor, it would have been nice to have some bigger chip pieces.

This Blizzard is also really sweet — not too sweet, but close. The sugar content doesn’t appear to be higher than the average Blizzard, and the ingredients list on the DQ website has a lot of words I don’t know, so I can’t really explain the extra sweetness. But those are minor issues, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

Anything else you need to know?

You can still visit the spot where the famous Toll House cookies were invented in the 1930s by Ruth Wakefield at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, except that there’s now a Wendy’s and a Walgreens there. You can, however, check out the restored sign and a marker, but don’t get too carried away with the historical significance as the 1709 date on the sign was a marketing ploy, as was the name. The Toll House Inn was built in 1817, and it was never actually used as a toll house. Thanks for ruining it for us, Wikipedia.

Conclusion:

This is not quite good enough to make my personal Blizzard Hall of Fame, which is topped by the late, great Nerds Blizzard, but it’s still delicious, so maybe I can put it in my Blizzard Corridor of Fame.

Purchased Price: $4.29
Size: Small
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Small) 550 calories, 19 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 gram of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 83 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 65 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Spicy Black Bean Burger

Wendy s Spicy Black Bean Burger Full

Being a vegetarian in the early 2000s sucked. Dining out meant either sad garden salads clearly meant to be a vehicle for grilled chicken or, worse than that, freezer burnt veggie burgers that would always be both overcooked AND still frozen. Most places just didn’t see a reason to offer meatless items, especially fast food restaurants. Fast forward to 20 years later, and the market for meatless is thriving. While I am no longer a strict vegetarian, my diet usually consists of 50%-75% meatless or “plant-based” foods, so I’m always looking for new veggie items. Enter Wendy’s.

The chain has been slow to join the plant-based trend. It tested a black bean burger (non-spicy from what I’ve seen) in late 2015 that was never heard from again. This go around it’s testing out a Spicy Black Bean Burger in Jacksonville, FL (that’s me!), Pittsburgh, PA, and Columbus, OH. We rarely get to be selected as a test market, and all the better that it’s for a meatless item.

The Spicy Black Bean Burger consists of a seasoned plant-based black bean patty, romaine lettuce, onion, tomato, pepper jack cheese, crispy chipotle jalapenos, and spicy chipotle sauce served on a premium bun. I was fascinated that Wendy’s would opt to go a more traditional route with a black bean patty instead of the popular Beyond or Impossible items. Generally speaking, people trying to swap for meatless enjoy the faux meat experience instead of the more “traditional” veggie patty.

Wendy s Spicy Black Bean Burger Jalapenos

I always like to try the special components separately before taking the “perfect” bite. The crispy chipotle jalapenos weren’t what I expected in the best way possible. I hoped they would be similar to the crispy onions one might see on a green bean casserole (dry and crispy). While they were in that same vein, they were more like pickled jalapenos breaded and fried. The spicy chipotle sauce had a deep smokiness with a sweet heat. Finally, the patty had a predominately cumin flavor with various other “Southwest” flavors (onion, paprika, garlic, cilantro). The patty was also square-shaped, continuing the Wendy’s tradition.

Wendy s Spicy Black Bean Burger Patty

Taking a bite, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the layered spicy flavors worked together. The chipotle’s warmness came through with the Southwest blend in the patty and spiciness of the fried jalapenos. The pepper jack cheese felt sort of a take-it-or-leave-it element. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment, but it didn’t really add either.

Wendy s Spicy Black Bean Burger Split

The patty itself was soft. Not soggy or mushy, just soft. The outside could have used a few moments longer on the grill to get more crust. I was taken aback by the high quality of the patty itself. Normally black bean burgers are (more or less) just a mushed blend of veggies in the form of a patty with no discernible vegetable pieces. Absolutely not the case here as whole black beans, corn kernels, brown rice, and wheat berries were easily seen and felt when biting into the patty.

Wendy s Spicy Black Bean Burger Layers

I was impressed with this sandwich. Even though I went in with a low bar, I was blown away by the freshness of the product. The spicy black bean patty was on par with the fresh, handmade ones I’ve had in sit-down restaurants. I would like to note that the item isn’t vegan/vegetarian as served, but like with the Impossible Whopper, the audience isn’t vegans/vegetarians. I think it’s interesting that Wendy’s is taking a chance with a black bean patty instead of faux meat.

The Wendy’s Spicy Black Bean Burger is a unique and flavorful item. But I wonder if the patty might end up being a skip for the more casual meatless diner or people looking for that meaty meatless experience.

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 sandwich) 580 calories, 27 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 1560 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein.