This week I reached out for a basket of Smoky Mountain BBQ chicken from the undisputed rooster of the henhouse, KFC, with nearly 20,000 restaurants spotting the world.
Smoky Mountain BBQ is the third installment in KFC's "Taste of the South" series, following Nashville Hot and Georgia Gold, both of which fritzed out KFC cash registers. KFC is onto something big time.
Here's the Smoky Mountain BBQ breakdown: KFC's Extra Crispy chicken dredged in a sauce tinged with sharp vinegar (tip of the hat to North Carolina), sweet goodness (hello, Kansas City); and finished with a crispy crunch (here's lookin' at you Memphis). Smoky Mountain BBQ is available in baskets packed with mashed potatoes and gravy, a buttermilk biscuit; and your choice of three tenders; a leg and thigh, or one breast.
Total calories: 518 (for three tenders, your most efficient buy). Fat grams: 22. Sodium: 1,522 mg. Carbs: 24 g. Dietary fiber: 3 g. Protein: 29 g. Manufacturer's suggested retail price for the basket: $4.99.
Smoky Mountain BBQ is the best of KFC's "Taste of the South," because it holds truest to down-home barbecue flavor. It's got a little vinegar tang, a lot of Southern drawl sweetness, and goes c-c-crunch when you bite in. (We like sassy food that talks back to us.)
While Smoky Mountain BBQ is one heck of a blockbuster product, the biggest news is KFC's new hire to play iconic spokesman, Colonel Sanders. Following in the bootsteps of Darrell Hammond, Ray Liotta, Jim Gaffigan, Norm Macdonald, Rob Lowe, George Hamilton, and Rob Riggle is...
Country songbird Reba McEntire.
She is the first woman in the role, and look at her on the bandstand, decked out in a white suit, white wig, and facial hair, crooning, "I'm Colonel Sanders, same as always, absolutely nothing's changed. Please ignore any likeness to famous country singers, I'm definitely not a woman."
I have no problem with a cross-dressing Colonel Sanders. But I do have a (chicken) bone to pick with KFC choosing Reba. She looks like she hasn't eaten a piece of fried chicken in decades. She's all skin and bones — and that's not what KFC is selling, especially its tenders.
Of course, our Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick have a different issue with Reba McEntire playing Colonel Sanders. And that is...which bathroom is Reba/Colonel Sanders going to use?
I have a sneaking suspicion that Reba wasn't exactly KFC's first country star choice. At least not their most natural selection. Reba was born and raised in Oklahoma, not exactly Smoky Mountain country.
Remind me, where was Dolly Parton born? In Locust Ridge, Tennessee. And where is her Dollywood amusement park? Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
And where are the Smoky Mountains? In Tennessee — and at your local KFC.