Archive for food
My first experience with spicy food came when I was a youngster.
I was a latch key kid, and that included lunch. My grade school was literally across the street from the house, more or less. So I would let myself in and prepare my own lunch, as early as age 11.
This was circa 1974-75.
Nobody reported my mother to Child Protective Services. I managed to not burn the house down. I’d fix my lunch, eat it, and be back in class on time.
Somehow along the way I have lost that efficiency in my life, but that’s another blog post entirely.
The point being, my first encounter with spicy foods came in the form of those Vlasic hot pepper rings in a jar. Again, I was 11 and I started nibbling on those tangy, vinegar-encased yellow rings, usually combining them with a sandwich of some sort.
That was some 40 years ago, and it was way before I discovered Szechuan Chinese food, Indian cuisine and Thai delights.
It was also way before fast food joints and snack manufacturers discovered anything remotely on the warm side, spicy food-wise.
Today everyone is pushing spicy food.
Jalapenos are all the rage now.
Everyone from Frito Lay to Applebee’s to Burger King are putting jalapenos in their offerings.
Spicy food is everywhere. Buffalo style (fill in the blank); “bold” menu items; Cajun everything; Thai this and Thai that.
Not that I’m complaining.
My yen for bold, spicy and tangy foods clearly started with those latch key lunches in the mid-1970s. Vlasic hot pepper rings was my first experience. I remember it like a woman remembers her first kiss.
But I eventually had to eat something other than hot pepper rings to satisfy my growing craving.
My mom and I used to eat Chinese food a lot but it wasn’t until I went off to college and started working in Ann Arbor that I realized not all Chinese cuisine was of the Cantonese variety.
Spicy Chinese food? Really?
Some co-workers were getting take-out at a Chinese place down the street and it served something called Szechuan, they said. Never heard of it, I replied.
Oh, it’s good, they said. Very spicy and hot.
I probably cocked my head, like a bemused dog does.
But I for sure said that I was in on that!
Part of nature’s nectar
The food arrived and I’m surprised my taste buds didn’t all drop dead of a heart attack.
Never before had they seen anything like Szechuan Chinese food come down my gullet.
What a taste sensation!
So that’s when I got hooked on spicy Chinese food (circa 1982). That would change from Chinese to Asian when I discovered Thai cuisine, some five years later.
If I thought Szechuan (and Mandarin) was hot, I had no idea when it came to Thai food.
Thai food was invented for people like me. Intense heat, but still adjustable for individual taste.
Siam Spicy, on Woodward in Royal Oak, gave me my indoctrination to Thai food. I foolishly ordered it “extra hot” on my first visit. I dismissed the sweet waitress’s warning.
I should have listened to her.
But that painful (literally) experience didn’t dissuade me. I had discovered a treasure trove.
In the early-1990s I found out about Indian food. More delightful salivating ensued.
So here we are today, 40 years after I lost my spicy food virginity, and only now is the food industry catching up.
It’s a generational thing, I’m sure.
I was born in 1963. Today’s target demographic was born some 20 years after that, and they, as a whole, are more in tune with hot and spicy food.
They are less afraid and more adventurous eaters than the generation preceding them.
The products and menu items today reflect that shift in taste bud stamina. Although when the so-called spicy offerings first started to appear, they weren’t nearly hot enough for my liking. Now the heat level is increasing as the demographic is getting younger.
The easiest bet I ever won came some 30 years ago, when a friend wagered that I couldn’t eat an entire bag of extra hot potato chips without drinking anything.
I won a case of Molson Brador beer. Like taking candy from a baby.
I still eat hot pepper rings, by the way. Today I call it comfort food.
It takes about 15 seconds to eat one, from start to finish. They cost about 79 cents a pound, raw at the supermarket. They are made up of bone more than meat.
So why are chicken wings at the restaurant so expensive?
I like a chicken wing as much as the next person. You can do a lot with a chicken wing, in terms of preparation. Chicken wings play nice with the various sauces and batter that coat them.
That’s all fine and dandy, but does that equate to $9.99 for a dozen?
I use $9.99 as an arbitrary price, but that’s in the ballpark.
I think we’re being gouged on chicken wings.
The easy answer, of course, as to why the markup is so high, is that we consumers are willing to pay it.
Let’s face it. Properly cooked chicken wings are a sight to behold.
They are slathered with sauce, which envelopes the crunchy skin, which is deep fried and/or baked deftly, so the meat inside stays tender and moist.
But when not done right, the chicken wing can be slimy, gummy and thoroughly unappetizing.
In either case, you can expect to pay about $9.99 a dozen.
I have no idea why we think that chicken wings are worth the price, but we pay it.
Heck, there’s even entire restaurant chains that devote themselves to the chicken wing.
Buffalo Wild Wings (or B-Dubs, as the cool people say) comes to mind, as it did when a co-worker asked me last week if I wanted to go out to lunch.
We ate at a burger joint, but on the walk back to the office, a B-Dubs loomed.
“Do you like Buffalo Wild Wings?” I was asked.
That’s when I launched into my chicken wing rant, to which you are now being exposed.
As far as B-Dubs goes, the family and I ate there a few years ago and I was underwhelmed. Again, the prices got to me—but frankly, I didn’t think the wings were all that.
B-Dubs boasts that it offers lots of different flavors of wings, which is true. There are lots.
But they’re still chicken wings, and they still take just 15 seconds each to consume. And they’re still more bone than meat.
Let’s face it: have you ever looked at the wing of any bird and licked your lips because they look so meaty?
Even a large Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t have a wing that has enough meat to impress, much less a dinky chicken.
Yet restaurants boldly price their wings at obscene markup and we devour them by the basket-full.
OK, so they offer some celery sticks and blue cheese on the side. Whoop-de-doo.
We actually like to cook our own chicken wings at home, though it is some work to do it right. But we can also buy a huge bag of the frozen things at a dirt cheap price, relatively speaking.
Hint: most butchers will chop your wings up for you, for free, while you wait. That way, you can take them home in the same sizes and shapes as the ones you pay $9.99 for at the restaurant.
Some restaurateur hit the jackpot when he or she discovered that the cheap wing of a chicken could be baked, deep-fried and slathered with sauce and sold at a 500 percent markup. And that’s as an appetizer.
Let’s see. At $9.99 a dozen, and with chicken wings taking 15 seconds each to eat, that equates to three minutes’ worth of eating time per dozen.
That means restaurants are charging us the equivalent of $200 an hour to enjoy their chicken wings! And we have to use our hands to eat them; we don’t even get to use silverware.
At $200 an hour, what are chicken wings? The lawyers of food items?
Not to mention all the dry cleaning bills, thanks to the messy fingers and sauce dripping all over the place.
We’re getting rooked but what else is new, right?
I admit it. I love Taco Bell.
There are so many reasons.
I have mocked it before, but I have been secretly in admiration of how the fast food entrant can make so much with such few ingredients.
Give the folks at Taco Bell a tortilla, some sort of meat, refried beans, rice and cheese, and stand back.
And they do it all without breaking the bank.
I can walk into a Taco Bell, order food for our family of four and still get a few bucks’ worth of change from a $20 bill. Try that at McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s.
I like a good old-fashioned taco for 99 cents. A bean burrito (with extra onions) for $1.49. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything on the menu for more than four bucks.
And the quality? It’s not a matter of “you get what you pay for.” For the price, I think the food is pretty damned good.
I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I don ‘t pretend that Taco Bell is Mexican “cuisine.” But I also don’t experience that “I paid $3.99 for THIS?” feeling, either.
And you don’t have to travel very far to find a Taco Bell, either. They are almost as ubiquitous as McDonald’s.
This isn’t a paid advertisement, even if it reads like one. I’m not getting a dime from the Taco Bell folks. Not that I couldn’t use it.
But it occurred to me that we eat Taco Bell almost weekly. There’s something devilish about walking out with sacks full of food for well under $20.
I have tried Del Taco, which is also near our house. And while I appreciate the delicious, pungent cilantro that is highly present in some of their items, it isn’t Taco Bell—which I know is exactly why some people prefer Del Taco.
Bottom line: Taco Bell isn’t for everyone. But it’s cheap, it’s filling, and it does great in a pinch.
Plus, I love chihuahuas.
Tonight we’re having hot dogs. This is a good thing.
My mom used to call it tube steak. Funny.
I love a good hot dog now and again. There’s so much you can do with one.
Before I married my bride, we took a trip to Chicago for a long weekend. That’s when I rediscovered my love for the Chicago Style Hot Dog.
Wendy’s sold the specialty dogs in the summer of 1988, and I scarfed them up often. I was mesmerized by the combination of celery salt, mustard, pickled hot pepper, dill pickle relish and tomato that was globbed onto the tube steak, which was nestled in a poppy seed, thick bun.
Then the Wendy’s promotion ended and it wasn’t until our 1991 trip to the Windy City that I found a place that sold them. Chicago Style Dogs weren’t plentiful on Metro Detroit menus, I came to find out. You know—our love affair with the Coney Dog and all.
The place in Chicago was called Madison Avenue Dogs, and they used their acronym to name their Chicago Style Dogs.
MAD dogs were a hit with us. Plus I loved the atmosphere in that place.
MAD was connected to a Thai Restaurant, and by the looks of things, Thais ran the hot dog joint, too.
You’d place your order—they offered many types of dogs but MAD dogs were by far their specialty—and the order taker would yell out, “TWO MAD!”, “THREE MAD,” etc., depending on how many you wanted.
My wife and I have dabbled with making our own MAD dogs at home. It’s still a work in progress.
The Chicago Style Hot Dog
But I can go for any type of hot dog—boiled, grilled, what have you. I like the hot dog because it’s one of those foods that turns into your own personal canvas. The hot dog is similar to the pizza in that regard, or a trip to the salad bar. Almost anything goes.
Diced onions, chopped up hot pepper, relish, mustard, you name it. Except for ketchup.
I don’t do ketchup on hot dogs. My wife does, unashamedly. I just can’t get into the flavor combo.
At old Tiger Stadium, the hot dog vendors carried with them two containers of mustard and none of ketchup. Someone once told me that was because the sugar in ketchup attracts flying insects.
Maybe it’s just that mustard is the only proper condiment for a hot dog.
In the TV show “King of Queens,” Kevin James’ Doug Heffernan ate a hot dog with mayonnaise on it in one episode. His friend Deacon called him out on it.
“Who puts mayonnaise on a hot dog?” Deacon asks incredulously.
“I do,” Doug responds. “And one day, so will everyone.”
As far as I’m concerned, other than ketchup and mayo, you can put anything on a hot dog.
Our local Home Depot gloriously serves hot dogs for a couple bucks a pop. It’s difficult to walk by the stand on your way in or out of the store and not stop for a quick tube steak.
But when we have the time and the ingredients, there’s nothing like once again dabbling with the celery salt, peppers, tomatoes, mustard et al.
Isn’t that MAD?
Happy New Year. Or happy new year, however you choose to look at it.
As I watched the big ball drop on Tuesday night in Times Square, I jokingly asked my daughter what life would be like if we did that for the change of every month instead of year.
Seems silly, of course.
But so does, when you think about it, going through all the expense and effort to mark the start of a new year. Or New Year.
It’s perhaps too cynical—even for me—to say that January 1 is “just another day,” but it truly is. It is different, however, in one respect: It’s the one day when no one has ditched their new year’s (or New Year’s) resolutions—yet.
Ahh, about those resolutions.
There’s a funny commercial playing on TV right now where a small boy calls it the New Year’s “revolutions.”
I kind of like that.
You do have to revolt, in a way, if you’re going to commit to doing something different from how you’ve been doing it, which is essentially what a resolution is.
The revolt is internal. A civil war going on inside your body and brain.
The little dudes inside your head have to declare that there is a revolution, and then they have to start symbolically dumping tea into the harbor, i.e. those bad ways you are trying to get rid of.
A new year’s revolution.
I don’t do resolutions—or revolutions—per se. I make mental notes to change and then hope for the best.
Not working out too good for me, but there you go.
I don’t do anything involving weight. I’d like to drop a few pounds, like anyone else. But I don’t do any numbers crunching or obsess with the scale in the basement. Notice I said basement.
I don’t resolve to change my eating habits, which goes along with the above. My wife is Italian and Polish. I get what I get, and I scarf it down happily. If I lose weight because of diet, it’s akin to finding a dollar bill in the laundry.
I don’t make any commitments professionally. I don’t set out to write X-number of blog posts or set any goals at work. That may sound lazy and uninspired and displays a shocking lack of motivation, but I figure, why set myself up for failure?
In short, my revolutions internally are weak and quickly squashed. I’m the Bay of Pigs of self-improvement.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a success and that I don’t care about my body or that I have indifferent feelings toward my fellow man.
It just means that when all is said and done, the status quo is OK. I’ll continue to help out my wife around the house, put in my 40 hours at work and be as good of a dad as I can be. I’ll say my prayers at night and make it a point to perform a random act of kindness now and again.
Wherever that leads me, so be it.
Happy N(n)ew Y(y)ear!
Adam Richman, the moon-faced foodie from The Travel Channel, has been setting out across America to find the country’s best sandwich.
There are 12 finalists in “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America,” which airs on TTC Wednesdays at 9:00pm.
Detroit is represented, as the Yardbird sandwich from Slows BBQ is among the final 12.
In today’s Freep, food writer Sylvia Rector writes that Slows chef Brian Perrone tosses smoked, pulled chicken with sauteed mushrooms and then adds cheddar, applewood bacon and a special sweet-and-tangy mustard sauce.
Sounds scrumptious, as do these sandwiches in Rector’s story. But they all have one thing in common: a strong hint of hoity-toity-ness.
Nowhere in Richman’s series or in Rector’s story, which tells of the Freep’s 2008 attempt to find the Best Sandwich in Metro Detroit, will you see a true American classic.
Give me a good ole BLT (or two) and you can have all your fancy-shmancy sammies.
Is there anything better, really, than freshly fried, crisp bacon layered with ripened tomatoes and crispy (not wilted) lettuce, lightly slathered with mayonnaise and sitting between two slices of toasted bread?
The only thing not good about a BLT is the price of the B.
Honestly, as much as I love bacon, I don’t know why anyone would purchase it if it’s not on special.
I can’t see spending upwards of $5 on a pound of Oscar Meyer or other “name brand” bacon.
We wait till those glorious two-for-$5 specials appear at our local market. Then we snatch up a couple of pounds and go to town.
And watch out for those pseudo specials, where the markets offer 2 12-oz. packages for $5. That’s really only a pound-and-a-half for five bucks, which is tantamount to about $3.33 per pound.
I sometimes make and eat a BLOT, which is simply a BLT with slices of onion.
Crisp is the operative word, however, when talking BLT. Everything that has to do with the sandwich, save the tomato, ought to be crisp; the bacon can’t be gummy, the lettuce can’t be wilted and the toast can’t be soggy. Or else, the sandwich loses much of its appeal.
And oh, what an appeal it has.
Gathering the family around the kitchen table for a bunch of “serve yourself” BLTs is a great answer to the nightly question, “What’s for dinner?”
If you have the patience to baby the bacon during cooking, then you’ve survived half the BLT battle. A proper crisping of two pounds of bacon in a frying pan can take upwards of 30-45 minutes; anything less will result in under cooked, gummy bacon, which is like a tough, overcooked filet mignon in terms of kitchen nightmares.
The tomatoes ought to be ripe and juicy—not orange and hard, like the ones found on a cheap diner’s tossed salad in winter time.
The mayonnaise must be present but not overly so. It’s the goofy uncle of the sandwich, and we all know how obnoxious and insufferable a goofy uncle can be.
The lettuce should be Romaine, if possible, and freshly bought. It has to be able to withstand the bacon’s warmth and the tomato’s juiciness. Wilted, old lettuce can torpedo a BLT’s flavor and feel slimey in your mouth.
The bread ought to be white—not Italian, French or (gasp!) anything Pita. I might get some static here, but I maintain that a traditional BLT tastes best on sliced white bread, lightly toasted.
Cut that sucker in half, diagonally, and you’ll have your own Sandwich of the Year.
This BLT isn’t stacked exactly as I would do it, but it looks tasty
As for how to layer it, that’s up to you. I place the bacon on first, then the lettuce, then the tomato. If it’s a BLOT, the onion goes on between the lettuce and the tomato. Only the top slice of toast gets swiped with mayonnaise. But that’s just me.
One more thing: I like to not put my BLT down once I start eating it. They tend to fall apart if properly stacked. So grasp the sandwich with both hands and then after biting into it, gently release one hand while keeping the other on the sammy, to guard against self-destruction.
It’s an American classic, I tell you, and it’s not just for lunch. BLTs with a soup of choice make a proper dinner.
Make sure you have a bag of fresh potato chips ready to complete your plate. Something pickled works nice, too, as a relish.
If you like the sophisticated sandwiches that Richman is hopping, skipping and jumping to try, or the ones Rector judged in the Free Press, God bless you.
Just give me a BLT, made the way described above, and I won’t be missing out on a thing.
I might be more thirsty than you, but it’s a small price to pay.
The question goes like this: “What would YOU do for a Klondike bar?”
I’m not sure what I would do, exactly, but I’d do some things.
I’d do some things, because there is something wonderfully simple yet with largesse about a Klondike bar.
You know what a Klondike bar is, right? It’s that block of vanilla ice cream generously covered in chocolate, wrapped by hand, it seems, in foil.
When eaten immediately out of the freezer, before it gets a chance to get remotely soft, is the best way to eat a Klondike.
They have different flavors, but I think I like the old fashioned vanilla the best.
They come in packages of six and I start to get sad as early as when the third one gets lifted from the freezer, for that means it won’t be long before we’re out of Klondikes.
Mrs. Eno doesn’t buy Klondikes every week, and that’s a good thing, because absence makes the stomach grow fonder.
Klondikes wouldn’t make me nearly as happy if they were constantly in the freezer, as counterintuitive as that sounds.
There’s a ceetain degree of excitement that I get when I see that a package of Klondikes has made its way into one of the grocery bags that come home.
I know this sounds like a paid advertisement (I wish!), but there really is no generic version of a Klondike, so there you have it—I have to use the name.
So why am I glorifying the Klondike today?
There are two left in our freezer, and I noticed them again today. It got me to thinking about the aforementioned jingle, which in my mind is one of the best advertising campaigns ever created.
The question is apt.
“What WOULD you do for a Klondike bar?”
Because they’re just so gosh darn good.
Ask yourself the question, if you enjoy a Klondike as much as I do (which is doubtful, but even if you’re close, that’s OK).
What would you do for one?
If a Klondike bar was just out of your reach, and the person who could retrieve it for you asked you to perform some sort of a task in order to get it, what would your limitations be?
It’s a question meant to be taken seriously, now!
You can eat a Klondike with your fingers and you don’t have to rush. A firmly frozen brick will last a good five minutes before getting too soft—or before it disappears, whichever comes first.
My Klondikes never get soft.
So what would I do for a Klondike bar?
Just try holding one out of my reach if you want to find out. I dare you.
Burger King knows America all too well.
When in doubt, offer us bacon.
Despite all the saber rattling about eating healthier in this country, the struggling hamburger chain is turning to bacon—fat, salty, calorie-filled bacon—to attract customers this summer.
But here’s the best part: the bacon is being sprinkled and laid on…an ice cream sundae.
You heard me.
The salty-sweet dessert clocks in at 510 calories, 18 grams of fat and 61 grams of sugar.
So what does a bacon sundae consist of? Vanilla soft serve with fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles and a piece of bacon.
It was the comedian Jim Gaffigan who said that “EVERYTHING tastes better with bacon. Foods wrap themselves with bacon in order to taste better.”
But this is a little ridiculous, don’t you think?
No. 2 BK has been scuffling, trying to keep up with No. 1 McDonald’s for quite some time. Burger King’s menu items just haven’t landed as well as they would have liked.
So now they turn to bacon, that old standby.
Early returns, in my highly unscientific poll, aren’t encouraging.
My polling sample consisted of my wife, daughter, and a co-worker.
The responses I got ranged from “That sounds awful” to “That sounds disgusting.”
Yes, that’s a strip of bacon sticking out from that sundae
The new item has already begun to be offered, in Nashville, TN—which should come as little surprise. If anyone likes their fat, it’s the Southerners. The rest of the country will be rolled out starting on Thursday.
The bacon sundae is part of a slew of limited time items which include several pork, beef and chicken sandwiches.
BK has changed its tag line to “Taste is King,” a departure from “Have it Your Way.”
Makes sense. I can’t imagine that a bacon sundae is having it anyone’s way.
But this is the country that has introduced such items as fried dough (Elephant Ears), corn dogs, hush puppies and chicken fried steak to the world.
Who knows? Maybe bacon sundaes will take off.
I mean, it’s a breakfast AND a dessert. If we can’t be healthy, at least we can be efficient.
Towne Club pop isn’t dead. Those rumors are greatly exaggerated.
Well, maybe not greatly exaggerated; it’s not exactly on every shelf around town.
Or should I have spelled it, towne?
But Towne Club, that distinctly Detroit soft drink, can still be accessed.
Our daughter spotted some at Produce Palace, on Dequindre in Warren.
The bottles aren’t the same, bullet thin sized as before. They’re 16 oz. now. But it’s still Towne Club.
If you’re under 30 years of age, you might want to click away. For Towne Club was a staple in the late-1960s, early-to-mid-1970s.
It worked like this.
You bought the pop, in its multitude of varieties, by the case. You could mix and match. The main bottling and distribution center was located on Ryan Road near 1o Mile, if memory serves.
The cases would be purchased and there was a deposit on the case itself—which at the time was a HEAVY wooden thing.
Then you’d bring the empty bottles and the case back, and repeat the process all over again.
Sometime in the 1980s, Towne Club seemed to vanish. Certainly the center on Ryan Road closed. I’ve not done the research, so there may have been a reason. Regardless, Towne Club pop kind of fell off the radar for quite some time.
Over the past decade, I’ve seen Towne Club pop up (no pun intended) at select specialty stores; certainly not in any “mainstream” markets like Kroger, Meijer’s, etc.
The “new” Towne Club bottle: not as thin as the original
The pop itself wasn’t, to me, award-winning, but the varieties were plenty and that was more than you could say about so many of the other soft drinks on the market.
I think what made Towne Club an allure was the process. The whole notion of getting into the car, empty bottles in their cases in tow, and driving to the center to pick out new varieties and bring them back home.
I was a little disappointed when I saw the “new” Towne Club bottle, I must confess. It seems so….fat!
The old bottles could have been fit inside a paper towel roll.
Towne Club pop, I guess, wasn’t just a beverage, to so many of us.
It was an experience.
And one that you can still partake in, I’m happy to report.
Fifty cents to add sweetener to iced tea. Thirty cents for extra sauce on a Big Mac.
We aren’t being “nickeled and dimed” anymore; we’re being quartered—and drawn.
The two examples above happened to my family recently. Our daughter wanted a sweetened iced tea at Starbucks and it cost us four bits. A couple days later my wife asked for some extra “special” sauce at Mickey D’s on her Big Mac and the tab was three dimes.
The markup on some sweetener for a 12-oz. glass of iced tea, at 50 cents per, must be a gazillion percent. Same with 30 cents for another splat of sauce on a hamburger.
Again, these are only two examples. Lord knows how many more there are, of food and drink establishments gouging us for “extras.”
It’s a lose/lose proposition, in my book. The asking price should be negligible, like a nickel. But then, when you ask for a nickel for something, you look petty (probably because you are).
How many people ask for extra sauce on their Big Mac? I don’t expect you to know that number, and I certainly don’t. Yes, McDonald’s is a HUGE enterprise, and if you added together all the people who asked for extra sauce in any given day, I’m sure the amount would stagger me.
But how much does an extra splat of sauce, truly, cost McDonald’s?
It HAS to be calculated in pennies, or even in fractions of pennies.
I know—even fractions of pennies, times the amount of people, could be a lot.
It’s more of a PR thing.
Thirty cents for extra sauce on a Big Mac just seems too expensive. It seems like gouging. Same with 50 cents for some sweetener.
Despite the possible pettiness, I say drop the sauce price to a dime. I’ll bet fewer would be disdainful of the pettiness of asking for a dime than they would for the gouginess of 30 cents.
How about you? If you’ve come across ridiculous fees and charges for trivial requests, let me know, either by e-mail or by commenting below.
I wanna hear your two cents’ worth. Unless that’s up to a quarter now, too.