This week I reached out for a new Cheesy Bacon Bowl at the world's No. 1 chicken chain, KFC, with 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states plus 108 more countries around the globe.
The Cheesy Bacon Bowl was concocted to celebrate the fifth anniversary of KFC's original Mashed Potato Bowl. Neither is a BCS bowl, so don't get your hopes up, Boise State. The only thing from Idaho in this bowl is the potatoes.
The Cheesy Bacon Bowl isn't so much a revolution as a refinement. The only difference between the bowls is that the Cheesy Bacon Bowl has a sprinkling of bacon bits on top. But bacon makes it better. So points, KFC.
Here's the Cheesy Bacon Bowl blueprint: a big gob of creamy mashed potatoes topped with layers of corn, breaded popcorn chicken, white pepper gravy, a blend of three shredded cheeses and now bacon bits.
Total calories: 705. Fat grams: 33. Sodium: 2,150 mg. Dietary fiber: 6 g. Carbs: 74 g. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $3.99. Your mileage may vary.
Right off, I like the whole concept of putting a lot of different things in one bowl. One of my favorite meals each year is the day after Thanksgiving, when I put turkey, mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing (regular and cornbread), gravy and green beans in a huge soup bowl, plop myself on the couch and watch the Detroit Lions play on TV. The only thing missing from my Thanksgiving dinner mash-up is the pie ... and don't think I haven't considered it. I stir gently, like a McFlurry, but some people prefer to keep the mix-ins separate. It's a free country.
KFC is catching some heat for scheming up this mishmash of food. Critics claim it's a high-calorie nightmare, right up there with KFC's in-your-face Double Down Sandwich.
Actually, neither is the nuclear disaster that critics claim. The Double Down has "only" 540 calories, while the Cheesy Bacon Bowl packs 705 calories. That sounds over-the-top, but the Cheesy Bacon Bowl is a complete meal -- you're not getting fries on the side. The Cheesy Bacon Bowl is not to be taken lightly; it weighs in at more than a pound. It's a fill-'er-upper.
The mashed potatoes are not made from freshly peeled potatoes boiled in the kitchen and mashed on site. They're instant potatoes from the home office. I'm not thrilled with that. But the Cheesy Bacon Bowl gets better from there.
KFC's popcorn chicken is made from whole breast meat. It's not chopped and formed, glued 'n' chewed bits of meat from different chickens that may never even have met. The pieces are breaded and deep-fried, and they're absolutely first-rate delicious. And you get more than you'd expect. I counted eight pieces in my bowl.
Corn is corn. The gravy is white, creamy and slightly peppery. There's plenty of shredded cheese on top, which only half melts, so there's some chew to it. I'm getting too much melted cheese in my diet, anyway.
For $3.99, you're getting a lot of food -- and a lot of food that tastes pretty good. It's not a dieter's delight, so look at this bowl as a treat. Once in a while sounds about right.