REVIEW: Papa John’s Shaq-a-Roni Pizza

Papa John s Shaq a Roni Pizza

In 2019, the garlic sauce-soaked pizza that defined my early 2000s video gaming marathons got a massive upgrade – Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq came into Papa John’s not only as a brand ambassador, but also a board member and part-owner of nine franchises. (LeBron James and a Blaze investment who?!) Fast forward a little over a year later and the NBA Hall of Famer gets to break the backboard of 2020 with his first signature pizza.

The Shaq-a-Roni Pizza channels the energy of Shaq and promises an epic experience of extra large, extra pepperoni, and extra cheese. Sounds like I’m gonna need some extra cardio!

Not only does this pizza sound like a good time, the chain also donating $1 for every pizza sold to the Papa John’s Foundation for Building Community – bringing relief not only to our rumbling tummy’s but the community too. Count me in.

Papa John s Shaq a Roni Pizza Box

First things first – this pizza was supposed to come in a special box with Shaq’s face on it and the saying “everyone loves pizza – pizza loves everyone” along with a QR code to unlock another level of fulfillment via Snapchat. The location I went to didn’t have the box, but the pizza itself still felt big and substantial in my hands.

Papa John s Shaq a Roni Pizza Slice

All awesome NBA tie-ins aside, this is Papa John’s attempt at making a NY style pizza, which harkens back to Pizza Hut’s The Big New Yorker that I absolutely adored in the late 90s. The dough is spread out thinner than your average Papa John’s pizza but maintains a doughy soft chew without any of the crackery crunch one might associate with a “thin” crust pizza. Picking up the slices, they flip and flop all over the place like James Harden driving into the lane, and even though I can’t stand that kind of offense, I love this kind of eating.

Papa John s Shaq a Roni Pizza Pepperoni

The pizza is large and intimidating with tons of pepperoni often overlapping each other fighting for space across the vast cheesy landscape. As you might expect, the initial taste is salty and just a touch spicy with spotted greasy pepperoni taking the star player role as I chew.

Papa John s Shaq a Roni Pizza Crust

I’ve always enjoyed Papa John’s for its slightly sweet crust that pairs oh-so-beautifully with its signature (and included!) garlic dipping sauce, and the crust and sauce are just as good as I remember. The cheese definitely feels abundant, but it’s more of a gooey texture than distinct flavor with the overlapping ‘ronis that control each bite.

This is a solid take on a big and thin, but chewy NY style slice, but it does falter a bit in its excess. While I appreciate the extra everything mentality, the sauce gets lost in the mix kind of like Shaq’s free throwing ability. I miss that sweet and zesty zing that ties everything together.

Papa John’s Shaq-a-Roni Pizza is good, and I would definitely eat it again, but it lacks that perfect balance and feels one note after a couple of slices. Fortunately for Shaq, just like his ability to dunk on whoever he wants, that garlic sauce switches it up whenever I want a little extra depth and keeps me coming back for more.

Purchased Price: $12.00 (allegedly normally $27.99!)
Size: one XL pizza
Purchased at: Papa Johns
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (One Slice) 285 calories, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 690 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of total sugars, and 10 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito Innards

As a kid, I didn’t grow up with grilled cheese sandwiches like other American youth. No, instead my own personal comfort food was always a hot tortilla, toasted light brown on a comal and always with a fistful of cheese.

It’s kind of magic that Taco Bell has not only recaptured that, but improved on it gloriously with its Grilled Cheese Burrito, going as far as to actually coat the whole damn thing in a remarkably thin layer of cheese on the outside.

When I first heard about it, even knowing the hungry geniuses that rock and rule the Bell, I was a bit skeptical about them pulling it off, but they did.

Opening up that warm foil wrapper, the cheese dutifully spilled out of the loosely wrapped tortilla as a sun yellow glaze tints the presumably once-white burrito sheath.

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito

Thick and hearty, the sizable girth comes from the three-cheese blend, seasoned beef, seasoned rice, reduced fat sour cream, nacho cheese sauce, chipotle sauce, and those festive red tortilla strips that add some crunch.

Much like the aforementioned grilled cheese sandwich, this burrito hit my tongue with a mock-buttery goodness that gives off the immediate taste of the well-worn and well-used grill, with the first layer of cheesiness and tortilla recklessly coming together in a passionate embrace.

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito Innards Open

But then you bite through the crispy outsides to unleash a torrent of Taco Bell’s beautifully mixed and matched insides, with the tangy cheeses and tart sour cream being the first to flood through. But look out, here comes the seasoned meat and chipotle sauce mixed somewhere in there with the rice to fill your stomach after every nosh and nibble.

While I might have had grilled cheese tortillas as my comfort food growing up, I’ve never had anything like the Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito. And, thank God I didn’t because I would have been lounging in that aura of comfortability way more than I ever should have because it’s a faux-Mexican masterpiece.

Now, as a grown-up, I have the self control to stop at two or three.

Possibly four.

Definitely five.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 10 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 710 calories, 39 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1490 milligrams of sodium, 64 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 26 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Nestle Drumstick Blizzard

Dairy Queen Nestle Drumstick Blizzard

What is the Nestle Drumstick Blizzard?

It’s the ultimate timesaver! Have you ever wanted to enjoy a Nestle Drumstick and a Dairy Queen Blizzard but simply could not find the time for both in your busy schedule? Your problem is solved with the Nestle Drumstick Blizzard. Crowned as the Blizzard of the Month for July, it contains chocolate-covered Drumstick pieces, peanuts, and, of course, vanilla soft serve.

How is it?

Dairy Queen Nestle Drumstick Blizzard Top

We all know that the best part of a Drumstick is the butt piece. Sure, that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but you know what I’m talking about — that last bite at the bottom of the cone filled with solid chocolate. For me, that’s really the only reason to eat one because the ice cream part is not great, and it’s not even ice cream but rather “vanilla frozen dairy dessert.”

Dairy Queen Nestle Drumstick Blizzard Nugget 1

The “Drumstick pieces” are chocolate-coated sugar cone, just like the butt chunk! I did manage to rescue a couple of them intact from my Blizzard for your viewing pleasure.

Dairy Queen Nestle Drumstick Blizzard Nugget 2

Technically they are Drumstick pieces, but DQ isn’t smashing up full cones here. Instead, it is using small square pieces. I’m sorry to say that the rescue of the two pictured above was short-lived, and I’m not sorry to say they were quite delicious on their own.

Dairy Queen Nestle Drumstick Blizzard Spoon

The peanuts didn’t add much to the taste, and their texture is similar enough to the cone pieces that they kind of get lost in the mix. They don’t detract from the overall taste, but don’t expect a strong peanut flavor.

Anything else you need to know?

Apparently, the Drumstick Blizzard was available at Dairy Queens in Canada for a time in 2015, but if you want to know why it took five years to make it to the United States, I have no answer for you.

Also, the Drumstick was invented in 1928 by one of the Parker Brothers — not the Parker Brothers responsible for Monopoly and a bunch of other board games, though. The two sets of Parkers were both around about the same time (Monopoly came out in 1935), so I wonder if they knew of each other and had some sort of rivalry. It seems, however, I’m the only one to wonder that because the internet has nothing to offer on the topic.

Conclusion:

This Blizzard tastes exactly how you’d expect if you chopped off a bunch of Drumstick end pieces and blended them with peanuts and DQ soft serve. In other words, it’s awesome.

Purchased Price: $4.09
Size: Medium
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Medium) 1,030 calories, 53 grams of fat, 37 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 116 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 93 grams of sugar, and 22 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Impossible Breakfast Sandwich

Starbucks Impossible Breakfast Sandwich

What is the Starbucks Impossible Breakfast Sandwich?

Starbucks has entered the plant-based sausage revolution with its new Impossible Breakfast Sandwich.

How is it?

Burger King’s reign on top was short, because one week after claiming the Impossible Croissan’wich was my favorite plant-based breakfast sandwich, Starbucks has already dethroned it.

I’d put the new Starbucks Impossible Sausage on par with any breakfast meat – cow, pig, chicken, or plant – currently on a fast food menu.

Right out of the gate, I was relieved that the sausage patty didn’t have that “vague sagey Stove Top” flavor I always whine about.

Starbucks Impossible Breakfast Sandwich Top

Flavor-wise, I’d say it toed the line between a standard breakfast sausage and Italian butcher shop spiral sausage links, or as my mother would call them (my apologies for the phonetic spelling) “Shiv-a-lots” (pronounced with a bastardized Brooklyn Italian accent).

I took a bite of the patty isolated, and while the texture is still not 100% where I’d like it to be, it was less chewy than the others I’ve had to this point.

I give Starbucks credit for its eggs as well. It’s a fried egg, but the yolk was closer to soft-boiled, and the whites weren’t plastic, like the stuff McDonald’s serves.

Anything else you need to know?

Starbucks Impossible Breakfast Sandwich Split

I expected the bread to be the downfall because I usually think ciabatta is a trash-tier sandwich bun, but it was perfect. The shell was crispy while the inside was pillowy soft. It was like eating a bagel that came out of the oven two minutes before you ordered.

I could have easily just caught them at the right time, but every ingredient, including the aged cheddar, paired perfectly to make a delicious and perfectly sized sandwich. It curbed my hunger without that immediate fast food regret we all know so well.

Conclusion:

I won’t pretend I get a lot of food at Starbucks, but this is easily the best savory menu item I’ve ever ordered there.

We’re now at the point where you won’t even notice you’re not eating meat, and I continue to think that’s an exciting prospect for the future. Not to push an agenda, but if science can further distance plant-based proteins from real meat nutritionally, we’re all gonna be better off in the long run.

Absolutely pick up one of these next time you get a coffee.

Purchased Price: $4.95
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 430 calories, 23 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 830 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of total sugars, 3 grams of fiber, and 22 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa and Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam

Starbucks Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam

What are Starbucks Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa and Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam?

Starbucks continues to add drinks with non-dairy alternatives to its menu, but it now has a new cold foam made with almondmilk. You’ll find it on two new cold brew concoctions: The Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam (almondmilk cold foam, mocha sauce, and cocoa powder) and the Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam (almondmilk cold foam, cinnamon, and vanilla syrup).

Starbucks Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam

How are they?

I really wanted to love these drinks, but I have to say I just like them. They’re good, but nothing special. I have two main reasons for the ratings I gave:

Starbucks Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam Top
Starbucks Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam

1. The texture and look of the almondmilk foam is NOT anything close to the regular cold foam we know and love. I think it has to do with almondmilk being the base, but the foam was more of a liquid – it quickly sank into the drink and didn’t look bubbly and light like the foam we’re used to seeing. It seemed more like the Vanilla Sweet Cream, which gets poured on top of the cold brew and gradually mixes it in. It was a much different experience than with the dairy version of cold foam.

Starbucks Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam Top
Starbucks Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam

2. The flavors fell flat. I was expecting the cocoa and cinnamon to shine through and really jazz up the cold brew, but neither did. The taste of the almondmilk was far more overpowering. If I do try these again, I might add more pumps of the corresponding flavors.

Anything else you need to know?

At only 40 calories each for a grande and with minimal sugars, this is a good choice if you’re looking for a lower-calorie alternative.

Also, I maintain that the cold foam beverages are a better experience with the straw-less lids…I got these on two different days from two different Starbucks. When I got the Cinnamon, that Starbucks was out of those lids. With the straw-less lid, there’s a better foam to cold brew ratio with each sip.

Conclusion:

I’ll stick to the regular cold foam beverages when I want to add pizzazz to a cold brew. If you steer clear of dairy and always go for almondmilk in your coffee, I’d be interested to know how others feel about the foam and flavor.

Purchased Price: $4.75 each
Size: Grande
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Dark Cocoa), 5 out of 10 (Cinnamon)
Nutrition Facts (16 oz) Dark Cocoa – 40 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugars, 1 gram of protein and 210 milligrams of caffeine. Cinnamon – 40 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugars, 1 gram of protein and 205 milligrams of caffeine.)

REVIEW: Burger King Impossible Croissan’wich

Burger King Impossible Croissan wich

What is the Burger King Impossible Croissan’wich?

After the success of the Impossible Whopper, Burger King has brought the plant-based revolution to the breakfast menu in the form of the Impossible Croissan’wich.

How is it?

Before the McGriddle took over the fast food breakfast game, Burger King Croissan’wiches were number one in my heart with a bullet. I’ve probably eaten 200 Sausage Croissan’wiches in my lifetime, and I can happily report the “Impossible” version is about 95% as good as the old reliable I love so much.

Burger King Impossible Croissan wich Top

I’ve had a couple plant-based breakfast sausages, and this was easily the best texturally. It wasn’t chewy or gritty at all. Coupled with BK’s classic fluffy egg and croissant, it actually had the exact same bite as a regular Croissan’wich.
The only reason I won’t say it’s quite as good is because the flavor of the sausage was slightly off.

Burger King Impossible Croissan wich Patty

Burger King Impossible Croissan wich Side

This seemed to overcompensate, and pump too much of that smokey sausage gravy spice that always puts me in mind of Stove Top Stuffing. I said the same thing in my review of the Dunkin’ Beyond Sausage Sandwich (You’d think I’d know the spice I’m talking about by now).

I don’t.

Anything else you need to know?

I actually made a resolution this year to stop eating pork products*. I wanted to slowly but surely wean myself off eating meat every day, and I figured pork would be easier to kick than beef or chicken.

I was right, but man have I been craving a nice breakfast sandwich. I eat turkey bacon, but I haven’t had any sausage in 2020 until this, and it didn’t disappoint at all.

*Ok, I cheated once last month for the review of the Dunkin’ Croissant Stuffers. There was so little bacon in that, I’m not counting it.

Conclusion:

This is my favorite plant-based fast food item to date. I was right on the edge before, but now I’m a full-blown believer in “plants” as a sustainable protein source.

Between this and the Whopper before it, Burger King is absolutely leading the way when it comes to fast food plant-based options. I’m probably gonna eat a lot of these going forward.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 491 calories, 29 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1058 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of total sugars, 1 gram of fiber, and 21 grams of protein.