KFC Boxmaster Grande

One of my favorite restaurants in American really isn’t American at all—Marseilles, in Manhattan, is a replica of a French brasserie. So, given my love of meta-everything, it seemed befitting to hit up the least French restaurant on my second day in Paris—KFC. And yes, that’s a hostess desk you see off to the right. KFC Restaurant is extremely popular in Paris, especially among the younger set of students. On my visit, I didn’t see any American tourists, but the place was still packed. That being said, I wanted to get something a little over the ordinary on my first visit, and the Boxmaster Grande spoke to me in a way that only contextually removed “foreign” flavors can. Packed with spicy chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and inexplicably, a hash brown wrapped in a giant tortilla, it seemed too good (bad?) to pass up.

 And as an added bonus, even after a short walk and a sprint up the six flights of 124 stairs (but how about that view?!) to get to my apartment, it came out perfectly preserved, looking identical to the promotional photo. If you think that our advertising preys on our emotions because occasionally Big Ronald tosses out a “happy” in front of an item to make you feel good, French fast food packaging takes it to a whole other level. Look at the word cloud surrounding Limited Edition—the color blends in with the package so that on some level, you might not even notice it.
Look a little closer and you’ll see that the Boxmaster all but promises you ultimate success, fulfillment, and the energy to live a “100% good” life, at least while you’re eating. The Boxmaster Grande is good—maybe not 100% good, but certainly a tasty and consistent fast food item. The components stay true to the Mexican theme and deliver on the spice without depending on one particular flavor. The chicken was tender, but extremely dry. Luckily, it had a real paprika-boosted kick to it and wasn’t too salty. Because it was pre-made, patches of it were soaked and mushy, an unpleasant surprise, but for the most part, it was crispy.
The accompanying toppings were a mixed bag. The vegetables, three thin slices of tomato and lettuce, were fresh and crisp and gave a nice contrast to the fried and dairy components. The cheese was undistinguished and disappeared under the deluge of bolder flavors. The two side sauces couldn’t have been more polarized. The guacamole was thick and chunky, with pieces of tomato and onion inside. It was as good as Chipotle or On the Border’s guac, and came dabbed in the lettuce like a side salad of its own. The so-called “zesty” salsa, atop the hash brown, was thin and watery and ended up tasting like a ketchup someone had accidentally dumped a boatload of paprika into. The hash brown served as a filler item, albeit a clever one, and ended up squeezing into areas the chicken didn’t cover.

 Overall, I liked getting this, even if it was just as a novelty item. Fast food is not something that I’ll be eating often, due to the aforementioned strange prices, but the KFC looks like it tests out some pretty fun products from time to time. Even if the Boxmaster didn’t quite make the mark, it was still a clever and familiar set of flavors for me. I’m looking forward to seeing KFC take a note from Burger King Japan- caviar and lobster Boxmaster would be worth the price!

Foodette in Gay Paris: Exploring McDo and Franprix

Here I am in France! Not only will this be useful for communicating my status as an alive person in a foreign country, but it will also serve as awesome entertainment for my friends and readers across the sea. As I’ve alluded to before, I’ll be here for five months, and will be documenting my travels and consumption as I can. Right now, I am in a hotel (read: youth hostel!) in the 10th arrondissement of Paris for one night. Tomorrow, I go to my apartment, where I will be cooking and spending the remainder of my days. That is, when I’m not off doing amazing things!

Let’s get a few things out of the way. For starters, I’ve been in transit for the last ten hours. It’s noon here and I have the moral fiber and energy of an impaired zombie. That being said, I’ve adjusted swimmingly to the quintessential French diet of cigarettes, Cachou Lajaunie tablets, and juice in the last three hours. For another, I’m going to be formatting my reviews differently here. As much as I’d like to buy every single strange and bizarre thing that I come across, some of the grocery items here are priced strangely, so I’m going to have to be selective about what I review. For instance, basic sandwiches at McDonald’s can range from $2.50 to $8.50 before you add a drink. I’m going to have to be very careful about what I try solely for the lulz. However, this means that you’ll be seeing many a grocery selection post, like this one.

Today, I spent my first morning in Paris as a young, vibrant adult in a McDonald’s and a grocery store, nursing a sore neck and extreme disorientation. I know, I’m a blast and a half. But here’s an interesting fact: an interesting McDonald’s? In my planet? In France, it’s more common than you think. Take all of the quiet, brooding hipsters from Starbucks in the US. Put them in a McDonald’s. That’s the audience of McDo, and it’s pretty cool. The restaurant is modeled less like a 70’s-era cafeteria and more like a hip bistro where the youth languidly lounge. Desperately in need of coffee, I went for an espresso and a mandine, chosen because I secretly wanted a burger at 9AM and that was the first p’tit dejeuner item I saw. The mandine is like a muffin bottom on steroids. It’s extremely dense, crumbly, and heavy, filled with chocolate chips and chocolate blobs on top, and injected with a Nutella-esque paste, but with more chocolate flavor and salt. Me likey, but a croissant it was not. Tomorrow will bring tastier treats. It was tolerable along with the espresso, surprisingly strong and flavorful given its origin. McDo knows how to coffee here, that’s for sure.

After my breakfast, I wandered over to a branch of Franprix, a local grocery chain in Paris. They have a crazy selection of food. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed, especially in the yogurt/pudding/chilled dessert/specialty goo section. There were at least sixty types of semi-solid sweet food in the refrigerator case, in fascinating flavors like kiwi passionfruit, cheesecake, hazelnut, and almond. Lacking a refrigerator, I held off, but you can expect to see some of these pop up soon. My personal favorites in passing were Jockey yogurt, because I liked the name, and I was pleased to discover that Bonne Maman has a line of desserts using their delicious jam. Also pictured: something called Gü Puds that I want to take home and cuddle or display on the credenza, and Nestle EXTRÊME ice cream cones in an assortment of flavors. 

For a small grocery store, the selection is quite extensive. There were many flavors of cereal I hadn’t seen before, including Crunch bar cereal, and even some of their more mundane items were spiced up with interesting flavors. Mexican wings? Okay, then! There’s one thing I know I’ll be able to get cheaply, though: wine! This entire wall was filled with wines from small Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone producers for well under $7 a bottle. I’m really looking forward to sampling many of them and giving my thoughts on Nobly Rotten.  Plenty of interesting candies to be found, too, ranging from Haribo gummies of all shapes and sizes to more traditional, nostalgic candies, likely from many peoples’ childhoods. 

I also bought this drink. I thought it was unsweetened coconut water, but it tasted like Hi-C and Fruit 2 O had babies and didn’t taste like coconut at all, despite the label. Maybe the parrot’s name is Coco? I’m not sure. I drank it, but it was pretty basic and heavy on the sugar.

And that’s what I’ve been up to so far! For now, I’ll leave you with this pithy bit of wisdom found on a brochure in the hotel: “The champagne helps wonder.” Huzzuh! I’ll be back with a review tonight, and also, remember- next week starts sauce week! Just to spice things up, though, I thought it would be fun to pair French hot sauces and condiments with American jerky, so you’ll be seeing many a review from some of my favorite jerky companies as well. Stay tuned!