Burger King Fries – Non-Offensive

Michelle and I just dropped by a Burger King to sample their french fries and stackers.

I’d give the fries about 2 and a half out of 5 stars. They are okay but they are certainly not spectacular. Enough flavor to recognize them as french fries but neither are they greasy enough to be tastey, nor are they crispy enough to be tantalizing.

While I’m critiquing the food, I have to say that the stackers were also pretty bland. I was rather expecting a hickory or barbecue sauce with them, instead the sauce seems to be a combination of 1000 island dressing and a little dab of relish.Anybody who knows me knows that I am not the king of spice but even I was yearning for a bit more zest. They are a good value as far as hamburgers go but the next time I will order them without the sauce and with extra ketchup and mustard, it is a passable burger with some bacon and cheese on it.

Five Guys (5 guys?) Fries – Very Good

I’ve been eating at Five Guys for a couple of years now. Given my love for fries, why do I keep eating ones that I rate as “Very Good” (4 out of 5 stars) and not necessarily “Excellent”? The answer lies in their other two biggest strengths:
The people who work there are uniformly pleasant to deal with, it must be in their credo.
Their hamburgers are also excellent.

I give their fries 4 out of 5 stars. They are usually fully cooked, a little greasy on the inside (a good thing) and often, but not always, crispy outside. When they are done right they are excellent but this is not consistently the case, so I ding them for being somewhat variable. When they are not done *just* right they are still very good, just not up to potential. The provided malt vinegar can go a long way to masking any imperfections so you are covered either way. Order the regular size and split them with a friend or significant other. If you can eat these on your own (even if it’s the only thing you order) then don’t wonder why you can’t squeeze your fat ass into that airplane seat..

If you get their hamburgers, get the small size. The buns are always fresh and the burger patty taste and texture is EXACTLY what I like. I found the large size, which is just two of the small hamburger patties stacked one on top of another, to be WAY more meat than I want or need at a single sitting (unless it is a filet mignon wrapped in bacon… but I digress).

As I said I eat there often. Typically once every 1 or two weeks. Considering they are not very handy to me at work or at home, that’s pretty good.

Two cons, at least for the Five Guys restaurants I patronize:
– They *do* break my first cardinal rule of restaurant music: Electric guitars should never, not ever be playing when folks are eating. They are great in other contexts but not while I’m eating. The music mix played by Five Guys ranges from “Pretty Good” to “I can’t wait to get the hell out of here”.

– Their chairs – they are actually pretty comfortable, and no doubt durable. They are metal made to look like wood – and do so very well. But EVERY time one of them is moved, everybody in the restaurant starts because they are loud. They even out peal the gawdawful music.

If you can eat outside, you won’t regret it. The food is a treat and the workers are great.

Orville is Back and Bursting!

I had to wait until I’d gone through the different popcorn types that I was experimenting with until I took advantage of the coupons sent to me by the folks at ConAgra Foods.

If you’ll recall I was somewhat nonplussed by what I considered to be some rather unenthusiastic batches of Orville Redenbacher popcorn.

So we set up the popper and waited with bated breath for the kernels to start popping and… it was like joyous music. Really. It  was the popcorn equivalent of  Handel’s Messiah as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – in my head at least.

Each kernel gloriously popping to its fullest and filling the container with mouth watering morsels that will be elevated to the highest taste pinnacles with the aid of melted, salted butter and white cheddar topping.

It’s a small thing but important (to me at least) and I’m pleased that my faith in Orville has been preserved.


Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popcorn – What’s happening to you?

I like my popcorn. Many years ago I decided to see if the brand name popcorns were actually worth any extra money and bought several different kinds and tried them against some no name brands and decided that, at least in the case of the “Orville Redenbacher” offering there really was a difference. Like the ads claimed, most of the kernels would pop and the popped corn was very light and fluffy.

I have popcorn at least once or twice a week and for years I have been pleased with the consistency of the Redenbacher brand. My favorite is their “white corn” mostly because the result seems brighter and more festive to me. I cook my popcorn on the stove and use the microwave stuff only now and then as I don’t really favor the seasonings that are used for those (Orville or otherwise).

A couple of months ago I opened a new container of Orville Redenbacher popcorn that popped  in a manner that could only be described as lackluster. Probably a fifth of the kernels had not popped and those that did were unenthusiastic cheerleaders for the Redenbacher brand at best.

So I cracked open my next-in-line container of  popcorn (seriously, I’m not gonna run out if I can help it so I always have a spare…) that I noted had the same lot number and expiry date (Feb 17, 2011) on it. It was also dismal.

So I went to my local store and picked up another container, different lot number, and later expiry date and… exactly the same thing.

On the label, the Orville Redenbacher products have only a phone number that you can call for information or “To leave comments”. I figured I could help them out by at least registering a complaint. But the phone system offers no ability to talk to a live human or to leave a comment. So I left a note with them through their website to voice my displeasure over the apparent lack of quality control in their product recently.

So, as with another quest I’ve undertaken recently I went out to see if there are alternatives to my favorite popcorn.

I picked up a bag of Kroger’s yellow popcorn and a container of “Pop-Secret Jumbo Popping Corn”.

Both performed admirably. The Pop-Secret kernels were *huge* and this did result in somewhat larger popcorn after it had popped. But the simple Kroger popcorn was fine as well. Both had nearly every kernel popping and both I would use again in a heartbeat.

I’ve finished the bag of Kroger popcorn and am still happy with it and I’ve had three servings of the Pop-Secret with no complaints.

My message left on the the Orville Redenbacher site was as follows:

Recently I purchased 3 bottles of “White Corn Gourmet Popping Corn”. That appear to be from 2 different batches.

2 expiring Feb. 17, 2011 and the third sometime in April.

I’ve been using Orville Redenbacher popcorn for about 2 decades now and have always been pleased with the quality and consistency of your product. These recent batches were terrible. Many of the kernels remain unpopped (up to 1/5 of them) and those that did pop were lackluster in their appearance at best being barely puffed.

I didn’t immediately think to try this web site, but rather contacted the number listed on the container that indicated it could be used for “questions and comments” but found no avenue for the latter. So I simply returned the products to the store.

While it is said that “voting with your dollar” is the most effective way to let a company know when it is failing, I have found the Orville Redenbacher brand so reliable over the past 20 years that I wanted to register my concern / complaint with you more directly than simply switching to a different product.

One thing that truly sets the “Orville Redenbacher” brand apart from others (and hence makes it worth the premium at the checkout counter) is the certainty that quality control will ensure that your popcorn experience will always be great. I have to say that that confidence was a little shaken after the first two containers but shattered after the third.

I am hopeful that, if this is a systemic issue, that others have voiced their concern as well and that measures will be taken to correct whatever failings led to my lackluster product experience.

I was somewhat mollified to receive an email response from them within a couple of days that included this paragraph:

Due to the unusually wet growing season, we are forced to use a different drying process to prepare the kernels for production.  This is the likely cause of the unpopped kernels/excess hulls as you¿ve experienced. We are adjusting our processes to reduce the occurrence of this situation. In the meantime, we want to offer you a replacement coupon for ANY ORVILLE product.

True to their word, a week or so later I received not one but *three* coupons for replacement Orville products.

I appreciate it that they would be stand up enough to not only offer a reasonable explanation for the poor experience that I had with their product, but also to go as far as one could reasonably expect them to go to “make it right”.

So this week, with coupons in hand, I’ll be picking up some new Orville Redenbacher popcorn and figure out if the issue was merely a fluke with a temporary cause or if  there really are now issues with the brand.

More to come.

Battle of the Chocolate Milks – Mayfield Lowfat Chocolate Milk

Since there is a dearth of whole chocolate milk options to choose from, and I’ve already opened up this challenge to low fat contenders, I couldn’t resist picking up a “Mayfield Lowfat Chocolate Milk” while at the store last weekend.

Interestingly, the half gallon size (at $3.00) as pretty reasonable compared with the whole milk options which were selling for $2.50 for a quart (1/2 of a half gallon if you are used to metric).

Unexpectedly the lowfat option was significantly darker in color than its whole milk alternative. The taste was commensurately more bittersweet as well.

Not unexpected was the viscosity of the lowfat being much lower than that of the whole. This leads to my perceiving it as being somewhat more watery than I would prefer.

Surprisingly, on its own, it would could well have been passable. But contrasted with the current front runner (Mayfield Whole Chocolate Milk) the lowfat version stands tied for second place with Whole Food’s Whole Chocolate Milk offering.

Battle of the Chocolate Milks – Nesquik Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk

I have already expressed my disapproval of Nestle’s “Quik” chocolate powder. It is just sloppy with big sugar granules and relatively little chocolate. I suppose cocoa is the more expensive ingredient and so they use sugar to fill up as much space as possible.

Their “Nesquik Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk” offering is of a similar bent.

The one positive thing I can say for it is that it was not at all watery which seems to be an issue with low fat anything. So it does have that going for it.

But the color is an unappealing grey/beige and the taste is remarkably devoid of any flavor at all. If you favor subtle then this may be your chocolate milk drink.

Verdict: unappealing

Mayfield is still the drink of choice.

Battle of the Chocolate Milks – Kroger Chocolate Lowfat Milk

Originally I had intended to only use whole milk offerings of the chocolate kind. But Michelle very kindly decided to pick up some samples for me recently while she was in Kroger and they simply didn’t have any. So I’ve expanded my evaluation to include low fat offerings as well.

The first one I tried was “Kroger Chocolate Lowfat Milk”.

The color was OK, but rather predictably it was somewhat watery. The taste also tended toward the bittersweet end of the spectrum.

Do you remember those wonderful, creamy fudgesicles you used to get when you were younger? Well this is instead more like those crappy, watery knock-offs that your parents used to be able to buy by the dozen at the supermarket.

Verdict: Unsatisfying.

Mayfield is still the drink of choice.

Battle of the Chocolate Milks – The Fresh Market

This battle pits The Fresh Market’s “Grade A Chocolate Milk from Jersey Cows” against my last post’s winner, “Mayfield Whole Chocolate Milk”.

The Fresh Market’s foods are very often my favorites. They make some great cakes and brownies  and I expected their chocolate milk to be a strong contender.

They did not disappoint, their chocolate milk offering has a great color and is smooth and flavorful but… misses for me on one crucial element. The taste tends more toward the bittersweet end of the spectrum than does the Mayfield offering.

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of bittersweet chocolate. I’d say that, if you prefer your chocolate a little less sweet than I do, then I think I’d give The Fresh Market’s chocolate milk the edge. But, for me, I have to say that Mayfield Chocolate milk is still the one to beat.

Battle of the Chocolate Milks

As you know, I like my chocolate milk. And with the end of my supply of Hershey’s Chocolate Milk Powder I’ve begun searching for the pre-made chocolate milk brand that is best of breed and is easily available to me.

My other criteria are that it should have a smooth texture (not granular or “sugary”) and it should be something that I would look forward to drinking rather than merely be a utilitarian aspect of my meal.

I was in a Publix store yesterday and all that they had available were “Publix Chocolate Grade A Milk”  and “Mayfield Whole Chocolate Milk“. I’ve elected to skip the skim or fat-reduced versions of these because, really, what would be the point? If I were concerned about calories I really shouldn’t be drinking chocolate milk at all.

The Publix offering was, to put it kindly, subtle. Even looking at the drink you could tell it was not going the be the richest chocolate milk out there. It was certainly not objectionable, it was simply not outstanding.

The Mayfield offering, on the other hand, was a dark brown in color and was much richer and flavorful. Until I have the chance to try some others, this one will be my “favorite”.

RosaMia Restaurant Alpharetta

I’ve been to RosaMia 3 times now and each time have been very pleasantly impressed.

A little on the large side, their lasagna is spectacular. Gastronomic athletes may be willing to finish it but I find it much more satisfying to share it or take some home with me. Equally good has been their pizza and their Panini sandwiches (with a salad) which are exactly the right size and surprisingly tasty.

The service has always been pleasant, timely and efficient and the price is exactly in line with what I am willing to pay for a lunch trek to a restaurant.

Definitely a keeper, I have yet to be disappointed here.