Monday, May 25, 2015

A Million SHU Fast Food? Really?

Weighing in at more than 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs)* the hottest chili in the world is Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper.  To put that value into perspective, Poblano Peppers rate between 1,000 & 1,500 SHUs**, Sriracha Sauce is 2,200 SHUs**, Original Tobasco Sauce is 2,500 SHUs**, Cholula Sauce (my favorite hot sauce) chimes in at 3,600 SHUs**, the popular Jalapeño Pepper delivers from 2,500 to 8,000 SHUs**, and Dave's Insanity Sauce weighs in at a whopping 180,000 SHUs**.

Eating these peppers has been known to cause chemical burns in the mouth and throat, burning eyes, heavy sweats, heart palpitations, and labored breathing.  Some eaters have been hospitalized.  Restaurants and bars which offer Ghost Pepper seasoned dishes, such as, Sliders Sports Bar in Southington Ct., make patrons sign a medical waiver before serving their such dishes***.

Despite the reports of danger, or perhaps because of such reports, fast food and casual chain restaurants have begun offering Ghost Pepper laced dishes, including:
  • Jack’s Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich from Jack in the Box: spicy chicken fillet topped with Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce, grilled onions, spicy jalapeños, Swiss-style cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, all on a jumbo bun,
  • Fiery Ghost Style Burger from Red Robin: a pub style burger topped with a ghost pepper sauce, fresh sliced jalapeños, sliced deep fried jalapeños, and pepper jack cheese,
  • Ghost Pepper Wings from Popeyes: marinated in an “exotic blend of peppers,” including ghost peppers, for 12 hours before being battered, breaded, and deep fried,
  • Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's: natural-cut fries topped with fresh diced jalapeños, ghost pepper sauce, and warm Cheddar cheese sauce.
I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't seen any news reports of fast food patrons being rushed to emergency rooms with chemical burns and breathing problems.  The lack of such reports made me skeptical that these mass produced offerings are actually Ghost Pepper level spicy.

The addition of jalapeños to most of these dishes increased my skepticism.  If a dish is Ghost Pepper level spicy, the addition of additional hot peppers would be unnoticeably redundant.

Thus, I figured the dishes in question have had loads of mayonnaise added to them in order to mellow them down into safer versions of what they claim to be, much like fast food places do with their "Sriracha" flavored fair.
Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendys
Subject: Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's | Date: 05/20/15 |
Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

Not willing to purchase every Ghost Pepper labeled dish on the market, I chose to try the Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's to test my theory.

I should begin by giving kudos to Wendy's for using fresh jalapeños to top their fries.  That alone tells me that Wendy's is trying to make these fries a quality product.

That being said, the big question is, how do they taste?  As suspected, the "Ghost Pepper sauce" was cut with enough mayo to tame it down to Tobasco Sauce level heat.  That's not a bad thing though.  The sauce provided enough spice to make it fun to eat, but it wasn't so overpowering that it blocked the flavors of salt, cheese, and peppers.  All the flavors worked together, making it a well balanced snack.

All things considered, I give Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's 8 out of 10 stars.  I'd eat them, in place of nachos, while watching sports on TV.  However, if you're going to take them home to eat them you should live fairly close to Wendy's, or be able to drive home fast (James Kiester does not recommend or condone the breaking of speed, and/or other traffic laws).  The presence of two sauces will make the fries soggy relatively quickly.

While I haven't eaten all the mass produced Ghost Pepper laced dishes on the market, I strongly suspect that, like these fries, said dishes are spicy, but not insanely so.

*= Wikipedia
**= Scoville Scale found on The Official Scott Roberts Website

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Red Nosed Reaction

On May 21st NBC dedicated their primetime slots to Red Nose Day. I’d seen the $1.00 noses at Walgreens and the commercials, but I didn’t understand what it was. An hour before it hit the air, I put myself into irreverent foodie mode a tweeted that if I wanted a red nose I’d open a bottle of vodka.

From the comfort of my cozy bed, I turned the special on. My HD the screen showed Jack Black being guided, through a city in Uganda, by a 12 year old homeless boy. When the boy showed him the best garbage bins to eat from, my heart sank. When the boy begged to go home with Jack, I completely lost it and cried.

Completely embarrassed by my half assed attempt at online humor, I began thinking about the general unfairness of the world. When I treat myself to fast food, I tend to fill up and leave a few fries uneaten. It occurred to me that in a world of uneaten leftovers and gluttonous pleasure eating, NO CHILD SHOULD BE GOING HUNGRY!

I could site statistics about how many children go hungry each day. It’s been done though. We’ve all heard the numbers, clucked out tongues, and agreed it’s a damn shame. OK, it’s a damn shame. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
At the bottom of this entry, instead of the usual links to related products, you'll find links to a few hunger related charities, including, which you can donate to.

| | No Kid Hungry | Save The Children | Feed The Children |
| Random Acts Of Pizza |

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pulling A "Kanye West"


Photo courtesy of Vintage Sugarcube.
During Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video "You Belong with Me," at 2009's MTV Music Awards, Kanye West burst onto the stage and claimed that Beyoncé had been robbed of the prize.  As tacky as that move was, six years later I'm about to make a similar move.

Jenny Johnson is a San Diego food writer/photographer who revamps traditional desserts with a playful pop culture or retro twist.  On her blog, Vintage Sugarcube, Jenny invites readers to, "take a ride with her in reconstructing classic desserts while not taking life too seriously."  In addition to writing her blog, Johnson;
Unlike food writers, including me, who merely share our thoughts on what we find within the food world, Jenny's sharing recipes for uniquely tweaked creations.

Photo courtesy of Vintage Sugarcube.
Not long ago, we made the tomato soup laced cake from her entry, Chocolate Tomato Soup Cake: [Andy Warhol Chocolate Cake], for my birthday. I realize the addition of canned soup to cake sounds counterintuitive.  However, skeptics, at my birthday dinner, were converted into true believers after only a few bites. The condensed soup makes the cake very moist & rich.

Each year Saveur Magazine  gives "Food Blog Of The Year Awards" to food writers in 13 categories, including "Dessert Blog Of The Year." The magazine opens nominations to the public, then the editorial staff chooses six blogs, from each category, for the public to vote on.

A number of readers, including me, nominated Vintage Sugarcube for "Dessert Blog Of The Year."  Now, I'm not saying she's the first foodie to add soup to cake, or that her blog should have won, hands down.  However, I can't think of another food blogger who writes about dessert with her sense of style. This unique resource should have, AT LEAST, been listed among the six finalists to be voted for.

While I can't give Jenny's blog an award of any recognized consequence, I can recommend that my readers subscribe to Vintage Sugarcube today.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Brannon's Brewery and Pub - A Review

In addition to being an avid foodie, I'm a fan of comic books.  During my last several trips to pick up my weekly helping of heroic fantasies, I've noticed the presence of a new pub, a block from the comic book shop.  Brannon's Brewery & Pub at 3800 SW Cedar Hills Blvd. Beaverton, OR, sits in the space Stewart Anderson's Steak House occupied during the better part of my childhood and early adult life.

Always interested in new sources of beer and fried bar food, my friend, Dani, and I decided to try the place last week.  The pub has a very open and spacious feel, with a series of widely spaced dining tables surrounding a centrally located bar.  Along the left side of the dining area one finds doors to rentable V.I.P. rooms, while the back wall consists of viewing windows which peer into the pub's beer making/storage facility.
Blackboard with beer list at Brannon's Brewery & Pub
Subject: Blackboard with beer list at Brannon's Brewery & Pub | Date: 04/29/15 |
Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

View of in house beer vats from Brannon's Brewery & Pub's dining area
Subject: View of in house beer vats from Brannon's Brewery & Pub's dining area | Date: 04/29/15 |
Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

We arrived around 1pm.  Their lunch menu has multiple sections, featuring a variety of fare.  I was debating between  the:

$9.00 small ($14.00 for the large) Pearl Pizza (herbed olive oil sauce, aged Manchego cheese, shaved Prosciutto, marinated red grapes, roasted garlic, and fresh baby arugula),

$12.50 ($14.00 with fries) Brannon's Burger (a Mt. Shadow Farms beef burger patty stuffed with smoked Gouda, topped with caramelized onions, tomato and greens), and the

$12.00 Three Sausage Platter (a platter of three fine sausages from Mt. Shadow Farms; a bratwurst made with their own Vernepator Pale Ale, a hot Italian sausage and a German sausage; served with a German-style pretzel from Fressen Bakery, Brannon’s beer mustard and house-made bacon jam);

when I noticed the appetizer menu offered $9.00 Scotch Eggs.  I hadn't had a Scotch Egg since my birthday dinner at The Horse Brass three years earlier, so I jumped at the chance to have another.

Scotch Eggs & Fries served with house made Beer Mustard and Garlic Fries
Subject: Scotch Eggs & Fries served with house made Beer Mustard and Garlic Fries |
Date: 04/29/15 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

Swedley’s Scotch Eggs consisted of two medium boiled eggs  wrapped in Hill Meats' Italian sausage, then deep fried.  The eggs were served on a bed of hand cut fries accompanied by jiggers of ketchup and Brannon’s beer mustard.  Being medium boiled, the eggs' yolks were semi liquid serving as a sauce to the pleasantly spicy sausage.  While the savory fried treat didn't need a condiment in order to be tasty, the grainy beer mustard added a sweet spiciness to the dish.

The fries bore skins on both ends and were well seasoned with salt.

I drank a $4.50 pint of Pantechnicon Brown Porter with my lunch.  The Brown Porter is described as having "unmistakable aromas and flavors of bittersweet chocolate and toasted nuts," with an *ABV value of 4.8%.   Honestly, I've had several beers which have claimed to possess notes of chocolate, and none of them, including this one, have delivered on the claim.  Nevertheless, it was a smooth dark beer with a toasted, slightly sweet, taste.

My friend, Dani, isn't the foodie that I am.  She complained about exactly the same thing which I liked about the pub.  She felt the menu was heavy with, in her words, "pumped up food, featuring smoked Gouda, blue cheese, etc...," and there were few, if any, mundane dishes for eaters like herself.  I'm not sure she saw the, aptly named, Burger Burger (a Mt. Shadow Farms beef burger patty topped with fresh greens, sliced tomato, and onion) for $9.00, but I understood her point.

I any case, she finally settled on the $5.00 Garlic Fries.  Like mine, they were fresh hand cut fries, but were seasoned with sea salt and roasted garlic, and were sprinkled with herbs.  While the herbs mostly added color to the helping of potatoes which could feed three people, the fries delivered a nice kick of garlic and salt.

Eaters looking for good beer and well crafted bar food will enjoy Brannon's Brewery & Pub.  I give the place 8.4 out of 10 stars.

Brannon's Brewery & Pub's Hours
Monday-Thursday: 11AM to 10PM
Friday: 11AM to 11PM
Saturday: 11AM to 11PM
Sunday: 11AM to 10PM
Happy Hour 3pm-6pm Sunday thru Friday

* Alcohol By Volume