Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Taco Bell Loaded Grillers

Like a chubby, semi-spanish, acne-covered Phoenix rising from the ashes, Taco Bell is back and here to stay. 2012 was a strange year for the fast food giant. The Doritos Locos Taco took off and easily became one of the most successful new fast food products in 2012. They had a bit of a slump there for a while riding on the Cantina Bell Menu and the Locos Taco wave, not introducing any new items for a while there in the summer months. Then they came back at the end swinging, launching a new dessert menu, the new XXL Nachos, and now The Loaded Grillers.

The Loaded grillers are pretty much just mini burritos that are designed to be based off popular appetizers like Chicken Wings, Potato Skins, and Nachos (I know, it is as stupid as it sounds). These things are 99 cents each which is pretty good value for the size. They have some good heft to them too which leads me to the one big complaint I have over all. There is a lot of tortilla in these, hence the heft, so it takes quite a jaw to bite through them if you get a stale or overcooked tortilla. Now on to each individual one.

I will start with the strongest of the three in my opinion.

The Loaded Potato Griller: Designed to taste like potato skins this loaded griller is Taco Bell's warm season potatoes, sour cream, nacho cheese, and bacon bits. Sounds simple and kind of gross I know. Well it was actually pretty good. There were tons of bacon bits in it, which were flowing out of the streams of cheese and sour cream. The potatoes are always good at Taco Bell, and there were just the right amount. With the flavor of the potatoes and the bacon, plus the consistency of the cheese, it all really blended into a nice package of almost a gooey hash brown burrito. It also was the most filling of the three so if you need to get full for cheap, this is a winner.

Rating: 4/5 "It's Just Swell"

The Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller: I think the name gives up what this is supposed to taste like. Does it taste like a buffalo wing? Not at all. That is not to say it isn't any good though. This is just chicken, Lava sauce, and sour cream. Boring sounding I know. The lava sauce is meant to be like the buffalo sauce. Problem is it taste nothing like it. It is spicy, but it is more of a spicy cheese sauce then buffalo. This one reminded me more of a taquito with sauce in it. I actually love all the Lava Manu items at Taco Bell so I liked it a lot but if you do not like Lava Sauce stay away from this one.

Rating: 3/5 "It's Just Meh"

The Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller: Why make a griller taste like a menu item you already have? I don't know. It is Taco Bell, they have never been the brightest when it comes to menu items. This one brings back the classic "lets take what we already have, switch out an ingredient, and call it something new" Taco Bell Strategy. It is just the Beefy Crunch Burrito, but smaller. I don't hate it, but it is just boring. There is nothing here that makes me want to taste it again. It is just stuffing for 99 cents. Not to mention because they switched to the little red tortilla strips the get soggy really quick, which takes away the crunch that is supposed to make it good.

Rating: 2/5 "It's Not Worth It "

All in all it was fun to try these and I definitely see myself getting them again. For only 99 cents they would be an awesome addition to the Value Menu, which is shrinking rapidly. I am just happy Taco Bell is back to its glory days again. Heres to hoping that 2013 brings even more uninspired tasty crap!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Ocean Is Theory - Future Fears

My freshman year in college I used to do something that all my friends thought was really weird. I would go to concerts by myself. Not big stadium shows, but small standing-room shows at some of the most run-down, sketchy places in the DFW Metroplex. I always went to these shows by myself because I would see bands that no one I knew listened to or has even heard of. The benefit of that was that I could be whoever I wanted to be. If I felt like raging, if I felt like standing in the back, it didn’t matter because I was by myself. So I am standing in the back at show while the opening acts play. The place was dead, near empty. The main acts were outside hanging out, so most of the people at the show were too (there still couldn’t have been more than 150 people all together). So I am sitting there probably thinking about where I was going to stop and eat after the show when the second opening act started to play. It was a group of young guys all about my age. They were new and not from around the area, hence the lack of fans. Then they started playing. Holy Mother-of-Pearl. These guys were good. Beyond their years good if you asked me. How could they be unknown? They handed out their first EP for free after the show. I grabbed it and listened to it the rest of that semester on repeat. These guys were going to be huge, they had to get huge. Talent was oozing out of them. Well those guys were Ocean is Theory. Four years later, they finally released their first full length LP. They may not be big yet like I expected, but the talent is still all there.

Ocean Is Theory – Future Fears

This record is an example of why it is so hard to make it in the music business. After three different EPs and almost a complete change in the bands sound, they finally got signed to Razor and Tie Records. Well after some stuff happened, (not really clear on what so don’t ask me) they ended up releasing this well after it was recorded on their own.

A word that describes how this record makes me feel is melancholy. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is just a very mellow sounding album. It starts off with “While We’re Young”, a song about having no regrets. It has a quick tempo and a striking chorus. It goes from there with a good mix of slower paced and high tempo tunes that blend well together. No song seems out of pace thematically or musically. The vocals are strong and fluctuate all over from a whisper to a scream, always conveying lots of emotion. The instruments all do what they are meant to, providing feeling and a distinct rythm to almost every song. These are power-chorus songs that will be stuck in your head for days. Songs like Best Intentions,  Scared Now, and King Sized Bed are standouts in this regard. The end of the record does stand out a little less in comparison to the first half for me. I felt like some of the songs started to blend. Thankfully I liked them all regardless so it wasn’t a huge complaint. About half the album is made up of previously released songs which is a bit of a bummer as well.

Rating: 4/5 "It's Just Swell"

Even though it has been four years since I first heard them, I would still say they have talent beyond their years. This is a fantastic first effort. Hopefully it will lead to an even better second, third, etc. If not, well I suppose that is why the music business is what it is. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Taco Bell Desserts

So the XXL Nachos were not the only thing Taco Bell released this month. The also dropped two new dessert items on their Value Menu. I told you, they came back with a bang.

No, the ChocoTaco is not coming back. I know, bummer. 

Now that we are passed the initial disappointment, let us move on to what they did decide to come up with. 

1. The Churro

This one seems pretty freaking obvious. A deep fried, cinnamon covered piece of dough that is eatable with one hand? How does this not exist yet?! Now you might be saying, don't they already have this? No, this is not a giant cinnamon twist. Cinnamon Twists are more like cinnamon pork grinds, this is more like a donut. Surprisingly enough, this is a really good churro too. It was hot with a crispy cinnamon-sugar coated outside and a soft, doughy inside. Tasted fresh from the Texas State Fair. For only 99 cents, it was a good value too. 

Rating - 5/5 "It's the Bee's Knees"

Nice Wrap Job

2. The Taco Bell Cookie Sandwich

Do not let the shape of this thing fool you, or the ridiculous wrapper (seriously, I felt like this was something from an elementary school cafeteria line) fool you, this is another winner. The cookie itself is soft but firm enough to stay in one piece with every bite. The icing is rich but not so thick it overwhelms the cookies. It all blends really well and there was actually a solid amount of chocolate chips too. A good attempt at copying the cookie sandwich from The Great American Cookie Company and at a little over a $1 it is a bit more than the churro but still pretty good value. 

Rating - 4/5 "It's Pretty Good"

BONUS: The Carmel Appel Empanada

This is already a Taco Bell dessert but is getting lots of press with the release of the other two new desserts. It is also one of the most underrated Taco Bell items and fast food desserts out there. This thing blows the Apple Pie at McDonalds out of the water. the crust is coated in cinnamon-sugar and is crispy and flaky. The inside is a gooey mix of apple chunks and carmel gooey goodness. Warning to those who have yet to have it, the insides are scalding hot so be cautious while eating.

Rating - 4/5 "It's Pretty Good"

For all those people who think, "I really could use something sweet to wash down that large amount of shit I just ate" then Taco Bell dessert is perfect for you! As for me, I just might stop buying so many burritos and start investing in these dollar treats more often. Good job Taco Bell. I like where this is heading.