April 24, 2013

Hardee's Jim Beam Bourbon Thickburger

The hardiest readers of this blog have something to cheer about tonight. I'm tapping out a quick write-up of a recent trip to Hardee's.

Specifically, I made a run to pick up a Jim Beam Bourbon Thickburger. Aside from its somewhat clunky name, the burger is packed with enough good stuff that I had to try it. A third of a pound of ground beef. Bacon. Pepper jack cheese. Garlic onion straws. Jim Beam bourbon sauce.

Although the bourbon sauce gets the love in this Thickburger's title, the onion straws proved to be the real star of the meal. They were crispy. Let me repeat that. They were actually crispy.

That might not seem like a big deal, considering how many of the burger joints of the world advertise their crispy onion straws. But it is, sadly, an aberration. Hardee's is the only peddler of fast food I can remember that got onion straws completely right.

The crispy straws came with a downside, though: wait time. I spent twice as long waiting for my food to be put together at Hardee's as I typically do at Burger King or McDonald's. I'm giving the restaurant the benefit of the doubt in this matter. Whether it cooks its burger components fresh while I wait or merely keeps them separated in a manner that slows assembly, I don't want them to change anything. It's working.

I could tell you about the sweet bourbon sauce and tangy cheese and deliciously juicy burger. Actually, I just did. Spilling any more pixels on them would overshadow those amazing onion straws.

Five sporks out of five. No matter how far a Hardee's is from you, you should be hardy enough to make the trip.

April 12, 2013

The food critique goes to White Castle

So what does a trip to White Castle offer, besides the chance to use the most obvious headline in food critique history?

Sadly for the comedy buffs, I've never seen the film documenting Harold and Kumar's trip to the slider-serving fast-food joint. Therefore, my trip didn't open up the door to any movie references. Nor did I ever purchase White Castle-branded eat-at-home fair available in the frozen-food aisle. So comparisons are out, too.

Sounds like I have only one choice after traveling to White Castle: review the food.
You didn't want an actual photo of the food, did you? Once I reached into the White Castle bag, I was too busy eating to snap pictures.

For any of you not in the know, White Castle makes a big deal out of its sliders. And I'm pretty picky when it comes to sliders. Serve up some high-class mini burgers and I'll love them forever. But ship out a half-baked product -- or half cut, as Burger King did a few years ago -- and I'll take you to task.

There will be no task taking when it comes to White Castle, though. Its sliders are the best I've ever received through a drive-through window. They're thick with onion scent and perfectly sized. The bun-to-meat ratio is borderline high, but not so high as to be offensive. And if you order cheese, you'll receive melted yellow wonder that unites ground beef and gluten as only fast-food American can!

White Castle even serves its sliders in individual boxes. It's wasteful from a packing standpoint and brilliant from an assembly standpoint. Each burger stays together, nestled tightly in its cardboard carrying container. Bravo!

I have just a single harp when it comes to the sliders, and it was as much my own fault as White Castle's. When I ordered, I was not expecting pickles. Don't ask me why -- all of the chain's promotional materials clearly show green little gherkins peeking out from the mini burgers. No matter the cause, I was surprised to find them on top of each slider, glued down by yellow cheese.

With the pickles swimming in all of that American, it would have been quite the tall task to pull them out of my sliders. So I ate them and pretended they were large versions of the diced white onions sprinkled on the burgers. It wasn't too bad, even for a picklephobe like me.

To White Castle, I ask: Why not put the pickles below the meat, where they won't get mixed up in the cheese? To everyone else, I say: Be careful to ask for no pickles if that's your slider of choice.

It may seem like there's nothing left to say after all the pixels I've spilled on sliders. Yet I haven't even gotten to my favorite part of my White Castle experience. To my surprise, I was blown away by the french fries.

It's probably because White Castle serves crinkle-cut fries. I'm a sucker for crinkle cuts. Sure, you can claim they're a little dry or lack the consistent texture of more uniformly shaped fries. Still, something about the nooks and ridges teases my taste buds into joy like nothing else can.

This journey nets five sporks out of five. For once, I can't even dock points for a misplaced pickle. Slide yourself over to a White Castle next time you see one!

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April 3, 2013

McDonald's Steak and Egg Burrito

Although it risks repetitiveness, today's food under the microscope is from McDonald's.

It's unfortunate, because the last time I reviewed anything from an honest-to-goodness restaurant with a drive-thru, it was sourced at the golden arches. This blog hit up a threesome of McFare in February. The last thing I want is for anyone to think I only frequent McDonald's, because nothing could be less true.

Since that last McDonald's trip, I've stopped at Steak 'n Shake, Moe's and Tim Horton's. I even picked up a box from Pizza Hut. In almost every case, I tried a new food. When it came to Steak 'n Shake, I sampled an entirely new place.

So why fall back on Mickey D's? Why tease my readers with mention of new and exciting foods from far-off places down the strip mall?

The answer is simple: safety first.

Yes, I have an important safety announcement about today's McDonald's food, which is the Steak and Egg Burrito. Be careful. It can be hot.

I don't expect this information will flabbergast many. Ronald's house loves to remind us that its coffee is served steaming and ready to burn. The warnings are all over the cups, at least for those of us who still order genuine hot coffee instead of some steamed milk wannabe.

Still, you need to be careful biting into a Steak and Egg Burrito. For some reason, it seems to keep its heat better than your run-of-the-mill McMuffin. Maybe it's the density of the steak. More likely, it's the fact that it's all wrapped up snugger than a cow in a blanket. Whatever the cause, the burrito has the capacity to be hot.

Mine was two or three times warmer than any food I've ever received from McDonald's. I can't be more precise than that, because the burrito scorched my ever-so-sensitive critiquer's tongue. The steam rising from the inside would have been bad enough, but the geyser of molten cheese shooting out from inside was more than any mortal mouth could handle.

None of this is to say you shouldn't try the Steak and Egg Burrito, because you should. Those of my taste buds that were still functioning picked up a pleasant blend of beef, egg and cheese topped off with a nice bit of salsa. Aside from the thermostat-shattering heat, the only complaint I have is that the tortilla can be a bit dry at the end.

I see no need to burn McDonald's because of a slight issue with degrees. As long as you're prepared, you'll find the Steak and Egg Burrito to be worth four sporks out of five.