REVIEW: Starbucks Pink Drink

Starbucks Pink Drink

You know what’s awesome?

Secret menu items.

You know what’s not awesome?

Ordering a secret menu item and the employee not knowing what you are talking about.

However, when a secret menu item is then elevated to the main menu it’s like the best of both worlds. A special, kind of exclusive treat that you don’t have to worry about acquiring. That’s exactly what has happened with Starbucks’ new Pink Drink. It contains their strawberry acai refresher mixed with coconut milk and strawberries and is now officially available.

Since its moniker is simply a color, I was very hesitant to see the drink in person as I didn’t want to be let down if it wasn’t enough pink enough. I was definitely hoping for execution more like the fantastic colored ketchup of yesteryear and less like the recent underwhelming naturally colored Froot Loops. The color didn’t disappoint, though, as it was a lovely pastel pink with nice pops of red from the strawberries.

Starbucks Pink Drink 2

The strawberries get a passing grade, probably a C or so if I was a grade school teacher. They are freeze-dried so make sure you let them soak a bit in the drink. Otherwise, they are crunchy and dry which means the flavor is a bit subdued. They are much better with some moisture in them as they provide a nice blast of tartness.

Even though it is advertised to be acai flavored with accents of passion fruit the only flavor I could taste is that of the main one, strawberry, and it comes through very nicely. The drink isn’t a sugar bomb either. It has a creamy nature but is still incredibly refreshing. It’s again the best of both worlds!

It reminded me of a light strawberry milk or even better yet Yoo-hoo’s strawberry drink in a fancier, lighter, and fresher version. I’m not usually a straight coconut milk fan but here it made for the perfect base for the refresher without being too overpowering.

With this drink being promoted to the official menu and being pretty darn good, I wonder if any other of the colored drinks that blew up Instagram last year will make the jump as well. Since it’s my favorite color and there has been an immense void in this segment for years (R.I.P. Pepsi Blue), fingers crossed for the blue one!

(Nutrition Facts – Grande (16 oz) – 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.85
Size: Venti
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Creamy and refreshing strawberry flavor. Secret menu items getting a promotion. Fondly remembering childhood food.
Cons: Strawberries that are better suited for space travel. Unnoticeable passion fruit and acai flavors.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Loaded Taco Burrito

Taco Bell Loaded Taco Burrito

Remember that old horror movie The Fly? You know, the one where Vincent Price steps inside a teleportation machine but he doesn’t know there’s a fly in there with him so when he comes out of the machine, he turns into a horrible human-fly monster? Well, basically, that’s what Taco Bell’s latest limited time only offering is – except with way more avocado ranch sauce.

I keep trying to think of a more dignified way to describe the Loaded Taco Burrito, but the same sentence keeps popping up in my mind: “uh, guys, this is just a pureed taco wrapped up in a tortilla.” This may very well be the least inspired Taco Bell L-T-O of all time, but does the actual taste of the product offset its astonishing uncreativity?

Taco Bell Loaded Taco Burrito 2

First things first, the burrito is BIG. It’s easily twice the girth of the chain’s cheesy bean and rice burrito and it is absolutely stuffed with seasoned beef (really, enough to qualify for a double portion, maybe even a triple load.) The flour tortilla itself also seems larger and more flavorful than the ones the restaurant uses for its rank and file burritos, so that’s a nice touch, too.

As far as the other contents of the Loaded Taco Burrito, we’re primarily working with the all the usual supreme fixins: you’ve got some crispy lettuce in there, some diced tomatoes, some shredded semi-spicy cheese, a hearty dollop of sour cream and a big old squirtin’ of the Bell’s proprietary avocado ranch dressing (although you can always sub that out for one of the chain’s other dressings.) However, I want you to take a real close look at the interior contents of the LTB – notice anything peculiar?

Taco Bell Loaded Taco Burrito 3

No, your eyes aren’t fooling you. My local Bell decided to go rogue and replace the advertised crispy red tortilla strips with what is unmistakably – both visually and gustatorily – a regular old crunched up taco shell.

Normally, I would raise a great big stink about such brazen displays of franchisee rebelliousness, but I actually think it works better – conceptually and taste-wise – than it does with the tortilla strips included. And to think, some people say there’s no more ingenuity in the American workplace!

Taco Bell Loaded Taco Burrito 4

I hate to close a review by saying something as mundane and nondescriptive as “well, basically, you’re getting what it looks like,” but in the case of the LTB, it really does sorta’ review itself. The taco shell chunks/tortilla strips may be a bit superfluous for some consumers, but you really can’t complain about getting a double – leaning closer to triple – beef burrito.

And you certainly can’t argue about the price point, either – for just $1.50, you’re definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck (and a half, plus applicable state and local taxes.)

(Nutrition Facts – 550 calories, 260 from fat, 29 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1130 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.50
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: It’s basically a double beef burrito at a discounted price. You can have a lot of fun mixing and matching house dressings. It’s definitely a filling little product.
Cons: All in all, it really doesn’t taste that much different from the chain’s other burritos. It’s impossible to eat it without getting seasoned beef juice all over everything. All those nights laying wide awake, wondering how in the hell they’re going to make a Loaded Burrito Taco work.

REVIEW: Arby’s Traditional Greek Gyro

Arby s Traditional Greek Gyro

Thank heavens this isn’t a video review because I’m still not sure how to say gyro correctly.

It got me thinking that I hope one day this item is popular enough to be on the same playing field with something like fajitas, which I can currently call fa-jee-tas but it’s okay because everybody knows I’m saying it wrong on purpose to be funny.

For gyros?? Definitely can’t play that game. If Arby’s new Traditional Greek Gyro is any indicator for what’s in store, though, then our future is looking very lamprós (the Greek word for bright).

This gyro is certainly traditional as there are just the basic set of ingredients you would hope to find in one – the meat, tzatziki sauce, gyro seasoning, red onion, tomatoes, and shredded iceberg lettuce all nestled up in a warm flatbread.

The vegetables were okay and pretty much the type that you would find at most fast food joints. If I had to nitpick it would be wishing that the lettuce could have been a bit crunchier. The tzatziki sauce was abundant bringing the many dry components together but the taste didn’t really punch me in the face with flavor.

Arby s Traditional Greek Gyro 2

The flatbread, well, it pains me to say this because I absolutely love fluffy bread, but in this instance it was just too darn fluffy. My first few bites were nothing but bread until I made it to the center where the insides were more plentiful and could counterbalance.

Arby’s though is all about the meat, right? I mean THEY HAVE THE MEATS don’t they? Living up to their tagline the gyro meat in this was really, really good even if the amount was a bit on the light side. The meat was speckled with herbs and spices and the flavor was seriously spot on. The pieces were even shaped as if they had just been sliced off of a vertical rotisserie! Even with the lackluster other components, the meat definitely made up for them, meaning that I really did enjoy this gyro.

I got two as you can see below in the purchased price and very quickly gobbled both up. I hope it returns in the future, maybe with some new variations. As long as the meat stays as flavorful I would definitely indulge again and hopefully by then I can butcher the pronunciation, but on purpose this time.

(Nutrition Facts – 710 calories, 390 calories from fat, 44 grams of fat,13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1360 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.00 (2 for $6 deal)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Both visually appealing and great tasting meat. Arby’s getting an A in the subject of Attention to Detail. Renewed hope for a future where gyros and fajitas can stand side by side in popularity.
Cons: Too Fluffy flatbread that can sometimes takes over. Shredded lettuce that continues to underwhelm in fast food.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich

Wendy s Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich

There are few things better in fast food than really good service. Freshness, despite being something every chain claims to have a monopoly on, is one of them.

So when I pulled up to the Wendy’s drive-thru window expecting to receive the new Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, but was instead told by a manager that “we’re waiting on them to grill your chicken,” I was pleasantly surprised.

When I finally did get my sandwich, it looked and smelled great. The fresh mozzarella appeared identical to what you’d get from a supermarket deli case.

Now I have to admit: I’m a huge mozzarella fan —- and not just the low moisture part-skim stuff that makes pizza, well, pizza. But it seems to me that mozzarella is the lacrosse of fast food cheeses.

Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey pretty much corner the sports market in much the same way American, Cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack adorn 95 percent of fast food sandwiches. And while lax has carved out a nice little following in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s not ubiquitous in the sports world.

Wendy s Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich 2

Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be; nor does it mean mozzarella doesn’t deserve a place at the fast food sandwich table (caprese, anyone?). Sure enough, when I took the mozzarella off my sandwich and sampled it alone, it had a mellow and milky flavor. Some call it mild, but it’s more like nuanced, if you ask me.

The problem is that you really can’t taste the cheese when you eat the sandwich. The “creamy” basil pesto (which is more like “gloopy,” but we’ll live with it) and the salad greens give every bite an herby, slightly bitter taste, which is honestly the last thing you’re expecting with a fast food sandwich.

Wendy s Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich 3

The balsamic diced tomatoes — sweet and a bit tart — go a little ways toward fixing the problem. But pesto is in the driver’s seat here. It’s not a bad flavor, but it’s also not one that leaves you chomping at the bit for, well, another chomp.

When I finished my sandwich, I was amazed at how high-quality all the ingredients seemed to be. I was also amazed at how each bite seemed less the sum of its parts.

The Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich is everything you could hope for from a $5.29 sandwich at a fast food place. Yet, even though it exemplifies a triumph of the usually trite ingredient promise that most fast food chains fail miserably at, it lacks memorability. In other words, it’s a lacrosse match amidst a spring of baseball, hockey, and basketball.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website at time of posting.)

Purchased Price: $5.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Fresher than Will Smith in Bel Air, circa 1990. Plump, juicy chicken breast has authentic grilled flavor. Fresh mozzarella is on point. Balsamic-diced tomatoes need to be a regular condiment.
Cons: Expensive. Lacks “wow” factor. Garlic brioche bun tastes like a regular brioche bun. Too much foliage. Pesto overwhelms sandwich. Tastes comparatively plain.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Reese’s Extreme Blizzard

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard

I think Tony Hawk deserves an apology.

When I was a teenager, Tony Hawk—one of the greatest skateboarders of all-time—was practically synonymous with the word “extreme.” He flipped around halfpipes and grinded on rails with ease. Heck, the guy even risked his own health to land a two-and-a-half spin jump, perhaps the most extreme skateboarding trick ever performed.

And for what? To have Dairy Queen soil the word “extreme” with its new ice cream creation?! Look, DQ, “extreme” is a title that’s earned, not just a word that you can slap on something that’s been stuffed with candy. By that measure, the following things would also be “extreme”: a piñata, an Easter basket, and me after stress eating fun size Kit Kats while binge-watching House of Cards.

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard 2

Undue title aside, the new Dairy Queen Reese’s Extreme Blizzard has caught my eye like a well-executed 360 kickflip. It’s the Blizzard of the Month for April, and it features Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces, mixed with peanut butter and chocolaty topping in DQ’s signature vanilla soft serve.

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard 3

Locating a couple of spoonfuls without any candy pieces wasn’t an easy task, but I wanted to see if the peanut butter and chocolaty toppings really had any effect on the flavor of the vanilla soft serve. To my surprise, they actually do. In my experience, many standard Blizzard flavors seem to have the same decent (but rather boring) vanilla base. That’s not the case here. The ice cream is heavy on the peanut butter, sweet and fairly salty, and then finishes with a noticeable cocoa flavor.

I would love to comment on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I got maybe one-fourth of a peanut butter cup in my entire small Blizzard. I’m unsure if there were truly that few cups put in the Blizzard in the first place, or if there had been more but the blending process obliterated many of them.

Either way, the lack of Reese’s Cups in my Reese’s Extreme Blizzard left me extremely disappointed. (See what I did there?) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are known for their perfect balance of chocolate and peanut butter, and that flavor balance was sorely lacking in this Blizzard.

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard 4

On the other hand, there are a ton of Reese’s Pieces throughout the Reese’s Extreme Blizzard. Some are whole and virtually frozen solid, others are a bit more ground up and provide a lighter crunch. The Reese’s Pieces do provide a bit more sweetness, but on the whole their peanut butter flavor is pretty redundant with the richness of the ice cream.

All in all, I’d say the Reese’s Extreme Blizzard is basically just a Reese’s Pieces Blizzard with an extra squirt of peanut butter topping. It’s an enjoyable treat, but it falls well short of “extreme” in my eyes.

I’m sorry, Tony.

(Nutrition Facts – Small Blizzard – 730 calories, 270 calories from fat, 30 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 88 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 85 grams of sugar, 17 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.89
Size: Small
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Strong peanut butter flavor. Lots of Reese’s Pieces for added crunch. Tony Hawk, extreme skateboarding legend.
Cons: One-fourth of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Candy’s flavor was redundant with ice cream. Me, extreme stress eating legend.