April 24, 2010

Initial impressions of the KFC Double Down

I got my hands on KFC's new Double Down today, and although I need some more time to digest the most literal chicken sandwich out there before delivering a final verdict, I'm going to share my initial impressions. Consider this my version of a technoblog's first hands-on with the Apple iPad before they had time to mold their official opinion.
  • The Double Down is not as large as you may expect. It was closer to the size of my first than KFC's typical chihuahua-sized chunks of chicken.
  • Meat. Meat. Meat. You're probably not surprised to hear that replacing a sandwich's bread with two fried chicken breasts results in a ton of meat. But by the end of the meal I was begging for a biscuit.
  • Colonel's Sauce is tasty. Despite the ominous name and an uncanny similarity to Thousand Island dressing, the Colonel's sauce in the middle of all the chicken and bacon added a welcome zing to the Double Down.
  • AWOL bacon. Speaking of bacon, where was it? Every once in a long while some bacon texture would pop up in a bite, but it the thin slices of pork belly contributed almost no flavor in the face of the tsunami of chicken.
  • Cheap cheese. Not that this is necessarily a terrible thing, but I could have purchased better quality American cheese from the prepackaged food section at Wal-Mart.
  • Prepare to be judged. My girlfriend looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity the entire time I ate. The Double Down is tougher to swallow in concept than in your mouth.
  • The Double Down is healthier than many fast foods. OK, OK, the term "healthier" should never, ever be applied to this sandwich. Still, the interwebs have pointed out that there are several salads that are worse than the Double Down, and that there are many similarly bad meals on the market. Plus, I can tell you that I feel much better a few hours after eating the Double Down than I did after eating KFC's grilled chicken.
  • Yum. There's no getting around the fact that the Double Down actually tasted pretty darned good, in a mortgaging-five-years-of-my-life kind of way.
So there's your first look. I'll spend the next couple of days evaluating the entirety of the Double Down and have a complete review up soon. Rest assured that you shouldn't be too chicken to try one in the mean time.

April 21, 2010

Preparing for the KFC Double Down with the Milky Way Dark

Boy am I ever excited to try KFC's new Double Down. Two pieces of chicken sandwiching bacon, cheese and Colonel's sauce is every fast food critic's dream -- it's brash, captivating and eye-catching. But it's not quite time to review the Double Down yet.

Something as in-your-face as fried chicken book-ending sow belly deserves at least a week of mental preparation before evaluation. I need to steel myself for the abundance of deep frying and distance my thoughts from the interweb buzz storming about the Colonel's creation. To do otherwise would not be fair to one of the most audacious creations to grace the drive-thru since I anointed myself a food critic.

While I tap my inner chicken-Zen and perform taste-bud yoga, let's run through a mini-review. I think a candy bar should keep us tied over until Double Down Doomsday, don't you?

Fortunately I have just the candy bar in mind: the Milky Way Midnight. When writing last week's review of the Milky Way Simply Caramel I realized I never wrote about the dark side of the candy bar's family. That's a shame because the Midnight is no rotten pumpkin.

It swaps dark chocolate for the standard Milky Way's milk chocolate and implements a unique vanilla nougat in the center. And it keeps the standard helping of caramel inside for all you sweet tooths out there.

The result is a candy bar with more distinct flavors than the standard Milky Way. The dark chocolate gives it a hint of bitterness, the vanilla nougat lightens everything and the caramel sweeps your mouth along on an all-encompassing ride of sweetness.

All of the flavors stand out yet work in symphony with each other. If the regular Milky Way is three flavor instruments playing the same tune in harmony, the Milky Way Midnight is three instruments playing a medley that resonates on the tongue.

The bell tolls a friendly melody for the Milky Way Midnight -- five sporks out of five. The candy bar put me in a good frame of mind as I prepare for the Double Down. I'll run through some gastrointestinal calisthenics and have a review up for you next week.

April 13, 2010

Milky Way Simply Caramel: A black hole of sweetness

How would you make a Milky Way bar better? The options aren't as plentiful as you might think.

One answer is to swap the milk chocolate coating for dark chocolate. The folks at Mars did that recently with the delicious Milky Way Midnight. Another train of thought says adding nuts would be helpful -- but that's called a Snicker's bar.

All nougat composition? 3 Musketeers has that ground covered. And changing to a peanut butter nougat starts to encroach on Reese's-dominated territory.

That leaves only one option as far as my candy-aisle telescope can see: all caramel.

Enter the Milky Way Simply Caramel Bar, which I recently found at the supermarket. It's shaped like a regular Milky Way bar on the outside but contains a whole different galaxy of ingredients and flavor on the inside. And by "different galaxy" I mean one giant gravity well of caramel. Bite into the bar and the chewy stuff spills forth like a gamma ray burst.

It's similar to a giant elongated Rolo with its ingredients all out of proportion. It even tastes a little out of proportion. Not bad, mind you, just unbalanced.

There's so much undiluted sweetness to contend with that eating an entire bar is borderline brutality. The first bite flows around your taste buds with a welcoming shock. Then the rest of the experience is like a black hole sucking all flavors but sugar from your pallet.

Honestly, it needs a peanut butter nougat, nuts or dark chocolate to dispel everything and give it a little "oomph." I was hungry 10 minutes after eating the bar, since all that sugar metabolizes quickly.

A gold star to Mars for trying to find a successful new variation of the Milky Way. Unfortunately this offering is worlds away from perfect. Two sporks out of five.

April 6, 2010

An alien idea: Planet Fitness Pizza Night

If you live in a region with a Planet Fitness, you might be aware of a peculiar perk at the gym chain: Pizza night.

On the first Monday of every month the gym is filled with more than treadmills and weights. Slices of pizza are laid out so you can exercise your jaw muscles as well as your biceps.

The idea always seemed self defeating to me. Why sweat it out for hours on end only to undo your hard work with artery-clogging grease and cheese? But being a member of a different gym, I only gave it passing curiosity -- an cock of the head through the telescope, if you will.

Well, I've re-relocated from Central Pennsylvania to Central New York and joined up with a new gym -- Planet Fitness. Yesterday was my first visit to Pizza night, forcing me to confront the peculiarity head-on.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.

It certainly wasn't my initial impression that won me over. I forgot all about pizza night until I arrived at the door at 6:30, ready to work out some built-up energy from a day spent sitting behind a desk at work. Instead of being greeted by the gym's familiar "come hyperventilate with me" scent of exercise and sweat I was bowled over by the heavy smell of pizza crust. It wasn't appetizing at the time.

The juxtaposition of Italian food and my workout also failed to sway my opinion. Nothing about seeing fellow gym-mates milling about the entrance chewing on cheesy dough made me want to squeeze out an extra set of triceps extensions or finish another mile on the exercise bike. Here too my nose took the lead in the dissatisfaction. Exercise plus pizza smells equals the urge to vomit, not the desire to stuff your face.

The pizza quality didn't do much for me either. It also wasn't hot. I suppose lukewarm slices are to be expected since they're available all evening.

My opinion of pizza night only changed after a decent stint on an exercise bike. It was about 7:30 p.m. and I'd yet to eat dinner. My blood sugar was plummeting, and I needed a jolt. Pizza was there to save me, offering an unmitigated dash of sustenance when my body and brain were feeling fuzzy.

Sure, it probably set my waistline back a few days. And I'm still not completely behind the Pizza night idea. Yet having tried it, I'm much more at peace with the concept than I was before.

The verdict is still out. For right now Pizza Night gets an undecided two-and-a-half sporks out of five.