All posts by Bob

Taco Bell Quad* Steak Burrito

Any Taco Bell employee will tell you that the most difficult part of getting hired on at Taco Bell is learning their bizarre, arbitrary system of weights and measures. A lot of people have a tough time learning that the amount of meat in a Steak Burrito Supreme is a “steak”, and that four steaks make a quad*, as seen here. And that doesn’t even come close to figuring out how much ground beef goes into a “fraud”, or how many jalapenos constitute a “volcano”. It’s like visiting a foreign country, except everyone speaks English and you can drink the water. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that working at Taco Bell is like going to Canada.

Does Canada even have burritos?

If you’re a faithful Junk Food Betty reader or aware of news in any way, you’re aware of some recent meat-based controversy surrounding Taco Bell. This was immediately followed by Taco Bell releasing their new, improved steak products, which are advertised as “thicker, tender steak” The timing of this makes me suspicious that this change in product might’ve been a bit rushed. “LOOK OVER THERE, AMERICA! NEW, IMPROVED STEAK! JUST STOP LOOKING HERE, AT THIS GROUND BEEF”. As the flagship item to showcase the new steak, they’ve launched the Quad* Steak Burrito and Quad* Steak Quesadilla. The Burrito is composed of the new steak, rice, salsa, sour cream (reduced fat for you fat fucks!), and cheddar cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. It’s not an inspiring configuration of ingredients, to be sure, and can even be accused of being boring. However, it does have a lot of steaks going for it.

You may have noticed that this review, and Taco Bell’s website, have gotten pretty excited about the use of asterisks. This is to inform you, the consumer, that the Quad* Steak products contain four times the amount of steak as that found in a Steak Burrito Supreme. Except that advertising containing asterisks always makes people think that there’s some shady fine print bullshit going on. “What’s with the asterisks?” I can hear you thinking. “How many oats and soys are contained in this ‘meat’?” But you can rest easy, my suspicious friend. Taco Bell’s steak contains no oats, and less than a “kikkoman” worth of soy. There is no legerdemain. Taco Bell just really, really wants you to know precisely how many steaks you’re violently cramming into your sauce-stained, gnashing mouth-hole. The answer, by the way, is a quad*.

Upon purchase of the Quad* Steak Burrito, I immediately seized it from the bag and gave it a precise, bouncing heft to determine its girth. Clocking in at a quad* of steaks, I expected the item, about the same size as a Grilled Stuft Burrito, to have the density of a dying star. While not neutronium-heavy, it has a decent mass, similar to a “sob” of onions or a “blush” of beans. Upon tasting, the steak is obviously the star of the show, as the burrito is stuffed to the gills with the stuff. And it’s changed, as advertised, into thicker, tender pieces (not they don’t use the phrase “more tender”, as that would imply it was tender before and I think that’s illegal to say). The steak is pretty tender, while still being toothsome, and the pieces do appear bigger. Personally, I felt the flavor suffered quite a bit, likely due to being taken from a different cut of meat. It has a less assertive beef flavor that, while it works alright in this product, may not be able to stand up to some of the stronger ingredients in other preparations. This is disappointing, given my long-standing relationship with the Steak Baja Gordita. I’m sorry, baby. It’s not you, it’s me. Wait, actually, no. It’s you. It’s aaallll you.

A thousand times you. I'm actually pretty great.

The quesadilla was also sampled by the Junk Food Betty Division of Product Analysis and Unreasonable Judgement. Long story short, it’s the burrito with less rice and more cheese., and I’m sure you’re blown the Hell away by that. Both are $5 for a quad* of steak, or $4 for a double* of steaks. Given the prices, for $5 I’ll ravage their dollar menu or, better yet, head out of Blandsville and over to Chiptole or a local Mexican joint.

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 disappointing vacations to Blandsville
  • Price: $4.99 for Quad* Steak, $3.99 for a double* steak
  • Size: 1 quad*
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #004989
  • Nutritional Quirks: 26 “bypasses” of fat

Genuine Midnight Oil Broomstick Fuel

Food blogging during the Halloween season can often bring you to strange, sometimes harrowing avenues of the American retail cosmology. Obscure, almost shady, niche companies crawl out of the woodwork every September and start hurling a dizzying array of novelty candies and tchotchkes in a shotgun pattern at hungry children who, really, will make you buy just about anything.

Bloomsberry & Co., however, really take this thing to a whole new level. Before encountering Genuine Midnight Oil Broomstick Fuel, I was entirely unaware of their existence. However – and I know this will surprise you, too – there apparently exists a company who’s sole purpose is to repackage two types of chocolate bar and resell them in an entirely unnecessary variety of nonsensical, sometimes bewildering assortment of labels. That’s it. Milk chocolate and dark chocolate. In literally dozens of presentations.

Upon first spying the bars at a local Target, the Junk Food Betty Product Acquisition Task Force originally believed the product to be in a dilapidated state – a sign of dubious quality and subsequent high hilarity. Closer examination, however, revealed the weather look of the product to be an intentional conceit of the design. Why, we asked ourselves. Who deliberately makes their product look like it could be found on the dusty back shelves of some degenerate bodega, moldering forlornly under the uncaring watch of a lazy, apathetic staff? Who would conceive of such a baffling, non sequitur product presentation?

And it occurred to me: hipsters. Hipsters pull this shit.

This is a candy company run by tragically bored goddamned graphic designers.

Enjoy with PBR and a smug sense of self-satisfaction.

This all being the case, I didn’t have high hopes. To compound the problem, the product claims to be dark chocolate with 55% cocoa. Now, I’m not a big chocolate guy. However, when I do reach for it, I’m one of those smug bastards who goes for the hardest, darkest stuff he can find. The kind who eats the 80% cocoa bars that give you Whiskey Face and then goes on a delighted tirade about the interplay of the sweet and the bitter until you’re ready to stomp him into the dirt. I am That Guy, and this hipster chocolate bar be frontin’ on the dark chocolate.

In all fairness, the product is of pretty decent quality. It’s got a smooth consistency, without being soft and mushy, and they don’t fool around with their ingredients. Their milk chocolate is probably pretty good. But if this bar is 55% cocoa liquor, I’ll eat my acrid, chocolate hat. In fact, looking at the ingredients list, sugar is listed before chocolate, making that an impossibility, as here in the US, ingredients are listed in order of amount contained. That’s definitely reflected in the flavor, which is too much sweet, too little bitter for dark chocolate.

I’d like to dispute the claim on the front of the package that Genuine Midnight Oil Broomstick Fuel that reads “suits all makes and models”. I know they’re trying to wring blood out of that incomprehensible witch… thing, I don’t even know. Look, this is a stupid gimmick and a stupid dark chocolate bar and I hate it and I hate you. Call me when your palate grows up, Bloomsberry & Co.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 unparseable gimmicks
  • Price: $1.99
  • Size: 3.5 oz. bar
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirks: Lies, damned lies, and ingredient lists.

Burger King Steakhouse XT Burger

The King has gone mad. The source of his torment is as-yet unknown, but with the aristocracy, there’s a usual way these things happen.

There’s a new commercial circulating the airwaves. In it, the Burger King – stoic, expressionless – charges wildly through an otherwise banal office setting, startling erstwhile staff. Deep in a violent fugue, he attacks former friends and co-workers, body-checking them into walls, desks, and expensive office equipment. After some struggle, he is forcibly restrained, and a defiant soul cries out, “He’s insane! He’s only charging $3.99 for the Steakhouse XT Burger!” Though the rest of the narrative is cut short to shill said burger, I’m pretty sure we all know where this is going. But where did it begin? Looking back, the signs are all there.

Bacon Cheeseburger to scale.
Bacon Cheeseburger to scale.

Recently, Burger King has announced that their restaurants are now featuring elaborate new equipment, state-of-the-art broiling systems that will, according to this press release, bring rain to replenish dying crops, cure the common cold, and save your marriage. The new broilers will allow not only sweeping new paradigms of Burger King products, but will supposedly enhance the flavor of existing burgers. And that brings us to the new Steakhouse XT Burger.

The Burger in question is the apparently the biggest single-patty burger yet from the Burger King franchise. It’s celebrated as 30% larger than McDonald’s third-pounder Angus Burgers, for those that celebrate these things. Indeed, at 7 whopping (ha!) ounces, it encourages new vistas of fast food gluttony.

Behold my burger, ye mighty, and despair!
Behold my burger, ye mighty, and despair!

On the face of it, the Steakhouse XT looks like a mighty tasty burger. The patty is significantly more substantial than something you’d typically see in a fast food offering. I don’t know if it was because it was release night for the product, but the toppings I received on the burger, normally a tragedy, were quite good. The lettuce was crisp, the tomato fresh and cool, and the onions… well, okay, the onions appeared have been sitting out awhile. No one’s perfect. And contrary to venerable fast-food worker practice, no one immersed my sandwich in a condiment bath. The Junk Food Betty Product Acquisition Team did, however, have to endure a significant amount of delay, cast out from the drive-thru line to the side parking lot, to receive our purchase. But was it worth the wait?

Since this product is a demonstration of Burger King’s new magical cooking apparatus, this sandwich is all about the beef. The ample girth of the patty ensures that every bite showcases the flavor of Burger King’s flame-broiled burgers. As an ardent fan of the Whopper, I was deeply appreciative of the focus of this sandwich, highlighting BK’s meat ascendancy over McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s. The toppings, as I mentioned, were high quality and complimented the burger well. The cornmeal-dusted bun rounded out the texture of each bite perfectly. Had I reviewed this sandwich without reading the previously-linked press release, I would’ve been completely satisfied.

Turns out, it's a sandwich.
Turns out, it's a sandwich.

Unfortunately, I read it beforehand. The Steakhouse XT Burger’s patty tastes identical to the BK patty you enjoy in any given BK product, it’s just larger. Sure, it’s more prevalent due to size, which is tasty, but where’s the glamour? It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong. It’s the flame-broiled Burger King flavor we all know and love, but I expected more from a broiling system as highly touted as this. The burger is also available with A1 sauce, and smokey BBQ sauce and cheddar, which may mask the status quo.

  • Score: 4 little boots out of 5
  • Price: $3.99
  • Size: 7 oz. burger with fixin’s.
  • Purchased at: Burger King #17145
  • Nutritional Quirks: May cause Huguenot Syndrome

KFC Sweet & Spicy Glazed Grilled Chicken

There’s just something delightful about exclusivity.

As hierarchical, social animals, we just can’t help being thrilled about getting something over on the other guy. It’s an issue of status, a way of waggling your tongue and informing another human being that you got something he didn’t. You can fight it, you can feel guilty, but in the end, exclusivity feels damned good. And that’s why I was filled with joy when retrieving the mail today, and beholding this:


I hadn’t previously seen any advertising on this product, either television or Internet. There were no tigers jumping through hoops or other assorted gimcrackery. And on the back of the flyer were coupons for KFC’s Fiery Grilled Wings, still touted as the new kid on the block, and a harsh warning that the product was available only for a limited time. To the mind obsessed with new junk food and fast food releases, an individual who tracks product launches with the cold eye of a cobra tracking its prey, this means only one thing: test market.

Indeed, research appeared to bear this out. I was hard-pressed to find any information about it at all. And yet, once the filthy and howling Junk Food Betty Product Acquisition Team rolled up to the local KFC, their new Sweet & Spicy Glazed Grilled Chicken was served up lickety-split in an eight-piece bucket combo, with nary a scratched head or furrowed brow. This leads to the obvious question, however:

What kind of batshit loco marketing executive decides to test a new product in Mesa, Arizona? This town is basically the Mormon Tabernacle with a shopping mall. Sure, they could be releasing in the full Phoenix Greater Metropolitan area, but even then, this isn’t the place for test chicken. You test new kinds of ammunition in the Valley of the Sun. You test belt buckle designs, and pickup trucks. You release new varieties of illicit, home-brewed methamphetamines to determine overall percentage of consumer deaths. Maybe you demonstrate new air conditioning technologies in August, when everyone’s eyes have acquired that Cujo-sick sheen that accompanies months of brain-searing heat. But you don’t test chicken. Not if you know what’s good for you.

Frothing tirade aside, we were overjoyed to have first dibs on a new product that may or may not be released nationwide. We seized KFC’s Sweet & Spicy Glazed Grilled Chicken, clutched it to our breast, hissed menacingly at the man working the window, and sped off into the night. We proudly, reverently sang the names of all the cities, towns, villages, and unincorporated townships (I’m looking at you, half of Michigan)  in the United States that were deprived of our prize. And then things went wrong.

While traveling to the Junk Food Betty Product Testing and Judgment Labs, the car began to fill with a unique aroma. Normally, when exiting KFC, this is an ineffable experience; the ambrosial smell of chicken and no less than 11 herbs and spices fill the passenger cabin, triggering hosts of primal, back-brain responses. The nostrils flare. The mouth waters. The pupil dilate. And you don’t even want to know what happens below the head. This time, I was filled only with trepidation.

Imagine, if you will, walking into a Panda Express. Keep that smell in your mind. Now imagine driving a brand new car. You close your eyes, inhaling deeply of the intoxicating odor of factory-fresh polymers. And, while your eyes are closed, you go careening onto the sidewalk and crash directly into the dining room of a Panda Express, scattering panicked diners and staff alike, flinging cheap furniture about like an enraged giant. That’s what this chicken smelled like: Panda Express and new car smell.

I, for one, suffered a drop in enthusiasm.

sweet and spicy bucket
Drive safely.

When I got it home, I had a moment of Holmes-like deduction: the chicken was in a plastic bag while it was in the car. And indeed, upon liberating the bucket from its polyurethane oubliette, the plastic smell was less pervasive. So a better visual might be walking into a Panda Express holding a new iPod under your nose like a crazy person. Then came the tasting.

I heartily enjoy KFC’s grilled chicken. If you’ve experienced KFC’s grilled chicken before, your attention will first be drawn to KFC Sweet & Spicy Glazed Grilled Chicken’s Sweet & Spicy Glaze:

kfc sweet and spicy glaze 2
Don't make any plans.

The glaze, in a word, is thick. Jam thick. Napalm thick. It sticks to absolutely everything, and this is especially true of your fingers. KFC Sweet & Spicy Glazed Grilled Chicken is something for which you need to plan. There will be no flipping of channels, no fast-forwarding through commercials on your DVR, no chit-chatting on the Internet with friends. You will not update your Faceyspaces. A lone wing of this chicken will turn your fingers into a sticky mess, a honey-glazed horrorshow from which there is no reprieve. Invest in napkins. Buy a four-pack of paper towels. Bar the door, board the windows, turn out the lights. You’re aboard the sticky chicken train, and you’re going to ride it all the way.

As for flavor, take Panda Express Orange Chicken. Toss in some cayenne and chile flake (used in the Fiery Grilled Wings). Drive it through a plate glass window. You have KFC Sweet & Spicy Glazed Grilled Chicken. Furthermore, the glaze seems to make the normally, deliciously crisp skin a bit soggy. It isn’t terrible, and on the bright side, it does have a little heat, which is more than I can say for other “spicy” fast food offerings, such as the Taco Bell Volcano line. And Panda Express Orange Chicken ain’t bad, especially when spiced up with chiles. Just don’t expect to be blown away. Or hit by a rogue car.

    • Score: 2.5 out of 5 head-on collisions
    • Price: $19.44
    • Size: Eight-piece combo with 2 sides and 4 biscuits
    • Purchased at: KFC #X900041 (from the future?)
    • Nutritional Quirks: May contain glue and/or car paint and/or the blood of the unlucky.

    Del Taco Shredded Beef Taco Del Carbon

    When I heard that Lou Dobbs was leaving CNN, it reminded me how puzzled I am about the whole immigration debate. And by “debate”, I mean lot of douchebags like Lou Dobbs yelling ridiculous things and making mountains out of assorted mole hills. Personally, I don’t see the problem. I love Mexico, and Mexican culture.

    I visit Mexico every chance I get. It has everything you could possibly want in a Third World country you can visit easily and then thank Christ you don’t live there. It has great music. It has a beautiful language. It has cheap liquor. It has cheap women. It has a very laid-back attitude about public drunkenness and attendant antics. It has an easily bribable (and subsequently cheerful) police force. And above all, it has incredible food, across the entire nation. I’ve never had a bad meal in Mexico.

    In my opinion, the best dish to be had in Mexico is the taco. Put what you want in it: carnitas, camaron, al pastor, or my favorite, cabeza, it’s a goddamned delight, and as rich in history as it is in flavor.

    Sadly, most Americans (I’m looking at you, too, Canada) have never had a taco. There is an abomination being passed as a taco around American food vendors like a tired whore lying boneless in a fried corn shell.

    Maybe that’s a little strong. I’ve been known to enjoy an American-style “taco”, and the owner of this site apparently freaking loves them if they’re dyed black in an inexplicable marketing ploy. But for nervous white guys like me, who furtively prowl the bad parts of town and stutter awkwardly accented Spanish to nonplussed strangers for our fix, it’s just not the real thing.

    That was until 2003, and the release of Del Taco’s Taco Del Carbon line of products. It’s about as authentic as you can get without dodging roving bands of angry young cholos or submitting to uncomfortable border searches. I only recently heard that Del Taco also re-released their shredded beef offerings. It’s the best thing to happen to Del Taco since they discontinued carnitas.

    Del Taco Shredded Beef Taco Del Carbon

    The Del Taco Shredded Beef Taco Del Carbon consists of slow-simmered shredded beef, minced onions, chopped cilantro, and a “California” chili sauce, on two warm corn tortillas. I’m not sure what the Hell a “California chili sauce” is supposed to be, but the important thing is what the Taco Del Carbon does not include: namely, carbon, which means “coal” in Spanish. There is a distinct lack of coal, for which I think we can all be grateful. Maybe they’re referring to the sixth element, which I assume is present in the dish in spades.

    I’m the kind of guy who measures his self-worth in his ability to find things to complain about. You know the type: pretentious know-it-alls who drone on and on about how American tacos aren’t authentic. That said, I can’t find a single thing to complain about with this taco.

    The first thing you’ll notice when biting into this delicious taco is that it’s juicy as all get-out, from the first bite to the last. You have to kind of suck on it as you bite in order not to get meat juice all over yourself.

    …go ahead, get it out of your system. Juicy meat and chin drippings. I’ll wait.

    The flavors are all there. The onion and cilantro are bold without being overwhelming, letting the beef play its intended central role. The sauce is understated, and comes through as a very subtle enhancement, with the barest hint of heat that’s unnoticeable until the finish. I guess the corn flavor in the tortilla could be a little stronger, but what’s present rounds out the bite nicely. In short, the Del Taco Shredded Beef Taco Del Carbon is probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten from a fast food establishment, short of the carnitas Tacos Del Carbon that were discontinued. If you’ve got a Del Taco within driving distance, you’re doing yourself a tremendous disservice in passing up this opportunity before Del Taco starts up their own take on the McRib cycle.

    And if you’re ever in Mexico, Lou Dobbs, I’m the white guy lying on the floor of a filthy Mexican cantina, with cheap women pouring cheap tequila down my throat. Come say hi, we’ll talk.

    • Score: 5 out of 5 easily bribed federales
    • Price: $1.49
    • Size: About 3.5 ounces
    • Purchased at: Del Taco #884
    • Nutritional Quirks: The lack of coal is a relief.

    Tropicana Strawberry Melon Juice Drink

    Homo sapiens is a compulsively social species. We organize into fiercely loyal tribes, lifelong monogamous mating pairs, and deep-rooted, close friendships that can last a lifetime. One of the most important traits one can possess in order to maximize the benefit of these relationships is the willingness to compromise, to sacrifice for the sake of the friendship.

    If my friends are any indication, this trait will be bred out within a handful of generations.

    Maybe I’m a sucker, or a doormat. Maybe I’m a closet masochist afraid to put on the nipple clamps attached to the car battery. Regardless of the underlying reason, when a friend of mine plopped down a 20 oz. bottle of Tropicana Strawberry Melon Juice Drink and demand I review it, I agreed. After all, it was free, and free products to review don’t just fall out of the sky. (Shocking Behind-the-Scenes Junk Food Betty reveal: We paid real American currency for Kroger’s Jelly Belly Puddings!)

    I should’ve immediately realized that this guy was my friend, which automatically means he’s a treacherous fiend with a consuming drive to do me harm. I suspect that if I hadn’t agreed to review this beverage, he would’ve simply dropped the bottle and hosed me down with the canister of pepper spray he (I have no doubt) was concealing in his other hand.


    The Tropicana marketing and graphics departments immediately attempt to reassure you that the Tropicana Stawberry Melon Juice Drink contains both strawberry and melon. This is submitted to the consumer in three ways: the name of the product, the superfluous reiteration of “strawberry melon flavored juice beverage” directly beneath said name, and the imagine of a stylized strawberry on top of a stylized wedge of… something greenish.

    This brings up my first concern upon inspecting the packaging more closely. What kind of melon are we talking about, here? The melon had its agricultural start in ancient Persia, leaving millennia for the vagaries of individual cultivation. There are scores of melon varieties, with wildly different flavors, and a trip to the ingredients section summoned alternating attacks of trepidation and regret.

    First, there is no strawberry, and no melon. There are only “natural flavors”, the food industry’s equivalent of “eyes only”. The only recognizable item on the list I would consider “food” is… pear juice concentrate? My “strawberry melon flavored juice beverage” is, in fact, composed of water, corn syrup, 5% pear juice, and the contents of an Axis Chemicals warehouse.

    Dining Experience:

    A long inhalation of Tropicana “Strawberry Melon” Juice Drink recalls the piercing, acrid odor of industrial cleaning solutions, mixed with precisely 5% pear juice concentrate. I’m not a pear person – nor am I particularly fond of the flavor of 409 – and my gaze drifted wistfully to the bottle of nerve tonic beckoning seductively from the kitchen counter. I’m not ashamed to admit that this review went on hold for awhile, long enough to build up a bulwark against the pain. However, I had concerns that the beverage would eventually dissolve the plastic bottle, and my refrigerator, and my kitchen floor, if left too long, and I was forced once more into the breach.

    Pear. It’s pear Kool-Aid, if that Kool-Aid had been spiked with diluted acetone into which strawberry Nerds had been dissolved. My palate searched frantically for a hint of melon, hoping to ease the grimace which had twisted my face into an agonizing rictus, but there is none. Perhaps the melon they’re trying to sell me is hypothetical, like string theory or Tropicana’s culinary integrity. Perhaps Tropicana is staffed by nothing but rogues and liars.

    In short, the drink is vile, and this is compounded by the addition of xanthan gum and gum arabic, which only serve to thicken the already sticky properties of high fructose corn syrup, especially at room temperature. This leads me to the belief that Tropicana “Strawberry Melon” Juice Drink is not actually produced for human consumption. In fact, I’m not sure what possessed the responsible parties to green-light mass production after experiencing the drink.

    There is one thing I know. Given the chemical composition of the product, its thick and sugary nature, makes it perfect for the manufacture of homemade napalm, with an appropriate accelerant. Having said this, my friend will be well advised to start wearing flame-retardant clothes.

    • Score: 1 out of 5 hamburgers made out of totally inappropriate pears.
    • Price: Received free, but I’ve paid the ultimate price.
    • Size: 20 ounces
    • Purchased at: A charred ruin that used to be my friend.
    • Nutritional Quirks: Pear.

    José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas

    The simplest explanation of the second law of thermodynamics describes the fact that heat, of its own volition, always flows into cold. This tendency has been observed and expanded over the years by science, leading to a much more profound truth: nature tends toward higher levels of uniformity, or entropy. Simply put, the Universe is constantly striving for mediocrity.

    This brings me to José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas.


    Packaging: Right out of the gate, José Olé starts writing checks his empanadas can’t cash, and it all begins with the ingredient list. There are a total of 87 ingredients in the list, which sprawls across one side of the box like a mural of the periodic table of elements, and I’m beginning to doubt the bold claim of “Authentic Flavor” emblazoned on the front. This feeling of grave concern was immediately compounded by the appearance of American Process Cheese Product nestled among the assorted dubious quackery and unrequested (but ultimately insightful) diarrhea treatments.

    The reflex reaction of any sane man would be to immediately set fire to the entire grocer’s freezer containing José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas, as an act of simultaneous protest and purification. However, there were two mitigating factors that resulted in another evening spent comfortably at home, rather than enjoying the austere hospitality of the Maricopa County criminal justice system. First, the proprietors of Junk Food Betty are not what you’d call “together”, in the psychological sense. Second, there is an inviting visage smiling warmly from the box.

    The Face of Flavor
    The Face of Flavor

    I can only assume that this handsome, distinguished gentleman is the eponymous Señor Olé, beaming powerful waves of avuncular sincerity directly to my father-figure cortex. Here, I thought to myself, is a man who is to be trusted and respected. Here is a man who will deliver Authentic Flavor at a reasonable price, because he is a man of strong moral integrity. From under the soaring brim of his majestic hat, he commands one to “Taste the Fiesta!” Very well, José Olé, you pillar of convenient ethnic cuisine, I will taste your fiesta.

    Preparation: There are three proffered preparation procedures present on the package. I chose the mean method in terms of labor – baking – though the paths of microwaving and pan-frying are also available to the discriminating consumer (who, incidentally, will not be purchasing José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas). After twenty minutes in a preheated 375 °F oven, I was ready to open my mouth and my heart to receive La Fiesta. I was feeling optimistic because, unlike other pre-fried products that bake, I did not have to flip the empanadas halfway through cooking. This is because José Olé knows what a hassle it is to heave my decaying corpus off the couch twice in twenty minutes.

    Dining Experience: I can only assume it’s due to the highly ferrous nature of the product, but José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas manage to maintain a steady 10,000 °F internal temperature for like twenty goddamned minutes. It’s as if the act of heating them ignited a self-sustaining fusion reaction deep within their chickeny cores.

    Once the product had cooled, and been sifted out of the smoking rubble of my once-palatial residence, I noted with appreciation that the empanadas looked, on the outside, strikingly identical to those depicted in the packaging. With trembling hands and a grumbling stomach, I bisected the golden brown pastry and peered into the transcendent face of Authentic Flavor:


    You wound me, José Olé.

    Elevated to astronomical heights of ecstatic anticipation, the first bite flooded my mouth with a blandness almost intimidating in its aggression. The experience was something like eating a tight bundle of Kraft Singles deep-fried in a wonton wrapper. The aftertaste of the product creates a wave of salty regret. I continued to eat, desperately chasing the fleeting dream of La Fiesta.

    To be honest, there are moments when the empanada isn’t offensive. Here and there, you’ll experience a bite where the chicken and chilis do come through. Unfortunately, this is interspersed with intervals of American Process Cheese Product Purgatory, and long, harrowing moments of introspection. The final result is a confusing, bitter dining experience, which wasn’t made any better by the laughing mug of José Olé staring me down with a mirth I now understand to be the savage joy of the betrayer.

    On the bright side, I was reasonably full after the whole ordeal was over. The empanadas are filling enough that you won’t be hungry for the hours-long bout of ennui that follows eating them. Furthermore, none of the 87 ingredients were immediately lethal. Overall, however, oral consumption of José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas is tantamount to yelling “fuck you, mouth!” and then punching yourself in the teeth with a salt lick.

    • Score: Dos sándwiches de carne de vacuno infeliz.
    • Price: $6.39, $5.59 on sale
    • Size: 1 lb.
    • Purchased at: Albertson’s #980
    • Nutritional Quirks: 87 ingredients, some of which are magnetic