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April 2, 2013

14 Fast Food Products I Wish I Could Get At A Real Restaurant

If you read my content with any sort of regularity, you’re aware that I’m an unabashed lover of fast food. I get mad at other people for getting mad at me for eating it. I take pictures of most of my meals so that others may see. I make sure to eat at McDonald’s when I travel overseas. I try every new item that comes out at Taco Bell, and then I get sad and wistful when they go away.

While I enjoy eating fast food immensely, I’m aware that it’s not exactly the most healthy habit. Choose a health metric — calories, sodium, saturated fat — and it’s terrible for both your figure and your inner organs. On top of this, the quality of the individual ingredients is not as high as it would be at nicer restaurants. I don’t mean this as a complaint, but it is objectively true–you can’t expect to pay $1 for a double cheeseburger or $10 for a large pizza with no tradeoff.

While I have no proof, I believe that when all nutrition label numbers are equal, food made from lower quality ingredients is cumulatively worse for our bodies. This may be completely misguided, but I’m almost certain that it’s the case, and have shifted my greasy food consumption habits accordingly in recent years.

Unfortunately, “real” restaurants aren’t always as creative as fast food establishments. Some are, and they should be applauded, but I’ve never seen anything like Pizza Hut’s ‘crazy cheesy crust’ pizza anywhere else and I’ve never found a Mexican restaurant that has something like Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme. The culinary culture can do more, and we need to demand it of them.

Here are 14 fast food items — some of which have been discontinued — that I wish I could order at real restaurants. If there’s anything you feel like I overlooked, please link to it in the comments.

1. Pizza Hut’s Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza – the crust is stuffed with a combination of asiago, romano, fontina, provolone, and mozzarella cheese. Why is the pizza shaped like a crown? Because it’s fit for a king.

2. Jack in the Box’s Bacon Milkshake – People are putting bacon on and in everything nowadays. We are in a brave new world. It feels pretty nice to live in such an advanced society. As my friend Craig always says, everything that tastes good tastes good together.

Continue reading 14 Fast Food Products I Wish…

July 26, 2012

Chicago Chick-fil-A Franchise Owner Responds to Mayor Emanuel

Atlanta-based fast food firm Chick-fil-A has come under fire nationally this week after comments made by its president Dan Cathy, who told the Baptist Press that he was “guilty as charged” of being “very much supportive” of the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Ugh. We know by now that he’s speaking in thinly veiled code for “Gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry because Jesus.” I guess we can take solace that he put his mouth where his money is. More on that in a bit.

Public outrage in progressive locales has begun resonating with their politicians. Boston mayor Thomas Menino wrote Cathy a letter that ended up in every corner of the Internet:  “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston,” the letter reads. “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel also hopped on the Eat Less Chikin’ express:

“Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”

Emanuel was vowing his support for Alderman Proco Moreno’s announcement that he would block construction of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his district.

“If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the First Ward,” he told the newspaper.

Tonight, Lauren Silich, the owner/operator of Chick-fil-A’s Loyola Water Tower Location–the only branch currently within city limits–posted her response to mayor Emanuel on the franchise’s Facebook page:

While Silich makes some strong points in her letter, she does not even begin to address–let alone take a stand against–the reasons that Chick-fil-A is facing this outrage. Her employees–”leaders for future generations, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs”–are denied the fundamental pursuit of happiness in the bigoted universe that Chick-fil-A is “guilty as charged” of supporting if they are gay and in love.

Money that Silich’s franchise generates for its parent goes directly towards supporting marriage inequality. While it’s odd that the general public has chosen to become outraged now as opposed to, say, when Chick-fil-A’s charitable foundation, Win Shape, donated $1.1 million to anti-gay groups from 2003-2008 or in 2009 when it gave about $2 million to Marriage & Family Legacy Fund, Focus on the Family, Exodus International, and the Family Research Council, these were values publicly held and supported by Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy long before Silich opened her franchise in 2011. Chick-fil-A’s values, and the fact that people in Chicago would be offended by them, should not be a surprise to her.

The mitigating factor, of course, is that everyone–gay or straight, tolerant, or bigoted–with good taste in food can agree Chick-fil-A is fucking delicious. Its spicy chicken sandwich’s meat quality and flavor makes it best in class (and if you say Wendy’s is better, you’re wrong). The special sauce–oh my GOD, the special sauce–you guys. And don’t get Drew Magary started on their banana pudding milkshake. The restaurants are always clean, fast, and efficient while the service is universally exemplary. I’ve never heard of an order getting fucked up or a sandwich that didn’t meet quality standards and I keep my ears and eyes out for those sorts of things.

Because Chick-fil-A is so fucking delicious and we all know it, we’ve all collectively neglected to take a moral stance about all this until right now–and, once again, its politics are not a new development–and our decisions have given franchise owners like Lauren Silich the financial incentive to join us in paying no attention to the man behind the curtain. Chick-fil-A could have been donating millions of dollars to nefarious groups that exist only to ruthlessly slaughter adorable puppies and we’d be unable to quell our yearning for the sweet satisfaction of chasing a chicken biscuit with a large Coke and some waffle fries dipped in that godly special sauce mixed with ketchup and ranch.

Gay marriage is undeniably becoming increasingly tolerated and embraced in America. Does our new intolerance for Chick-fil-A’s long-running intolerance mean we are progressing as a society ? Maybe? That’d definitely be awesome but we’ll see what sort of legs this story has before we all move on to the next outrage. (Please, dear LORD, let it be guns!) Hopefully this bad will hurts Chick-fil-A’s bottom line enough to get it to stop donating to homophobic organizations masquerading in the name of Christ–what does Dan Cathy value more, “traditional marriage” or money?–but they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place now because they’re based in the South where intolerance is much more, um, tolerated. (Mike Huckabee–remember him?–has declared 8-1 to be Support Chick-fil-A Day.)

And if we’re going to start actually caring about the ethics along our food supply chain, we’re on an awfully slippery slope. If we cease our willful ignorance as to what corners must be cut for dollar menus to exist and processed food to be so affordable and accessible, we’re going to be in for a pretty fucking rude awakening. (Full disclosure: I’ve deliberately avoided watching Meet Your Meat for three years after being made aware of it because I’m too cowardly to face the conscious decision of becoming a vegetarian–or even only eating ethically raised meat–or continuing to consume meat when I’m more aware of inhumane factory slaughter processes.)

Enough of that depressing shit, though, let’s get back to Chick-fil-A and, specifically, INSISTING not to eat there for like a month or until we get an insincere apology–whichever comes first.

Individual franchise owners like Lauren Silich, who have genuine tolerance for homosexuals, are undoubtedly feeling this string of backlash the hardest. They need to band together to do something about the company’s president making defiant, divisive statements that are crushing their opportunities to expand in major cities. (Not that this is a defense but Cathy was playing a home game with the Baptist Press and couldn’t have dreamed his words would create such a shitstorm after America ignored his money trail for so long.)

If the momentum from all this continues past the weekend I bet we get a fake apology from Dan Cathy next week. Stay tuned.

July 19, 2012

Trying the Taco Bell Cantina Bell Burrito Bowl, CTD

My friend Matt tried the new chicken burrito bowl from Taco Bell, which I previously wrote about in thorough detail. He and I have exceedingly similar food tastes (greasy red meat and cheese + exquisite dessert) and have only differed on opinion once or twice in our illustrious eating careers. What I’m saying is that if for some reason you trust my judgment in food, you should trust his.

Here’s what he had to say:

The guacamole had a decent flavor to it but it lacked the richness Chipotle’s. The corn salsa was good, but it had a taste something like creamed corn which leads me to believe that they have to do this to make it quickly and still have it taste good enough. The chicken tasted like normal Taco Bell chicken–nothing special there. I couldn’t detect any noticeable flavored in the rest of the bowl, but overall I give it a solid 7 on a scale of Taco Bell (1) to Chipotle (10). It can compete based on its price point but it will likely struggle because people won’t go to Taco Bell for something that is actually trying to be delicious.

Continue reading Trying the Taco Bell Cantina Bell…

June 15, 2012

Trying the New Chef Lorena Garcia Cantina Bell Chicken Burrito Bowl From Taco Bell

Last week, I wrote about Cantina Bell, the new line of menu items at Taco Bell inspired by Chef Lorena Garcia. The line, which tested very positively in Bakersfield, CA and Louisville, KY, launches nationwide on July 5th. Currently, Garcia and Taco Bell are in the middle of a five-city US tour introducing the line to franchise managers and local media; I was invited to last night’s stop in Chicago.

When I arrived at the address given to me by Taco Bell’s PR firm, I found myself in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Lincoln Park. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Maybe they messed up a digit or I’m the victim of some elaborate prank.” Luckily, an event worker arrived about 30 seconds after me and reassured me that I was in fact in the correct location and that it would be a cozy, family-style dinner with various Chicago press and Taco Bell advertising executives.

After about 45 minutes of introductions and cocktails (“I, uh, write a small, but rapidly growing, web site about sports and food called Sports Rapport…”), we were joined at the dinner table by Chef Lorena Garcia, who spoke eloquently and passionately for a half hour about her background and the processes which led to the creation and consummation of her upcoming line.

For an appetizer, we were served tortilla chips with three dips: pico de gallo, guacamole, and roasted corn and pepper. These chips and dips will be offered at Taco Bell as a side for $1.49 (you get to choose one dip):

Continue reading Trying the New Chef Lorena Garcia…

June 6, 2012

Taco Bell Launching New Upscale Cantina Bell Line July 5th

In an intriguing move, Taco Bell announced its new upscale Cantina Bell line this morning. The line is inspired by chef Lorena Garcia, who has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and “America’s Next Great Restaurant” and will appear on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” later this summer.

Taco Bell’s press release states:

All inspired by Garcia, Cantina Bell will feature eight new ingredients for Taco Bell such as whole black beans, cilantro rice, 100-percent all-white meat chicken in a citrus and herb marinade, guacamole made with 100-percent Hass avocado, fire-roasted corn salsa, creamy cilantro dressing, romaine lettuce and pico de gallo. The Cantina Bell menu items will include veggie options:

  • Cantina Bowl: Chicken ($4.79, 560 calories, 22g total fat. 26g protein), Veggie ($4.79, 540 calories, 21g total fat, 14g protein), Steak ($4.99, 550 calories, 23g total fat, 22g protein)
  • Cantina Burrito: Chicken ($4.79, 760 calories, 27g total fat, 32g protein), Veggie ($4.79, 740 calories, 26g total fat, 20g protein), Steak ($4.99, 750 calories, 28g total fat, 28g protein)

Here’s what the chicken bowl and burrito will look like:

Continue reading Taco Bell Launching New Upscale Cantina…

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