REVIEW: KFC Hot Honey Chicken

KFC Hot Honey Chicken

With an adorable new Colonel mascot in the form of a sweet ol’ honeybear, the indubitably fine, mostly Southern kinfolk at Kentucky Fried Chicken (or Kitchen Fresh Chicken, if you do so prefer) continue their sauce-filled fried chicken domination of America with the tasty-enough Honey Hot flavor now on the KFC dinner table.

Ordering a three-piece Extra Crispy Tenders Meal complete with mashed potatoes, a biscuit, and one lonesome lil’ pickle slice, the Honey Hot variety is the stickiest mess of a sauce yet, soaking everything in its vicinity with a mouth-watering, eye-stinging clarity. The red-staining bit of generic honey was drenched all over the chicken tenders, seeping to a peppery puddle underneath them, creating a delicious dipping sauce as that famous KFC crust stayed undoubtedly firm and harmonically crunchy.

By the second try, I twirled my chicken tender in the settled sauce to get a little more of that Hot Honey taste. Like a Kentucky Fried shock to the system, the sweetness is almost immediate, cooling your taste buds with the much-loved taste of nothin’ but honey. Give it a few seconds though, because that hot comes rushing down the track like a peppery freight train, doing itself a grand service of providing a nice little burn that goes down easy enough.

But, even better, even with more sauce to soak it in, the extra crunchy skin continues to stay remarkably extra crunchy while the sauce manages to get deep into the tasty sinews and musculature of the beast, making almost an edible massage oil that, greasy bite by greasy bite, holds up with a tightly tangy fervor.

With plenty of the Honey Hot drainage left on my plate — even though the delicious Extra Crispy Tenders were a thing of dusty memory now — I used my remaining biscuit to selfishly sop up the sauce, to great effect. The pepper had made a suspended section unto itself in the sweet goop, giving me a nice headrush as I ate a thick, sticky sliver on my breadstuff. You’ve got to sell this stuff as a dipper, KFC!

Feel free to take a sip or two of water, just in case though, but not because of the heat, mind you. Once the sweet has passed and the hot is long gone, you better prepare to get a mildly weird aftertaste that is best described as taking a shot of soy sauce, swishing it around and swallowing it deep. It’s not a bad thing, just generally surprising and a little off-putting. Though great if you love soy sauce shooters.

Aftertaste aside, this might be KFC’s best chicken experiment yet, finally finding the perfect balance of one thing that people routinely screw up so often and so royally: the sweetness of the honey and the heat of the pepper. Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – 570 calories, 36 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1460 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 3 Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Perfect balance of sweet and heat. Doesn’t make the chicken crust soggy.
Cons: Alarming “soy sauce” aftertaste.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Harvest Chicken Salad

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad

You know that meme that says “name a more iconic duo” and then hits you with a pic of anything from Keenan and Kel to a guy jumping off a bridge with another guy watching the Cleveland Browns?

I tend to think apples and walnuts fall into that category of stuff that belongs together.

Apples, walnuts, feta, bacon, chicken, and cranberries? Now we’re complicating things. Perhaps that’s why I’m ambivalent towards Wendy’s new Harvest Chicken Salad, which not only attempts to Noah’s Ark-it out of pretty much every Wendy’s salad ingredient but also skates a little too close to the regular-menu Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Fruits

I don’t mean to imply Wendy’s homage to autumn-in-salad-form isn’t good. Like most of Wendy’s salads, the ingredients push into fast casual territory. Skin-on red and green apples are crispy and mildly sweet; the chicken juicy and slightly smoky; the vinaigrette tangy and a tad bit tart. Add in crunchy, meaty glazed pecans (which were left off the first full-sized salad I ordered, unfortunately), and you’re looking at a filling meal.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Bacon

But then there’s the bacon, complicating things. It’s not bad in and of itself since, duh, it’s a scientific impossibility that bacon detracts from anything and because Wendy’s makes really good bacon -— thick cut, substantial, with a great balance of fat and smoke. But I have no idea why it’s on this salad. Not only did it arrive on my full-size salad (I bought another half-sized one later since Wendy’s forgot my walnuts) in strips meant for sandwiches, but it took away the spotlight from the apples and walnuts.

Much like the bacon, the feta cheese feels out of place, like me when I show up to a wine and cheese party with a six pack of Shinerbock. Perhaps Wendy’s didn’t want to infringe on the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, but the salty, mostly flavorless feta lacks the tang and funk of blue cheese that helps complement the apples. Even goat cheese would have been a better option than feta, especially since it’s tangy and has a slight sweetness that would have played well with the oddly-included dried cranberries.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Closeup

I’m usually a big fan of Wendy’s salads, and while I loved the quality of the ingredients featured in the Harvest Chicken Salad, I can’t deny there’s a genuine lack of cohesion binding the salad together. Is it jump off a bridge because the Browns still haven’t won since 2016 dysfunctional? Goodness no. But when your iconic duo gets lost amidst even well executed extra ingredients, it’s time to get back to your bread and butter — or apples and walnuts.

(Nutrition Facts – Full Size – 570 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1300 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 37 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.79
Size: Full
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Apples are surprisingly crisp and flavorful for a prepackaged salad. Great execution on individual ingredients, especially the juicy chargrilled chicken. Meme potential in the apple and walnut combination.
Cons: Too many ingredients crowding up that apple and walnut synergy. Feta cheese is a real disappointment. Why are their cranberries in this salad? Botched salad construction.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Chipotle Triple Double Crunchwrap

Taco Bell Chipotle Triple Double Crunchwrap

If you thought that last month’s Double Cheesy Gordita Crunch was one filling S.O.B., the Triple Double Crunchwrap is back to prove you woefully wrong, and this time, it’s got some seriously sassy backup in the form of a seriously spicy chipotle sauce.

I hope you have some of that Baja Blast waiting off to the side, son.

The infamous disc-like shape of the Crunchwrap effortlessly holds the best and brightest of Taco Bell’s menu in an easy-to-transport carrying case, barely containing plenty of cheese, plenty of meat, and plenty of chipotle. It’s a monstrosity, a real two-hander judiciously wrapped in a mostly-bulging tightly-pressed tortilla, ready to carnalistically explode in a flame of intense flavor.

Once again, the patented Taco Bell nacho cheese sauce takes full control here, mixing most hedonistically with the heated chipotle sauce, bringing an unexpected twinge of sweet hurt to the proceedings, a small controlled burn that only a culinary arsonist could ever truly love. Without a doubt, the cheese and the chipotle are the true crossover stars here, mostly thanks to those unsung taco artists back in the kitchen doing an excellent job of laying it on thick and heavy.

Taco Bell Chipotle Triple Double Crunchwrap 2

The top layer of lettuce and tomatoes are a veritable bed of much-needed greens for vitamins and minerals, but are quickly forgotten when the hidden action that lies in Taco Bell’s always provocative seasoned beef is devoured. Spread across two hard tostada shells and wrapped in the aforementioned pressed tortilla with a good bit of reduced-fat sour cream here and there in the folds, this might be the Bell’s best creation yet.

Taco Bell Chipotle Triple Double Crunchwrap 3

An exciting improvement to the original Triple Double Crunchwrap — which is back on the menu too — this chipotle variation is not just another random notch on Taco Bell’s belt, but instead, a welcomed, spicier take on some of their best menu items, with only one real minor drawback. This thing is so massive and filling that you’re not going to have room in you for anything else, except for that Baja Blast.

Is it too much of a good thing? Perhaps, but I’ll take it anyway. Sure, they may be going back to the well two (or three) times over, but each new additional ingredient, no matter how small, proves that Taco Bell keeps on knocking it out of the border ballpark with every ingenious turn of the tortilla. Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – 770 calories, 38 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 gram of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1650 milligrams of sodium, 86 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Ingenious move. Absolutely huge. Great oral burn.
Cons: No need to order other items other than a Baja Blast.

QUICK REVIEW: Dairy Queen Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard

Dairy Queen Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard

What is it?

A new Blizzard gracing the menu for September, snickerdoodle cookie dough and cinnamon sugar mixed with vanilla soft serve.

How is it?

The Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard reminds me of the fantasy football draft I participated in while eating it. The prospect of cinnamon sugar cookie dough leaves me salivating just as a new season’s roster full of fantasy goodness does. Unfortunately, both end the same way as well —- with me chagrined.

Dairy Queen clearly spent its first pick on cinnamon sugar rather than invest in a bell-cow cookie dough. The base presents a heavy cinnamon flavor that pervades throughout in spite of DQ fumbling at thoroughly mixing my Blizzard. Meanwhile, the promised sugar teammate provides the distinct crunch and fun grit that one expects to find in a snickerdoodle.

Dairy Queen Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard 2

Despite the hot start, the cookie dough fails to impress. While it contains the standard soft and gritty DQ texture, whatever innate flavor the dough possesses is entirely overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar ice cream. Furthermore, the pieces lack any hint of the tanginess found in a traditional snickerdoodle cookie. Rather than serving as a star player, this relegates the dough to a flex spot. This predictably caps the Blizzard’s upside. And I realized this as I was being kicked out of a league for trying to draft Cookie Monster at QB.

Is there anything else I need to know?

The Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard is the only new offering on Dairy Queen’s Fall Blizzard Menu. Also available are the returning Oreo Hot Cocoa, Dipped Strawberry with Ghirardelli, and September’s Blizzard of the Month, Pumpkin Pie.

Conclusion:

Dairy Queen Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard 3

Dairy Queen replicates the superficial elements of a snickerdoodle cookie, but it fails to capture enough of its spirit to truly impress. The end of the cup didn’t leave me dejectedly crying in the shower like this year’s draft, but it isn’t taking home the Shiva Bowl Trophy either.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: Mini
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Mini) 400 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, .5 gram of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 42 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Sweet N’ Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders

I love the insolence of Honey BBQ.

Think about it. In an oversaturated food landscape where barbeque has become hyper-regionalized, all about the smoke, and increasingly shaped by other cuisines, Honey BBQ announces itself as unapologetically one-note.

Where other barbecue sauces hit you with a variety of flavors from fruity to tangy to smoky to hot, Honey BBQ essentially announces itself as the potluck contribution of Winnie the Pooh.

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders 2

At the risk of glancing over the “Spicy” in McDonald’s new Sweet N’ Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders, that’s basically the story with the latest LTO from the Golden Arches. Sure, there’s a slight kick of cayenne on the backend of the tenders, but it’s more “hmm” than anything else.

Heatseekers be warned, these are not a reincarnation of Chick-fil-A’s unicornish Spicy Chicken Nuggets. If you’re looking for genuine heat, these are not the tenders you’re looking for.

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders 4

The thing is, they don’t have to be. The first bite of the first tender was chicken tender heaven. Suddenly, marketing buzzwords like “crispy,” “juicy,” and even the highly suspect, if not potentially reprehensible, “finger licking” carry meaning beyond a 30-second radio spot cliché.

McDonald s Sweet N Spicy Honey BBQ Glazed Tenders 3

For chicken tender aficionados, that first bite is less a taste sensation and more a moment, as if the combined flavors of every horrible-for-you food came together and created a slow-motion music video of you chomping away.

The glaze, meanwhile, is a double-edged sword, one that invites you to lick the sticky-sweet goo as you would a popsicle, but at the cost of precious crispiness on the part of the tender’s breading. While excellent as far as Honey BBQ goes, the sauce was inconsistently applied.

While I’d avoid sticking the c-word label on the tenders, I’ll be the first to admit that to some taste buds they may seem cloying. Such is the biological reductionism of Honey BBQ, which functions at its best when paired with crispy, fatty foods like those $1 Wise Honey BBQ potato chips it sells at Dollar General, or, as I’ve found, boneless all-white meat chicken strips at McDonald’s.

If you can make peace with this, you will like these tenders. If not, well, there’s always a petition to get Chick-fil-A’s spicy nuggets to go national.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 pieces – 640 calories, 27 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1780 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 39 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.19
Size: 4-piece
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nails the Honey BBQ flavor. Addictively saucy. Tenders stay fairly crispy despite excess moisture. Gives “all-white meat” a good name.
Cons: Spice is modest and not exactly caliente. Inconsistent saucing. Terribly, terribly messy to eat.