Crappy Food Critic #03: Taco Bell Cap’n Crunch Delights

Say what you will about Taco Bell—people certainly do—but plenty of fast-food chains serve total garbage relatively unscathed, yet Taco Bell almost always takes the bullet. McDonald’s is the ne plus ultra face of fast food, but they always at least try to act they’re making some sort of stride toward improving the amount and range of their healthy options. Carl’s Jr makes the news once in a blue moon, when they unveil some behemoth that’s less healthy than just straight-out eating a cauldron of lard. Jack-in-the-Box makes fewer bones about advertising directly to stoners. Taco Bell is always the butt of low-hanging hack jokes about diarrhea, although in my experience it’s Subway that deserves that crown. 
Fairly or not, Taco Bell usually winds up playing the patsy.

But no chain has absorbed and internalized not just the meaning, but the spirit of “junk food” and manifested that into innovative offerings as well as Taco Bell. Regardless of how you feel about it, the Doritos Locos Taco is, bar none, the most influential and electrifying fast food item of the last decade. So anything they make in that vein from that point forward should command at least a non-negligible amount of attention.

Previously, Taco Bell has offered the Cinnabon Delight, which is a deep-fried ball, oval in theory but amorphous in practice, filled with a sort of milk-like cream.[1] The Cap’n Crunch Delight is more or less the same thing, but instead of being covered in cinnamon and sugar, it’s coated in Crunch Berry dust, of the sort you find at the bottom of the cereal box.

As far as junk cereals, it’s hard to beat Cap’n Crunch, if not by taste then at least by reputation. Quaker Oats stopped marketing Cap’n Crunch directly to children in 2011, under pressure from, among other sources, Michelle Obama and her tireless efforts to curb child obesity, though the brand maintains online and social media presences. It spun Crunch Berries off into the all-Berry variant Oops! All Berries. (You think General Mills would ever pull the trigger on an “Oops! All Charms”?) Weirdly enough, considering the subject matter at hand, there’s also a Sprinkled Donut Crunch nowadays, in case you happen not to be abreast of the Cap’n’s current affairs. They’ve got their grip on garbage locked down tight. It makes sense for Taco Bell to pursue it as a dessert option.

For me, the biggest obstacle is the milky filling. It doesn’t quite taste totally like icing, and it’s not entirely convincing as milk, either. It’s a strange hybrid. I think I might like it more if it was offered on the side, in a small cup, so that I could dip at my leisure and control the ratio of icing in the ingredient mixture. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think about nibbling around it in the initial bites. It seemed like the kind of thing you just go all in on.) 

The taste of the outer portion lives and dies by the freshness of the oil used to fry it. Doubtless you’ll pardon me if I’m not going to count on Taco Bell to be on top of their oil game. Getting one from an old batch is an experience not dissimilar to getting chips fried in old oil at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Therefore, strangely enough, for optimal results, I’d bet that the sooner after the breakfast menu closes up, the better time it is to pick up a couple. That seems odd to me, but I also have weird hangups about eating anything even slightly breakfast-y in any time frame other than breakfast, so I won’t try to argue that point too hard.

In a strange way, they resemble nothing so much as a super-basic version of Taco Bueno’s Cheesecake Chimichangas, which are so much lighter, crispier, cheesecakier, and just all-around better. Luckily, it’s only a dollar for two, so it doesn’t feel like too much of a rip-off, and you won’t feel bad throwing away too much food if you don’t like them, which is likely, because they’re weird. Not bad, per se, but weird—very weird. Certainly it’s not as fruitful a collaboration as with Frito-Lay, but I don’t want to dock them too hard for that, because what could be? I won’t shed any tears when they fall off the menu, though.

[1] I’ve seen numerous comparisons to donut holes, though I haven’t cottoned to it; I feel donut holes hold their shape a little better.

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