June 29, 2005

"Grab'n Go" Sheetz

Mornings are always a difficult time for your internet food critic. Climbing out of bed as my alarm clock serenades me with the latest country hit has never been one of my favorite parts of the day, and my morning routine can consistently be described as “rushed”. As one can imagine, this often leaves me on the short end of the breakfast stick. I have little time to prepare flapjacks, French toast, bacon, eggs, or hash browns for myself.
I could easily resolve this difficult situation in my high school days by stopping in at my friendly cafeteria breakfast booth and picking up the egg sandwich, which was always one of my favorite delicacies. Unfortunately, I have been forced to join the world of the working this summer, and I have no access to the high school cafeteria or the fabled egg sandwich. When the fact that I must be at work by seven o’clock in the morning is considered, it is apparent that I am in quite a quandary when the problem of meeting my stomach’s morning demands is considered.
Fortunately, there are a plethora of cheap breakfast options offered by many expedient food service institutions. Sheetz, one of my dearest food providing friends, offers one of the best values in quick breakfasting. Grab and Go Schmuffins and Schmiscuits are wonderful inventions that give me hope that there may be a breakfast sandwich to succeed Carlisle High School’s five-spork wonder.
Anyone who has tasted a Schmuffin or Schmiscuit knows that they are a tasty wonder served at Sheetz everywhere. One can order them in the classic “Made to Order” style that Sheetz employs twenty-four hours a day, but he or she can also snag a pre-made breakfast sandwich during typical breakfast hours. In addition to saving time by having the sandwiches prepared in the morning, Sheetz offers the morning delicacies at a substantial discount in their “Grab and Go” moniker. For instance, a “Grab and Go” Schmiscuit costs only $1.29, while a “Made to Order” Schmiscuit runs upward of two dollars. I appreciate both the convenience and discount of the “Grab and Go” lineup, although the discount does lead me to become suspicious that Sheetz overcharges for “Made to Order” items.
Pricing aside, the Sheetz breakfast sandwiches are delicious additions to any early morning routine. The Schmuffin is a basic egg patty with the optional addition of sausage or bacon, and the Schmiscuit is a biscuit with the same selections for the internal pieces. I personally prefer the Schmiscuit over the Schmuffin, although both are excellent pieces of breakfast cuisine. I find that the biscuit gives the sandwich a buttery flavor that is sorely lacking in the Schmuffin. Although both sandwiches are dry, I find that a drink of frosty milk or cold apple juice is much more rewarding with the Schmiscuit than the Schmuffin, as well. I simply feel that biscuits have a substantially better flavor than English muffins, and that they are also consequently better suited for use in an early morning sandwich. Though one pays a thirty cent premium for this flavor, I find that it is well worth the quarter and nickel.
Having stated my preference for Schmiscuits over Schmuffins, I can confidently say that both are rewarding ways to start the culinary day. The egg in the sandwich is fluffy and tasty, and the meat components explode in flavor. All three aspects of the sandwiches seem to combine to form a delicious flavorful harmony on the tongue. The stomach will be similarly pleased, as the sandwiches deliver a satisfying “full” feeling and plenty of energy for a hard days work.
Sadly, I have experienced many inconsistencies in the “Grab and Go” availability of Schmuffins and Schmiscuits. Often, I have walked into a local Sheetz to find no breakfast sandwiches remaining under the “Grab and Go” heat lamps. This unfortunate setback is a great detraction from the eating experience, as my mornings typically operate on a tight schedule. One must then pay the premium “Made to Order” price for his or her Schmuffin or Schmiscuit, and they must also dedicate valuable time to waiting for their sandwich to be constructed. In addition, I have also visited Sheetz that offer no “Grab and Go”. These sad inconsistencies seriously hamper my enjoyment of the Schmiscuit and Schmuffin. I can never enter a Sheetz knowing with certainty that they will have my breakfast. This is an unfortunate worry that detracts from an otherwise wonderful eating experience.
When all aspects of Schmuffins and Schmiscuits are considered, the Sheetz family of breakfast sandwiches earns a solid three sporks out of five. The taste of the sandwiches is superb, but inconsistencies in availability hamper what is an otherwise worthy relative of Carlisle High School’s honorable egg sandwich.

June 21, 2005

McDonald's Fruit and Walnut Salad

My duties as Carlisle High School's Cafeteria Critic were always somewhat straightforward. The specific duty of sampling a variety of cafeteria cuisine was placed roughly upon my slender shoulders. As I pondered the transition from a general cafeteria critic to a food critic of much broader pastures, I was puzzled by the staggering array of foods which I could review. Tacos, cheeseburgers, pizzas, and French fries from an American plethora of food service companies are mine for reviewing. I must admit that I feel that I have lost some proverbial bondage in reviewing food. I am no longer limited to the government-standardized food of a high school cafeteria. This fact is both exciting to my mind and dangerous to my cholesterol, but I was struck by an epiphany when pondering where to begin my reviews. McDonald's, the most widely known fast-food chain in the world, was literally screaming to my discriminating tongue. Though the golden arches may have served "Over 1 Billion Burgers", they would be grilling an important piece of beef quite soon. Once I decided to sample Mickey D's offerings, I made a decision to try out their classic hamburger from the popular "Dollar Menu". However, as I my feet stepped onto the soda-coated floor of my Local McDonald's, a few pieces of information greeted me. First and foremost, I was troubled by the dangerous reports of mad cow disease in the United States. Pesky prions may have turned up in Washington State, and although a transcontinental trek is quite a distance for such small pathogens, I felt it prudent to play it safe and avoid beef. After all, if this single cow can shatter McDonald's stock price, how can I be so foolish as to risk my sanity over a salubrious burger? Even more importantly, I noted the addition of the new "Fruit and Walnut Salad" to the offerings of Ronald McDonald. Though this selection is mostly marketed to women, my never-ending curiosity overcame any gender-bias I may have felt and led me to fork over $2.99 for the salad. I felt sure that nutritionalists everywhere would be proud of my healthy choice. As I sat down with my salad in its streamlined black bowl, I was somewhat disappointed by the differentiation in fruit types. Generally, when one mentions a fruit salad, I picture a variety of apples, bananas, pears, oranges, pineapples, and melon with an occasional strawberry or cherry thrown in for added flavor and color. Ronald McDonald, it seems, as given in to his friend Grimace's dower ideals when constructing the new salad. I was greeted by slices of apple with red skin, slices of apple with green skin, purple seedless grapes, a bag of walnuts, and low-fat yogurt. While I realize that marketing is all about presentation, I believe that a lawsuit against Mickey D's for false advertising is in order. Make no mistake, this is not a "fruit salad" It is a few sliced apples with grapes, yogurt, and a prepackaged bag of walnuts. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the quality of the apples. I found them to be crisp, sweet, and juicy. In all likelihood, this is thanks to new advances made by McDonald's in fruit prosthesis, but I cannot complain based on my conjecture. I will, however, note that the grapes, while seedless, were somewhat soggy. In my opinion, there is no fruit worse than a mushy grape, and the Fruit and Walnut Salad falls victim to this inadequacy. The bag of walnuts contained a somewhat stingy portion, although flavor was quite good. The walnuts seemed to be doused in sugar, a move that certainly does not help my caloric intake, although it greatly increased my enjoyment. I didn't sprinkle them on my salad in the way that McDonald's posters show, however. I do not quite understand how one is to pick up a walnut with a fork. The yogurt also went quite well with the salad. I must admit that I greatly enjoyed dipping my fruit into the sweet yogurt. It both added flavor to the salad and helped to break the monotony of eating apple after apple in a "fruit salad". As a whole, I must say that the meal was quite filling for fruit. While I expected the fruit salad to leave me hungry for a burger "peared" with some fries, I was "grapely" surprised by the level of complacency of my stomach. The amount of fullness I experienced after eating the apples was particularly perplexing. I have my own theories as to the cause of this phenomenon, most of which center around genetic engineering and the substitution of plastics for cellulose, but I will refrain from delving into idle speculation.

Whenever one samples a McDonald's item, they are not simply sampling food. Any individual that orders from Ronald's menu is partaking in both a food item and an advertising campaign. Your friends at the Golden Arches have certainly outdone themselves in constructing a fascinating ad campaign for the fruit and walnut salad. I was tempted to "put a smile on" as I read the promotional poster that ordered me to "Get a fruit buzz". If I was less than certain of McDonald's infinite corporate and sociological wisdom, I would question the ramifications of such a campaign on adults and children. After some deep inspection, I have concluded that McDonald's is not cross promoting illegal and irresponsible use of drugs with this slogan, however. Rather, they are demonstrating to children that the war on drugs is real, so the only safe buzz comes from fruit. However, I must say that I did not feel the least bit intoxicated after eating my apples, grapes, walnuts, and yogurt.

In addition to the "fruit buzz" marketing blitz, McDonald's has decided to include a unique green fork with every fruit and walnut salad. This lime piece of mass-produced plastic is sure to bring flavorful joy to even the fruitiest Scrooge. I know that my face lit up like Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter on Christmas morning when I unwrapped my fork. It truly made my day.

After examining the entire fruit and walnut salad, I must award it a lackluster two sporks out of a possible five. The salad's lack of fruit variety seriously impaired my enjoyment. The steep $2.99 price also hampered my love for the selection. Additionally, I was somewhat put off by the curious marketing techniques that included a phantom fruit buzz and green fork. However, judging from the pinks and greens employed in the promotional poster, Mickey D's seems to be targeting women with the salad. Perhaps my limited male mind cannot fathom the depths of a fruit buzz and green fork.

For those of you that prefer alternate forms of measurement, I have decided to rank the fruit and walnut salad in green forks. It receives a disappointing 30 out of a possible 75 green forks. (This translates into roughly two sporks out of five) I must give some merit to Ronald McDonald for expanding his offerings. Unfortunately, when there is more variety in the vegetables on my burger than there is in the fruit in my fruit salad, McDonald’s workers will not be able to “love to see me smile.”

June 16, 2005

A Bold New Frontier for Rick's Cafeteria Critique

Food is one of the most important aspects of our lives as human beings. Eating is not just an activity that we are forced to undertake simply to nourish our bodies and provide ourselves with energy. Though there are some people that eat to live, many more live to eat. People spend long hours chatting in diners, preparing delicacies, or savoring over deli windows full of food. Many newspapers run weekly sections entitled "Food". There is a "Food Network". Indeed, obesity is an ever-growing problem in America. Though many of us take food and the pleasure we derive from food for granted, I believe that the topic can inspire some fascinating discussion.

A small portion of individuals may have heard of Rick's Cafeteria Critique, a monthly column that I wrote for my High School Newspaper, the Periscope. In the column, I would review delicacies offered by the Carlisle High School Cafeteria in a way that I hoped was both entertaining and enjoyable. This little column was featured in article in The Patriot News, and in an Associated Press Article. That article ran in many papers across the country, and was featured on many news websites including CNN.com and MSNBC.com. Type "Rick Seltzer Cafeteria" into Google or many News websites, and you can find the Associated Press article. I was even given the opportunity to do a short interview on the FOX news channel on a Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed the experience immensely, and am still in disbelief at the great media coverage that my column achieved. After all, I wrote it both for the entertainment of my fellow student and for my own enjoyment.

Unfortunately, my days as the Carlisle High School Cafeteria Critic have ended. It is said that "All good things must come to an end", and Graduation has ended my reign as the self-proclaimed cafeteria critic. After several weeks without reviewing a piece of food, I found myself a bitter, depressed young man. One does not know the feeling of worthlessness until he or she has lost their creative outlet of reviewing inexpensive cafeteria food of questionable quality for the pleasure of a student body. Therefore, I have decided to rededicate myself to the art of inexpensive food and bring my critiquing into this blog.

There will, of course, be several changes in format as I adapt my reviewing into an online format. For the time being, there will be no pictures to accompany my reviews. (As my one fan that read the column in Periscope knows, reviews were always accompanied by an amusing picture of me enjoying the delicacy I was reviewing) Also, I will not be simply reviewing cafeteria food, but I will be partaking in a wide variety of selections from fast food restaurants and other such culinary goldmines. My hope is that everyone can gain some insight into cheap food, and that Rick's Cafeteria Critique will not die, but will evolve into a new median and a higher form of writing.

I look forward to disseminating my unsolicited culinary opinions for the enjoyment of individuals around the world. I feel that the future for Rick's Cafeteria Critique is bright, and I eagerly anticipate a journey that is sure to be both successful and fulfilling.