Paragon at Foxwoods, Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, CT

I’ve noticed that I have some peculiar eating habits. For instance, not many things please me more than a cold drink and a plate of tacos with nary more than protein and sauce, or a grilled hot dog, or a thin griddled burger in a squishy bun. Roadside food. Stand food. My other favorite thing happens to be high-end, experimental, ballsy restaurants with wine lists that casually pair the latest overpriced Kenwood bastardization with bottles of 1998 Haut Brion Pessac-Léognan for the low, low price of $1,745, and with menu items that pop out on the page with crazy combinations and chemistry. I’ve noticed that not a whole lot in between catches my eye. But I don’t see myself as an elitist in any respect, for at the two ends of the tier, both seem to have the most consistency in style, quality, and presentation despite their distinct differences in price.
With this philosophy in mind, we decided to make reservations at Paragon, Foxwood’s elite dining experience for concert-goers like us or players who happen to have a lucky night. Paragon boasted a clever menu with local highlights, an extensive wine list, and a killer Facebook page with drool-worthy photos of their ever-changing ingredients in a few “behind the scenes” peeks. The unfortunate reality of casino fare is that there doesn’t seem to be a good medium in between the omnipresent collegiate buffet and the priciest of fancy restaurants. To give you a realistic idea of our options for our night at Foxwoods, it was either Paragon or California Pizza Kitchen. This doesn’t give enough options to the patrons who want something a little nicer than family-style pizza yet who aren’t too enthused to drop a ton of money on fine dining.
However, Paragon seemed to be the only fine restaurant in Foxwoods that really toes the line with its cuisine. While its atmosphere is distinctly similar to a Nordstrom Cafe Bistro with light jazz wafting over salad and a staid, simple decor, its menu is full of unique twists on New England classics, such as a lobster bisque with a bourbon vanilla float, and a double-wrapped lobster roll with a Thai dip. While we did notice a huge discrepancy in the pricing, like $50 for a prawn dish and a lobster dish but $25 for one steak dish and roasted duck, we reasoned that if we ordered carefully, we’d be able to experience the full spectrum of dishes and keep the price under $200 for two with a bottle of wine.
The dinner menu wasn’t the only thing with significant pricing outliers. The wine list was grossly overpriced. Of course, in a casino, one expects to see a few big hitters just like one goes to a film with the expectation of seeing a few big movie stars. Both are also hideously expensive. It is a fact that simply comes with the territory and one that I was fine with. But since I hadn’t counted cards or hit it big on the tables that evening, I wasn’t about to spring for something over $100 and didn’t expect there to be such a huge block of wines toward the $300+ range. In this respect, the wine list at Paragon faltered in my opinion. I am neither inclined nor experienced enough to pick out a reliable Californian wine for a reasonable price without gambling a bit, which limited me to the Old World reds, red being because I saw the groan-worthy 2006 Schmitt-Söhne “Relax” Riesling in its chlorinated blue bottle for $36 and never looked back. The European reds varied from $36-55 and $95-$5,500 with little in between for neither cheaping out nor splurging. Since I wasn’t ready to give up my next semester of college for a few bottles of $5,500 2006 DRC Romanée-Conti, I went for a comparable Burgundy, a 2007 Bouchard Père et Fils Reserve Bourgogne. A delicious, if unobtrusive and somewhat mid-tier selection that paired well with our meal, but didn’t really wow me.
We started off our meal with a selection of breads and a complimentary amuse-bouche of tempura chicken in a lemon sauce. This was tasty, with my experience marred only due to my recent revulsion to all things yellow and liquified with our recent acquisition of a kitten, but was a crunchy, well-prepared piece of meat in a zesty sauce. A one-noted flavor, but sadly better than most of the Chinese foods in the Western Massachusetts area. It was impossible to tell whether or not the bread was baked in house or if it was simply a standard of all the restaurants at Foxwoods, but it was plain on its own and improved by the lemon sauce and provided butter. Even David Burke Prime has its own special house bread.
Wait service ranges from friendly to lacking. When we arrived at five, the time of our reservations, the restaurant still seemed to be in the throes of opening up. Nobody attended to us for about seven minutes, by which point a line of about six or so people had formed behind us. We also encountered a distinct lack in etiquette while being served. For instance, when we were ordering our appetizers, I chose to try the Tastes of Paragon sampler and my companion, the oyster selection. None of the specials piqued our interest until we overheard another server at the table next to us reciting the specials, including one that ours had neglected to mention. When we inquired about this particular dish to our server, she merely shrugged and said she forgot about it and walked away without an apology. Throughout the duration of the meal, she was flustered and quiet after her mistake, rather than letting it be and continuing in a friendly manner. This was a serious point of contention with us, as the restaurant had conveyed an attitude of prestige, politesse, and precision. The appetizers arrived quickly, served in white bisque porcelain dishes of various shapes and sizes. The special, a soft shell crab with a black bean and bacon vinaigrette was especially delicious, with a crispy tempura battered shell and a wonderful sauce accompanying it. The sauce, which was acidic and smoky, did not impart a whole lot of black bean into its flavor, but did complement the fried crab with its texture and flavor. The bacon was cut in thick and chewy meat treats throughout the dish, and highlighted the light batter and the tender crab meat. This was a generous and innovative appetizer.
The appetizer tasting definitely seemed like a hit or miss operation. On Paragon’s Facebook page, they posted a photograph from early in July of one of their Tastes of Paragon selections, consisting of “crunchy cumin crusted veal meatball “grinder” with buffalo mozzarella, sriracha brown butter béarnaise, and lettuce, pan-fried goat cheese with black truffle vinaigrette, mangalista ham and grilled cheese, and ahi poki with Wagyu beef Singapore noodles.” Perhaps because we were in the early bird time frame, with 5 o’clock reservations, the chef mistakenly thought we would not be open to rich and exciting tastes, as I was brought out a shrimp scampi in a garlic butter sauce, a Kobe short rib in a lemongrass glaze topped with scallions, and a piece of crispy salmon in a saffron aioli with wakame salad. All were served in a shallow dish with depressions for each appetizer. It resembled a high-end dog bowl. Each of these appetizers were lacking in one way or another. The shrimp was cooked perfectly with a butter sauce, but seemed more like “Tastes of Mediocre Italian” than Tastes of Paragon and was banal, despite being well-prepared. This was our favorite bite of the three. The Kobe short rib was tender and moist, but stringy in some parts, particularly the middle, and the sauce was glutenous and bland. The salmon was the only bite that I did not have the inclination to finish. It was not crispy, but rather, overcooked and tough. Each bite crumbled and seized unpleasantly. There was nothing flaky about the texture. The wakame dominated the bite with a salty, pickled flavor and the aioli, though golden-hued, tasted like nothing more than a heavy-handed application of mustard and mayonnaise. I could not detect the earthiness of saffron in the slightest. None of the sauces were tasty enough to smear on the leftover bread.
After our appetizers, we were promptly served our entrees. I was in the mood for steak before Steely Dan that evening and went slightly against the grain of my preferences, ordering an imperial Wagyu ribeye, in the Australian carpetbag style with a Tasso ham, oyster, and mushroom sauté over a sriracha brown butter béarnaise. When this arrived, I was under the assumption that there had been a typo in the menu and that the topping really consisted of Tasso ham and oyster mushrooms, as there did not seem to be any oysters in the dish. They were not, as the carpetbag preparation entails, stuffed into the steak. After some poking around the topping, I found two oysters, one small and one medium-sized, mixed in with the sauté. They were tender but scarce.
The preparation of the steak was partially my fault. I was caught off guard when ordering, thinking about the wine that would later arrive, and mistakenly stuttered that I wanted a medium er, rare steak. I received medium, though not at the fault of the kitchen. The steak was seared well with a lovely, thick crust and was tender and evenly cooked. The sriracha brown butter béarnaise was the tastiest part of the dish. It had a mélange of elements, all well-balanced and complimentary with each component of the dish. I particularly liked the harmony in between the sweet nuttiness of the brown butter and the slight kick of heat at the end from the sriracha. The topping fell a little short of my expectations, as the Tasso ham seemed to be replaced with more of the thick cut bacon from the tempura crab dish. In the interest of full disclosure, regular readers will know that I did not eat the mushrooms, though tolerated them on my plate.
My companion ordered the cumin crusted duck breast with a kumquat relish, spelt, and rashers. The presentation was colorful and varied in flavor, but there were some aspects of the dish that were too glaringly flawed to ignore. We both agreed that duck prepared in a fine dining setting ought to be erring toward the rare side. This was tough, dry, and overcooked. Serving it in unwieldy and large slices did not help. The flavor of the duck was tempered by the kumquat relish, a spicy-sweet medley of fruits and spices. It was moist and crisp with a wonderful blend of Asian flavors. The spelt underneath was firm and yielding but was, again, studded with the thick pieces of bacon that we’d come to know and, at this stage in the meal, avoid. This was the third dish to feature yet another incarnation of bacon. Though one would assume that bacon by any other name- many, many other names; Tasso ham, wooly pig bacon, rashers, would taste just as sweet, it implied to us that the chef had simply gotten a very good deal on bacon that week.
After the hit or miss savory selections, we weren’t too keen on ordering dessert. My gluttonous side relented when I saw the peanut butter cheesecake with peanut praline shortbread, banana, and bacon gelato, despite being baconed out by the end of the meal. My lovely companion opted to finish her evening with a gin and tonic and in retrospect, I wish I had done the same. The one dish where we really counted on and desired the influence of bacon in the flavors did not have any bacon in it at all. The gelato was a blandly pedestrian vanilla and the cheesecake, largely consumed by the neat military rows of banana slices flanking from all sides. The “crust” was two small squares of flavorless shortbread kitty-cornered and topped with raspberries. Without the salinity of the meat, this was a dessert that ached with sweetness. The combination of rich, sugary cheesecake with bananas reminded me of the peanut butter, banana and cream cheese sandwiches my dad used to make me as a child, of course, forgoing the $12 premium. A huge disappointment.
You’ll notice that these photos aren’t up to the quality of my regular ones. When we arrived at the restaurant, I realized that I had forgotten the memory card to the camera at home. I was initially upset because I thought that my photos would come out badly due to not having the camera. But after the meal, I realized that adding the price of the $40 memory card for the sole purpose of documenting this meal would have been an insult in itself. The truth is, Paragon was probably one of the better dining options at Foxwoods. This is probably largely in part due to the positive reviews it has received. Had I seen a critical assessment like my own, I would not have come at all. And for its price, which came out to around $200 as we predicted, we appreciated the innovation of the menu and atmosphere of the restaurant. But when a restaurant believes that it can slack simply because it knows that people will come regardless of service on the presumption that it’s better than Fuddrucker’s, it presents a noticeable decline in quality from the standard of fine dining that eaters and guests like us are used to. It pales in comparison to far more modest restaurants and for its hype, does not deliver.

Kush Cakes

“The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small. -Woody Allen

While walking into my favorite gas station to pick up a pack of Nat Sherman Fantasias for my lady, I noticed a rather disturbing product on the counter next to the cash register and canister of off-brand Slim Jims. (Beef Chevys. Don’t even ask.) Another mari…sh looking, pot…entially overbaked “relaxation” confection? Oh my god. I hadn’t even realized I’d missed it, despite my lack of interest for frequenting truck stops and gas stations. Humiliated and ashamed at my neglect of one of Foodette’s core demographics, the 13-15 year old private schooled class clown, performing a Google search for “lesbian food critic BBW”, I slunk home with this brownie, determined to get to the bottom of this.
Turns out I’m not only missing this one, but another, more disturbingly named product called the Lulla Pie. Jesus. It sounds like a gateway drug to hell. After the success and annoying, placebo effect induced comments of my Lazy Cakes post, I decided to cash in on the scandal and check out what Kush Cakes had to offer, even though my enthusiasm for weed-based products, actual weed (thanks, Massachusetts State Legistlation!) and anything from Spencer Gifts has waned since the bombing of Showtime’s Weeds. Mary Louise Parker, we never knew ye or your hot lesbian makeout sessions.
As my trained package critic’s eye can see, and yes, that applies to packages of all kinds, Charlie Sheen, the graphics on Kush Cakes pack more fun-filled activities, characters, and FDA unapproved warnings on it than a cereal box. MSPaint McTokerson tells us that this is 100% legal and, wantonly emblazoned in the upper lefthand corner, we learn that a real live licensed pharmacist, not one of those paid TV actors, developed this proprietary blend for my pleasure. Do the makers of Kush Cakes even know what proprietary means? And furthermore, once looking it up in motherfucking Funk ‘n’ Wagnells, do they want to stick by that scurrilous adjective?
Those of us who had mothers who loved us in grade school and participated in all the PTA bake sales know that this pastry isn’t taking home any prizes. Personally, I wouldn’t claim ownership to this even if it won the coveted deadbeat dad favorite prize in the afterschool betting pool. I’m so surprised that with delicious ingredients like valerian, rose hips, and malodextrin, this would taste so crappy and gross. For starters, it’s not a pretty princess of a brownie, it’s a malformed, tiny old turd in a tie-dyed package. Oh, sorry- welcome to Woodstock, Arlo Guthrie! I’d be willing to overlook that if it tasted like the farts of Pinkerton-era Rivers Cuomo, but it’s fairly disgusting. Its exterior glistens and sparkles like a certain loveable vampire friend of the youth, and in the three second car ride and ten minute cigarette break back home, managed to crumble off a few flaky, chocolatey dandruff pieces with the hardened exterior of an exoskeleton.
I don’t imagine these will succeed well in the market, especially with the discerning doobie palate of today. Connoisseurs will age their Lazy Cakes and hawk their homemade fare, but cast these aside for a higher quality treat. The herbal, grainy texture and stale scent, like salty, chocolate Play Doh makes for a rather unappealing snack. With a predominantly salty and grassy flavor, these aren’t so much brownies so much as they are edible public service announcements for militant parents to “illustrate” what cannabutter can do to your baked goods. Ridged for her pleasure, natch.

Oh, and as for the effect? Relaxation? Please. My girlfriend is still convinced she’s dating the not-yet-reincarnated soul of a post-night club years Woody Allen in a sexier body. I don’t relax, I sweat. Pass the fucking brisket and get me some real food.

Arby’s Angus Cool Deli Sandwich

Whenever I’m given the opportunity to check out a restaurant outside of town, I feel like I’m going on a magnificent quest for a sacred object. There are a few key differences. Instead of taking my noble steed, I’m cruising along in Shadowcat, Keepitcoming Love’s sexmobile, and leave my panflute and harpsichord mixtape at home in favor of the sensual stylings of Bachman-Turner Overdrive. I like “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” because they are obviously talking about my tits.

Today, I, your stout princess, took a drive to Chicopee to get myself to the nearest Arby’s. Chicopee is marginally less shitty than Springfield, and it took just long enough for me to justify making a playlist and getting a bite to eat while driving to get food, but wasn’t so long that I was disillusioned by the entire idea. The quest was to try the new Angus Cool Deli sandwich, baited by the royalty of Arby’s and provided with a Magical Gift Card of Truth and Monies.
Don’t worry, I’ve done this before.

I’m not stupid. I can see that this is an attempt to infringe upon Subway’s sandwich empire. And to be honest, if I hadn’t thought that this sandwich would literally be the bomb dot com, I would have gone to one of the five Subways in a five mile vicinity of town, forked over my five dollar bill, and watched a show worse than a Tijuana donkey performance to receive a salad inside bread. Seriously. All of those sandwiches are under 500 calories because they stuff them full of more lettuce than a fad diet fanaticist. So I was a little worried. This could have been a covert attempt at astroturfing from my gym, which I’d bumped up an hour to grab this sandwich. “Try our new Cool Deli Salad Sandwich, oh, and do another twenty minutes on the ellipticals, too!” FUUUUUU-
But that wasn’t the case at all. When I got home, in record time, I might add, for fear that the sandwich would disintegrate if I didn’t immediately consume it, the sandwich was already halfway out of its box and clearly happy to see me. This was a sandwich whose attitude could only be paralleled to a hyped up contestant on Legends of the Hidden Temple. I was initially worried that the acidic ingredients would overwhelm the Angus beef, the selling point of the sandwich and that the icky vegetables would be so gross that I’d have to pick them off and that someday, I’d have a partner who asked me to role-play as Hannah Montana in bed.Honestly, all of these worries were irrational, including my Hannah Montana phobias. This was an excellent sandwich. The Angus on its own is the kind of meat that, if offered in my deli, I’d be happy to eat right out of the package or make a dress out of. It’s paper-thin and has a freshly cracked peppercorn flavor, with a moist tenderness and a substantial crust. I really like it. And there is a ton of meat packed inside this sandwich. If I had known there was an Arby’s in the neighborhood, I would have wanted to try the Three Cheese and Bacon sandwich. The flavors really corresponded well with this. I think the restaurant really came up with complimentary flavors for both a hot and cold sandwich. In this one, the tang of the vinaigrette and the mayonnaise create a creamy, savory dressing that coats the vegetables evenly. The veggies are acidic for the most part, but are very fresh and crisp within the sandwich.
The bread is crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, and the sandwich is packed efficiently so that every bite is crammed with fillings. While this isn’t a foot long, I honestly don’t care, because when I get foot long sandwiches, the end inch or inch and a half is usually empty or filled with condiments. Don’t be fooled by the rocks that it’s got. This way, it’s more efficient and consistent from bite to bite. The only ingredient I found to be superfluous was the Swiss cheese. Unsurprisingly, the flavor was buried under the condiments, meat, and vegetables, and just added extra calories. At $5.99, the sandwich fed me for two meals and was worth the price. In completing this quest and consuming a mere 320 calories per half, I can now proceed to my final conquest, the Treadmill of Triumph and Pain, without feeling like I need an extra life or a plus-sized cloak.
Wanna win a $20 gift card to Arby’s? Comment and tell me what your favorite item is from there, or what your best road trip was. Hell, tell me how pretty I am. Compose a ballad on Garage Band. After 20 comments, I will pick a winner!

Zingerman’s Zzzang! Bar

I saw an old friend of mine today. We sat down and had lunch and caught up on the last three years. It was a wonderful afternoon. It’s pretty interesting to see people after a hiatus. You both have ideas of who they were in your head from the last time you saw them, paused in ambered suspension, and those conceptions are slowly eaten up as you see who they are now. I find it fascinating to see how people change.

When I got home, I decided to see if similar emotions translated well to a new candy bar, another Fancy Food Show flavor. The original Zzzang! Bar, and yes, the exclamation point is mandatory like grammatical errors are mandatory to tween Facebook status updates, consists of peanut butter nougat, caramel, and butter-roasted peanuts enrobed in a sexy coating of sexy chocolate. Remind you of anything? Your old pal Snickers? With nearly identical ingredients, it was a toss of the coin and a roll of the eyes as to what this would be…perhaps an inferior incarnation, or a paradisiacal piece of candy!
The candy bar comes in a box covered in cute drawings of candy, which I think is a nice touch. Why? Because I hate the environment like cuh-razy. The bar is then wrapped in a silver wrapper reminiscent of that coating mystery action figures in blister packs. Inside is a treat rarer than all of the Charizards I ever found in my Pokeballs, though. I give credit to Zingerman’s for taking ingredients found in a very popular candy and using them differently. I’d have been happy with a higher-quality Hershey, but I’m practically peeing my pants with this one.
The real key component in this bar was the dark chocolate, a soft, matte coating with an even color and no irregularities to speak of. In using a particularly bold and fruity chocolate, a 65% dark bark, in conservative amounts, it really imparts some of the subtle flavors of this particular bean, like a rich smokiness that complements the peanuts and caramel perfectly. Finding smokiness in chocolate is unique. Finding it in a filled bar is next to impossible, like finding a full bottle of CSP’s Piroguier. Calling the filling nougat is a stretch, but I’m biased as I’m conditioned to view nougat as the hard, fruity Torrone I ate as a child at Christmas. This filling is soft and airy like a marshmallow, but the flavor is fairly sweet and one-noted. I wouldn’t have discerned the peanut butter mixed in if I hadn’t read about it on the box.
The caramel, applied in a more restrained manner than that of its mass-produced cousin, was weak and sugary when I swiped a bit off the knife with my finger, but amplified in intensity when eaten with the chocolate. So unless you’re the type of Dexter-esque candy scientist who needs to dissect a chocolate bar to its raw components to make it worth eating, you’ll probably find the caramel quite pleasurable. The peanuts disappointed me. I hyped them up in my head and after eating one in the raw, knowing that they were just chunks of tooth hatin’ crunch was like waking up on Christmas morning and discovering that the presents are all on layaway and could be repossessed at any moment. That might have been a stretch. But you probably laughed, right?
In all, I can look at the Zzzang! Bar and nod my head in a manner not unlike James Cromwell in Babe. I’m happy with it, it’s delicious, and it’s different than the candy I traditionally eat. In being so, it has reinvented itself in a remarkable fashion. I couldn’t ask for much else in a candy. That’ll do, bar. That’ll do.

Osem Bamba Peanut Snack with Hazelnut Cream Filling

Everyone has some sort of pleasure that they’re able to construe as guilty. Whether it’s guilty because of the potential negative ramifications it may later have, like in the case of the dearly departed DJ Screw, whose péché mignon, the infamous codeine laced “purple drank”, led to his untimely death, or simply a harmless lust a la John Hinckley Jr., everyone’s bound to have one. For me, it’s watching Modern Family. For Keepitcoming Love, it’s the genetically engineered flavor of really, really good fast food. For Swagger, it’s watching Modern Family. And drinking hot sauce out of the bottle. I’m also a huge fan of all things chip-based. Doritos, Utz, Lay’s, you name it, I’ve tipped the crumbs into my mouth.
Thanks to the innovations of Osem USA, I can now achieve my dream of creating the ultimate stoner snack without even having to go bug the kids at the local high school for a joint or two. They’ve created peanut-flavored Cheez Doodles with a Nutella-esque filling in the form of their hazelnut cream filled Bamba snacks. They resemble sweet Combos. I feel like the socialization section of my college career is now complete, having unlocked the final achievement of having the perfect party treat for Ganjafest 2012.
The hazelnut Bamba snacks are a pretty obvious metaphor for the guilt part of guilty pleasures, much like the obvious metaphor of working class oppression in Thomas the Tank Engine. Not really. They have less nutritional value in them than all the lyrics of Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” and yet, like that damned song, are so fucking irresistible. The peanut flavor is predominant in this and comes across as a salty, crumbly presence like the innards of a Reeses. It works beautifully with the corn puff, which provides its own neutral flavor and a crunch. In a blind tasting, I’d have probably guessed this to be of Japanese provenance. You know what weird stuff they’re always doing to their Cheetos.
But the hazelnut comes in at the very end, a subtly textured but powerfully flavored component in the puff. It creates the entire puff to melt in the mouth with its luscious, chocolatey flavor. I love these. They have all the overloaded indulgence of an American snack and the mystique of the Middle East in their baby-covered, flavor mishmash goodness. They are sublime. They could (and do) have a thousand calories in them and I wouldn’t change a damned thing. It doesn’t get guiltier than that. Unless you’re having it with a glass of OJ and a side of Casey Anthony was fairly judged by a jury of her peers, so call a waambulance already.
Did I go too far?

Guilty pleasure.

BK Minis: Original, Cheeseburger, and Chicken

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you guys this, but I was diagnosed with Assburger’s Syndrome a few years back. My family recalls dismissing my odd childhood quirks, but now knowing this, has discovered that it all makes sense. My obsessive nature for cataloguing and researching the various breeding habits of the Wagyu cattle, the two-step burger flip technique I patented and published in Burgher Quarterly at the age of five, my valedictorian speech at high school- “Some may go on to eat burgers. Some, to make them. But you, as you stand here on this bright, sunny day, go forth, denizens of Branford High School, and hold that spatula aloft!”
After being booed off the stage that day, ground beef pelting my mortarboard and gown, it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t normal. Other kids were satisfied with the ordinary, with dry, tasteless burgers from chains. Burgers stamped out in perfectly circular forms from molds. Burgers that they could identify with. In college, I flourished. I found dry-aged Kobe burgers and regional specialties, but still, a persistent thought rang in the back of my head. What is it like to know and love a normal burger? This thought haunting my every move, I finally decided to go into my local Burger King and put this case to rest.
The BK Mini appeared to be the latest trend, along with commemorative Amy Winehouse steins and Justin Bieber skin masks. (Oh, the Google results we’ll get for that.) Offered in a pack of four, the faithful employees of Burger King misunderstood my request in asking for one of each burger. Twelve minis later, and I was out the door. BK has recently employed the usage of a special, plastic-lined burger carrying case, not unlike some of Prada’s recent wares or that of the White Castle Crave Case. Nice try, but unfortunately, it makes Burger King look like a Guitar Hero champ attempting to go up onstage and jam with Walter Becker of Steely Dan. Similar, but obviously and pathetically inferior.
Each burger variety comes in a pack of four, intentionally constructed (at least at my local chain) to annoy the fuck out of you with every step. The buns are stacked one way. These must be torn apart. And the burgers are layered in the opposite direction. These must also be torn. It ends up looking like something you’d want to feed through a catheter instead of eating, further propelling my theory that it would be much easier and a propos to eat the entire burger foursome out of its provided trough without using your hands.We’ll start with the hamburger. All of the burgers had this same level of haphazard placement, as though they’d all been through Hurricane Katrina while their makers were in the middle of watching Cats on PBS. Seriously, how hard is it to match shapes together? Preschoolers don’t even have trouble with that anymore. I requested this without cheese, and received it without cheese, but tasted the unmistakable tang of partially melted American in each bite. I cannot tell you how disturbing this is. Why would a simple burger taste like creamy, chalky cheese? It was creepy. When the cheese flavor faded away, I was left with a dry, chewy piece of beef and a slathering of ketchup and pickles. The two condiments were poorly chosen as each was acidic and sweet and thus doubled up on the saccharine flavor of the burger. A few raw onions would have been preferable, hell, a smear of their zesty sauce would have been better than these. The bread was strangely sweet and too soft for the burger. It would have been more appropriate for a breakfast sandwich or for usage as toilet paper for those with sensitive needs.
I figured the cheeseburger would be better as it would use that cheesy flavor to its advantage. Not really the case, unfortunately. Most of the cheese was painted all over the side of the box. In this burger, the beef was just as over-cooked and rubbery, but thankfully, the ketchup and pickle candy was tempered as a result of the blanket of cheese. These were extremely dry despite having a copious amount of condiments layered on top. The beef must have been soaking up all the moisture. What kind of hellspawn could create this?Oh yeah, that’s right. Burger King. There’s a reason the King’s eyes looked so dead. May he rest in peace. The last of the minis (thankfully, BK knew they’d be attacked by ninjas and Jersey Shore wannabes if they dare called them sliders) was the chicken mini, which I was hoping would be a facsimile of the chicken mini from Chick-Fil-A. Well, it wasn’t. Sadly, it was the best of the trio, which is like saying “Come Sail Away” is the best Styx song. Everybody loses. This particular sandwich brought back all of the painful memories and tense lunchtime trades of the 4th grade without field trips or Pizza Friday. You know the flavor like the back of your tongue. That thin, overcooked, spongy chicken patty glopped with mayonnaise. The sole mini I ate was cold and stringy in the middle with a texture like a rubber ball. The pickle was lost in the overall suckage of this sandwich, leaving behind a texture and nothing more. It was moist on the inside, though, that being its only saving grace. I was asked if I wanted cheese on these. Anything else on top of these would be adding fuel to the fire.I applaud Burger King for trying something new, though in the year 2011, the trend of “new” things seems to be more like rehashing old things that nobody liked in the first place, and remarketing them as new. In this dark time, I find myself missing the 2010 “new” items, where “new” was just an excuse to make weird-ass shit and sell it to people, daring them to consume it. These are just another product sealing the fate of mediocrity in fast food (what a surprise) with gluey cheese and sticky buns. Damn you, Burger King. Bring back the BK Baguette.
For now, these will live in The Freezer of Failed Expectations, on top of the Refrigerator of Truth and Condiments, where they will live out their days wishing they were frozen White Castle sliders before meeting their fate one drunken evening when I mistake them for actual burgers. They will be joining the ranks of similar eateries, like The Suburban. Thank god I’m not burgertypical.

Grilled Sweet Polenta and Balsamic Vinegar and Honey Nectarines

Unfortunately, I’ve had a busy night, so I’m bringing you another set of photos from tonight’s grilling session. New reviews will be up starting tomorrow. Sorry for the delay!
In addition to your nightly food porn, I wish to reiterate that this website, although I love it so, is not a democracy. It is a ruthless dictatorship using sarcasm and sex as weapons, a kind mistress, if you will. This, of course, means that comments should and will be civil. I have had to close comments on one particular entry as a result of all the spammity spam emanating from its bowels. Remember, guys. I don’t really care if you’re butthurt, especially when it’s in defense of a multi-billion dollar corporation. I’m not here to make you happy. I’m here to write about things I love and, more often than not, things I hate. I suggest you hate them with me or visit a more appropriate, friendlier website like NAMBLA or forums about conspiracy theories and aliens.
And lo, I bring you nectarines. I enjoyed this recipe for its mingling of flavors, but found the polenta remarkably difficult to grill even when coated in fine sugar like an upside-down crème brûlée. Next time, I would make thicker cubes or pan-fry it à la French toast.

Roast Beef Smitty Sandwich, State Street Deli, Northampton, MA

I wrote extensively about my lust for the curried turkey salad at the State Street Deli in Northampton, MA, last year. While I was courting the curry, a new item caught my eye the last time we were in State Street, and some five-odd sandwiches later, I can now confide to you that I am smitten with Smitty- the Roast Beef Smitty sandwich, that is.
It combines my love for simplicity in a sandwich and spreads it with a sultry housemade Boursin cheese. With that bogglingly slight change, it transforms a provincial brown bag lunch into a savory treat for the senses. You’d consider it an overreaction, unless, of course, you had one of these yourself. By combining the gustatory, albeit caloric, pleasures of adding cheese and mayo, the Boursin acts as both a condiment and a necessary lubricant for maintaining a textural balance in the sandwich’s core. The saltiness is a predominant flavor, but comes across as a medley of flavors spawning from the roast beef and the spread without overwhelming. The slight tang from the sourdough turns stodgy into sophisticated.
In my daily sniffing around of the grocery store, I pleaded with the cute employees and begged them to sell me the Boursin separately, so that I could make these in my own kitchen, turn into a gleeful, obese monster, and never have to leave the house again. They declined, possibly for fear of lawsuits or losing the 7% of sales I currently bring in, but did indulge my gluttony with the recipe. I have not made it yet. The risk is too high.We ate sandwiches for dinner in lieu of the pasta and meatballs we’d planned on making. The humidity lightly steamed the bread and it stuck to the roofs of our mouths, plastered with cold sesame noodles and buffalo chicken salad as sides. The homemade oatmeal cookie whoopie pie, a larger, softer denizen of the snack cake genre, topped off the night. And who says humid evenings aren’t fun?If you’re not in town and can’t get your hands on one of these, I have a special review in the next few days if you’ve got a hankering for roast beef…

Free Freschetta By the Slice Event

Frozen pizza lovers, this is your wheelhouse, baby. On August 4th, Freschetta Fresh Connection is having a fairly massive giveaway consisting of 5,000 coupons for a free By the Slice product (MSRP $2.39) every half hour for the day, starting at 11 AM when the giveaway’s website,, launches. That gives you the potential to snag one of over 50,000 slices of free frozen pizza. If one slice isn’t enough, Freschetta is also holding contests throughout the day with more coupons for prizes. It’s like a food festival for neckbeards. Not a bad giveaway, if you ask me.

While the coupon is mailed rather than sent electronically, you can satisfy your frozen pizza cravings by seeing what I thought of the pizza here. It wasn’t necessarily the Cadillac of pizza, but I’ll probably grab a few coupons for those late nights studying.

Simple pleasures on a summer day…

…need only include sunny, windy weather and a hot dog a la Blackie’s of Cheshire. As you know, I hail from what ought to be officially known as the hot dog stand capital of the United States- Connecticut. But then we’d have the hamburger (Louis’ Lunch) as well as the hot dog and all the other states would be jealous. Admit it, Idaho.
I don’t boil my dogs. I prefer them cremated to a snappy, crisp finish and slathered in spicy mustard on a steamed bun.
One can never have too much mustard. And yes, there’s another link hiding under there. Oddly enough, it all comes out to be perfectly proportioned.
And as much as I’ve been harping nutritional facts lately, this is a hot dog that has all the frippery of appearing indulgent, but with a caloric count that really won’t make a dent in your diet. After slaving the day away, I’ve been coming home and playing around with my meat. Meat combinations, that is, and found this one to be the tastiest and the least caloric. I used chicken links instead of beef hot dogs and, because I wanted two hot dogs, shaved a bun off by just stacking them both together. I think it had a better flavor because when I had two dogs in two buns the night before, most of the flavors were lost in the squishy sweetness of the split New England bun. The first night I grilled up some dogs (I’ve been eating these for a few days now. I just can’t get enough of them when the weather is nice) I toasted the buns as well, but found that with the charred, salty flavor of the meat, the buttered finish on the buns was too overwhelming.
So, with my variables accounted for and my condiments carefully smeared on, I believe I have created a hot dog worthy of a place on the ultimate list of Connecticut pups. The total calorie count for two chicken franks, one steamed New England split bun, two tablespoons of hot mustard, and a bit of oil or butter for cooking came out to 350 calories (and this is a filling dog) and around 13 grams of fat. I’m sure even that could be reduced by finding a fat-free hot dog or grilling in margarine or a noncaloric cooking spray. I just happen to like the taste of butter. So simple, and yet, so satisfying.