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We tasted it so you don’t (necessarily) have to. By Anna Spiegel
Photograph by Garrett M. Graff.

As many fast food fans know, Domino’s released the newest fast-food monstrosity invention yesterday: Specialty Chicken, essentially a pizza/chicken nugget hybrid involving a crust-like layer of breaded bird “covered in toppings, sauces, and cheeses.” 

So how special does it taste? We had two versions delivered to the Washingtonian office: the “classic hot Buffalo” topped with spicy sauce, ranch, and cheeses; and the “spicy jalapeño pineapple,” a Hawaiian-esque blend of mango-habanero sauce, jalapeños, cheddar, and pineapple. The fact that two taste-testers immediately sought out mouthwash afterward speaks to the new food’s campaign motto—“failure is an option”—but there were also a few big fans. Below you’ll find the best reactions to the new food. KFC chicken corsage, you may have some competition.

Its health value:

“God, it’s all sugar.”

Its success as a junk food:

“These are everything I could want them to be. I could eat them every week.”

Its taste:

“It doesn’t taste like pizza, but it doesn’t taste like chicken, either.”

Its target audience:

“My kids would love this! Who wouldn’t love chicken nugget pizza?”

Its texture:

“It’s really soggy.”

Its smell:

“It smells like ranch, but not the good kind.”

Its texture again:

“They’re kind of . . . bouncy.”

Its culinary doppelgänger:

“It looks like fish en brochette, but it doesn’t smell like fish en brochette.”

Posted at 02:21 PM/ET, 04/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Will the “warm nacho cheese snack” make it in the DC market? By Vicky Gan
Is Doritos Loaded a nacho platter wrapped in a chip inside a mozzarella stick? Sadly, no. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

Washingtonians now have the dubious honor of taste-testing the latest experiment in junk-food engineering: Doritos Loaded, or, as described in the marketing materials, a “warm nacho cheese snack.” Yesterday Frito-Lay, inspired by the success of its Doritos Locos Taco, began selling this new creation exclusively at select 7-Elevens in the Washington area. We found this box—the last under the heat lamp this morning—at 908 17th Street, Northwest, which receives three 60-piece cases of Doritos Loaded per day.

So how does this one-bite nacho platter compare to the Dorito? Let’s just say we won’t be rushing to load up on the new product. The ones we sampled were a dense, slightly mushy cross between a Dorito and a mozzarella triangle, with a concentrated hit of the signature spicy cheese-esque flavor. Don’t expect any gooey deliciousness in the center, as pictured on box; unfortunately these nuclear-orange wedges possess the consistency of hard chicken nuggets. Ours were dry, as if they’d been sitting out for too long, but it’s doubtful they contain enough natural cheese to ooze at any time during their lifespan.

One of our taste-testers was a bit more charitable, suggesting the extremely salty snack might pair well with Diet Coke (and a hangover). Another said he “could see eating four of these at 1:30 in the morning with a beer”—about as close to an endorsement as these mutant Doritos may get.

In an interview with ABC News, a spokesperson for 7-Eleven said that “future roll-out plans will be determined based on consumer response,” so Washingtonians will have to vote with their wallets to keep Doritos Loaded on shelves. We prefer to save our money for those $1 snack tacos.

Posted at 01:54 PM/ET, 02/12/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
For the most part, buyer beware. By Anna Spiegel
Candy corn hybrids are sprouting up everywhere this Halloween. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

If there were a Halloween zodiac, 2013 would be the Year of the Candy Corn. It seems there are more riffs on those sugary little faux-corns than ever, from limited-edition candy corn Oreos to a Starburst fruit-flavored variety. Here’s what to expect on your last-minute Halloween candy run. 

 

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Posted at 02:30 PM/ET, 10/30/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
From Popeyes to BonChon to GBD, we wade through the best and worst Washington has to offer right now. By Anna Spiegel
Among the chicken contenders were (left to right, from top): Bojangles, GBD, GBD again, Eatonville, Astro Fried Chicken & Doughnuts, Cork Market, Hitching Post, Central, and Henry's Soul Cafe. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Fried chicken is enjoying a golden age in Washington. Two new chicken and doughnut joints—GBD and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken—opened in the past three weeks, and more restaurants than ever are offering fried chicken specials. Not that crispy birds are a new trend; old favorites such as the Hitching Post and Levi’s Port Cafe are still going strong. So who fries up the tastiest morsels of meat? We tested 14 varieties to find out.

The Criteria

As mentioned, fried chicken is popping up everywhere. In an attempt to show our arteries some mercy, we established a few ground rules for qualification. First, we only sampled chicken dinners—no tenders, poppers, sandwiches, rip’ns, etc. Every bird under consideration had to be available for carryout to the general public on a regular basis. Finally, we deployed anonymous fried chicken fetchers (ahem, interns) to ensure a fair trial and to guarantee that the chicken arrived promptly and, more important, warm and relatively crispy.

The crunch-factor wasn’t the only deciding point—we know a little something gets lost en route from fryer to office. The ideal birds had both flavorful meat and a well-seasoned skin, and delivered a satisfying grease fix without getting too greasy.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 04/25/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
This healthy-minded, circus-themed food truck, run by two former clowns, offers restaurant-quality food with a local focus. By Anna Spiegel
The niçoise salad from Cirque. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

When the “greatest food on wheels” rolled onto Washington streets this past February, we expected another vendor slinging popcorn and funnel cakes. It’s a surprise, then, to pass by the purple, circus-themed Cirque Cuisine truck and see a menu boasting quiche filled with local corn, squash, and ricotta, or crab-topped watermelon gazpacho. What kind of act is this?

It turns out co-owners Sean Swartz and Jessica Shields are both former clowns who toured in South America—he with the second-largest circus in Mexico, she with a small troupe in Peru. The two connected over dinner at the pop-up Sensorium and shared visions of starting what Swartz calls “the social circus,” an organization to involve kids with exercise through tumbling, trapeze (Swartz is currently an instructor), and other cardiovascular tricks. The plan is still in the works, but they’re taking a similar healthful approach to their truck in the meantime: a menu of dishes with mostly organic or local ingredients from farmers markets and the Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-op, with vegetarian and gluten-free options—plus the occasional bout of unicycling.

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Posted at 09:30 AM/ET, 07/19/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
In which we dive into the abyss that is the toasted-sandwich chain’s elusive seafood sandwich. By Anna Spiegel
On the DL: Quizno's off-menu lobster roll. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Call me Ishmael, and the Quizno’s lobster and seafood salad sub the white whale.

Last summer I undertook a taste test of chain lobster rolls, seeking out the best of the worst. We caught rumors of a Quizno’s lobster special, but it had seemingly vanished by the time we’d lined up others from Subway, Au Bon Pain, Marvelous Market, and Panera. Then, around Lent, it resurfaced, but remained hard to find. Not every Quizno’s carries the sandwich, some that do don’t advertise it, and it’s absent from Quizno’s main menu except in the nutritional information. The sub is as mysterious as the sea meat inside.

Determined, I stopped into a local Quizno’s. Currently there’s no sign of it on the location’s menu of “chef-inspired” items like grilled flatbreads, pesto chicken, sliders, and other foods chefs might make if they worked at Quizno’s. But when I asked the man behind the counter if the store carried lobster rolls, his answer surprised me. He offered to make up a fresh batch of lobster salad on the spot.

Promising signs included a toasted (artisanal!) bun spread with butter, and the whole fresh-made thing. Less promising: how quickly the accommodating Quizno’s employee emerged from the back with a bucket, and started scooping the pink stuff onto the bun. Old promo material shows the sandwich simply dressed with lettuce, but we jazzed it up with some tomato and banana peppers—not a purist approach, but this is a place that spells crave with a “q.” The result? Not that bad, actually. The dominant flavor is industrial-strength mayonnaise, which could be worse considering the unknown origin of the “and seafood” portion of the meal (best guess: shredded fake crab, which is a mix of real crab and pollock). The little knuckle-like nuggets of lobster were tasteless, but speaking purely from a visual point of view, they simulate lobster pretty effectively. And as one relieved cubicle-mate astutely noted:

“At least it doesn’t smell bad.”

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Posted at 10:25 AM/ET, 06/06/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()