Bonus Food Pics: Gyro & The Mack Trucker Melt From P&G

gyroLast weekend, my wife, daughter and I went to the New Windsor Community Day event which was packed with various food vendors. If I’m in the vicinity of a good looking gyro (pronounced yee-ro), I’ve got to have one. I forgot to note the name of the place selling them, but I think they just do events like this and weren’t representing a restaurant. Anyway, this was a solid pita with meat carved from the spit and dosed with a good deal of tzatziki sauce and got the thumbs up. Even Lu dug the lamb, which was a bit of a surprise. p & g mack truck burger melt

The next day, we went to New Paltz to do some walking around. Before that, though, we stopped at P&G’s because I was jonesing for a beer or two with my meal. I decided on The Mack Truck Burger Melt which was described as, “8 oz. of freshly ground Black Angus beef charbroiled and topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, nestled in a grilled cheese sandwich.” This seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn’t mix well with the press of coffee I’d had that morning, the two beers during lunch and the coffee I had afterwards. Also, I’ve got to say, the sandwich was a tiny bit bland, which I wasn’t expecting. Still, I not only want to try this again, but also want to make one of my own. Finally, the onion rings were killer!

 

Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

Guys, I love pretzels. Hard, soft, full of cheese, covered in eggs, I’m all-in for all the options. As you’ve probably noticed if you watch even the slightest amount of television, we’re in a kind of pretzel renaissance these days. Sure, you can still get all shapes, sizes and flavors in the snack aisle of your grocery story, but the concept of pretzel dough and bread is moving out of carnivals and sporting events to a good deal of fast food joints.

My wife and I first encountered the widespread nature of pretzel bread while on a trip to Michigan from New York. We love stopping at Sheetz and they have a full line-up of pretzel bread sandwiches, which I indulged in on both the way there and back. They were great, with that hint of pretzel flavor without being overly salty. I didn’t snap a picture because I was driving and eating already, but they were great.

wendys pretzel bread burger

When we got home, we started seeing pretzel bread everywhere, specifically at Wendy’s which is another big chain making a similar push. Last week we both got these burgers and I’ve got to say, I wasn’t very impressed. I thought Sheetz did a much better job of capturing the pretzel bread flavor while Wendy’s was overall pretty bland (it didn’t help that the burger was overcooked and a little cold).

homemade pretzelsThe biggest pretzel revelation in recent memory, though, came when my wife decided to MAKE OUR OWN SOFT PRETZELS. I was super excited, thinking back to my childhood and wondering what Young Me would have done had I presented him with something like Alton Brown’s recipe for  soft pretzels. Would I have jumped in the kitchen immediately and started making one of my favorite snacks by hand or would I have said “Cool,” and continued eating frozen ones because they’re easier?

Seeing as how I haven’t mastered time travel (yet) that’s neither here nor there. What is here AND there is that fact that these pretzels were fantastic. She made something like eight and then also made herself a bagel dog using Brown Eyed Baker’s take on Brown’s recipe. I regret not asking for one myself. Still, I’ve been enjoying the light, buttery, salty goodness of these tasty snacks for the first half of this week and am already thinking of ways to incorporate this delightful food into our regular rotation.

Bonus Food Pic: Deep Fried Oreos

fried oreo

Last week the Cornwall firefighters held their annual fair. It’s been going on for decades, but this is the first year we went. It was a nice little fair with plenty of rides, over-priced games (I remember when you got three darts for $1 instead of one for $2) and, of course, the kinds of food you can only buy from people who travel from town to town under cover of darkness. While thoughts of corn dogs danced in my head (they turned out to come from a box), I was actually won over by the six deep fried Oreos my wife requested. I actually saw the woman in the cart/thing dipping the cookies into the batter and tossing them into the frier, so I know they were fresh (or, you know, as fresh as fresh can be). The results were a super sweet combination of dough and softened cookie that was delightful.

Bonus Food Pic: Piece Of Fish

piece of fish

There’s a place around the corner from our house. It’s a tiny one room operation that’s served as several different kind of carry out food places since we moved to the area back in 2006. Its specific location is in kind of a dead zone as far as our travels go. It’s on a stretch of road that we often use, but take various other routes to get to meaning the place isn’t always on our radar. When we first got here it was a hot dog place, but we didn’t make it over there before they shut down. I think it was empty for a while and then a nice little wrap place opened up called Wrap and Roll. My wife and I loved that place because, not only were they not your average deli — and I’d say most of the delis around us are pretty average — but they also had this killer southwest pasta salad that I should have asked for the recipe for. After that it was a Philly cheesesteak place called Billy’s Phillies (or something). They were okay, but inconsistent.

Now there’s a new place in there called Piece of Fish which, as you might be able to guess, serves fish. I stopped in a few weeks back for lunch. The menu is pretty limited at this point, but I think that’s a smart movie. Start off with some items you can really knock out of the park and if they do well, start bringing in specials and other new menu items as you grow. And that’s what POF seems to be doing. I went with an order each of Whiting and Tilapia with regular fries and sweet potato ones and my wife and I were pretty happy with both results.

My main worry with fried sea food is that it will be super heavy and greasy, but that wasn’t the case here at all. Both fish has a really nice, light breading and fry to them that didn’t take away from the taste of the fish. I had never had Whiting before, but it was my favorite out of the bunch. We haven’t had the opportunity to get back there, but I’m definitely adding Piece of Fish to my mental liste of worthwhile, quick, in and out restaurants in the area to hit up.

Bonus Food Pic: The Cool Ranch Dorito Taco From Taco Bell

cool ranch dorito taco For all the writing I do about grinding my own meat, trying to find more local sources for produce and protein and keeping an eye on my caloric intake with the Lose It! app, I’m still the kind of guy who dreams about heading to Taco Bell, throwing down a few bucks and scarfing down a small mountain of faux Mexican food. I like to think I come by it honestly. You see, Toledo, the town that I’m from actually has three T-Bells on one of the city’s major thoroughfares with the two furthest ones only about 20 minutes from each other. As a kid and young adult, we’d head there and get food and I kept that tradition alive into my adulthood our here in New York. Heck, I even stopped there the day I heard about a rash of Bell-based food poisoning outbreaks about five years back. After hearing the news on the radio I thought, “Mmm, Taco Bell. I’m sure I won’t get food poisoning (and I didn’t, at least that time).

There was even a part of me that was ashamed that it took me so long to actually taste a Dorito-flavored taco shell at the restaurant. It’s the same part of my brain that misses seeing big-time superhero movies in the theater on opening night. It’s just something the old me would have done in a heartbeat that older me can’t without lots of scheduling and worries of health and whatnot.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I both checked our points and decided to get some dinner at T-Bell while we were out running some errands. Of course, we both had to try the Cool Ranch version of the taco, something we were both excited about. Heck, much like the above commercial, I was one of the people who immediately said, “They should do Cool Ranch” as soon as I heard about the regular Dorito taco shell. As it happens, Cool Ranch is my favorite Dorito flavor, though much like Taco Bell, they’re not really a regular part of my life anymore because I will eat a ton of them in a single sitting and that’s not good for someone who counts going to the grocery store as exercise.

So, I should get to the main event. I tried the taco and it was pretty good, but definitely salty. My wife read some account that said the flavor of the heavily spiced meat tends to wash out the Cool Ranch flavor, so I went in making the conscious decision to put my tongue directly on the shell every time I bit. That way, I definitely got the flavor every single time. And it definitely worked. I’m still not one hundred perfect sure if this fits in with the “two great tastes that taste great together” category as one definitely seems to outdo the other, but I’d say it’s a fun experiment with pretty good results.

Bonus Food Pic: Shawarma, Pesto Hummus & Sides From Chickpea

 

Last week my wife and I were in the city and found ourselves eating at a place called Chickpea. If you’ve never been, it’s kind of a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern version of Chipotle. You walk in, decide what kind of delivery system you want for your food (platter, salad, pita, etc), what kind of meat or main dish you want, a special kind of hummus and three side salads. As you can see above, I went with the platter, got the chicken shawarma, some basil and pine nut hummus and a trio of sides I can’t quite remember. Since I’m not super familiar with this kind of food, the place was loud and I couldn’t fully understand the guy scooping the sides, I didn’t really know what I ordered, but it was good.

Actually, it was all good. I chose shawarma right away for one simple reason: they talked about it in The Avengers and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I have no idea how authentic this was, but it was actually super good. I can’t quite place or remember the flavors at this point, but I ate this all up with a quickness and it’s not just because we had to get to an appointment. Also, pesto hummus was kind of an awesome revelation, I’m going to make some of my own once basil is back in season (or I have some leftover from another recipe).

Bonus Food Pics: F’Real Gas Station Milkshake

 

This is something you might never see again, but you’re looking at the second post in a row about dessert type foods. Again, I’m not a giant fan of sweets, but I do like when food uses technology. Have you ever seen those ice cream vending machines that open up a cooler and then a vacuum tube drops down to get your selection? I love those things. So, when we stopped at a Sheetz on our way to Ohio and I saw this thing called F’Real, I got excited and curious.

Here’s the deal. You see the same blue machine that caught my attention. Underneath that is a small freezer filled with potential shakes of all different flavors (basically ice cream in a small container). You pick your poison, tear off the top, then put it in the silver holder and choose your preferred thickness from those flashy green buttons. Your treat rises up into the machine and a few minutes later you have your very own milkshake. I thought this was ridiculously cool and it was a nice cool treat on a hot drive, but I think it might have been a little too much sweetness, especially when combined with the other road food we had.

A Few Thoughts On Giant Burritos

I first discovered the world of giant burritos in college. Actually, I really first discovered Mexican food in general in college, but that’s a story for another day. Up to that point, I’d really only had Taco Bell. Then I discovered a place about 30 minutes away from school (which was kind of in the middle of nowhere, though there was a Taco Bell fairly close) called Chipotle. The idea with this place was that you could choose various kinds of meat, rice, beans, salsa and a few other things to throw on the tortilla, fold it up origami style and shove into your face. Thus my fascination with giant burritos was born.

We ate at Chipotle whenever we could in college, but then I moved back to Toledo where we didn’t have giant burritos (a Chipotle moved in right around the time I moved out). As you’d expect, it was a sad time. Then, a few months later, I got a job at Wizard, moved out to New York and wound up eating lunch about once a week in the big Palisades mall nearby. What did they have there? A Qdoba!

Qdoba is very similar to Chipotle, but they also throw in other options like Queso (covering it in melted cheese) or mole and a variety of other flavors and sauces. For the longest time I actually had trouble keeping them separate in my head — it didn’t help that I had easy access to both when I worked down in New York City. But, after heading down to eat lunch at a new Chipotle with my wife and some of her friends I realized something, I like Qdoba better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Chipotle and I quite enjoyed my giant burrito (steak with pinto beans, regular salsa, sour cream and cheese), but I just prefer variety and Qdoba has more of it. Now all I need is for a Qdoba to open up near us as we are in the land of no giant burritos currently. Sigh.

Bonus Food Pic: The New Ketchup Packet

Two years ago, I included designs for a brand new ketchup packet over on my pop culture blog UnitedMonkee. Last Saturday, we stopped by a Wendys before heading to the drive-in to see The Avengers and, much to my surprise, there it was! The genius thing about this new condiment storage system is that you can pop the top off and squeeze it out on your burger or hot dog, or pull the entire top off for dipping! Also, as you can see from the package, it has three times more ketchup. I realize this probably isn’t worth a post, but I thought it was just ginchy.

Bonus Food Pic: Bacon Cheeseburger From Five Guys

Five Guys have been popping up like crazy for the past few years. My wife was really excited because she LOVES burgers. I was less so because–and I only realized this in the past year or so–while I like burgers, I don’t usually crave them. They’re usually an easy food that I can run out and pick up when I don’t feel like cooking or something that winds up appealing to me once I’m in a place. Occasionally I feel like making my own burgers but even that is usually just an easy dinner to put together or seasonally appropriate (burgers in the summer just feel right, you know?).

Anyway, a few weekends back, we were out running some errands and decided to hit up the nearby Five Guys. We’ve had some problems there before with them getting my wife’s burger wrong, but decided to give it another shot. And you know what? It was great. I might not crave burgers, but I can appreciate a good, sloppy, cheeseburger covered in bacon, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato and the rest. At the end of the meal, I looked like I had stalked and killed a burger instead of simply eaten it, but that’s a sign of a good burger–especially because I’m not a big fan getting messy. Looking at this picture is actually making me crave a burger, maybe I just needed a good visual to think about!

Pizza Party: Domino’s

When it comes to pizza, we live in a pretty fantastic area. I’ve had the best pizza of my life out here in New York, no doubt about it and that’s just in counties like Orange and Rockland, I’ve never even really jumped into the whole NYC pizza scene. But, sometimes you just want something familiar. That was the case a week or two back when the wife and I both had a taste of a very simple pizza. That’s how it started at least. I suggested getting a pie or two from Domino’s since we both had the taste for pepperoni because there’s one nearby.

With that, I hopped on the Domino’s website on my phone and I’ll tell you what, they make it really fun to order a pizza. You not only order by size and toppings, but you can chose which half of the pie you want particular toppings on. Since I was jonesing for pineapple and my wife wanted pepperoni, but we both wanted bacon, this worked out perfectly. We both got a kick out of the whole left/right decision, but it made sense. After ordering online, you can keep track of exactly where the pizza is at in the process from “firing up” to “ready.”

So, how’d it taste? Pretty good. The reason you go to big chains like Domino’s is because it’s familiar (or because it’s cheap). I’ll tell you what, it tasted just like the pizza I used to get back home which was always a chain of some sort (Dominio’s, Pizza Hut, the slightly more local Little Caesar’s). Plus, pineapple isn’t a very popular topping round these parts, so I’ll take it where I can get it.

At the end of the day, I love how many options we have when it comes to pizza. We know where to go for slices, for pies, for a nicer dinner. The possibilities are endless and that’s the best as far as I’m concerned.

Trying Wendy’s W Burger

As I said when I wrote about my first experience with the McRib, I’m not a food snob. I’ve come to the realization in the past few years that, for the most part, I’d rather eat fresher food, but that doesn’t mean I have anything against sinking my teeth into a nice mass produced burger.I get especially intrigued when a new burger comes out as does my wife, so last week we decided to give the brand new W burger from Wendy’s. As you can see in the first picture, it comes wrapped in paper as if it’s a burger you’re buying from a stand somewhere but also safely tucked away in an open-top cardboard box letting everyone know where you bought your cheeseburger.So, how was it? Not bad. Considering it’s got two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun, I figured this would be, essentially a Big Mac without the extra piece of bread. And it kind of is, but whatever the special sauce actually is, it’s got a sweet taste to it that I can’t really nail down. Overall, it’s pretty good and has a good flavor. As these things go, though, it’s kind of a crap shoot when it comes to fast food quality. If you’re curious, I’d say give it a shot.

Trying The McRib

I know I spend a lot of time posting on this blog about trying out new recipes and eating at local restaurants, but don’t be mistaken, I love me some fast food. I try not to eat too much of it because it’d make me even fatter, but I don’t consider myself above fast food by any means.

Last week, I was knocked out of the kitchen thanks to a wicked head cold, so I didn’t do much cooking. One night my wife called and asked if I wanted her to just pick food up, through sniffles and sneezes I said sure. She suggested McDonalds and I agreed, adding that she should pick up a McRib so we could try it.

Turns out, neither of us had ever had one. I don’t really know why I never made my way to a McDonalds during the McRib’s reign, but I just didn’t. Maybe it’s because it always sounded a little funky: a ribless rib sandwich. There was also a time when I wasn’t very high on ribs after a few bad run ins.

Anyway, last week I finally tried one and you know what? I don’t see what all the fuss is about. My wife took the first bite and then handed it back to me immediately. She didn’t like the texture of the meat. It didn’t bother me so much, but I wasn’t a huge fan. It’s got a kind of meatloaf texture, but unlike good meatloaf, it’s all uniform. What got to me, though, was the general lack of flavor. I didn’t taste much in the way of that shaped, uniform meat. I also didn’t get much flavor from the barbecue sauce they used. The stand-out flavors were really the pickle and the onion.

What do you guys think? Any McRib fans out there? Am I missing something? Did I get a bad one? It’s not like I’d never try a McRib again, but if I’m going to eat fast food, I want to eat something I really like, like a Big Mac or pretty much anything at Arby’s, I don’t want “enh.”