February 28, 2009

Burger Shots in the dark

Burger shots should be the perfect car food. Six little single-hand-sized burgers -- just the thing for quick eating during a bumpy automobile ride that often leaves you bracing yourself with one hand while trying to eat with another.

Too bad Burger King doesn't make the effort to cut the Burger Shots individually.

That's right, I opened the burger shots box in a dark car, expecting to find six individual tasty morsels, only to discover a sheet of uncut bread with six bun-shaped mounds. The sheet didn't even have individual hamburger patties. It was divided into three strips of beef, each of which sat between two of the bun bumps.

So the burger shots had to be pulled apart before they were eaten -- the advertisements should read "some disassembly required." Normally I don't mind working for my food, but there's no reason you should have to go through all this trouble for fast food with the word "shots" in the title -- implying quick and easy eating.

Burger Shots have other problems. The beef was dry and unappetizing. The bun to meat ratio was skewed too far toward the bun. A piece of lettuce would have been nice. They all pale in comparison to the fundamental flaw, though.

"Shot" implies fast and easy. Burger shots were neither. One out of four sporks, and let's move on. I've spent too much time with them already.

February 24, 2009

Fauschnaut Day Snapshot

In case any of you were wondering what a genuine fauschnaut looks like, I snapped a quick pick of one with the CritiqueCam. Let me apologize up front for my thumb in the shot. I was just too excited to eat the tasty treat to take the time to put it down for the picture.

February 23, 2009

Fat Tuesday/Fauschnaut Day

Apparently, not everybody knows what Fauschnaut Day is.

In parts of the United States, it seems to be Mardi Gras' forgotten stepsister. It is Fat Tuesday's long-lost pseudonym. A treasure buried in the closing wrinkles of time and geography.

Fortunately Fauschnaut Day is not completely forgotten, and it has enthusiasts like me to promote it. If you grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country or have German ancestry, chances are you know about Fauschnaut Day and should join in disseminating the fact of its existence tomorrow.

In layman's terms, it's a time to eat donuts.

Not donuts as we know them today, of course. A real fauschnaut has no hole in the middle and is made of potato dough. Typically it's sprinkled with sugar, too. They're rich, tasty and soak up all the saliva in your moth. Eat one with a glass of milk and you won't want to eat any fat for 40 days. (Which is close to the idea behind Fauschnaut Day -- it falls on the Tuesday before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent every year.)

After a glass of milk and a few minutes you'll be begging for another, though. The cycle will likely continue until the end of the day, when you'll feel bloated and worthless. But you'll have eaten a bunch of tasty treats guilt-free.

If you're isolated in some culture-barren locale that hasn't heard of this wonderful tradition, I'll give you a waiver allowing for the substitution of donuts instead of fauschnauts, as long as you make a sincere attempt to locate the real things. Join the holiday in spirit, if not in proper practice.

The important thing is that you try to practice Fauschnaut Day, even if you don't follow the religious tradition from which it grew. After all, it's practically a sin to disregard the opportunity to eat unhealthy pastries without shame.

February 22, 2009

By the skin of your potatoes

This afternoon I'm planning to watch some college basketball -- the best sport in America, in my opinion. That brings up another opportunity to talk about snack food and sporting events.

Let's get the required mention of the Bacon Explosion out of the way. Good. Now we can move on to potato skins, which is what I'd really like to discuss.

Yet bacon is inevitably the heart and soul of this discussion. It is the make-or-break ingredient in potato skins. If there's too much bacon, it overpowers the cheese. Too little, and the skins lack adequate texture.

Canadian bacon is a real no-no for potato skins. It's rare to see the ham-by-another-name in them, but you can find it.

Don't find it. There's a reason it's rare.

Large chunks of bacon don't cut it, either. I've had potato skins with one piece of bacon running the length of the tater -- not ideal. Any time you try to take a bite of part of the potato, you end up pulling the entire slice of bacon out. And then you have to try to tear it out fast, like a magician whipping the tablecloth from a set table, in order to leave the cheese in place. Otherwise you're left with a naked spud husk, which isn't nearly as appealing as a dressed one.

The moral of the story is to use tiny pieces of bacon or bacon bits. They spread the flavor and add some texture, but don't have the downside of large pieces. So go enjoy some sports'n taters!

As a side note, there are reports that Shamrock Shakes are surfacing at McDonald's. I'll run an ode to the St. Patrick's Day salute closer to March 17, but wanted to make sure you knew it was time to head over to the golden arches for some green deliciousness.

February 16, 2009

Post Valentine's Day thoughts

Sorry to all you gentlemen out there.

Sorry I wasn't there with a pre-Valentine's Day extravaganza to guide you through the confusing world of Conversation Hearts, lollipops and chocolate. Sorry I wasn't there to offer you some advice on what to get your special someone when you were in your moment of dire need -- Friday night at 7 p.m.

There are two possible explanations I can offer. The first goes something like this: I didn't post a Valentine's Day blog entry so you would realize how important my blog is to your having a successful holiday. Better for me to enforce a dismal, misguided Valentine's Day on you than give you the chance to skip out on this critique and spend the next fifty years of your life kicking yourself because you blew St. Patrick's Day.

The second explanation is that I was in the same boat you were and didn't have time to post a blog for last-minute Valentine's Day success. I was running around like a two-year-old's nose, trying to sort through flowers and find the perfect gift.

You are, no doubt, wondering which of these explanations is true. Unfortunately I can't tell you, If it's the first, you, my readers will be insulted that I doubted your loyalty. But my girlfriend reads this blog (or so she tells me) so I can't admit to the second, either.

Therefore I'll try to make amends and sweep this whole debacle under the rug by throwing a kitchen sink full of excuses at you and offering quick advice to remember for next year's Valentine's Day. I was fighting with spotty Internet. My dog was sick. Aliens abducted me.

And even though I promise I won't hang you out to dry again next year, remember this piece of advice: Buy chocolate. The biggest heart box you can find.

February 8, 2009

The oddity of the Orange Julius

Orange Julius stands seem like the Tupperware carts. There's one in almost every mall, but you never seem to know anyone who frequents them.

Which isn't to say they never have any customers -- in fact there is often a line. It's just made up of people you don't know. They must be the same people who shop at Wal-Mart after midnight but never show their faces anywhere else in society.

Maybe they know something. I headed up to Orange Julius and tried the place's namesake beverage to find out.

Let's start by saying it isn't a bad drink. Tasting something like a cross between orange juice, a slushy and a vanilla ice cream cone, Orange Julii don't have any unpleasant flavors. Unfortunately, those pleasant flavors all taste a little watered down.

In contrast the texture is nearly perfect. On the "slushie-to-milkshake-meter" of frozen drinks Orange Julii are pretty close to the middle -- maybe leaning slightly to the milkshake side. They are smooth and frothy without being thick like a milkshake, and they also have none of the large ice particles native to the classic ICEE.

It's just too bad Orange Julii don't have a stronger orange juice flavor. Admittedly, my taste buds could still be coming down from the cheap-taste high that is McDonald's mocha. I may also enjoy the drink a lot more in the heat of July as opposed to the dead cold of winter. But I was looking for a little more bite to satisfy my thirst.

Good texture with "blah" taste balances out to about three sporks out of five. Maybe it's a sign I should reschedule that 1 a.m. trip to Wal-Mart, too.

February 6, 2009

He must have seen the Bacon Explosion

Tonight I'm running a little behind, so we'll have to forgo the Friday afternoon fun the critique usually serves. To tie you over until I put together a full review this weekend, here is some Friday evening fun -- a brief comment on a food "news" story.

Mike Nelson, who the enlightened of you will know as the host and head writer of the impeccable Mystery Science Theater 3000, is going to try to eat nothing but bacon during the month of February. According to his blog post, he's not going to mix up his diet with an occasional slice of Canadian bacon, and he will only drink beer, wine, martinis and water.

Those of you who are interested in all the nuances of bacon, particularly the different brands, will no doubt be fascinated by the next 22 days of his blog. Those of you who were disgusted by the Bacon Explosion should probably avoid it until March.

I can't say I support this kind of a stunt. True, it will give us all valuable knowledge with which to choose our Saturday morning breakfast brand. But no matter what level of fitness Nelson was at going into this month, he's going to be at serious risk for a heart attack after it. Occasionally eating unhealthy food in the name of exploration is one thing, but flogging your body with fat is an entirely different proposition.

Almost as importantly, Nelson is going to get sick of bacon. He might not even be able to look at it again. And that would be a terrible, terrible burden for any man to have to bear.

February 4, 2009

Never go to bed hungry

Normally I don't like to start out a post telling you to go somewhere else. But quickly check the pictures on this site: http://www.hamburgerbed.com/

Now look at the photos on this one: http://www.random-good-stuff.com/2009/01/29/hamburger-bed/

Having not slept on a hamburger bed, I can't review this thing. I will even forgo trying to describe it, assuming that the pictures of it are worth a thousand words.

Instead I would like to have a brief discussion of a hamburger bed's pros and cons. It is a fascinating piece of gastric-related obscurity, and this blog is all about obscure details about food.

Few things can beat a hamburger bed for novelty. The red plastic race car bed from the early '90's has become cliche, and the frivolous assortment of hammocks, cots and bunk beds out there fails to top the ability to slip into a faux sesame seed bun at night. Plus, it invites eating in bed. Anyone hung up on getting crumbs in between the sheets will have to let that obsession slip away after spending a night in this bed.

And look at that guy cuddled in the bed in the second link. He looks like he's in heaven. Reports indicate that the bed is actually as comfy as it looks. It's even one of the few things that has made me so excited that I want to go to sleep.

Still, I'm not sure I would want to make a food bed my full-time sleeping sanctuary. What if you get the stomach flu? The possibility of staying in bed all day would certainly be curtailed, because looking at the bed would probably bring on a round of dry heaves.

Plus I have a sneaking suspicion that the King from Burger King commercials tours the country looking for burger beds when he's not filming. As much as I love those ads, especially the "wake up with the King" one, I don't want to open my eyes one morning to find his smiling face leering at me. Having to sleep on the couch when I have the flu is one thing, risking waking up next to the King is another.

Therefore, I'll be seeking out a middle ground between having a food bed and warding off unwanted visits from mascots. Starting today I'll be figuring out the best way to construct an Oreo cookie bed. I have no doubt it will be sweet.

February 2, 2009

Mondays mean free McDonald's mocha

After my first experience with McDonald's new McCafe premium hot drinks I wasn't too keen on trying any others. You may remember that the hot chocolate was far too sweet for anyone but the sweetest of sweet tooths. With some bitterness I awarded it one spork out of five.

Alas, the fast food chain didn't grow into a giant without knowing how to keep unsatisfied customers coming back. Today I noticed it was offering a free small mocha every Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some quick Internet research informed me this promotion will last until the end of April. Good idea, McDonald's -- nothing makes me want to give your product a second chance like giving it away for free.

The mocha is made up of chocolate syrup, espresso and steamed milk then topped off with a layer of whipped cream and drizzled chocolate. So at very least, the espresso means there is reason to hope the mocha will be less sweet than the hot chocolate.

Reason, it seems, eludes the McCafe. I enjoyed about a third of the drink. It started off extremely sweet -- I might as well have been drinking hot chocolate. A few more sips unearthed an acceptable blend of coffee and chocolate flavors. If most of the drink tasted like the middle, I would recommend it. Then the dregs at the bottom of the cup ruined everything.

The bottom is packed with the remaining chocolate mix that didn't dissolve into the mocha. It's so sweet it set me off on a coughing fit that made me rethink my understanding of the reason they call it coffee.

I know, I know. Only fools drink the bottom of lattes or hot chocolate, and only bigger fools drink the bottom of lattes or hot chocolate and expect to enjoy it. The real problem with McDonald's mocha is that the bottom made up a substantial portion of the drink -- almost the entire bottom third of the cup.

With that much undissolved powder, McDonald's would be better off leaving some powder out of the mix. It would contribute to a better balance of coffee and chocolate flavors while also giving us a more drinkable beverage. Although it's not as bad as the hot chocolate, this McCafe creation only earns two sporks out of five.

It's still worth picking up for free on a Monday, though. In fact, I invite McDonald's to offer another of their McCafe creations for free. Perhaps their cappuccino or latte would be better.

But if they aren't, you can expect a scathing review from me. As the old song goes, "one, two, free strikes, you're out."

UPDATE7/22: If you're looking for an iced mocha review head to the critique's latest post, "Mondays mean more McDonald's free mocha."