Category Archives: Office Food

Fried Frites=Delicious, Verbose Garbage

On 10/29/10, J writes:

So N and I are on the road this week, but not really. That is to say we’re doing a meeting locally, and we still get our per-diem of $25 for lunch and $50 for dinner, which is way more than we would normally spend for food. Ever try to spend $50 for dinner at Taco Bell? You can’t do it, or at least not unless you hate your ass.

I mean seriously, think about it. Maybe instead of eating Taco Bell you should just order your food, take it to the toilet and flush it. Because that’s all that’s going on; eliminate the middle man.

But I digress. You can’t spend $50 at Taco Bell, but you can at KFC. Just saying.

Back to topic, we’ve got $50 for dinner and a lot of business networking to do, so we’ve been doing dinners at nice places. You know those restaurants that exist in cities you live in and you think to yourself, “I should try that,” but you never do?

Yeah those places.

And we ate at one last night; a Mediterranean something with a funny name. And let me just tell you, there’s a reason why we never ate there before.

It’s fancy name could be translated as “overpriced crap you don’t normally eat.”

It should have been a warning sign when I couldn’t understand the menu. I have two advanced degrees and I make my living as a writer more or less, and I could not understand the menu. I felt like pulling the manager aside and say, “listen, give this to someone on my staff, they’ll show you how to write a proper menu.”

It was all weird stuff, and at the end, pretty much a disappointment. My lobster salad had too many onions. The scallops N let me finish were too salty. The only thing I really enjoyed was the cheese fries (and no they didn’t call them cheese fries, they called them fromage fried potatoes or some such verbose garbage, but at that point I was more than a little tired so I called them cheese fries).

"Fromage frites"...or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for creative food. We can only eat so many cheeseburgers and breaded chicken sandwiches before we weep at the lack of variety in our diets, but there is a point where we should stand athwart the cultural wave and say stop.

Tapas is not fun. Tapas can be translated “expensive food on small plates that you have to share with people you don’t really like.”

And there seems to me to be a universal law that says the more expensive a place, the less food you get and the less of it you want to eat. Super China Buffet? $10.95. What? Let’s hear it for Communist oppresion. Whatever General Tso’s faults, he did know how to make chicken and for a price most families can afford.

I’m joined in my revulsion in this by no less than Donald Trump. Trump, before he became ubiquitous, was profiled on A&E’s Biography when it was just on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. and not 24 hours a day on its own cable spin-off channel.

Trump said despite his money that he would rather eat at Burger King than most of the fancy restaurants in Manhattan. The food was too small and there was nothing that you liked.

You go Don.
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I reply:

I remember last night when the “fried frites” came and you looked over at my and with joy in your eyes and a lilt to your voice you proclaimed, “Cheese fries!”

I was happy for you.
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J writes:

That’s sweet. It was the only thing I was excited about eating after that ridiculous lobster salad that could be affectionately called “lobster scavanger hunt.”

By the way…

Via e-mail at 3:24 p.m.
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J writes:

…you’d be proud of me. I had a chicken cutlet sandwich for lunch. It had broccoli rabe on it. I ate the first half of the sandwich with the broccoli rabe on it. Not the second half, but the first half I did. It’s growth man, growth.
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I respond:

I AM so proud!

Could you even taste the rabe? Or was it a texture thing?
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J bounces back:

A little of both. My previous experience with broccoli rabe was that it was almost inconsequential. It was small flecks of green stuff that claimed to be broccoli, but I couldn’t tell. More importantly, I couldn’t really taste broccoli, so I just went with it. This sandwich had huge broccoli florets that were impossible to avoid and, well, tasted a lot like broccoli. The problem was this sandwich had the sharp provolone cheese melted on top of it, so you couldn’t just pick the broccoli off without losing the cheese. On the second half of the sandwich I cut my losses.

Actually I spent most of the lunch distracted by the bread crumb in R’s head.
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I retort:

Are you one of those people that doesn’t like broccoli? Or more accurately, one of “those people” that despises it?

Because I love Love LOVE broccoli. It’s one of the only vegetables I have liked all of my life. However, I only like it fresh (not cooked).

So I can see how broccoli rabe may have been a challenge for you as far as texture goes. But taste…mmmmm, broccoli tastes delish.

In regards to the cheese on top of the broccoli, I don’t understand why restaurants put cheese anywhere on a sandwich but directly on top (or on bottom) of the hunk of meat the sandwich is built around. I really don’t. This is why Taco Bell confuses me. PUT THE CHEESE DIRECTLY ON TOP OF THE MEAT.  It’s like they don’t want the cheese to melt.

But regardless, I am proud-very. Is Indian food up next?

Also-who is R?
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J writes back:

I don’t like broccoli. If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right. I don’t even like the look or the smell of it.

Your point on how cheese must be on top of meat is valid and well taken. The thing is though, with this sandwich, the cheese had melted on top of the broccoli, but when I attempted to remove the broccoli I managed to save most of the cheese, because as anyone who knows about cheese will tell you, provolone does not melt well.

It also didn’t help that R had ordered a vegetable sandwich; that was two points against her from the start.

I’ve had Indian food. Didn’t I tell you about my adventures at the Indian food buffet?

R is the new ***** ****** person in the ** office.
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Doughnuts: With or without holes?

Via e-mail, beginning at 2:54 p.m. today
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J writes:

I almost bought a dozen donuts on the way to work this morning. I had no intention of eating all dozen donuts. I was going to share them with my co-workers in the communal food cube, where I am known more for my withdrawals than my deposits, but it didn’t happen. I hope the thought will count. It probably won’t.

Donuts are a tricky thing anyway. When someone says they like donuts, they are really saying they like a particular kind of donut, not donuts in a general sense. I like Boston Cream donuts, which as far as far as I know are made only by Dunkin Donuts. If you went and got a dozen donuts and didn’t include a Boston Cream I’d think you had totally wasted your time. You’re probably the sort who buys plain donuts and thinks they are getting the full experience.

And speaking of the full experience…

I have never understood why a glazed donut, or a chocolate covered donut, costs the same as the Boston Cream or a jelly donut. Glazed donuts, as we all know, have these giant holes in the middle where the jelly donut has delicious jelly. If you buy the Glazed Donut you basically paid for a worthless air pocket.

And you’re an idiot who didn’t deserve donuts in the first place.
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I respond:

Wait a minute; I disagree about this hole (get it?) doughnut thing.

Are you suggesting that we be charged more for cream/jelly filled doughnuts?

Also as a fan of cream-filled doughnuts AND plain/glazed, I have to say that there are varieties of doughnuts for a reason; sometimes you’re in the mood for something a little less sweet that you can dip in your coffee, and sometimes you want an inside-out cupcake. Different strokes for different folks.

Finally, as a fan of doughnuts in general, I have to say that the BEST doughnuts are those purchased from a bakery or from the Amish Farmer’s Market on Route 45. Quality-plain and simple. Better ingredients, better price, best taste.
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J replies:

Nice pun.

No, I’m not suggesting we be charged more for cream/jelly filled donuts. I’m suggesting we pay less for donuts with the holes in them. Or at least, refuse to buy donuts with the holes in them on general principle. We should refuse to pay for air, unless we’re radio advertisers.

I’ve heard the argument about different strokes for different folks, but there are some things that are intrinsically better and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so. If you want to have something to dip in your coffee, maybe you try a biscotti, but don’t waste a perfectly good donut. Plus what the hell are you doing dipping things in your coffee anyway? Just drink it like a normal person.

Amish do everything better. If you buy a house built by an Amish person, you can rest assured that your grandchildren will be able to live in  it. If you buy a house made by an American contractor, you better hope it lasts the next windstorm.
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I retort:

STOP IMPOSING YOUR FOOD PURITANISM ON ME.

There are days that I like non-cream-filled doughnuts. I DO drink my coffee like a normal person; I just like to dip doughnuts in it sometimes. Surely, the fact (?) that Homer Simpson dips a plain doughnut in his coffee should change your mind.

Though you do have a point about not paying for “air.” I’d be down with doughnuts essentially morphing into bricks of dried dough (no holes).
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J counters:

It’s not food Puritanism. It is a recognition that some things are just wrong.

And Homer Simpson does not eat plain donuts. Never has. He has donuts with sprinkles and I’ve never seen him dip it in coffee.
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I write:

Okay, maybe you’re right about Homer.

But how can holes in doughnuts be wrong if that’s what a doughnut IS? They’re not; you just don’t like them.  Though I don’t have a problem (like I said previously) about doughnuts being big blocks of fried dough like the image below:


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J:

That is what a specific kind of donut is. Not all donuts. Not all donuts are created equal.
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Me:

But the TRADITIONAL doughnut is one with a hole in it.

Besides, would there be munchkins if there weren’t holes in doughnuts? I don’t think so. I don’t know if the marketing ploy towards “filling the doughnut hole” would have been tried if there wasn’t a conspicuously large portion of dough “missing” from the center of doughnuts.
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J:

Actually the munchkins are just part of the corporate greed that ruins most of the food industry. Munchkins are just the part of the donut you throw away when you are charging people for air that they get because they are not smart enough to order a cream filled donut. Dunkin Donuts said, “hey what do you want to do with this trash? Can we sell it? Sure, we’ll call in a munchkin.” Boom.
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Me:

Some people like munchkins more than regular doughnuts though. I only really like the chocolate ones. But even then I’d rather have a whole doughnut-that’s just me.

Also, munchkins are better for sharing and food-cubing. That way you can pick slowly at them all day long instead of feeling like a fatty for eating two doughnuts; they’re a brilliant means of self and other-deception.
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J concedes:

Both good points

(and then writes to me via e-mail 20 minutes later…)

This came to me while I was on the toilet playing Texas Hold ‘Em on my Blackberry.

The problem with Munchkins is that we are essentially paying for what by any rights is garbage. This doesn’t bother us because it’s unique to the American culture.

Garage sales?

Anyone every notice there’s a one letter difference between GARAGE sale and GARBAGE sale? Even walk by someone’s house during a garage sale and wonder if they didn’t start taking out their trash, get bored halfway down the driveway and just start smacking prices on everything.

Yet garage sales continue because people spend money on crap.

And munchkins are crap.
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I confess:

Have you ever trash picked doughnuts out of the Dunkin Donuts dumpster?

I have.  I didn’t eat them but went around and peanut buttered them and stuck them over the cars of people I didn’t like (along with some friends) in high school.

I bet you could eat them and be fine though. They only throw them out (tied in plastic bag) because they get “stale.”
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J concludes:

Point N.
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What about you readers? Do you have an opinion on doughnuts with/without holes? Munchkins? What qualifies as a doughnut? What about apple fritters or bowties? Are these doughnuts?

Food and Office Bonding

Via e-mail today at 12:11 p.m.
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J writes:

We’ve got a lot of new people starting at the office today, which of course means a lot of food because you can’t say “welcome to your new job” without a cupcake or a cola, I figure. It’s just part of the culture. When someone comes to your house you offer them something to drink unless you’re socially inept, so in a world where the lines between work and not-work are increasingly blurred, and where we spend conscious time at the office than we do at home, it follows that when someone comes to our office we’d offer them something to eat.

I have always marveled at the popularity of office food. People who work in offices are obviously employed, but we attack community office food as if we were homeless victims of starvation.

There’s an interesting sociology going on here…particularly for those involved in employee retention.

Food is a good measure of how close your relationship is. First dates are often done at restaurants where someone else is responsible for the food. As we get closer to a person, we invite them to eat at our house. If you want to know who your best friend is, ask yourself how comfortable you’d be with them coming over to your house, opening your refrigerator and fixing a sandwich. If you’re fine with that, you’re very close.

In the office, food forms an interesting social bond that creates an artificial closeness. Leaving a job for another job often becomes more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve spoken with several people who are looking to make a switch from one job to another, but can’t make the leap for some subconscious reason they can’t quite articulate.

I remind them—a job is not a marriage; your co-workers are not your family. You haven’t made a lifetime commitment. It’s blindingly obvious, but like most blindingly obvious points only gets recalled after a reminder.

I suspect people feel this bond because, well, they’ve had a lot of cake in the conference room.

But I’m just speculating.

On Sharing Food

Via e-mail yesterday at 1:58 p.m.
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J writes:

Sharing food is all the rage these days what with tapas–fancy talk for expensive little plates of food–restaurants springing up all over American cities. On a recent trip to DC, it seemed like I couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a tapas restaurant.

I do not like to share food. There, I said it.

Yes, I know that we were taught to share from the time we were in pre-school, and its supposedly some universal good, but sometimes I just want to say “no, buy your own friggin pancakes” rather than succumb to this societal pressure.

A recent business lunch with an important client had me sharing food, and when my office mates (who I habitually and loudly do not share food with) found out about this they were aghast.

So let me, for the record, stipulate where I draw the sharing line.

If you are a homeless person, and you approach me in a restaurant asking me to share my lunch, I will share with you. I’m not a monster. Of course, if you’re a homeless person and are reading this blog it makes me wonder how you can afford a computer but not a sandwich…so maybe you just better not ask. Just keep voting Democrat, everything will be fine.

If we are out to lunch together and you want the chicken tacos and I want the steak tacos, it is perfectly acceptable for us to order one of each and share them provided that we each have the same number of tacos at the end of the exchange. Same rules apply to half portions of sandwiches. This, however, does not work for salads because it’s hard to portion out the good parts of a salad (dressing, croutons) from all that extraneous lettuce. It also doesn’t work if you order pasta and I order steak; it’s not even in the same league.

No, I will not let you “try” what I’m eating. This is not sharing. This is mooching. Exceptions are made for my children who I am trying to get to eat something beyond chicken nuggets. I suppose when I was a single man I would have let you try my food in the hope of sleeping with you later on, but I’ve been married for a while, so I no longer try to pick up women, and my wife knows me well enough to know it’s just easier for her to order her own food.

No, I will not “trade” with you if you don’t like what you ordered. It’s not my fault. Go around and stare at other people’s plates like a normal person if you can’t properly imagine what the food is like from the descriptions on the menu.

And for the love of God, please stop ruining Chinese dinners by ordering a bunch of plates for everyone to “share.” This is not about sharing. It’s just so some cheapskate can order sugar cracked snow peas and scam off my General Tso’s chicken. If you wanted chicken you should have ordered it; you’ll know better next time.

We’re trying to have a society people.
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My favorite yet.

Lunch on Friday

An email exchange from 6/23/10 between several members of the department…
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From T:

After a fun conversation about food with J, as always, we decided to venture to Primo Hoagies on 11th and Walnut for lunch this Friday.

Anyone else interested?

Think about it…there’s time to decide 🙂

Menu is below, and remember – “It’s not just a hoagie, it’s a primo”

http://www.primohoagies.com
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M responds:

I’m off… but jealous! Seriously, I LOVE hoagies. My favorite flavor is “American.”
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J decries:

Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph Saint Francis and All the Birds.

“American,” is not a hoagie flavor. It’s possibly the lamest hoagie selection in all of hoagiedom. You can get an “American” hoagie, which is actually a combination of very lame flavorless meats compared to the “Italian” hoagie, which just goes to show that Italians do everything better when it comes to food, at any food truck. This is Primo Hoagies, where things are more creative. If you order an “American Hoagie,” you are wasting your time. You may as well go to Baskin Robbin’s 49 flavors and order vanilla. Ugh.

That’s all.
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T responds:

HAHAHA – J you are too much!!!!

Even though I too love American hoagies (love Italian hoagies even more), you totally used your power of persuasion and made me see the light. For that I am eternally grateful and my hoagie experience at Primos will always be sacred.
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J opines:

Any place with a variety of vegetarian choices (N!!!) deserves some credit for creativity. We at least owe them the respect to not order something as lame as an American Hoagie.

American Hoagies have bologna. Bologna, people. You know what else eats bologna? Toddlers whose taste buds haven’t totally developed.

I’m just saying.
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That’s the end of the e-mail exchange. But I wanted to share the following, as it is apropos and hilarious.

Jim Gaffigan has banging material from his “Beyond the Pale” tour about bologna- “Steak is like the tuxedo of meat and bolonga is the retarded cousin. If you’re eating steak, something special is happening. If you’re eating bologna, you might be special. ”

He also does a bit on bologna from his “King Baby” comedy special.

Community Kitchen

Via e-mail yesterday at 4:32 p.m.
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There has been an overabundance of food in the community refrigerators. The most obvious way for this not to go to waste is to eat it, so…

  1. Anything that is more than what a single person could consume for lunch is fair game. We don’t want your groceries.
  2. Anything left after 2:00 p.m. is fair game.

The refrigerator can then become a sort of free range preserve.