June 26, 2010

The Ched 'R' Peppers SuperSonic Cheeseburger Combo: Sonic bounces back

Foodies, you may recall my less-than-stellar feelings toward the fare at Sonic drive-ins.

A year ago I drove away from my first Sonic experience profoundly disappointed in the quality of the food. The drinks were delicious, but anything you had to chew wasn't worth writing home about. My tots were bland, my Texas toast wasn't toasted and my burger hardly dripped with flavor.

Today I'm happy to tell you that a recent trip to Sonic left me with a much more satisfied stomach. I ordered a limited-time-only Ched 'R' Peppers SuperSonic Cheeseburger Combo and was delighted with the results.

The Ched 'R' Peppers burger boasts a more harmonious flavor than its disjointed name implies. Sonic takes a cheeseburger, adds two deep-fried peppers and ties it together with some chipotle mayo. It's zesty rather than spicy, so those of you with an aversion to habanero-style heat need not shy away.

You should avoid the burger if you dislike cheese, because cheddar is everywhere. It blends with the mayo and can overpower other flavors on some bites, leaving the tongue tasting more salt than spice. Fortunately this is drive-in fare, so cheesiness is to be expected, rather than loathed.

The burger's beef was of so-so quality. Most of the flavor came from the fixings, and I can't say the meat ever came through with any strength. At least it wasn't dry, which can sink a burger faster than BP's stock price.

In summary we're looking at a very tasty burger with a few flaws -- four sporks out of five. And Sonic has redeemed itself.

DEWmocracy update: White Out won

This morning I'm preparing to write a brand-new full-length review for all you foodies out there. First I wanted to post a follow-up snippet to my DEWmocracy post of a few weeks ago. I'll make it short and sweet: White Out won.

The Squirt-esque Dew took home the gold with 44% of the vote, edging out fruit-punch-flavored Typhoon, which netted 40%. If you need to know the numbers for third place, limey Distortion managed just 16% of votes.

You may recall I lavished my endorsement on White Out. I'm not saying turn elections, but it does sound a bit like the Colbert Bump, doesn't it? (If you don't know what the Colbert Bump is, you haven't been watching enough of the clever late-night show on Comedy Central. If you don't know what the Colbert Report is, you probably don't care about DEWmocracy anyway.)

June 16, 2010

M&M's meet pretzels

Remember Crispy M&M's? They were a little larger than the traditional variety and each chocolate morsel was stuffed with a piece of puffed rice. Biting into them elicited a satisfying crunch and a decent flavor.

They were introduced in blue bags just before the turn of the millennium, when I was but a wee middleschooler with a juvenile-esque eye for junk food. And they quickly became one of my favorite vending machine buys.

Sadly, they are no more on American shores. I haven't seen Crispy M&M's in the United States for years, although I could have sworn I ran across a bag or two when I was in the United Kingdom in the fall of 2007.

Because of this departure from the New World, my fancy M&M cravings have had to be satisfied by the always-stalwart peanut variety and the delectable-but-rare peanut butter style. While those are good, they lack a certain crunch.

Today I'm ecstatic to report that M&M's brought the crunch back, albeit not with puffed rice. Instead new Pretzel M&M's have hit the shelves, and they pack some serious munching satisfaction.

Pretzel M&M's are jumbo-sized, hovering somewhere near the girth of the gargantuan Wild Cherry M&M's I reviewed a few years back. They have a generous portion of pretzel wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate and topped with the traditional mouth-melting candy coating. It's an oh-so-satisfying package with a hint of pretzel salt that works amazingly well.

I am, however, a bit surprised by the pretzel-to-chocolate ratio. This candy is more like M&M-coated pretzels than pretzel M&M's. I'll admit more chocolate would probably bury the pretzel's flavors and textures, but it's still surprising to bite into M&M's with so little cocoa. It's a good change, though -- one that makes an exciting experience out of bagged candy, which is too-often dull.

Pretzel M&M's have one major drawback: thirst. I'm not sure a bag of candy has ever left me in need of a tall glass of milk quite as much as these nuggets did.

Eating chocolate always leaves you a little thirsty, a function of all the sugar. And pretzels are notorious for sponging all the saliva from your jaws. Combine them with a hard candy shell that leaves a sweet "quench me" undertone on the palate, and you have the makings of a severe drink shortage.

It's enough to bump Pretzel M&M's down to four sporks out of five. If they were packaged with a carton of milk, they'd be the perfect product. As they stand now, they're a very good candy that middleschoolers and adults should be able to recall fondly in ten years.

June 10, 2010

DEWmocracy: My Mountain Dew endorsement

You may have heard about Mountain Dew's "DEWmocracy" experiment where the brand introduced three experimental flavors. You can buy them at the store, try them, and log on to the DEWmocracy website to vote for your favorite. Supposedly the winner will be kept on as a regular Mountain Dew Flavor, ala Code Red.

Forget about the fact that this promotion is oddly timed to coincide with a midterm election, rather than the more popular presidential variety. We're down to just over four days left until voting ends, and it's time to endorse a flavor.

Here are the candidates:
  • Typhoon: Currently capturing 40% of the vote, Typhoon is described as "Dew with a punch of tropical flavor." In other words, its magenta-colored Mountain Dew Fruit Punch.
  • Distortion: Sitting in third place at 16%, Distortion is called "Dew with a blast of lime flavor." It's green and looks like regular Mountain Dew.
  • White Out: Self-described as "Dew with a smooth citrus flavor," White Out leads the polls at the moment with 44% of votes. Think Squirt or cloudy Sierra Mist, and you get the idea.
I'm throwing my weight solidly behind White Out. Simply put, it has the best balance of flavors. While it may be a knock-off of previously released sodas, it's crisp and refreshing. Plus it has the best label color scheme, and I'm always looking for visual variety as I walk down the beverage aisle.

Although it doesn't taste terrible, Typhoon is too sweet. In a competition of sugar-saturated Mountain Dew varieties, it manages to be the drink that goes just a little too far down the saccharine road. The fruit punch twist adds some nice flavor variety, but I wouldn't recommend drinking more than a shot of the stuff. Downing a 20 oz. bottle could result in diabetic shock, regardless of the state of your pancreas.

Distortion is in no shape to garner an endorsement. I can't say I've tasted it, but do we really need another green Mountain Dew?

So there you have it. Head over to the DEWmocracy website and send in your own vote, if you're so inclined. At very least I encourage you to check out the interactive map that gives you a county-by-county breakdown of voting. It might not seem as important as heading to the actual polls in November, but it's good practice.

June 6, 2010

Working with the Kit Kat Caramel

Good evening, foodies. Tonight I'm here to help you in the critical Sunday evening hours when you plan out your food for the upcoming workweek. Let's skip the sandwich fodder and head straight to the good stuff known as dessert.

Lunchbox desserts have to be two things: portable and quick to eat. The portability is a no-brainer. You can't take a meringue pie because of all the jostling it will encounter on your way to the office -- or because of the jostling at the office, if you happen to have excessively nosy coworkers. The quick-to-eat factor is important because you need something that can be scarfed down if you dawdled too long during the main course, leaving you with only minutes to finish your meal before punching back on the clock.

So tonight we'll talk about candy bars, one of my favorite subjects. Frequent readers know I love to review candy. You'll also note that I have a soft spot for looking at new twists on classic chocolate concoctions. Hence tonight's review of the Kit Kat Caramel.

Let me tell you up front that you won't have to give anyone a break of your Kit Kat Caramel. I've always shied away from bringing Kit Kats to work because of the old TV commercials that showed construction workers sharing their candy. It might be selfish of me, but I don't want to give coworkers my dessert. It's nothing personal -- I'll gladly lend part of my sandwich if someone forgot his or her own. I just think a person should be able to enjoy the entirety of his or her dessert without someone singing an admittedly catchy jingle as a means of begging for sugar.

Those of you who think like me will be glad to find out that the Kit Kat Caramel is one not-easily-broken jumbo-sized Kit Kat piece much like the "Big Kat" bar that graces many gas stations. It's easy to unwrap and easy to eat, but it does lack some of the piece-by-piece interactiveness of the original.

The new bar is essentially a magnified Kit Kat with one caveat: A layer of caramel sits in a chocolate-walled chamber above the ever-present crispy wafer. Graphics on the bar's wrapper show this caramel to be present in epic quantities. In reality it's more like a novella.

That's no bad thing, though. The sweet caramel could easily overpower the classic wafer crunch and creamy chocolate of the Kit Kat if it were more prevalent. The current level of caramel is just about right, adding a refreshing new twist to an old favorite.

One thing that bears mentioning about the "Big Kat" size versus the traditional Kit Kat is that the large version seems to contain extra milk chocolate. It doesn't upset the all-important flavor scales, but it is noticeable. I rather like it, in fact.

In the end I'd say the Kit Kat Caramel is aptly named -- the "caramel" definitely takes a back seat to the "Kit Kat." It doesn't alchemize an entirely new candy, instead adding a new spin to an old favorite. Four out of five sporks. It works for me.

Hopefully it will work for you this week while you're at work.