Wendy’s New Smoky Honey Mustard and Asiago Ranch Grilled Chicken Flatbread Sandwiches

I’ve got to admit, I don’t make it out to Wendy’s often. It’s not the restaurant’s fault, but the location of the closest one is within a quick radius of at least three other good restaurants, a Trader Joe’s, and is halfway between home and school, so it’s rare that I’m ever making a pit stop. Tonight, though, I found myself with a block of spare time and a nagging parched feeling, so I decided to stop for a soda for the ride home, remembering I’d had a gift card for the new ranch guacamole chicken sandwich to try out.
However, when I saw an advertisement for two new varieties of grilled chicken flatbread tucked behind some bushes, I couldn’t help myself. As luck would have it, they happened to be out of guacamole as well. I was initially apprehensive because from the angle my car was at, all I could see was “smoky honey-” and I reasoned that if the next word was “BBQ” I’d just pass. Fast food barbecue is nothing exciting and the bulk of them are overly sugared and sticky, but it turns out that I was in luck. Smoky honey mustard and asiago ranch awaited me along with a cool drink.

They also explicitly advertised the sandwich in a generic “fancy food” font and had a strange sign (presumably for people with allergies to butter? Or a desire for fine dining at fast food prices?) informing customers that the flatbread sandwiches were prepared with butter. All righty, then!

For $3.99 plus tax, the flatbreads provide a decent value and an excellent quality. After a little research, I found that the chain has been testing four varieties for the last five months, switching up the flavor combinations and offering two others in addition to the two mentioned above, smoky apple barbecue (though whether that’s applewood or apple fruit, I don’t know) and caprese. They’re packaged in a special brown-bag wrapper with instructions to rip and grip for eating on the go.

Right from the get-go, it was easy to see that these were not your average fast food chicken sandwich. The smoky honey mustard sandwich features grilled, seasoned chicken, a blend of lettuce and arugula, tomato slices, and a smoky honey mustard sauce atop a whole-grain flatbread. The asiago ranch flatbread, like its sandwich counterpart, features the same meat and vegetables, but adds on a slice of asiago cheese, ranch dressing, and crispy bacon.
The two flatbreads were exceptional. Although the format of the whole-grain bread has the surreptitious flavor profile of a mother trying to sneak vegetables into her kid’s food- a highly sweetened honey flavor to detract from the crunchy nuts and seeds and a toasty exterior so that nobody notices the bread isn’t blindingly white, it’s still a valiant attempt at vending whole grains on a large scale.The bread has a nice chew to it while still remaining yielding and is soft, holding together all the toppings without falling apart.

I felt like the honey mustard sandwich was the less balanced of the two. While I’m always up for a condiment-centric sandwich, there was no smokiness to be found in the sauce and its sweetness only enhanced the sugars in the bread. I would have liked to see a little more bite to this sauce, from something like paprika or even horseradish. However, the vegetables were crisp and fresh and the chicken was moist, tender, and lightly seasoned with a blend of spices that cut some of the cloying flavor. The sandwich contained about a half of a pounded, but still relatively thick, chicken breast, and was very filling.
We unanimously preferred the flavors in the asiago ranch sandwich– it’s definitely one I’d get again if I needed a quick meal.  For whatever reason, the tomato in this one was much pinker and anemic-looking, and tasted less fresh. The remaining components were amazing, though- the slice of included bacon was thick, chewy, and even a little crispy at the ends. It balanced out the bread wonderfully along with the sharp tang of the asiago, slightly melted from the heat of the chicken.
Like the other sandwich, the lettuce added a welcomed bitter contrast to the rich flavors and was bound together by the ranch sauce, which was strong enough to give a kick to the whole package, but didn’t overpower any one ingredient.

All in all, I was really impressed with these. The interesting ingredient combinations and  high-quality feel of the sandwich gave me deli or coffee shop quality at a fast food prices. I’ve seen things like this sell for around eight bucks at organic coffee places, so this is a wonderful compromise. I’d love to see new versions of these on the market soon!

Hornet’s Nest Deli – Branford, CT

Personally, I had a pretty damn good time in high school. I bullied the nerds on the chess club by stuffing them into lockers and occasionally running in and flipping over a chess table or two. Really, it was some pretty good times and if given the chance to go back and relive high school with the knowledge I have now, I would do it in a heartbeat. Thinking about the days of shoving nerds in lockers and duct taping kids to poles brings back some really good memories.

The Hornet’s Nest Deli in town really does a nice job of capturing the Branford High School atmosphere with a plethora of Branford high sports memorabilia from lacrosse sticks to jerseys and even including the football helmet of the legendary football star Jim Balzano. The owner Dino really does a good job capturing the BHS atmosphere with the decorations and in the few moments of conversation with him, he definitely has some great future plans for this little deli by displaying artwork from aspiring artist can be bought form the artist if customers of the deli develop enough interest in them.

Like almost every other deli on earth, this one offers regular sandwiches to extreme specialty sandwiches. If you can think of a sandwich, wrap, or a combination of both, they’ll probably make it. On my visit there, I got the “widowmaker” sandwich which consists of: roast beef, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, and their own horseradish mustard. This sandwich was very well divided and offered the complete spectrum of all the ingredients in every bite. Their special horseradish mustard offered a very nice sweet counterpoint to the red onion but offered a very nice kick also. This sandwich was a perfect blend of the ingredients in every bite and was quite a large sandwich for the very modest price.

The Hornet’s Nest offers at least seven more specialty sandwiches that are all equally as creative as the “widowmaker” and equally as delicious. For me this place will be a consistent go to for a great sandwich and a hearty dose of nerd beating nostalgia of the good old days. This place is affordable and simple. If you’re not expecting haute cuisine, and want a place to grab a reasonably priced and delicious sandwich while getting a great look at what Branford High School is like if not just to gaze upon the wonder of Jim Balzano’s football helmet, The Hornet’s Nest is the place to go.

SNACKDOWN: A Tale of Two Sandwiches, or, Price vs. Vice

There are two competing sandwich places at the UMass Campus Center, both at The Blue Wall Eatery. One offers pre-made, organic sandwiches for an obscene price, and another, customized sandwiches with “lesser” ingredients, in the eyes of some, for a better value. Both sandwiches are delicious, but today’s review is open-ended. I’m not giving either sandwich a rating. I’m giving YOU the option, readers…what would you do? And what goes on your sandwich?
Here are my options. At the organic eatery, I’ve ordered a chicken breast sandwich on ciabatta bread, which comes with baby arugula, red peppers, goat cheese, and a garlic aioli. The sandwich is very small. Many readers may feel unsatisfied after eating it because it falls a little under six inches. (That’s what she said!) It’s also rigid in its construction because they’re premade, so should one want the goat cheese on one of the other sandwiches, say, on the ham sandwich, they will politely tell you that’s impossible because they’re constructed. And because of this preconstruction, they’re not fresh, so the vegetables are mushy and limp when they arrive. However, all of the ingredients are free range, organic, and from local farms in the area.
I still ordered it, because at the deli option next door, there’s no option for grilled chicken. And with the goat cheese and ciabatta, I must say, I was quite pleased. I felt like I was at a Food Emporium. The garlic aioli was disappointing as hell, because I was looking forward to a high quality sauce for the high prices that it cost me- $6.75 for the sandwich, with nothing added. At a rate of $1.12 an inch, I could have bought six self-rising pizzas at a budget grocery and had some friends over instead. So, I couldn’t taste the garlic, but the chicken was tasty and tender, and the goat cheese was very creamy, and with the ciabatta, I still felt like it was good. I ended up picking off the veggies because for one, they have no place on a sandwich, and for another, they were more flaccid than Carrot Top’s career.
Onto the Glutwich. You won’t think you’re in Manhattan. It’s from the customizable stand, where, at a fixed price, you can add as many toppings as you want onto a small or large sub roll or wrap. The pros? They have flavored mayonnaise, which my dining commons do not have, in flavors like chipotle, garlic, and herb. They have better quality bread. And they have more toppings. So, onto my sandwich. It’s deceptively simple, but so incredible. It’s just chipotle mayonnaise, American cheese, ham, and french fries with salt and pepper. It’s fat, carbs, and sodium, but it’s wonderful.
For $8.04, you get a drink of your choice, the french fries, and a small sandwich, which is quite heavy and measures in at about 8.5, 9 inches long. There’s no toasting option, though. The flavor is great, and I feel like the ingredients always taste fresh and nice. Sometimes the fries have been sitting so they’re a little cold when I bite into the sandwich, but if I get it and they’re very crispy, it’s wonderful with the spiciness of the mayonnaise and the ham underneath. It’s a fantastic sandwich for a hungry college student!

So, answer in the comments section! What do you do? And would you choose health over wealth?