Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger[Editor's Note: Please enjoy this special review by guest writer Robert - Not Bob. The Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger is currently only available at test market locations in Texas, and he just so happens to live in one of those areas, so he graciously provided JFB with a sneak peek!]

What’s the most Texas thing you can think of? Ok, besides a dead armadillo propped up clutching a Lone Star Beer…. It’s barbeque brisket, right? Maybe…. It’s not even our official state dish, an honor reserved for chili, but BBQ is pretty high up on the Texas scale of things.

Fast food places certainly seem to think so. Every couple of years one will trot out a limited edition “Texas” burger, which invariably has BBQ sauce on it, perhaps some jalapeños, maybe they’ll throw an onion ring into it. I will admit that the Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger is the first time I’ve seen a fast food place actually put BBQ brisket and a hamburger patty in the same bun.

Don’t look for information on this particular burger online – there’s almost none to be had. It appears to be either a Texas exclusive or a test-market offering, and apparently in some areas, they’re printing an edible local college sports team logo on the bun, which just seems stupid. Anyway, since the JFB staff is a long, long way from Texas, I bravely volunteered to try it out for them.

Now an admission. I’ve never eaten AT a Sonic. Oh, I’ve had food from Sonic before, but I’ve always eschewed the whole carhop thing and gone through the drive-through. Generally speaking, if I’m eating in my car, I’m in a big, big hurry, so that means grab something and go. If I’m going to be somewhere long enough to sit and eat, then I’m damn sure going to go in and use up some of their air-conditioning while I do it.

Also, for a place that wants to force you to use your car as a restaurant booth, Sonic sure has historically sold a lot of potential lap-stainers. From the Frito-pie wrap to the Tex Mex Footlong Quarter Pound Coney, their menu always seems to be laden with stuff you would not want to eat in your car. Or perhaps, not want to eat unless you were wearing one of those ponchos they give you when you see the Blue Man Group.

I’ve often wondered if Sonic isn’t partnered somehow with some company that specializes in cleaning stains out of upholstery and clothes. Considering that my target burger was topped with chopped BBQ brisket, I was expecting a bit of a mess, but I thought I’d give the whole Sonic experience a shot this time, and pulled into the drive-in stall.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Texas Drive-In View

Editor’s Note: Visit Beautiful Texas!

The first thing I noticed when I was ordering my Brisket Cheeseburger was a sign that said “Try it with jalapeños!” So that is how I ordered it. I know you’re not supposed to modify a review burger, but hey, the suggestion was right there on the menu, so that should be allowed.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Menu

Instead of a cute carhop girl on roller skates, I was served by the squeaky-voiced, pimply teenager from the Simpsons. I still have no idea if you’re supposed to tip them or not, and he started running back to the building so fast I had to holler after him to come back and handed him a dollar. He gave me a look like I was crazy but accepted it and ran off as I made ready to turn my truck’s dashboard into a dining room table.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Dashboard

At first glance it didn’t look anywhere near as messy as I’d expected. Also, thankfully, instead of a stupid college team imprinted bun, it sported a handsome onion roll.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger

Under the hood it had a nice-sized pile of chopped BBQ brisket sitting on top of a sticky-looking slice of American cheese. Surprisingly, the brisket was not soaked in BBQ sauce.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Brisket

Flipped over, you see the grievously overdone hamburger patty, the obligatory tiny diced onions, some pickles and pickled jalapeño slices, and under them, a healthy dollop of BBQ sauce.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Open

Cross-sectioned, you can see that the patty to chopped brisket ratio is about the same.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Inside

And how did it taste? Well, the quality of the chopped BBQ brisket was actually not too bad. Not as good as you’d get at a real Texas BBQ joint, of course, but much better than I expected. It had the consistency and texture of actual chopped BBQ brisket and a decent smoky flavor.

The decision to separate the sauce from chopped brisket was a solid one, because you tasted more of the brisket that way, and it helped make the hamburger patty taste more like an extension of the BBQ and hide the fact that it was seriously overcooked. In fact, the hamburger patty really did little other than protect the chopped brisket from the sauce.

Adding jalapeños was also the right choice, since they helped mask the flavor of the pickles. Sliced red onions would have been a better addition than the diced white ones, which seemed to have zero flavor. The gooey American cheese dragged the overall quality down. They should have gone with cheddar instead. People ordering this with the stupid college team logo are also missing out, because the onion roll was one of the burger’s better features.

Would I order it again? Not likely. I live in Texas, so I know where to get a real BBQ sammich.

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger Bailey's Bar-B-Que

Sonic Texas Brisket Cheeseburger

  • Score: 3 out of 5 dead, beer-swilling armadillos
  • Price: $4.49, plus an additional dollar used to surprise a teenager
  • Size: 1 sandwich
  • Purchased at: Sonic, Burleson #3, Texas
  • Nutritional Quirks: Hamburger patty-shaped BBQ sauce force field

T.G.I. Friday’s Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce

T.G.I. Friday's Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce BoxIt’s so easy to hate T.G.I. Friday’s. It’s a big chain restaurant that caters to both families and people who don’t know how to drink properly, the latter category of which I belonged to in my early twenties.

Sure, I have fond memories of my friends and I hitting Friday’s after work, ordering brightly-colored drinks with names like Pink Punk Cosmo or Patrón Cosmo ‘Rita Shaker. These days, if anything on your drink menu uses the term “’Rita’”, I’m probably out. In those days, I still drank Boone’s Farm. So that should tell you something.

I’d like to say I shouldn’t pass judgment, but I do anyways. These days, I can’t think of Friday’s without thinking of Office Space and Jennifer Aniston’s Flair.

The thought of dining at a TGI Friday’s (they can’t seem to decide whether or not they want the periods in their TGI acronym or not) fills me with a revulsion that can only be called snobbery. Oh, sure, I’ll eat peanut butter with a spoon, standing in my kitchen with no pants on. But eat at a Friday’s? Please. I’d so rather give my money to one of the dozens of mom ‘n’ pop places around here that lack both air conditioning and a strong grasp of English.

That said, I’ve bought T.G.I. Friday’s frozen foods on a number of occasions. There have been a proliferation of chain restaurants with frozen food selections these days, from P.F. Chang’s to Boston Market to Claim Jumper.

T.G.I. Friday’s takes up some serious shelf space, from appetizers to meals-in-a-bag to sliders and quesadillas. I am admittedly rather fond of their frozen Spinach, Cheese & Artichoke Dip. I feel less dirty buying their frozen products because I don’t have to look at anyone’s Flair while I heat it up in the microwave.

I have to say, I became a little resentful when I got home and read the preparation instructions for T.G.I. Friday’s Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce. There’s no microwave option – only conventional oven and deep fryers – but I’ve dealt with that before.

T.G.I. Friday's Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce Frozen

My real issue was that it only gave instructions for making the entire box (which is listed at 3 servings, or 22-24 pickles). It also said, and I quote, “discard unused portion of horseradish sauce”.

Basically, TGI Friday’s is telling you that you should not be eating these pickles alone. Honestly, you should never be eating at TGI Friday’s alone, because that’s just weird. But this is a freezer item. I feel like I should not have to eat 22-24 pickles all at once, and then just throw away the sauce. I call no fair.

Already annoyed that I had to make the whole box at once, I was ready to resent the 12-minute bake time at 450, mostly because I had to flip 22 pickles at the halfway mark. The instructions for the horseradish sauce were to thaw it in hot water for 6-8 minutes.

T.G.I. Friday's Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce

I didn’t expect such a short amount of time soaking to thaw it out, but it actually worked well, producing a sauce with the right viscosity and just warm enough to compliment the straight-from-the-oven pickles.

T.G.I. Friday's Dill Pickle Chips

The fried pickles themselves were well-battered and came out of the oven browned and impressively crunchy.

T.G.I. Friday's Dill Pickle Chips Inside

Far from bland, the coating had nice hints of garlic and onion, and complimented the briny tang of the juicy pickles, with neither overshadowing the other. Between the coating and the pickles, this was a seriously salty snack, of which I have no qualms.

T.G.I. Friday's Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce Horseradish Sauce

As I mentioned, the Zesty Horseradish Sauce thawed out nicely and had a good consistency to go with the crispy Dill Pickle Chips. TGI Friday’s was not fucking around with this sauce – the first pickle I dipped and ate, the horseradish cleared my sinuses with a quickness. I could even see little horseradish bits in the sauce.

I love horseradish, and this was serious horseradish. So much so that it overwhelmed the pickle chips entirely. I went back and forth between dipping and eating the chips straight, because I enjoyed both flavors, but couldn’t seem to get them to fit together. I was either crunching on some well-seasoned pickle chips, or wiping my runny nose from the potency of the sauce.

It took me some time to realize that maybe I should try dipping the Dill Pickle Chips into the Zesty Horseradish Sauce like a normal human being; and by that I mean, giving the chip a nice little dunk instead of scooping up sauce like the cup was going to run out of the room unless I showed it I was the boss.

After I tried this method, the flavors did get a little more balanced, but even then, the horseradish was really trying to steal the show.

In the end, I ate all 22 of T.G.I. Friday’s Dill Pickle Chips and did not have to suffer much anxiety throwing away the tiny amount of leftover Zesty Horseradish Sauce. 22 fried pickle chips is what I would call a somewhat hefty meal for myself, or a decent appetizer for two.

Having tasted the amount of horseradish in the Zesty Horseradish Sauce, I can now see why they’d tell you to discard the unused portion – I know from experience that horseradish will go bitter on you fast. But why not just have two, or even three separate packages, in that case?

I thoroughly enjoyed T.G.I. Friday’s Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce. (What’s with the “a”? It’s odd and clunky.) The pickle flavor was not lost and the coating was crispy and complimented the briny, juicy pickles. The horseradish sauce was authentic and sinus-clearing, which, beyond the fact that I was forced to eat the whole box at once, was my biggest complaint. I mean, I love horseradish, but at the level that Friday’s delivered it, I could definitely see it as not appealing to everyone.

But if you’re really going to be a pussy about it, just eat the chips and DISCARD the sauce, and you’ll still have a tasty treat. For a frozen appetizer, T.G.I. Friday’s Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce is truly solid, and I’ll be looking for it on shelves in the future. Even if it will only be for a party of one.

T.G.I. Friday’s Dill Pickle Chips with a Zesty Horseradish Sauce

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 pieces of Flair
  • Price: $2.98
  • Size: 11 oz.
  • Purchased at: Walmart #3799
  • Nutritional Quirks: One box will provide you with an impressive 2,100 milligrams of sodium!

Ben & Jerry’s Cotton Candy Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Cotton Candy Ice Cream CartonCotton candy brings up mixed emotions for me. I realize that is probably the stupidest sounding sentence ever, but it’s true.

On the one hand, I think cotton candy is genius. Here’s a crazy paper cone with a bunch of what amounts to a spider web spun out of pure sugar on it!

On the other hand, spider webs are gross and sticky when they get on you, and so is cotton candy. One of my biggest pet peeves is having sticky hands.

Cotton candy is often associated with the fair. I hate the fair. Oh sure, it’s supposed to be fun, but to me, it’s just a giant mash of sweaty bodies, hay, and sad livestock. Fuck the fair.

I once volunteered at a booth at my local street fair, which is a different beast, in that it had no beasts. Or hay. I was in charge of making cotton candy cones, which was awesome for the first ten minutes, and then my arms started to hurt and the screaming children and people drunk on German beer made me remember why I don’t volunteer for things.

But on the third hand, I’m pretty fuckin’ good at spinning cotton candy, which is something I should really add to my résumé. Minus the “fuckin’” part. Because that would be unprofessional.

Check out that carton, though. B&J really knows how to make their flavors look fun. Their signature cow is holding some cotton candy, which is pretty amazing given that it’s a cow. Despite a lack of facial expression, she looks like she’s having a great time. Even though I hate the fair, I want to hang out with her. We could ride that Ferris wheel. Maybe I could win her a goldfish in a plastic bag. I’m not sure what she’d do with it, but I know she’d be delighted.

As if cotton candy wasn’t a fun enough flavor, Ben & Jerry upped the ante with candy sprinkles! Check that, it’s not just Cotton Candy Ice Cream with Candy Sprinkles, it’s Cotton Candy Ice Cream loaded with Candy Sprinkles!

Who doesn’t like candy sprinkles? They make pretty much everything better. Donuts. Cupcakes. I’m well into adulthood and I still have to resist buying Funfetti frosting, just because I remember those little multicolored chips being so awesome.

Tiny Tangent Time: I went to look up Funfetti frosting, and it was not what I remembered. The current incarnation of Pillsbury’s Funfetti frosting just has a container of sprinkles on top. The Funfetti I remember had little mini-chips of candy in it, yet I couldn’t find Funfetti like that anywhere on the Internet. Not even an old picture.

What I did find, however, were cans of Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip frosting, which just made me confused. The can was boring, and I distinctly remember the exciting look of Pillsbury’s Funfetti can as the can that contained the frosting I so loved.

I even went so far as to email my mom about this dilemma, since she was the one who made me oh-so-many graham cracker sandwiches containing what I thought was rainbow chip Funfetti frosting. Thank goodness my mom accepted my weirdness a long time ago; otherwise, an email with the subject line “Can You Help Me with Funfetti Frosting?” might raise some eyebrows.

I don’t know if it was a result of mutual hysteria, something my mother and I often share, but she completely agreed and was adamant that those little chips were Funfetti, and even agreed about the can design. But the Internet seems determined to prove us both wrong.

If you’ve managed to survive reading the last four paragraphs about frosting dilemmas, and can shed any light on this situation, please leave a comment! The Funfetti Question is now haunting me.

[Edit: If you read the comments section here, it seems like my mom and I are not alone in our memories. Credit my friend Andy for the link!]

Okay, seriously. Back to the ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Cotton Candy Ice Cream

Soooo, I should have deduced this from the carton, but I was too enamored with the opposable-hooved cow and the idea of riding the Ferris wheel with her that I kind of ignored what the ice cream actually looks like.

The carton’s color scheme is pretty accurate, but seeing it in person, it’s a little off-putting. The cotton candy ice cream is, well, cream-colored, and the candy sprinkles are what I would describe as light magenta and pale indigo. I understand that they needed the ice cream to contrast with the sprinkles, but a blue or pink base for the ice cream itself would have been fun. I also would have liked the sprinkles to be brighter. Also, they weren’t exactly loaded in there, but they weren’t sparse, either.

For being little more than spun sugar, cotton candy does have a distinctive flavor, and Ben & Jerry’s brings it to life in ice cream form, which is not surprising. They almost always nail their flavor, for better or worse.

In this case, I’d say it’s both. Have you ever gotten a tummy ache from eating too much sweet stuff at the fair? If you’ve ever been to the fair as a kid, the answer is probably yes.

That’s what B&J’s Cotton Candy Ice Cream is like. The first couple of bites are like, yeah, this totally tastes like cotton candy! But as I continued to eat, it became, yeah, this is like, when I’m almost done with a cone of cotton candy and I can feel a ball of concentrated sugar in my stomach. They nailed the flavor, but they did it too well. It’s so rich I could never imagine having a whole bowl of the stuff. (Although really, who eats B&J’s out of a bowl, anyways?)

Ben & Jerry's Cotton Candy Ice Cream Sprinkles

But what about those loaded sprinkles? I’m sad to report that not only did they not add any extra flavor to the party, their texture was barely distinguishable from the ice cream itself. I would get a little hint of candy crunch on some bites, but for the most part it seems like they assimilated with the ice cream and lost all their crunchy powers, rendering them not much more than decorative dots.

So many things went right and wrong with Ben & Jerry’s Cotton Candy Ice Cream. They nailed the flavor, but it was too rich to really dig into. They had fun-colored sprinkles, but the base color was unappealing, and while the sprinkles looked like they should have crunched like Nerds, they just disappeared into the ice cream. The carton promised fun fair times with a cool cow, but instead I felt like sitting down on one of the dirty picnic benches and waiting for my stomach to recover.

I hate the fair.

Ben & Jerry’s Cotton Candy Ice Cream

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 opposable-hooved cows
  • Price: $2.98
  • Size: 1 pint
  • Purchased at: Walmart #3799 (Walmart exclusive)
  • Nutritional Quirks: At 23 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup, it’s definitely living up to cotton candy sugar standards!

Popeyes Blackberry ‘N Cream Cheese Pie

Popeyes Blackberry 'N Cream Cheese PieI was originally going to tack this on to the Chicken Waffle Tenders review, since they both came out as new Popeyes items at the same time, but that review ran long, as they are wont to do. So Blackberry ‘N Cream Cheese Pie gets to have its own moment in the spotlight.

Moving that spotlight for a moment, I’d like to mention that this is my third Popeyes review but the first time I’ve actually spelled the restaurant’s name correctly. There’s no apostrophe in Popeyes. I guess that was my brain trying to make the name make sense, because “Popeyes” makes no sense. It is the plural of Popeye. So, unless every employee that works there is named Popeye, I just don’t understand. But a name’s a name, so if they want to be Popeyes, Popeyes they shall be.

Just wanted to throw that correction out there.

Back to pie!

I’m not really a fast food pie eater. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I ordered one. If I’m in the mood for some dessert with my artery-clogging burger, I’ll go for a sundae or a shake. Ice cream trumps pie in my book.

But when I saw the Blackberry ‘N Cream Cheese Pie on Popeyes’ website, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. I’m quite fond of blackberries, and the food artist did a great job of making them look enticing, berries and syrup bursting out of the cut crust like the most delicious crime scene.

It was really the cream cheese that got me, though. Gooey fruit in a crust pocket is pretty standard fast food pie fare, but I’m a sucker for cream cheese.

The crust of my pie was flaky but seemed a little overcooked. I was glad that it hadn’t been cooked until the edges were like biting through rock, but I would have preferred it to be a little lighter. I wasn’t there for the crust, though. I was there for the filling.

Popeyes Blackberry 'N Cream Cheese Pie Filling

Not exactly the bursting-with-berries creature I’d seen on the website, but that’s a given. My pie did seem a little deflated, though. Okay, maybe more than a little deflated. Like a bouncy house with a defective air pump.

Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised at the flavors that Popeyes Blackberry ‘N Cream Cheese Pie delivered. The blackberries made me think back to eating Knott’s Berry Farm’s Blackberry Jam as a kid – the filling didn’t have any artificial taste, and while I’m not often fond of seeds, I welcomed them here. It added authenticity.

The cream cheese did a good job of balancing the sweetness of the blackberries and syrup, and the textures worked well together. It seemed a little thinner than normal cream cheese, but that could have been the result of it being warmed up.

My biggest disappointment was that there wasn’t enough of it. As I said before, my pie was a bit lacking on filling, and while the strong flavor of the blackberries did its best to counteract that, there was no hiding the fact that there needed to be more cream cheese.

Given the fact that I haven’t had a fast food pie in forever, Popeyes Blackberry ‘N Cream Cheese Pie was a solid introduction back into the world of portable flaky desserts. The authenticity of the blackberry filling went a long way, and the addition of the cream cheese added another layer of flavor and texture. I know I probably shouldn’t expect much from a dinky little fast food pie, but the skimpy amount of cream cheese, and filling in general, left me wanting more.

Did I mention that I love cream cheese?

Popeyes Blackberry ‘N Cream Cheese Pie

  • Score: 3.5 out of 5 sad, deflated bouncy houses
  • Price: $1.29
  • Size: 1 pie
  • Purchased at: Popeyes #5636
  • Nutritional Quirks: May contain actual blackberries?

Brand Eating seems to have fared better with their filling.

Popeye’s Chicken Waffle Tenders with Sweet Honey Maple Sauce

Popeye's Chicken Waffle Tenders with Sweet Honey Maple Sauce ComboIf I had to pick an iconic American food that would suddenly enter the junk food hype machine, I would have never guessed that chicken and waffles would be the next Big Thing. But here we are, with chicken and waffle-flavored chips (which lost Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest but are now back on shelves – don’t even get me started on that), Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup that you could theoretically put in your coffee or on your ice cream or whatever you want to turn disgusting, and now Popeye’s Chicken Waffle Tenders.

I give kudos to Popeye’s for this concept. They’ve taken a pre-existing platform – their chicken, as opposed to something like chips or syrup – and added the waffle aspect in a rather unique way.

Oh, sure, they could have just chucked a few pieces of waffle in with their chicken, but Popeye’s got creative. According to their commercial, Chicken Waffle Tenders are all white-meat tenders marinated in Louisiana spices and hand-crafted with a light, crispy waffle coating.

What this basically means is that the tenders are dipped in waffle batter instead of traditional egg wash before they’ve been coated with Popeye’s signature seasoned coating and fried up.

Pretty ingenious, right? Okay, maybe not ingenious, but at least not outright lazy.

I have to admit, I came into this biased. I’ve never had actual chicken and waffles, which means I should probably shut my mouth right now. But I’ve had fried chicken and I’ve had waffles, and it just doesn’t seem like a combination I’d like. In general, I like my savory and my sweet separate. It’s just a personal preference. It’s part of the reason why I disliked Lay’s Chicken & Waffles chips.

I really wanted to give Popeye’s a fair shake, though, so I put my on my Objective Journalism Cap and went to work.

Actually, before I put the objective cap on, one more thing – Popeye’s customer service sucks. I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience there that went smoothly. They get my order wrong. They’re out of whatever it is I happen to be ordering. They do that thing where they make me pull around from the drive-thru and park in front to wait for my food.

This last incident happens almost every time, and wouldn’t bother me that much, except as I sit there the a/c in my car gradually starts to grow warmer until I’m marinating in my own distinctly not-Louisiana spices.

You could chalk this up to one bad location, but I’ve had several friends from different parts of the nation have the same experiences. I dunno what it is about Popeye’s, but it seems they just can’t get their shit together.

On this trip, I decided that, in addition to my Chicken Waffle Tenders, I’d get some Zatarain’s Butterfly Shrimp as a backup lunch in case I really hated the tenders. Even though it’s still featured on their website, I was informed that they no longer carried them, because that was last month’s promotional item.

You know what? Fair enough. I was willing to give them a pass on that.

Other than my crustaceous disappointment, things actually went smoothly. I was a little irritated that the Chicken Waffle Tenders were only available as a combo with a biscuit, fries and drink, but that was a minor complaint. I was in the mood for lemonade anyways.

Then I got home and pulled this out of the bag:

Wait, what?

Wait, what?

Before my Rageometer reached critical mass, I opened up the box:

Popeye's Chicken Waffle Tenders with Sweet Honey Maple Sauce Combo

Oh, okay. Fairly new item. Using up old boxes. Whatever. At least my order was correct. I could tell, because the smell of Popeye’s seasoning was mixed with a faint waffle scent. Plus, I got the Sweet Honey Maple Sauce that is advertised specifically for this item. I had to sit down for a moment, in shock that I’d received the correct order.

The tenders also had a darker coating than normal Popeye’s fried chicken, which I took as an indication of the presence of waffle batter.

Popeye's Chicken Waffle Tenders

I tried the tenders without the sauce first. The chicken was moist and tender, which is not unusual for Popeye’s. They may suck at customer service, but then generally deliver some pretty darn good chicken.

The fried coating had just the right amount of crunch and was not at all soggy. It did have an annoying tendency to flake off the tenders more than regular fried coating, though.

Of course, the important part here is the Waffle part of Chicken Waffle Tenders. I am pleased to say that, despite all my predictions, I actually liked the waffle flavor. When I first bit into a tender, I tasted those Popeye’s Louisiana spices right off the bat. As I got through the bite, the waffle flavor came through, almost as a finishing taste. It was distinctly and authentically waffle, but it wasn’t very sweet at all, and I was so happy Popeye’s decided to keep their spices and add the waffle batter, because the two worked really well together.

Enter the Sweet Honey Maple Sauce. This seems like another smart move on Popeye’s part, since what is chicken and waffles without syrup? It seems the perfect dipping compliment to Chicken Waffle Tenders.

Popeye's Chicken Waffle Tenders with Sweet Honey Maple Sauce

Except for the fact that something went horribly wrong. While I really enjoyed the tenders on their own, the Sweet Honey Maple Sauce ruined the whole thing for me. It did, indeed, have a strong maple flavor, and I liked the touch of honey, but it was cloyingly sweet.

Now, if you like your chicken and waffles smothered in syrup, this sweetness may not be an issue for you. What I consider to be a completely objective problem with this sauce was the texture.

Have you ever tried a dip that was so thick in all the wrong ways that whatever you were dipping either came out of it with no dip at all, or just one giant glob of dip? That’s exactly what Sweet Honey Maple Sauce is like. A small cup of ectoplasmic goo far too thick for a chicken tender, and also far too sweet for my taste.

I’m a dipper by nature, but I wound up eating all three of my tenders straight after my initial bite of the sauce. The spices and the waffle batter combined with the moist chicken were all the flavor that was needed. I really couldn’t think of a substitute dip that would outshine the flavor of the tenders themselves.

This was my first taste of actual chicken with actual waffle (if in batter form), and I definitely see the appeal. I thought the waffle flavor would ruin the chicken, but instead, it enhanced Popeye’s spices and didn’t overwhelm the moist chicken or the seasonings with sweetness. The waffle batter may have caused the fried coating to flake off too easily, but it was still nice and crunchy, even if I had to sort of cobble it back on to the tenders.

While I considered the Sweet Honey Maple sauce subjectively too sweet and objectively too goopy, I don’t fault the Chicken Waffle Tenders for it. Popeye’s took a trending flavor and managed to put a rather clever and successful spin on it, and I consider this a pretty high bar for future chicken-and-waffle-flavored concoctions. (Note: I’d really rather not see any more chicken-and-waffle-flavored concoctions. I’m glaring at you, Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos.)

Popeye’s Chicken Waffle Tenders with Sweet Honey Maple Sauce

  • Score: 4 out of 5 let’s-pretend-Sweet-Honey-Maple-Sauce-never-happened
  • Price: $5.99
  • Size: 3-tender combo with biscuit, fries and drink
  • Purchased at: Popeye’s #5636
  • Nutritional Quirks: I couldn’t seem to find any nutritional info on Popeye’s website, but I’m pretty sure the Sweet Honey Maple Sauce was made with Slimer’s secretions.

Other Chicken Waffle Tenders reviews: The Impulsive Buy, GrubGrade, Brand Eating

Limited Edition Watermelon Oreos

Limited Edition Watermelon Oreo PackageYou know that thing where your brain starts writing suicidal checks that your body knows it will never cash? That was me, walking to the grocery section of Target for the fourth time, thinking to myself, “If they don’t have Watermelon Oreos today, I’m going to kill myself.”

This obviously did not happen, since I am still here.

I kept being promised by red-shirted employees, who sounded like they actually knew what they were talking about, that the Oreos would be in stock the next day. On the first day, here’s how my morning started:

Me: “I have to go to Target today.”

Husband: “Uh, okay. Why?”

Me: “I have to get Watermelon Oreos.”

Husband [pause]: “I would have rather you told me you were going to go bang your secret boyfriend in the filthy Target public bathroom than tell me you’re going to spend actual money on Watermelon Oreos. That is disgusting.”

Unfortunately, there was neither gross secret-boyfriend banging nor Oreos on that day.

On the second try, I was so pissed off that I bought an iced coffee from the in-store Starbucks. I’m not sure who I thought I was committing revenge on, besides my wallet, but it made sense at the time.

On the third strike (after being told the second time that they’d definitely be there that weekend), I told Target it was lucky it was so close to my house because if my Regrets Per Mile were any higher, the building would be burning to the ground.

A smarter person would have learned after the first time to just call the store before going, but I kept being fed creamy broken promises sandwiched between two cookies of sheer hatred towards calling retail customer service.

As you can tell, I finally found success. Unfortunately, my secret boyfriend had the day off and the bathrooms were out of service. But I got what I really came for, which is a cookie meant to taste like a large summertime fruit.

The Internet Hype Machine is in full force on this one, for reasons I can’t quite understand. Oreos have already gone Birthday Cake, Candy Corn and Gingerbread. I guess once the machine gets rolling it’s hard to stop.

There’s also some talk about Limited Edition Watermelon Oreos being racist, which is pretty much the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Oh, okay, there’s a stereotype about black people liking watermelon. You know who else likes watermelon? Children. Adults. College kids who fill them with vodka.

I’d like to think Nabisco was aiming a little more innocently on this flavor; namely, “Watermelon is a classic summer flavor and it’s also a weird filling choice for Oreos. Let’s do this.”

Actually, the exact wording that I found is, “’We chose Watermelon because it is a fun, summer flavor that goes great with the Golden OREO cookie,” Oreo spokesperson Kimberly Fontes told TIME.

She left out the part about the hype, but I think it’s implied.

Internet blah blah-ing aside, let’s take a look for ourselves.

First off: packaging. I like that Oreo generally sticks to the formula of “blue packaging for chocolate Oreos, yellow packaging for Golden Oreos.” It makes it easy to identify what’s what on store shelves, especially since Oreo has come out with 700 different flavors/styles now.

The rest of the packaging is simple but effective: a giant slice of watermelon dominates, with a little untwisted Watermelon Oreo off to the side. It’s bright, it’s colorful, and it screams summertime.

Golden Oreos were the obvious choice for this flavor, because it’s basically a vanilla-ish sugar cookie, which fits a watermelon-flavored filling much better than chocolate would. Plus, it contributes to the overall color scheme.

As you can see, the creme is half-green, half-pink. Pretty much a no-brainer. My only lament, which I’m pretty sure other reviewers have already expressed, is the lack of tiny little black specks to represent watermelon seeds. C’mon, guys, those seeds are iconic. You could argue that these are seedless Watermelon Oreos, but if you did so, I would laugh in your face because we’re talking about a fucking cookie and you’re sperging out about semantics. Which would make me a hypocrite, because that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.

Furthermore, the watermelon slice on the package has seeds. Oreo, you know we’re going to be twisting off that top. Make the effort. Plus, some teensy crunchy candies would just add to the fun.

Then again, I may be putting the cart before the horse, here. You’re not really going to care about missing black specks if you’re busy vomiting into your kitchen sink because Limited Edition Watermelon Oreos are so disgusting.

Limited Edition Watermelon Oreo In Package

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened my package of Watermelon Oreos, but what I was least expecting is what I got – the sweet, bakery-like smell of Golden Oreos. Not a hint of watermelon in sight. Or sniff, rather.

The second thing I did, of course, was twist the top off, because that’s what you do with an Oreo. The inside looked pretty much like the package advertised – a swirly half-green, half-red creme, just like the color scheme of a real watermelon.

Limited Edition Watermelon Oreo Cookies

Well, not exactly. It’s more like mégot pastèque à l’aquarelle. In case you don’t speak French, that translates to “watermelon butt in watercolor”. At least, that’s what Google tells me; I don’t actually know French. I just wanted to sound fancy. With butt-shaped creme jokes.

I then licked the creme and was instantly hit with a familiar flavor – Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. It tasted obviously artificial and nothing like a real watermelon, but it was definitely distinct. It also wasn’t overly sweet, which I liked.

What I didn’t like was pretty fundamental – watermelon-flavored creme. I’m not adverse to artificial watermelon candy; I actually like Watermelon Jolly Ranchers and Watermelon Jelly Bellies.

When I ate the Watermelon Oreo as a whole cookie, an interesting phenomenon occurred. While the watermelon flavor was strong when tasting the creme straight, it became remarkably muted when paired with the Golden Oreo cookies. The cookies themselves have a quite sweet and vanilla flavor, and the watermelon took a back seat to this, for which I was thankful. It was odd that the creme had such a strong flavor on its own but diminished so easily when eaten with the cookies.

After eating four of the cookies, I was left with an uneasy feeling that was both inexplicable and familiar. I was suddenly reminded of Watermelon Jelly Belly Pudding Snacks. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like there’s a place for artificial watermelon flavor, and that place is neither cookie creme nor pudding.

Nabisco nailed that artificial watermelon flavor, so I have to give them points for that. But on the other hand, Watermelon Oreos are just…not necessary. I appreciate the summertime marketing ploy and weird-factor hype, but the actual taste of the creme just didn’t sit well with me. Paired with the cookies, the toned-down flavor got a little better, but overall, it was just too bizarre for my taste buds.

But hey, at least I didn’t barf.

Limited Edition Watermelon Oreo

  • Score: 2 out of 5 watercolor butts
  • Price: $2.99
  • Size: 15.25 oz. package
  • Purchased at: Target (exclusive)
  • Nutritional Quirks: It’s a fucking Watermelon Oreo. Need I say more?

Other reviewers who seemed to like these more than I did: The Impulsive Buy, Food Junk, Junk Food Guy, Brand Eating

Happy 4th Birthday, Junk Food Betty!

Birthday Cake by Theresa Thompson, on FlickrYep, today marks four years of inconsistent and sometimes infrequent posts on Junk Food Betty! Four years of disappointment, unexpected deliciousness, absolute disgust, crazy gimmicks, and rants about everything from chipotle to use of the word EXXXTREME to things that should not be meat-flavored.

Oh, and puns. So many puns.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading JFB as much as I enjoy writing it. Sometimes I get frustrated with writer’s block, but sometimes I manage to fart out a turn of phrase that I can’t help but be proud of. Most of all, I love the idea of making just one reader smile, all while delivering subjective information and delving deep into the world of crazy food and marketing tactics.

Here’s to another year of writing about the new, the weird, and the “what the hell?” I’ll follow them down the rabbit hole so you don’t have to.

Burger King Summer Menu: Rib Sandwich

Burger King Rib SandwichI know right away what you’re expecting out of this review. You want to know one thing: how does Burger King’s Rib Sandwich compare to the McRib?

Well, I’m here to tell you something right now: I’ve never had a McRib.

I assume you’re back after someone administered smelling salts and you’ve gotten up from your fainting couch.

I’m sure I must be the only person who writes about food on the Internet who has never had a McRib. Possibly the only person on the Internet who’s never had one. There’s no real explanation for it; I’m not allergic to unnaturally-formed meat – in fact, I think the record will show that, in most cases, I seek such things out.

I guess by the time I came around to the food review scene, the McRib, and the mockery of it, was already played out. I’d read about it, I’d heard about it on tv, seen all the “McRib facts”. Every time it comes back around, I mean to get one, but I get distracted by shiny things, and then it’s gone again.

I’m hoping this massive character fault doesn’t color your opinion of my opinion of Burger King’s Rib Sandwich. In fact, you could look at it the other way around – I may be the only food reviewer to look at this from the viewpoint of a true rib sandwich virgin.

Silver linings!

Okay, let’s get to this sandwich. Here’s how Burger King describes it: “Our new Boneless Rib Sandwich combines a juicy boneless rib patty with a sweet and tangy BBQ Sauce, and topped with crispy bread and butter pickles, all on a warm toasted artisan style bun.”

Burger King Rib Sandwich Halves

I liked the simplicity of the Rib Sandwich. Rib patty, sauce, pickles, bun.

Burger King Rib Sandwich Bun

I couldn’t recall if I’ve ever seen this kind of bun on a Burger King sandwich before. I wouldn’t call it “artisan” – a word that’s thrown around with impunity these days – but it definitely suited the Rib Sandwich better than, say, a regular sesame seed hamburger bun.

Burger King Rib Sandwich Open

Given that this sandwich only has three essential ingredients, I found it odd that pickles would be one of them. It turned out that the tangy sourness of them went really well with the BBQ sauce. I was also pleased that the quantity and spacing of the pickles was such that I got some in every bite.

Speaking of the sauce, this was obviously a very important component in the Rib Sandwich. I’m pretty particular about my BBQ sauce, and a sandwich can live or die depending on how the sauce tastes.

I was honestly surprised by Burger King’s BBQ sauce. I mean, I wasn’t instantly transported to an un-air-conditioned, bench-seating Memphis barbecue joint, but I really liked the flavor.

The biggest draw for me was that it wasn’t too sweet – a downfall I feel many fast food BBQ sauces suffer from. I feel like many of them are just ketchup with a drop of liquid smoke in it, or something similar.

Instead, Burger King’s had a strong hickory flavor with a nice spicy ending. There was also just the right amount of it; the sandwich wasn’t drowning in sauce, but the flavor was prominent.

With the sauce and the pickles being a success, all that was left was the meat itself.

“Juicy boneless rib patty” didn’t exactly inspire confidence in me. I mean, I’m not stupid – I know that they’re not real ribs. But the lack of mention of any specific meat was not exactly encouraging.

Luckily (or not?), Burger King’s website has a listing of the ingredients in everything on their menu. The first two ingredients in the “pork rib patty” are pork and water. There were like, seven other ingredients, but I refused to read them. Pork. That was enough for me.

Burger King Rib Sandwich Patty

Eating the sandwich as a whole, the rib patty actually tasted pretty good. It was a little spicy and did have a distinct pork flavor. Of course, the sauce did a lot to contribute to the flavor.

The firm texture of the bun, the crunchiness of the pickles and the moistness of the sauce all work as scaffolding to hold up the patty. Kudos to BK for finding this perfect balance, because when I ate a piece of the patty by itself, it was distinctly…spongy, which is something I didn’t notice when I was eating the sandwich as a whole.

The patty is obviously supposed to look grilled, but it certainly didn’t taste that way. I broke my own promise and went back to the ingredients list and found “Grill Flavor from Vegetable Oil”. I wish I hadn’t looked.

I really set the bar low for Burger King’s Rib Sandwich. My expectations ranged from “completely gross” to “bland and drowned in sweet BBQ sauce”. Instead, I found that, while the ingredients list is deceptively simple, each component played an important part. The “artisan” bun offered texture and stability, the pickles gave a nice tang and a welcome crunch, the sauce had a surprisingly hickory-spicy flavor and added moistness, and the boneless rib patty, while kind of gross by itself, used all these supporting characters to elevate itself above “spongy meat thing” and delivered the necessary pork flavor.

Well, my formed meat rib patty cherry has been officially broken. As I said, I’ve never had a McRib, but after trying Burger King’s Rib Sandwich, I’m betting I’d find BK’s superior. It wasn’t a life-changing experience, but it was pretty darn good. As long as you don’t look at the pork patty ingredients.

Burger King Summer Menu: Rib Sandwich

  • Score: 3.5 out of 5 rib sandwich popped cherries
  • Price: $3.99
  • Size: 1 burger
  • Purchased at: Burger King #17145
  • Nutritional Quirks: Grill Flavor from Vegetable Oil. What.

Other Burger King Rib Sandwich reviews: The Impulsive Buy, GrubGrade, Brand Eating

News: Twinkies Make “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever” on July 15!

Yes, you read correctly: Twinkies are coming back! And a handful of other Hostess treats, too.

You may be wondering how this happened, since Hostess filed for bankruptcy. If you’re like me, you had no doubt that Twinkies would be back – somebody was gonna buy Hostess and re-start production, right?

Well, that’s pretty much what happened, but it gets a little more complicated than that. WARNING: Business words and stuff ahead!

After reading about four different business articles and looking up some terminology, I now have an MBA and think I can break it down with at least some accuracy like this:

Hostess is now owned by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. This allows Hostess to bring back Twinkies and other beloved sweets.

There’s a bunch of gobbledygook (technical term) that means that these firms own Hostess under what’s called a “stalking horse bid”, which Wikipedia defines as “an attempt by a debtor to test the market in advance of an auction. The intent is to maximize the value of its assets as part of (or before) a court auction in case of bankruptcy.”

So, if I’ve researched correctly, basically Hostess will make their Twinkies, you will buy them, and this will inflate the value of Hostess as a company. The equity firms can then “flip” Hostess for what would probably be a large profit, selling it off to another company.

C. Dean Metropoulos, who is, by the way, worth $1.2 billion, has done this before with companies like International Home Foods.

What does this mean for you, the consumer and presumed lover of Twinkies? On July 15, you will witness “the sweetest comeback in the history of ever.” (Hostess’s words, not mine.)

I could have just said that in the first place, but I thought I’d give you a little business lesson in the process. Just get yourself a Twinkie and enjoy it.

McDonald’s McCafé Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie

McDonald's McCafé Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie CupI am an unabashed fan of McDonald’s McCafé beverages. Because I have been raised on media that tells me McD’s is nothing but crap, I feel almost weird saying that they’ve got some quality coffee drinks, but they do, so shut up.

The McCafé line doesn’t just stop at coffee drinks, though. There’s shakes and something called a “Chiller” and several different flavors of smoothies.

The latest addition to the smoothie line is Blueberry Pomegranate, two words that already make my mouth water. Pomegranate is one of those flavors that’s been tossed around as trendy, but I liked pomegranate before it went mainstream, man. I rarely buy it in juice form because it’s obscenely overpriced, but if I were rich I would have a constant supply of Pom bottles in my fridge.

I don’t generally drink things for my health. Orange juice if I’m sick. Water to keep me alive. Vodka and cranberries to keep my urinary tract infection-free and to kill malicious bacteria. (That’s how booze works, right?)

That said, smoothie places annoy me. If I’m going to drink a smoothie, it’s because I’m in the mood for a cold, fruity drink. I don’t need any of Jamba Juice’s ten different “Boosts” or a wheatgrass shot that looks like swamp-in-a-cup.

Well, given the way I eat, I probably could use some of those things. But I don’t want some fruitista (I’m assuming that’s the smoothie equivalent of a barista) trying to upsell me. I just want fruit blended with ice and yogurt. No more, no less.

This is why I like McDonald’s over Starbucks for coffee drinks. I don’t have to be all “soy half-caf I don’t even know what”. (Try asking for one of those sometime and see what happens!) I get a pretty good iced vanilla latte and I get it in about 1/3 the time I would at Starbucks, with minimal human interaction.

I’m hoping the same applies to their smoothies.

McDonald's McCafé Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie Inside

I’m including this picture because it looks kind of disgusting. In reality, my smoothie did not look disgusting at all, but apparently my camera disagreed.

McDonald's McCafé Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie

There, that’s a little more accurate. My Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie had an attractive dark red/purple hue, and it smelled like berry goodness with a hint of tart.

McD’s says of this smoothie, “Made with an alluring combination of blueberries and raspberries and a splash of pomegranate juice blended with ice and creamy low-fat yogurt.”

There’s actually more to it than that: there are several other fruit juices listed in the ingredients, but the pertinent parts are there – blueberry puree, raspberry puree, and pomegranate juice concentrate.

I would honestly call this more of a Raspberry Pomegranate Smoothie than a Blueberry one. It had a lovely raspberry taste and a nice, tart pomegranate finish that wasn’t too overpowering. I don’t know why I wasn’t getting very much blueberry flavor, but I was actually okay with that, because raspberries are my favorite berry.

The texture was indeed smooth – smoother than most smoothie joint smoothies, in fact. (smooth smoothie smooth smooth.) While I love raspberries, I hate getting the seeds stuck in my teeth when I’m drinking a smoothie. I’m guessing the fact that McD’s used puree instead of straight-up berries eliminated that problem.

McDonald’s McCafé did it again – the Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie, while more raspberry than blueberry, was chock full of berry flavor, not too sweet, and had a nice, tart pomegranate finish. Plus, no seeds stuck in my teeth!

With 220 calories and a whopping 44 grams of sugar for a 12 ounce beverage, make no mistake that this is not exactly a health drink. However, if you’re looking for a nice, cool fruit beverage and don’t want to see a shot of wheatgrass anywhere in sight, you might want to hit up the McDonald’s drive-thru. Not having to leave my air-conditioned car in the scorching heat is already a plus in and of itself.

McDonald’s McCafé Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 swamp-in-a-cup-wielding fruitistas
  • Price: $2.49
  • Size: 12 oz. smoothie
  • Purchased at: McDonald’s #23767
  • Nutritional Quirks: “Clarified Demineralized Pineapple Juice Concentrate” – I don’t know what that means, and I don’t generally like pineapple, but I couldn’t taste it so I’m just going to pretend it doesn’t exist.