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.