Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Keep The Epicurean Home Fires Burning

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Like most responsible Americans, I've been stuck indoors for, what seems like, forever. Even though I've practically been chained to my computer, I haven't written a food blog in quite some time.  Like the rest of the world, the food landscape has changed dramatically, over night.

Waitress
Subject: Waitress | Date: 03/27/2008 | Photographer: Json |
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

For the last few weeks, states with responsible governors have closed nonessential businesses, including dining rooms and bars.  Restaurant fare has been reduced to take-out and/or delivered meals.

Fast food places and other chain restaurants are taking a hit to their bottom line, but they can adapt.  Much of their business was from delivery and drive-thru orders before this happened.  The staff who worked the dining rooms have been laid off, and they're hurting, but the chains themselves, for the most part, will survive.  However, 75% of restaurants in the United States of America are independently owned.

One can eat a burger, box of chicken, or taco anywhere.  Eaters can down such meals in their cars, if they want to, and not sacrifice much of the experience.  Yet, a meal of 28 day aged center cut tenderloin, partially wrapped in smoky bacon, and topped with a demi-glace, served over rustic buttermilk mashed potatoes alongside seasonal vegetables doesn't translate as well as a take-out meal.  Thus, such restaurants are struggling to keep the lights on until this is over, whenever that will be.

The government is offering restaurants and bars loans to get the through the crisis, on the condition that 75% of the loan will be spent on payroll.  Yet, as Chef Tom Colicchio of Top Chef has pointed out, if dining room staff aren't working, the money is needed for; gas, water, electricity, rent, and ingredients; more than payroll.  Thus, the restaurants which need it most aren't qualifying.

Organizations, such as the James Beard Foundation Relief Fund are raising to keep the epicurean home fires burning.  According to their site, "The purpose of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund (the “Fund”) is to provide critical financial assistance to small, independent restaurants that, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) national disaster, have an immediate need for funds to pay set operating expenses and keep from going out of business."

While their efforts may indeed payoff, as Eater.com's "There Will Be No Grand Reopening for Restaurants  suggests the new normal may not be the normal w once knew.  "'You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves,' suggested the governor (of California), drawing on previous remarks made by California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell. 'Maybe a face mask, a dinner where the menu is disposable, where the tables, half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment.'”

Friday, March 20, 2020

Taco Bell's Next Big Sandwich, The Triplelupa

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Given today’s climate, I considered stopping work on my food blog until this state of emergency blows over. Upon reflection, I thought it would be nice to focus on something other than the virus.

|Subject: Taco Bell's Triplelupa| |Date: 03/20/2020|
|Photographers: Dani Cogswell & James Kiester|
Not being able to get out much these days, my friend treated me to drive-thru fare from the Taco Bell at 19275 SW TV HWY in Aloha, OR. Having seen the commercial for it recently, I decided to have the new Triplelupa.

The Triplelupa comes in a long flatbread shell designed to look like three Chalupas fused together. All three sections consist of a base of seasoned ground beef topped with sauce, lettuce, tomato, and a garnish of grated cheese. Supposedly, one end has nacho cheese sauce, the opposite end has chipotle sauce, and the center section has both sauces.

Vegetarians can replace the meat with refried beans, black beans, or potatoes.

Honestly, I couldn't taste a difference between one end and the other, so I suspect they put both sauces along all three sections. That being said, it worked. Between the seasoning on the beef and the sauces, this was a pleasantly spicy sandwich without be over-the-top tongue searingly HOT. With an order of Nacho Fries and a cup of coffee, it made a tasty and filling lunch.

However, this isn't a sandwich you can eat while driving. There's way too much iceberg lettuce and flavorless tomato which only serve to fall on the eater’s lap upon taking a bite. There's also so little shredded cheese that it adds nothing to the sandwich.

For $3.49 ($5.99 with a crunchy taco, cinnamon twists, and a medium drink) the Triplelupa is a tasty, but extremely messy, sandwich. I’d give it 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Stay safe & sane.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Carl's Jr's BFC Angus Thickburger - A Review

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I should begin by confessing that I’m typically not a fan of Carl's Jr.. I find their meat to be over cooked and dry. That being said, when I heard their new “BFC Angus Thickburger” comes with a wheel of deep-fried cheese on top, I had to investigate.

| Subject: BFC Angus Thickburger |
| Date: 02/28/2020 | Photographers: Dani Cogswell & James Kiester |
| Permissions: Photo taken for this blog |
I went through Carl's Jr. drive-thru window at 6653 SE Tualatin Valley Highway in Hillsboro, OR and ordered the BFC, a medium fry, and a medium (30 ounce) Coke for $10.94. The burger came with a flame broiled Angus beef patty, a combination of Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese coated in a seasoned breading & fried crispy, lettuce, tomato, and Boom Boom sauce on a toasted bun.

I didn't get the cheese in my first bite, so all I tasted was the horseradish foreword “Boom Boom” sauce. I suppose if Carl's Jr. was one of my regular haunts, I’d have been prepared for the spiciness. As it was, I found the taste a bit overpowering. I took another bite, and this time I hit paydirt. I could hear the crunch as I bit through the cheese, exposing a molten golden center. The Mozzarella allowed the wheel to melt evenly while the Cheddar delivered a pleasantly sharp Cheddar taste.

As I made my way through the sandwich, the cool light flavors the lettuce and tomato played against richness of the cheese and the beef to produce a balanced bite of food. I like char-broiled hamburgers, but these patties were the same dry beef I’ve come to expect from Carl's. However, the moisture of the cheese compensated for the parched meat enough that I was able to enjoy polishing off the meal.

Although I liked the burger, for the most part, I’d have preferred a patty with a little less of a cook on it and some other sauce (maybe just mayonnaise). I’d give Carl's Jr.’s BFC Angus Thickburger 8 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Food & Politics Collide With Andrew Zimmern At The Helm

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By now it should be obvious that I’m a pretty big food nerd. No, it’s true. I’ll own it. I love well developed; flavors, aromas, textures; the whole epicurean nine yards. However, if you only read my food blog, you may not be aware I’m a political liberal as well. Being a liberal, I’m an MSNBC junkie. Thus, when I heard chef Andrew Zimmern, of Bizarre Foods fame, would be hosting a show on my favorite news channel, I had to check it out.


Chef Andrew Zimmern
Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
What's Eating America bills itself as a show which explores social and political issues through the lens of food. The first episode was dedicated to the immigration debate. With an unapologetically progressive/anti-Trump slant, Zimmern explained the degree to which migrant workers harvest, process, and prepare the food we eat.

Telling the stories of seasonal field workers, a foreign-born chef who depends on migrant labor, and others the February 16th premier episode made the case that migrant workers are being abused by a system which would collapse without them. Chef Jose Andres, who fed federal employees during the 2013 government shutdown, made an impassioned speech about the plight of migrant workers.

Again, I’m liberal, so I agreed with their message, but I doubt it would sway anyone who isn’t already in their ideological camp. That being said, conservative foodies may still enjoy vivid descriptions of barbacoa tacos, pork consomm√©, and other delectable dishes.

Airing Sunday nights on the aforementioned MSNBC, this five-episode series takes a more in-depth look at food than anything currently running on Food Network.