Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TBG Eats: Kentucky Grilled Chicken

Current Weight: 168.6 lbs.

During my first semester at (the) San Diego State University, I signed up for the only student meal plan I could afford with my miniscule amount of financial aid. I was allotted two meals (breakfast OR lunch and dinner) Monday through Friday, with no weekend coverage.

This forced me to be quite creative in the three months between the start of school and the moment I met the future Mrs. Bootleg, who'd immediately take pity on me – and feed me – like an emaciated stray dog.

This was Fall 1995 and nationally-known fast food establishments were only just beginning their systematic takeover of traditional college campus cafeterias. KFC Express occupied a small corner within State's lone sprawling dining hall. It sold one-piece(!) box meals (breast, mashed potatoes and a biscuit) as well as a la carte items. (The a la carte menu included tater tots which, to the best of my knowledge, most KFCs have never had on its menu. I mention this only because these were the best tater tots I've ever eaten. I look forward to comparing them to Sonic's someday.)

On Friday afternoons, I'd have to buy enough grub to get me through two more days. It didn't take me long to learn that my $5.25 "dinner limit" could be stretched from Friday night to Monday morning, if I purchased intelligently. Biscuits were 49 cents each; tater tots were 79 cents and mashed potatoes were 99 cents. Since chicken only came with the meal, I'd buy, like, five biscuits, two orders of tots and a cup of mashed potatoes.

Somehow, I turned that snack into 48 hours of sustenance.

These days, my commercialized fried chicken of choice is sold by the good people at Popeye's. It's more flavorful than KFC's with infinitely better side dishes and has been unofficially endorsed by Black people everywhere. And, you KNOW we've never steered America wrong.

But, my hard-earned loyalties can be swayed by effective marketing.

KFC has rolled out an enormous ad campaign for their Kentucky Grilled Chicken product. The iconic fried chicken brand has had mixed success with these types of big budget promotions, realizing modest gains with their popcorn chicken and one of the most epic fast food failures of the 20th century with Rotisserie Gold.

After Jalen's soccer class last Saturday, I took That Bootleg Family to the closest KFC to see if Kentucky Grilled Chicken worth all the hype, hubbub and hoopla.

The chicken certainly looked good. It appeared to be grilled to a golden brown with a few superfluous grill marks on each piece. I went for the teeny wing first and was struck by how unexceptional the negligible bit of meat tasted. I turned my attention to the breast and found it to be equally bland. The chicken's skin appeared to be hit with the right amount of spices, but none of them really came through in my order. Oddly enough, I finished off Mrs. Bootleg's identical white meat meal and her chicken had incrementally more taste – and moistness – than mine.

Maybe my order came from the "heat lamp batch" and my wife's was fresh off the grill. On the TBG Eats-o-Meter, I'd give my bird a "2" and hers a "3" which means I'll have to split the difference and give Kentucky Grilled Chicken a second chance at some point.

Enjoy your reprieve, Colonel.

Grade: 2.5 (out of 5)

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