January 13, 2013

A very special set of Golden Spork Awards: The best foods of 2011 and 2012

Two years is a long time to wait for flatware, even the most prestigious gold-plated utensils in the blogosphere.

Foodies and devotees to my writing know the history of the Golden Spork Awards. First held at the end of 2008, they honor the best foods featured on this critique over a 365-day period. Awards range from the always-affordable "Short Payment" category for the best food under $1 to the penultimate honor in commoners' culinary circles, the "Best Picnic," which goes to the top taste of the year.

The latest set of Golden Spork Awards, or "Sporkies," as they're affectionately referred to among diners everywhere, doesn't encompass a single 365-day period, however. It covers two years, a move made necessary by the 15-month gap in food reviews this critiquer experienced between July of 2011 and November of 2012. We won't go into the details about that dark time at this moment, but we must mention it in order to acknowledge the fact that some of the foods honored here today have been waiting for far too long to receive their congratulatory hardware.

That wait, I'm pleased to tell you, ends now. Without further ado, I bring you the 2011/2012 Golden Spork Awards!

Put a Spork in Them: Foods to forget from 2011 and 2012

We start out with our regular wall of shame, foods to be avoided at all cost. These items leave a sour taste in the mouth to this day.

McDonald's Shamrock Shake
Major boos and hisses for the plastic packaging McDonald's Shamrock Shakes started wearing under the ill-conceived McCafe brand. It left hands cold and, worse, sweat like a pig on New Year's Eve. All that water had the shake seriously slippery, making it all too easy to spend more energy handling the cup than enjoying the masterfully minty tones of the seasonal shake. Worse, the option of ordering the shake with whipped cream and a cherry appeared, an abomination that must have left St. Patrick wishing he'd driven those snakes from Ireland all the way to Mickey D's corporate offices.

McDonald's CBO
The golden arches pull off a rare twofer on the Sporkies' worst foods list with the CBO -- short for Cheddar, Bacon, Onion. Interestingly, McDonald's earns scorn in both cases not for its food, but for the decisions it made surrounding that food. The CBO is a fine sandwich saddled with a mind-numbing name more evocative of federal bureaucracy than a burger worth eating. Which is a shame, because the CBO is actually a pretty tasty treat.

Golden Spork Awards: The top foods reviewed in 2011/2012

Free Food:
This pick is so obvious it's almost painful. From the ferocious first-bite crunch to the sweet sugar dissolving in your mouth a moment later, Biscoff remains one of the most satisfying things you can eat without first having to reach for your wallet. It's an included snack option on most Delta flights, and while plane tickets aren't free, Biscoff remains one of the few things you can get mid-air without additional charge. That's enough to qualify it for this category, which in turn makes it a hands-down winner.

Short Payment (best food under $1):
Snickers Egg
The Snickers Egg wins this category almost by default, owing to a distressingly short list of candidates at the required price point. The egg is good, and it's an even better change-up from the gamut of traditional Easter Candy. But something tells me we'll hear more about the lack of affordable food later in these awards ...

Seasonal Food:
Subway Double Bacon, Egg & Cheese
A surprise winner owing its Seasonal Food candidacy to an April 2011 appearance as Subway's $5 Footlong of the month, the Double Bacon, Egg & Cheese made breakfast work for lunch and dinner. It's a shame this sandwich isn't available for afternoon meals when it isn't the $5 Footlong of the month, because it flattens the competition when ordered on flatbread. Can double bacon ever go wrong?

Goldfish Grahams S'mores
Perhaps the strongest food to ever win this title, Goldfish Grahams S'mores qualify under both the "snack" and "candy" category. They take home the 24-carat spork thanks to an amazingly close approximation of the s'more-eating experience. These fishes really are so delicious that you'll want to bring them to work, school, or your next camping trip.

Best Supporting Beverage:
vitaminwater stur-D
Whether it's washing down breakfast or coming at any other time of the day, stur-D's combination of blue agave, passion fruit and citrus pleases. It's fun to drink and a horror to write about, thanks to vitaminwater's constant violation of traditional capitalization rules. And slotting it in for this award gives me reason to re-publish the following line from my March 2011 review, which is one of my favorites. "If you can get past the fact that it looks like you're about to guzzle a liquefied Smurf, stur-D makes a tasty beverage."

Best Dessert in a Leading Role:
Not awarded
Let the controversy ensue. There will be no award winner in this category, owing to a troubling trend in dessert that developed over the last two years: the rising price of chocolate. In early 2011, many candy bars could be had for 50 cents, while larger options were often on sale for 75 cents. By the end of 2012, those prices had swelled to at least 69 cents and $1.25, respectively. This inflation is absurd. No one should have to tack a dollar onto their supermarket order because they want a chocolate fix. This lack of an award represents a protest, plain and simple.

Best Picnic
Chocolate-Dipped Peeps
Let the controversy continue. As I looked over my 2011 and 2012 reviews, I couldn't believe the early returns. Only two foods, Chocolate-Dipped Peeps and Biscoff, qualified for Best Picnic, which requires a full five-spork review rating. Of those, the Peeps were clearly superior. But Peeps seem like a bird-brained choice for the years' top honor.

Look deeper, though, and you'll see that Chocolate-Dipped Peeps outclassed everything else appearing on the critique over the last two years. They strike a delicate balance between a chocolate base and that sugary traditional Peep coating we all know and love. And they're groundbreaking in that most Peeps aren't remotely good enough to merit consideration for Best Picnic.

These Peeps have your intrepid critiquer eagerly awaiting this year's Easter season. This pick isn't as feather-brained as it first seems.

Kudos to all of the Golden Spork recipients. As always, the real winners aren't the foods themselves, but those of us eating them. Here's to a tasty 2013!

No comments:

Post a Comment