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.
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:
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.