REVIEW: McDonald’s Bacon Cajun Ranch McCrispy

If you want a fast food crispy chicken sandwich with Cajun flavors, you can, of course, get one at Popeyes. But you can now get one at McDonald’s for a limited time because it has rolled out a new Bacon Cajun Ranch McCrispy.

McDonald’s newest chicken sandwich features a crispy chicken fillet, crinkle cut pickles, three half strips of applewood-smoked bacon, and a Cajun ranch sauce on a potato roll. There’s also a deluxe version that includes lettuce and tomatoes. It’s a slight variation of last year’s limited time only McCrispy offering: the Bacon Ranch McCrispy.

The headlining ingredient, the creamy Cajun ranch sauce, is more spicy than flavorful, but that heat ain’t ragin’. I’d put it at a three on my personal 10-point spicy scale, which is below the Spicy McCrispy. Though the sauce is applied to both buns, I wish the spices used had a bit more punch because the Cajun flavors aren’t too noticeable when eating the sandwich as a whole, especially when I get a bite of the crinkle cut pickles. After trying the sauce on its own, I thought it might’ve been better as a fry or McNuggets dipping sauce instead of a sandwich condiment.

As for the other ingredients, if you’ve had a McCrispy, you know what to expect. The chicken fillet has a pleasant thickness, and most of the chicken’s crispiness is at the edges. The crinkle cut pickles have a tasty tang, and the potato roll adds some sweetness. I’m also glad this sandwich includes bacon, not only because of its salty and meaty flavor but also because its addition allows some rhyming in the menu item’s name. We need more rhyming in product names.

McDonald’s Bacon Cajun Ranch McCrispy is a somewhat satisfying twist on the original premium chicken sandwich, although now that I think about it, more specifically, the Spicy McCrispy. While it may not outshine Popeyes’ chicken sandwich, the addition of bacon and the new sauce does help elevate it to a tastier option than the original McCrispy.

Purchased Price: $7.59*
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 630 calories, 33 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1650 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 33 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: Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refreshers

Starbucks has recently been easing us into Spring with the calming powers of lavender drinks. But just as you were about to doze off due to the floral scent or the mediocrity, the Siren is here to shake you and your taste buds awake with a line of Spicy Lemonade Refreshers. Available in Pineapple, Dragonfruit, or Strawberry, these drinks combine Refreshers bases with lemonade, ice, a three-pepper chili powder blend, and freeze-dried fruit pieces.

I wanted to try the Pineapple and Dragonfruit varieties, but because the Starbucks nearest me was out of dragonfruit, I went to the next closest location. After watching the barista climb a stepladder and root around in a cabinet for a while, I eventually received two almost identical, predominantly purple drinks. It was clear something was a little off, but the taste test revealed that they were different beverages despite the visual similarity.

The Spicy Pineapple features a pineapple-passionfruit base to which lemonade, chili powder, and fruit chunks are added. The fruit should have been pineapple, but mine came with dragonfruit instead. This didn’t fundamentally alter the flavor so much as the hue, with the overall taste being pineapple-forward. These drink more like juice than lemonade, probably because the Refreshers bases are made with white grape juice concentrate. The lemonade takes a backseat and the chili powder is immediately noticeable, with a tingle in the back of the throat that builds to an all over heat that’s pleasantly spicy without being cough-inducing. There’s a tropical vacation vibe, and the spicy-fruity marriage is refreshing and summery. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys a Tajin rim on a cocktail or a few slices of jalapeño in their lemonade, you’ll be happy with this icy blend of sweet and heat.

Spicy Dragonfruit starts with a mango-dragonfruit blend, and again, the juice base overshadows the lemonade, but that’s in no way a complaint because these are delicious. The mango and dragonfruit flavors play well together, and the chili blend (which features sugar, paprika, salt, ancho chili powder, cayenne, chili powder, and a few other things) complements them both. The freeze-dried fruit pieces are mostly too large to escape the drink’s lid, but if you remove it and eat them, they’re almost shockingly crunchy. They don’t taste bad, but it was a texture I wasn’t expecting, and it left me feeling like that classic TV gag where someone mistakes potpourri for a snack. I’m not sure they’re supposed to be this way, but that isn’t stopping me from eating them.

I assumed these would just be gimmicky and that spice isn’t something I need from Starbucks, but I’m happy to report that I was wrong. It’s a shame they’re only here for a limited time because they’d be excellent sipping for summer days. It’s worth noting that I got the Pineapple version again from a second location that was also out of pineapple pieces, so supplies here might be very limited – get ‘em while they’re hot!

Purchased Price: $5.75 each
Size: Grande
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Spicy Pineapple), 9 out of 10 (Spicy Dragonfruit)
Nutrition Facts: (Spicy Pineapple 200 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of total carbs, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 41 grams of total sugar, 1 gram of protein, and 55 milligrams of caffeine. Spicy Dragonfruit – 200 calories, 0.5 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of total carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 42 grams of total sugar, 1 gram of protein, and 50 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Starbucks Lavender Creme Frappuccino

Starbucks’ extensive spring 2024 menu seems to have limited edition beverages for any craving, and if you’re in the market for something frozen, sweet, and extremely floral, the Lavender Crème Frappuccino is the one for you. (It is, however, not the one for you if you’re hoping for some caffeinated pep in your step; the “Crème” designation on a Frappuccino specifically means that it contains no caffeine, as opposed to the java-jammed “Coffee Frappuccinos.”)

Some seasonal menus leave you scratching your head about why anyone would associate that particular flavor with that particular time of year, but that was definitely not the case here. This frap screams “spring” so loudly that I could practically hear birds sing as I picked mine up off the counter! It was as sweet as you’d expect from a drink made primarily of milk, flavored syrup, and whipped cream, but its floweriness was even more noticeable.

If you’ve ever loved the smell of a candle so much that you wished you could eat it, this will be right up your alley. If oversaturated, the flavor could easily become cloying, perhaps even medicinal, but luckily, Starbucks gracefully avoids that pitfall. The lavender was a prominent enough addition to add some intrigue to the Frappuccino’s milky/vanilla-y base but still mellow enough to remain light and refreshing. That being said, it didn’t thrill me; I felt it was definitely good, but definitely not great.

Part of that for me was due to the texture — which admittedly is the same for all Frappuccinos, not just the Lavender Crème one, but if you’ve never tried any of them before, I want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into! Some people claim that Frappuccinos, particularly the coffee-less ones like this, are basically just milkshakes, but IMHO (In My Hungry Opinion), they’re more closely related to slushies. After all, once you eat through the pretty covering of whipped cream (or allow it to melt if you’re a bit more patient than me), not even the lovely light purple coloring will distract you from seeing how gritty this frap is. In addition to the tasty ingredients I mentioned earlier, another key component is ice, giving this drink a graininess that I would be quite unhappy to find in a shake. That also means that the frap flavor experience is inherently unbalanced. The earlier sips are likely to be more flavorful as you slurp up more of the syrup, but the closer you get to the end of your drink, the more likely you are to face mouthfuls that are just watery or even straight-up icy, with a taste that can mostly just be summed up as “cold.”

Like the spring flowers that are one day fated to wilt, the Lavender Crème Frappuccino won’t be around forever, so if you love not-quite-milkshakes, the color purple, and/or perfume-y flavors, check it out. But at least for me, when it goes away with the end of the season, it won’t be the end of the world.

Purchased Price: $4.75
Size: Tall (12 oz)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 260 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Apple Pie Poppers

One institution of Americana, Kentucky Fried Chicken, has added another icon of Americana, apple pie, to its menu.

These new KFC Apple Pie Poppers feature apple pie filling inside a crust, available in orders of four or ten. They are roughly two inches long, with a seam on one side and slits on the other.

The filling is pretty standard for canned or mass-produced apple pie: small apple chunks in a thick syrup with a noticeable quantity of cinnamon. It’s nowhere near as good as a pie made with fresh apples, but of course, I don’t expect that from a fast food restaurant. I like the way some of the syrupy filling caramelizes as it oozes out of the crust.

And speaking of crust, the pastry is really the star here. It is soft, chewy, and even a little bit stretchy. I know that sounds weird and possibly gross, but I don’t know how else to describe it. It has a wonderful texture! And the flavor is satisfying and buttery.

Taken together, the filling and the crust are similar to apple pies or turnovers from other fast food joints. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably eaten something nearly identical at some point.

There is nothing groundbreaking about these KFC Apple Pie Poppers, and I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to have them again, especially since Kentucky Fried Chicken is not in my regular fast food rotation. However, they are still a tasty dessert option, and they seem like the kind of thing KFC really ought to have on its menu.

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 4-piece order
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 piece) 80 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Lavender Oatmilk Chill

Starbucks’ new Lavender Oatmilk Chill looks so relaxing. The top of it in the photo above makes me feel like I’m hovering above light purple clouds and I’m going to meet the Care Bears. I’m getting sleepy just by looking at it. Heck, if you attach the cup to a necklace or something, you could probably hypnotize me.

The shaken drink features oatmilk, lavender powder, ice, and a scoop of freeze-dried dragonfruit pieces. It’s caffeine-free, so this might do the trick if you want a beverage to help you chill.

My experience with lavender food extends from lavender ice cream in Japan that was totemo oishii (very delicious) to lavender-flavored teas to help me sleep. But something about the Lavender Oatmilk Chill doesn’t have me singing its praises from lavender-covered hilltops.

Its aroma smells very similar to the lavender sleep spray I use, which I’m not sure is good or bad. It’s relaxing but also concerning because it reminds me of a product I’m not supposed to consume. But I consumed this Starbucks drink anyway, and the first couple of sips tasted like fruity cereal milk, but that faded and was replaced with the expected lavender flavor. The oatmilk adds a pleasant creaminess I don’t think I’d get with other non-dairy milk options. While I couldn’t get the scent of the lavender spray entirely out of my mind, I thought the floral flavor was nice and definitely drinkable.

As for the freeze-dried dragonfruit pieces, I’m pretty sure they’re just there to make the drink look even prettier for social media, adding dark purple spots to contrast the light purple drink. Although edible, I’m not sure they’re meant to be consumed because they can’t come out from the sipping lid’s opening. While the drink was shaken vigorously, it didn’t taste like the dragonfruit’s flavor got mixed in with the lavender. But dragonfruit can taste so mild that I’m not surprised it doesn’t come through. They also didn’t do anything for me when I removed the lid and chewed on a few pieces while sipping the drink.

Overall, I like this drink, but I don’t lovender it. But if you’ve been eyeing Starbucks’ Lavender Crème Frappuccino for its lavender flavor and lack of caffeine but don’t want the calories, fat, and sugar the blended beverage has, relax, my friend. The chain’s Lavender Oatmilk Chill is here for you.

Purchased Price: $4.95
Size: Grande
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 230 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.