Sunday, March 8, 2015

Taco Bell’s all-new Sriracha Quesarito!

They’re pretty much the exact same products that have already been released, only this time, they are covered in a slimy coat of Asian chili sauce. So, does that addendum alone make the offerings worthy of your hard-earned dinero? 

Taco Bell, we need to talk.

My love for your hearty, affordable and probably-safe-for-human-consumption foodstuffs has nourished both my stomach and my soul over the last two and a half decades. You were there with me on my first date in high school and you kept me awake during final exams throughout my university years. I’m not 100 percent sure here, but I think my first word may have even been “enchirito.”

Over the years, I’ve covered almost every single weird-ass product you’ve released, from waffle tacos to nasty ass dollar menu burritos stuffed with chili and crumbled up French fries. Ever since the rousing success of the Doritos Locos Tacos -- in essence, the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” culture-unifying moment of my generation -- you’ve taken it upon yourself to mass market at least one high-concept fusion product every month. Sometimes, the results are a success, and other times, they are not. To be frank, I’m worried about you. It seems like you are no longer releasing menu items to sate the stomach of a starving, huddled America, but merely to pique the curiosity of the Buzzfeed crowd. Your drunken quest for publicity has driven you to that point of no return, effectively turning you into the Lindsay Lohan of the fast food industry -- only instead of showing your auburn-hued muff to TMZ, you’re test marketing Cap’n Crunch doughnut balls that not even the highest of the highest junior college kids could possibly find palatable.

Consider this an intervention, Bell. And also, a review of your all-new Sriracha Quesarito products, too.

A while back, Taco Bell decided to pull the fast food dick move of all fast food dick moves and actually manufacture and sell something called a “quesarito.” For those not in the know, the “quesarito” is the name of a mythical “off the menu” offering at number one competitor Chipotle’s chain of restaurants. It’s a move just as brazen as if Burger King were to start advertising a “McGangbang” sandwich on billboards and audaciously calling it a “McGangbang” sandwich to boot.

The half quesadilla, half burrito item -- which came in chicken, steak and shredded beef permutations -- was OK. Nothing too memorable, but nothing utterly regrettable either. Well, Taco Bell has decided to re-release a Criterion version of the products, only this time, there’s a new variable -- the inclusion of a massive dollop of Sriracha Sauce.

Now, to be fair, your overall enjoyment of this product really hinges on whether or not you consider the beloved sauce delectable or foul-tasting. Personally, I’m on the fence -- I enjoy it sometimes, but I most definitely would not consider it the type of fix-in that gels well with most varieties of food. Clearly, I don’t plan on dunking a Cadbury Screme Egg in a heaping bowl, nor do I plan on complementing it with a nice side of Yummy Mummy. It makes the new quesaritos polarizing by default, and I can hurry up and summarize it for you real quick here: if you like Sriracha Sauce, you might like these burrito abominations, and if not, it’s a pretty good bet you’re not going to like these things one iota.

Before we even get into the gustatory quality of the items, two things jumped out at me. First, how about that awesome multi-item foil wrapper, which literally lists about a half dozen products on it? For a company that makes billions a year, you kind of figured the Bell would have produced something a little bit ritzier for the new items. I mean, shit, they even made little specialized cardboard sleeve-thingies for their DLTS -- you know they have the budgeting for that kind of shit.

The big surprise, though, is when you actually open the products up. On the advertisements, the quesaritos come in what appears to be some kind of crimson red armband, but on my order at least, no such dressing was included. That really put a damper on my parade, because I sort of expected the items to be like the Doritos Locos Tacos, where instead of the gimmick flavor being on the inside, it’s actually built into the exterior shell. Alas, there is no such luck with the Sriracha Sauce Quesaritos, for they look about as plain Jane as, uh, whoever the original plain Jane was, I guess.

However, if variety is a requirement for you to get your drive-thru nom on, the new items do not disappoint. Not content with just ONE variation of Sriracha Quesarito, the Bell actually gives us THREE different products to chew on … both literally, and figuratively. But, yeah, mostly the part about being literally.

First up, we have the shredded chicken permutation. There’s really not too much to talk about here (and really, the other two products, to be blunt), because despite the presence of poultry chunks, cheese, rice and what appears to be sour cream, the only thing you can really taste is the chili sauce. It’s not a bad flavor, overall, just an extremely overpowering one that makes literally everything else in the tortilla completely flavorless. I mean, you get the texture of the chicken and rice, but the Sriracha sauce completely dominates your taste buds, like it was the color purple beating up all the other colors. If you like chicken … well, it really doesn’t matter, I guess, because with this product, you sure as hell can’t taste it.

With the steak Sriracha Quesarito, the actual interior contents are a little bit more distinguishable. As in, you can actually taste a little bit of the steak bits every now and then, but still, the chili sauce conquers all. The product is noticeably heavier than the other two offerings, which explains why it costs a couple of cents extra. Strangely enough, it also seemed to have sort of a lime-juicy tincture that the other two offerings did not. All in all, it’s an OK eat, but nothing to really drive out of your way for.

The third and final iteration is your standard just-add-hot-water shredded beef selection, and weirdly enough, this just so happens to be the yummiest of the trifecta. I can’t explain the fast food voodoo in action with this one, but the beef and chili sauce don’t seem to completely merge into a singularity of Sriracha-ness like with the other two products. Future generations, I can only imagine, will use that analogy to replace the old standard about oil and water not mixing. Since you get a nice, proportional taste and texture, it really does provide a pleasing mouthfeel experience, and of the three, this is the one I would advocate for if you had to make a split-second decision between the triumvirate.

As I was saying earlier, the foods are decent, but nothing to write home about, either. Then again, if for some reason you are actually writing letters to people nowadays, odds are, it wouldn’t be about something so banal as Taco Bell produce, but who am I to make assumptions?

I hate to say it, but I think this is a warning sign that Taco Bell may have hit their creative apex. I mean, the writing has been on the wall for quite awhile, but a product this bland and formulaic definitely gives fast foodies reason to be concerned. My suggestion for the company (actually, a subsidiary of Yum! Foods, but we don’t have to get into the technicalities) is to give it a break for awhile. Instead of cranking out the next generation of Fritos-flavored Doritos Loco Tacos burritos, how about going back to the drawing board and coming up with something truly innovative? I mean, shit, you really haven’t done much with the taco salad over the last 30 years, and it’s not like there’s a sizable subculture out there of folks clamoring for the return of the old “three olive” enchirito or anything. Hell, it might even be high-time to give the Bell Beefer another go at it. Heck, if BK can re-release the motherfucking Yumbo, I reckon these United States are probably ready for a Taco Bell hamburger.

Regardless, you are on a slippery slope, Bell. Today, it’s Sriracha Quesaritos and Starburst flavored freeze drinks, but tomorrow? You may have fallen so low as to have to offer edible coffee cups for people to give a shit about you.

Is that really what you want, amigos?


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