Previous month:
February 2019
Next month:
April 2019

March 2019

Starbucks launches new spring products

Spring is in the air at Starbucks, with a menu of new and returning items designed to add a delightful ray of sunshine to your day and bring you out of your winter slump. Here’s what to look for at Starbucks and where groceries are sold this season:

Introducing Cloud Macchiato

VINNY DISTEFANO

New to Starbucks retail stores this spring, Starbucks Cloud Macchiato is the latest innovation from the team that introduced the original Caramel Macchiato. So light it might just fly away, the Cloud Macchiato features a cloud of whipped cold milk foam that’s light and smooth, topped with espresso shots and finished with Starbucks signature caramel drizzle cross-hatch. It’s the silky and exhilarating treat that will jumpstart your taste buds, available in two flavors: Caramel Cloud Macchiato and Cinnamon Cloud Macchiato. Enjoy hot or iced beginning March 5 as a permanent menu item at participating Starbucks stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Matcha Green Tea Latte, Iced Latte, & Creme Frappuccino

Matcha continues to be the rage this spring and customers can order it hot, cold or blended. Our trio of beverages – including Matcha Green Tea Latte, Iced Latte and Crème Frappuccino – will put you in the spring mood at the first sip with a smooth and creamy taste that is subtly sweet. Now available at participating Starbucks stores in the U.S.

Cold Brew with Cascara Cold Foam

Kathryn Barnard Photography

Returning to Starbucks stores this spring, the popular Cold Brew with Cascara Cold Foam is lightly sweetened with vanilla syrup and topped with Cascara Cold Foam and Cascara topping – a combination that will give your morning coffee just the right sweetness to complement the smooth flavor notes of Starbucks® Cold Brew. Available at participating Starbucks stores in the U.S., while supplies last.

Sweet Treats

Armstrong Studios

Lemon Cake Pop: New to our line of cake pops, this lemon-flavored cake is dipped in a yellow chocolatey coating and covered in sweet and sour topping, bringing a burst of sunshine to your day. Now available at participating Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Available exclusively in grocery locations

Celebrate spring at home or on-the-go with these products where groceries are sold.

Starbucks Tripleshot Energy: New this season, Starbucks Tripleshot Energy will give you all the energy needed to help you power through your day. Now available in the U.S. in Caramel, Caffè Mocha and French Vanilla wherever groceries are sold. Suggested retail price of $2.99 for a 15 fluid ounce can.

Bottled Starbucks Frappuccino: The delicious new bottled Frappuccino flavors – including Caramelized Vanilla Honey, Toasted White Chocolate and Salted Dark Chocolate combined with a splash of Cold Brew and culinary-inspired ingredients – will be hard to resist. Available in the U.S. wherever groceries are sold. Suggested retail price of $2.93 for a 13.7 fluid ounce bottle.

Starbucks Blonde Sunrise Blend Flavored Coffee: The new Starbucks Blonde Sunrise Blend in K-Cup and ground packaged coffee has an approachable taste and a smooth body. Available for a limited time in the U.S. where groceries are sold. Suggested retail price of $9.99 for 10-count box of K-Cups, $12.99 for 16-count box of K-Cups, and $9.99 for 12 oz. package of ground coffee.

Starbucks Cookie Straws: Waiting inside each toasted rolled wafer cookie is a luscious layer of rich, dark chocolatey sweetness. Available in the U.S. wherever groceries are sold. Suggested retail price of $6.99 for a 20-count tin of individually wrapped cookie straws.


Krispy Kreme Doughnuts’ Green O’riginal Glazed Doughnuts Return for St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, with Chance for FREE Doughnuts for a Year

All weekend, March 15-17, fans can celebrate with Green O’riginal Glazed Doughnuts and the chance to win a Golden Dozen Pass worth FREE doughnuts through St. Patrick’s Day 2020

"What could be better than a green O’riginal Glazed doughnut? Not much. But FREE Original Glazed® doughnuts for a year might do the trick. Stop by and maybe you’ll end up with both"

Green Donuts

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will turn its Original Glazed® doughnut green (again!) and reward thousands of fans with FREE doughnuts for a year during this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend celebration.

Krispy Kreme is bringing back its popular “O’riginal” Glazed doughnut, a St. Patrick’s Day twist on the brand’s iconic doughnut with specially formulated green dough. The doughnut will be available throughout the three-day celebration, Friday-Sunday, March 15-17 at participating shops in the U.S.

The fun doesn’t end there. For the first time, thousands of lucky Krispy Kreme fans will win a “Golden Dozen Pass” worth FREE Original Glazed® doughnuts for a year – one dozen per month through St. Patrick’s Day 2020. Multiple customers will win a Golden Dozen Pass each day at every participating shop.

“What could be better than a green O’riginal Glazed doughnut? Not much. But FREE Original Glazed® doughnuts for a year might do the trick. Stop by and maybe you’ll end up with both,” said Dave Skena, Chief Marketing Officer for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

To find a participating shop near you and review giveaway terms and conditions, visit www.krispykreme.com/stpatricksday. Can’t make it to a Krispy Kreme shop? See giveaway terms and conditions on how to enter to win a Golden Dozen Pass via mail. Don’t forget to share your excitement for the O’riginal Glazed doughnut and Krispy Kreme’s Golden Dozen Pass with friends by using the hashtag #KrispyKreme and tagging @krispykreme.

About Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation is a global retailer of premium-quality sweet treats, including its signature Original Glazed® doughnut. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., the company has offered the highest-quality doughnuts and great-tasting coffee since it was founded in 1937. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is proud of its Fundraising program, which for decades has helped non-profit organizations raise millions of dollars in needed funds. Krispy Kreme doughnuts can be found in approximately 12,000 grocery, convenience and mass merchant stores in the U.S. The Company has nearly 1,400 retail shops in 33 countries. Connect with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at www.KrispyKreme.com, or on one of its many social media channels, including www.Facebook.com/KrispyKreme, and www.Twitter.com/KrispyKreme.


Gotta Affogato! The Story Behind New Dunkin' Menu Item

Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins are coming together to take deliciousness to the next level with an ice cream and espresso treat that comes straight from Italy: the Affogato.

What is an Affogato? It’s a classic Italian dessert that features a scoop of vanilla ice cream covered in a warm shot of espresso. The poured espresso is actually where this dessert gets its name since “affogato” by definition means “drown” in Italian.

It’s the simple yet delicious combination of velvety ice cream and rich espresso that makes Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins your local affogato ambassadors! This indulgent new menu item is a hybrid of two brand favorites: Baskin-Robbins’ French Vanilla Ice Cream and Dunkin’s bold, smooth espresso, resulting in a rich palate-pleaser and perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

DD Body affogato_201903011421

 

Now you can get this decadent treat that will transport your taste buds to Italy at participating Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins combo stores nationwide for $3.49. Trust us, you won’t believe how good it is until you try it – that’s why we’re offering free samples on Monday, March 18 between 10:00AM and 2:00PM.

Remember, you gotta Affogato to the nearest combo store to try this treat: check out our store locator to find an Affogato near you, and share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


'Pulled' Pork Hack

By Mike Thayer

Here's a nice little hack for making some really great 'Pulled' (shredded really) Pork done in the crock pot.

Margarita MixMargarita Mix

Talk about some flavorful, oh-so-tender and juicy pork!   And this recipe is versatile.  You can go classic BBQ, Mexican or even Asian cuisine with this recipe/shortcut/hack.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of pork loin
  • Your favorite dry rub
  • Two cups of Margarita mix

Directions:

Rub that pork loin with your favorite dry rub, if you don't have one, Kosher salt and black pepper will do just fine.  Place in a zip lock bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.  After that pork loin has gotten all happy in the fridge, place it in the crock pot, pour in the Margarita mix and cook it on the high setting for 5-1/2 hours.  Shred in a large bowl or tray/dish and serve.

20190303_133731-1
Crock Pot "Pulled" Pork

Serving suggestions:

  • Mix with BBQ sauce when shredding, serve on a toasted bun with coleslaw
  • Skip the BBQ sauce and create some shredded pork tacos, serving on a flour tortilla with all the traditional taco toppings and salsa
  • Stir fry some vegetables creating some sweet and sour pork (the liquid in the crock pot makes a great base for the sauce) or break out the rice and Soy for pork fried rice.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 


BBQ Sauce Challenge: Weber Original vs. Cookies Original

By Mike Thayer

What is the most popular thing to add to meats cooked outdoors?

BBQ Sauce
SO many choices!

BBQ Sauces

It’s true, the most popular thing to add to the plethora of meats cooked outdoors is BBQ sauce. If you had guessed ketchup, believe it or not, you would be wrong.

The person who invented BBQ sauce is unknown, but whoever he was, he was a genius! References to the sauce started appearing in 17th century English and French literature about the formation of the American colonies. The rest is history and boy has BBQ sauce been kicked up a notch with all kinds of flavors and varieties created over the last 400+ years!

A traditional flavoring for pork, beef and chicken, sauce can range from watery to thick, from being heavy on the vinegar to being loaded with spice. Ranging in flavor from sugary to savory, to HOT!, heck, there’s even mustard and mayonnaise based BBQ sauces. It’s a regional thing, there’s Carolina BBQ; Tennessee whiskey BBQ; Texas BBQ; and the favorite of many, Kansas City Style BBQ.

What is your favorite, do you like sweet, tangy, KC style, Carolina style?  Have you tried enough variety to know?

I've made this a challenge or sorts, sampling all those sauces, making comparisons and letting you know what I think the cream of the crop is. Will it be KC Masterpiece? Sweet Baby Ray's? Stubbs? Something else?

In my first tasting challenge, I sampled KC Masterpiece and Sweet Baby Ray's.  You can read that review here.

20190303_133731-1Today, I'm pitting Weber Original vs. Cookies Original.

The meat vehicle of choice to take these sauces on a test drive is some crock pot 'pulled' pork, pork loin (1-1/2 lb.) that was rubbed with my signature dry rub (refrigerated for 24 hours) and then placed in the crock pot with a very simple marinade of Margarita mix (one cup) and cooked on the high setting for 5-1/2 hours.  I chose pulled pork because it is arguably THE best foundation for testing BBQ sauces with.   

Weber Original

From the iconic maker of grills, comes Weber's Sweet & Thick Original BBQ Sauce.  You figure they know what they're doing right?  The recipe boasts of NO high fructose corn syrup and from the ingredients listed on the label this sauce is made in a Texas style, with more spice and less sugar than a KC BBQ style sauce.  And yes, Weber knows what they're doing, this is a very respectable sauce.  Smooth with a really nice finish, what sets Weber apart from other sauces is the use of red pepper, you definitely get that in each bite, it's not subtle, but it's not overpowering 3 starseither.  I also appreciate that this sauce doesn't have any harsh, in-your-face 'sugarness' to it.  Costing $2.87 for an 18 ounce bottle, I'm giving Weber Original 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's reasonably priced and delivers a nicely balanced marriage of BBQ flavor.  It's a repeat buy.

Cookies Original

Hailing from my home state of Iowa....  Yes, Iowa has some good BBQ.....  If you are a regular reader I really like Cookies Flavor Enhancer, my favorite off-the-shelf all purpose seasoning.  And I've been known to use Cookies BBQ sauce as a base for doctoring up with minced onion, bourbon, garlic powder, Cayenne, red pepper flake and a few other ingredients.  So in full disclosure I'm already familiar with this sauce.  It's a KC BBQ style sauce, rich and thick, not something you can mop ribs with but works really well as a glaze applied 10 minutes or so before serving.  What sets this sauce apart from others is the use of Worcestershire Sauce in the recipe.  A bit on the sweet side (which is why I like to doctor it, balancing it out with some heat), this is a versatile sauce, delivering classic BBQ flavor that will please just about everyone.  Costing me $3.19 for a 26 ounce bottle, Cookies Original Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce is reasonably priced 3 starsand is a repeat buy.  I'm giving it 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's another sauce that fits in the 'respectable sauce' category. 

Stay tuned for more sauce tastings!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Ranking Fast Food/Fast Casual Versions of Smokehouse Style Burgers, Sandwiches, Meat on Bread

By Mike Thayer

I recently wrote about what to look forward to in 2019 from fast food.  Trending, are smokehouse/steakhouse style burgers and sandwiches and the meat of the year is predicted to be brisket.

Consumers are clamoring for something more, creations beyond the ordinary realm of classic burger and sandwich flavors.  People want smokey, they desire more than just ketchup and mustard, folks are calling for cheeses with deeper flavors and buns with a little more tease than run-of-the-mill sesame seeds.  And it's no different when it comes to other meat on bread options, a.k.a., pizza, consumers are looking for more, something beyond the traditional flavors.

Before we get into the worst to first rankings, here are a four non-starters.  Four popular restaurants that don't have a horse in this race.....  That's unfortunate, because with the smokehouse trend a reality, they'll fall farther behind their competitors who are in that race and winning market share.

A&W:  No offerings of smokehouse flavors.  The closest they get is with a classic bacon cheeseburger.  It's a good burger, but not smokehouse.

Little Caesar's: They have a Smokehouse pizza in their arsenal, but unfortunately it's a promotional item and was not available during the time of this challenge.  The pizza is described as follows:  Large round pizza with beef brisket, pulled port, Applewood-smoked bacon and BBQ sauce, plus a smokehouse-seasoned crust. It sounds good, hopefully it will be brought back in another promotion soon.  That smokehouse seasoned crust intrigues me. 

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers:  Freddy's has what they call an A-1 Chophouse Burger which is two lean ground beef patties pressed thin and topped with grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, and white cheddar cheese. The burger is drizzled with a zesty A.1.® and garlic sauce, and served on a home-style bun.  Unfortunately, my timing was off, the restaurant has just recently taken the limited time offer item off the menu.  It's an annual thing and will be made available again later this year.  My bad with the timing, sounds like a darn good burger!

Hardees:  Just recently taken off the menu was The Memphis BBQ Thickburger®.  Here's the description:  Features a 1/3 lb. charbroiled 100% Black Angus beef patty, smoked pulled pork, Memphis BBQ sauce, crispy fried onions, and American cheese on a Premium Bun.  The sales must have not been there because it sounds like a great burger.  It was still listed on the company website menu on the day I ventured out to try it in pursuing this challenge, but my local franchisee had already pulled the sandwich.  I had the Monster Thickburger instead.  

And now to the rankings....

Here's my list of national chain fast food/fast casual joints and their version of smokehouse style offerings, starting with the worst thing to try, or after reading, NOT try....  Listed worst to best, considerations in conducting this challenge were price, portion, whether or not the item is a repeat buy and of course the most important factor, TASTE!  Click the restaurant name for the full burger/sandwich/meat on bread review....

20190201_115447#15 - If you are in a burger mood, don't go to Dairy QueenTheir KC BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger is less-than-stellar.  Here's the description from their website:  DQ’s 100% all beef patty topped with melted American cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, pickles, onions, and a Kansas City-style BBQ sauce on a toasted light and airy bun.  It sounded so good I upgraded and made the sandwich a double.  Yes, I was hungry!  So, "How was it?"  you ask.....  It looks great unwrapped, does it not?  That 'toasted, light and airy bun'....  those beef patties breaking the edge and dripping with sauce, some melted cheese peeking out the side.....  It's almost food porn....  Almost.  That's where the excitement ended.  Nice bun, but let me cut to the chase, while the burger to bun ratio was good, the patties were dry, the sauce was run-of-the-mill ordinary, more sweet than twang and when a cheeseburger is upgraded to a double, why isn't a second piece of cheese included?  It's called a "Double Cheeseburger," right?  The portion of bacon was less-than-generous.  I'm sad to report that the pickle and onion saved this burger.  That's NOT a good thing. 

20190221_121131#14 - Crispy fried chicken and BBQ sauce sounds pretty good together right? That's what KFC is offering with their Smoky Mountain BBQ.  Here's the description from the website:  Our Smoky Mountain BBQ brings the sweet, smoky flavors of Southern BBQ to Kentucky! Available in tenders, Chicken Littles™, and Extra Crispy™ chicken, it’s crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and delicious on every side. Try it in a Smoky Mountain BBQ basket today with your choice of Extra Crispy™ chicken or Extra Crispy™ tenders, mashed potatoes, biscuit, and pickles! Making a little sandwich with one of the tenders, the pickles and the biscuit, I enjoyed all the flavors that were brought together. The chicken was indeed crispy and the sauce was sweet and smoky as advertised. The pickle provided the tart you want to offset the sweet and what can you say about the biscuits that hasn't already been said, KFC makes some of the best biscuits in fast food. Dressing that biscuit with a packet of that KFC butter before slapping it all together, I have to say it was a pretty tasty little sandwich. When I got to the tenders by themselves though - particularly the one sitting entirely flat on the bottom of the tray - that sauce, without the marriage with the bun and pickles was now too sweet and the grainy-texture of that oil-based sauce became quite noticeable. It wasn't off-putting enough to put the tenders down, but the grittiness of it did put a bit of a downer on the remainder of the meal.

20190129_185236#13 - If you are in a non-burger mood, Schlotzsky's offers what they call a Spicy Brisket Flatbread.  Here's the description from the website:  Hickory-smoked brisket with Swiss cheese, basil pesto, jalapeño chips, Schlotzsky’s hot sauce, blue cheese dressing and basil. Served on artisan flatbread. Sounds good right?  And it is.  All the flavors Schlotzsky's puts together in this flatbread presentation are on point.  The brisket was seasoned nicely, it's tender and pairs well with the Swiss cheese.  The combination of the basil pesto, blue cheese dressing and hot sauce dances on the tongue, the jalapeno chips provide a nice texture element and that flatbread was baked to perfection.  Whoever crafted this concept knew how to partner flavor pairings.  My only problem with this 'meal' is that it's not enough.  While the flavors are there and overall it's a nice flavor profile presentation, it's more of a 'light lunch' kind of thing rather than a hearty meal.  The flatbread - while tasty - is on the thin side and the portion of brisket is less-than-generous.  You don't get brisket in every bite.  That's kind of Schlotzsky's M.O., less-than-stellar on the meat portion, which is unfortunate. 

20190131_162422#12 - Papa John's, which in my humble opinion is a maker of average pizza, takes BBQ flavors and makes.......  An average pizza.  Here's the description of their BBQ Meats Pizza from the company website:  Smoky Southern-style BBQ sauce topped with pepperoni, sausage, beef, bacon, and Canadian bacon.  Sounds like it's loaded with meat right?  "Eh."  All those meats are indeed present and flavorful and my first bite was pretty darn good, but as I got into it, none of those meats were exactly generous in portion.  The meats were ample in the center of the pizza, but grew sparse as I worked towards the outer crust.  I will say I've never had pepperoni in a BBQ dish before or Canadian Bacon for that matter and they were both quite nice.  The BBQ sauce while descriptive in name was nothing special, the cheese was ample, golden, brown and delicious but that crust, it's still the Papa John's crust - it needed to be dressed with that complimentary garlic butter - making this.....  An average pizza.  It was good, don't get me wrong, but nothing wow about it.  In dealing with the leftovers, I dressed the remaining slices in some buffalo sauce before heating.  That kicked things up a notch!

20190301_123029#11 - Five Guys:  This was my first visit to a Five Guys joint.  They've got some great reviews online and I was in the mood for a burger so I figured it was time to see what this place is all about.  And while they don't have a Smokehouse/Chophouse specific option on the menu, you can order BBQ sauce and/or A-1 as a topping, making any burger choice one with some smokehouse flavor.  I went with their bacon cheeseburger, making it a double.  Here's that description from the restaurant website:  Two hand-formed patties, grilled to order - with two strips of crispy bacon and two slices of Kraft American Cheese - all on a soft, sesame seed bun.   I went with their "All the Way" topping option, which means the burger was to be topped with mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard....  Along with my additional add-on:  A-1 sauce.  So how was the burger? Lousy. I took two bites and put it down. This burger was SO over-sauced that it made the sesame seed bun totally fall-apart, soggy, wet. Whoever put the A-1 on went overboard and just drenched it. I should have suspected as much when unwrapping the burger, the wrapping being wet with A-1 (which itself seemed to be watered down and not full strength), but I really didn't think much of it until I took that first bite. The bun just fell away, I was grasping lettuce, tomato and burger in taking that second bite. 

20190301_123337#10 -McAlisters: I like McAlister's but is their Grilled Chicken Club smokehouse trend worthy?  Here's the description from their website:  Why’d the chicken get seasoned and grilled? To be topped with bacon, cheddar, Swiss, spring mix, tomatoes, mayo and McAlister’s own Honey Mustard. It’s a party between three pieces of sliced wheat bread.  So how was the sandwich? Good but not great. The seasoned, grilled chicken was under-seasoned. The bacon was a bit under-cooked, very thin and lacked the crispy factor. It had some decent smoke to it when eaten on its own, but that smokiness got lost with all the other flavors going on in the sandwich bite. Perhaps a thicker cut of bacon would have driven the smokiness through. The cheddar and Swiss cheeses were a nice compliment to the meats, the spring mix and tomato provided some nice balance, the bread was toasted perfectly but the creamy mayo and honey mustard was over-the-top. The sandwich was over-dressed.

20190109_182818#9 - Arby's talks a big game with it's Smokehouse Brisket sandwich but it falls short of the hype.  Here's the description from the Arby's website:  We set out to make a sandwich with layers of smoky flavor, and this is the result. Our brisket is smoked for at least 13 hours in a pit smoker. We top that delicious smoked beef with smoked gouda, crispy onions, mayo and BBQ sauce and serve it all on an artisan-style roll.  I expected far more for a sandwich that boasts of brisket smoked for 13 hours, but this is a very average sandwich and the preparation fell into the typical fast food preparation mode - LAZY. This sandwich has SO much flavor potential but totally failed to live up to the marketing hype. First, there's no way this brisket was truly smoked for 13 hours, yes, it was tender and seasoned well enough, but it didn't carry all the smoky notes you would expect from a meat being in a bonafide pit that long. I'm calling B.S. on the smoking process. The meat to bun ratio was good, the gouda cheese is a nice pairing with the brisket and was melted nicely, so no knock there. The 'crispy' onions however were almost non-existent and lacked a true crunch, being almost mushy. The sandwich was sauced well with the mayo and BBQ sauce - a nice BBQ sauce - and the 'artisan' roll, while that sounds good in the sandwich description, doesn't really deliver any special flavor or texture to the dance. 

20190221_173141#8 - Pizza Hut: Pizza Hut doesn't have a BBQ version for a Meat Lovers pizza on the menu, but you can customize your own pizza to create one.  Here's what I crafted using their online menu for a carry-out order:  Thin & Crispy Crust brushed with garlic butter, a honey BBQ sauce, extra cheese, beef, pork, grilled chicken, bacon and red onion. The pizza was baked to perfection, the garlic buttery thin and crispy crust was the perfect platform for the BBQ meats, which were nicely portioned and seasoned well. The grilled chicken was a tad dry, the red onion portion was a bit sparse and the honey bbq sauce was really nothing special, but over all, every bite of this pizza was enjoyable, tied together nicely by that golden, brown and delicious cheese.  It was a superior pizza to what Papa John's calls a BBQ Meats pizza.  The problem with this meat on bread option for BBQ/smoky flavors is price. 

20190225_182200-1#7 - I'm on record as saying Domino's pizza sucks (read that review here), but this particular pizza - The Memphis BBQ Chicken - was a pleasant flavor surprise.  The pie was baked to perfection with that crust nice and crispy with each bite.  The chicken was seasoned well, tender and juicy.  The onions are a nice add and the combination of cheeses were perfectly melted, golden, bubbly brown and delicious.  Tying everything together is that sauce, it has a nice slight twang, balanced with the sweet of molasses.   My knock on the pizza is the usual for a Domino's pizza, they are so skimpy with the toppings.  I did not get chicken or onion in every bite, in most bites just getting crust, the sauce and cheese.  It still made for a pleasant bite, but I didn't order a cheese pizza with BBQ sauce.  That blend of cheeses by the way, was a little shy on the cheddar.  When a restaurant boasts of a blend of cheeses, it should be balanced.  Overall, this pizza has a very nice combination of flavors. 

Wendys BBQ Cheeseburger#6 - In early February 2019, Wendy's announced what they're calling the "Made To Crave" menu featuring three new burgers, the S'Awesome Bacon Cheeseburger, the Peppercorn Mushroom Melt, and the Barbecue Cheeseburger.  With my Smokehouse/Steakhouse style challenge in mind, I ordered the Barbecue Cheeseburger, making it a double.  Here's the promo write-up from Wendy's.....  Barbecue Cheeseburger:Wendy's has long understood what makes barbecue taste so great. Now, the Barbecue Cheeseburger finds that backyard balance of sweet and heat, with a touch of smoke. The cheeseburger is complete with two slices of American cheese, crispy fried onions, three juicy pickles, and fresh, never frozen beef. To top it off, it's smothered in a sweet and smoky Kansas City-style barbecue sauce that delivers familiar and comforting flavors, making it a top-contender for craveability.  This was a good burger, but not something I've going to crave moving forward.  It satisfies all the basic BBQ elements, the beef was cooked nicely, the crispy fried onions provided a nice texture element, there's the classic tartness of the pickles and I will say that BBQ sauce had a nice twang to it, it's NOT run-of-the-mill stuff.  It's a notch above what Wendy's competitors are serving. The toasted bun was nice as well but nothing extra-ordinary.  This sandwich is missing something to truly make it a top-contender for craveability.....  BACON! 

20190103_111839#5 -Sonic has responded to the call from consumers who have been demanding those smokehouse/steakhouse style burgers and sandwiches. The company's response, unveiled in late November 2018 and what looks to be a good seller for them in 2019: The Sonic Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger.  Here's the description from the company website:  The SONIC Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger is made with a quarter-pound 100-percent pure beef patty; creamy cheese; crisp, savory bacon and aromatic grilled onions. The Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger is topped with a smoky black pepper mayo and served in a fluffy, bakery-style brioche bun.  It's a good burger, not great, but good. It hits the steakhouse style notes, the beef was seasoned well, the cheese melted nicely, the bacon was crisp and those grilled onions and black pepper mayo brings it all home. But I could do without the toasted brioche bun. It was a bit on the dry side and the topper was actually too much bun. Perhaps the bun wasn't as fresh as it could have been, but even if fresher, it's still too much bun. A regular bun would have been just fine and would actually make for a better burger to bun ratio. Put this sandwich on a regular butter toasted bun and you have a 5 star sandwich. With the brioche, it's a 4 star sandwich. I know fast food joints are trying to upscale their burgers and sandwiches in responding to consumer demand, but sometimes, restaurants try to do too much. 

20190104_115029#4 - Chick-fil-A has a darn good sandwich that should be on everybody's "I've got a craving for some smokehouse flavors and this sandwich will satisfy it" list.....  It's called the Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich, it's actually been around since 2014 and here's the description from the company website:  A boneless breast of chicken, marinated with a special blend of seasonings and grilled for a tender and juicy backyard-grilled taste, served on a toasted multigrain bun with Colby-Jack cheese, applewood smoked bacon, Green Leaf lettuce and tomato. Served with Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce.  As I was thoroughly enjoying this sandwich, I was asking myself why I haven't ever tried this sandwich before now. Shame on me! The chicken was perfectly cooked, seasoned well and juicy. The bacon was generous in portion and crisp, the lettuce and tomato was a nice complement to all the flavors, the bun was toasty warm yet soft and a perfect match for the sandwich. The only knock I've got is the sandwich was under-sauced. The Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce is delicious, I wanted more

20190124_120240#3 - Next time you're at Firehouse Subs be sure to check out their Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket Sandwich.  If you've never been to a Firehouse Subs shop, this sandwich should be a motivator to go.  Here's the description from the website:  USDA Choice beef brisket smoked for up to 16 hours, melted cheddar, mayo, and Sweet Baby Ray’s® BBQ Sauce.  The description is short and to the point.  Firehouse knows exactly what they're doing in prepping their brisket.  It was tender, seasoned well, delicious and generous in portion.  In fact, it was falling out of the bun in portion.....  And while the Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce is a fairly standard sauce across the Fast Food Spectrum (nothing special about it), but it's a good pairing with the mayonnaise, providing a nice creamy finish.  The toasted bun was on point and overall I enjoyed every bite of this sandwich.  The only knock I've got on it is the cheddar cheese.   While I did get the cheese note in the sandwich, it was a tease of cheddar.  I wanted more. 

20190208_122335#2 - Why Burger King does not promote their Rodeo King burger is a bit puzzling. It's really quite good, but you won't find it on the restaurant's board menu, you have to know about the sandwich (it's on the online menu) and ask for it. In fact, the lady taking my order had trouble finding the sandwich on her register. She even told me initially that she didn't think they offered the sandwich, but she found it and placed the to-go order. Burger King was ahead of the Smokehouse/Steakhouse curve with this sandwich, unveiling it in 2017, but the sales must not be there, otherwise it would have a prominent place on restaurant menu boards. It's a shame it's not getting promoted now, it's a darn good burger. Here's the description from their website:  The RODEO® KING™ Sandwich features two savory flame-grilled beef patties totaling more than ½ lb.* of beef, topped with 3 half-strips of thick-cut smoked bacon, our signature crispy onion rings, tangy BBQ sauce, American cheese and creamy mayonnaise all on our sesame seed bun. Get one, you'll be glad you did.

20180715_210440And the #1 Fast Food/Fast Casual restaurant delivering big time on smokehouse flavors believe it or not is McDonald's.  Their Bacon Smokehouse Burger as described on the company website:  Smoky, sweet & savory flavors on a juicy, fresh beef burger Bacon Smokehouse Burger. A burger made with unexpected flavor combinations, including crispy Applewood smoked bacon, smoky bacon-onion sauce, real white cheddar, mild sweet mustard sauce and in-house fried onion strings.  This is a pretty darn good burger folks!  The quarter pound burger is fresh as advertised and it delivers on smokehouse flavors.  The bacon was crisp, the white cheddar cheese was melted to perfection, the onion strings provided another level of crunch and that slightly sweet mustard is what put this burger over the smokehouse top.  Whoever put these flavor combinations together knows what they're doing.  Welcome to the New American cuisine scene McDonald's and it's about damn time!

In all, I attempted to try the smokehouse offerings at 19 different restaurants, finding something in that 'genre' at 15 of them.  Considering the many meat on bread options available, burgers and sandwiches dominated the top of the rankings.

Restaurants offering smokehouse/chophouse style flavors to pass on:  #15 Dairy Queen, #14 KFC, #13 Schlotzsky's, #12 Papa Johns, #11 Five Guys, #10 McAlister's, #9 Arby's

Borderline:  #8 Pizza Hut, #7 Domino's, #6 Wendy's

Restaurants offering smokehouse/chophouse style flavors you'll enjoy trying:  #5 Sonic, #4 Chick-fil-A,  #3 Firehouse Subs, #2 Burger King, #1 McDonald's

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Coffee Challenge: A review of Green Mountain Hazelnut

By Mike Thayer

Coffee Choices
So many coffee choices!

Like so many working stiffs, I've GOT to have my coffee in the morning to get jump started. Traditionally, I'm a Folgers Classic Roast kind of guy and I doctor my coffee with some hazelnut flavored creamer.  No, I'm NOT a coffee snob.  I don't do the whole beans and a coffee grinder thing, screw that, buying ground coffee works just fine for me.

But in trying to eliminate some sugars from my diet, I've dropped the flavored creamer from my morning routine, switching to real, heavy cream. The various flavored brands of coffee creamer range 5-10 grams of sugar per serving, heavy cream weighs in at 0.1 grams.  But in making that change, my coffee was far less enjoyable. I missed the hazelnut!

So during my next visit to the grocery store, I picked up some hazelnut coffee.  On that trip, I picked up a bag of Dunkin' Donuts hazelnut and you can read that review here.  The Dunkin' was a bit of a disappointment, it left me wondering if there wasn't something better out there in a hazelnut grind.  Hence, this coffee challenge.

Today, I'm reviewing the Green Mountain hazelnut grind.

20190302_052316-1Here's the description of the coffee from the bag:  Buttery and sweet with the rich flavor of warm, roasted nuts.  Green Mountain is made by Keurig.

This is good coffee.  It's a light roast though, so the recommended 1 heaping tablespoon of coffee per 6 ounces of water will brew up a bit weak, you may want to adjust to taste.  For a more robust cup of coffee, go with 2 tablespoons.   Overall, this is a pleasant hazelnut coffee, not as aromatic as others, but each sip is good nonetheless. 

Green Mountain Hazelnut delivers a taste that falls in the middle of the pack to what I've tried so far.  Priced at $6.49 for a 12 ounce bag, it's not the most expensive brand, but it's definitely not the cheapest either.  I'm giving the coffee 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's a good coffee, but not the best coffee.

3 stars

Stay tuned for more sampling of hazelnut coffees from the various brands available as part of the Bachelor on the Cheap Coffee Challenge!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Smokehouse/Chophouse Style Challenge: A Review of Five Guy's Bacon Cheeseburger

By Mike Thayer

I recently wrote about what to look forward to in 2019 from fast food.  Trending, are smokehouse/steakhouse style burgers and sandwiches and the meat of the year is predicted to be brisket.

Consumers are clamoring for something more, creations beyond the ordinary realm of classic burger and sandwich flavors.  People want smokey, they desire more than just ketchup and mustard, folks are calling for cheeses with deeper flavors and buns with a little more tease than run-of-the-mill sesame seeds.  And it's no different when it comes to other meat on bread options, a.k.a., pizza, consumers are looking for more, something beyond the traditional flavors.

Five Guy's Bacon Double Cheeseburger
Good first impression, but....

For dinner today, I went with Five Guys.  This was my first visit to a Five Guys joint.  They've got some great reviews online and I was in the mood for a burger so I figured it was time to see what this place is all about.  And while they don't have a Smokehouse/Chophouse specific option on the menu, you can order BBQ sauce and/or A-1 as a topping, making any burger choice one with some smokehouse flavor.  I went with their bacon cheeseburger, making it a double.  Here's that description from the restaurant website:  Two hand-formed patties, grilled to order - with two strips of crispy bacon and two slices of Kraft American Cheese - all on a soft, sesame seed bun.   I went with their "All the Way" topping option, which means the burger was to be topped with mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard....  Along with my additional add-on:  A-1 sauce.

20190301_185159-1
The bun just fell apart

So how was the burger?  Lousy.  I took two bites and put it down.  This burger was SO over-sauced that it made the sesame seed bun totally fall-apart, soggy, wet.   Whoever put the A-1 on went overboard and just drenched it.  I should have suspected as much when unwrapping the burger, the wrapping being wet with A-1 (which itself seemed to be watered down and not full strength), but I really didn't think much of it until I took that first bite.  The bun just fell away, I was grasping lettuce, tomato and burger in taking that second bite.  The meat was seasoned well enough, the lettuce and tomato were fresh, the pickle delivered that tartness you expect, but my goodness there was no bun to hold onto!  The bacon was run-of-the-mill and the grilled onion and mushrooms were under-seasoned, not bringing any real robust flavor to the party.  Overall, there was nothing memorable about this burger, except how the bun fell apart.

The Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger cost me $8.70 and gets just 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It was unremarkable and overpriced, it is NOT a repeat buy.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Smokehouse/Chophouse Style Challenge: A Review of McAlister's Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich

By Mike Thayer

I recently wrote about what to look forward to in 2019 from fast food.  Trending, are smokehouse/steakhouse style burgers and sandwiches and the meat of the year is predicted to be brisket.

Consumers are clamoring for something more, creations beyond the ordinary realm of classic burger and sandwich flavors.  People want smokey, they desire more than just ketchup and mustard, folks are calling for cheeses with deeper flavors and buns with a little more tease than run-of-the-mill sesame seeds.  And it's no different when it comes to other meat on bread options, a.k.a., pizza, consumers are looking for more, something beyond the traditional flavors.

20190301_123337For lunch today, I opted for McAlister's and their grilled chicken club.  Here's the description from their website:  Why’d the chicken get seasoned and grilled? To be topped with bacon, cheddar, Swiss, spring mix, tomatoes, mayo and McAlister’s own Honey Mustard. It’s a party between three pieces of sliced wheat bread.

So how was the sandwich?  Good but not great.  The seasoned, grilled chicken was under-seasoned.  The bacon was a bit under-cooked, very thin and lacked the crispy factor.  It had some decent smoke to it when eaten on its own, but that smokiness got lost with all the other flavors going on in the sandwich bite.  Perhaps a thicker cut of bacon would have driven the smokiness through.  The cheddar and Swiss cheeses were a nice compliment to the meats, the spring mix and tomato provided some nice balance, the bread was toasted perfectly but the creamy mayo and honey mustard was over-the-top.  The sandwich was over-dressed.  Don't get me wrong, I like McAlister's, they crank out some pretty darn good

McAlister's Bacon
Bacon under-cooked & thin

sandwiches and I ranked them #2 in the Bachelor on the Cheap Who Makes the Best Sub Sandwich Challenge done last April.  But when it comes to offering a sandwich with some truly smokehouse flavors, McAlister's comes up a bit short.  They need to put something more robust on the menu.

The sandwich, drink and a bag of chips for a side cost me a bit over $10.  For what I got served, that's not exactly a Bachelor on the Cheap friendly price.  The McAlister's Grilled Chicken Club sandwich gets 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Chick-fil-A makes a far better grilled chicken club. For me, this particular sandwich from McAlister's is not a repeat buy, I'd rather have their Memphian.  

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....