Nov 17, 2014

A Look at Taco Bell's 2nd Annual Friendsgiving Feast

Taco Bell held their second annual Friendsgiving event last week and I was on hand as an invitee (I also went last year), so I thought I'd share with you the Thanksgiving-type feast that was prepared by Taco Bell's chefs (i.e. the people who come up with new Taco Bell menu items)... with a Taco Bell twist of course.

Last year's feast was really good, but this year's was amazingly so (like "if you-could-whip-this-up-I-would-go-to-your-house-every-year-without-fail" good). Here's what was on the menu:

For pre-dining bar snacks, there was a Creamy Chipotle Spinach Dip with Gordita Shell Dippers and Ghost Chili Maple Spiced Nuts.

The spinach dip was well done but the chipotle didn't quite come through. The nuts were sweet and seriously spicy; I wasn't dying like I would be with an actual ghost chili though. The toasted gordita shells turned out like toasted pitas.

There was a trio of appetizers (L to R): Devil-ish Egg-Wilted Spinach with Border Sauce Vinaigrette and Candy Bacon Crumbles; Caramelized Corn and Nacho Cheese Sauce Shooter with Taco Seasoned Popcorn; and Red Strip-Crusted Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Red Pepper Aioli. The egg was my favorite of the three followed by the crab cake. The shooter felt mostly like drinking warm nacho sauce.

For breads, there were very enjoyable Jalapeno, Bacon, and Three Cheese Blend Cornbread Bites as well as Soft Yeast Rolls with Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos Infused Garlic Butter. The buttered rolls were pretty standard and I couldn't quite pick out any Cool Ranch flavor.

There were a number of family-style sides including:

Creamy Chipotle Whipped Yukons with Crispy Potato Bites Lyonnaise - the potato bites add a really nice crunch to the creamy mashed potatoes.

Sweet Potato Chorizo Stuffing made with Seasoned Beef, Taco Shell Cornbread, and Caramelized Onion - a very interesting take on stuffing with a complex but balanced mix of ingredients. I really liked this one but I couldn't say I tasted the seasoned beef or taco shells much.

Mountain Dew Sangrita Blast Cranberry Relish - this one tasted almost alcoholic to me, probably due to the Sangrita Blast.

Peppered Pan Turkey Gravy - a little bit too much black pepper here; it was actually quite spicy.

Quick-Caramelized Brussel Sprouts Topped with Chalupa Shell Gremolata - one of the diners thought this was too busy but I really enjoyed this one as well; the Chalupa shells gave some crunch to the seasoned greens.

The main course was a Crispy Skinned Turkey Roulade with Cinnamon Delights Mole and Cranberry Foam. The turkey was super tasty and juicy. I've eaten my fair share of Thanksgiving turkeys from the normal ones to heirloom birds to organic, free-range ones in various preparations and this one may have been the best (I'm working on getting the recipe in case any of you guys want to try this at home). There was too little cranberry foam for it to do much and the Sangrita Blast cranberry relish was too strong but the mole paired very well with the turkey, adding a chocolaty savory note that was unexpected and delicious.

Paired with the turkey roulade were Heirloom Roasted Root Vegetables with a Parsnip Puree and Creamy Jalapeno Sauce Creme Fraiche. The root vegetables were cooked through but still firm and both the puree and creme fraiche were rather mild.

There was also extra roasted root vegetables for sharing since you only got three small bits otherwise.

Here's how everything came together on one plate:

Finishing it all up with dessert, there was a Cinnamon Twist Ice Cream Sundae (below) with Aztec Chocolate Sauce (not pictured):
Cinnamon Twists go really great with ice cream! That light, airy crunch provides a nice contrast. The chocolate sauce was really dark and went exceptionally well with the sweeter cinnamon ice cream.

Overall, this year's Friendsgiving Feast focused more on each dish rather than an emphasis on signature Taco Bell flavors, which probably lends more relevance and inspiration to your own Thanksgiving meal.

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