Monday, July 16, 2018

Is McDonald's Bacon Smokehouse Burger Really Smokin'?

I should begin by addressing the elephant in the room. I've reviewed a lot of burgers lately, making this blog's content a bit burger heavy. In fact, I've written enough pieces on burgers to justify adding "Burgers" as a tagged category over in the right hand column.

They're what people eat.  According to The 2016 Burger Report, "the average consumer still eats a burger 5.3 times in a month."  Of course I will still write about cheese, wine, and gourmet fare when I can, but if I want to appeal to a wide audience I have to talk about what people like to eat, and that's burgers.

| Subject: McDonald's Bacon Smokehouse Burger |
| Date: 07/09/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Edward Kiester|

Being a lover of bacon, when I heard about McDonald's new Bacon Smokehouse Burger (Applewood smoked bacon, bacon-onion sauce, white cheddar, sweet mustard sauce, and fried onion strings) I had to give it a try.

I bought the single all beef patty version of the sandwich from my local McDonald's at 19525 SW TV HWY in Aloha, Oregon. I could have ordered the double, but, with fries, the single seemed like it would be enough food for me.

When I opened the box, I noticed the soft bun and the bacon protruding out the sides right off the bat. A second glance revealed the presence of the crispy fried onions and mustard sauce.   I was excited. The burger looked like a winner.

Texture wise, this burger had it in abundance. The golden friend onion strings and the crisp bacon both added a nice crunch to sandwich. They were doing their job in that respect. However, the real test was the flavor.

The mustard sauce was tangy and sweet. While it was delicious it was almost all I could taste. I could taste the bacon a little but the onions provided no real flavor. As for the bacon-onion sauce it might as well have not been there, it added nothing to the burger.

When a burger is called "Smokehouse" one expects a solid punch of smoky flavor. I just didn't get that. This burger should be called the Bacon-Sweet Mustard Burger so people know what they are getting going in. As a smoky burger, the smoky flavor isn't coming to the party. All in all I give the Bacon Smokehouse Burger a 6 out of 10 stars.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Wow Burger - Wow! or Wow?

During this past winter I passed the construction of Wow Burger at (2905 SW Cedar Hills Blvd in Beaverton) during my weekly outings for groceries and comics. Yes, I am a comic book nerd as well as a foodie.  Think Sheldon Cooper meets Anthony Bourdain, that's me.  You might want to throw in a few dashes of FDR too.

| Subject: Wow Burger's burger menu (the menu for the sides was too high to get a good picture of it)
Date: 07/06/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
| click on the picture for a larger view |

Anyway, I was intrigued by the name.  It called forth images of a mind-blowing burger the eater would be talking about a year later.  With that picture in mind, I couldn't wait for Wow open.

| Subject: Bacon Bleu Burger & CKMP Burger | Date: 07/06/2018 |
| Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

My friend Dani and I got there a day or two after the Fourth around noon. The L-shaped restaurant looked like any typical "order at the counter" establishment, with menus on the wall and a counter up front. No big whoop.

I ordered the Bacon Bleu Burger (spring lettuce, bacon, garlic aioli, and blue cheese crumbles) and Basil Parmesan Fries (McDonald's-esc cut fries tossed in a blend of kosher salt, parmesan cheese, garlic and basil) for $9.99.

Right off the bat I was impressed that they cooked the beef to order. Of course, I got mine medium-rare.  Slightly pink burger is juicy burger.

As you know, I'm not a big fan of lettuce on a burger. However, I kept the greens on just so I could review the burger as it was intended to be eaten, and I'm glad I did.

The juicy seasoned beef, smokey bacon, salty tangy bleu cheese, and savory garlic aioli all brought a lot of flavor, but were all very rich. The greens counter-balanced the richness of the other ingredients, making for one very well-executed burger.

My only critique of the burger lies in the bacon. While it had a good smoky salty bacon flavor, it was limp and fatty. Part of what makes a bacon burger so good is the crunch of the crispy bacon. Floppy limp bacon takes the burger down a notch or two.

The fries were the highlight of the meal.  The flavors of salt, Parmesan cheese, and garlic complimented the crispy piping hot fries. They were a wonderful accompaniment to the burger, but would make a good snack by themselves /

My friend, Dani, had the CKMP Burger (CKMP stands for “Cheese (American), Ketchup, Mayo, and Pickles) and Tator Tots (standard deep fried mini cylinders of potatoes seasoned with kosher salt) for $7.49. At least that's how it is on the menu. Dani does not like ketchup or mayo, so she got hers with yellow mustard and extra pickles. She also got her beef well-done. While it was executed the way she ordered, it's hard to comment anymore about it with one exception. THE PICKLES.

I've eaten a lot of pickles in my 48 years, but these kosher pickles were some of the best I've had. I don't know if they make them themselves with extra garlic, or if they have stumbled onto a really good brand, but they were exceptional.  If they were to deep fry them, and add them to the menu as a side, now that marijuana is legal in Oregon, they would be packed at 4:25 every afternoon.

All in all, I liked WOW Burger. The food is kind of expensive, about on par with Five Guys. The burger was good, but it's the fries I would come back for. All things considered, I would give WOW Burger an 7/10 stars.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus + Losing A Legend

Cedar Hills Crossing is Beaverton's largest shopping mall. They're currently expanding to include a variety of new shops and restaurants. One such establishment is the Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus (2905 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Ste 140, Beaverton, OR).

Subject: Bargarten's Fondue | Source: Bargarten's FB Page with their kind permission |
I arrived at the restaurant around noon on a weekday. The bar themed establishment was dimly lit with rows of communal tables in the main dining room. I took a smaller table out on the covered patio where I could enjoy the weather.

I started with the Fondue made with Swiss cheese, white wine & spices, served in a cast iron ramekin. One can have the molten cheese accompanied by assorted German breads, two soft pretzels, or chunks of smoked German bier sausages and assorted German breads. I chose the sausage and breads for $14.95.

For my main course I had the Veal Schnitzel (breaded veal with Cremini mushrooms topped with paprika sauce and served with spätzle) for $18.95. I washed the meal down with a very tall Weizen glass of Hofbräu Hefeweizen for $4.95.

I took photos of my meal, only to get home and realize the phone I used had not saved the photographs. Thus, I had to borrow this photo from Bargarten's own Facebook page.  I asked them for permission to use the picture, but not hearing from them for four days I took their silence as tacit permission to use the photo.

Fortunately, the fondue that you see is exactly what I got. It was warm, cheesy, and wonderful. The chunks of sausage were pleasantly spicy all by themselves and complimented the molten cheese superbly.  The trick was to keep from filling up before my main course arrived.

I wish I had a picture of the veal to show you.  It was fried to a crispy golden brown, topped with large slices of Cremini mushrooms and a delectable brown paprika sauce/gravy.  Accompanying the veal was an ample serving of spätzle peppered with herbs.

The veal was deep-fried to a crispy golden brown, fork tender, and perfectly seasoned to deliver a series of thoroughly savory bites. The mushrooms were meaty with a nice earthy flavor and the piquant paprika sauce tied the mushrooms and veal together nicely.

The meal's only deficit was with the spätzle.  I was served a heaping mound of the rice sized pasta, but it wasn't seasoned well.  The side, which served more as a garnish, needed garlic, cheese, salt, or something.  As it was, it was just... kind of... there.

As for the beer, or "bier" according to their menu, there's not much to be said.  It  was a standard Hefeweizen. The beer was light yellow in color and not too hoppy with a nice citrus undertone.

All in all, I had a satisfying meal. I give Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus an 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Parting End Note: 

Friday morning I woke up to hear a teary eyed Joe Scarborough announce that; chef, author, and TV host; Anthony Bourdain died at the age of 61. I was floored. Not only was he dead but he had killed himself.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
You have to understand, he was not just another celebrity to me. He was an inspiration to me the way few authors have been. I remember reading Kitchen Confidential for the first time. Bourdain's description of food brought the foods to life. I could almost smell the duck confit as he described it on the page. I've been accused of writing about food in his style, although probably not as well.

Those who have watched his shows and/or read his books were privy to the perspective of a man who loved to live life. This was a man who could enjoy a five star gourmet meal, a hot dog off a food cart, or a meal with a family in the Ozarks. He loved it all. He ate with presidents and paupers alike and he treated them all with respect.

The Berlin episode of his current series, Parts Unknown, aired shortly after his death.  As he ate helpings of; currywurst, chicken sausage, smoked mashed potatoes, and punk rocker prepared roasted meat; I could see an emptiness in his lined weathered face.  Sitting across from a young lady, who was explaining that Berlin's identity is about its future instead of its past, had he already decided to cut his own future short?

I know he had drug issues, but I'll never understand how a man so full of life could choose to leave this world and his eleven year old daughter.  I doubt I'll ever be able to make sense of the loss. Instead I need to remember the man as he was and what he meant to me.

R.I.P. Chef Bourdain.

Source: Publicly traded meme. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

McDonald's Fresh Beef Double Quarter Pounder - A Review


| Subject: McDonald's Fresh Beef Quarter Pounder |
| Date: 06/01/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

Before I begin, I must point out that I am no photographer.  When I took a photo of the burger. I really thought I got a good angle to show the thick beef patties, melting cheese, and toppings. When I got home, I realized I only got a good photo of a hamburger bun. which doesn't do you a lot of good, but there it is.

I had read about McDonald's inclusion of "fresh beef" in their Quarter Pounder and Double Quarter Pounder. I initially wrote it off as an advertising gimmick. I figured it would be no different than their normal burgers, but their Quarter Pounder would sell big for awhile because of the hype. Thus, I was going to do a review in order to prove that the emperor was, in fact, naked.

There are two kinds of burger joints. There are restaurants who are known for their beef and there are ones who use the beef as a platform for their toppings. McDonald's has always struck me as a restaurant in the latter category. They are known for serving flat little hockey pucks with a variety of toppings on them. I did not expect this burger to be anything else.

I was hungry, so I ordered the Double Quarter Pounder with cheese. It came with the standard pickle, onion, ketchup, and yellow mustard. To my surprise I found two thick patties of hot succulent well-seasoned beef. What surprised me even more was the fact that they were medium-rare. Fast-food restaurants are known for serving well-done, even overcooked, beef, but this burger was medium-rare with just a little pink in the middle.

There was nothing bad to say about the Double Quarter Pounder. I have to give it 10/10 stars. I'm as shocked as you are.

I do have a question though.  If McDonald's can use quality beef for their Quarter Pounders, why, oh why, aren't they using it for all of their burgers? If you order the Quarter Pounder, you can have the good beef, if you order the Big Mac, you can get two hockey pucks on a bun. What's with that?

One last note:
I like burgers medium-rare, as a lot of people do.  Cooking hamburger to medium-rare keeps the juices in.  When you take a bite, those juices circulate throughout your mouth delivering flavor to more parts of your mouth.  However, some people feels sketchy about burgers that are pink in the middle.  The color brings news reports of E-Coli, and other nasties, to the forefront of their minds.  If you belong to the latter category you may want to let them when you order, so you can get yours well-done.