July 24, 2011

A cool reception for Dunkin' Donuts Frozen Hot Chocolate

Yesterday I struggled to prepare notes and sort my ideas for a review of two varieties of flavored Cheerios. Techniques that have served me since grade school failed to put my thoughts in order. Outlines, idea webs and note cards all failed me.

Suddenly insight burst forth into my head like a cold water balloon: We're in the middle of a massive heat wave sending the mercury arching into triple-digit territory. No one wants to eat breakfast or even talk about it. Foodies just want something cold to take on the sizzling temperatures outside.

I'm no different from any other foodie, so a quick change of gears saw me at Dunkin' Donuts ordering a Frozen Hot Chocolate. A few sips and I needed no idea web to tell me I had one incongruous beverage in my hands.

You could fry an egg on top of a car Saturday, but the Frozen Hot Chocolate kept things from boiling over.
The Frozen Hot Chocolate is little more than an icy example of contradictions. The one in the name is nothing more than a gimmick -- there's obviously nothing hot about this drink, and it would be better named a slushy, or, in Dunkin' Donuts speak, a Chocolate Coolatta.

Moving beyond the label, the flavor unleashes its own set of discrepancies. At first sip, the Frozen Hot Chocolate comes off as intensely sweet and packed with chocolate. It's impossible to keep from immediately sucking up every liquid drop within reach of the straw. Once all the fluid has found its way into your mouth, however, you're left with half a cup of bland ice.

Give it time, and that ice melts into a tepid brown fluid with just a hint of cocoa. The resulting beverage contains just enough vapid flavor to leave you longing for a shot of Hershey's syrup.

At a fundamental level this isn't a problem unique to the Frozen Hot Chocolate. The end of slushies are classically painful experiences, unless you happen to love pastel chunks of ice drained of all their initial syrupy flavor. I harbor absolutely no love for that ice, and I actually find the Frozen Hot Chocolate to be a step below its fruit-slushy brethren at this stage of the sipping game.

While the end of fruit slushies leaves me longing for the strong sugar of a fresh slushy, the end of the Frozen Hot Chocolate had me wishing I'd ordered a milk shake instead. The recently melted chocolate-milk doppelganger in the bottom of my cup left my palate crying out for richness, a richness I quickly realized never actually existed in the Frozen Hot Chocolate. Sure, it was sweet. Yet all that sugar only covered up a lack of depth.

We have an outline for trouble any time the end of a drink makes you wish you'd ordered something else. Things start out all right before dissolving into a lackluster effort worthy of just two sporks out of five.

If you want to order and actually enjoy the Frozen Hot Chocolate, I'd recommend drinking half of it and chucking the rest. The first part of the drink is a completely different story from the second, and maybe you can keep your tongue from ever realizing the depth of flavor it's missing -- you're better off without that flash of insight.

July 9, 2011

Biting into Subway's latest $5 Footlongs

July certainly rolled around quickly this year. It seems like just yesterday Easter Candy graced the store shelves, and already we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the steamiest of summer months: July, when heat and humidity meet to form sweat rings that last a lifetime.

Don't listen to those fools who say it's time for barbecues and pool parties. It's far too hot for that. No, this is the perfect month to pick up some cheap eats and soak in a restaurant's complimentary air conditioning. Avoiding hot weather is one of the few ways fast food can be beneficial to your health, after all.

Today I'm here to speak of the fast food that loves to brand itself as healthy: Subway. A batch of one-month $5 Footlongs has come and gone without any review on this blog, which is simply unacceptable. Fear not, loyal readers! I've been dutifully sampling these subs as they achieve their temporary discount status, and I'm about to give you a summary of each one. Just beware that you'll likely have to pay more than $5 for a Footlong if you chance to find a previous month's sub still lurking on the menu.

May: Orchard Chicken Salad

I'm not the biggest fan of fruit in my chicken salad, but this mixture of chicken, apples, cranberries, raisins, celery and mayo turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The apples and cranberries were the true stars here, imparting a sweet, juicy tone that managed to avoid completely burying the savory flavors of the chicken and mayo.

My biggest complaint with the salad still stems from all the fruit, though. I didn't feel like I'd eaten a sandwich after finishing my meal. It was too light and fresh for a sub measuring 12 inches. A few more chunks of chicken would have gone a long way toward providing the sustenance my stomach craved.

June: Chipotle Chicken and Cheese

The Chipotle Chicken and Cheese turned out to be a little more up my alley. For those of you who couldn't guess, this sub consisted of chicken, cheese and Subway's Chipotle Southwest Sauce and is toasted. I'd recommend ordering it on flatbread, which is what I did.

I'd also recommend adding extra Chipotle Southwest Sauce and jalapeno peppers. The standard dose of sauce isn't enough to live up to the sub's name, and even extra sauce doesn't quite pack the wallop it should. The peppers will rectify that situation, however, and you'll have a creamy, spicy, cheesy mess that's ideal when paired with a thick ream of napkins.

July: Italian BMT

You'll recognize the Italian BMT from the non $5 Footlong menu. It's basically a premium Spicy Italian -- in addition to the Spicy Italian's Salami and Pepperoni, this month's featured sub contains ham. In other words, in the month of July you can add ham to a Spicy Italian for no extra charge.

You might as well do so, although I find that the ham covers up my favorite pepperoni flavor a bit. That's really the only nit worth picking, and it's more a matter of personal preference than a fatal flaw. Just keep in mind that this sub contains a ton of processed meat. You may need to go into detox for a few days after eating it.