Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Courage Of Penzey's

Penzeys is a gourmet spice shop chain, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Founded in 1986, the spice retailer sells a wide selection of spices and proprietary seasoning blends from 70 stores in 29 states.

Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle

Subject: Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle 2 oz. jar | Source: |
I personally love their Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle, which is a blend of Romano cheese salt, garlic, green peppercorn, basil and parsley. I sprinkle it on salads and batches of popcorn. The blend gives the snack a cheesy salty kick, with a hint of pepper and an herbaceous undertone. I’ve also added it to sour cream (1 TB. sprinkle to 1 cup sour cream) to make a savory dip for chips, pita bread, or crudités.

Being a fan of their shop, I subscribe to their online newsletter so I’m aware of sales and specials. During the recent 35 day government shutdown, I noticed chain owner, Bill Penzey, used the newsletter to call Trump to the mat and to offer free spices to furloughed government workers. I was impressed, but thought of it as an extraordinary gesture during a remarkably hard time, akin to chef Jose Andres' opening an emergency kitchen to feed furloughed government workers.

Apparently, I hadn’t been paying close attention to the newsletters. Bill Penzey seems to have a history of making political statements in his company’s newsletters. Just after Donald Trump was elected president, Penzey used the holiday newsletter to refer to Trump as a racist. “The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades,” Penzey wrote to his customers.

One, predictable in retrospect, result of his outspokenness was a backlash from conservative customers. Trump loyalists took to Twitter with the hash tag #boycottpenzeys.

So what do you do when a movement calls for a boycott of your stores? Obviously, if you're Bill Penzey, you find out who called for the boycott and have a boycott sale on his birthday. It’s the retail equivalent of showing your critics a center digit.

A time honored rule of thumb suggests that businesses should project an air of political neutrality so as not to alienate a portion of the consumer base. Penzey has bucked that trend in order to speak his truth. In Penzeys Boycott Sale Newsletter he writes, “We opened our stores to radiate the very Milwaukee idea of building a better future by caring about others.”

I, for one, applaud their stance on making morality a company priority. Sure, they're first and foremost a spice retailer. Yet, Bill Penzey has some deeply held beliefs and he's using a platform at his disposal to express those beliefs. That’s as it should be.

I blog about food here, but I maintain a political blog, a liberal Christian blog, and yes a science fiction blog as well, because I think about things outside the epicurean realm. Mr. Penzey is undoubtedly the same way, only with a larger platform to get his message across. Businesses with the courage of Penzeys should be rewarded with patronage rather than boycotted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Are Chicken Littles A Big Value?

KFC has expanded their selection of "Chicken Littles", which are snack sandwiches consisting of a chicken tender, 2 slices of pickle, and mayo on a sesame seed bun. The morsels now come in four flavors; Regular Extra Crispy, Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ, Smoky Mountain BBQ or Nashville Hot; and are being sold 2 for $3.00.

| Subject: KFC's Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ and Smoky Mountain BBQ Chicken Littles | Date: 03/01/2019 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
I visited my local KFC (at 18735 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy in Aloha, Oregon) to partake of the deal. I’ve already had the regular extra crispy version and I wasn't in the mood for spicy hot, so I helped myself to the Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ and Smoky Mountain BBQ sandwiches.

Each sandwich came with a soft bun, two tasty slices of dill pickle, plenty of mayonnaise, and a crispy chicken tender flavored with the appropriate sauce.

I tried the Smoky Mountain BBQ sandwich first. It wasn't exactly dripping with sauce, but that meant it wasn't overly messy either. On my first bite, I could taste the crispy chicken tender, tart pickle, and creamy mayo, but I had to take two or three bites before I tasted a hint of the sweet smoky BBQ sauce.

I ate the Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ sandwich next, hoping for a bolder kick of flavor. If anything, this sandwich delivered a milder flavor than its predecessor. It’s as if the advertised sauces served as background flavors rather than dominant components of the dishes.

When the sandwiches are opened, one can see the sauces were brushed on at the last minute. As a result, the chicken doesn't have time to absorb the flavors of the sauces. Neither sandwich was bad, and when eaten together they make a filling lunch. They're simply not something I’d go out of my way for. I'd give both sandwiches 6 out of 10 stars.

Monday, February 18, 2019

McDonald's Goes Bacon + The Elephant In The Room

For a limited time, McDonald’s is adding bacon to their Quarter Pounder with Cheese ($5.29), Big Mac ($5.19), and new Cheesy Bacon Fries ($3.15).  Being a lover of bacon, I visited my local McDonald's at 19525 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy in Aloha, Oregon.

| Subject: McDonald's Big Mac with Bacon & Cheesy Bacon Fries |
| Date: 02/15/2019 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

As much as I love my readers, and I do love my readers,  I was not going to buy both burgers for this review.  I chose to go with their flagship burger, the Big Mac, and their Cheesy Bacon Fries.

We all know what a normal Big Mac tastes like.  The bacon added a nice salty crunch to their sweetness of their special sauce, and made the classic burger that much better.  I give the Big Mac with bacon 8/10 stars. 

 The Cheesy Bacon Fries came in one size only, in a closable box.  The shoestring  prize were covered in a warm cheddar sauce and bacon bits.  McDonald's fries are my favorite fast food French fry, bar none. They're crispy, salty, and delicious sticks of joy.  The cheese sauce had a good molten cheese flavor, but also brought salt to the party.  Then the bacon bits added even more salt.  I wanted to like these fries, but it was salt on salt on salt.  There was no balance to their dish.  I can only give the Cheesy Bacon Fries 6/10 stars.  

I applaud McDonald's for bringing bacon to the game.  However, they have a couple kinks to iron out.  Once they find a way to add a little balance, these items would be a welcome part of their regular menu.

The Elephant In The Room

Ten years ago when I began this blog, I focused on cheese, wine, and gourmet fare.  Just now, I wrote my third hamburger review in the last two months.  So what happened?  I don't blame you for asking.

While I love a good smoked gouda and a glass of Moscato, the truth of the matter is more people eat chain & fast food than gourmet fare.  I still plan to talk about the good stuff once in a while, but I have to talk about what the masses actually eat.  

Monday, February 11, 2019

How "Killer" Is Killer Burger?

Killer Burger has opened at (2905 SW Cedar Hills Blvd in Beaverton). If the address looks familiar it’s because it was a Wow Burger back in July of 2018,  Due to car trouble, I couldn't get to the restaurant, so I joined the 21st century and used Postmates Food Delivery,

| Subject: Peanut Butter Pickle Burger, Modified Classic Burger, 
& Fries from Killer Burger | Date: 02/08/2019 |
| Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

I ordered the meal at 11:30am and it arrived hot at 12:09pm.  I was impressed.

I had the Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger, which comes topped with; bacon, PB sauce, smokey house sauce, mayo, grilled onions, and pickles; for $9.95.

My best friend recommended it, so my expectations were a bit high going in.  I will say, it was a big burger.

All burgers are cooked to order and mine was medium rare, just as I had asked.  The bacon was crispy and the large slices of pickle had a good dill flavor.  The onions and house sauce were present, but didn't really bring anything to the party, positive or negative.  However, the peanut butter sauce did not work for me at all.  Looking back, I don't know what I expected.  I guess I thought the sauce would have a peanut flavor but be more balanced.   As it was, it just tasted too sweet for a burger.   At least, it was too sweet for my burger.

My friend had the Classic Burger. The Classic Burger typically comes with bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, smokey house sauce, grilled onion and pickles for $9.95. However, she had them hold the house sauce and grilled onions, and add extra pickles.  My friend's burger arrived medium well and was modified just as she asked.

As for the fries, they only offer one size, which I would "large," since it's enough for two people.  If I'd known we would automatically get fries with each of our burgers, I wouldn’t have ordered the $3.00 box of fries as well.  As it was, we had way more potato than the two of us could eat.  They were cut a bit thicker than I normally like, but they were very crispy and seasoned well.

I can't really rate Killer Burger, because I believe I ordered the wrong burger.  The friend who recommended the peanut butter burger is a huge fan of Elvis Presley.  In retrospect, I should of recognized her bias for peanut butter and bacon before I ordered it.  Nevertheless, we got exactly what we asked for exactly the way we asked for it.  Next time I will order the Teemah Burger (bacon, house sauce, bleu cheese fondue & crumbles, grilled onions & pickles) to get a clearer picture of the restaurant.