Could it be that time of year already? That beautiful time of year, when the air takes a certain chill? Can’t you just feel the holly-jolly love in the season? It is! It really, really is the most wonderful time of the year! No, no, we’re not talking about Christmastime – it’s McRib season again! Yes that’s right – our lord Ronald McDonald has once again graced us with the McRib, the processed pork patty soaked in BBQ sauce, served with pickles and sliced onion. Now people who love fast food and people who hate their arteries alike find common ground, and it’s at McDonald’s.
Today, we’re going to delve into the heart of this sandwich… and the other offal parts, too.
If you’ve been keeping up with Popeyes news (rather than any of the many other things that are going on in the world right now), first off, good on you. I’m sure you’re a hit at parties. Second, you’re bound to already know that this month’s promotional special is the Spicebox Chicken.
If you’re not anything like us and feel like there are things more important than what America is eating right now, however, then we’re here to tell you that the Spicebox Chicken is a $3.99 special for chicken (thin strips of white meat, marinated and fried, tossed in a 12-spice blend), fries, a biscuit, and a spiced ranch dipping sauce.
In this review, we’ll be talking not only about how good this tastes, but also about some of the history behind the difficulties that fast food chicken restaurants have gone through.
Are you over the age of 50? Were you around the first time that bell bottoms were a fashion statement? Do you remember when the tracks on the oldies rock stations were top 40 hits? If so, you just might remember the Yumbo, a short-lived hot ham and cheese sandwich offering from Burger King. It had an official run in America from 1969 to 1974, but saw more time at individual franchises and overseas in places like Puerto Rico. Now, in December of 2014, Burger King has decided the time is ripe to re-introduce the Yumbo sandwich as part of their “2 for $5” sandwich promotion.
Like a lot of discontinued food items, the Yumbo has had a somewhat prominent following who remember the sandwich and want it back. Burger King has responded to their cries, but we have to wonder – is 40 years too long to really bring back a menu item with such fanfare? People who would have been around to taste the first version of the Yumbo would be well into their 60s by now, and while we won’t discredit the influence the over 50 crowd would have on Burger King’s decisions, it doesn’t mesh all too well with Burger King’s “cool, hip” image.
But hey, everything old is new again, right? Retro stuff is all the craze! Disco music and 70s fashion is still being re-invented today, so who’s to say that a 70s sandwich can’t be re-introduced? We’ll give the Yumbo a try, and see if it’ll be worth a revival – or if it should’ve been left in the past. Well, here goes…
It’s a generally accepted fact that Taco Bell never puts out anything new. The last successfully trending menu items they had released were the Doritos Locos Tacos and their many iterations, and they rode that wave for as long as they could. The other new items that they’ve introduced recently had received reception ranging from lukewarm (such as their frozen drinks) to incredulous (their breakfast menu), but none have shaped up to the alleged innovation of a taco with a Doritos shell.
Taco Bell is extremely guilty of its mangling of Mexican cuisine, in examples like the short-lived Grilled Stuft Nacho (which used a questionable definition of ‘grilled’, was only moderately stuffed, and had very little in common with nachos). It really should come as no surprise that they’ve managed to obfuscate the basic concept of a taquito into the mouthful that is their “Rolled Chicken Tacos”, but it’s still a disappointment.
When we first heard of the Rolled Chicken Taco, we have to admit we got a little excited. Finally, something remotely edible from Taco Bell! (Not that we have standards.) They even looked pretty tasty, featuring all-white chicken meat marinated in taco seasoning wrapped up in a corn tortilla and crispy-fried. Our excitement wavered once we noticed that was all it had in it, and dipped even further when we noticed that it was going to be a whole dollar per taquito. Regardless, we pressed on, bubbling with excitement over the thought of what is admittedly one of our favourite Tex-Mex foods finally being available at Taco Bell. We felt in our hearts that these were either going to be awesome or heart-breakingly disappointing.
Even though we had heard that these were going to be $1.99 for two, our local Taco Bell had them priced at $2.19, so we were already off to a bad start. They’re advertising these as being paired with their new Spicy Ranch sauce, but we ultimately decided on the Nacho Cheese sauce for a dip, feeling that anything we were unfamiliar with would affect our final judgment. Let’s hope that this is gonna be good…
Faygo is one of the strangest oddities of the soda world, perhaps because it’s one of the few sodas that has its own subculture based around it.
This peculiar soda got an early start in 1907. Two baker brothers, Ben and Perry Feigenson, had the idea to turn their cake frosting recipes into sodas. They started out with just three flavors: grape, strawberry, and fruit punch. The first batch of sodas was made in a small bottling plant in Detroit, Michigan, and they were sold off of the back of a horse cart. The sodas proved popular, and their company quickly grew into a local sensation. By the 1950s, they had re-worked the formula to give it a longer lasting shelf life, allowing Faygo to be sold across America.
It’s not unusual that the soda has such a lengthy history: Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi-Cola were all inventions of the late 19th century, and soft drinks and colas were already making a foothold in the world even before that.
Compared to those less regional brands, Faygo is well-known for being both tasty and inexpensive. Though it’s not as complex as some of the more obscure, locally-bound expensive bottled sodas, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of store-brands, which taste decent for about an hour at the most before they go unimpressively flat.
It’s because of its cheapness that the hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse was keen to adopt it as their trademark, as they were too poor in their youth to afford any other brand of soda. The “Juggalos”, the term given to the most devoted of ICP fans, have turned the soda pop into a symbol as prominent as their black-and-white face paint. There are contradictory stories as for why the ICP chose Faygo as one of their trademarks, but they have been referencing Faygo in their music ever since their debut album, and there’s certainly no end in sight for their love of the drink.
Despite the group and its fanbase’s full-hearted endorsement, Faygo Beverages, Inc. wants very little to do with them. The company brands its product as a family soda, so it doesn’t have a lot to gain from associating itself with a group that’s labelled by the FBI as a gang. Although the presence of the Insane Clown Posse has turned Faygo into a minor cultural trend, Faygo itself prefers to stick by its tried-and-true marketing strategy – one that doesn’t involve insane clowns.
With this in mind, Faygo is a very region-contained soda that doesn’t have much interest in expanding outwards. Its distribution is sporadic; even though it hails from the Midwest, it can still get hair-pullingly hard to find it in nearby states.
Today we’ll be reviewing the three different varieties of Faygo that we could find: Rock & Rye, Old Fashioned Root Beer, and Ginger Ale. These are some of the more prominent flavors of Faygo available, and some of the most decorated. We looked forward to seeing if these sodas would live up to their hype.
It’s difficult to pinpoint just when the “healthy snack food” trend started, but it’s been climbing more and more over the years. Things like organic tortilla chips, baked potato chips, and vegetable-based snacks are taking up more and more shelf space every year, and companies under pressure are finding it necessary to throw in more buzzwords to stay relevant.
Some of the more curious developments in so-called healthy chips aren’t even chips at all. Processed potato starch snacks are nothing new, such as Lays STAX and similar products, but they’ve picked up speed lately in forms like Popchips… and today’s topic, Potato Straws (although this product prefers to be called Veggie Straws).
Today we’ll be reviewing Zesty Ranch flavored Garden Veggie Straws by Sensible Portions.
They’re literally hollow straws. We thought it’d be pretty funny to drink tomato soup through these. Not having any soup on hand, we drank some water through them, which worked but made them soggy and gross. It was kind of a mistake.
The ranch flavor is actually really good and tastes considerably more like actual ranch dressing, unlike other ranch-flavored chips like Doritos. There are much heavier notes of sour cream, garlic, and onion.
Speaking of which, what is the difference between Cool Ranch and Zesty Ranch? Is this even what a ranch tastes like? If you live on a cow ranch and can take samples of the difference between Cool and Zesty, please contact us. We are dying to know.
The difference between the potato, tomato, and spinach is now indistinguishable underneath the thick layer of flavor dust. This is fortunate if you’re looking for a chip-tasting snack – less so if you’re hoping for something that actually tastes like the other two vegetables alluded to.
They’re super crunchy, and the aforementioned seasoning gets all over your fingers and leaves an unpleasant greasy feeling.
It makes a big deal on the bag about how you can eat 38 straws. This seems impressive, because a recommended serving of Doritos is 12 chips, but the straws are much lighter and more airy, so it’s actually the same amount by weight… while still somehow managing to feel like you’re eating even less.
The word “Sensible” is all over the branding, like a mildly creepy mantra. The serving size is referred to as a Sensible Portion, hence the name of the brand, and the product boasts being guilt-free. That said, these aren’t a very sensible choice when you consider that even competing brands have less of the fat and calories they claim to be better about.
At one point, we got curious: how hard are these even trying to be health food? First off, are they fried or not? The bag is completely non-informative and dodges discussing the cooking process. The only hints are in the ingredients list, which lists four different types of oils – coconut oil is in there, but after the flavorings.
Second up, these have very little to do with the vegetables they brand themselves as being made from. The alleged tomato and spinach are actually flavorings made from tomato paste and spinach powder respectively, and the snack can only manage to legally refer to itself as a “vegetable and potato snack” on a tiny portion of the bag. Beets are referred to in the ingredient list, but they’re solely for color, not for flavor or nutritional value.
A visit to Sensible Portions’ website rewards you with a flashy inaccessible mess, with no HTML-based alternative. Looking for the nutritional facts is a convoluted dead end: there is a page for products, but it provides no relevant information. Clicking on a tiny FAQ link at the bottom will lead you to a frequently-asked question that looks like a lead in the right direction, but it just points you to their broken web store… which doesn’t even have the nutritional facts, ingredients, or allergen warnings that the FAQ claimed it had.
This is because the website is five years out of date and has seemingly only managed to survive a handful of layout updates, with no meaningful changes to the text. The ‘online store’ referred to in the FAQ is actually pointing towards a website that no longer exists, and their current store has stripped all of the product information down to vague blurbs. As far as we know, there is literally no way to find nutritional facts on their website.
What a mess!
3 out of 5 – Worth Trying (Wouldn’t Get It Again)
From a consumer standpoint, these chips are a complete disaster that rely on deceitful advertising to brand themselves as something healthier than they actually are. There’s an unnecessary and undeserving focus on its supposed “All-Natural” qualities, despite somehow managing to be even more processed than the leading potato chip brands it’s aggressive towards.
As far as an actual snack goes, it’s honestly very, very good, and the ranch flavor is amazing, which is why this snack gets a 3 instead of a 2. But that’s all that can be said. We wish we could get this again, but we have no plans on giving these people any more of our money.
One of the latest seasonal offerings that Sonic is providing are “Boneless Wings” in three flavors: Buffalo, Asian Sweet Chili, and Barbecue. The rationality of eating sticky wings in a car aside, we thought these wings sounded like they could either be amazing or awful, so we figured we’d put them to the test.
We ordered a 12-piece, which appears to be the smallest size offered for splitting it into two flavors (which is odd, since the 6-piece is divisible by 2). Ordering Buffalo and Asian Sweet Chili seemed like the reasonable choice, since Barbecue is also a default sauce packet flavor.
The chicken flavors came in two separate containers (the long flat ones, which have occasionally been referred to by customers as ‘troughs’, amusingly enough). The sauce had gotten cold surprisingly fast, even in the several layers of bags and boxes they had packaged our food in. It was warm for an autumn day, so this was mildly disappointing.
The Buffalo is tangy and sour in a way that’s reminiscent of Domino’s hot chicken wings. We hesitated to describe it as buffalo sauce, as it lacked complexity and buttery flavor. There’s no real resemblance to restaurant-style hot wings, more like the prepackaged microwave kind.
The Asian Sweet Chili is very, very heavy on the sticky sugary flavor. The sauce is a thick glaze, and is vaguely smokey with a barely-detectable ginger burn. The smell and first taste suggested hoisin sauce, but the next few bites tasted more like barbecue sauce. There’s red pepper flakes floating in the sauce, completely unidentifiable and adding virtually no flavor.
As for the chicken itself, it’s generic white meat nuggets with the same flavor and consistency as their pre-existing Jumbo Popcorn Chicken menu item (for some reason, the Asian Sweet Chili was a little more crunchy than the Buffalo). The tenders are large and satisfying, good to eat in two bites and make one big mouthful when popped in whole.
3 out of 5 – Worth Trying (Wouldn’t Get It Again)
Overall, it was better than the Mighty Wings McDonald’s had put out last year, but it’s still drive-thru hot wings, so that’s not saying too much. Fast food restaurants seem keen to come back to hot wings as a gimmick, but it never really works. Sonic made the right choice by making these wings boneless, but the price and the flavor still left a lot to be desired.