June 22, 2013

Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder

It's all about the bun. And the habanero.
It pains me to tell you this, but McDonald's just finished a "buy one give one" promotion for some uber-fancy Quarter Pounders.

The pain, of course, is that I didn't tell you while the promotion was still going on. My apologies. It was for three days only, and I barely had the chance to slip in and take advantage of the deal myself. If there's a silver lining in all of this, it's that I have the chance to write about the new burgers.

This "buy one give one" idea is an interesting one. I'm not sure how to look at it. Was it an attempt to introduce more people to the new McDonald's food? An effort to combat overeating while still giving away free food?

If so, it wasn't effective. Because the recipient of my Quarter Pounder to give was ... me.

Technically, I purchased a Bacon and Cheese Quarter Pounder and gave myself a Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder. We're going to spill our pixels on the latter today. The Bacon and Cheese version was fine -- red onion slices, American cheese, the now-ubiquitous applewood bacon. It was just nothing to blog home about. I've had burgers that taste exactly the same from half a dozen fast food joints.

That Bacon Habanero Ranch, though. That burger's something new. Something I don't remember seeing before. Habanero on a burger!

The searing and sweet taste of habanero seems to have been generally considered too bold for the popular American palette. While jalapenos have found their way into seemingly every restaurant on earth, their more intense orange brethren have been largely eschewed. It's been a shame, a shame I'm happy to see end.

I am, however, a little surprised to see McDonald's ending it. The house that Ronald built has never stood out to me as a risk-taker in the food wars. I guess they introduced apples in Happy Meals a few years back, but I don't think tossing in the most popular fruit in the country can be considered daring.

Habanero on a burger is a whole new story. Unsurprisingly, Mickey D's hedged its bets, watering down the intense spiciness of habaneros with a cooler ranch flavor. It's a tasty sauce, and I'm willing to forgive the timidity in light of the big step that is putting this pepper into fast food.

Outside of the habanero sauce, there's really only one thing worth talking about. Not the bacon. Not the white cheddar cheese. The bun.

At some point, McDonald's invested a great deal into upgrading the Quarter Pounder bun.

Remember when it had the approximate consistency of cotton candy? When it looked like it would dissolve when it got wet? Those days are over. The bun is larger, heartier and more satisfying. I haven't had the chance to check if classic Quarter Pounders wear their tried-and-true buns, but this one is magnificent in comparison.

This is a burger worth four sporks out of five. I'd buy it even if it wasn't free.

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