Monday, February 22, 2010

TBG Eats: The NEW Cranberry Apple Walnut Chicken Salad from Carl's Jr.

Current Weight: 167.8 lbs.

WAY back in the 1990s, I dated a girl who changed my life. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, "dated" probably isn't the right verb to use considering my courtship of her lasted ten times longer than any other aspect of our relationship. This past weekend, I stumbled across her Facebook profile. She's married with four six kids. SIX!

Back in the day, we were just kids, ourselves. One of us was the epitome of '90s ethnic chic: baggy jeans, Timberland boots, In Living Color-inspired idealism. And, of course, the other was me.

Boiled down, our friendship was essentially a gender-bending twist on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (or Freddie Prinze Jr's She's All That for those of you too lazy to Google Pygmalion). She and I worked together and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn she'd bet some pogs or a laser disc on the success of imbuing me with "cool".

She started with the easiest target – my hair. I was still rocking the flat-top, having ignored the Afrocentric memo from Arrested Development* to grow it out. So, at her urging, I shaved my head clean.

*--This would be the Arrested Development that white people loved in the '90s before the OTHER Arrested Development came around last decade that, according to Nielsen, not enough white people loved.

Next, she passive-aggressively ridiculed my wardrobe: made up mostly of just-above-the-knee jean shorts and an inordinate amount of purple. One weekend, we went shopping and in two days we'd rebuilt the contents of my entire closet. She even convinced me that every woman alive prefers guys in boxers, not briefs.

Finally, she re-did my diet. She detested red meat and eschewed fast food, so I absolved myself of the same gastronomic sins.

From then on, I've kept my hair short, kept abreast of what's egregiously unfashionable (conceding that I've no idea what's actually IN fashion at the moment) and wear nothing but boxers. And, for about five years after this girl left my life, I avoided red meat altogether and ate fast food just a handful of times.

Whenever I went out to eat, the entrée-sized chicken Caesar salad was my go-to main course. My ensalada obsesión was a long running joke with my closest friends. By the time I met the future Mrs. Bootleg, I weighed 159 lbs. My
salad days truly were…salad days.

Several years ago, the entrée-sized salad became a popular menu item at fast food restaurants. Marketed to women and disingenuously positioned as a healthier alternative to burgers and fries, eateries like McDonald's and Wendy's were moving crazy amounts of salads – even the ones topped with fried chicken or chili.

Carl's Jr. is taking a different approach. The chain has enlisted the subtle, understated and wholesome sexuality of Dr. Kim Kardashian in the ad campaign for their Grilled Chicken Salads. The "too hot for TV" version of the below spot can be found on Carl's Jr's Facebook page – or so I'm told.

The Cranberry Apple Walnut Grilled Chicken salad includes nothing but things I like in its name. There's feta cheese and raspberry vinaigrette dressing, too. The walnuts are glazed, the cranberries are dried…I like these things. Some of these ingredients I really like. So, why is this salad so unexceptional?

Well, for starters, the chicken is served piping hot from either the grill or the microwave. I ordered mine at the drive-thru window and by the time I got back to my office, the steam from the chicken had congealed the feta cheese and wilted the lettuce. If the resultant mess had been shoved between a multi-grain bun, it could've been called a California Chicken Club. For a salad, I expect more than a plate of soggy sandwich innards.

CJ's "spring salad mix" is a bitter assortment of cheap, leafy greens that needed a lot more dressing to mask their harsh taste. The walnuts and cranberries might've helped, but the teeny amounts provided could barely fill a single spoon.

Sorry, Kim. The days of hot women influencing my food decisions have come and gone. I am now free to appreciate your commercials for their inherent artistic value.

Grade: 1.5 (out of 5) Calories: 460 Fat: 23 (both with dressing)


SHough610 said...

This reminded me of my dad and his best friend (my "uncle") reminiscing about foods that they hated growing up. My uncle grew up pretty poor and my dad was solidly working class and one of the things they commiserated on was the hatred of the "mayonnaise, carrots, raisin, lettuce" salad. This seems a bit too close to that for my liking (another favorite memory? The two of them getting buzzed together drinking and watching the Jerry Lewis telethon).

I think that every guy has a story of a girl who they changed for. Yours just included you looking like Kevin Johnson before (you SAID shorts above the knee and lots of purple).

That Bootleg Guy said...

These types of salads are usually better than you'd think. There's a regional brewery out here that does a big salad with pears, crumbled blue cheese and glazed pecans that is AWESOME~! The fast food translation is, not surprisingly, less awesome.

Also, carrot-raisin salad was a staple in my house growing up. I've mocked it often on this blog. Deservedly so.

Blondezilla said...

For one of those types of salads, it isn't too bad for you. I mean 23 grams of fat is like eating 1.5 tablespoons of butter.

And also...LOL at the idea of you wearing shorts above the knees.

that nicka said...

Gotta love AJC backstory / prequels