Wendy’s Bacon Queso Crap: A Review

IMG_4100I went to Wendy’s for dinner last night, not because I like Wendy’s, in fact among popular fast food restaurants they are near the bottom on my list of favorites if they aren’t my absolute least favorite, but because it’s that one time of year when corporate realizes they have way too much extra cheese and bacon that is going to go bad soon so they roll out a new product that features these two ingredients. I don’t know why I keep going back time and time again, thinking that maybe I’ll be blown away by the combination of flavors that remain the same despite the changing the name of the product they are selling. This year is the bacon and queso family of products which includes a burger, a chicken sandwich, and of course French fries, all topped with the disgustingly delicious amounts of the stuff, so naturally, I had to try it.

I got the chicken sandwich, because the burger just looked a heart attack waiting to happen, and since I don’t know where I really stand karmically, I figured it was best not to tempt fate with an easy way to get rid of me.  Over the speaker a question was directed at me, “do you want the chicken sandwich regular or spicy?” and since I knew that this meal would likely end with me on the toilet regretting my decision to eat there in the first place, I decided to just go for it, so I confidently replied spicy. I got the fries too, because again, if the canon is going to blow either way, you might as well stuff it full of as much gun powder as you can cram inside.  It was 9.59 for the sandwich and fries, a little more expensive than a regular meal, but I pulled around and gladly paid it, thinking the increased price would translate to more enjoyment of the food, but I’ve been wrong before, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was wrong again.

Let’s start with the positives, because at my core, that is what I am truly about, always looking for positivity in negative situations and never complaining because it won’t do any good anyway. The chicken sandwich was great. As I’m not a frequent visitor of Wendy’s I’d forgotten how much I liked their chicken sandwich but it was actually really juicy, with just the right amount of spice, topped with a queso cheese sauce that was also somewhat spicy, and a couple strips of crispy bacon. I was pleasantly surprised by the queso, that it actually tasted like something you might actually find at a low quality Mexican restaurant which was a step up from what I was expecting. If I were just basing my recommendation on the sandwich alone I would definitely encourage you to try it because it actually was surprisingly good, but we haven’t even discussed the fries yet, so buckle up, we’re just getting started.

You might be thinking to yourself, I wonder why Kendall doesn’t go to Wendy’s more because he clearly likes their chicken sandwich, and let me set the record straight, I do, but the main reason I don’t go there is because of the fries, which in my humblest of opinions are the worst fast food fries that exist within the vast tapestry of American fast food chains. They are the most flavorless pieces of sadness that I’ve ever had alongside a burger, but I thought, add queso and bacon and perhaps they will be better. I’ve fallen into this trip before, going to Wendy’s to try the chili cheese fries, the ghost pepper fries, and even the baconator fries that are a mainstay of the menu, none of which couldn’t overpower the underwhelming quality of these horrible fries, but I thought that perhaps this time might be different. I was wrong. While the queso cheese sauce and the bacon pieces were delicious, it wasn’t enough to make the Wendy’s fries edible, so the queso bacon fries can be considered nothing but a colossal failure. So next time you’re thinking about picking up some fast food, I would highly recommend going to an establishment with a more well rounded menu, where the fries and sandwiches are both good, because with all of the options out there today, there really isn’t any reason to limit yourself by sacrificing half of your meal on a mediocre side dish. Maybe Wendy’s will step up their game sometime in the future, but until that time I’m going to be staying far away, until of course they need to get rid of some more bacon and cheese again next year.

When in Doubt Leave the Vegetables Out

IMG_4070An immediate stomach ache that hits you as soon as you leave a restaurant and a desperate need to find a bathroom as quickly as possible, are two telltale signs that the meal you just ate went terribly awry. Unfortunately, both of these symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks, or more specifically a plate of nachos as soon as I left El Porton, a Mexican restaurant where we ate dinner last night. My wife and I met the rest of the family there, gathering to celebrate the birthday of both my grandpa and cousin. I’m always in the mood for Mexican food and had actually been craving it lately, so when I was told that we would be having that for dinner, I was pretty excited, to the point where I actually caught myself thinking at random intervals throughout my day about what I might get to eat that night. The chips and salsa arrived before the drinks, as is typically custom at Mexican restaurants, but I showed a great deal of restraint that I normally lack, by waiting to dig in until my water arrived, which turned out to be a good call on my part since the salsa was a little spicier than I remembered.

I ordered fajita nachos with steak, because steak sounded really good to me but more so for the cheese dip that I’d been thinking about relentlessly throughout the day. I had the choice of ordering the nachos with or without vegetables, and despite the kid in me screaming that vegetables are gross, I ordered them anyway, to prove, if only to myself, that I am in fact an adult and vegetables actually aren’t all that bad. I was expecting some diced tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeños, and maybe even some onions, but in my haste to order the food, my brain neglected to register that the vegetables served with the fajita nachos would be just that, vegetables typically found in a steaming pan of fajitas, but don’t worry, I found out soon enough. The food arrived and I tried to not pre-judge my nachos based on appearance with the huge chunks of onion, tomato, and bell pepper being the most visible and populous foods on my plate, something that might have been aesthetically pleasing to a strict vegetarian, but I myself found it to be very unattractive.

The steak was delicious but the pieces of juicy meat were far overpowered by the crunchiness of the peppers and onions that I was desperately trying to make an asset of the dish but was rather hindering and taking away from the best ingredient. The cheese dip of course was amazing, because white cheese dip has a way of never letting you down, but again the giant vegetables were doing their best to make themselves known above all else. I gave some of the onions and peppers to my mimi and wife, the only two people at the table of nine who wanted anything to do with them, and finished my nachos in peace. Not long after, the storm hit and I was clutching my stomach which hurt like I’d eaten a half dozen creme filled doughnuts that were a few days old for breakfast and washed it down with a big glass of expired milk, not that I would know from experience. I don’t know if my body was having that reaction because it was shocked by my vegetable intake after years of neglecting healthy food or if something else was causing my growing discomfort, but I was completely miserable. The one good thing to come from this terrible experience was a valuable life lesson that I won’t soon forget; when in doubt leave the vegetables out.

What I’ve Been Reading: Late July/Early August

IMG_4066While the past week has been a little bit cooler than the unbearably hot temperatures that seem to be intent on ruining my life this summer, it has still been too miserable to spend any significant amount of time outside, so I’ve focused a lot of my time lately on doing one of my favorite indoor activities, cross-stitching. I hate to burst your bubble if you read that last sentence and were instantly excited by the prospect of me cross-stitching you something cool and unique to you for Christmas this year, but I was just joking about that, and reading is what was meant to end the last sentence, but at the last second I called an audible thinking that perhaps cross-stitching might provide a few laughs, but now that it’s written, I realize that it’s less funny than it was intended to be, and for that I am truly sorry. Anyway, what I’m trying to talk about is reading, and more specifically what I’ve been reading lately, so without further ado (distractions), I present to you the three books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks.

The first one, “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, is a book that has traveled with me from Memphis to Florida and then back to Memphis again, always occupying a place on my bookshelf but never really catching and holding on to my interest until recently, and I think it has everything to do with the title, or more specifically the last two words, goon squad. When I hear the word goon my mind takes me back to a Batman television show that I have absolutely no recollection of aside from the fact that the villains were called goons, so in my mind I jumped to the conclusion that this book would be about unsavory characters who lived in a super hero universe, which didn’t seem all that appealing to me, but I finally gave it a chance and I’m very glad that I did because it turned out to be a pretty good read. It’s a story that centers around music and the music industry, jumping around in different time periods in the characters lives, focusing on different characters and then showing how they are all somehow connected. My only problem with the book was that it felt a little clunky to me, all of the jumping around and trying to figure out whether whatever is currently being talked about happened before or after something you’d read, chronologically speaking, but there wasn’t a second of the book that I found at all uninteresting, so if you’re looking for something that will keep your attention, this one is a good one to check out.

Next on the list is “The Other Side of Mulholland” by Stephen Randall, a book I picked up at a used bookstore last year and had no knowledge of what the novel was actually about. There wasn’t a plot summary on the back, but I like a goldfish I was intrigued by all of the pretty colors that decorated the cover, so I bough it anyway. It’s the story of two brothers trying to make it as writers in Los Angeles while their parents constantly worry about them through all of their ups and downs. It’s a decent enough book, but there was really nothing that kept me wanting to keep reading, nothing that insisted I turn the page to find out what happened next, which is the reason out of all three of these books, although the shortest in length it took me the longest to get through, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Lastly I read “Dry”, another memoir by one of my new favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, which I can’t seem to get enough of. Dry is the story of Augusten’s journey from alcoholism to sobriety, full of ups and downs, written by one of the funniest voices I’ve ever read. It’s like every book I read by Burroughs is another piece of the puzzle, revealing a completely different side of one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever read about. Seriously, it’s actually pretty amazing that after all he’s been through that he is still alive, so if you haven’t jumped on the Augusten Burroughs bandwagon yet, you are really missing out, because now I’ve read three of his memoirs, and all of them have been very funny, and have easily been the books that I’ve read the most quickly over the last year because of how smoothly they flow combined with the fact that you’re dying to find out what happens next. “Dry” is probably my least favorite book I’ve read by Augusten, but that’s not a condemnation about how bad it is, but rather praise at how good his other two books are, and while it has been my least favorite that I’ve read by him, it was my favorite out of the three books I’m writing about today and I would definitely recommend you checking it out.

Why I Won’t be Going Back to Pizza Hut

Last year I wrote a blog about how after constant disappointment I was severing my ties with Pizza Hut, and for the most part I have stuck with that, despite that being the most conveniently located pizza place to where I live, but last night I found myself there and all of my previous hatred for the pizza chain was reaffirmed. Pull up a chair, this may take a while. So my wife and I were going over to my dad’s house last night and he asked if we would pick up the pizza that he’d ordered on the way, which shouldn’t have been a problem which is exactly what I told him. He told me that it would be ready at seven o’clock, so I timed my leaving the house perfectly and pulled up in front of the restaurant at precisely that time, for I’m nothing if not punctual. I went in and paid for the two medium pizzas, eighteen dollars exactly and signed the receipt, waiting for my pizza. The cashier looked in the warming bag behind her, pulling out two medium pizzas, before deciding that something was wrong and pushing them back into the bag, completely out of sight. I knew there was a problem, because typically that’s how things work at pizza hut; you order pizza, and you get a problem, although she didn’t tell me this right away.

The cashier disappeared to the back, and shortly after returned to the counter with a one toothed woman who appeared, all appearances aside, to be the manager. They whispered back in forth, the two previously mentioned pizzas making another appearance as one explained to the other what was going on, and still all of this was happening without anyone saying a word to me. Finally, after a few minutes, the singularly toothed thorn in my heel stepped forward to the counter and addressed me for the first time, informing me that guess what, there was a problem. Apparently the two pizzas that I was supposed to be picking up were given away to another customer, and this other customer’s pizzas were the ones that kept being pulled in and out of the hot bag. She said it would take no more than ten minutes to remake the pizzas, but my old bias against Pizza Hut had been building up as soon as I knew there was a problem, so I told her I just wanted my money back and if I decided to reorder the pizza I would come back in and do so, my thinking being that I would call my dad and we could nix this whole plan altogether and find a pizza place that wasn’t so prone to constant screw ups.

The manager turned and asked the cashier how I paid, because apparently for some reason asking the person standing right in front of her who had actually made the payment didn’t occur to her. The cashier told her I paid with my card, and that is when the manager informed me, saying that it wasn’t possible to give cash back on a card purchase. I found it absurd that I could not get my money back; my online banking app already showed the money taken from my account, so why couldn’t she just give me eighteen dollars in cash and let me be on my way? “That’s not possible.” That was the phrase she kept hissing at me from behind the tooth, as if I were asking her to suddenly sprout wings and fly away. Stubbornly, I once again asked for my money back, and then the genie gave me three options; I could get a credit for the amount I spent, redeemable at any area pizza hut, she could tell her manager tomorrow, who in turn would contact the corporate headquarters and would make a decision on whether or not to return my money in five to seven business days, or I could wait ten minutes for them to remake the pizzas. I slightly raised my hands in an act of show, asked what choice did I have, and told her I would be waiting outside until the pizzas were remade.

Ten minutes later on the nose I walked back into the Pizza Hut, ready to claim my prize. In the time I sat waiting in the car, I watched a guy walk in, not be helped at the counter for five minutes, and angrily leave, so at least I can take solace in knowing I’m not the only person afflicted by the terrible service that seems to be a requirement of all their franchises. I did have to wait a few minutes for my pizzas to be finished, given that the people who actually make the pizzas aren’t that great at estimating how long it will take to make them, but finally I got them and was about to leave, when suddenly a thought occurred to me. These people were very unhelpful and were basically holding my eighteen dollars hostage. In all the jobs I’ve worked at, including a few months at a pizza place, we bent over backwards to make our customers happy, going above and beyond especially when someone was unhappy, giving out free cheesy bread or giving the products to them free of charge, but none of these conciliatory offerings were tossed in my direction, so I asked the manager if I could have a two liter drink for my troubles. She rolled her eyes and said yes; victory was mine, the big winner of a two liter Pepsi for thirty minutes of my time. Suffice it to say, I will not be returning to Pizza Hut anytime soon.

Last Two Books I’ve Read

IMG_4027Since I have nothing else to talk about, and don’t feel like exerting the energy or effort in to coming up with something, conjuring a funny memory from my past, or an experience I can use to motivate others, who like me, aren’t motivated to do anything, I am going to talk about the books I’ve been reading lately, and you’re going to like it. Or you’re going to absolutely hate it. I have no idea, because as much as I’d like to, I have no idea what you are thinking at any given moment, especially as your read my words from afar. Okay so now that I’ve wasted enough of your time, let’s dive in, shall we? If you answered with a hearty and resounding “yes!” I just want you to know that my question was a rhetorical one and I’m embarrassed for you at your outburst. About a week and a half ago I began reading a book called “Dear American Airlines”, a work of fiction wherein the main character is stranded at the Chicago O’Hare airport and is writing an angry letter to American Airlines. At times it’s funny, but for the most part it drones on and on in a tiresome way, without very long paragraphs and rambling sentences, kind of like this blog. The only reason I read it is because somehow it ended up on my Amazon wish list, and ordered it about a month ago. Perhaps someone recommended it to me, and if that’s the case, whoever you are, you’re recommendations are no longer welcome. The only possible reason you should ever read this book is if you are traveling via American Airlines and become stranded and angry, then perhaps reading the book will bring you some comfort in knowing that you are not alone, but other than that, you would be wise to stay away.

After that atrocity I read “Home is Burning” by Dan Marshall, again a product of somehow ending up on my Amazon list. I knew going in that it was a memoir written by someone whom’s parents both had terminal illnesses, so I thought it might be bleak or inspiring, but I had no idea that it would be so funny. I’m not sure if Marshall has written anything else, but believe me, I am going to find that out because this book by him was very, very funny and well written. It’s the true story Dan, who’s beginning his career in Los Angeles but is summoned home to Salt Lake City to help out around the house when his dad is diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Throughout the course of this disease and the mother’s battle with cancer, the five Marshall children are blindsided by all of the bad luck and have to come to grips with the imminent deaths of both parents, and some family members handle it better than others, although nobody does so with any grace. I would definitely recommend checking this one out if you’re in the mood for a story that is both inspiring and funny, because in “Home is Burning” you will get both, and as a bonus, it’s a pretty quick read.

What I’ve Been Reading for the Past Week

IMG_3987I was sick today which means I don’t have anything to write about my day, unless of course you want to hear about my endless trips to the bathroom, which I think it’s safe to assume you do not, so I’ll talk about what I’ve been reading lately. In a blog post I wrote last week I mentioned having just finished Bear Town by Frederik Backman, and while I would recommend either of the the other two books he’s written over this one, it still might interest you if you enjoy fictionalized sports stories, which I am not, probably from a childhood spending way too much time reading Matt Christopher books that were given to me en masse on every holiday and or birthday that I can remember. Bear Town is the story of a little league hockey team, who through their winning season brings their town together and takes their mind off of their current problems. There are a few twists and suspenseful moments, but I didn’t find it all the great, but given that Bachman’s books are originally written in Swedish, I’m more than willing to blame the translator.

The second book I just got done reading is Camino Island, by John Grisham. Is it just me or does it seem like he’s putting out books with even more frequency now than his standard once a year in the fall? I don’t necessarily consider it a bad thing, given that I’ve been a huge Grisham fan for as long as I can remember, reading everything he writes, but I just hope that this doesn’t mean I don’t have a new one to look forward to reading over the Christmas holiday, because that would be a bummer. Camino Island is about the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s five novels being stolen from high security vault in the Princeton library, and a struggling writer who’s been paid to get close to the prime suspect. The majority of the story takes place on an island in Florida, the perfect setting for a summer read, and one I would definitely recommend checking out as it is my favorite Grisham book in recent years.

In the span of about twelve hours I read Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl, the debut novel written by Pittsburgh native Jesse Andrews. It’s the story of a boy who’s mom forces him to befriend a girl diagnosed with leukemia, and his eccentric friend Earl that tags along. It may not seem like a story about cancer is funny, especially when it pertains to a child in high school, but this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in recent memory, the narrator, high school senior Greg Gaines says what’s on his mind, but what he doesn’t say, his inner voice, is absolutely hilarious. I literally was laughing out loud as I read, pestering my wife to stop what she was doing, demanding her full attention so I could read a paragraph or two to her, which she too found irresistibly funny. It’s a very quick read and I would highly recommend it. Whether you are looking for a good laugh, a story of friendship, or a little bit of both, this novel has it all for you.

I’m always looking for a good book recommendation, so feel free to comment below what you’ve been reading so I can check it out. Thanks!

4th of July: A Walk in the Park and a Great Movie

IMG_3983It’s the fourth of July, independence day, so it’s pretty common to go watch a fireworks show tonight, but it’s raining, I hate loud noises, and I don’t feel like fighting traffic downtown, so the thunder shaking the walls of my apartment will have to suffice. Growing up I always celebrated this holiday in the same way, having a big cook out at my grandparents house, with burgers, hot dogs, cheese dip, watermelon, and homemade ice cream, but over the past few years those traditions have fallen by the wayside so I really wasn’t sure how I was going to spend my day. Last year was great, my wife and I, along with my brothers, mom and grandmother were all in Minneapolis watching a Twins baseball game, which is really the most American way to celebrate America’s independence, but unfortunately, my vacation was last week so all hopes of starting a new tradition on the 4th, involving going to a baseball game, diminished rather quickly.

I woke up early this morning, about five, and after reading for a little while, decided to go to the park for an early walk before it got unbearably hot outside, as Memphis summers tend to do. It was a beautiful morning, a bright blue sky with the sunlight on my back as I walked along one of the trails at Shelby Farms. It was early enough so it wasn’t very crowded, which was nice, because after having passing just a few people, I was already growing tired of saying “good morning”, an insane ritual of having to speak with a complete stranger just because you are walking past them, but I nodded and mumbled the words anyway, lest I seem like a jerk for not responding. I walked for an hour, but it didn’t seem that long, walking past several lakes surrounded by trees and smelling the fresh honeysuckle along the way, sweeping me up in the spirit of summer.

This afternoon I went to the movies with my dad and watched “Baby Driver” a film I knew nothing about going in, but was a little skeptical of due to what struck me as an odd name. The movie focused on “Baby” a young man indebted to an apparent mobster, although I don’t believe an official organization is mentioned, pays him back by being the getaway driver for various heists and robberies. It’s a very compelling story of someone being forced into a bad situation, and his struggle to get out of it to save himself and the girl that he has fallen in love with. “Baby” has a strong connection to music which is apparent throughout the movie, bringing a completely new perspective to music in film. Overall I really enjoyed the movie, however there were a couple of things toward the end that struck me as pretty unbelievable, the director seeing how far he could stretch the reality to cram even more action into the last few minutes. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 rating, and I definitely recommend you checking it out, but of course you don’t have to, because we live in America, and you’re independent to do as you please.

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