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.