When I saw the above print ad announcing Taco Bell's trio of new desserts, my inner DJ cued up "One of These Things is Not Like the Others." Churros and a Caramel Apple Empanada are a natural fit at the Bell, but a Chocolate Chip Cookie-Frosting Sandwich? Not sure that one really has roots in the rich history of Mexican cuisine, though I guess I can see it going over with the late-night half-drunk Doritos Taco crowd. And who am I kidding? I'm a big fan of chocolate-chip cookies and frosting, too.
While I'm not sure these sweets are enough to lure me back into Taco Bell any more frequently than I normally go (which is rarely), two of them turned out to be surprisingly tasty ways to top off a combo meal. But, as in the old Sesame Street song, one of these things just doesn't belong.
Initially, I was least excited about the Churro, based on that poster in the window. My favorite churros have always been a plural entity, served hot by the basketful, usually with some sort of chocolate dunking sauce. I was having a hard time getting pumped up about a single Mexican donut; seemed un poquito chintzy. But in reality, this thing was seven inches long and over an inch wide. The crisp twisted exterior, liberally dusted with cinnamon and sugar, gave way to dense, soft, chewy interior dough. It was more filling than I expected a 99-cent dessert to be, and was definitely my favorite of the lot. But a side of chocolate dipping sauce would have been nice.
Next up, the Caramel Apple Empanada, also 99 cents. This one actually seemed smaller than it had looked in the ads, about the size of my smartphone in real life. The crust was flaky and crisp and reminiscent of those glorious old-school fried pies at McDonald's. On the downside, despite a paper sleeve that cautioned against potentially "very hot" filling, mine wasn't even warm anymore. Granted, it spent a few minutes posing for pictures, but no more time than it would normally sit on a tray while the average high schooler downed a chalupa.
The filling is advertised as "chunks of warm apples in creamy caramel sauce." Mine, however, was primarily the latter. The sweet goo had a definite caramel taste, but I noticed only one or two discernible pieces of apple throughout the six bites it took to polish off the whole thing. Not bad as a guilty pleasure, but what I'd really love is one of these empanadas piping hot, broken open over some vanilla ice cream. Overall, though, a fitting addition to the Taco Bell lineup.
And then there's the Cookie Sandwich. (Really? The VP of Clever Menu Item Names was out that day?) It's exactly what it looks like: two wedges of chocolate chip cookie with a layer of vanilla frosting between. This one isn't advertised as being served warm, but mine was actually cold. As such, it took a pretty forceful bite to get through, causing most of the frosting to squeeze out the back side. I'm not sure you can really screw up chocolate chip cookies and frosting to the point of being bad, but this iteration was lackluster at best, no better than a generic treat plucked from an end cap at a convenience store. Ten seconds in a microwave and a glass of cold milk would do wonders here.
The cookie felt very much like the also-ran in this lineup. The churro and empanada came in specialized official-chain-branded packaging; the cookie was bundled up in clear cellophane with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Taco Bell sticker sealing it shut. The others are at least warmed up to serving temp on-site; the dense, cold cookies with commercial-grade frosting smack of straight-off-the-truck. Worst of all, at $1.29, it was the most expensive.
But I suppose fast food desserts in general are usually just an afterthought, some random sweets stuck on the menu in hopes of suckering the occasional overeager customer into an impulse purchase. I love that Taco Bell actually put some thought and effort into two of their new Mexican-themed desserts, and produced a couple of after-dinner noshes I'd actually get again. Not even Cookie Monster would dig that third one, though.
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.