Fast Food

This Week in Self-Loathing: New Offerings from McDonald's and Taco Bell

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Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 8:00 AM
click to enlarge "Fiery" Doritos Locos Taco Supreme - MALCOLM BEDELL
  • Malcolm Bedell
  • "Fiery" Doritos Locos Taco Supreme

This week, we're looking at new offerings from two of the major fast food players: The inevitable expansion of Taco Bell's wildly successful "Doritos Locos Tacos" line (or "DLT," because ugh), and the new "Steak, Egg, and Cheese" McMuffins and breakfast biscuits from McDonald's.

"Fiery Doritos Locos Taco Supreme"

The Pitch: "A Taco Supreme® made with premium seasoned beef, crisp lettuce, diced juicy red ripe tomatoes, real cheddar cheese and topped with cool reduced-fat sour cream, in a crunchy red shell combining spicy chili with a hint of lime flavor."

Available: Now by request, official rollout August 22

For a company that only has six ingredients to work with (tortillas, meat, lettuce, tomatoes, white, and yellow), Taco Bell manages to be one of the leaders in fast food innovation. A cheap fast food taco wrapped in a giant Dorito was such an inspired example of tween-friendly brand synergy, that it seems almost incredible that it took this long to be invented. The product has been such a success, with over half a billion sold so far, that new flavor iterations were inevitable.

The company initially announced that the next flavor of Doritos Locos Taco would be "Flamas," a bright red, spicy combination of chile and lime popular in the Doritos chip line. Somewhere in the focus testing, however, someone at Taco Bell must have realized how close they were to releasing a product that would be pronounced "flame-ass" by at least half of its target market. Never a company to abide mispronunciation of their invented corporate Spanglish, they amended the product name to the even more ham-handed "Fiery," while keeping the flavor profile of "Flamas" chips intact.

Listen, we don't have to explain to you how high the stakes are, here. The flavor of the new "Fiery" shell is the only variable that's changed in this new Doritos Locos offering. Inside that shell, it's standard issue Taco Bell same-old, same-old. If Taco Bell can't leverage a whole new taste sensation out of this latest chemical explosion of bright red flavor sand, then what in the world is the point of this exercise, indeed, the point of anything?

The results are fine. Maybe even good, when weighed strictly against the chain's other offerings, instead of against the somewhat broader spectrum of "actual food." The synthetic chile and lime flavors are actually much more suited to the other muted flavors of a Taco Supreme than, say, "Cool Ranch" or "Nacho Cheese," and the band of reduced-fat sour cream piped down the center appropriately compliments the new spicy red shell. Chile lovers won't find a lot here to interest them; the heat of the powder the shells are doused in is more of a low-grade fever than a fire, but provide as good a vehicle as ever for the application of a dozen packets of Taco Bell hot sauce.

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