Monday, December 29, 2008

Announcing the winners of the High School Lunch Memories Contest

After careful consideration, I have chosen the winners of the Nate's Plate High School Lunch Memories Contest. Why winners and not winner? Each of the following stories were fantastic for completely different reasons. Coincidentally, they were submitted in the order in which I am honoring them. So, Alia, John and Matthew: Get in touch and we'll make some dinner reservations.

Bronze award: The mayo bet, by Alia.

Brief, well written and hilarious, I was quite sure this would be a winner when it was submitted.

"During my sophomore year, Art Anderson was in a bet that he could eat a whole jar of mayo. Since he is the ultimate human of all time, he took the challenge at lunch. He got half way done with this jar of mayo and then our not so ultimate principle paid him to stop which was a bummer... but I think she actually paid him more then he would have won through the bet (which was 5 dollars if I recall correctly) which is even better."

Silver award: The school store is "the Pits," by Matthew

This is a trip down memory lane because Matthew and I went to high school together.

Ah, high school. I remember eating on the floor of a large dusty landing and listening to the suicide machines on a tape player that looked like an answering machine while Andrew Miller jumped down the stairs repeatedly.

When I purchased actual food, which was rare, it was usually a piece of pizza with the flavour and consistency of modeling clay and an apple juice with a foil lid that always managed to find new ways to spill all over my pants. Most of the time though, it was three chocolate chip cookies.

Three glorious, gooey, tooth-rotting freshly baked cookies for a dollar, shoveled into a bag gone translucent from the fat and pure awesome they contained. Quite often these cookies would clump together, and you would be forced to pick at the edges before finally manning up and confronting this absurd, half-baked brick of semi-solid goo. It was impossible for me to eat this brick without smearing chocolate all over my zit-pocked face and billabong hoodie in full view of the cute, popular girls who hung around the Salem School Store. Not that they were paying any attention to me, instead making googley-eyes at the meatheads behind the counter with their hooters t-shirts and downy soft whispers of goatee.

One time I decided to venture to the Canton building (my high school, and Nate's high school, and possibly your high school was actually two high schools on the same campus) to see what sort of mysterious and exotic cookies they peddled. Turns out they were the exact same cookies, albeit sold in what resembled a holiday inn gift shop next to a useless set of stairs to nowhere everyone called the pit. I think people hung out there because they felt they had to. Anyway, I had not idea how to procur cookies at this location. Being incredibly shy and awkward, I conveyed my need for sugar and empty calories through mutters and frantic stares, but the meatheads remained unresponsive. Inwardly furious, I got out of there as fast as I could, striding in speedy shame back to Salem in order not to be late for art class. Having missed my fix, I bought a bag of cookies during passing time and ate them so quickly they made me sick and my stomach loudly gurgle all throughout english.

I'm not sure what lesson to extract from this, other than cookies are great and stay out of the Canton School Store.

Gold award: Lunchtime Coke problem, by John

I can't think of a more memorable and traumatizing lunch experience.

This story definitely began during school lunch but extended for several hours beyond in the emergency room.

So I was one of those kids whose mom packed their lunch. Every lunch was wholesome and nutritious; carrot sticks, Oscar Meyer ham sandwich, Welch's juice box, maybe a bag of Doritos. That sort of thing.

Around seventh grade, my sister and I started pestering my mom to buy 12 packs of Coke for us to take in our lunches as they were delicious and we were thoroughly addicted to caffeine. After a few weeks of begging she finally conceded.

One day I grab my brown bag lunch off the top shelf of my locker and take it down to the lunch room. Upon arrival I was horrified to find that my lunch was squashed (mayo shooting out of the side of the sandwich, chips crushed) and the Coke can was dented to hell.

"What the hell," I thought. "I'm young and virile, I can handle a dented up Coke can." I did the "tap the top" thing that supposedly takes down the pressure in the can (it doesn't), popped the fucker open and started drinking the Cola-flavored corn juice.

At the end of lunch I had finished my meal and daily routine of throwing bagels at nerds and pickles at windows and tipped the Coke to get the last drops of my brown rebellion.

Something totally hurt. Like a lot. In my throat. So I went down to the drinking fountain to drink some water. Ouch. Every time I swallowed there was an INTENSE pain. It felt fucking weird and I couldn't figure out what the fuck was going on. I still had the Coke can with me and examined its insides. Had someone put razor blades in it?

No, the tab that goes inside the can when you popped it had fallen into the can and I had drank it and got it stuck in my throat. I went to the school nurse and she called my mom and my mom took me to the emergency room. I was put in a room at the back of some darkened hallway with nothing but a spitoon. I couldn't swallow without intense pain, so I spit. For hours.

Finally, they came to take an X-ray of my fucked up insides. They took me into the room and gave me a cup of this milky, chalky white liquid to drink. "Barium," the technician said. "Barium swallows." I laughed at the phrase "barium swallows" (obvi) but it hurt so I stopped. "It'll let us see where this pop can thing is stuck." I drank it.

The barium tasted like chalk and gunmetal. It was fucking gross. So after I swallowed it they put me under the X-ray machine and I realized it didn't hurt anymore. Somehow the heavy metal cocktail washed it away, down into my guts. I went home with my mom super pissed at me for not previously drinking a heavy metal cocktail while I worried about shitting out a pop tab the next day.

I never shit it out (I presume it dissolved in my stomach acid) but the next day my shit was white from the barium.

- - -

If you didn't win, don't worry: I still love you and I'd dine with you any time.

Burger King Flame Broiled Flavored Potato Snacks

Don't give yourself indigestion with worries -- Winners of the High School Lunch Memories Contest will be announced tomorrow.

If you enjoyed my review of Burger King Onion Rings Flavored Snacks, you're in for a real treat -- Burger King Flame Broiled Flavored Potato Snacks. This is the second snack in the Burger King snack trifecta, the other being Ketchup and Fries flavored snacks.

The existence of these chips was foretold to me, and I discovered them one day while waiting in line at the local Blockbuster Video. They sat on my counter, awaiting review, for some time. Then, my power went out and I had no access to my refrigerator and no time to go on a Flavor Quest so I knew it was time to fire up the proverbial grill.

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous as I opened the bag. I grew up in close proximity to a Burger King and the "flame broiled" greasy smoke smell hung heavy in the strip mall adjacent to BK. The smell always made me huffily exhale out of my nose and say, "Ew, Burger King smells gross." I imagine the smell of Burger King is how it would smell if you managed to smoke some grease (the way you'd smoke a turkey breast) and then vaporized it. The smell made me see visions of red brick chimneys on the surrounding houses stained black with Essence of Burger King. I swallowed the fearful lump in my throat and broke the seal.

Whiff one of the bag revealed a smell not at all unlike burnt, over-fried normal potato chips. Bleh. Not at all promising, just like Cabo Chips.

Taste one was rather herb-y, followed by a slight beef taste that immediately made me picture rare "beef medallions." Taste two indicated an attempt at simulating "burger fixins." A mildly herbed tomato was definitely present.

Burger King Flame Broiled Flavored Potato Snacks are a prime example of false advertising, which, in this case, is the best thing they have going for them. The smell I hate (smoked grease) is thankfully not present, replace by one I can at least tolerate. And, most importantly, the simulated jazzed-up low-grade beef taste is spot on.

If I had to associate potential actions I would take with these chips regarding the way I feel about them, I'd say that I would suggest you try them, but I probably wouldn't take one from you if you offered to share.

Perhaps you'd like to try my review of Burger King Onion Rings Flavored Snacks. Or Cabo Chips.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snapea Crisps

As I was browsing my local high-end grocer's produce department, a bag caught my eye. A photo of pea pods, arranged like a haphazard fence, indicated its contents, so I tossed it into my shopping basket without any more thought. I felt very pleased with myself and I anticipated enjoying some fresh, crisp sugar snap peas. WRONG!

I returned from the store and my post-shopping snack attack led me to open the aforementioned bag. As it turns out, I had just purchased Calbee Snack Salad Snapea Crisps. Delicate & tasty. Original flavor. Baked. Net wt. 3.3 oz.

The detailed photo showing peas bulging in pods on the packaging wants us to believe that whole snap peas, in-pod, were baked. I have a different theory.

My theory is that a cauldron of pea soup was left to boil until it was reduced to dried pea sludge. This product was then made into a fine powder and then reconstituted with water before being molded into fuzzy-looking (but not fuzzy) pod-like shapes. Why else would rice be in the list of ingredients?

Taking a cross-section of said pods indicates no discernible individual peas, which just adds more clout to my argument.

Despite the onset of snack confusion, I continued chomping away. I am not even sure if chomping is the right word. These Snapea Crisps aren't really they crisp. They don't snap or crunch. It would be more accurate to say that I was mashing them and dissipating the powder with my teeth as I chewed. The crisps are a light and airy snack, and I am confident that anyone could eat an entire bag in one sitting and still feel hungry. More importantly, they taste good.

The familiar flavor of non-fresh peas is subtly present, and the flavor tricks your tongue into believing that the crisps are more heavily seasoned than they are. The list of ingredients is simple: Green peas, corn oil, rice, salt, calcium carbonate, ascorbic acid (vitamin c).

Adding to this snack's intrigue is the supposed availability of a Caesar-flavored variety, which is sadly not sold at my local store.

My snack confusion yielded a pleasant surprise and I'll conclude this review in agreement with the folks at Calbee America, Inc., quoting the conclusion of the Snapea Crisps product essay: "[I] propose this product as a new type of snack."

By the way, I dare you to win the High School Lunch Memories Contest. Winners will be announced next week.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Doritos 4cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips AND A CONTEST

Today's review is decidedly brief -- it had been sitting on my "shelf" since October for this reason -- because I am announcing a little reader participation event this week. Get the details after the review.

My quest for a mid-morning snack once again turned up a surprise when I noticed the sudden appearance of a new item in the vending machine: Doritos 4cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips. "They're back by popular demand."

The packaging alone is enough to make this snack enticing, but not because it makes it appear overly appetizing.

The hazy pattern of the bag itself conjures up fire, and a silhouetted creepy hand makes me think that someone is being burned alive. This sort of imagery conveys "spicy," although "4cheese" does not sound spicy at all.

Why is "4cheese" one word? Doesn't the Frito Lay family of snack foods have a typographer?

Back, to the creepy imagery, "4cheese" seemed to be tied to horror somehow, because Doritos invited me to "unleash the spirits at on the back of the package. This URL simply redirected me to where I was met with some sort of virtual city that did not succeed in enticing me to explore it. What spirits were they expecting me to unleash here?

And why are these chips "back by popular demand" if I have never heard of them in my life?

I had a lot of questions at this point.

The only answer I got was that these chips taste like Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos combined. Who, exactly, demanded this?

And now for the High School Lunch Memories Contest!

After my friend Haim, proprietor of the Frosty Insides refrigerator blog, suggested that I sneak into a high school and review high school lunch (a plan that is still in the works) he and I started talking about high school lunch memories. So, I'm asking you this: What do you remember about high school lunch? Share your lists or stories and the lucky winner will receive an exciting prize of my choice. If you live nearby, I'll probably take you out to eat. If not, I'll mail you something cool like a limited edition Nate's Plate promotional coaster, a yet-to-be-produced Nate's Plate lobster bib, or maybe some Taco Bell Bucks®.

To share your tales of dipping fries in cheese sauce, taco pizzas shaped like stop signs and that kid who always lurked around the ketchup dispensers, post 'em up in the comments. You don't even need a Blogspot ID to do it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

7 Mile Shrimp Palace of Detroit

If you live in metro Detroit and have been watching channel two at around 2:30 a.m., you may have seen a commercial for a little local shrimp joint, 7 Mile Shrimp Palace. The commercial features a friendly, enthusiastic, welcoming voiceover describing what this palace of fried goods has to offer. What really makes it work is its low-budget aesthetic and the voices of children in the background repeatedly chanting, "7 Mile Shrimp is REAL good."

After seeing the commercial one sleepless night a few months ago, I suddenly remembered it out of the blue and found it on YouTube. After making it "go viral" in my office, my colleague Trevor and I decided we'd make the 16.5-mile trip to Detroit for lunch. We hoped we wouldn't go viral ourselves, and we didn't.

Long story short, 7 Mile Shrimp IS, indeed, real good.

I honestly had no idea what to expect from 7 Mile Shrimp Palace. On our journey there, we crossed paths with everything one does when travelling the perimeter of downtown Detroit: Horrible potholes, roads with undetermined numbers of lanes, abandoned rib shops, burned out traffic lights and scores of hand-painted signage. That's one thing I love about visiting the outskirts of Detroit -- Seeing the peeling works of sign painters past. Also impossible to ignore is the red and yellow color scheme that seems to be mandated by the Detroit Signage and Building Painting Style Guide.

7 Mile Shrimp Palace is not exempt from this motif. We entered the lobby, made our choices from the menu (1/2-pound shrimp baskets with fries and potato salad for $10.28 after tax) and ordered from in front of the bullet-proof glass. They fried our shrimp on-demand as we waited and soaked up the lobby's atmosphere.

A flat-screen TV, surrounded by depictions of fish and shrimp by a local artist, displayed a CSI-like show that depicted dead bodies covered in beetles. A glimpse behind the bullet-proof glass revealed rather sparse facilities. Behind the modest kitchen was a modest utility area, semi-masked by large beverage coolers with sodas and grape drink inside.

After a 10-minute wait, our orders were ready and dispensed to us through the bullet-proof glass carousel. We hightailed it to my car to rush back to the office, since there were no tables to dine upon in the restaurant lobby. As I navigated back toward the Southfield Freeway to save time, Trevor broke open his styrofoam box so we could feast on shrimp "hot and fresh out the kitchen."

The jumbo shrimp had a "beer batter" style coating. They were piping hot, light golden brown, and the perfect texture. I was later told by a friend that this style of batter is called Calabash for the town in North Carolina, "The Seafood Capital of the World." Sadly, I cannot verify this since I am known to dine at Red Lobster.

I can honestly say that this was the best fried shrimp I have ever had. The low-budget advertising got me in the door on kitsch value alone, but the shrimp will absolutely guarantee a return trip.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hot D Wake Up Juice Bloody Mary + Energy Mix

Before you even take your first sip, you need to know that it is a complete coincidence that this review is being published the day after "Bloody Mary Day," whatever that is.

The Bloody Mary has been my drink of choice lately. I have been known to consume them in bars where the waitress wasn't even sure if they had the mix on hand. Last winter, I was at Meijer and saw a shelf tag under some empty real estate that was called Hot D Wake Up juice. I laughed hysterically. I took a photo.

Months went by with nary a thought of Hot D Wake Up juice, then it randomly came into my head one day. I immediately hopped on The Google and found the Hot D web site. In a more conservative office, a site with such a title surely would have been blocked from my computer, but access was granted. I was directed to to place my order from Cowboy George, "Director of Deliciousness." A few days passed and my shipment arrived in a Styrofoam box plastered in "Fragile" stickers. I felt like the father in A Christmas Story when his leg lamp arrived in a large crate.

Sunday morning came soon enough and this meant Bloody Mary time.

I extracted the bottle of Hot D from my refrigerator, opened it and took a whiff. "This smells familiar," I thought. Two seconds of contemplation revealed the resemblance: Cocktail sauce. As a shrimp lover, this was OK with me. Next up to be evaluated was the color. For some reason, I was expecting this to be bright red because, you know, it's made from tomatoes. But no. The color was more like that of A1 steak sauce. So was its texture. Thus answered the question I had about "does it look brown because it's in a brown glass bottle or is it brown liquid in a clear bottle?" It's brown liquid in a brown bottle.

For my first time experimenting with Hot D, I decided to mix some Smirnoff into it, straight up, over ice. No garnish or anything. This would reveal the true flavor of Hot D Wake Up juice. Plus, the ingredients indicated that the mix came with most of the accoutrements one normally applies to tomato juice, and then some:
Compare our premium ingredients:
Tomato juice
Lemon juice
Tomato paste
Celery salt
Worcestershire sauce
Red wine vinegar
Hot sauce
Vegetable base
Cocoa powder
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper

Allergens: Fish, wheat

The texture was very odd as far as Bloody Maries are concerned. As opposed to being a semi-thick liquid with random spice chunks floating about, it was more of a sludge with some thicker globules throughout. Again, it resembled A1. Perhaps I will add some A1 to a future Hot D Bloody Mary mixture.

I soon realized I was doing myself a disservice by not jamming this thing full of pickles, olives and celery. The 1.33 shots of vodka I had out into the almost eight ounces of mix were imperceptible. I added another capful of Smirnoff. I could now taste the vodka a bit but the flavors were still wimping out.

The burn I have come to love just wasn't there. Prior to adding the extra vodka, the heat was nonexistent unless I did some post-sip mouth smacking. Even then, I could only perceive a slight tingle at the sides of my tongue. After the extra booze was added, I began to detect a slight "after shock" -- a bitter taste in the back of my throat that I'd sooner affiliate with some bitter medicine than with a spicy drink.

Perhaps this was due to the blank "expiration date" field on the label. Maybe I was drinking a bottle of the very first experimental batch. Or maybe the taurine prevented expiration.

Admittedly, panic was beginning to set in. The bottle of Hot D indicated that there were only four servings available to me, and I now had only three left. It would take lots of experimenting to perfect my drink, which is sad considering that this mix supposedly contains all the items you'd put in a Bloody Mary to spruce it up.

At this point, I had no choice but to finish my drink while watching Mad Men, which is appropriate since the characters on that show are always drunk. Drinking in the morning and writing about it ... I was now a true writer.

As I sipped onward I began to ponder my situation. "Round two will feature a Claussen Kosher Dill and some hot sauce," I thought. "Maybe I'll squeeze a lime section into it."

But wait!

Sure, some garnish would be OK, but unless that pickle brine really did the trick, the fact that I had to add more to this already complex mix meant that Hot D was a failure. There was no saving Hot D. It couldn't stand alone. Now I had to experiment in order to serve my taste buds and get the most out of my $10 plus shipping.

Two thirds of the way through my first drink I was feeling pretty OK -- My typical Sunday morning nap craving had been put to rest.. I'd been up 'til 2:30 AM with a generous quantity of Pabst Blue Ribbon in me and I only got seven hours of sleep. Despite the sub-par taste, Hot D truly D woke me up. Perhaps my next spin on this drink would give me some afternoon delight.

For all intents and purposes, this review should end here -- Hot D Wake Up Juice is not an all-in-one Bloody Mary solution. But with three servings left, I had to find out how it fared as a foundation for a more complex mixed drink. A few days later, it was time to get serious.

I assembled my reinforcements:
  • Claussen kosher dill pickles

  • Frank's Red Hot sauce

  • Garlic-stuffed olives

  • Garlic powder

  • Black pepper

All of these ingredients were combined in a mason jar with ice, Smirnoff vodka and Hot D Wake Up Juice. I screwed the lid onto the jar and agitated the mixture. Shaken, not stirred, my good man.

Despite the inclusion of all my favorite Bloody Mary fixins (I usually base my Bloody Maries upon V8 juice), this new drink continued to be unpleasant. If I were served this drink in a bar, I would honestly consider sending it back. There was some sort of sludgy sweetness that came up from behind and overtook all other flavors. Perhaps the use of honey instead of high fructose corn syrup was making Hot D flaccid. Perhaps the cocoa powder was causing performance anxiety. (Update: My friend Shaun suggests that this taste is likely the taurine ... a logical explanation). The only improvement for this round was the fact that the harsh after shock had somehow diminished despite the addition of more hot sauce.

It's official: Hot D Wake Up Juice hits the gag spot, not the g-spot.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving my way - Holiday bonus edition

Thanksgiving sucks (but stay with me here).

At least it does when you're a kid with no siblings whose extended family lives no less than five hours away. That means that dinner is just like every other dinner but with more food. After dinner, your parents give you permission to go out and visit friends. Only, they're all preoccupied with their huge fun families. You can't go hang out at a coffee shop because all businesses are closed on Thanksgiving. Lame.

Also: Turkey is boring.

But there is hope.
Now that I am a quarter century old I will soon be able to celebrate Thanksgiving my way. This will either be because I finalize some sort of arranged marriage scenario, or I am on my own in the world when I flee from Detroit and the imploding auto industry.

Here's how Thanksgiving my way will go:

There will be HAM.
Oh yes, there will be ham. Why will there be ham? Turkey tastes boring and you get a lot of weird-tasting bits. Ham, on the other hand, is delicious and special. Why do you think ham has stores dedicated to selling it exclusively? We all have the saints at Honey Baked Ham at our disposal and if you're in Detroit, there are a wide variety of places with names like "Bo's Ham House" to choose from. The person who decided to store a large piece of hog in a barrel of salt was a genius. Fear not, conservatives: There will also be turkey.

In addition to ham and turkey, there will be:
  • Potatoes: Scalloped and garlic-mashed

  • Five gallons of gravy

  • Green beans

  • Green bean casserole

  • Asparagus

  • That cranberry "sauce" that's shaped like a can

  • Rolls

  • Stuffing: Both made-made-in-the-turkey's-butt and NOT-made-made-in-the-turkey's-butt (For me. You butt stuffing people disgust me, but I'd hate for you to be disappointed).

  • Apple pie

  • Pumpkin pie

  • Here's the itinerary:

  • Friends and family are all invited. Only the "cool" relatives show up for the most part, and the less-exciting ones go home early. 21 and up please. No children, regardless of adult supervision.

  • While the food cooks, everyone will mingle and drink Simpler Times Lager, red and white wine, vodka, whiskey and rum.

  • Some guests will choose to step out and "go to the store" so that they can "participate in appetite-enhancing activities." They will return with nothing and claim that all the stores were closed.

  • Dinner will be ready by 3 p.m. Everyone will eat to the point that all conversation is punctuated by random sighs and groans.

  • After dinner, most guests will retire to the basement where a sea of side-by-side mattresses is available for napping and spooning. Other guests will choose to hang out in the more-than-accommodating living room to watch Dumb and Dumber and other hilarious classic gems. No football games allowed!

  • Once folks have recovered, they will return to the dining area and graze on the remaining food at which point the drinking will begin again. Others will drink coffee and tea, and eat pie.

  • Now that the spirits of all have been rekindled, it's time to play with my Wii and for a raucous game of Apples to Apples.

  • The night ends with sober folks trickling away and the drunks staying the night in anticipation of a group breakfast outing. I'll be in bed by 9 p.m. We'll all wake up at the same time and no one will have hangovers.

  • That's Thanksgiving my way. If you read this thing weekly, you're probably invited, so stay tuned in the years to come. This year, I'm going to Pissburgh (not a typo), PA to visit my mom's family for the first time in years. I hope I can enjoy it now that I'm an adult. I hear my uncle has a lot of new conspiracy theories. Any way, I'd wish a "Happy Thanksgiving to your and yours!" but that would be cheesy. Sorry. Not gonna do it ... OKAY FINE! HAVE FUN, EAT LOTS, BE SAFE!

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    McNuggets Lovin': I have the best ideas special edition

    About a year ago, my "songs about food to the tune of popular songs" career peaked with a little diddy about McDonald's Chicken McNuggets set to the tune of "I Can Tell" by the 504 Boyz (hear the NSFW original). Obviously, it was called "I Can Tell (U Want a Nug). I chopped and spliced the original song together to create an instrumental version over which my friend and I attempted to record lyrics after consuming some Smirnoff Source alcoholic water. A music video script was also written, but this never came to fruition.

    What's the point of all this? At the time, we thought an R&B song and video about McNuggets was a clever idea without commercial merit, although I would have loved to see it through. Silly food advertising is a dream of mine if you haven't figured that out by now. Lo and behold, McDonald's just released a commercial to the exact same effect, thus sending one more of my dreams down the tubes.

    Aside from the fact that I am beside myself now that I have realized that this ridiculous idea of mine was a home run, I am convinced that my song had a better message. The McDonald's song asks, "R U dippin' on me?" and is based around jealousy and greed. My song, on the other hand, is based around a young, dynamic couple with a shared passion for McNuggets. Take a look:

    "I Can Tell (U Want a Nug)" - Copyright 2007 Nathan Rogers

    You ain't gotta say too much
    From the look in your eyes
    I can tell you want a nug

    And you ain't gotta force-feed me food
    Just as bad as you want a nug
    I want a nug too

    No, No, No you ain't gotta say too much
    From the look in your eyes
    I can tell you want a nug

    And you ain't gotta force-feed me food
    Just as bad as you want a nug
    I want a nug too

    VERSE 1:
    Now you ain't gotta say much cuz I was eatin’, boo
    Lookin at yo’ lips got me thinkin’ ‘bout how many nugs to order to go
    You heard about McDonald’s combos?
    We get up in there and order more than a thrillion truckloads
    When it comes to barbecue sauce I am the boss
    Order me a salad that’s tossed
    I heard you ate that meal
    I see nuggets in yo’ grill
    Can you drive me in your blue Ford Focus
    So I can make nugs disappear like hocus pocus?
    I got no oven so I cannot cook my food
    Make it fast and tastin’ good
    Get a couple of yum yums
    Shove it in your mouth ‘cause it’s a nug
    And uh, hit me on my pager if you want ‘em
    Its nugget passion
    So get up on it if you want ‘em yum, yum!!!!


    VERSE 2:
    Pile ‘em on the counter in the kitchen now baby
    Sausage biscuit is a day dream
    Drippin’ with syrup fa sho, chewing it over
    Large fries’ll be the next thing
    I wanna eat them nuggets all night long
    From sun up to sun down and even in Hong Kong


    VERSE 3:
    Can I light a candle
    And eat nugs on a table where the light won’t show?
    I'll take my time and eat ‘em slow
    I'll do my own exercises
    Part of a healthy diet
    It's so very pleasurable
    I'll eat salads, you won’t though
    That’s OK, yo
    Now I wanna eat some more


    So, there you have it. Another advertising gem that never saw the light of day. If an Of Montreal song about Outback Steakhouse can captivate viewers, maybe it's time to brush the dust off my song about KFC Famous Bowls set to the tune of "Age of Consent" by New Order.

    Don't worry, I ate a 10-piece McNuggets meal after I wrote the first draft of this. You know, for consistency's sake.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Fried Mung Beans: Colleague's Cookin' Special Edition

    When my coworker Russ inquired about the possibility of writing a piece about fried mung beans for Nate's Plate, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I pictured a pan on his stove with steaming off-white refried beans bubbling away, stinking up his house. Boy was I wrong. Fried mung beans are actually hard (I guess they're just fried once) and dark green-brown in color.

    I had the privilege of sampling Russ's Famous Fried Mung Beans before his review was completed, so I decided I'd write my own. I was drafting a corporate spam e-missive and an email from Russ appeared in my inbox: "Mung beans are at my desk. Drop by and sample the goodness." It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

    I walked across the office and there were the little guys on his desk, hanging out in a jar of Mrs. Renfro's "Smoky" Roasted Salsa. The beans weren't the fried mess I expected at all. They were hard and looked rather insect-like. The ones without their shells looked like Honey Smacks cereal. Most importantly, FRIED MUNG BEANS ARE DAMN GOOD.

    Fried mung beans are not a side dish for a meal, as I had expected. They're a salty, crunchy, kinda-burnt-tasting treat. They're a wholly addictive snack that leaves the slightest amount of oily residue in your palm.

    The fact they they were stored in an old salsa jar only made them better. It added some southwest pizzaz that delicately flirted with my taste buds. When removed from the jar, the beans smell rather neutral, which is good since Russ reported that they stink terribly when being prepared.

    As the jar emptied, I already found myself hoping that there are more fried mung beans on their way to the office. I'd buy a bag of these at the party store, and that's high praise. I suppose I could do that, since Beer Nuts already exist.

    And don't take it from me. Take it from Eric, a.k.a. Pep-Pep. After sampling some fried mung beans, this is what he said:
    "Holy crap those are good ... Those are REALLY good ... Those are one of the best snacks I've ever had."

    The people have spoken. Fry on, Russ!

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Cabo Chips: All natural gourmet corn tortilla chips -- "Taste the experience"

    A bag of Cabo Chips tortilla chips ended up in the "Awesometeria," the community dining area that my nearby coworkers constructed. I overheard them saying things about "lemon juice" and "sea salt." After taking one bite of a Cabo Chip, I discovered that they were clearly talking about some sort of other food product -- one that didn't lack any hint of flavor whatsoever.

    Normally, a review of tortilla chips that taste like overcooked fryer remnants would end after the 78th character of this very sentence. However, the creators of Cabo Chips think they are so great that they've written a 167-word essay that I have chosen to dissect.

    "The crunchy legacy of Cabo Chips
    Twenty years ago, the zesty imagination of three brothers[1] produced the idea of a snack that would change the chip world forever. Inspired by their unwavering loyalty to Cabo San Lucas and its warm sunny weather, they created the Cabo Chip -- the best corn tortilla chip you will find on either side of the border. Cabo Chips are light[2], rich in flavor[3], and the perfect complement to any dip[4].

    A superior chip arrives
    Cabo Chips began[5] April Fools Day[6] 2004 in a small factory[7] in Cabo San Lucas, but only a few months later, demand for the Cabo Chip was so great that we[8] had to begin production north of the border as well!

    Cabo Chips are made with the highest quality ingredients, including 100% Non-GMO white corn and expeller[9] pressed oils. A unique cooking process[10] and quality ingredients result in an all natural chip with no trans-fat -- lower in fat and sodium than many leading chip brands.


    [1] It's apparent that this phrase reads accurately: The brothers have one imagination between the three of them.
    [2] A scan of the the "datos de nutrición" implies that this statement is surprisingly accurate.
    [3] Wrong! The flavor is very subdued and most closely resembles overdone chips from the bottom of the fryer. Their deeper-than-normal brown tint reflects this as well.
    [4] These chips are the perfect complement to any dip because they'd need an imperial gallon of guacamole to enhance their edibility.
    [5] Began what?
    [6] No surprise there. Maybe instead of "Taste the experience" their slogan should be "An April Fool's prank in every bag"!
    [7] The back of a discerning Mexican restaurant that discarded its overcooked chips instead of feeding them to patrons.
    [8] We, as in the three brothers who know not of parallel construction in writing.
    [9] Something that every consumer is familiar with and has in the kitchen.
    [10] Leaving them in the deep fryer for three days.
    [11] No can do.

    Back up to essay.

    In case you're curious, satisfaction is NOT guaranteed anywhere on the bag.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    The Back to Basics Egg ‘N Muffin Toaster: A guest column

    Once upon a time during a scooter rally, I drunkenly walked my Vespa to my friends Amber and Other Nate’s house after the bar closed. I am normally one to retire early, but I was chasing a girl with the same destination so I felt that I could forego sleep for a bit. Regardless, I surely needed something to eat, as I always do after the bar, and Amber did not disappoint. She immediately fired up THE EGGWAVE – a magical device I had been hearing about for some time – and began dispensing delicious breakfast sandwiches to all of her guests at 3am. I could introduce all of the benefits of such a machine, but Amber (who runs, which features ME this week) covers all of them.

    Would you trust this woman?

    I sure hope not. She puts her dog in the mailbox for Christ’s sake. This blue eyed, dog abusing gal does have one thing right, though. She is Paula Deen of the Food Network and she’s latched on to quite possibly mankind’s greatest invention: The Back to Basics Egg ‘N Muffin Toaster.

    First, The Back to Basics Egg ‘N Muffin Toaster has a horrible name. That shit is way too long. TBTBENMT is not a handy abbreviation. Inspired by this David Cross comedy bit my co-workers and I have dubbed this machine THE EGGWAVE and its delicious output is known as AN EGGWAVE. This is not to be confused with the established yet inferior product going by the same name. Stay with me here people, or I’ll sick Paula Deen on you.

    If The Eggwave had been around when I was in college, there is a pretty good chance that I would have never graduated…or at least never graduated weighing less than 250lbs. I would have sat in my dorm room, quietly eating Eggwaves all day long. I would have been fat, but sweet Jesus, I would have been happy. Every college student must have an Eggwave. Actually, every person in the world must have an Eggwave. Jot that down on your Christmas list.

    The Eggwave is also a completely unnecessary invention. One could easily make an egg sandwich without the aid of this contraption. However, the experience would not rule nearly as much as putting all of your fixins in one fancy robot, hitting a button, and commencing the twiddling of the thumbs for approximately 3 minutes while your most delectable breakfast sandwich cooks. You see, The Eggwave has some highly advanced technology going on inside of its robot body. It works very hard to ensure that all of your sandwich components are done at the SAME TIME. You can stop sweating bullets as you scramble to push the toaster button down at the precise moment while you’re cooking your egg, trying to time it so the egg is done at the same time as the toast, but always ALWAYS failing. The Eggwave knows your pain. It has thought about that shit already & has moved on to solving the current economic crisis. So no worries man, you are guaranteed to have the most enjoyable breakfast experience of your life – no effort required.

    But maybe you don’t want an Eggwave for breakfast. Maybe you’re a fool and you think you’re too good for an incredibly delicious & personally perfected sandwich to kick-start your day. Well, I can almost guarantee that at 3am after you stumble and / or drunken drive home from the bar, an Eggwave is going to be the most delicious thing that you sink your teeth into. Never again will you be a victim to the tyranny of McDonalds and their fascist “No Breakfast after 10:30am” rules. An egg McMuffin – anytime you want it – only better than McDonalds because you can make it with REAL FOOD – not processed food product.

    Here are my top 5 Eggwave fixins – in order of deliciousness.

    1. Bacon – obviously. Bacon rules. The Eggwave will not cook raw bacon or any other raw meats. The Eggwave is not magic. The Eggwave will, however, heat up any pre-cooked meats you put it its compartment. You can take 2 full sized pieces of bacon – break that shit up into 4 pieces, and count down the minutes until those 4 pieces and their egg, muffin & cheese friends are in your trap.
    2. Swat Sauce from the Fly Trap in Ferndale – hot sauce is a requirement for my Eggwaves. The best I’ve found is from a wonderful diner in Fabulous Ferndale. Swat Sauce from the Fly Trap may have magic as one of their top ingredients. It is that good. Of course, you also need to pepper your Eggwave if you want it to be at its most delicious.
    3. Croissants – Usually, I stick to the standard English Muffin (of which, I have to say that Bays is my favorite brand, followed by Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat English Muffins). But when I really want to reward myself I get a giant Croissant from Costco, set The Eggwave on the lowest toast setting (very important – for English muffins I crank it all the way up) and brace myself for the flaky, buttery goodness that I am about to experience. It’s my way of telling myself “Hey, way to not kick that homeless guy on the way to work today. You deserve something special”.
    4. Morning Star Veggie Sausage – As disgusting as this is, I kind of love McDonalds sausage patties. It’s the only thing I kind of miss about not ever going to McDonald’s breakfast anymore. There’s something about the mystery spices in their meat product that I have yet to find in any frozen sausage I’ve tried. So until I rob a McDonalds at gunpoint and declare that "all of their sausage are belong to me," I’m sticking to Morning Star Veggie Sausage Patties as my “meat” of choice. The only problem with this is that the sausage does not cover the span of the egg sandwich. They cover more height than they do surface area – however, this problem is solved within a few chomps. The sausage smashes down, shifts, and never disappoints.
    5. Provolone Cheese – I’ve tried several different cheeses, and provolone is pretty much the best. Always. On everything.

    I could seriously go on. I dream of Eggwaves in my sleep. In my dreams, they have little wings and cartoon eyes. I jump on trampolines and bite them out of the sky. The Eggwave has made my life, and my dreams, better. Trust me. You want this kitchen gadget more than anything you’ve ever wanted in your life.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    Ethnic Gourmet's Taste of Thai: Pad Thai with Tofu

    While browsing the freezer department of my local high-end grocer for something new, a red box caught my eye: Ethnic Gourmet.

    With a fantastic, absurd, mildly offensive name like Ethnic Gourmet, I had to try it. The specific item I chose was Ethnic Gourmet's Taste of Thai: Pad Thai with Tofu. And let me tell you something This is the best frozen meal I have ever consumed in my entire life.
    • Taste? Perfect.

    • Texture? Phenomenal.

    • Aroma? Palette-moistening.

    There's a subtle hint of spice that doesn't make your nose run like so many other spicy Thai dishes. The "mildly spiced" box descriptor is dead-on.

    Ethnic Gourmet even makes your house smell good when you microwave it after your cat stinks up the joint by peeing everywhere. True story -- it happened last night (Well, the night before I wrote this a few weeks ago - Nate).

    I actually discovered Ethnic Gourmet awhile ago and I have been known to enjoy the Taste of Thai three times per week. I just can't get sick of it.

    The Holiday Market where I first discovered Ethnic Gourmet has since discontinued carrying the Pad Thai variety, an event which nearly gave me withdrawals. Luckily, I was forced to go to Meijer for a late-night cold medicine run last week and I discovered a stash of this Asian treat in the bottom of a freezer cabinet. I bought all but one of the $4.99 boxes of dreams -- I had to share the joy after all.

    If you are lazy, an office worker, or you love deliciousness, you must try Ethnic Gourmet's Taste of Thai: Pad Thai with Tofu immediately, if not sooner. I give it a 110% rating.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    A new personal best shrimp consumption record: A micro update

    I have repressed my shrimp-induced stupor long enough to report that I have returned from Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp event after consuming 93 shrimp, two glasses of Riesling, a tossed salad and two Cheddar Bay biscuits. I will have someone report which hospital you can visit me in when the inevitable happens.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    McGraw's Spicy Jalapeño Flavored Corn Chips

    Is "warm" a taste? My first impression as I put one of "McGraw's Spicy Jalapeño" Fritos in my mouth was that the corn chip seemed to increase in temperature as it sat on my tongue. And it wasn't because of the spice. It felt like it was a corn chip warm off the manufacturing belt. Perhaps the active ingredient in that KY Jelly warming lubricant is derived from the jalapeño.

    Let's put the 2-ounce bag down, lick our fingers and back up for a minute.

    I noticed McGraw's Spicy Jalapeño Fritos in the office vending machine when I went on a quest for a mid-morning snack. The milk I brought for my cereal smelled like onions, and the Chocolate Silk soy milk I drank only kept me full for so long. Knowing that breakfast is not the time to experiment with novelty food items, I purchased a bag of pretzels knowing I would return to the machine for the Fritos when the time was right.

    When I returned to the vending machine after getting some change out of my car it wasn't a moment too soon -- there was only one bag of McGraw's fried slabs of corn paste in the machine.

    The McGraw in question is country singer Tim McGraw, and he sure is smug about having his face on a bag of chips. What's perplexing about this is the fact that the bag provides no context for why these chips might be McGraw's.

    The package reads:

    "Introducing New FRITOS® brand McGraw's Spicy Jalapeño Flavored Corn Chips - the same classic corn taste and hearty FRITOS® crunch you love simply paired with a burst of jalapeño flavor. Who said delicious had to be complicated?"

    I think it was Tim McGraw who said that.

    I was expecting a story that began, "As a young buck, Mr. McGraw spent a lot of time on his pappy's farm, playin' in the jalapeño pepper patch ..."

    Whatever the raison d'être for these chips, I am sad to report that the main experience with these corn chips can be summed up very briefly:

    The first bite tastes like genuine jalapeño for an instant, then disappears. Next, a moment of subdued Tex-Mex flavor is followed by a brief tingle of the tongue and throat, then that "I just ate something sort of spicy feeling" lingers in the upper-rear of the throat. The most exciting part about eating them was when an intense burning sensation slowly crept into my nose and made me sneeze.

    It looks like Tim McGraw just pulled a fast one.

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Neighborhood chili cook-off : Mundane Monday bonus edition

    "Nate! Do you like chili?" asked my neighbor from the other side of the backyard fence. I figured she was going to hand me a couple of one-gallon containers of some of her home cookin' as she is known to do from time to time. My obvious reply: "Yeah."

    She informed me that there was a chili cook-off on the next block. Despite the fact that I had plans within the next hour, I knew where I had to go. I even grabbed a pocket-sized notebook to take notes but quickly realized I'd look like an ass in front of all the neighbors I hadn't met before, as I scribbled observations about their culinary efforts. Besides, I didn't want to step on the toes of the "real" food writer who was rumored to be there.

    Being without notes, I wondered how I'd even write about all of the chili I tasted. Then I decided that no neighborhood chili is worth review. I'd just write about the experience of attending a surprise chili cook-off. Here's what I remember about wandering down Ferndale's Woodland street on Saturday.

    First stop: Garden chili, hangover chili, and something chili. Despite its name, garden chili is not vegetarian. Sure, it had yellow squash in it, but it also had venison. On to the hangover chili. If I had remembered to vote for my favorite chili, this would have been it. It was spicy, but not so spicy that eating it would make me look one of those guys who proclaims he loves spicy food, bro, as his face turns read and he begins sweating profusely. I also picked up some not-so-subtle notes of garlic, once again proving my point that all the best foods are ones that you couldn't eat on a first date. As it turns out, hangover chili was not made to cure hangovers. It was made by a guy who had a hangover, and his hangover apparently gave him great epicurean wisdom.

    A few stops later, I was at a house where a bunch of hippies*** were hanging out. There was a chili labeled #17 (all participating chilis are numbered) and an Indian chili. That's Indian like curry, not like "we stole your land." There were some cute but unfriendly girls standing by #17 who did not reciprocate when I introduced myself, but I tried it any way. The experience of consuming #17 was like eating solid water at room temperature. All the ingredients had textures, but there was no flavor whatsoever. Water seeped out of various mushy shapes with each bite. This was clearly vegetarian, if not vegan or maybe even "freegan." Shame on you, #17. I took this as a sign to skip the Indian chili.

    After my experience with the water-chili, I began to notice just how many hippies were around. What were all these hippies doing at a chili cook-off? I thought hippies were "cruelty free." Perhaps they only ate free-range beef. Maybe they were just trying to scam some grub 'cause the man's keepin' them down.

    Continuing up the block I ran into Chris, a fellow Vespa rider, but not before trying a sample of "chili cheese cake." Until now I struggled to describe it, but now I realize that it pretty much tasted like key lime pie, which is sort of disconcerting.

    Any way, Chris was with his girlfriend and some other friends. They turned out to be responsible for the Indian Chili, so I went back to try it. I can't even remember what it tasted like, so take that as you will.

    As our travels continued, I tried all kinds of unremarkable chili and a few spicy kinds that tasted like they had booze in them. For some reason, people think that adding booze to food increases its refinement . Maybe it stems from never abandoning the 14-year-old mentality of "Mem-Mem and Pep-Pep made one of those rum cakes for the family reunion and I think I got drunk off it!" Straight liquor tastes bad enough as it is, so why would you want to have that flavor without the intoxicating benefits of alcohol?

    Toward the end of my odyssey, we ran into Amber and Other Nate with their awesome dogs. The dogs asserted that they were indeed young and energetic, then everyone started talking about houses they wanted to buy and I took that as my cue to leave.

    And, somehow, I didn't get gas or experience any after-burn.

    ***Chris has pointed out to me that I probably have a loose definition of what a hippy is. No offense is meant, though I tend to inadvertently offend people when writing about other humans so I should probably watch it.

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    The mystery sandwich: A guest column

    For the unfamiliar, Zingermans is a deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan where you can get a delicious sandwich for no less than $10. I have only had one of their sandwiches once. It was the best sandwich I have ever consumed, but I the interest from the small loan I took out to pay for it is killing me. Recently, my friend Travis proposed an ingenious plan: Write a guest entry about a FREE mystery sandwich from Zingermans. Here are the hummus-drenched fruits of his labor.

    Pre-sandwich thoughts

    In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my main motivation for writing this piece isn’t the fact that I’ll soon have a writing degree. I am not writing because I am trying to make this blog great, though this will almost certainly be a side effect of my presence here. My motivation, fair readers, is the prospect of getting to eat a very expensive sandwich for free.

    I’ve often considered how great it must be to be a food critic. People hand you large sums of money to eat food and write about it. What a life! Granted, my food expertise extends only to those items you can order from inside a running vehicle, I’ve always thought I’d be a pretty good ‘food writer.’ Consider this a small manifestation of that dream. Or see it for what it is—a thinly veiled plot to get free food. Honestly,the last guest blogger spent, what, 89 cents writing his piece? A sandwich at Zingerman’s Delicatessen is like ten bucks. You think Nate foots the bill? Not a chance. Last time I got food with Nate, the cheap bastard found the one Taco Bell with a broken credit card machine and stuck everyone else with the bill. (Not my fault I can’t be troubled with petty cash – Nate).

    Anyway, as I write this, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the sandwich in question. For this column, I asked friend and fellow guest blogger Dan Smith to create a mystery sandwich for me to consume and write about. It is my job to guess the contents. There may be a scoring system …Who knows? Predictably, Dan didn’t come through, so his co-worker (and my roommate) Justin “Admiral” Nelson took up the task. There are just two criteria for this sandwich:

    1. Must be vegetarian

    2. Must be relatively palatable

    The rest is left up to Mr. Nelson, who describes himself as “Your friendly neighborhood stoner.” This could be good or bad. I mean, who better to deliver a creative, flavorful masterpiece than a person with chronic munchies? On the other hand, he could just forget what he was supposed to do altogether and bring me a pound of bacon between two pieces of roast beef. He really does smoke that much weed. In fact, he called just now to see if I like spicy food. This should be very interesting. Also, I’m pretty sure the fact he called breaks the secrecy rule of the challenge, but I’d expect nothing less from a pot head of his caliber.


    Upon receiving the sandwich, I was fairly certain Justin had just wrapped a phone book in some Zingerman’s paper and doused it in sauce. It was so heavy … and sort of smelly. Fortunately, he hadn’t and my self-imposed I want to be really, really hungry when this sandwich gets here fasting was about to come to an end.

    A cursory glance revealed what one would expect in a fancy vegetarian sandwich—tomato, spinach, onion, cheese, etc. Without much thought I dove right in. “Pretty tasty.” Second bite. “This is getting pretty spicy.” As I made my way though the sandwich, I began to wonder what the hell he did to the bread. It was toasted and reddish in color, so I assumed the heat was trapped in its toasted goodness. I really enjoy spicy food, and this was right at the boundary of what’s enjoyable and being a little too hot. Perhaps the heat didn’t mesh well with the rest of the sandwich, as I’ve never quite enjoyed the combination of raw mushrooms and fire before. All I can say is that something about the spiciness was unsettling. Moving on…

    The cheese was phenomenal. I remember feeling intrigue at a friend (certified cheese expert, no less) telling me that a cheese exists that does not melt. This sandwich contained this wonderful cheese. (So did the infamous TACO SUB, apparently – Nate). It was a bit rubbery at first, but the flavor is more than good enough to allow this. I was told it’s called halloumi, but it tasted like an exceptionally thick, lukewarm chunk of mozzarella. That doesn’t sound incredibly appealing, but trust me. If I wore a monocle and drove an old-timey car I would eat halloumi everyday ($20/lb? Get out of here). The combination of the cheese and other ingredients somehow made for the perfect sandwich. It’s like all the imperfections I mentioned sort of banded together to give my tongue a giant rainbow hug.

    All in all, I’d say the experience was a good one. While not eating until about 10PM sort of sucks, when you get a thirty-dollar (Justin’s estimate) sandwich out of the deal, it’s pretty worth it. Justin was supposed to reveal the contents of the sandwich to me after I ate and had a guess, but he never really got around to it. I guessed quite a few of the ingredients correctly based on sight, and I later learned the insane spiciness was the result of adding Clancy’s hot sauce to hummus. I guess the whole “I’m doing this for the free sandwich” thing came true, as I’ve never actually been told exactly what I ate. So long, suckers.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008


    An email appeared in my inbox the other morning:

    "Ever wonder what that sandwich taste like in the Fresh Food machine but don’t want to spend the $3 to find out you don’t like it.

    Join us in the kitchen at 3:00 to taste some of the food items that are available in the fresh food machine. We will have bite size samples of items ranging from Holy Toledo Sandwich, bacon burger, Ham & Turkey club or Mexican breakfast pita. We don't know how long the samples will last so get there at 3.

    This week we will be sending out a survey to see what items you would like to see in the machine. Also there will be a list of nutritional values of some of the items available in the machine.

    The food is restocked 2-3 times a week, every item is guaranteed fresh and if not you will get your money back. Every item has a sell by date and will be removed by that date if not before."

    It was shaping up to be quite the day. Not only did I get tipped off about the presence of Mountain Dew Revolution in the office, I would get to sample the contents of the "fresh food" vending machine for free.

    I was obviously the first person to reach the kitchen. With the wide range of choices laid out for me, I wasn't sure what to do. I nearly backed down from the challenge. My eyes scanned the table. Then, there it was. TACO SUB.

    Its sesame loaf was filled with orange beef, topped with onion, tomato, yellow pepper rings and a smattering of cheese. I took it back to my desk to ponder whether or not I would be able to consume such a thing. Since the original idea behind Nate's Plate was to document the new "fresh food" machine, I knew I had to.

    I took a nibble of some of the spiced meat to see what I was up against. Not bad. I became bolder and bolder with each bite. The cheese strangely hadn't melted after 30 seconds in the microwave, but I never understood cheese any way.

    The yellow peppers were remarkably fresh and crisp. They even left a neon yellow stain where they had been touching the bun.

    I got about half way through my sample before it started falling apart. It was already cold from taking breaks to type between bites. I decided to quit while I was ahead.

    Then, I tried to finish it to be a man, but my last bite revealed something. The outer shell of the bread was of remarkable construction. A bite from either end of the sub went as planned, but a nibble at the side of the bun failed to pierce the skin. It was like I needed a cross-cut pattern on my teeth.

    This was surely the result of some sort of anti-sogginess additive, which is probably represented by the random appearance of the number 2008263 in the list of ingredients. If my mom couldn't make a sandwich hold up from the morning to school lunch time, a TACO SUB surely can't last for days in a vending machine without the help of some serious preservatives.

    Also noteworthy is the fact that the packaging indicates that the TACO SUB offers .00 servings per container. This could possibly serve as a warning that such an item is not fit for consumption, but I managed.

    Five minutes after the end of consumption, I felt fine, if not a bit apprehensive. The TACO SUB was shockingly edible, while undeniably cheap-tasting. The spiciness of the fixins probably aided this in no small way, but that is fine with me. It's highly unlikely that I will purchase anything from the machine again, especially after the incident I had with "BJ's Farms Sausage Breakfast Sandwiches" earlier this summer, but it's nice to know that there's an acceptable option out there.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Dewmocracy now! Mountain Dew Revolution

    A coworker approached my desk. "Nate, you'll be able to answer this question," he said. "What is that blue Mountain Dew in the vending machine?"

    "!!!" I replied.

    He asked if it was Baja Blast, which I had recently told him about. I replied that it was probably the end result of Mountain Dew's Dewmocracy campaign. My research indicates that Revolution (the beverage in question) was in the running, but Voltage was the real crowd pleaser. Though I have not had the pleasure of consuming Voltage yet, I could see why the Revolution was pacified.

    I inserted my dollar into the vending machine, entered the coordinates of the beverage and it was dispensed to me.

    I first noticed that the liquid was a blue-gray. Sort of like mop water poured into the bowl of a toilet with one of those blue dissolving bricks floating in the tank. I examined the bottle for a hint of what to expect and then I cracked the seal.

    A smell identical to that of Baja Blast wafted out. It was fruity, yet musty, like the basement at Knott's Berry Farm. I was getting excited. Colleagues were stopping by my desk, asking me what the hell I was drinking.

    A first sip revealed a flavor that was a cross between Baja Blast (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in the Mountain Dew family) and something at the more unique end of the Arizona brand beverage spectrum. Swishing it around my mouth, I observed a nice tingle, and a slight bitterness at the lower sides of my tongue.

    Revolution's flavor is absolutely restrained. It does not live up to its potential. It builds, nearing its peak, and abruptly stops. What causes such a thing? Too much water?

    The bottle claims this beverage is "Dew® Drinker Designed." There is no hyphen, confounding the rules of compound modifiers. The real Dew-Drinker is probably not familiar with ginseng, so I am not so sure it was truly designed by the consumer. The Dew-Drinkers know this. I know this, and I don't really even drink soda (with Baja Blast being an exception as an accompaniment to Volcano Tacos).

    I am proud to say that the caffeine-addled constituents of the Dewmocracy campaign have voted out the correct candidate. The way the flavor fails to build is really bumming me out.

    Learn about the rest of this exciting day next time with my review of the TACO SUB.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Fan art! Wacky Wednesday bonus edition.

    Upon reading Nate's Plate for the first time, Tom, my office's design director, found himself inspired. And probably hungry. Then, this happened:

    Thanks, Tom! To my thousands of loyal readers, feel free to send me more pictures of personified food.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    12 Party Pleasers in Puff Pastry

    I have to start this thing off proper with a shout-out to my friend Haim. He runs Frosty Insides, a blog about the contents of refrigerators. When I first saw the title I thought it was rants about being emotionally damaged, which I found odd since he's the coolest dude I've met this year. Luckily, it's another gem from a local food enthusiast. Check me out on last week's Freezer Friday.
    There I was, on the final leg of my shopping trip at the Holiday Market. That's when I saw them. The alliteration was screaming at me from behind the frosty freezer door: "12 Party Pleasers in Puff Pastry."

    I knew I had to write about them, with their fantastic use of Title Caps and alliteration. Plus, they were in the Kosher section. But, I almost walked away. As my distance from the curious item -- still in the freezer -- grew, my pace slackened. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had to go back for them.

    I returned to the freezer aisle, much to the confusion of the couple in sweatpants who were deciding which "pizzas for one" to select. After at least 30 seconds, I found the little box that had caught my attention. I grabbed it and headed on my way, knowing I'd blow away my previously planned review of 7-11 hotdogs.

    These little guys are "not recommended for microwave," so I took a rare opportunity to fire up the inside of my oven. This is an event typically reserved for Stouffer's French Bread Pizzas.

    As the party pleasers became golden brown in my Whirlpool Super Capacity 465, I realized that they were somehow familiar. Then, it hit me. I had been served these items at my friends and fellow Vespa enthusiasts Amber and Nate's (yes we are many) house a few weeks ago. But, that was a few weeks ago, so I had to try them once again in order to provide the best possible review. Besides, I had already put them in the damn oven. So much for my plans to eat healthy now that I had turned 25.

    Let's cut to the main course here, which ironically is an hors d'oeuvre.

    After 15 to 20 minutes, I pulled the flaky, golden-brown morsels out of my oven. Although they had arrived in a tray with individual compartments, there was no guide to what was what and outward appearances were no help. It was time for a blind taste test.

    With a choice between spinach and potato, spicy beef turnover and potato, I was pretty certain the first was of the potato variety. I expected it to be undercooked but it was just right. There were hints of garlic and the potato had perfect consistency. It was like a really nice spin on potato and onion pierogi.

    Next up was potato and spinach, which was quite disappointing. I would describe its taste as boring. I could only bring myself to eat one.

    Finally, I had decided that the large triangles were the beef turnovers. Amazing! I had inadvertently saved the best for last. The beef was somewhat in paste form and tasted like something from the Orient.

    I won't recount my experience piece by piece, but I will say this: Party Pleasers in Puff Pastry made me very thirsty and the beef ones had a nice spice to them that lingered in the back of my throat. I really needed an Arnold Palmer iced tea with some gin in it to wash my snack down.

    The real question: Would I promptly place these party pleasers in puff pastry on a table at a party for my guests to enjoy?

    If I was for some reason hosting a party at my one-bedroom upper flat, yes. The fact that they made me crave booze is a sign of success. Plus, people would mistakenly think I was cultured and my vegetarian friends would probably enjoy the bland spinach puffs. As a service to my guests, I would also have to provide breath mints.

    Don't hold your breath for any parties, though.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    One man's experience with Volcano Tacos: A guest column

    My friend Dan turned me onto Volcano Tacos via twitter. Though I have since become quite the VT enthusiast (I once ate five and a large Baja Blast in one sitting) I felt that it was only fair to let him review them. Here it is, with only one word changed.

    When Nate, an old college friend, asked me to do a guest piece for the distinguished Nate’s Plate, I was honored, but not entirely surprised. I’ve been somewhat of a connoisseur of Taco Bell for most of my life, and considering the fact that 25% of the blood that flows through my veins is Mexican, Nate would be hard-pressed to find a more qualified reviewer.

    I stumbled upon the Volcano Taco by accident while making a routine “run for the border.” Advertisements for the new menu item were plastered in every window as I pulled into the drive-through, and there was no question: I absolutely had to try one.

    Although the prospect of yet another Taco Bell menu choice had me rock hard, I had almost no idea what to expect. I had yet to see a commercial for the Volcano Taco, and the drive-through posters merely displayed a large taco with some kind of colored shell. I was immediately reminded of the Big Taste Taco (a recent fourthmeal invention released with the new and improved value menus), which I found to be rather lackluster and somewhat of a gimmick. Thus, not entirely unwary, I placed my order, crossing my fingers that this wouldn’t end up being just another Bacon Club Chalupa.

    My first impression upon unwrapping the Volcano Taco: it looks exactly like a regular “crunchy” taco, except it's fucking red. I knew there had to be more to the picture, however, so I fervently took my first bite. As I masticated that first mouthful, I still detected nothing setting it apart from a standard taco. But then I examined the taco’s innards. The bite I’d taking allowed me to view a vivisection of sorts, all the layers of ingredients laid bare.

    All of the typical makings were present: shredded cheddar cheese on top of shredded lettuce and about a half-inch of Taco Bell’s famous seasoned beef. At this point I was sure I’d been had, until I noticed something else. Just above the beef, there appeared to be some sort of cheese sauce which had been hidden too deeply inside the taco to be included in my first sampling. Knowing this must be the secret of the Volcano Taco, its one defining characteristic, I took another bite.

    The cheese sauce, or “cheesy lava sauce” as it is referred to on the restaurant’s web site, was very similar to the standard nacho cheese sauce featured in other menu items, but with a little bit of a spicy kick at the finish. Hardly comparable to sensation of putting a tablespoon of actual molten rock on my tongue, but still enough to add a bold and zesty twist.

    I applaud Taco Bell for continuing to at least attempt to innovate the fast food industry. In an unstable economic climate where the trend has been rising prices and shrinking portion sizes, Taco Bell has flown in the face of convention by introducing bigger and better things at an absurdly low cost to the diner.

    That being said, the Volcano Taco does not have a whole lot to offer in the way of innovation. Although not quite a gimmick, it’s certainly one of the more novel additions to the Taco Bell menu. It’s an interesting new take on the tried and true crunchy taco, and at just $.89*, there’s really no reason not to try it.

    The new Volcano Taco is also currently available as part of the promotional “Big Bell Box Meal”, which includes the taco, a burrito supreme, a crunchwrap supreme, cinnamon twists, and a large drink (Baja Blast of course being the only choice for serious fourthmealers). My local Taco Bell prices this deal at $4.99, but this may vary from location to location.

    * Prices may vary by location. They cost $.99 in Ferndale. -Nate

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    Burger King Onion Rings Flavored Snacks, reviewed

    There was a bag sitting on my desk for a week. Everyone was asking about it. And my guest columnist did not come through. So yesterday, just before noon, I broke the seal on my 1.125-oz. bag of Burger King Onion Rings Flavored Snacks, which I purchased from the vending machine in my office.

    My initial impressions of the first ring out of the bag:
    • It looks like a circular Taco Bell Cinnamon Twist

    • It smells like a Funyun with a hint of cheese -- minus one point

    • It tastes like a weak Funyun -- a negative for the taste buds but a plus for post-snack meeting attendance

    • It leaves a light, fine residue on your fingers -- not at all sticky or obtrusive

    The Onion Rings Flavored Snacks' consistency is sort of "powdery" once bitten. They are not as coarse as Funyuns. And, they're certainly easier to eat than a real onion ring because you don't have to worry about taking a bite that takes the whole inner onion with it, leaving the doughy shell. The flavor is also more consistent than that of the real thing.

    There is also an underlying hint of "rice cake," which makes sense considering that this item's description includes the phrase "puffed snacks."

    The phrase "deep crunch" is also used, and I feel that this is wholly inaccurate. "Deep crunch" should only be used to describe the sort of snack that cannot be consumed in a classroom with a "no food or drink" policy without being audibly noticed.

    Slight digression:
    Whenever I have an interesting food item on my desk, my coworkers feel that it's necessary to inspect its nutrition facts. I will be very depressed when I get to this age. For now, I make my food intake decisions based only on flavor potential and novelty. Any way ...

    Although I tend to write about the experience of eating instead of evaluating products, I feel that Burger King Onion Rings Flavored Snacks deserve a rating on a numerical scale. And that rating is 5.5 out of 10. I didn't dislike them, yet I would probably never think of them again if it weren't for this blog.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    On the divine pleasures of the chocolate pastry

    There are times in our lives when we owe a little treat to ourselves and this morning was one of those times.

    I had to wake up at an unreasonable hour today to get to work extra early. I typically need about two hours before I can eat in the morning, but when I wake up early, I am hungry right away. As I piloted my Saturn (soon to be for sale) across Oakland County, I realized I only had one choice for breakfast: To stop at the local Panera for a chocolate pastry.

    Here is the seldom-seen underside. This may look like the profile of the worst hamburger imaginable, but no. That brown is pure chocolate stock. And look -- It's giving you a slight, coy, "c'mere" grin.

    "Put me in your mouth," it says.

    I popped this baby in the microwave for 12 seconds so it was warm but instantly consumable and I was briefly transported to a world far far away from writing about Dodge's NASCAR endeavors.

    The chocolate pastry takes the extreme boredom of croissant consumption and inverts it using a chocolate rod. You owe one to yourself.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    One man's take on the shrimp system: A guest column

    Dear dedicated readers, I hate to repeat a subject so early on but my pal John Thornton has collected his thoughts on my shrimp system and on the joys of shrimp and white wine. I figured it's appropriate to share with you since he and I are once again off to Shrimp Lovers' Tuesday tonight. Here it is, unedited, in the words of the observer.

    John Thornton on the shrimp system

    It must've been about ought five or six when I was first introduced to Nate's shrimp system. I was a loud-mouthed young buck in those days, veins full of piss and vinegar, thought I knew everything there was to know about eating the various shellfish, including shrimp. Nasty Nate (as we called him those days) invited me to accompany him to "Shrimp Lovers Tuesday" at the local Red Lobster. Owing to my fondness for the Cheddar Bay Biscuits, I agreed.

    What I witnessed next changed my dining self forever. When our shrimp arrived, I sat in awe and watched a seasoned master practice his craft. Nate's efficiency of dissecting the little crustaceans was marvelous. Each move of the fork methodical, not a single wasted slice of the knife. It was as if he was channeling Black Flag's "The First Four Years" into an eating system. It was easily the densest batch of jams I had ever seen.

    This was my introduction to "Nate Rogers' Shrimp System." Each time I dine at Red Lobster, I use this system.

    *Cue "Like a Rock" by Bob Seger*

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    The shrimp system / Shrimp Lovers' Tuesday

    Back in college, my friend John and I used to regularly visit the Red Lobster in Ypsilanti to partake in Shrimp Lovers' Tuesday -- a magical event this side of Cheddar Bay when you can get 40 pieces of shrimp for under $20. I always ordered all scampi.
    Well, John is back in town before heading off to grad school, so we hit the Red Lobster in Madison Heights, not only for old times' sake, but also to document the shrimp consumption system I developed over the course of those magical nights. Here it is, fully documented for the first time.

    How to get the most out of your shrimp with my shrimp system:

    Order as much shrimp as you possibly can. On a Tuesday at Red Lobster, that means four orders, or 40 shrimp. You must order a baked potato and you must order it without sour cream. You’ll see why.
    If you are a particularly unreasonable person, you can order more than one meal. The only proper beverage to wash it down with is a white wine, because everyone knows shrimp and white wine go great together. I prefer the Riesling.

    1. The first step is to eat all of the shrimp bodies and set the tails aside. Don’t worry; you’re saving all the tail meat for later!

    2. As the trays of delicious garlic butter become devoid of shrimp, you can use them and their contents to saturate your baked potato.

    This is where the system really starts to work. Pay close attention.

    3. Take your fork and stab it through the shrimp tail just behind where the meat runs out.

    4. Insert your butter knife under the end of the tail to pry up the shell. Pull the fork away.

    5. Holding the end of the knife at the base of the meat where you initially inserted the fork, use the fork to extract the delicious meat.

    6. Enjoy the meat that you have successfully saved to savor without getting your hands dirty. Now as a reward, dig into that garlic-butter-saturated baked potato. If you can’t finish it and your friends call you out, remind them to shut their fool mouths because they sure as hell didn’t just eat 40 pieces of shrimp.

    So, there you have it folks. I encourage you all to transport your taste buds to the sea shore with a delicious order of shrimp scampi, and to get the most out of it with my shrimp system. Bon appetit!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008


    My name is Nate and I really like food.

    Fun facts:

    I ...

    • ... live in Ferndale, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit.

    • ... get paid to write advertisements about cars, but I think I would be better at writing ads about food. Or songs about food.

    • ... weigh 135 pounds and have weighed that much for as long as I can remember. I am about 6 feet tall.

    • ... love popcorn. I could eat a steak dinner then go out to a movie and still eat popcorn. I wouldn't share it and I would be done eating it before the feature presentation starts. My office just got a movie theater style popcorn machine and I eat at least two bags a day. It's becoming a problem.

    • ... love pizza. I will never get sick of pizza. I used to come home every day after high school, eat a Stouffer's pepperoni French bread pizza and burn the roof of my mouth. I ate a $5 pizza from little Caesar's on 9/11 (not saying I didn't care, that's just my memory of that day. Also, this was when $5 pizza at LC's was a weekly special).

    • ... strongly dislike most dairy products. The only exceptions are cheese on pizza (unless there is too much -- then I gag) and nacho cheese (because, let's face it, that's not real cheese any way).

    • ... apparently really like parentheses.

    • ... do not have a copy editor. Sorry.

    I love to eat and I find food to be amusing in general. It logically follows that you will love this blog and find it to be amusing in general.

    For now, though, it's nice out, so the updates will be on the "lighter fare" side until I get stuck inside. Until then, check me out on Twitter.