Hoffman's Houston
that's a lotta cheeseburgers

Ken Hoffman looks back on two decades of drive-thru reviews

Ken Hoffman looks back on two decades of drive-thru reviews

Taco Bell choco taco
Taco Bell is bringing back the Choco Taco. Is Hoffman up to reviewing it? Taco Bell/Facebook

What comes around goes around. I started reviewing fast food about 20 years ago. Now everybody and their chubby cousins from Louisiana are rating food on the Internet.

But I was the first. I wrote more than 1,200 reviews of bacon cheeseburgers, sausage pizzas, and golden fried pig’s ears. For several years I was the most-read food critic in America because dozens of papers around the country ran my reviews.

The very first review I did was the Choco Taco at Taco Bell, another “limited time only” specialty item. This week, Taco Bell announced it is test marketing a “new” dessert treat in selected cities: the Choco Taco.

I can’t go through this again. (Editor's note: Stay healthy, Ken. We need you.)

Shaking it up for spring
Like swallows returning to Capistrano or rodeo time in Houston or the sound of Grapefruit League home runs,  you know spring is around the corner when McDonald’s brings back the Shamrock Shake. (Okay, that part about spring training is a bad example this year.)

But the Shamrock Shake has kept its appointment at participating McDonalds for a limited time in Houston. To drum up excitement, McDonald’s teased customers with a hex code — #cbf2ac — revealing the “secret ingredient” that turns a minty Shamrock Shake its distinctive shade of green. (It’s not crushed Rolaids, although that’s what wrestling legend George “The Animal” Steele used to make his tongue green.)

What’s the big #cbf2ac secret, anyway? If you look at McDonald’s own nutritional chart, it reveals every ingredient that goes into the distinctive Shamrock Shake syrup: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, glycerine, 2 percent or less natural flavor, xantham gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate and …Yellow Dye 5 and Blue Dye 1.

It’s right there. That’s how you take a poor, innocent vanilla shake and turn it green with envy. I happen to love Yellow Dye 5. It’s delicious!

Shamrock Shakes will be around for the dreaded “limited time only,” usually through the end of March.

Fast food fun fact: Jesse Chaluh operates two of the biggest, most successful Chick-fil-A restaurants in America: the one on Kirby and the Southwest Freeway feeder, and the one on Bellaire Boulevard in Meyerland.

Over lunch, Chaluh told me that his sons are grown now, but when they were small, their regular babysitter was … Channel 2’s new prime time news anchor Daniella Guzman. Worlds are colliding.

Some hot news
In other food news that eventually will bring me down, Dave’s Hot Chicken has opened in Rice Village. (Read Eric Sandler's story here.) It’s so close to my house, I can walk there, and waddle home.

Caffeinated ... doughnuts?
Hostess also announced a new item in the supermarket sweets aisle: Boost Jumbo Donettes, which makes no sense, sort of like “jumbo shrimp.” Boost Jumbo Donettes are laced with caffeine, they come in two flavors, Chocolate Mocha and Caramel Macchiato, and they’re about three times the size of Hostess regular mini  Donettes.

Each doughnut contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. These will be great for school kids. Teachers will love their students bouncing off the walls.

The doughnuts have a suggested retail price of $2.49. Whoever thought of jittery doughnuts … it’s time to call the guys in white lab coats waving butterfly nets.