Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Whole Foods Charges High Prices..... Well No Sheep Dip Batman!

Whole Foods in New York
Subject: The interior of the largest Whole Foods in the United States, located on Houston Street in the East Village of New York City. | Date: 08/25/2008 | Photographer: David Shankbone |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
According to a recent article in USA TODAY, a current investigation, by New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, has concluded that Whole Foods stores have been overcharging for pre-packaged foods.

Did they really need to investigate to figure this out?  Seriously?  Next they'll look into the allegation that the Santa at the mall MIGHT be an imposter.

There are some things that people, who are paying attention, just know.  When Whole Foods hocks $9.00 chocolate bars, which are roughly the size of a $2.00 Hershey's Chocolate Bar from Walmart, it's pretty obvious Whole Foods isn't a destination for bargain shoppers.

That being said, it's not supposed to be.  Chains such as Whole Food, and the northwest's local version, New Seasons, aren't designed to be places for average shoppers to buy everyday groceries.  Unless someone has a special dietary need (gluten free food, low nitrite food, etc...) buying commonplace groceries, such as boxed cereal & canned soup, at Whole Foods makes no sense.

Food lovers go to such stores for a special high end meats, cheeses, and/or other treats not typically found at an average supermarket.  I go there for specialty cheeses, such as Taleggio, Comte, Huntsman, and Woolwich Dairy's Triple Creme Goat Brie.  My brother goes there for the meat counter's jumbo sized hot dogs when he's hosting a BBQ.  Other people go there for their grass fed ground beef, which is free of pink slime.

Yes, Whole Foods charges more for their groceries.  People know this going in though.  No ones being scammed or duped.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jack In The Box's Black Pepper Cheeseburger - A Review

I like a peppery burger, so when Jack In The Box advertised a new "Black Pepper Cheeseburger" (an all beef patty with two slices of melting Black Pepper Cheese, plus onion rings, hickory smoked bacon, and Peppercorn Mayo, all on a gourmet signature bun) I wanted to try it.

Unlike recent Sriracha & Ghost Pepper labeled fare, the "Black Pepper" title implied, to me, the presence of a hint of spice without a punch of tongue searing heat.  A HINT of spice is right.  I got a hit of peppery flavor on every third or forth bite.  The rest of the time it tasted like a slightly dry bacon cheeseburger.

The "gourmet signature bun" was buttery and soft, granted.  Yet, the Black Pepper Cheese, not to be confused with Pepper Jack, was just kinda there without adding any significant flavor.   Likewise, the onion rings added crunch, but didn't taste like anything.

Flavor wise, the only game day players were the crisp smoky bacon, which was great, and the Peppercorn Mayo, which delivered the occasional bite of pepper flavor.  Said Mayo was the ONLY component to bring any moisture to the sandwich.

All things considered, Jack In The Box's Black Pepper Cheeseburger is an average to below average bacon cheeseburger earning 6 out of 10 stars from me.

I took a picture of the burger, but the angle I shot it at only gave me a picture of the bun. If you click on the title of the burger, in the first paragraph, you can see Jack In The Box's official promo picture, which looks pretty close to what you get in real life.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Newest Bizarre Fast Food Trend

A year ago, pretzel buns & crusts were all the rage.  Then fast food chains began adding watered down versions of Sriracha Sauce to sandwiches and tacos.  Next we were treated to a variety of toned down Ghost Pepper laden dishes.

So, what can we look forward to next?  Apparently, the next fast food trend, to hit the U.S., will be the addition of hot dogs to dishes.  Carl’s Jr. has already begun to market their 1/2lb. Most American Thickburger: a 100% Black Angus beef patty with American cheese, a split hot dog, and kettle cooked potato chips on a Fresh Baked Bun.

Pizza Hut's hot dog crust pizza
Subject: Pizza Hut's hot dog crust pizza |
Source: Courtesy Pizza Hut |
After hocking it in Australia, Canada, and England, Pizza Hut is bringing a Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza, featuring 28 premium hot dog bites baked into the crust, served with a side of French’s mustard, to the U.S., starting June 18th.  Judging from the promo picture, this gem comes in regular crust or the aforementioned pretzel crust.

Rumor has it that Domino's has a similar offering in the works.  Instead of dippable sections of crust, Domino's is toying with a pizza with an outer crust stuffed with one continuous hot dog.  Once the outer crust is stuffed, it will be drizzled with tomato sauce and mustard.

I have tried many things for the purpose of writing this blog.  I'm not going to try this junk.  I can't speak for anybody else, but I don't need to shell out good money to know that, except for the burger patty, the only other meat product I want on my cheeseburger is bacon.  I'm also fairly certain I don't want yellow mustard ANYWHERE NEAR my pizza.

My question is, what kind of demand are these products hoping to fill?  Seriously, are there that many people saying, "I just ordered a pizza, boy I wish I had a hot dog too?"

Are we really so greedy, so over-the-top gluttonous, that we have to have all the goodies at once?  Isn't there something to be said for savoring one thing, then moving on to something else tomorrow?

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
***= TheScarms.com