Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jack In The Box's Prime Rib Cheesesteak - A Review

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Jack In The Box's newest promotion touts three sandwiches inspired by gourmet food trucks.
  • Asian Fried Chicken Sandwich - Crispy fried chicken strips, fresh cucumbers, Asian-style slaw, and gochujang mayo on a toasted rice flour baguette. It's meant to be somewhat of a take on a Vietnamese banh mi  sandwich.
  • Pork Belly BLT - Two strips of seared pork belly, green leaf lettuce, tomato, and tangy honey aioli on a toasted rice flour baguette.
  • Prime Rib Cheesesteak - Strips of prime rib steak, peppers, onions, white cheese sauce, provolone cheese, and a little garlic herb butter on a toasted rice flour baguette.

| Subject: Jack's Philly Cheesesteak | Date: 01/08/2018 |
| Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
| This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

I was intrigued when I saw the commercial for this new line of sandwiches. I knew I wanted to blog about it. However, I had a problem. I've never had a banh mi sandwich. I know, I know, I have to give my foodie ID card back. But in my defense, while I like a variety of Asian dishes, Indian Samosas being among my favorites, I lean more towards European and American cuisine.

Likewise, I'm not familiar enough with pork belly to do justice to a review. I've had pork belly before, but the ones I've had have always been fatty and chewy. I don't think I've ever had ideal pork belly. So, I didn't feel I had a good baseline which would allow me to compare Jack's version to what pork belly is supposed to be.

All that being said, I have had my share of cheesesteaks. I've had the good, the bad, and the ugly. At this point, I must disclose that I like my cheesesteaks Geno's style, which features Cheez Whiz. Jack's version is based on Pat's, utilizing provolone cheese. Nevertheless, I thought I'd give Jack's a try.  (Pat's has added Cheez Whiz, American cheese, and mozzarella cheese options to its menu, but is best known for its original provolone version.)

For $4.99 I got a five-inch long sandwich featuring the aforementioned ingredients on a soft roll. I opened up the sandwich to find it loaded with filling. As I ate I found a nice grilled char on the onions and peppers, gave depth to the flavor of the veggies.

The strips of steak were cooked to well-done giving them a slight chew.  A nice garlic flavor pleasantly permeated the beef, but it could have been seasoned with a little more salt.  For fast food steak, it was pretty good though.

What made this sandwich worth the price though was the fact that they did not skimp on the cheese. Ooey-gooey provolone held the filling together and it was present in every single bite.

Yes, you can get a foot-long sandwich over at Subway for the same price, but it won't be the quality that this was. I had my doubts going in, but I have to admit Jack In The Box nailed the cheesesteak. I give Jack's Cheesesteak 8 out of 10 stars.

Side Note:
I find it odd that Jack In The Box is using Martha Stewart to promote this line of "street food." When I think of street food, I think of Adam Richman, Guy Fieri, and Anthony Bourdain waaaaaay before I think of a domestic goddess like Martha Stewart.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I'm Back + Leave Those Kids At Home

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I’m back! Long term health issues have kept me from writing anything more than a few lines on Facebook for quite some time. A kind volunteer (shout out to Whitney Regan) let me dictate a few pieces to her last summer, before she left Oregon to grace the shores of Hawaii. Needless to say, I’ve been effectively mute for the remainder of 2017 and the first few weeks of 2018.

I could have covered anything in my first piece back; cheese, wine, craft beer, an up-and-coming restaurant, recipes; anything.  I was working on a piece about fast food, which was going nowhere, when something caught my eye.  Nick Hines published an op-ed on VinePair.com today imploring parents not to bring their kids to "Boozy Brunches."

Hines writes, "Those are the type of places (alcohol rich brunches) that kids should be banned from, because those are the places where the hour and a half of bottomless drinks is sacred. Downing my third Bloody Mary with a kid in a child seat 10 feet away — or worse, crawling under the table next to me — simply isn’t conducive to having a good time."

As far as I'm concerned, this should apply to ALL bar-centric restaurants (unless they have a big red bird as a mascot) and other adult themed restaurants.  I want to enjoy a steak & dirty martini without listening to a toddler scream because his/her hamburger doesn't look like the one from McDonald's.

In 2011, I applauded Pennsylvania restaurateur, Mike Vuick, of McDain's Restaurant for banning children under the age of six from his establishment.  I hoped his example would start a trend that would blaze a trail across the epicurean skyway.  Alas, twas not to be.

At this point you're probably thinking, "This guy's cranky after the year he's had."  Well, that's not it, nor do I hate kids.  I have three wonderful nephews who regularly receive comics, candy, and Happy Meals from their Uncle James.  I simply think some places are for families and some are for adults to enjoy.

Adults can open a good bottle of wine and prepare a nice meal at home, granted.  Yet, some of us go out to get our drink on and unwind.  Others like to enjoy a nice meal and quiet conversation with friends.  The experience of being at a restaurant is as important as the food.

As a rule of thumb, children PROBABLY don't belong at a restaurant if the name of the place contains the words, "Bar & Grill," "Brew(ery)," "Tap House," or "Wine(ry)."  Likewise, if a place features a soothing ambiance and gourmet fare, children PROBABLY don't belong there either.

On the flip side, one should expect a certain level of child generated distraction at fast food restaurants, buffets, and other family oriented restaurants.  True, good parents should use such excursions to teach their children manners.  Yet, it's bad form to express annoyance at the sounds of babies crying, kids talking in excited tones, and/or the laughter of youngsters play on restaurant provided structures.

It comes down to, "right place, right time."  When the family goes out to eat, the aforementioned family oriented establishments are perfectly appropriate places to enjoy a meal and let the kids have some fun.  Yet, when mom & dad want a Wellington and a nice Merlot, it's best to hire the high school girl, on your block, to watch the kids.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Stumptown Tart 2017 - A Review

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Subject: Stumptown Tart 2017 | Date: 06/24/2017 |Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |
Every summer Bridgeport Brewing releases a new version of their Stumptown Tart, which features a different berry blend every year.  I have been focusing on my other blog for quite a while, so I thought I would review this year's blend and have something good to recommend for summer time drinking. Of course, you know they say about the best laid plans of mice and men; we don't all get our proverbial rabbit farm.

My favorite version of this beer was 2013's blend of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries which delivered a light fruity beer that was easy to drink.  Jumping ahead four years and we find a blend of black raspberries and blueberries, which was barely perceptible under the harsh bitter hoppiness of the beer.

To be fair, I am not one who enjoys hoppy beers such as IPAs.  So, in order to do this beer justice I gave it to a friend, Michael, who loves IPAs.  He didn't like it either.  The sweet tart undertones of the berries ruined it for him.  Thus, it's not a good beer for IPA lovers or fruit beer lovers.  Therefore I have to give this years blend 4 out of 10 stars.

I did not want leave my readers high and dry for the summer.  With this in mind, I mixed two parts ODWALLA's Hotter Melon (juices of watermelon, apple, lemon, raspberry and jalapeño) with one part Smirnoff Grapefruit Vodka. What I got was a sweet tart beverage that delivered a spicy burn on the back of the throat.  This would be great for pool parties, camping trips or your son's little league ball game.  Er...maybe not that last one.

Drink responsibly and have fun this summer!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mr. Bento - A Review

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I was talking to my friend Mary, and she told me about a restaurant that Google named best burger in Hillsboro.  Naturally I had to give it a try.  I arrived at Mr. Bento (7568 NE Shaleen St Hillsboro, Oregon) around noon on Thursday.

The long, narrow restaurant was so packed with customers that people had to walk sideways to get to the back to order which is always a good sign. I wanted to know if they had the best burger in Hillsboro so I ordered their basic cheeseburger (half a pound of ground beef marinated in teriyaki sauce, topped with sweet grilled onions, arugula, Swiss cheese, American cheese, and mayo).  It's no use asking for ketchup or mustard because there is none on the premises.

The burger comes with three potstickers with a soy dipping sauce and an Asian salad for $11.  For traditions sake I ordered the fries as well for $3.50 and I washed it all down with a 16.9 oz glass bottle of Coca-Cola for $2.

The burger was sweet and the onions made it sweeter but it had a nice grilled flavor to the beef. The two kinds of cheese worked well together to give it a richness which counterbalanced the fresh taste of the arugula.

The potstickers were deep fried to a crispy golden brown and tasted like normal potstickers do.  The salad was a bit off-putting with a thick, gloppy orange dressing which was not at all appetizing.

As for the fries, they came spread out on a large metal tray with a nice coating of seasoning.  They were crispy, salty and delicious, reminding me of the fries KFC used to have in the early 90s.  Yet, with no ketchup on the premises one cannot dip, which I like to do.  I am a dipper.

All in all Mr. Bento serves a good burger with some unique sides.  Is it the best burger in Hillsboro though?  I don't think so.  It does not beat the burgers at Helvetia Tavern.  It takes a while to get used to a sweet hamburger. All things considered I give Mr. Bento 7/10 stars.
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The photographs below were taken on 05/18/17 for this blog.