March 30, 2009

Ripping into baggies


We need to talk. For some reason you've been putting progressively lower-quality bags in your boxes of crackers. Teddy Grahams, Nilla Wafers and Ritz Bits Sandwiches all refuse to be opened for at least five minutes before finally giving way with a giant tear down the side. Especially those Ritz Bits Sandwiches.

I know times are tough, but this has been going on for several years. First you couldn't breach the bag inside a box of Ritz Bits Cheese Sandwiches without splitting it down the side. That was circa 2006, when the economy was still strong.

Plus you still have a few brands that know how to bag'em. Triscuit bags still generally open properly, for instance. True, they don't pop apart with ease, but the top of the bag does part at the seams, allowing for optimal rolling up and the preservation of fresh crackers.

Don't tell me to get a pair of scissors, either. Unless we're dealing with expensive technological items that pose a serious risk of being removed from their plastic and smuggled out of the store to be sold on the black market, packaging should be removable without tools -- and even in the acceptable cases, that impenetrable packaging is as annoying as trying to balance an egg on its head during the solstice. The ability to use tools may be what separate us from monkeys, but the ability to design usable baggies is what separates product engineers from Neanderthals.

If this is a problem caused by different bag vendors for different products and various manufacturing facilities, it's time to take a fresh look at your supply chain. Do you buy resealable sandwich bags that can't open without tearing for your own home? Then why should anyone buy a box with a bag of crackers that do the same thing?

You shouldn't have to worry about finding those ten stray Chocolaty Chip Teddy Grahams that slipped out of the slit in the bag and bloated to unrecognizable balls because they soaked up all the moisture in the air. You won't hear me say this much, but don't worry about the food -- it's fine. Worry about the packaging.



March 28, 2009

The Roastburger

Today I stopped by Arby's to try out their Bacon & Bleu "Roastburger." It's good, by the way. Tasty roast beef melded well with the usually handicapping soft bacon to make a four out of five spork main course. It's one of the few fast food meals that's actually worth more than five bucks.

My meal, which included curly fries and a drink, cost $5.93, keeping with my impression that Arby's is a little pricey. Still, it was worth the cost.

But there are two more important things I noticed while at the giant red hat.

The first is their drink selection. Every fast food chain has a bunch of soda, but soda isn't my scene. Its carbonation leaves me burping for the rest of the afternoon at inopportune times and it also makes my teeth feel positively grimy. Unfortunately most chains only offer non-soda drinkers the choice between iced tea or sugar-free lemonade.

That's a ridiculous choice. The tea is fine, but only offering sugar-free lemonade is uncalled for. Wendy's is the big offender here. They always offer sugar free but no regular lemonade, as if the only people who could possibly not want soda are watching their waistlines. Note to beverage engineers at fast food joints: Some of us choose lemonade because it's better than soda, not because we're on a diet. Relegating the non-soda society to the terrible aftertaste of artificial sweeteners is unnecessary, insulting and inexcusable.

The only lemonade at Arby's drink fountain was sugar free, so they deserve a little wrath on this front too. But they offered me a choice outside the terrible nuclear option of blue PowerAid you sometimes find at McDonald's -- SoBe Energy.

Now, the Energy flavor is by far not my favorite variation of SoBe. It's a little citrusy for my palette. But compared to my typical fast food soda fountain options, it was a Godsend. If I handed out Golden Straw Awards for best drink innovation, Arby's would be a good candidate for this drink.

The second great thing to come out of my visit to Arby's was their Spicy Three Pepper Sauce. I can't say how long they've had it -- I must admit to not frequenting the big red hat over the last three or four years -- but it's a great addition to the already wonderful option of Horsey Sauce.

Spicy Three Pepper Sauce isn't exactly scorching. Think Taco Bell Fire Sauce Hot -- enough to give good flavor but not nearly enough to call in the fire hose. It also has a nice buried sweetness to it that's surprisingly complex for a fast food condiment.

A better drink selection and great sauce-age can really put you over the top as a fast food joint. They make it okay that Arby's is a bit expensive. The devil is in the details. So is the dollar.

March 22, 2009

Catching readers with a Bit-O-Honey

Foodies, let me apologize. I've been remiss in my reviewing duties for far too long, leaving you without even a whiff of a new blog post. You have reason to be angry with me.

Hoping to catch those of you who are flying away, I'm back with a review of a classic candy -- Bit-O-Honey. Whoever last refilled the vending machine at work replaced Twix, the ultimate workplace candy, with Bit-O-Honey. To expedite the Twix reclaiming its rightful slot I shelled out a steep 90 cents for the replacement candy bar.

I must admit that I couldn't remember much about Bit-O-Honey, although preliminary reaction from those in the cubicles around me was not inspiring. One of my coworkers sneered at the idea of Bit-O-Honey, informing me that he "Used to get angry when I got those trick-or-treating."

Once I opened the wrapper, memories of Bit-O-Honey came buzzing back into my head. It was that bronze chewy candy with an inner wrapping of wax paper that never came the entire way off without ripping. As a kid, I never appreciated it much, instead chewing through the hard, tasteless stuff as fast as I could in order to move on to a Milky Way.

Bit-O-Honey still has that wax paper, which they still haven't figured out how to make it unwrap without ripping. Somehow I enjoyed it, though. It's a bit like Now and Later -- hard and bland at first, chewy and flavorful after a few minutes gnawing on a hunk.

In fact, Bit-O-Honey can get downright rich for a concoction made composed of refined sugar. There really is just a bit of honey flavor -- the overall eating experience reminds me of the creaminess of butterscotch, but without the super sweet punch in the face.

That's not to say Bit-O-Honey doesn't get sweet. The taste builds, leaving you wanting more in the beginning, wanting less at the end of the bar, and perfectly happy about halfway through it. By the end of the bar I was ready for a nice hunk of bread to soak up that sugar.

Still, I wouldn't get angry if I got these while trick-or-treating. Bit-O-Honey can't replace Twix, but it's worth a try if your sweet tooth is begging for some attention. Three out of five sporks.

March 7, 2009

A quick word bite

I've seen a few blogs do these tasty world clouds from Wordle. Here's one for the critique's 2009 posts. Burgers, anyone?

March 4, 2009

Shamrock Shakes are back!

There once was a critic who'd break
If he didn't have a Shamrock Shake
To McDonald's he went
His money he spent
And his delight was surely not fake

Okay, so my limerick skills need polishing. I challenge you to do better -- who knew there are syllable requirements to go with the AABBA rhyming scheme?

The point is the delicious, green, slightly minty Shamrock Shakes are back for another St. Patrick's day season! Actually, they've been at some McDonald's for weeks, but as the big day approaches they should definitely have arrived at a golden arches near you.

The Shamrock Shake is a perennial favorite here at Rick's Food Critique -- it joins green tea on the shortlist of green drinks with good karma. The one I had was rich and delicious, with just the right base of mint flavor. My recommendation: Try one sooner rather than later.

March 2, 2009

A burger with all the dressings

This hamburger dress popped up on the Internet a couple weeks ago, and I've been meaning to post it as a follow-up to the burger bed.

It doesn't look nearly as comfortable as the aforementioned bed, which is the food dreams are made of. Still, the dress is the perfect thing for a visit to Red Robin! All you ladies who own the burger bed are sure to meet the man of your dreams if you wear this thing in public.

Just expect old women everywhere to cluck their tongues at you when you wear it. "The way these girls dress these days! It's like they want men to look at them like pieces of meat!"