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.

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