Posts Tagged ‘food’

I Demand More Potato Chip Flavors!

Posted in Ridiculum on November 3rd, 2015 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Oh how I wish we had the Walker's flavors in the USOn a recent trip to London, I consumed more than my fair share of Kettle Sweet Chilli [sic.] & Sour Cream crisps, as they were plentiful at several bars I visited after work. The sweet chili was quite nice, as were other flavors I managed to try, including Walker's Prawn Cocktail. Years ago, on a visit to Canada, I enjoyed many interesting flavors of Lay's potato chips, including Dill Pickle and Ketchup, both of which eventually made it to the US years later, but not without some delay. The Dill Pickle flavored potato chip was by far, at that point in my life, the best chip I'd ever had, and I still mourn the loss of them in the US after a short-lived chip career.

All of this is to say: America, we are being cheated, bamboozled, and robbed, by BIG CHIP, in their withholding of amazing flavors. Most Americans probably cannot fathom that another country could beat the US in the realm of gluttony, but this certainly appears to be the case. Not only are we being beaten by our neighbors to the north and our former oppressors across the pond, but also by other countries unrelated to American history or geography at all! This is a travesty of epic proportions. And worst of all, the greatest offender is Frito-Lay, a company headquartered right here in the US. Frito-Lay, of course, owns Lay's, which are marketed in the US and Canada as such, but elsewhere under slightly different names with the same logo.

Though we have been blessed in recent years to see an insurgence of Lay's flavors in the US, including such specialties as Greektown Gyro, Chicken & Waffles, and even, though I never saw this anywhere,  Cappuccino, there is a serious potato chip-flavor gap between the US and other countries. This is an abomination, and I hope you'll join me in demanding that Frito-Lay bring some of their interesting flavors from other countries to the US. We should not stand idly by while other countries get to enjoy these amazing flavors, while our American taste buds remain unsatisfied. Here's just a small sample of what we are missing out on:

  • Belgium: Indian Curry, Hamburger w/Mayo & Onions & Pickles, and Cucumber & Goats (what an amazing combination)
  • Canada: Tzatziki, Bacon Poutine, Montreal Smoked Meat, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup, Perogy Platter, and Cinnamon Bun (!!)
  • China: Cucumber, Kiwi, Blueberry, Cherry Tomato, Italian Red Meat, Mexican Tomato Chicken, Texas Grilled BBQ, Black Pepper Rib Eye Steak, Hot & Sour Fish Soup, Finger Licking Braised Pork, Seafood Barbecue, Spicy Seafood, and Numb & Spicy Hot Pot (again, !!)
  • India: Magic Masala, Spanish Tomato Tango, Swiss Grilled Cheese, Macho Chilli, and Sunkissed Tomato (incredible naming over there)
  • Netherlands: Bolognese, Bell Pepper, French Fries w/Joppiesaus, and Stokbroodje Kruidenboter Smaak (Dutch is so awesome – this is a baguette with garlic butter)
  • Russia: Mushroom & Sour Cream, Crab, Red Caviar, and Salted Cucumber (though I bet that last one is just Dill Pickle)
  • Thailand: French Mayonnaise, Garlic Soft Shelled Crab, Soy Sauce, Salmon Teriyaki, Lobster, Bacon & Cheese, Tom Yum, and Thai Seafood Dip (seriously, Asia is KILLING it in the potato chip flavor game)
  • The UK: Lamb & Mint, Worcester Sauce, Beef & Onion, English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, Sizzling Steak Fajita, Australian BBQ Kangaroo, and Ranch Raccoon (wut)

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! There's seriously tons of potato chip flavors denied to Americans, and I say it's enough. Frito-Lay, I demand more potato chip flavors!

Learn Stuff: What is a Cornish Pasty?

Posted in Learn Stuff on August 18th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

cornish pasty

It's a pot pie in the shape of a calzone.

I had one while in England and found it somewhat tasty, though really the only improvement over a pot pie is that this can be handheld. Really other than that, there's nothing special about it.

Interestingly, the Cornish Pasty has geographical protected status to Cornwall, much like Champagne or Pecorino Romano. Of course, we don't care about European protected products in America, just like they don't care about Vidalia onions or Bourbon.

According to the official geographic protection document, a Cornish Pasty is "a savoury 'D' shaped pasty which is filled with beef, vegetables and seasonings." So not only is it quite literally a pot pie in calzone shape, but it also a means to continue misinforming the British as to the proper place of a 'u' in words that don't need it.

One last thing on the pasty: there's other types. When I had my Cornish Pasty, also available were Chicken Tikka Pasties, Fruit Pasties, and all manners of other types of meat pasty. I can't help but think that any one of those alternate flavors would have likely been better. A handheld pot pie, frankly, is not much of a treat.

“Best Barbecue in the Nation”

Posted in America on October 5th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Holy amazeballs Gatlin's.Yesterday, Kris told me that a national list of best barbecue establishments included Houston’s own Goode Company. After a little searching, I found the list on The Chive, and noticed that it included, in its twenty five barbecue joints, not only Goode Company but also New York’s Dinosaur BBQ (the Syracuse location) and Austin’s Salt Lick.

Having been to both of those establishments, and having certainly been to Goode Company, I think it’s interesting to see them on a list that also boasts Franklin BBQ (Austin), any establishment in Lockhart, and JMueller (Austin). Simply put, this nation has plenty of bad barbecue (Salt Lick), plenty of mediocre barbecue (Dinosaur, but can you blame it for location?), and plenty of good barbecue (Goode Company) but very little transcendent barbecue (Franklin).

Any list that includes barbecue from New York cannot possibly be an accurate list. Any list that includes Salt Lick is much too excited about the fratty atmosphere and the BYOB than the bland, poorly cooked meat that awaits you after a long line. And any list that includes Goode Company was written by someone who doesn’t take their job seriously and has failed to try Houston’s truly good barbecue establishments.

And I’m okay with this.

Seriously, I’m completely okay with lists that include Salt Lick and Goode Company. I’d be okay if Pappas showed up on there as well. In fact, I’d prefer it. My complaint with this list is not that it includes those establishments, but that it includes Franklin.

See, I want people to come to Texas. If they do so, and they go to a place like Goode Company, they’re going to love it. Without a doubt, Goode offers barbecue better than their Yankee counterparts (like Dinosaur… Seriously, Dinosaur??) They’re gonna eat it, perhaps have a slice of that delicious Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie, and they’re gonna leave the state saying what residents already know: “Holy cow, Texas has great food.”

And at the same time, those of who do in fact already know it won’t find the lines at Gatlin’s, Franklin, or Pizzitola’s, among others, clogged with those who, until arriving in Texas, thought Dinosaur was the gold standard.

It’s not that I don’t want these visitors to have the best. In fact, I do. But there’s only so much of the best to go around. So keep going to Goode Company, it’s certainly good enough.

City Acre Brewing

Posted in Beer on April 23rd, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Pictured here: Gulden Squawk. In a City Acre glass. On my leg. Near the beautiful outdoor space for drinking and games.Houston is very fortunate in that the local craft beer options are diverse and getting more so. When I started loving beer, there was one brewery in the area: Saint Arnold. Since then, Saint Arnold has been joined by Southern Star in Conroe, No Label in Katy, Karbach, Buffalo Bayou, and soon, 8th Wonder. But one thing we've been missing is a good brewpub, until now.

City Acre Brewing, opening officially this fall, fills that gap. And it's a big gap: the difference between a brewpub and a brewery is significant. Beers are often more experimental, more interesting, and more robust than the offerings that breweries, who have the gift and the curse associated with distribution, create. [A side note: on my spring break trip during Senior year, we visited nine breweries. By far the best was the Seven Barrel Brewpub. Brewpubs are generally awesome.]

For now, City Acre has been holding tastings every month or two, by exclusive invitation only, in order to prepare for their opening. I was unaware of the first tasting and unable to get an invitation for the second or third, but on Saturday, thanks to my mad haiku skills in my "application" for an invitation, attended the fourth tasting with Rebecca.

We tried three different beers and a lot of food, played ladder golf on the large and lush lawn, and relaxed on a porch swing. There were actually four available beers, but unfortunately "Girl from IPAnema" ran out before we could partake. Nonetheless, the three we tried were excellent. My tasting notes:

Fermette de Saison – The notes for this beer suggested "light peppery notes," and this is a pretty accurate description. This was a great example of a saison, and frankly tasted like a Belgian harvest ale should taste. It was slightly spiced, not overwhelmingly so like so many saisons today are. A little more bitter than I'm used to seeing from a saison, but not too much so. Delicious.

Gulden Squawk – There were only half pours of this beer available, sadly, because of the high alcoholic content and low quantity available. I say 'sadly' because this was the best of the three beers. It was robust, flavorful, and superb. Very strong (11.2% abv) but very tasty. The color was beautiful, the head was creamy, and I hope to see this one again.

Bayouwulf – An India Black Ale, which I think is a better name than Black India Pale Ale, since it's not pale. The description is definitely right though: Bayouwulf was very hoppy, strong, with an impressive malt aroma. Oh and the color was fantastic. Clear, dark, and beautiful. I liked this beer a lot, and if it weren't for the awesomeness of the Gulden Squawk, this would have been my favorite.

And the food was quite good as well: cinnamon buns, homemade sausage, rolls, jellies, etc. Everything was scrumptious. I can't wait for City Acre's opening, as I expect to visit it frequently. City Acre shows quite a lot of promise, and I'm excited for its contribution to the Houston craft beer scene.

Maple Leaf Malt Liquor Tasting

Posted in Beer on December 7th, 2011 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Last night Rebecca and I traveled to the Maple Leaf Pub in Midtown for a Malt Liquor tasting. Apparently, they host a beer tasting every month, usually for $25, and December's theme was Malt Liquor, and for only $9 per person. The tastings feature a bit of education, several different types of whatever beer the theme is, and various snacks.

Malt Liquor, it turns out, is one of very few American beer styles. (Others include American Pale Ale, Steam beer, and Light beer.) Originally marketed toward white suburbanites, it apparently wasn't until the Civil Rights movement that malt liquor producers even realized there was a black population to market toward. And thus, the slate of semi-racist commercials began, pushing malt liquor toward the black community. Of course, today malt liquor is associated almost entirely with the American black community, largely because of this marketing.

Because it's higher in alcohol and cheaper, it has a negative image. To be fair, there's not much to malt liquor than those two qualities: gets you drunk and keeps your wallet full. Because it uses corn mash instead of barley malt, it has very little flavor. And the flavor that it has isn't strong or necessarily good.

We tried six malt liquors, Mad Dog 20/20, and Four Loko, just for fun. (Interesting fact: Mad Dog actually is called Mogen David, and as it sounds, started out as a Kosher table wine before eventually becoming the quintessential bumwine.) The six malt liquors were: Schlitz, Colt 45, Mickey's, Steel Reserve, Olde English 800, and Schlitz VSL.

Anyway, malt liquor is garbage, but the tasting was a lot of fun. Good group of people, lots of interesting things, and viewings of a couple of the aforementioned semi-racist commercials. Probably the best was Ice Cube representing St. Ides. Look it up, you won't be disappointed.

Foods that smell better than they taste

Posted in Ridiculum on December 5th, 2011 by Nathan – 2 Comments

I'm working on a huge project that will take several days of blog posts once it's finished. In the meantime, some of my blog posts may seem smaller than usual. Don't worry, longer posts will be back soon. Or if you like the shorter ones, well then enjoy the holiday!

There's a "Nuts 4 Nuts" right outside the gates to Columbia University. It's a small street vendor with a multicolored umbrella that advertises their fare. Of course, the real advertisement is made by the smell, which carries for hundreds of feet, luring people in with a smell that can only be described as amazing. It took me years of fighting that urge before I finally gave in, in my last week in NYC, and bought a pack of Nuts 4 Nuts.

They were bland, unexciting, and did not carry a taste proportional to the amazing smell. In short, these nuts smelled better than they tasted.

This is one of the most frustrating things in life, and it happens often: when cinnamon is used in order to mask an otherwise bland soup, for instance, or when otherwise bland pizza has an excess of basil, causing the savory smell of the herb or the sweet smell of the cinnamon to fool you into thinking the pizza or soup is good. And yet it's not.

One would think consumer protection laws would require merchants such as Nuts 4 Nuts to display a sign "objects may smell better than they taste." Yet Nuts 4 Nuts dots the New York City landscape, selling overpriced nuts to myriads of people fooled into believing that the taste will match the smell.

Any foods that you think are a good example of this?

A brief exploration of hotcake economics

Posted in Ridiculum on October 20th, 2011 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

McDonald's is probably the only place I've ever seen "hotcakes." Everyone else in the world calls them pancakes. I think McDonald's figures that no matter what, with this name they'll sell like hotcakes.“These are selling like hotcakes!”

This phrase has intrigued me for quite some time. How exactly are hotcakes selling, that everything else that sells well is compared to hotcakes? Last I checked, hotcakes don’t exactly sell themselves.

I think there’s many ways to look at the phenomenon of hotcake sales. They are (or were) clearly a sales leader in some category, but how exactly? It’s possible that the volume of sales of hotcakes is extraordinary, or perhaps that revenue is massive. Profit, or even profit per unit might be very high, and finally, there’s simply the possibility that demand significantly outpaces supply.

In the case of revenue, I think this implies a high volume, given the relatively low price of hotcakes. (McDonald’s sells them for something like two dollars, though I suppose this might be considered a low-end price. They are six dollars at Walker Bros. Pancake House, the most “upscale” pancake/hotcake establishment I’ve ever visited.)

Frankly, I’m not convinced of either of these. I can think of many items that bring in more revenue (“these are selling like barrels of oil!”) and are sold in higher quantities (“these are selling like bullets!”) and I don’t believe that hotcakes come close in annual revenue generated or in volume.

Unless the lack of volume points to the idea that the supply simply cannot match the extraordinary hotcake demand, causing them to disappear as soon as they hit the market. Again, I find this hard to believe, as I have never in my life experienced a hotcake scarcity. Whenever I find myself at a breakfast establishment, they always have at least one kind of pancake available. Sure, Wolf Pack Café once ran out of pumpkin, the best flavor they have to offer, but they still had chocolate chip. I reject this hypothesis using empirical data. And frankly, I think, “these are selling like bottles of Saint Arnold Divine Reserve!” fits this one better anyway.

That basically leaves profit or profit per unit. For profit by itself to be high, revenue has to necessarily be high, at least high enough that at a zero cost, it would be higher than profits generated by other products. That’s easily to reject: there is no expectation that profit is that high, and if it were, the market would be flooded with others attempting to cash in on a low-cost high-profit item that clearly has a massive market.

However, profit per unit is not unreasonable. Because demand is relatively low, it wouldn’t necessarily spur others to enter the market where profits are not high though profit per hotcake is. The actual cost of making a hotcake is pennies, representing a multi-hundred percentage profit markup.

For me, this is the most acceptable premise, and though there are probably other things with a higher markup, hotcakes seem to have the perfect balance of market forces keeping profit per unit high. It has to have a high enough demand to necessitate a universal understanding and consumption (everyone eats pancakes) yet a low enough demand to serve as a barrier to entry.

Alternatively, of course, there’s the possibility that the word “hot” in hotcakes implies that the item goes fast, and in reality there’s no correlation to sales leads and pancakes. I prefer the profit per unit theory.