Monday, September 28, 2015

Spooky Burger

Burger King introduced their new Halloween Whopper today. It’s a regular Whopper with A-1 Sauce instead of ketchup on a bun as black as midnight. Seriously.

In the spirit of the season I got mine by the light of the biggest, brightest full moon I’ve seen in a while. Then, also in the spirit of the season, I had a terrible accident while trying to cut the thing in half.

After I bandaged up my fake injury I gave the Halloween Whopper a try. How was it? Well, basically it’s a Whopper and I like Whoppers. I like them a little better when they have ketchup, to be honest, but the A-1 was O-K. I mean, I’d have preferred the original ketchup or maybe some BBQ sauce but  it was totally fine and when I hit a strong mayo/pickle bite I honestly didn’t even notice the difference.

But what about the black bun? I wondered if it would be pumpernickel or something else weird. Sadly, no. It tasted like a regular sesame seed bun. Then I looked into it. BK isn’t saying how the buns get their jet-black color but it turns out that they tried black buns in Japan last year and they weren’t so cagey about how those things were colored: Squid ink. The buns were tinted black with squid ink. Now that’s scary.

The Halloween Whopper is available through… you know.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

You Say Nut-Ell-A, I Say New-Tell-Uh

I remember reading once that Steve Albini, the guy who produced Nirvana’s Nevermind, hated every band you’ve ever heard of. I get it. It’s cool to be on the cutting edge and into the next big thing before it hits. I know. I was the Steve Albini of Nutella.

That’s right. I was loving Nutella before anyone in my little circle. Actually, I guess my wife would really be the Steve Albini of Nutella since she introduced me to the Italian roasted hazelnut and coca spread shortly after we got together ten years ago. Then again, I guess her friend Lena would really be the Steve Albini of Nutella since she’s European and introduced my wife to the stuff when my wife was a kid. Then again, I guess Europe would really be the Steve Albini of… You know what? It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s all over now.

That's because the stuff has become so popular that the company had to put out a press release on how to pronounce the name. (It’s New-tell-uh, by-the-way, which is how I always said it since I’m cool.) It’s so popular, in fact, that actual news sources actually picked up that press release and ran it because this is information their readers need to have. It’s so popular that you can now get Nutella in a handy snack pack complete with little bread sticks to dip in it.

 When something comes in a handy snack pack it’s officially mainstream. I guess that means that all of us Albinis have to hate it now, right?  Well, I can’t speak for my wife and Lena and Europe but I think I’m going to stick with Nutella a while longer. The stuff is just too damned tasty to bail on because it’s become common. Besides, I don’t care about being cool and not caring about cool is really the coolest you can be.  And nothing says you don't care how cool you look quite like being a grown man dipping a little breadstick in a snack pack and eating it. I'm Albini as hell right now. 

Pizza Emoji Ordering

When I was a kid I thought we’d all have robot butlers and be zipping around in flying cars by now. Damn. The future ain’t what it used to be but we did kind of get a Star Trek communicator. We carry around in our pockets a phone with a computer way more powerful than the ones that put men on the moon and we use it mostly to take pictures of ourselves and our lunch and to say mean things to each other anonymously online. But now we can use it to order pizza with an emoji so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Actually, I love having a computer in my pocket and I love the fact that getting a pizza brought to my house just keeps getting easier. You used to have to call a guy. I hate calling guys. Then you could go on a website. I like websites but that’s a lot of pointing and clicking and typing when I’m trying to sit on my couch and watch TV. Now Dominos has knocked it up a notch. Just in time for football/pizza season they’ve become the first pizza place to offer emoji ordering. Text or tweet them a little pizza picture and they’ll bring you a real pizza. At least that’s the idea. Could it be that simple? It’s a football Sunday afternoon so I decided to test the system.

First of all you need a Dominos account. I write a blog called “Junk Food Jones” so you know I already have one of those. Then you need an “Easy Order” saved. Again, check. Then you set up Emoji Ordering and they’ll confirm that you really want it and you didn’t just accidently hit the button because you’re so pizza starved that you’ve become Hungry Dizzy Hulk and Hulk-smashed the thing accidentally. So they ask if you meant that you really want to set up this whole emoji thing, you confirm and you’re all set.

Then when you want a pizza you just text (or tweet) them a pizza emoji, they text (or tweet) you back a confirmation, you respond with a “thumbs up” emoji and then you wait. I did it and everything seemed to be going smoothly but I was still skeptical. Would this really get me an actual pizza at my actual house to put in my actual mouth? 

Turns out the answer is yes. 21 minutes later my regular guy showed up with my regular pie. He wasn’t driving a flying car but I guess I can learn to live with that disappointment. At least the amount of work I have to do to get a pizza keeps going down. And I can use my phone to take a selfie with my lunch. That’s kind of something, right?

Maybe the future seemed brighter when I was a kid but it’s hard to complain when you’re watching football on a flat screen in high def while eating a pizza a guy brought you because you pushed a couple of buttons. Now if I could just have a robot butler to serve the pizza to me...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two Missing Musketeers

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?”  
--William Shakespeare

Bill had a point about roses (and maybe Montagues) but it’s a good thing he wasn’t selling candy. Names are important in the candy bar game.

Some of them make sense: Crunch bars crunch and Krackel’s crackle. Almond Joy has nuts and Mounds don’t but they are little mounds of sweet coconut and dark chocolate goodness.  

Some candy bar names seem to make sense but actually mean something else. The Milky Way wasn’t named after the galaxy or the milk chocolate it’s covered in but rather because the taste was supposed to approximate that of a milkshake; the Baby Ruth wasn’t named in honor of the baseball player Babe Ruth but rather President Grover Cleveland’s daughter; and the Mars bar wasn’t named after the fourth rock from the sun but rather for the last name of the family who owned the company that makes them. 

And some candy bar names are just real odd balls. I mean, what kind of nut is a Zagnut? Why couldn't they think of anything to call a Whatchamacallit?  Exactly what the heck are "Snickers"? (Actually, I know that last one. "Snickers" was the name of the Mars family's favorite horse. Rich people, man.)

Then there's the Three Musketeers. The name implies that there's a trio of bars inside the package but when you unwrap it you find only one. Where are the other two?  It's called a Three Musketeers. Okay, so the Dumas novel The Three Musketeers name is based on is really about four guys but you get my point.

As a kid I spent some time wondering why a single bar was referred to in triplicate. Lucky for me Al Gore grew up to invent the internet and I grew up to type things into Google so I finally found the answer. Turns out there were two other bars once upon a time. Originally the chocolate covered whipped chocolate bar I know and love had a couple of buddies with him: A strawberry comrade and a vanilla pal. But it turns out that chocolate is a fair weather friend. Oh, sure, it's "All for one and one for all," when life is smooth sailing but when World War Two sugar rationing comes around ol' Mr. Popular Chocolate says, "Screw you guys, I'm going solo." What split up the Three Musketeers? Corporate greed, man. The evil dollar bill. Chocolate alone fed the company's bottom line so the other two bars got the old heave ho.

Oh, Big Candy tried to cover it by explaining away the missing Musketeers with a lame line about how the bar was "so big you can share it with two friends" but forget that. First of all, it's pretty much the same size as every other candy bar and, second, when it comes to candy (at least for me) it's "All for one" period. End of sentence.

Now there are people trying to bring back the missing Musketeers. Someone started a Facebook group demanding their return. I doubt that the Cardinal Richelieus in charge over at Mars, Inc. these days will knuckle under to fewer than 2,000 "likes" so we need to get that count up. With this blog's readership alone we should be able to raise the "like" count by two, maybe three by the end of the decade. Click the link then click the "like". Let's bring back the missing Musketeers!

In the meantime I'm going to honor the fallen by eating my Three Musketeers bars topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream covered in strawberry preserves. It's the least I can do.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ketchup It Up!

My home state of Kentucky doesn’t have a major league baseball team but we do have WGN. When I was a kid, that Chicago TV channel showed all the Cub games so they felt like a local team to me. Next to the snap-buzz of a Star Wars light saber, THE iconic sound of my childhood was legendary Cubs announcer Harry Carey’s "Holy cow!” (And also his late season, possibly drunken ninth inning breakdowns of exactly what was wrong with the team after they’d yet again been mathematically eliminated from the post season by the end of August.) I was such a Cub fan that I took all the money people sent me for high school graduation gifts and used it to make a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field where I got to see the Cubs beat the Mets two out of three and eat plenty of ballpark food.

That's 18-year-old me on the right at Wrigley Field with no shirt sleeves to impede my enjoyment of a ball park pretzel. 

The point is that even though I never lived there I've always kind of felt like an honorary Chicago resident. One of the things that bugs me about my fellow Chicagoans is their militant insistence that ketchup doesn’t belong on a hot dog. What?

The Anti-Ketchup Nazis’ foolish rhetoric has infected others, too, spreading across the country like a virus. A “national council” (who I won’t name because I’m sure they only did it for the publicity) recently decreed that anyone over 18-years-old putting ketchup on a hot dog should be taken out back and shot (I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea). A native Californian, when seeing me ketchup-up a hot dog asked, “What are you, eight?” My answer was, “Yes. When I’m eating a hot dog, I’m eight-years-old again.” Don’t try to stand in the way of the only kind of time travel we’re ever really going to have.

Beyond the nostalgia factor and the fact that someone trying to impose their own beliefs and preferences on others brings out my strong contrarian streak, I just honestly like the taste of ketchup on a hot dog. Alone or combined with mustard (or, occasionally, cheese) the sweetness adds something to the experience. From Dodger Dogs...

 to New York City dirty water street dogs...

 I ketchup coast-to-coast. But I recently realized that I’d never put ketchup on a Chicago-style hot dog. That seems like the ultimate "screw you" to all the anti-ketchup idiocy so, you know me,  I just had to do it.

A traditional Chicago Dog is topped with yellow mustard, white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled peppers and a shot of celery salt.

 The preponderance of vegetables piled on top leads people to say that the Chicago hot dog has been “dragged through the garden.” My aforementioned contrariness makes me want to rant about how a hot dog is no place for a vegetable patch or crack that all the bright colors make a Chicago-style hot dog look like a clown threw up on it. But I won’t. The truth is, I really like the Chicago dog’s combination of toppings and I relished (no pun intended) digging into the first few bites to ketchup (pun intended and horribly forced) my buds so that the traditional taste of the Chicago hot dog was fresh in my mouth and my mind. I did and it was delicious. Then I committed the atrocity.

I laughed while defiling this sacred food with my base and dirty ketchup. I couldn’t wait to take a bite, love it, and declare to the world what a fool anyone is to not ketchup a Chicago Dog. Then I tasted it. Wait. No way. 

I took another bite. Ugh. I finished the damned thing. Yuck. As much as it pains me to admit it, a Chicago-style hot dog is much better without ketchup. I think it’s the relish. That’s your sweet taste right there. Another sweet toping is overload. Plus, the relish combined with the tomato and the celery salt kind of makes it’s own rudimentary ketchup. So I guess my real discovery is that you shouldn’t put ketchup on the Chicago Dog because IT ALREADY HAS KETCHUP ON IT! Ha! Suck on that, food Nazis!

Listen, I’ll never be convinced to go along with any food decree. Keep your culinary commandments to yourself. Those kinds of arbitrary rules just beg to be broken. Besides, once you start trying to force your personal tastes, choices, and downright prejudices on others you might as well just go join the Taliban or whatever. You’re a big part of what’s wrong with the world. But I’ll also say this: Chicago Dogs are way better if you don’t put ketchup on them. You do what you want but – only when it comes to Chicago-style hot dogs, mind you – I’m killing the ketchup. 

Lesson learned. 

Pumpkin Spice Twinkies

There are few junk foods less pretentious than the Twinkie. There are few junk foods more pretentious than pumpkin spice flavor. When I found out that they’d combined the two into a limited edition Pumpkin Spice Twinkie I just had to try the fancy bastard.

So how does the tarted-up Twinkie taste? About like I was afraid it would. My reaction to the combination was essentially the same as my reaction to the limited edition Oreos I’ve sampled: It was totally fine and all but it really just made me wish I had either a good old fashioned, regular Twinkie or a piece of actual pumpkin pie. The Pumpkin Spice Twinkie taunts you, man. Every bite is a reminder that you aren’t eating either real thing. This Twinkie’s not just a show off, it’s a jerk! It’s also a little heavy on the cinnamon.