April 29, 2010

Do You Double Dare?

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On April 12 — a day that will live on in culinary infamy — Kentucky Fried Chicken launched a new dish bordering on absurdity. According to the company’s website, the company had been receiving customer complaints about the inadequate amount of chicken in the chicken sandwich. In what might just be the biggest corporate flip of the bird I have ever seen, KFC responded by creating a bread-free sandwich which Daze columnist Harry Flager ’13 described quite succinctly as “chicken, sauce, cheese, bacon, cheese, sauce, chicken.” Bun? We don’t need no stinkin’ bun.

The name of this monstrosity? The Double Down.

Since there is no KFC in Ithaca, in order to sample the Colonel’s newest creation, Harry and my friend John Flanagan ’12 and I made the 20-mile drive to the closest store location, which is in Cortland. The restaurant itself is relatively ritzy in comparison to many fast food joints — although there are still huge, gaudy graphics of the Double Down pasted on the plate glass windows, their oversaturated hues clashing magnificently with the Colonel’s signature red.

The relatively open space behind the counter means that, after placing our orders, we were able to watch as our sandwiches were prepared. The worker who made them glanced up at the order screen before every step, piling one thing on top of another. “This isn’t even right,” Harry said as the worker crowned the little heaps with more chicken and shuffles them into specially printed double-walled paper wrappers.

Pausing before I picked up my camera to wipe the thin sheen of grease off of my fingers. The cheese, still unmelted, appears to peek out awkwardly from between two pieces of fried chicken. For me, this leads to some philosophical anguish. Does the Double Down even count as a sandwich? Does a sandwich require bread? But as my dining compatriots took their first bites, I was more interested in hearing what they had to say than in teasing out this conundrum.

“It’s a lot of chicken,” Harry commented. “A huge amount of chicken,” John chimed in. “Just. Chicken.”

KFC’s advertisers obviously agree; the Double Down’s tagline is, quite simply, “So much chicken, we didn’t have room for a bun.”

As I picked up my chicken wad,I noticed it was surprisingly hefty. A little bit of the Colonel’s special sauce oozed out the side and I took a little taste. Mayo, maybe a little bit spicy. Drawing a deep breath, I took my first bite. The flavor is a combination of chicken mixed with the slightly soggy crispiness of the breading and — overwhelmingly — salt. The Colonel’s signature lame spice combination tickles my palate a little after I swallow.

“You know,” Harry said between mouthfuls, “I can’t even taste the cheese. Or the bacon.” I have to agree; aside from the occasional hint of bacon or blob of sauce, the salty chicken flavor is too overwhelming to get much else. The cheese is basically worthless, serving mostly to keep the chicken from sliding apart. After a couple of bites, I had to go ask for a cup for water, which I had to refill once before the end of the Double Down.

By that point, I wasn’t feeling physically ill or anything, though I was somewhat disgusted by the sheer volume of grease and meat I consumed. The KFC website lists the sandwich as containing 540 calories and 1,380 mg of sodium.

I’m not really sure why KFC’s executive board thought that the Double Down was a good idea. It must be their way of continuing the escalation of over-the-top-ness that convinced Americans that it was acceptable to eat things that came in “buckets.” The thing is, this meat-wad’s outrageous marketing campaign has to have some hint of irony in it; I enjoyed the experience of eating it simply because I was able to share my criticisms with people who agreed with me, and it offends my unfailing belief in the rationality of human beings that the idea of a trans-sandwich would be considered by anybody with utter sincerity.

The verdict? I sure hope this thing is a joke. But if you can make it out to Cortland and don’t mind dropping five bucks on what is basically a salty, bland, paper-wrapped coronary just so you can say to your children, “I was there the time that KFC made a bread-less sandwich,” then go for it.  RLD

Original Author: Kevin Boyd