Merry Christmas, readers! Del Taco has gifted me with three $5 gift cards to give out to three lucky readers. Would you like one? Just leave a comment on this post, and make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you for your shipping address if you’re a winner.
Don’t know what to leave as a comment? How about what you want the most for Christmas this year?
This giveaway ends on December 22, 2015 at midnight PST. Winners will be chosen at random. Happy munching!
[Your email address will not be used for any purpose other than to contact you for your shipping address, should you be a winner. Your shipping address will only be used to send you the gift card. I promise not to use your email or shipping address for any other purpose.]
Macaroni and cheese is generally considered a kids’ food. I suppose we have Kraft to thank for that; the current commercials I’ve seen for their iconic blue-box pasta consist of children splashing around in puddles of cheese sauce, irritating me with their gap-toothed grins and overenthusiastic energy. The macaroni even comes in shapes like Scooby-Doo and Spongebob Squarepants. If you’re an adult eating pasta shaped like the Mystery Machine, you’re either finishing your kid’s leftovers or you’ve made some seriously poor life decisions.
As a side note, I’m now irritated at Kraft and Canada. Kraft for making me visit their Wikipedia page in an attempt to identify current pop-culture pasta shapes, and Canada for making me wonder why the fuck the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Wikipedia entry was titled “Kraft Dinner”, which made me read the discussion page, and any time I read a discussion page on Wikipedia I’m guaranteed to lose my mind. Also, a whole section on Kraft “Dinner” and Canadian culture? This Wikipedia entry is obviously Canuck-skewed. I cannot condone that.
Now that I’ve gotten out my inappropriate level of irritation at Kraft and Canada, let’s get down to brass tacks. Americans love deep-frying things. Oreos, candy bars, beer, bacon (of course), even butter. Yes, deep-fried butter. You can thank Paula Deen for my knowledge of that phenomenon, even though she wasn’t the first to pioneer such a revolutionary concept.
I also have Paula Deen to thank for my knowledge of deep-fried macaroni and cheese. During a brief period of insanity in my life, I actually watched shows besides Good Eats on the Food Network, and thus witnessed ham-to-the-face Paula make these bite-sized heart attacks. I was intrigued, but not enough to actually make them myself, so I figured I’d never see fried mac and cheese again, unless someone held a gun to my head and forced me to go to the state fair.
So you can imagine my surprise when Del Taco announced that they had a new product called Mac ‘n Cheese Crunch Bites. Grammar nazi rage over the omission of a second apostrophe after the “n” aside, I was immediately interested. Yeah, I still eat macaroni and cheese. At least I avoid those that are shaped like someone who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Give me some credit for that. I mainly use it as a vessel to deliver massive amounts of Cajun seasoning and hot sauce into my body when I have a salt craving and desire something a little more tangible than ramen. Since I’ve already admitted I’m an adult who enjoys mac ‘n’ cheese, might as well try fried mac ‘n’ cheese. From a fast food quasi-Mexican joint. Odd choice for Del Taco, but I’m not complaining.
As you can see, these Crunch Bites come in a triangular shape; size-wise, they’d fit nicely into the circular stain on your coffee table that your friend left after he passed out with a full glass of gin and tonic in front of him. The coaster was five inches away; would it have been so hard to use it?
They were, of course, appropriately greasy, what with being fried and all. The batter had a nice crunch and was lighter than I thought it would be. The texture and flavor were reminiscent of the beer batter you’d find on a nice piece of fish you’d order with chips.
Unfortunately, the inside didn’t do justice to the outside. You can see the little bifurcated macaronis covered in unnaturally orange cheese…substance. The pasta has an okay texture; it didn’t taste mushy or undercooked, but it was largely unremarkable. The cheese tasted markedly artificial, but that’s to be expected. When I’m buying Mac ‘n Cheese Crunch Bites from Del Taco, I’m not expecting to find gourmet flavors inside a fried batter shell. What’s interesting is that the cheese also managed to be rather bland.
If the macaroni and cheese had been served in a bowl instead of a fried triangle, it would have been usalvageable. The pasta and cheese have the batter to thank for it being mildly edible. I also found that, like with Kraft macaroni and cheese, it becomes much more palatable when used as a vehicle for hot sauce. Slathered in Del Inferno, the Crunch Bites rise to the status of “acceptable snack if you’re really stoned”. Which is still not the highest of praises. In the end, I have to judge Mac ‘n Cheese Crunch Bites on their own, and the verdict is not good. The batter can’t save the bland, artificial-tasting cheese and the forgettable macaroni pasta.
Root Beer Float Shake
I bought the Root Beer Float Shake almost as an afterthought. My main motivation, beyond already enjoying the occasional root beer float, was the name. Root Beer Float…Shake? What? It just seemed like an odd name and concept. Can’t you make a root beer float shake just by mixing the ice cream and soda in a float together?
The answer is yes, and that’s exactly what this shake tasted like. Del Taco offers Barq’s as their root beer of choice, and I assume they just blended that with some vanilla ice cream and boom! Root Beer Float Shake.
It’s not exactly an innovative concept, and yet, I really enjoyed my Root Beer Float Shake. The root beer flavor was a little muted and I detected little carbonation, but that’s the magic that happens when you mix up a float. The consistency was perfect – creamy, smooth, and just the right amount of thickness. It was also sweet, but not cloyingly so. I sucked down the entire shake without feeling sugar-sick afterwards.
I figured, much like with many of the foods I review, I’d finish the Root Beer Float Shake, write about it, and forget it forever. Not so! As I was cropping the picture, I suddenly thought, “Damn, I could totally go for a Root Beer Float Shake right now.” Hell, I had the same thought writing this brief review. I guess it’s a good thing my nearest Del Taco closed and I now have to go out of my way to go there; I may have developed a serious Root Beer Float Shake addiction.
The Root Beer Float Shake is a simple concept, but a successful one. Sure, anybody can mix root beer and vanilla ice cream together. But Del Taco had just the right ratio of soda to ice cream, and the consistency was perfect. Sometimes a new menu item concept doesn’t have to be groundbreaking; it just has to be done well. Root Beer Float Shake rules; Mac ‘n Cheese Crunch Bites suck. Del Taco should have taken a lesson from themselves.
Mac ‘n Cheese Crunch Bites
Score: 2 out of 5 Del Inferno sauce packets
Size: 6 Crunch Bites
Purchased at: Del Taco #806
Nutritional Quirks: No nutritional information available on Del Taco’s website, so I’ll just say, batter so right, mac ‘n cheese so wrong.
Root Beer Float Shake
Score: 4.5 out of 5 immersion blenders making magic happen
Size: 16 oz. cup, I’m guessing?
Purchased at: Del Taco #806
Nutritional Quirks: Again, no nutritional info. Egg on my face if it turns out they didn’t just mix Barq’s with vanilla ice cream and instead used some sort of root beer extract or something.
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.
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
Size: About 3.5 ounces
Purchased at: Del Taco #884
Nutritional Quirks: The lack of coal is a relief.
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