August 31, 2007

Tastes Plane

Ah, airline food. No one can resist the smell of microwaved, pre-packaged delicacies in the dry air of a Boeing 747.

At least, I couldn't on Monday night on my flight from Newark to London. Virgin Airlines supplied the food, seat, and entertainment. I provided the money and red eyes. With a scheduled departure of 9:25, I needed to provide plenty of cash and ended up with a good amount of red in the eyes.

There's not much point discussing the surroundings or costs of the flight as they effect the enjoyment of your meal. The flight boarded late and took off even later. The seat was extraordinarily cramped. The food was incredibly expensive given the ticket price. I did get to watch a television program or movie of my choice during the meal thanks to Virgin's incredible personal LCD television.

Once we were in the air, my hungry belly turned at the scent warm food. Unfortunately, I had to wait about 30 minutes for my food until first class was served. Eventually, the stewardess came around and passed me my food. A main dish, roll, water, wine, crackers, cheese and Oreo cheesecake were loaded onto my tiny tray table.

The main dish was a combination of beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, and broccoli. The potatoes were watery and managed to mingle with the gravy to make a sort of "grashed potatoes" that didn't taste too bad on the beef. I had to debate eating the beef, as I was a little worried that the U.K. company would have imported British beef, which still evokes uncomfortable images of angry cattle. I decided the USDA probably had my back and let my churning stomach guide my fork.

The cheese and crackers were pretty low-quality, but that was okay, because they matched the wine. I'm no connoisseur, but the wine tasted like the grapes had been grown by the light that filtered through the tiny windows of the plane.

Fortunately, the cheesecake was surprisingly satisfying. Whether because it was good while the rest of the food was mediocre or because it really was delicious, I was undeniably happy while wolfing down the piece from the pie-sliced-shaped plastic container. It even made the episode of Futurama that I was watching taste better.

Several hours later, after everyone on the plane but me had fallen asleep and woken back up, "breakfast service" was delivered. Apparently Virgin thinks breakfast is a choice between a roll or a "Strabury breakfast bar." That meant I got to wolf down a granola bar while marveling at the way the British pronounce the world "strabury."

In the end, the food wasn't anything worth calling home about on the air phone. It was pretty good for airline food, but that only merits 2.5 sporks out of five. The airline didn't even use sporks! The would have saved a little space in the premium real estate of my tray table. As it stood, my spoon spent much of its time jammed between my water cup and cheesecake tray -- space that would have been better served holding the tubes of salt and pepper, which were pushed under the cheese where they were unavailable to hold season by beef and gratatoes.

But my mediocre food met my mediocre expectations. Check back for the real food reviews from the United Kingdom. I can just taste the fish & chips now.

August 17, 2007

Spice up your Life, Spice up your Cheetos

It's a given that Frito Lay makes a spicy variety of their ever-popular cheetah-branded puffs. But you can expect those to be Cheetos with a little hot sauce mixed in, amounting to little more than an overpowering blast of brute spiciness. But the slightly more complex taste of Jalapeño has always melded well with cheese, and it has always melded well with chips. Logic would follow that it would meld well with cheesy puffs, which are almost a mutated hybrid of cheese and chips.

Logic is correct. If you like Cheetos and if you also like the flavor of Jalapeño, chances are you'll be smitten with Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos as a quality junk food. I actually ate the whole bag, in a period of two hours -- a course of action that should be thoroughly discouraged.

In fact, the only real flaw of this variety of Cheetos might be that it is too easy to eat too many of them. That's a flaw shared by all Cheetos, so if you expect to face it when you open the bag, there shouldn't be too much of a problem. Of course, they stick to your fingers. Of course their overabundance of salty cheese flavoring makes you thirsty. Of course you feel like a bloated cow after eating them. It's part of the Cheetos experience.

Just be careful not to take that experience too far. The whole bag gave me something which I can only describe as the dreaded junk-food hangover. I awoke the next day with a bit of a headache and a pain in the stomach to match none. These symptoms persisted all day.

The body will punish you for putting too much of anything in it. That can be beer, milk or fiber, it doesn't matter. But the human anatomy seems to reserve a special type of pain for the junk food hangover that involves an excruciating tearing sensation in the gastro-intestinal tract and a need to burp incessantly.

The fact that Jalapeño was involved in the cheese snacks probably didn't help the junk food hangover, either. Long the enemy of stomachs and intestines, Jalapeño flavoring can join with greasy food to tag team even the strongest digestive juices into painful submission. Keep that in mind when you start your bag of Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos. Also keep in mind the slightly intoxicating effect of eating a few of the twisted cheesy sticks -- your cravings will only grow stronger the longer you eat them. In fact, your cravings will likely mirror the Jalapeño flavor, which also grows stronger the longer you eat them.

As it stands, Cheddar and Jalapeño Cheetos earn 3 sporks out of a possible five. If not for the painful morning after, their tasty nature would almost certainly give them a higher ranking. Unfortunately, they should bear a Surgeon General's Warning advising of the painful side effects of consuming too many cheese puffs. Cheetos should also consider an advertising campaign urging eaters to "enjoy responsibly."

A little more responsibility certainly would have helped me.

August 3, 2007

Horay for Mole!

What will you like at Qdoba?

That question is plastered all over the cups, wrappers, and napkins at the Mexican chain. I managed to answer that question the first time I ate there. At Qdoba, I like the Chicken Mole Burrito.

This savory slice of the Southwest is basically, an exceptionally large burrito stuffed with rice, chicken, Mole sauce, sour cream, and black beans or pinto beans. Personally, I chose to skip the beans because I was stalked out from walking around Washington D.C. for several hours before dropping into Qdoba.

The eatery desecribes Mole (pronounced Moh-lay) as a "rich and slightly spicy" sauce, and it's pretty accurate. While the brownish sauce didn't set my mouth on fire, it did have a little zing, and it was rich enough to fill my stomach relatively quickly.

I know that I liked something at Qdoba, but I really have to take exception to the slogan plastered all over their paper products. At first read, it appears to be relatively simple: "What will you like at Qdoba" seems to suggest plentiful offerings coupled with the certainty that you will like something. But, change the emphasis on the sentence, and the appeal of that phrase evaporates.

"What will you like at Qdoba?" Say it out loud. Now you're wondering whether you will like anything.

"What will you like at Qdoba?" Now the phrase is skeptical.

"What will you like at Qdoba?" With this emphasis, you know you'll feel strongly about something, but you might just end up hating it.

Hopefully nobody will read the slogan with anything but the intended emphasis. It would be a shame if anyone skipped out on a tasty meal because of a reading error. I found the Chicken Mole Burrito to be just too tasty to ignore -- four sporks out of five. Just remember to keep the question "What will you like at Qdoba?" in your head.