Pho 43's Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches Are the Best of Both Worlds

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JK Grence
Taro and Thai tea? Yes please.

The Guilty Pleasure: Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches
Where to Get It: Pho 43, 43rd Ave and Thomas
Price: $3.75
What it Really Costs: Somehow, regular macarons weren't unhealthy enough yet.

I'm a little dismayed that macaron mania seems to have come and gone. I'm not exactly surprised, though. They are a pain in the ass to make. Still, I'd rather have a macaron or two instead of those over-frosted cupcakes that I'm somewhat glad to see are on the wane.

While macarons may not be quite as chic as they once were, there are still a number of places around town that serve up some mighty fine ones. Eugenia Theodosopoulous and the rest of the gang at Essence Bakery still crank out some of the best in town.

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Grass-Fed Beef Burgers Now at Carl's Jr., Of All Places

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JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: The All-Natural Burger.
Where to Get it: Carl's Jr., several locations around town.
Price: Starting at $5.99, more for a double burger or a combo, natch.
What it Really Costs: Hope you're hungry at 730 calories for a single burger. And am I getting old, or is six bucks a lot for a drive-thru burger even of this caliber?

Phoenix sure loves burgers. Over around Biltmore and Arcadia, there are seemingly dozens of places you can go that specialize in chichi hamburgers.

Anymore, if someone tells me that their burgers are made with grass-fed, hormone-free beef, and natural cheddar cheese, all on a bun baked fresh in-house daily, I'm not going to bat an eyelash. Around these parts, that's a bush-league burger.

However, when a regional chain puts out a burger like that, it gets me to sit up and take notice.

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Paradise Valley Burger Company's Country Fried Burger Is Great for Resolution Breaking

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JK Grence
Just what a burger needs: The country fried steak treatment.

The Guilty Pleasure: Country Fried Burger
Where to Get It: Paradise Valley Burger Company, 40th Street and Bell Road
Price: Seven bucks.
What it Really Costs: Good luck resisting the sweets.

For some reason, the coming and arrival of the new year has brought me a serious craving for good burgers. In my neighborhood, I can barely swing a cat without hitting a fancy-pants gourmet burger joint. I like my little local spots, but they have a slight tendency to blend together into a blur. So, I keep going around town in search of something fun and new.

On a recent sojourn, I stopped by Paradise Valley Burger Company up in north Phoenix just off the 51 at 40th Street and Bell (which, in my humble but correct opinion, ain't even close to Paradise Valley), and found a hotbed of guilty pleasure burgers.

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Pizza Hut Revamps Entire Menu, Still Manages to Taste Like Pizza Hut

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JK Grence
The trendy new pizza joint down the street? Nope! Would you believe it's Pizza Hut?

The Guilty Pleasure: Huge new menu additions.
Where to Get It: Pizza Hut, at your door in about half an hour.
Price: Right now, any non-stuffed-crust pizza for $12 if you order with the app
What it Really Costs: Skinny crust? It's a little better for you than usual!

In the constant struggle for mass-market pizza domination, Pizza Hut has found themselves struggling recently. Papa John's seems to be doing just fine thanks to their NFL sponsorship. Domino's was faltering quite a bit until they had the brilliant idea to change their base recipes so the pizza didn't taste like dried oregano-covered cardboard anymore.


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Viniq Shimmery Liqueur: for Your Glittered Cocktail Needs

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JK Grence
Before shaking the bottle, and after. Say it with me now: Oooh, aaah!

The Guilty Pleasure: Viniq Shimmery Liqueur.
Where to Get It: Well-stocked liquor stores and Fry's.
Price: $19.
What it Really Costs: The bottle is 15 inches! Where the hell am I going to put this thing?

It's hard for new products in the spirits category to stand out. This isn't much of a surprise, given that the contents of a liquor store are literally thousands of varieties of the exact same product. So, spirits makers will resort to any number of gimmicks to make their bottle that much more eye-catching and therefore get ordered in a bar or taken home for enjoyment as both beverage and an ersatz objet d'art.

Some of the more noteworthy ones include Hpnotiq, with a cerulean hue not usually seen outside of waters in the Caribbean Sea, and Galliano, with its nearly 18-inch bottle that can't be missed, but also can't be put on quite a few shelves.

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Starbucks' New Holiday Chestnut Praline Latte Is Actually Pretty Darn Tasty

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JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: Chestnut Praline Latte
Where to Get It: Starbucks, locations every-freaking-where
Price: Five bucks, give or take.
What it Really Costs: As usual per Starbucks, your hipster coffee cred.

When Starbucks releases a new item, my usual reaction is minimal at best. They have so many different seasonal offerings that when something new comes along, I barely bat an eyelash. It's been five years since the last new Starbucks holiday offering, but it certainly doesn't seem like it.

Even though I'm not the biggest fan of Starbucks, I still heed the call of the Green Siren more often than I would care to admit. I can't help it, it's the closest place to my day job to get a cup of joe. And that location has one of the elusive Clover machines, which brews some truly marvelous coffee.

But that's another article.

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Cookies and Creme Cookie Butter Might Be the Most Addictive Thing at Trader Joe's

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JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter
Where to Get It: Trader Joe's
Price: $3.69, are ya out of your mind?
What it Really Costs: Like you needed more fattening food around for the holidays.

One of my very favorite treats to have around the house is Biscoff Spread. In case you aren't familiar, it's a spread with the consistency of peanut butter or Nutella, but is made out of European spice cookies.

I've seen some variations on the product, but none have quite come close to the allure of brand-name Biscoff Spread. Trader Joe's has their own private label version, simply called Cookie Butter. It's good, but it doesn't hold a candle to the real deal.

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Pringles' New Holiday Flavors Are Still Weird

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JK Grence
Not pictured: Pecan Pie Pringles. I guess that sums up my opinion of them.

The Guilty Pleasure: The annual batch of limited-time holiday Pringles flavors.
Where to Get It: Walmart for the new ones, your favorite grocery for the others.
Price: A buck fifty, give or take.
What it Really Costs: I'm starting to wonder who the hell comes up with these flavors.

The people responsible for new Pringles flavors continue to impress me with their sheer audacity. While it takes Lay's a million dollar contest to try and foist novel chip flavors on an unsuspecting public, Pringles just goes ahead and releases their "you have what flavor?!" chips as limited-time holiday offerings.

There are two new flavors in the Pringles holiday lineup this year, and both of them are variations on popular flavors from years prior. The Cinnamon & Sugar flavor has been extended to the Pringles Tortillas corn chip line. In a somewhat odd twist, the Tortillas one is simply named Cinnamon Sugar. I presume the flavor lost its ampersand on a bender in Cancún.

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Battle of the Big, Fake Cronut: Dunkin' Donuts vs. Jack in the Box

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JK Grence

Few food trends I've seen have developed such mass appeal as the cronut. While the true Cronut is a registered trademark of Dominique Ansel Bakery, imitations with other names have sprung up around the world.

See also: Cronut™ Battle: Herb Box vs. Karl's Quality Bakery

The croissant/doughnut hybrid has managed to trickle all the way down to the mass-market drive-thru lane in record time. Not one but two different establishments now serve their own versions of the deep-fried laminated pastry. Whose is better? Let's eat.


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Online Ordering Overload, Thanks to Taco Bell

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JK Grence
Did we really need this?

The Guilty Pleasure: Ordering food via smartphone apps.
Where to Get It: Too damn many places, if you ask me.
Price: Varies, but usually under $10.
What it Really Costs: I suppose that depends on your recreational habits.

What's going on with seemingly every restaurant under the sun jumping on the online ordering bandwagon these days? It was somehow fairly natural that pizza delivery chains kicked off the trend some years ago, but recently it's gone bananas.

These days, you don't even need your computer anymore because seemingly every quick-service chain in town has an app for that. Chipotle has an especially slick one. You can get app-ordered subs from Subway and Jimmy John's. You can even order up burgers and fries from Five Guys.

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