June 29, 2008

A Better Burrito

Don't panic, but Taco Bell changed the value menu.

Well, a few seconds of panic might be allowed. The value menu was just about divine, after all. But take a moment to study the new value menu, and that intense pressure sitting on your lungs will evaporate. There are only nine items on it, and they're priced at 79 cents, 89 cents or 99 cents. It's cheap and simple.

Feel free to grumble about sacrificing the larger variety and better name of the old "Big Bell" value menu for the fake excitement of the newly named "Why Pay More!" offering. But there is one gem that makes the change worthwhile: The 89 Cent Cheesy Double Beef Burrito.

Normally Taco Bell beef is cause for an abundance of stomach cramps. For whatever reason, the double beef burrito is immune to the problem. Maybe the slathering of Velveeta cheese coats the abrasive molecules in the beef and passes them safely through the small intestine.

And it tastes great. There is just enough zest in the beef, cheese and seasoned rice that it doesn't taste like a ground-up cheeseburger. And it's not so much that you think it's been drizzled in hot sauce, either.

At 89 cents, these beg to be bought in pairs or even sets of three. One burrito makes a good cheap snack and two or three can be an economical and filling dinner.

There is one piece of beef where the beef is concerned, however. While the burrito has a pretty good amount of meat in it, I don't know that there is enough to justify a "double" designation. Double means two hamburger patties in one bun. Double means so much caffeine you can barely handle your espresso. This burrito is long and skinny. It's more of a "Cheesy Extra Beef Burrito" than a double.

It's still worth swinging by The Bell to try out the new menu. The 89 Cent Double Beef Burrito gets four sporks out of five -- just don't panic if you have to wait in line.

June 22, 2008

Triscuit Trouble

Just like the moon, my snacking has phases. I'll be enamored by muenster cheese for six months then switch to Town House crackers. After a few weeks of those, I'll only want something with chocolate.

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to these phases. It's kind of like pregnancy cravings, only they last six months and I never feel like chewing on dirt. For all I know, they could be dictated by the moon.

Fortunately I'm not planning on deciphering the science of cravings today. Instead I'll be tackling an equally challenging question: Why do Reduced Fat Triscuits exist?

Actually, to be more accurate, the question of the day is why regular Triscuits exist. The two versions of the classic cracker have identical flavors.

It's not as if anyone goes to the store saying, "I'll only buy shredded wheat snacks if they've been drizzled in extra fat." If they do, those people expect to taste that extra fat. Yet the only way to notice the difference between a regular Triscuit and a reduced fat one is to sit them on a paper towel for 20 minutes. The cracker with the bigger grease stain is the regular one.

The nutritional information on the boxes points out a significant difference, though. Regular Triscuits have 4.5 grams of fat and 0.5 grams of saturated fat per 28 gram serving, while Reduced Fat Triscuits only have 3 grams of fat and are completely free of the saturated stuff, according to Nabiscoworld.com.

Granted, those numbers don't seem to stand for much. What, exactly, do 28 grams of Triscuits look like? Unless you're planning on getting out your postal scale when you snack, you'll never know.

It all seems to boil down to this: I can choose to slowly choke my aorta with Reduced Fat Triscuits, or I can choose to choke my aorta a little more quickly with the regular ones. Either way, I have that delightfully crisp crunch and deep salty flavor Triscuits provide.

So I'll be lying awake tonight trying to figure out why Nabisco makes Reduced Fat Triscuits. Maybe it's to attract health nuts. Maybe it's so they can negotiate more shelf space in supermarkets.

Maybe it's because some people actually crave 1.5 more grams of fat in their snacks from time to time. Perhaps when the moon lines up with the Big Dipper, people just aren't satisfied with healthier shredded wheat.

Too bad I can't get pregnant. If I were with child, I might get a quick craving for regular Triscuits and be able to understand it all.

June 14, 2008


People don't just like Chick-fil-A. They don't just love Chick fil-A. They're crazy about Chick fil-A.

Today was the first time I ate there, and before stepping in the door I didn't understand the fuss. What's the big deal about a fast-food joint that only serves chicken entrees? If variety is the spice of life, Chick-fil-A looked like a bland trip to meat-and-potatoes-ville.

But now I get it. The beauty of Chick-fil-A is that it doesn't try to do too much. It just does what it does extremely well.

A char grilled chicken club sandwich and waffle fries made up my order. The sandwich was as close to fresh as I've ever seen in a fast food joint. The bun was wheat, which is always a plus, and it was fairly hearty. Provolone cheese was draped over the chicken, which is a nice break from the mundane normality of cheddar and American cheeses in most fast food eateries.

Grease wasn't dripping off the sandwich either. The chicken was juicy and flavorful without being deep-fried, and even the bacon was tasty without throwing off too much fat.

Yet the waffle fries really won me over. Novelty fries are less of a novelty than they are an important way to prepare a potato. Arby's gets bonus points for its curly fries, and Chick-fil-A becomes a great place to eat because of it's waffle fries. They're prepared just right -- they have enough grease and salt without going overboard.

Plus, they're easier to eat than the usual stick French fries. No more grabbing a fistful to cram into you mouth while they poke the inside of your cheeks at odd angles. Pick up a single, chip-sized waffle fry and take a bite. It's marvelous.

So Chick-fil-A is just what it looks like it is: A meat and potatoes place. But it's also a meat and potatoes place that knows how to make good meat and serve it with potatoes that are to die for.

The restaurant doesn't baffle me anymore. Call me crazy, but I like it.