Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coffee good, package bad: The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company

I like supporting my local businesses as much as the next guy, especially Western Market in Ferndale, because a significant percentage of the meat counter employees know me by name. Besides, they sell their own fresh-squeezed orange juice. On a recent visit to Western, I was stopped on my way to said meat counter by the tantalizing aroma of fresh coffee beans. I just happened to be out of drinkin' beans at my house, so I decided to take a gander at the goods.

It turned out to be wares from the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company. Great Lakes coffee is so good that I almost feel bad annihilating their packaging here. Almost. If I hadn't previously had it at Mae's, my favorite local restaurant, I never would have bought the dang stuff. See, they have clever yet meaningless names for their coffee -- ones that give no hint of what kind of beans, and therefore flavors, are inside. What's the Corktown Blend? What's the Triple Threat? On top of that, all of their bags I have seen have the exact same dripping-with-snob essay on the back.

As the folks at Cabo Chips know, I am no stranger to dissecting a food essay, so here we are again.

"Great Lakes coffee is not for you[1]. You should stop reading this immediately and drive to the closest coffee chain drive-thru[2]. We roast coffee an an old-fashioned drum roaster. If our roaster were any smaller we would have to use nanotechnology[3]. We think small when it comes to coffee. Our narrow-minded focus on coffee is just plain wrong[4]. You probably are not prepared to be burdened with so much information about where the coffee is grown, how it is processed, particular flavor characteristics and the many brewing options[5]. Why don't you just get a cup of regular coffee? Life is too complicated for options like organic and fair trade certifications or micro-lots of coffee from specific coffee growing regions[6]. You probably want something that's just hot and black like a lump of coal[7]. Just remember, by choosing not to engage in what you are drinking, you still have made a choice.[8, 9]"

1. Weeds out normies and sensitive people, thus limiting potential customer base.
2. Sure, I will just abandon my grocery cart.
3. Joke for people who read Wired magazine.
4. We aspire to be like Philip Morris.
5. Is this why you didn't bother to tell me what sort of coffee is in the bag I am holding?
6. Does this coffee have all of these characteristics?
7. Or Beyonce.
8. You didn't give me much of a choice when you made your packaging so vague.
9. Nice Rush reference.

If you're a luck-of-the-draw kind of coffee drinker who requires something better than brown water, go ahead and get some Great Lakes coffee. If you're Great Lakes coffee, please consider being a bit more specific about your beans.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Having Thanksgiving mostly my way

Swallow your Franzia because when you read about what happened to me this Thanksgiving season, you're likely to do a spit-take!

It's likely that you've already read my holiday classic, "Thanksgiving My Way", so you'll be pleased to hear that I got DANG close to having Thanksgiving My Way this year. And it's not even Thanksgiving yet!

This pre-holiday miracle transpired when Elise suggested we have a delicious pre-Thanksgiving with her mom and sis, since I'd be making the most of my time off of work by driving 5 hours each way just to eat dinner in Pittsburgh.

Being the unorthodox American that I am, I seized the opportunity to enjoy a delicious ham. There was turkey too, but since no one deserves to spend a minimum of seven hours thawing and cooking a bird, we got a two-ish-pound Jennie O turkey breast that cooks in a bag. It even came with its own gravy. Genius.

On a side note, does it worry anyone else that all of the turkeys in the open freeze row at the grocery story smell vaguely of rotting meat?

Anyhow, the advantage of getting your hands on a breast-only turkey is that there's no opportunity to prepare vile in-the-butt stuffing, which is one of the no-nos of Thanksgiving My Way.

There was no crevice stuffing, but there was:
  • Green bean casserole

  • Sweet potato casserole

  • Mashed redskin potatoes, skins on

  • Loads of stuffing with cranberries added

  • Mickey's Malt Liquor Grenades

  • Gin n juice

  • "Two" Buck Chuck

  • Delicious coffee

There was almost a pumpkin pie, but our friendly local grocer only carried graham cracker crust.

After dinner, we didn't watch football -- another rule of Thanksgiving My Way. Instead, we relaxed on the couch and enjoyed such classic films as Caddy Shack and the Enforcer.

I had the pain and privilege of going to work the next day, so there was no group breakfast, but Pre-Thanksgiving 2010 was a success. And it went my way. Thanks, Elise!

Without further ado, the photo gallery!

Micro icebox of deliciousness including ham and malt liquor plus Asti and fresh-squeezed OJ for mimosas.

Ham, getting ready to become even more delicious by way of Elise's "How's It Work" Vernor's-based glaze.

Ham and turkey together in the micro-oven. Best friends!

Mt. Marshmallow atop the sweet potato plain.

A toast to celebration meats.

Another gratuitous ham shot.

Gravy -- the only reason people think turkey is delicious.

Dinner plate, before addition of sweet potato casserole and extra gravy.

Prologue: I totally ate leftover ham and green bean casserole while writing this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival

This summer, my friend Travis had the pleasure of attending a quaint fish sandwich festival in rural Michigan. It took some time to develop the digital pictures (hey that reminds me of an ad I wrote) but here's a photo essay of his experience.

It’s been nearly two months since the Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival and I’m still having trouble reconciling what exactly happened that weekend. In fact, despite photographic evidence, I’m still unconvinced it even took place. Since such events, real or not, rarely merit more prose than this, I’ll just sum the experience up in bullet form:

This sign greeted us as we entered. Oddly, there was no mention of anger or terror.

These dudes played for four hours. Their rendition of Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” was especially heartbreaking.

The culinary highlight of the festival. Tasted like plastic.

A bit of foreshadowing here ...

and here.

The chef ...

prepared a delicious meal ...

with all the best fixins.

Oh yeah, the bingo was fun. Jackpots upward of $12!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wendy's SoNnNnNnN

This is the best restaurant review I have ever read.

This place is BAWLIN' yo. Chicken nuggitz be crispy like you never SEEN. I tasted one and I was like "WHAAAAT! Are you serious Wendy?"
Mean girls workin the friers, tho. This one chick wouldn't even let me holla. I was like "please you ugly anyway."

See for yourself >

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Health Valley rice bran crackers

Wow. Jordan hates these crackers as much as I hate Cabo Chips. The only thing missing is a pun about "Hellth" Valley. -Nate

I will often use the phrase “it tastes like cardboard” to describe foods that don’t have much flavor. But there’s usually a wide margin between the taste of the food and the taste of actual cardboard. I had never tasted a food that actually tasted like cardboard.

Not until today.

Health Valley Rice Bran crackers are the worst crackers I have ever eaten. They are among the worst foods I have ever eaten. They taste exactly like a paper product, and leave a sawdust-like residue in your teeth, forcing you to think about the cracker for the next several hours.

They were purchased by my desk neighbor, Melanie, who tries really hard to be healthy, which sometimes is hard when you sit next to me, because I try really hard to scrounge as much free chocolate from around the office as I can. Also, Melanie is just a nicer person all around than I am, I think. But I digress.

Back to the worst crackers ever.

I’m not really sure what prompted her to buy these. They seem to me to be a product made only for people who can’t eat gluten, seeing as there are plenty of much more delicious and equally healthy wheat-based bran crackers out there. If you’re going to get a rice cracker, just get a rice cracker. Those are delicious. Also, I enjoy rice cakes, especially with peanut butter on them. This is neither. This is like the gluten-free equivalent of veggie dogs, which are only not-disgusting to vegetarians because they do not regularly enjoy the taste of real hot dogs, which are extremely delicious.

You can only enjoy the taste of Health Valley Rice Bran crackers if you never have the opportunity to eat real crackers. And if you have also had your taste buds rendered useless in a freak accident.

Here is a picture of Emily, our other desk neighbor, when I put the box of crackers near her face.

I think the crackers gave Emily PTSD.

In summation, I would like to rate these crackers 0 stars out of a billion. Or infinity. Health Valley Rice Bran Crackers: Zero out of infinity plus one stars.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Here's the thing about the KFC Double Down

Here's the thing about the KFC Double Down. It's not weird at all. Stop freaking out.

The sandwich was brought to my attention by the social media blitz it created mostly because someone took the standard components of a modest meal and assembled them into a sandwich. That modest meal just happened not to feature any bread, so the outside of said sandwich is two reasonably sized pieces of fried chicken. To keep your hands clean, it comes in wax paper.

If you took the sandwich apart, you'd have two average pieces of chicken, a tiny bit of bacon, a little cup of sauce, and some cheese. No big whoop.

The thing's about the size of a McDonald's hamburger, so KFC's advertising agency clearly used some very special camera lenses to make this thing look much larger than it actually is. I had a Double Down, a side of mashed potatoes and two Dr. Peppers and I'm not even uncomfortable at this moment.

On to the flavors.

It's delicious. The fried chicken breading has some black pepper and other seasonings, the Colonel must have an interesting diet because the orange "Colonel's Sauce" is nice and zesty, and the Monterey and pepper jack cheeses (yes I actually ate the cheese) added a nice little kick and didn't taste like rancid death.

So, go eat the damn thing because at 540 calories, it's less than 1/3 of your daily caloric intake. And despite what the hippies in my office say, the universe is NOT going to be replacing bread with meat any time soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Floor pastry from Bread and Cocoa, San Francisco

Before work this morning, I went to the cafe / pastry shop on my hotel's corner, Bread and Coco. I was there on Monday morning, when I enjoyed a coffee, orange juice (California-style?) and my all time favorite -- a chocolate pastry.

The flavors were just right and the place has a great Motown soundtrack.

Because of this exceptional experience, I returned. This time, I got the usual coffee and OJ but this time the main course was something different:

Floor pastry.

The conditions have to be right for a floor pastry to be made. Some of them are as follows:

  • Some jerk in front of you swoops in and steals the last chocolate pastry

  • Mind reeling, you grab some giant fruit-filled pastry

  • The giant fruit-filled pasty fits in the pastry envelope but doesn't leave room to fold the end over

  • The cashier rings you up for a bear claw

  • You receive your coffee without room for sugar

  • You only have two arms but three breakfast items, so you have to put the pastry in your Chrome bag

  • While trying to be a cool guy and put the pastry in your bag, it falls out of the pastry envelope, landing face-down on the floor under a table

But let's get you in on the ground floor of the floor pastry-eating experience.

The material of this particular item is akin to the particle board that comprised most of the furniture you had in college -- you attempt to cut it and get a few sizable bits but, in general, it crumbles all over the place.

In the end, the dirt people tracked in had a negligible effect on flavor.

Oh, and the fruit was blueberry.