Last week, twenty-or-so twenty-somethings—most of them YouTube stars and other social media influencers (and me!)—descended on Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters in Irvine for their third annual Friendsgiving dinner.
Tables were decorated with flowers sprouting from old pinto bean cans, polished metal gravy boats were filled with Diablo sauce, and the artfully plated pads of butter were infused with nacho cheese. Yup. There was nacho cheese butter. Last year’s American Idol runner-up, Jax, loved it so much she took a spoonful straight to the dome. It was that kind of night.
At the center of it all was a six-course, turkey-centric, Taco Bell-inspired feast prepared by the food innovation team. Check out what the minds that created the Doritos Locos Taco came up with for Friendsgiving.
Friendsgiving Taco Salad
Crispy taco salad bowl, fresh greens, pear, dried cranberry, Baja Blast balsamic vinaigrette
First: All salads should be served in edible bowls. That’s just smart. Second, not necessarily all, but definitely a good handful of vinaigrettes should be made with reduced soda. That’s similarly smart.
The Golden Chalupa
Chili and lime roast turkey, cranberry pico de gallo, Gordita bread stuffing
You know the ubiquitous Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches that restaurants start to offer as lunch specials this time of year? This was that, except it was in a deep-fried chalupa shell. The cranberry pico de gallo was the spicy Mexican-ish coup de grace that it needed.
Turkey “On Fire” Loaded Griller
Flour tortilla, spicy shredded turkey confit, ghost pepper aioli, squash puree, microgreens
Words I never thought I would say regarding Taco Bell: The sweetness of the kabocha puree really tempered the heat of the Diablo sauce. And it did; it really did. The microgreens were a beautiful high-low touch too.
S-Mashed Smothered Burrito
Flour tortilla, sausage, potato bite mash, red-eye gravy, queso fresco
This was the showstopper, the centerpiece, the whole bird to be carved a la minute. Except instead of a roasted turkey, it was sausage, wrapped in a series of tortillas, drowning in a Taco Bell coffee-based gravy. Also worth noting: Sage, one of the signature herby flavors of Thanksgiving, is also in most fast food breakfast sausages.
Pasta a la Lava
Penne, Lava vodka sauce, garlic Chalupa chips
Did it make a ton of sense for a Thanksgiving spread? Not necessarily. Was it better than any run of the mill penne a la vodka? Nope. Are garlic-rubbed Chalupa chips an invention that needs to hit every Taco Bell menu board nationwide? Absolutely.
Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramel Monkey Bread Delights
I mean, the name pretty much explains it, right?
Though they totally resemble profiteroles—and the whole ensemble almost looks like a holiday croquembouche that tipped over—it’s actually a giant pile of Taco Bell’s cross-branded breakfast favorites, Cinnabon Delights, slathered in caramel.
BONUS APPETIZER: The Fritos Locos Taco will be hitting stores soon, and we were treated to a pre-dinner preview. It has a crunchier shell than its Doritos-based counterpart, and the nostalgic Flamin’ Hot taste leftover from high school recess Cheetos binges is really satisfying.