January 31, 2016

It's just a little late for Candy Cane Peeps

Listen, peeps, I know what you're about to say regarding Candy Cane Peeps.

It's almost February, a time of valentine candy and hearty Super Bowl foods. We want Russell Stover and Buffalo wing dip, Hershey's Kisses and potato chips. We do not want your leftover Christmas candy.

To which I say I'm still eating through my Christmas Candy. And these Peeps are interestig enough that they're worth a few belated words.

Plus, with Valentine's Day Peeps hitting store shelves (I've seen pink Peeps on a stick this year), it's important to remember that all marshmallow chicks share a certain ... heritage. The same sugary goo fills their chicken-like shapes. The same beady little Peep eyes peer out at us accusingly from the cellophane before we rip in and gobble them up. So any review of Christmas Peeps is going to matter if you're considering a valentine version for your significant other on Feb. 14.

So here's the retrospective rundown: Candy Cane Peeps were not Peeps with a crunchy candy cane shell. They were Peeps with a little bit of peppermint sprinkled into their granulated sugar coating.

They also came in packaging stamped with Minions, those adorable little yellow puffs from the Despicable Me series! While I've never sat through an entire Despicable Me movie, I can tell you that Minions have provided me with endless seconds of entertainment in their various appearances on television commercials. Minions and Peeps seem the perfect combination!

Not that the Minions have any impact on the Candy Cane Peep flavor. Basically, you bite in, get a burst of mint, then finish with the standard spongy sweetness you've come to know and love over the years. Oh, Peeps! You're the only childhood food that can be confused with spray foam insulation!

Now I hear you asking: What does all this rambling mean for you today? What do Minions and Candy Cane Peeps have to do with life in the new year?

Basically, stay away from Peeps for your sweet on Valentine's Day unless they have an insane attachment to childhood (like I do). Without the nostalgia factor, these things would be brutal, no mater what flavors mint or otherwise you use to dress them up.

Minions, on the other hand, are a great accompaniment for any occasion. If you can find a Minion Valentine, go for it.

As for a spork rating, Candy Cane Peeps get three out of five. They were intriguing, but  even I have to admit they lack staying power.

January 1, 2016

Wendy's Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger isn't about the Gouda

Why is this Gouda?
It's not clear what's garlic aioli and what's Swiss Gruyere cheese sauce.

In a sentence, that's the essence of Wendy's Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger. There are several problems turning this essence into a brutal truth: two different sauces are indistinguishable, there's no mention of the title's Gouda cheese, Wendy's feels the need to redundantly label Gruyere as cheese.

Fortunately for Wendy's there's a caveat turning all of those complaints into nits: The burger still manages to be pretty good.

It's not good in the way Wendy's intended it to be, however. This burger isn't the high-class foreign-cheese fast-casual snootfest the chain would have you believe. It's not a competitor in the same league as burgers from Five Guys or Shake Shack. Instead, it's a sloppy caloric explosion proving the sum can be worth much more than the total of the parts.

Even if we leave the nearly identical aioli and Gruyere sauces out of it, this burger's Gouda turns out to be purely titular. It's laced with a hint of Gouda-ness, and there's no doubt Wendy's is paying much more for the ingredient. Yet its flavor gets buried under the burger's overpowering salt, and it quickly falls into a glistening, congealed slice all-to-reminiscent of fast food cheeses past. 

Moving up, Wendy's bacon is Wendy's bacon. So there's not much to say there other than that it's bacon and it's pretty darned good. We've also got some onions, a disappointingly bland tomato and a fresh spring mix. It's unclear why the fresh spring mix is there — no one seemed to be clamoring for more salad on a burger — but it's largely unoffensive.

Now we come to the bun, a "Brioche Bun" according to Wendy's assertions. Unfortunately for the red-headed restaurant, this bun does nothing for the burger but add blandness. It's too big, too hard and too stale. It remains a complete mystery as to why every fast food chain this side of the Atlantic has engaged in a self-defeating bun war. While classic burger buns were generally tasteless, at least they proved to be unobtrusive as they dissolved quickly in beef fat. Across the board, these new buns force you to sit there and gnaw through cardboard to get to the good stuff inside.

Despite the flaws, I would go back for another Gouda burger. It's not clear why, but this thing is a sloppy mess that turns out to be pretty rewarding. Four sporks out of five.