Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Having Thanksgiving mostly my way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sweet potato casserole

  • Mashed redskin potatoes, skins on

  • Loads of stuffing with cranberries added

  • Mickey's Malt Liquor Grenades

  • Gin n juice

  • "Two" Buck Chuck

  • Delicious coffee

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

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

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

Without further ado, the photo gallery!

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

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

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

Mt. Marshmallow atop the sweet potato plain.

A toast to celebration meats.

Another gratuitous ham shot.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival

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

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

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

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

The culinary highlight of the festival. Tasted like plastic.

A bit of foreshadowing here ...

and here.

The chef ...

prepared a delicious meal ...

with all the best fixins.

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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wendy's SoNnNnNnN

This is the best restaurant review I have ever read.

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

See for yourself >

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Health Valley rice bran crackers

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

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

Not until today.

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

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

Back to the worst crackers ever.

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

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

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

I think the crackers gave Emily PTSD.

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Here's the thing about the KFC Double Down

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

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

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

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

On to the flavors.

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

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Floor pastry from Bread and Cocoa, San Francisco

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

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

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

Floor pastry.

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

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

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

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

  • The cashier rings you up for a bear claw

  • You receive your coffee without room for sugar

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and the fruit was blueberry.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Stinking Rose (A garlic restaurant): Silence of the Lamb Shank

I recently found myself on a business adventure to San Francisco, so I relied on my trusty Nate's Plate tipsters for recommendations. The first one was for the Stinking Rose -- The Garlic Restaurant, and it was no bum tip.

I called on the walk over and the pre-recorded cheesy fake Italian voice. was promoting dinner reservations. When we arrived and saw all the people dining, as well as people hanging out in the lobby, I felt like a fool for not getting reservations, but my colleague Jason and I got seated right away.

The placed reeked of garlic upon entry, but I quickly adjusted and felt comfortable knowing I definitely wasn't dining in the vicinity of vampires. I was safe from getting my blood sucked on the way home too, because I caught a whiff of myself immediately upon return to my room. I was sure to use all of the 1.0-oz complimentary shower products the next morning.

But, back to dinner. The Stinking Rose offers a lot of wines, including what was being passed off as garlic wine (which I sadly didn't try), but I got the "large" Peroni. In Michigan, a pint is a large beer, but the large beer here is much larger than a pint, which could also be ordered. After receiving our large beers, Jason and I ordered and were served garlic bread. I went to the bathroom to "freshen up" and dinner -- the cleverly named Silence of the Lamb Shank -- arrived right as I returned to the table.

The dish is named so because it comes with a chianti-based glaze and fava beans ... get it? Any way, the lamb shank was just right -- moist tender and succulent, with no knife needed. The meat fell off the bone so easily that I finished the main course before I finished my beer.

After finishing my entree, I was perfectly, comfortably full and totally forgot all about the garlic ice cream dessert I had been anticipating. Blast! I need to go back for that.

Upon awakening the following morning, I was surprised that my mouth didn't taste like garlicky corpses like it normally would after such a clove-fest. How'd they manage to make garlic dishes so that the taste and odor don't stick to my tongue like white on rice? I did have a moment of panic when I got dressed and began to smell cooking odors, but it turned out to be the restaurant downstairs from the hotel and not me.

Nate's Plate definitely declares the Stinking Rose to be a San Francisco treat.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

$7.99 Ikea ribs dinner combo

Surprisingly normal.

For dessert, I suggest that you ...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pacific Shrimp Tacos

Dear Taco Bell,

I got the message. You really didn't have to call me out on national television, but I see how it is. I'll gladly respond to your invitation to eat and then blog the Pacific Shrimp Taco.

I assume you modeled your commercial after my life because you heard about the time I ate 93 shrimp. But, if you're going to spend all that money making a TV commercial can you at least put out a quality product? I wouldn't eat a pacific shrimp taco for $1.19, let alone $2.79! In fact, tonight's dinner consisted of two Pacific Shrimp Tacos and Two Volcano Tacos. The total price of $8.44 was the most I have ever spent on myself at Taco Bell in my life.

If you had played your cards right, this dinner combo could have been known as the Nate's Plate special until the end of days, but no.

You had to wrap the Mexican-seasoned shrimp in a soft shell. And you had to slather it in a tangy white sauce. Cheap seafood and mystery dairy products together?! I can't believe I drove all the way to the ATM just to get money for such a travesty.

I'll give you this, though: When I unwrapped the first Pacific Shrimp Taco, I did catch a whiff of "real" food ... something like Rio Wraps. And when my finger touched some of the orange sauce, it was delightfully spicy.

Captain's orders: If you must try the Pacific Shrimp Taco, pass on the sun-ripened mayo, and be sure to treat yourself to an XL Baja Blast. Otherwise, you can keep this one to yourself.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Grip & Sip. Slow Your Roll. Extreme Relaxation: A guest column

Here's a guest column by Travis, the man who brought us the mystery sandwich.

This is a food blog, so I’m not going to waste your time ranting about the social and cultural consequences of glamorizing the recreational use of cough syrup. There are plenty of articles that do just that and I couldn’t care less if Lil’ Wayne openly drinks codeine. Provided he never tries to make another rock album, he can do whatever he wants (love you, Weezy).

Drank and Sippin Syrup are two relatively new products marketed as ‘the anti-Red Bull,’ a drink to calm and relax an increasingly stressed-out public. Suffering from a bit of anxiety myself, I was excited to find that 7-Eleven stores started carrying Drank. I bought a can on a particularly hungover Sunday morning a couple of months ago. The cashier warned me not to ‘drive on that stuff,’ but a visit to the parents was in order. My initial thought was that the taste was not unlike a light grape soda mixed with a little potpourri. Surprisingly good, actually.

I finished the can in a few minutes, not really considering the possible effects. By the time I arrived at the ‘rents I was overcome by a buzz similar to that of a waning weed high. I stared at the refrigerator at length before realizing the bottle of water I was looking for was right in front of me. I took a three-hour nap. The can promised 'extreme relaxation,' but I might refer to the effect as 'mild anesthesia.'

I’ve had Drank a few times since then. If you’re feeling stressed or looking for a good night’s sleep, it’s a nice occasional treat. I wouldn’t suggest drinking it every night, however, as one of its main ingredients is the same stuff your brain uses to tell your body when it’s nighttime. Probably don’t want to mess around with that too much.

In the other corner we have Sippin Syrup, a ‘beverage’ created in the same vein as Drank—same color, same philosophy, same inextricable link to cough syrup and southern rap. However, the discrepancy in quality between the two products is evident from the second you uncap the Syrup. I was blown away by the stench of bum wine as a good friend pleaded with me not to drink it. ‘IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE,’ I insisted. The night is a bit of a blur after that.

As I write this, a half-empty bottle sits on the table next to me, topped off with vague memories of headache and restlessness. Sippin Syrup tasted exactly how it smelled and it was only consumable small sips. It was more viscous than Drank. It didn’t make me any calmer and I’m pretty sure I forgot how to work the TV at some point.

I was given fair warning and ignored it. ‘Don’t drink that, it has to be full of arsenic. I want to vomit just thinking about it.’ Don’t repeat my mistake. If you want to experiment with these so-called relaxation beverages, make it Drank. Better yet, crush up a couple Benadryl in a glass of grape soda and achieve the same effect.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Coffee Fairy

Here's a special write-up by request of my coworker, and fellow Team Coffee member, Teresa N.

My first memories of coffee were of my dad making us all sit around at our table at the Olympic Coney Island restaurant, plates empty and napkins crumpled, while he finished sipping his coffee. I would always be annoyed and try to hurry him along.

After that, high school. The only place to hang out was the Coffee Bean and we'd sit there drinking off-white coffee filled with sugar for hours, then somehow manage to sleep like a rock that night.

Nowadays, when I'm at a greasy spoon I always have to order a cup of coffee, if only for tradition -- I get it now, dad! Day-to-day, my morning routine always includes my French press and a super-strong brew. It's more like having a mug of espresso than coffee, which is probably why I can never finish a cup before my drive to the office ends.

So, where do I get my beans?

The Coffee Fairy. He chooses only the finest beans that aren't available in your city and tends to deal with Intelligentsia.

Here he is now!

He lives in LA and occasionally appears in your local office with a bag of beans. If he is feeling especially inspired, he appears at your desk when you least expect it, holding a French press full of fresh brew.

This leads me to believe that he actually managed to smuggle a coffee grinder and French press onto an airplane. And when I say "leads me to believe," I mean this is probably not true but it is what I want to believe.

So how does one get a visit from the Coffee Fairy? Well, just like the Tooth Fairy brings you money after you lose a tooth, the Coffee Fairy brings you delicious freshly roasted whole beans when you lose access to deliciousness ... and after you've promised to buy a coffee grinder and French press.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Popcorn plus yeast = not so bad

The now-famous Russ recently invited a few of us at the office to enjoy some popcorn topped with brewer's yeast. As someone who brews beer, I was anticipating a wholly gross experience, but yeast on popcorn actually tasted quite natural and oddly familiar.

In this video segment of Nate's Plate, you'll see me, Russ, Bridgette and camera-woman Jordan.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Skeezy celebs slingin' salads

If you've met me, you know I am all for ridiculous advertising. However, I find myself questioning the new Carl's Jr. ad promoting salads by way of Kim Kardashian. It's not that I am not proud of the folks who pulled this off, because I truly am and would love to have clients that let me get away with something like this. It's because, to me, the ad doesn't really embrace ridiculousness enough. Maybe it's because I have not been keeping up with Ms. Kardashian. Or maybe it's because I feel like no one who has seen me eat a salad would ever want to have sex with me. What do you think?

Russ has amazing lunches

What better way to return to Nate's Plate than by letting my friend Jordan do my work for me? I cannot escape Jordan. I met her while "interning" at Found Magazine. Then, she got a job across the street from the coffee shop I was known to frequent. Now, she works at the same fancy advertising agency as me. This means she also works with Russ, the man who brought us fried mung beans and sunberries. This makes Russ the most-featured man in Nate's Plate history. Jordan actually sits next to Russ and has noticed something about his lunches: They are amazing.

Dear Nate’s Plate readers,

I would like to tell you about Russ. He sits next to me and his lunches are amazing.

Sometimes I bring a sandwich. I feel rather proud of myself, because I made it. I put the condiment on the bread and it has at least two elements to it (a meat and a cheese). Sometimes, if it’s a ham sandwich, I will mix mayonnaise and Honeycup mustard. Then I feel like I am the greatest.

But this kind of satisfaction would never be enough for Russ, whose lunches come in at least three different containers. I asked him if he ever just eats a sandwich.

“On rare occasion, yeah,” he said. “Not often, though … I’m a huge fan of Zingerman’s sandwiches and that sort of stuff, but it’s hard to recreate that at home.”

Well la dee dah.

He claims that it’s because his dad bought some too-skinny bread when he was a kid and his sandwiches were always falling apart, but I don’t buy it.

I think that he just likes to rub it in my face that he gets to eat lunches like this one:

This lunch consists of homemade latkes, a delicious-looking homemade cookie bar of some sort, and a bean concoction that smells like a warm haven from the doldrums of winter.

This is my lunch:

This lunch consists of Meijer generic goldfish-like crackers, sugar-free hot chocolate, and lip gloss. And that isn’t even the original hot chocolate; I reconstituted the dregs on the bottom by adding more hot water.

Look at him, sitting at his desk by the window, smugly enjoying his satisfying bean concoction (that was quite possibly cooked by his wife, who does yoga but is not a vegetarian (update 06/2010: she IS). GOD, is there anything in Russ’s life that isn’t perfect?):