June 29, 2006

Celebrating with KFC's Famous Bowls

I had planned to pen a one-year anniversary edition of this sparingly-updated food critique, but it seems that fate had other plans. The week of June 15 was filled with car accidents and medical turmoil, so I have unfortunately been forced to delay the yearly celebration for two weeks.

Sadly, this delay means that the scheduled party, which included fireworks and a brass band, will not come together. The president and other important guests had prior commitments for this weekend, and the pyrotechnic experts are busy preparing for the fourth of July. Instead, a festive food review will have to commemorate this momentous occasion.

And what a food review it is. Today’s product is as American and as celebratory as anyone could expect for an anniversary food review. There is little in the world that is more indulgent than KFC. And today I will discuss one of KFC’s “Famous Bowls”.

The Famous Bowls are a blend of everyone’s favorite KFC offerings. There is a base of KFC’s delectable mashed potatoes and gravy. There is a layer of sweet corn. Bite sized pieces of white fried chicken are then blanketed in a three-cheese blend.

The first time I heard about this combination of food, I was stunned. Mashed potatoes almost always accompany my chicken orders at KFC, and the good people in Kentucky decided to save me the trouble of ordering two things. They also threw in some cheese and sweet corn for my pleasure. I don’t know anyone other than members of PETA that would protest KFC chicken being combined with mashed potatoes in one dish.

I personally do not care for sweet corn, but no one at KFC seemed offended or distressed when I requested that it be held from my order. The mashed potatoes are as delicious as ever, and the chicken pieces are quite tender and tasty. The gravy mixes well with both flavors, and the blend of cheeses is an addition that truly compliments the other flavors.

Of course, KFC is never particularly healthy food. Mixing numerous KFC products is not recommended for one’s cardiovascular health. However, the Famous Bowl is perfect for a bit of celebratory indulgence. I would recommend it for the celebration of some obscure anniversary. You get two or three KFC foods for about four bucks, (prices may vary, you know) which saves you both money and the hassle of ordering. It truly is a delectable way to celebrate.

May 6, 2006

Buried in Cream, and a Diet Aftertaste

There is currently a debate that rages within the shores of America that threatens to tear the fabric of our nation apart. It sectionalizes our country and has been the cause of many shouting matches which I have witnessed. This divisive issue is the nomenclature of carbonated beverages more officially known as soft drinks.

Some call these drinks “soda”. Others say the name is “pop”. Still another party insists the name is “soda pop”. The variations on these names seem endless, and the dispute has caused many difficulties over the years. Today, I confront one of those difficulties head on. It is my intention, however dangerous, to attempt to review Diet Berries’n Cream Dr. Pepper. Although I could skirt the issue by writing “soft drinks” constantly, I choose to step outside of boundaries and confront the squabble.

Roughly a week ago, Dr. Pepper began a marketing blitz pushing the “Berries’n Cream” flavor. The television commercials feature a man with a soda can glued to his lips. My eyes lit up when I saw this feature. The drink is so good that you can’t take it away from your mouth! If watching a young man fall down stairs because he is drinking Dr. Pepper doesn’t make you want to down some sodapop-pop-soda, nothing will.

The slogan, “get buried in cream” is slightly less enticing. More conventional burying, such as being buried in the sand at the beach, have never truly appealed to me. The saying also conjures up terrible memories of a disaster movie involving a Cool-Whip plant. Regardless of the slogan, Dr. Pepper’s marketing forced me to review their latest soda-pop-sodapop.

In doing this, I was at a slight disadvantage in that I have never tasted the “Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper”. If one is to review a highly modified cola, he or she should probably sample the original twice-flavored pop-sodapop-soda. I truly do not drink the fizzy stuff regularly, so I was forced to skip the Doctor’s first complex drink and dive into the second.

Berries’n Cream Dr. Pepper comes in both diet and original varieties. Unfortunately, the news stand where I secured the sodapop-pop-pop-soda-pop only offered diet. Certain portions of the population (myself included) have never learned to live with the aftertaste of a diet drink, so I crossed my fingers in hope that I would be buried in cream rather than Nutra-Sweet.

After taking my first swig of the pop-soda-sodapop-soda my first impression was that it contained more carbonation than regular Dr. Pepper. However, just after this thought I was struck by the fact that the carbonation tasted slightly creamy. Until tasting this concoction, I never knew it was possible to have creamy bubbles. Fortunately for the world, Dr. Pepper has learned how to achieve this feat.

There may have been a slight hint of a berry flavor present as well, but it was barely noticeable. It was present enough that no one should sue Dr. Pepper for false advertising and faulty labeling, but those with a fetish for fruit flavors shouldn’t be running to their nearest supermarket to pick up this drink, either. A better name would be Dr. Pepper’n Cream. Or perhaps it could be called “Creamy Dr. Pepper”. The current nomenclature is clearly attempting to cash in on the allure of complexity rather than any actual berry flavor.

But the final flavor that lingered in my mouth was the watery, somewhat bitter “diet aftertaste”. Diet Soda’s are undrinkable for many due to this problem, and I was unable to finish my bottle. Regular diet drinkers won’t notice anything wrong with this taste, as it is identical to the aftertaste of any other diet cola. However, those that like their sodas untainted will be gravely disappointed.

In the end, Diet Berries’n Cream Dr. Pepper was an interesting idea that promised more than it could deliver. I plan to sample the regular variation of the drink in hopes that it will be superior to its sister. Until then, the soda-pop-pop-soda only gets one out of five sporks for a very disappointing aftertaste and lack of berry flavor.

May 2, 2006

Crunchwraps and Cheesy Gorditas

Due to extenuating circumstances, two months have passed since my last scintillating food review. Despite the long period of time that has passed between my writings, I have not stopped consuming a variety of food from restaurants of all different sorts.

Of all the different treats which touched my tongue over this sixty day period, one strikingly unique sensation stands out in my mind. It has gained distinction from the blur of French fries, breakfast sandwiches, soups, drinks, and main courses that have recently made up my culinary life. This food, which I sampled roughly a week after my last post, is the Taco Bell Crunchwrap supreme.

It may seem doubtful that I would have the memory to review a food which I sampled eight weeks ago. A pallet can be quickly cleaned by many a taste, making such a long period seem insurmountable in the fickle worlds of flavor memory.

I assure you, however, that I remember quite easily the Crunchwrap. I can actually give an adequate picture of the concoction by likening it to a Cheesy Gordita Crunch in disguise. The only real difference between the two offerings is the shape and price. The Crunchwrap supreme is flat and hexagonal in shape where the CGC is shaped like a typical taco. The new menu item also has a different pricing than the older offering.

Unlike the CGC, the Crunchwrap is completely enclosed by a soft shell. This seal means that there is no way for the innards of the concoction to squirt out of the opposite end from that which you are biting. One of my only complains about the Cheesy Gordita Crunch was that it was nearly impossible to avoid ending up with a large pile of sloppy ground beef, shredded lettuce, and cheese sauce on your lap when biting into its cheesy goodness. The engineers at the Bell appear to have heard the complaints of Cheesy Gordita Crunch enthusiasts and addressed them. The workers in the customer service department at Taco Bell certainly deserve kudos for properly relaying complaints.

Other than the improvement of a closed eating area, there is little to write about the Crunchwrap’s tastes that cannot be said about the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. It has the same cheese sauce as the CGC, the same “seasoned” beef, the same lettuce, and approximately the same shells. I even recommend that you request no tomatoes for a more pleasant eating experience in the same way I recommend no tomatoes for the CGC. Despite the similarities, though, the Crunchwrap supreme can extract a substantially larger toll on the wallet than its older sibling.

Where the Cheesy Gordita Crunch can vary in price from slightly over a dollar to over two dollars, the Crunchwrap supreme seems to be entrenched at a price of over two dollars. This is a shame, considering the concoction is not made up of much more food than the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

It also seems that the good people at Taco Bell may be running out of new ideas. In the past, they have teased the taste buds with new and exciting flavors, but not we are offered a repackaging of old tastes and told it is all new. I am slightly concerned that this may indicate laziness on the part of the Taco Bell developmental staff. However, I am unable to complain due to the fact that I believe the Crunchwrap Supreme to be an improvement upon one of my favorite foods. If the Bell wishes to offer new and improved ways to enjoy old favorites, I will not complain.

I will however take issue with such a strategy if it constitutes a substantial hike in prices or takes the place of innovation. Mountain Dew Baja Blast and Beef & Potato Burritos were just two exciting instances of Taco Bell’s willingness to be daring. It would be a shame to see that uniqueness lost.

In the end, my slight concerns about price and the future of the Taco Bell menu barely keep the Crunchwrap Supreme from achieving an unbelievable rating of five sporks. These drawbacks are just enough to make the great cheesy taste and easy delivery of the new “wrapped” package drop to a still amazing rating of four and a half sporks out of a possible five.

February 11, 2006

Writing Anew with Black and Bleu

It has been over five months since I last speckled this page with fresh words, and the weight of not fulfilling my duties has been weighing increasingly heavily on my shoulders. Seeing as how I have a build more similar to a beanpole than Atlas, I have finally decided to reward anyone who has had the diligence to check this site for new work. Hopefully, my words shall not disappoint.

First, however, I find it necessary to defend my apparently lackadaisical attitude toward providing my readership with consistent updates. My last post, as many of you may know, came before my departure to Syracuse University and the confusing, busy time in life known as “being a college freshman”. Several things interfered in my ability to create new tapestries of food reviews, not the least of which was my lack of eating food in well-known restaurants. Destitution often comes with paying college tuition, and avoiding eating in restaurants often comes with destitution. I suppose I could always have provided readers with a review of Syracuse University cafeteria food, but I shudder to think of students who are subjected to eating the food, let alone consider telling others of such horrendous experiences. In addition to a lack of adequate funding, I had a general lack of time and means with which to reach any eating establishment. As you can no doubt imagine, these obstacles proved crippling to my endeavor to supply the world with cheap, easily accessible food reviews of common foods.

Since I have made the difficulties of being a food critic on a limited budget without a car at college during freshman year apparent, I must make it known that my reviews may be somewhat inconsistently timed, and that they may be in regards to food that does not fit my usual criteria. For instance, in this update, I will be writing about the Black and Bleu Burger at Applebee’s. I know that this restaurant is not exactly along the lines of McDonalds, Subway, and Wendy’s in fitting the pricing standards that I have attempted to conform to in the past (namely cheapness) but, as the Rolling Stones so gracefully omitted to mention at Superbowl XL, “you can’t always get what you want.”

The Black and Bleu Burger carries a price of $7.29 in the Syracuse New York restaurant where I partook in the wonders of Applebee’s ground beef. I thought this price fairly reasonable for a “sit down” restaurant where a waitress or waiter actually serves you, although one can certainly find similar prices for burgers at comparable restaurants everywhere. I cannot complain about the amount of food received for this price, as a generous 8 oz. burger, (weight taken before cooking, of course) and heap of French fries filled my plate when my food came.

The burger itself is a fairly standard Bleu cheese burger. It has a tasty bleu cheese topping that is adorned with some crisp bacon. For vegetable lovers, lettuce, red onions and tomato accompany the ground beef, which is supposedly grilled with Cajun seasoning.

I found the burger to be quite flavorful, although I cannot say the “Cajun seasoning” was particularly strong. The most powerful flavor was the bleu cheese, which made me quite happy. It had a certain enticing tanginess that made the viscous sauce blend well with the crisp, salt bacon. As far as the ground beef was concerned, I found it to be a bit on the dry side. I know that restaurants generally make your burger well-done unless you specially request meat of the rare variety in an attempt to squash food poisoning, but I don’t believe all of the juices need to be cooked out of the hamburger patty. I would suggest requesting a medium well-done burger, provided you are willing to risk your life on the chance that your meat does not need to be cooked to the point of charcoal in order to ensure safety.

I cannot truly speak to the vegetable toppings other than the lettuce, as I honestly did not eat them. The red onions and tomato appeared to be quite fresh and juicy to my untrained eye, however. I thought my lettuce was a little too plentiful, but it was nothing I could not fix by removing a few leaves. I did find it to be nice and crisp, though.

French fries can make or break a burger meal at a sit down restaurant. If the fries are not good, one does not leave feeling full and satisfied. If they are palatable, then one is often left with a happy and satiated stomach. I am pleased to report that my fries were the perfect combination of crispy, thick, and salty to ensure my enjoyment. They truly topped off my meal.

Before I pen my final decision regarding the Black and Bleu burger, I must state that my opinions may be slightly biased. Red meat is not easy to come by when one eats dining hall food a majority of the time. Chicken is the meat of choice in college cafeterias, and the beef that is served is often tinged with green or apparently inedible. Consequently, I jump at any chance to partake in red meat. Often, I finish my iron-laden meal feeling more satisfied than I should, simply because I was able to partake in a bit of Angus. I have factored this into my rating today, but everyone should know that their faithful food reviewing servant may be operating under altered judgment.

Overall, I found the Black and Bleu burger to be quite filling and satisfying. The bleu cheese, bacon, and beef blended together into a delightful treat for my taste buds. The only real complaint I have regarding this iron-laden meal was its lack of juiciness, a fact which plagues many sit-down restaurant burgers. In the end, the reasonable price, abundance of food, and good taste overcome the dryness of the burger to net it a solid four sporks out of a possible five.