Sonic has again graced the fast-food dining public with its deep-fried cheesecake bites --or, as I call them, "Thousands of years of tradition stuffed into a greasy paper bag with a side of strawberry sauce." Couple an order of those with one of Sonic's new Hickory Flatmelt sandwiches crammed with steak, chicken, cheese and way too much bacon, and you've got yourselves the only meal you'll need to eat for the next forty-eight hours.
Sonic has served up the cheesecake bites before, but I noticed on my most recent trip that the chain had dumped its past incarnation of turtle cheesecake bites with caramel dipping sauce, and resurrected the plain cheesecake bites with strawberry sauce. Maybe the menu planners at Sonic figured out that there are limits to how much mixed-flavored sugar goo they can reasonably expect people to eat in one serving.
But that possible revelation didn't stop them from taking some extreme measures with meat. The new Hickory Flatmelt sandwiches are the best forms of vegan-deterrent I've seen in a while: Each of the three sandwiches consists of either grilled chicken strips, fried chicken strips or Sonic's version of steak -- processed and rather chewy strips of what is probably beef -- as well as a profusion of cooked diced onions in Sonic's thin, over-sweet barbeque sauce, a slice of not-really-melted American cheese, and a gob of chewy, stringy bacon strips.
These melts are about half bacon, and half everything else, and Jesus horn-honking Christ, the salt -- these meat-folders are so friggin' salty that even if I didn't want that Route 44 cherry limeade, I'd have gone back and gotten one just so I could use the crushed ice to regain the feeling in my mouth.
But the cheesecake bites were captivating. The oily little white paper bag contained a "large" order of five bites (a small is three bites) and they gave off a distinct aroma of fried sugar that you usually only get inside of Krispy Kreme. Each square was enveloped in a sweet, crisp graham cracker-y coating, protecting and enhancing the dense, creamy, velvety middles. The cheesecake centers were warm and smooth with a nice buttery flavor, but lacking the inherent tanginess that traditional cheesecake brings to the table.
The Greeks would cry tears of despair if they could see what cheesecake has devolved into. Not a surprising tidbit for intellectual foodies, but the Greeks had cheesecake, the Romans borrowed the dessert from the Greeks in the same way they borrowed everything else, and various recipes for cheesecake were bounced around Europe up until the 1870s, when an American entrepreneur began mass-producing cream cheese. That company merged with Kraft at the turn of the century, and since then Philadelphia brand cream cheese has woven its way into consumer consciousness by mass marketing the concept of cheesecake in every possible form, including tubs of scoop-and-drop pre-made cheesecake filling.
I'm astonished that Kraft didn't come out with deep-fried cheesecake bites first.
Before I realized it, I had eaten all five bites, completely forgotten the little tub of strawberry dip, and sincerely longed for another order. Thankfully, I was halfway home so geography saved me from myself, and I didn't even want to see the online calorie count on anything I'd ordered from Sonic. It seemed easier to just assume that I had tucked down enough fat, sugar and carbs to survive in the woods for a few days. And enough salt to turn my poor kidneys into shiny pebbles.
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And the moral of this story? Sonic is inching ever closer to that too-much-bacon line that many people deny exists, and cheesecake is irresistible, even in deep-fried, fast food form.