Archives for 2012

Crazy Japanese Kit Kat Flavors

I came to work today and at the front desk was this big variety gift box of Japanese Kit Kats –courtesy of Sam’s business trip to Japan. The flavors were:

  • Edamame-Soybean
  • Pear
  • Blueberry Cheese Cake
  • Shinshu Apple
  • Hot Japanese Chili
  • Brown Sugar Syrup
  • Strawberry Cheese Cake
  • Wasabi
  • Red Bean Sandwich
  • Cinnamon Cookie
  • Matcha-Green Tea
  • Hojicha-Roasted Tea
  • Citrus Golden Blend
  • Strawberry
  • Purple Sweet Potato

Wow crazy flavors …or maybe more that they’re uniquely Asian.

I stood around there with a few of my co-workers trying a bunch of them. They were interesting. A lot of them you’d think would be insane and weird like the Red Bean Sandwich or the Hot Japanese Chili, but the flavors weren’t overpowering. So they weren’t that bad. Still very much a Kit Kat, but a hint of whatever flavor they are.

I kind of liked the Hot Japanese Chili Flavor. It tasted like chili dark chocolate, where the heat kicked in a bit later in the back of your throat.

Green Tea flavor was good. Might sound weird if you never had Green Tea Ice Cream. But if you have, you know it’s a pretty good flavor in sweets.


Tio Wally Eats America: Cheap Tacos

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Casa Grande, Arizona.

If you sail the Interstates for a living, eating fast food is an inevitability. Eventually you will be tired enough or hungry enough or it will be the only thing available or whatever. It’s going to happen. While I avoid fast food as much as possible, sometimes there are actually good things to be had, occasionally at a reasonable price.

Here are two more examples (though one of them is not necessarily very good):

The crew of the SS Me So Hungry was wanting tacos. But not just any tacos: Cheap Tacos. And we found them here in Big House, Arizona.

First we went to Jack in the Box® and bought four of its weird ass versions of Cheap Tacos (Two for $1). And these things are weird. Frankly, I’m of the opinion that, with the exception of Seasoned Curly Fries, the only things remotely edible from Chez Jacque dans la Boîte are the Tacos.

The meat is the consistency of pablum, and any part of the taco shell that isn’t touching the filling is harder than quartz; fossils are softer. I always end up tearing off this part of the shell, usually tossing it out the window to consternate any Seagulls, Crows or Great-tailed Grackles that may happen by with a desire to break their beaks. I was once tempted to whack one of the throwaway portions of the shell with my hammer but I didn’t want to shatter a perfectly good metal tool. Still, I like these curious little things occasionally, yet I have no idea why.

For years I’d been repeating an urban legend, swearing up and down that there was no meat in a Jack in the Box taco. Judging by the taste, look and texture I was convinced that the mystery paste in the tacos was merely another miracle soy product.

The official description says the tacos contain: beef, American cheese (they neglected to put in the generous half-slice of this time), lettuce and taco sauce. However the meat does contain soy and/or wheat filler. But there you have it, straight from the overly large globe-head of Jack himself: It is beef … kinda.

So now you can forget about this little gem that I thought might explain the unique
taste of the Jack in the Box Taco (from Wikipedia): “In 1981, horse meat labeled as beef was discovered at a Foodmaker plant that supplied hamburger and taco meat to Jack in the Box. The meat was originally from Profreeze of Australia, and during their checks on location, the food inspectors discovered other shipments destined for the United States which included kangaroo meat.”

Because the whole world has (no doubt) been waiting with bated breath since the company’s founding in 1951, Jack in the Box has now introduced its first ever Munchie Mobile™ food truck in Southern California. The boxy, brightly painted run-of-the-mill catering truck with “My other truck is a restaurant” emblazoned on its side will never give the ultra-cool Oscar Mayer Weinermobile™ any competition in a design contest. But now Jack can bring its inimitable versions of incredibly crappy food right to your door. Hallelujah!

Next we purchased four tacos (49¢ each) from Del Taco, another chain located mostly in the west.

Del Taco is very similar Taco Bell with two major differences: Del Taco is not grossly overpriced — at many Del Tacos regular tacos are only 39¢ — and the food is actually pretty good.

Whenever I go to a Del Taco I have a routine: I order the tacos with onion (which they add for free) and then — and this is important — I have them put the cheese on first. This accomplishes a couple of things.

First, you get a lot more cheese on the taco and, with the meat laid on top of it, the cheese melts a little bit. But you really have to make a point of it to get this done. You see, the taco-building station is set up exactly the opposite of this order and the poor Taco Assemblers run largely on autopilot. Sometimes they’ll be so confused by my request that I have to dictate how to build the taco: cheese, meat, onion and lettuce, in that order.

You’ve really got to make it clear to them what you want — I’ve even had to explain it to them in Spanish — but they’ll do it. The end result is that you end up with a pretty good taco for four bits (or less).

Del Taco also has some other pretty good, reasonably priced stuff. Its Breakfast Burritos and the Spicy Grilled Chicken Burritos are both pretty good. But to be honest, I usually get the tacos because, well, they’re cheap tacos.

And so we roll.

Jack in the Box, 2,200 locations in 21 (mostly western) states
Del Taco, 526+ locations in 17 (mostly western) states

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

La Caye Haitian Restaurant

I felt like I needed a reason to get out of the house. Good thing Todd IM’ed me about this comedy show at BAM, Get It Out There. Free show and free Heineken.

I got there way early thinking I could start drinking, but I couldn’t get in until 8. So I went across the street to the Haitian restaurant, La Caye. I’ve always wanted to eat at a Haitian restaurant, but this place is a lot fancier looking than I was thinking. There was a live Latin Jazz band playing. They sat me up front right next to them.

I ordered a beer and the Fritaye, which is a fried platter of your choice of beef, fish or pork with akras and green plantains with a side of pikliz ($12). I got the fish and it was pretty good. Pretty good size plate of fried food. I’m glad I got the fish, because I don’t know how beef would have worked fried like this. The sour pickled veggies (pikliz) worked well with the fried fish. Gave it some flavor.

The fried akras were just okay. I don’t know what they are. Mashed brown something and fried.

I don’t care for the fried plantains  Never been a fan of Tostones. I like grilled caramelized plantains, but never fried. Too starchy and dry. Honestly, I was thinking there should’ve been ketchup with this plate.

This restaurant is alright. I was hoping my first Haitian experience was a little more dingy and cheaper. Maybe if I had the same food in a divey place, I would have thought this was awesome.

The BAM comedy show was fun. The comedians were Sean Donnelly, Jon Glaser, Max Silvestri, Gabe Liedman, Phoebe Robinson, Judah Friedlander. I’ve seen and met a few of these guys before. I think one of them lives across the street from me. I just saw him this morning in front of my apartment. Anyway, I’d go to this show again. Free Heineken and chicks.

La Caye – 35 Lafayette Ave (btwn Ashland & St Felix St) Brooklyn 11217

Milan’s Restaurant

Last week, I headed out to visit my friends’ Will (the first chili cook-off champion) and Liz’s holiday party in South Park Slope. Rusty and I used to live down there years ago. Wow, now a decade. I took a stroll around the area before the party. Some thing are still there, but a lot has changed. A lot more hipster bars right around the corner from where we lived. It’s interesting.

I saw this Slovak and Czech restaurant that was still there –Milan’s. I never stepped inside for the three years that I lived around the corner. The awning sign has been renovated. I was planning on trying one of the newer spots that night, but I decided to go into Milan’s for what sounded like some hearty food.

When I first walked in, it was like a record scratch. Who’s this Chinese hipster with long hair walking in? Does he want to give us Chinese take-out menus? That’s the feeling I got. But I get that a lot, so it’s okay.

I ordered a large beer. The older man said the Staropramen is good. Never heard of it. But they had a big sign/mirror on the wall, so I guess it was good. Very foamy on top. I couldn’t tell if he added foam like you would on a cappuccino, but it was similar to that.

The complimentary bread with a dish of scallion cream cheese was pretty good. I think it was homemade.

I ordered the first thing on the menu Sviečková na smotaně, knedle (Sauerbraten in delicious heavy cream sauce w. Dumplings $12.50). For some reason, I thought Sauerbraten was a sausage, but it’s not. It’s slices of roast meat that’s supposed to be sour. It wasn’t really sour though. But I mostly was tasting that “delicious” heavy cream sauce. Also when I was ordering I got confused when he was asking if I wanted potatoes. Yeah, I do. But I also meant I want that in addition to the dumplings. Probably okay. I think in this case, dumplings is just bread. Overall, the dish was okay. Not really terrific, but good for a cold night and it was hearty.

I wasn’t sure if I was done with this place. I saw the little girl in front of me get an awesome looking dessert in a bowl. I don’t know what it was. Jello or pudding or Chocolate? Instead I ordered the Gulášová (Goulash soup $3.70). This was pretty good. More of a tomato-tasting beef broth. Lots of chunks of meat and potatoes. This was like a really hearty Campbell’s Chunky Soup. I would’ve been satisfied with just this bowl of soup. But because it was in addition, I was stuffed.

I then went to Will and Liz’s party. Saw a lot of friends. I wish I had more room for the ham they had there. It was awesome. I was the dick who ate the last piece at the end of the night. But to be fair, it was the only piece I had.

Anyway, if I was more adventurous back in the day and had this food blog, I’m sure I would’ve eaten a lot more at Milan’s. I’m not sure many people had digital cameras back then. That would’ve been expensive to develop photos for each post.

Milan’s Restaurant – 710 5th Ave (btwn 22nd and 23rd St) Brooklyn, NY 11226

Tio Wally Eats America: Chuck Wagon Restaurant

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Meade, Kansas.

Greetings from Meade, Kansas
N 37° 17.084’  W 100° 21.014’  Elev. 2500 ft.

I like cheese. I like hamburger. I like macaroni. Throw it all together and call it a Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole. What could possibly go wrong, right?

I’d slept at the Chuck Wagon restaurant a couple of times before … in the parking lot. This was mostly because I always seemed to run out of hours and/or energy to make it to Liberal — the next “big” town in the endless high plains of scenic southwestern Kansas some 45 miles further west. The only other wide spot in the road between the two points is Kismet. As fate would have it there is no food in Kismet.

But hey, if Meade is a good enough location for Bob and Grat to select as the site of the notorious brothers’ Dalton Gang Hideout — Meade’s #1 tourist attraction and lone claim to fame — it’s good enough for the saintly, law-abiding crew of the SS Me So Hungry to bed down. And there is a restaurant.

So it was perverse-yet-pure kismet that we walked into the Chuck Wagon for lunch, spurs a-clankin’, figuratively speaking of course. And there it was: A Specials Board touting the aforementioned Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole, with potato, corn/roll, salad bar, and coffee or tea, for $8.79. We knew from the outset that it wouldn’t be nearly as good as my sister’s goulash; there are few things in life as good as my sister’s goulash. As it turned out, we were right.

The Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole was irredeemable. It didn’t taste like a cheeseburger. It didn’t even taste cheesy, although it looked like it should’ve. Salt and pepper didn’t help. Mixing in the entire side of can-fresh whole kernel sweet corn didn’t help. It was, indeed, so hopelessly unfixable that even the divine intervention of San Pasqual couldn’t help. It was just a bland mass of ingredients that should’ve tasted good, alone or in combination. But it didn’t.

At risk of sounding technical, it just tasted “blah.” Although the mashed potatoes were pretty good, good smashed spuds can’t make up for a main course being hopelessly devoid of taste/smell/flavor/perceptible sensory impressions.

Thankfully, all was not lost.

The Chuck Wagon actually had some pretty good stuff stocked in its Conestoga Wagon-themed salad bar. Although the plates were way too small a few of the items were kind of interesting. The Cucumber Slices in Sour Cream had a hint of dill and were pretty tasty. And the Macaroni Salad with bits of fresh tomato was likewise really good.

But the Big Star of the Salad Bar was the Broccoli Salad. It was easily the best I’ve ever eaten! And it was so simple. It was just little broccoli florets, big pieces of bacon, and raisins in a slightly sweet mayonnaise dressing. I suspect the dressing was sweetened by the raisins although it was somewhat similar to the dressing on the Macaroni Salad. But damn, so simple and so, so good!

I went in later that night and the special was Chicken Fried Chicken with all of the same sides for $8.99. I didn’t have it because I wanted Cream of Wheat®, which is hard to find. I guess it was kismet that they were out of Cream of Wheat® (there’s never any Cream of Wheat® for Wally), so I got oatmeal ($2.49).

In all, even though the Chuck Wagon was bereft of Cream of Wheat®, bank/train robberies and/or ghostly apparitions of the Dalton Gang (or Elvis), thanks to the Broccoli Salad … Seriously, that’s some damn good Broccoli Salad!

And so we roll.

Chuck Wagon Restaurant, 807 West Carthage Street (US 54), Meade, Kansas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Foodblogging Obama’s White House Holiday Party

Dang. Shonali got invited to the White House Holiday Party with her sister, Ruchi.  A few months back, I dreamt about winning one of those fundraiser dinner parties with Obama and George Clooney. I wondered if I could food blog it if I won. Will they let me bring my camera? Well, I didn’t win, but instead I got spammed like five emails a day from the re-election campaign. Shit. Joke’s on me.

Shonali went and reported on it! Looks like a lot of fun. Oh dang, she panned the lamb!

“A Christmas office party at the White House:

I accompanied my sister to her office holiday party this year and lucky for me she is the Deputy Cabinet Secretary and Special Assistant to the President of the United States.

I was excited to find out that we would be allowed to take pics in the White House during the party. Jason and I had talked days earlier about how cool it would be to food blog an event like the White House Christmas Party. I was certain it was an impossibility. Although I don’t have the skills of a Jason Lam when it comes to food pics, I did take a few showing the spread.

The holiday decorations in the White House are stunning this time of year. Every room had a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Amazing portrait paintings of all the Presidents and First Ladies are hanging throughout the East Wing.

The champagne was flowing and although I can eat a lot, I was unable to try everything they had on the dining tables. My sister and I started w dessert where we each put different items on our plates. I had the coconut cream lemon cake, peach crumble, and chocolate fluffy cake. I loved it all. Yes, I did eat all that. My sister made sure she got a couple Bo Obama Christmas cookies for my nieces. Apparently they are collector’s items.

As for the savory foods, there was a long table… there were figs, cheese, roast beef, lamb chops, rolls, baked cauliflower/cheese pasta, green beans, fingerling potatoes, fennel salad, potato latkes, shrimp, oysters, and crab claws. I piled my plate super high w every intention of trying everything but after my dessert binge it was an impossibility. Standouts for me were the crispy potato latke and tender roast beef and the lamb was meh.

Honestly the entire experience was something I will never forget. I was lucky enough to shake the First Lady and President’s hands at the end of the evening with no expectation of such a thing. It was quite a fabulous event! Thank you (my sister) Ruchi!” —Shonali

Thanks, Shonali! Great job. I’m sure I would’ve been wasted in the White House.

Rusty Fire Crackers

For football watching, Rusty said he was going to make Fire Crackers. I had no idea what he was talking about. But he said they are what fishermen eat down South.

They are saltine crackers with Ranch Dressing (powder) with pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, vegetable or olive oil –all mixed in a bag and then put in the oven to crisp up.

We couldn’t find Rand Dressing powder mix. I haven’t seen dry dressing mix in a long time. Either they don’t make them anymore or they just don’t sell them in the smaller groceries up here in NY. It’s hard to find a lot of stuff up here that you’d normally find in the mega supermarkets anywhere else. I wish there was a Publix in Williamsburg. I also liked Albertson’s because they had a toy aisle.

Anyway, Rusty got Onion soup mix instead. I don’t if it made it better or worse, but dang these Fire Crackers were pretty good. I was impressed, since they sounded lame.

Tio Wally Eats America: Love’s Travel Stops

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in North Baltimore, Ohio.

Greetings from North Baltimore, Ohio
N 41° 10.462’ W 083° 39.101’ Elev. 704 ft.

We love Love’s. So much so that Love’s Travel Stops are the only truck stops where the crew of the SS Me So Hungry will fuel the land yacht. There are a few reasons for this.

One is that they are kept cleaner than most other truck stops. From the fuel islands to the bathrooms, Love’s makes a conscious effort to make its properties as inviting as it possibly can. And for good reason: It’s a highly competitive business to be in. Moreover, Love’s really goes out of its way to take good care of the commercial drivers.

All truck stops have some sort of Driver’s Reward Program. After you swipe your fuel card, you swipe your Reward Card and are awarded 1¢ for every gallon of fuel you purchase. Although a measly penny per gallon doesn’t sound like much, it adds up in a hurry when you’re purchasing an average of 100 gallons of fuel per day; a rule of thumb is a land yacht will average about 6 miles per gallon.

What makes Love’s Reward Program different from all the others is that after you purchase 1,000 gallons in a month you’re classified as Platinum. You have not only earned $10 in credit, you get unlimited free refills of any size coffee, iced or hot tea, or soda (providing you have your own cup) for the following month. They even have hot chocolate. You also get unlimited showers; other places give you a free shower with a minimum purchase of 50 gallons.

Again, that penny may not sound like a lot until you compare it to what the other truck stops are doing. For example, to earn a “free” refill at, say, Pilot/Flying J you have to buy 169 gallons of fuel and then if you use the points — Bam! — all of your points/credits are gone. Pilot/Flying J (it’s the same company) does have a so-called Coffee Club where every sixth cup is free. Thus, if you don’t use any of your Reward points, you pay only $8.45 to get a “free” cup of coffee. Such unbridled generosity.

I’ve never tallied it up but, at $1 per refill, I’m saving a minimum of $50-$60 every month on coffee by fueling at Love’s. But wait, there’s more!

You can use the Reward points for any food and merchandise in the store, except alcohol and tobacco. The points can also be used in many of the fast food restaurants affiliated with the Travel Stops, sometimes receiving a 10 percent discount to boot. Additionally, Love’s always has something or other on sale each month, and quite often it’s a good deal.

In month’s past Love’s had been having Munchies® Sandwich Crackers on sale Three for $1. There are a handful of different varieties of these FritoLay products but my favorite are the ones filled with peanut butter between Ritz-like crackers. There are also peanut butter-filled cheese crackers but they are quite a bit saltier. All of them — cheese, jalapeño cheese, etc. — are pretty tasty. I think Munchies® are easily the best sandwich crackers on the market. And I swear the peanut butter ones are filled with Jif®. At least, it sure tastes like Jif®.

For November Love’s had been doing a Buy 1 Get 1 Free promotion on Double S Ranch (now Double S Foods) Natural Style Beef Jerky. This jerky is really good. Love’s carries two varieties, Original and Peppered; according to the package Double S also makes a Teriyaki flavor but Love’s doesn’t carry it.

It reminds me of some of the homemade jerky I’ve had. Although it’s chewy like run-of-the-mill jerky, unlike most of its bone-dry, shoe-leather counterparts, it’s moist and quite tender. The Peppered flavor is Mesquite Smoked and smells exactly like Campbell’s Vegetable Beef Soup. It also packs a little heat that builds up on your tongue after awhile. At $5.79 for two 3.25 ounce packages it makes for a cheap chew to keep your mouth occupied as you drag down the miles. What a bargain.

I’ve been taking packages of the jerky and distributing them to various folks when I take shore leave. It’s turned out to be a really a cheap way of buying a little bit of fast-fleeting popularity — about two seconds worth, to be precise.

Love’s also had Two for $1 Butterfinger® candy bars. I don’t eat much candy but I bought a half-dozen of the regulation-size 2.1 ounce bars anyway. Now I’m stocked with enough candy to last me until about June.

But the sweetest part of these deals is that it doesn’t cost me a cent. I couldn’t begin to guess how many penny points I’ve gone through over the years. I do know that, in addition to whatever snacks I’ve snagged, I’ve made off with a veritable fleet of die-cast cars of varying sizes for my great nephew.

It’s the little things that makes me love Love’s — from the cheerful greeting when you walk in to there always being a trash can strategically placed right next to the bathroom door so you can use your paper towel to grab the door handle, thus allowing you to make a clean, germ-free getaway. Even my evil twin, crack lead navigator Skippy, particularly likes this little amenity. It makes him feel hygienic. Dream on, Skippy, you mangy, scurvy dog.

And so we roll.

Love’s Travel Stops, nationwide

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.