Why So Serious Eats?

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For the last 7 months or so, I’ve written regularly for Serious Eats. I had been an avid reader of the column since being introduced to the site by my friend, Jon, and jumped at the opportunity to contribute. At the time, I was unemployed and living within spitting distance of no less than 8 Fast Food restaurants. (I actually listed both of these things on my cover letter.)

Writing a regular column was tough. I missed deadlines, took poor quality photos, got a full-time job, and moved to an area where Fast Food (at least stuff from the national chains) is surprisingly hard to come by. This week, Serious Eats and I parted ways amicably. I look forward to reading the reviews from subsequent contributors, and I will always value my time as a member of the Serious Eats family. Thank you to my editor, Niki, and to family, friends, and Internet commenters for the feedback and encouragement.

So without further ado, here is my last, un-published column for Serious Eats. I imagine that it would have likely carried a title like “Reality Check: We Try 5 New Items From McDonald’s Value Menu” and a tagline like “which new item takes the gold?”, and in a perfect world it would have been published during the Olympics. Given the current conflict in Russia/Crimea/Ukraine, I’ll forgo any easy puns. My most sincere wishes to the people of that region for a safe and swift end to the violence.

Reality Check: We Try 5 New Items From McDonald’s Value Menu

Which new item takes the gold?

20140219_McDonaldsValue_Header

I didn’t think of it until I had housed all five of McDonald’s New Value Menu Sandwiches, so you’ll have to settle for a mental image:

5 sandwiches laid out like the 5 Olympic rings.

Dang, that would have been a good one…

But ç’est la vie de l’Fast Food Writer. I’ll try again in Summer 2016.

If there’s a positive flip-side to missing that assuredly award-winning shot, it’s that I’m not bound to the Olympic metaphor for the reviews of the sandwiches themselves. I’m sure that I could have handled it, but why bother? 5 rehashes of tired chicken/burger/sauce/bacon combinations don’t merit Olympic comparison. But maybe I’ll do a number thing just to stay in the spirit. Oh hell:

U

S

A

U

S

A!

20140219_McDonaldsValueMenu_BuffaloChicken

Buffalo Ranch McChicken

Since I was in the mood for something spicy, I went for this one first. The classic spicy/cool combination delivered as expected, personal preference for blue cheese aside. It’s a safe, approachable sandwich with mass appeal.

Comparative Olympian: Shaun White (tough break this year, boss).

Judges say: 7/10

Bacon Cheddar McChicken

“Cheddar Cheese” always sets off my alarm bells when listed on fast food menus/product descriptions. This was no exception, as the cheese was appropriately Cheddar-ish: white and funkier than American, but could have easily been mistaken/replaced by fast food “Swiss” or whatever else they use that isn’t quite Cheddar but isn’t American either. The sweet mayonnaise drowned out most of the bacon salt and fat; sorry bacon fans, you’ll be disappointed.

Comparative Olympian: The Ice Dancers (You think they’re American, right? Maybe? They train in America? Or something? Whatever, when is hockey on?)

Judges say: 5.8/10

20140219_McDonaldsValueMenu_BBQburger

Barbeque Ranch Burger

THIS BURGER HAS CHIPS ON IT!!!… so naturally it was going to break my heart. Impressively, the mini-corn chips retained their crunch, but the pink-ish barbeque sauce was too reminiscent of smoke taco seasoning for my taste. Also, I would have loved to see McDonald’s use full-size corn chips, allowing diners the satisfaction of loudly crunching them in their sandwiches if so inclined, and/or providing the opportunity to eat them separately.

Comparative Olympian: US Soccer (Brazil 2014 is toooootally our year…)

Judges say: 4/10

Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken

I ordered this sandwich, but was given an additional Buffalo Ranch McChicken instead.

Comparative Olympian: You know who. *Author’s note. This was supposed to be a veiled Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding reference, but I just watched the ESPN 30 for 30 piece so I probably need a better comparative olympian. 
Judges say: DQ
20140219_McDonaldsValueMenu_BaconMcDonalds

Bacon McDouble

It’s a double cheeseburger with bacon, and it’s fantastic. Not because it’s a true culinary marvel, but because that combination of chopped onions, pickles, and more ketchup than you know what to do with is a McDonald’s hallmark. You know it’s better without bacon, it’s been that way for 20 years, but the rest is so comfortable and familiar that you don’t even care. We tried to figure it out once: (The Search function on SE isn’t working right now, but I’ll add in the link to the piece later).

Comparative Olympian: Your uncle that swears he was supposed to be on the “Miracle on Ice” team, and you love him for that, but c’mon Uncle Larry…

Judges say: 8.5/10 A Gold-medal Winner

Have you tried them all? Which one takes home the gold for you?

Giving Thanks

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It’s been about three months since my last blog entry. Three crazy, busy, exciting months, but still that’s too long. What better day than today to take a moment for some reflection and words of gratitude.

Family:

I love my mother. She is the woman who taught me [insert everything here]. She is hanging out in Cleveland, OH today alone, having recently returned from a solo trip to visit family in North Carolina. Here are her cats, Fred and Ethel:

Fred and Ethel
It would be nice to be home for Thanksgiving, but mom told me she is having a “grinder” from Alesci’s, so I think she’ll be fine on her own.

My aunt sent me this e-mail this morning. She is 70(?), and has a newer iPhone than I do.

Luv Aunt Amy
I luv you too, Aunt Amy.

To all my cousins (Mike, Ray, Amanda, Eddie, & many more) and all of their our loved ones: I love you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friends:

SimcoeI’m on solo dog duty today while my girlfriend is out of town, but I am appreciative of the generous offers extended by friends to spend the day with their loved ones.

I have met so many amazing people in my life. To all of my friends: Thank you for the inspiration, motivation, and support you provide me. You will never know how much I care for you and depend on you. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and please know that even if you cannot be with your loved ones, we are thinking of you.

Life, Health, and Happiness:

My life is pretty rocking right now. I work with extraordinarily dedicated, thoughtful, service-oriented people as a member of the Craft Beer Cellar family. I am living with a lovely and loving young woman that I love. I ran 3 half-marathons this year. I’ve got it pretty, pretty, pretty good.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Massachusetts Brewers Guild #MABrewFest

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Once again, my friend Heather wrote the piece I wanted to write about tonight’s #MABrewFest (Yes, I’m hashtagging in WP for a reason). You can read her piece here: http://digboston.com/boston-beer-brewing/2013/08/honest-pint-mass-brewers-fest/

Image

But because I will actually be attending this one (unlike Beer Advocate ACBF), I decided to chime in with my DOs and DON’Ts for tonight. Short list, so all are pretty accomplishable.

DO

Use Social Media vigorously. We’re going with #MABrewFest across all platforms (though I’m still not sure what good it is on Facebook). You can add in #craftbeer, #MABeer, and #LaborDayBeertography (There is actually a contest on right now for that one: http://www.beertography.com/) if you’d like. Careful with Untappd. Though technically a social platform, I’ve seen it have the opposite effect at beer festivals more often than not. AND TAG THE BREWERS: Like them on Facebook, Sign-up for e-mail lists. They need and deserve our support, and you can always unsubscribe later.

Try old stuff. Yes the collaboration beer(s) will be interesting, but when was the last time you had a Boston Lager? I’m not being preachy, but let’s give beers that have survived prospered this long some credit.

Eat and hydrate. Can’t believe people still don’t do this one. If you haven’t had time for dinner before the fest, make some and arrive a little later. And yes, this is specifically directed at some of my dear friends!

DON’T

Ask brewers what ‘their favorite beer’ is. Stop it.

Rag on anybody’s beer. Because: Coming Home Safe

Spill your damn drink on me/blow smoke in my face/say some ignorant racist/sexist/elitist garbage around me. Just no.

And last but not least:

[DON'T] FORGET TO BUY TICKETS. 6pm – 9pm TONIGHT at the Seaport World Trade Center.

8 Stories from Maine: Roger

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Sunday afternoon on Maine’s Higgins Beach, while I nursed both a hangover and my second Heady Topper of the day, a friend said, “I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never had one, but this might have been the perfect weekend.”

It was, friends. It was.

And in order to commemorate our time in Portland, ME, I asked my friends Jon, Jessica, Roger, Heather, Lindsay, Erica, and Brett to each write a little piece about their experience. 8 people. 8 posts. 1 amazing weekend. Enjoy.

Roger writes:

There are times when a series of events, by design or by chance, fall into place in a way that can only be described as ‘perfect’.  When, looking back, you wouldn’t change a single link in the chain, or wish a different course had been taken.  For me, last weekend up in Portland was one of those times.

The crux of the weekend was a simple combination of friends with a common goal of enjoying ourselves, regardless of the circumstances, and an open-mindedness for new experiences in a town that begs to be explored.  Nothing was forced this weekend, and the only set plans I was held to was a 6 hour block of pouring beer two ounces at a time.  People drifted in and out of my weekend as I did theirs with no friction, no complaints.

The time I spent in Portland was so rich with food, drink, friends, and discovery that to try detail each piece would be fool hardy and require 2,000 words to do any justice to my experience there.  So I say ‘Cheers’ and thank you to my friends, Maine, and a perfect weekend.

RPM

Thanks for the post, Roger!

8 Stories from Maine: Heather

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Sunday afternoon on Maine’s Higgins Beach, while I nursed both a hangover and my second Heady Topper of the day, a friend said, “I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never had one, but this might have been the perfect weekend.”

It was, friends. It was.

And in order to commemorate our time in Portland, ME, I asked my friends Jon, Jessica, Roger, Heather, Lindsay, Erica, and Brett to each write a little piece about their experience. 8 people. 8 posts. 1 amazing weekend. Enjoy.

Heather writes:

I’m writing this on airplane mode a few thousand feet over the Mid-Atlantic. Because I hate typing on a phone and since Lindsay pretty much said all the serious things I wanted to say, I thought I would take a visual/literary approach instead. So here’s my recap of the weekend via poetry, photos, and charts. And just would like to say one more time that I have the best friends in the world. Also, BEER!

 

An Incomplete Haiku
An Incomplete Haiku
"Drink, Rinse, Repeat"
“Drink, Rinse, Repeat”
Beer We Drank Last Weekend
Beer We Drank Last Weekend
Maine
Maine

Beer Festival

"Out"
“Out”
The Lunch Box-Guaranteed Good Time Correlation Index
The Lunch Box-Guaranteed Good Time Correlation Index
Thanks for the post, Heather!

8 Stories from Maine: Lee

Posted on Updated on

Sunday afternoon on Maine’s Higgins Beach, while I nursed both a hangover and my second Heady Topper of the day, a friend said, “I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never had one, but this might have been the perfect weekend.”

It was, friends. It was.

And in order to commemorate our time in Portland, ME, I asked my friends Jon, Jessica, Roger, Heather, Lindsay, Erica, and Brett to each write a little piece about their experience. 8 people. 8 posts. 1 amazing weekend. Enjoy.

Lee writes:

Our weekend began with late notice that Erica’s cousin would indeed welcome Erica, Jon, and I to stay over the weekend. Saving the cost of the hotel was a nice surprise, but their hospitality was even better. Private bath, coffee and pastries for breakfast, and free? Suck it, La Quinta.

Jon had come up from Washington, D.C. on my urging, and we had both signed up to volunteer for all three sessions of The Festival. Following Friday night’s break-less, beer-less experience, changes were in order. I resumed my post Saturday afternoon; Jon redeemed his ‘complimentary session for volunteering’ offer for same. Neither were easy choices.

Erica was a dear throughout the entire weekend. She brought me a kielbasa and smiles. Nailed it.

Even stuff that sucked, didn’t. Not drinking while volunteering Friday night and Saturday afternoon meant that the weekend wasn’t just a sloppy mess. I have never waited so long for a lukewarm sandwich as I did at Amato’s (See Marc D.’s Foursquare tip), but it gave me some time to decompress with my friends. If Maine bars didn’t close at 1:00AM, there wouldn’t have been any stories of after-hours high jinks for my friends to regale me with the next morning.

In short, get your friends together and head on up to Maine for the weekend. Better yet, just send us money to go to Maine for the weekend. We’re kind of experts.

8 Stories from Maine: Erica

Posted on Updated on

Sunday afternoon on Maine’s Higgins Beach, while I nursed both a hangover and my second Heady Topper of the day, a friend said, “I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never had one, but this might have been the perfect weekend.”

It was, friends. It was.

And in order to commemorate our time in Portland, ME, I asked my friends Jon, Jessica, Roger, Heather, Lindsay, Erica, and Brett to each write a little piece about their experience. 8 people. 8 posts. 1 amazing weekend. Enjoy.

Erica writes:

The Festival Recap 

(Editor’s note: I absolutely butchered the formatting here. Please accept my most sincere apologies, Erica)

Thanks for the post, Erica!