March 30, 2015

Guinness Potato Chips form a lasting memory

Better to eat Guinness chips late than never.
It's still March. That means I can write about St. Patrick's Day food without being behind the times, right?

Even if I am a week or two late to the party, I found one shameless Irish tie-in this year that's worth mentioning a little after the fact. The tie-in is Burts Guinness Thick Cut Potato Chips. Which, last time I checked, is Gaelic for heaven.

Before going any further, it's important to back up and explain how much of I sucker I am for St. Patrick's Day. Green milkshakes make my heart melt like I'm the CEO of a food dye company. Don't even get me started on shepherd's pie or corned beef and cabbage.

Guinness chips, on the other hand, seemed like a stretch. Give me bacon mac and cheese chips, give me mango salsa spuds, even give me chicken and waffle tater slices. But beer? Dublin-brewed black gold? It seemed a stretch.

If it is a stretch, it turned out to be one in the right direction. Guinness chips are savory like you wouldn't believe with an undercurrent of sweetness that flows like the suds at a Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade. (That parade is, incidentally, the single longest line of Irish dancers, trucks and assorted church-related paraphernalia I've ever seen.) Potato chips are only good at their job if they keep you reaching into the bag for more. These chips are great at their job.

They're thick cut, too, so they have some substance. Eat a few handfuls of these and you'll feel sluggish and full. That might not sound ideal until you think about your average thin potato chip with its wispy body and lack of oomph. You eat those and you feel sluggish and hungry.

The only problems I had with the Burts Guinness chips were that the bag was significantly smaller than your average chip bag and the price was substantially higher. We won't go into exactly how expensive these things were, but it's safe to wonder how they were so stratospherically expensive in spite of the strengthening dollar.

Really, it's too late in the review to worry about little details like that, though. Therefore I'm handing out a belated four sporks out of five to these tasty treats. See if you can get some on a post-St. Pattie's Day sale, and your Irish eyes will be happy.

March 8, 2015

McDonald's spices up its Filet-O-Fish with Old Bay

The Old Bay is good. The cheese, not so much.
My favorite culinary regionalism in Baltimore is the practice of dumping Old Bay Seasoning on everything.

Yes, you think of Old Bay for crab or maybe some fish. But here you can also sprinkle it on fries, pork, eggs and even steak without raising any eyebrows. So it was no surprise to find McDonald's branches capitalizing on the local love by adding Old Bay to its long-running Filet-O-Fish sandwiches in Greater Baltimore and some of the surrounding states.

A little more surprising is where the Old Bay goes. It's not in the wild-caught Alaskan Pollock patties themselves, as I'm guessing they're prepared en masse in some factory somewhere that can't be bothered to change up the recipe for a few measly states in the Mid-Atlantic. No, the seasoning ends up in the tartar sauce.

I could understand if we were talking Old Bay mayonnaise, which sounds like a delectable idea. We're not. We're talking pickle relish, chunks and all.

Even so, the Old Bay Filet-O-Fish is an improvement over the more mundane sandwich on which it's based. The extra spice is a nice kick added to a crispy if somewhat flavorless square of fried fish. Things would be better if we were talking Old Bay mayo instead of tartar sauce, but they're not bad.

What is bad is the cheese. McDonald's insists on saddling the Filet-O-Fish with a slice of bright orange terror seemingly closer to petroleum byproduct than dairy product. I'd have taken a picture of the piece left sticking to the packaging after I finished my meal, except I feared it would scar any younger readers for life. That cheese is gastrointestinal crime.

The bun's not much better, as it's closer to a sponge than actual bread. As horrific as those two ingredients sound, however, they can be ignored when you have a good bite of fish slathered in zesty Old Bay. And the sandwiches are a relative deal, going at the price of two for $4. So somehow, the Old Bay Filet-O-Fish swims against the current of its lesser ingredients to grab a pretty good rating.

Three sporks out of five. Pair one with a slippery Shamrock Shake and you'll make your Irish Catholic friends happy while having a March meal to remember.