KFC gave us $70 worth of Double Downs to eat, basically so we could tell you how consuming them is like gnawing on greasy bacon-flavoured death.
The Double Down has been available in the US since last April, but is only just debuting in Canada.
In fairness, at 540 calories, it’s not actually a particularly gut-busting repast. The USDA recommends a daily caloric intake of somewhere between 1800 and 2400 calories for adults, depending on gender and activity level, so in terms of pure energy the Double Down is essentially equivalent to a meal. And really, it’s two pieces of chicken with some bacon, some cheese, and some “Colonel’s Sauce” sandwiched between them, which if you were to put side-by-side on a plate wouldn’t even be that intimidating.
And yet somehow eating the thing is a more emotional experience than eating any of its constituent parts on their own would be.
This is what they look like while you’re eating them.
Our Double Downs were delivered to Torontoist worldwide headquarters (i.e. a contributor’s apartment) at noon on Monday, by Sanjeev, a KFC area manager. He was carrying them in what looked like an enormous heat-insulated gym bag.
Inside the gym bag were two paper bags. One was huge and had grease spots. The other was medium-sized and filled with probably five hundred napkins. Sanjeev, a little sheepish in his role as a chicken emissary, said he’d already made three other Double Down deliveries that day, with the earliest being at 7 a.m. “There’s a lot of excitement,” he said.
Waiting in the kitchen were a handful of Torontoist editors and contributors, who’d volunteered their stomachs for the sake of “journalism.” Contributor Ashley Carter and her housemate Sam were hosting the tasting in their living room. Editor-in-Chief David Topping usually eats KFC only during trips to his family’s cottage. Contributor Carly Maga seemed the most apprehensive about what was to come, while Emily Shepard, who attends to some of our municipal affairs coverage, had never tasted KFC before in her entire life. Contributing Editor John Semley is a vegetarian. “I honestly think I’m going to throw up,” he said. “I haven’t eaten chicken in like eighteen months.”
I hadn’t eaten KFC since age fifteen or so, and hadn’t really missed it, except on rare occasions when the smell of frying oil would jar loose childhood memories of chicken and biscuits.
Our ten Double Downs came in individual cardboard boxes with the words “Poulet-Mignon” printed on them. The sandwiches are smaller than they look in advertisements. Topping sized one up and said he thought he could easily eat two. Eventually, he would come to think the better of that.
Shepard was the first to pick up her sandwich. It was actually glistening with grease, but it was wrapped in a pouch of wax paper to make it somewhat reasonable to hold. She took a bite. “The cheese is like Cheez Whiz,” she said.
When Maga took a bite of her Double Down, a little jet of grease sprayed Shepard.
Everyone agreed that while the chicken itself was fine, the filling (which, again, consists of cheese, bacon, and special sauce), was a deal-breaker. Or, as Topping put it: “The cheese totally makes it a problem.”
After taking a few bites of her Double Down, Maga looked at me and said: “How would you feel about me not finishing this?”
I would feel fine about that, I said.
My own Double Down was filling and salty and not altogether bad, but the problem with the whole concept is that without a bun to soak up the juices, all the grease is free-floating. It squirts onto the lips and the chin. And if the chin happens to be covered with a beard, then forget it.
When everyone except Maga had finished, there was a summing-up period, where we all tried to make sense of what had just transpired.
“It is draining,” said Semley. “Though it doesn’t give you energy the way food is supposed to.” He said he might eat one again, though only when drunk or hung over.
“I would sooner go to McDonald’s and have two McChickens,” said Topping, who never did eat his second Double Down.
Everyone agreed that some vegetable content would have been nice. But “nice” probably isn’t what KFC’s marketing minds are going for: a balanced meal wouldn’t have attracted much in the way of media attention. Somehow, by stacking meat on top of meat, they’ve created something that is far more than the sum of its deep-fried parts—more story than sandwich.
Photos by Harry Choi/Torontoist.