Tag Archives: fried food

Chinese Buffets-An American Staple

I hate it when my eating plans get screwed up because it never works out.

I’m not talking about the sort of screwed up eating plans where you plan on eating a bowl of soup by yourself in your one bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, but instead you wind up sitting in a fancy french cafe with the new love of your life because of some fancy new app on your i-phone, which, if the advertising is to be believed, has the capability of making that love connection even if it can’t connect phone calls outside of New York City.

No, I’m talking about when I have set an eating plan for the day and it doesn’t work out the way I wanted.

Normally on Mondays, I eat lunch out and then eat my packed meal in my car on the way to class. Not to bore you with minutiae, but it takes me about one hour and ten minutes to get to my class door-to- door, so I leave at 5:00 and get there in plenty of time for a 6:30 p.m. start time, which is good because I have perfected the art of embarassing students who come in late.

Lately I’ve been rotating my lunch between the food truck that serves the good lamb gyros on 5th and Chestnut outside the Lights of Liberty ticket center; these have been particularly good lately because he’s switched from sliced lamb meat to a big hunk that he cooks and chops up. The other item in my rotation is the bacon cheesesteak with cheez whiz that I discussed previously.

But today, I was tired of both, so I decided to reward myself with Chinese food.

Now, Philadelphia has a lot of Chinese food options; so many as to be overwhelming.

First, there is Chinatown, which has everything you could want in a city where the population is actually mostly African-American or Italian, but our friends from the Far East do try to be as authentic as they can. That’s why I mostly stay away. For every good deal you can get on General Tso’s chicken, there’s the chance you might order General Tso’s chicken feet, which I’m not into. I suppose I could send it back, but what if it’s like their national delicacy or something? I don’t want to offend someone who can talk about me behind my back without me knowing what’s going on.

Fast food Chinese is almost always a bust. I have a cast iron stomach, or I used to–I feel like I’ve been more susceptible lately, but Chinese fast food is almost always disapppointing whether they call it China Express or Panda Village or House of Hung Lo where they serve Creme of Sum Yung Gy, it all sucks. I’ve never had a good experience with fast food Chinese.

And then there’s the truck. Now everyone knows I am a huge fan of food trucks, but the Chinese trucks always disappoint. As far as I can tell, they just deep fry chicken and then put sauce on it. Yes, I know that’s essentially what Chinese is, but we can at least pretend it’s something more when they serve it on a plate with white table cloth.

So my plan was to hit the Super China Buffet on the way to class where I can get a delicious as-many-courses-as-I-care-to-consume for $10.95.

Deep fried meat in sauce...more varieties than colors in the rainbow.

China Buffets are a wonder of modern capitalism. The food is always good, and, this is key, you can avoid the vegetables.

This has always been my beef with Chinese food. Whatever is really good about it often comes mixed with snow peas or brocolli or some other such nonsense that can have the effect of ruining what was otherwise a previously delicious combination of deep fried meat and sauce. But with a China Buffet you can always go back for more if you’ve been overcome by vegetables.

Sometimes I’ve even taken food items that were half meat and half vegetables, left the vegetables on the plate and pushed them aside. When my waitress comes to take my plate, she asks if I’m done and I say “Yes I am.” Yes, I know I’ve left half the food on my plate, but I ate the part that suffered for me and thus kept the balance of the universe in tact, so it’s all good.

N-if I gave you my vegetables next time we are out for Chinese would that be considered sharing?

 As you might guess, the China buffet didn’t work out. I wound up getting out of work too late because of some stupid meeting about a meeting that won’t happen until next year. Moreover, the meeting actually accomplished no action items, which is far too typical of most work meetings, but this blog isn’t about work, which is good because if it was I’d probably use a lot of meaningless phrases like “action items” that almost got caught in my throat as I said it out loud because it’s the sort of corporate gobble-di-gook I said I’d never use, but there it is.

So I would up getting an Italian chicken sandwich from Steak Out to go and woofing it down before class. It’s not a bad sandwich, but its chicken cutlet with provolone and brocolli rabe. No, I don’t pick out the brocolli rabe, but can someone please tell me what’s Italian about brocolli rabe?

And that’s all that is.

Now who wants pie?

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Post-Lunch, Pre-Labor Day Observations

I begged J to write a blog post, thankfully, he acquiesced today at 1:18 pm:

So today was a rather productive lunch hour.

First, I went to Borders. Rather disappointing. I had gone because the store had enticed me with a 40 percent off coupon that had to be used before Labor Day and I’m going to be busy all weekend. Thing is, the Borders at 13th and Chestnut doesn’t really have a non-fiction section, so I wasn’t sure where the book I wanted, “MORNING MIRACLE: INSIDE THE DECLINE OF THE WASHINGTON POST,” was going to be.

So I went to the computer and typed it in. Within about three seconds some pimple faced kid was on me like I was going to discover his porn collection with the ubiquitous, “can I help you sir?” I told him I had done a search for the book I wanted and it was showing, “not in store.” He said that was right, but if I wanted they could order it for me and it would be in within three to eight business days.

That seemed an inordinately long amount of time for a business that had a separate online operation that can deliver things in 24 hours, so I thanked him for nothing and went on my way.

And here’s the thing that really annoyed me about Borders. I used their bathroom. It was painted bright yellow. I don’t want to quibble, but should we really be painting a place where you pee bright yellow?

I’m just saying.

Is that little boy holding a GUN?

On my way back I walked through the Gallery. Sampling was a mixed bag today. They had the Charley’s Cheese Steak samples out, but she had gone back for a new sandwich when I passed through the first time. Out of three places that serve Bourbon chicken, only one was giving it away. And my little retarded friend that gives away chicken nuggets was nowhere to be found.

Auntie Anne’s was giving away free pieces of their pretzel covered hot dogs. I took two samples and got a glare. Is it coming out of your pocket pal?

Speaking of Chic-fil-a, I finally bought their Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It was a little disappointing. I mean it’s basically just a spicy version of their regular chicken sandwich, which I suppose I should have expected, but it still left me with a certain emptiness.

And for reasons I have never understood, Chic-fil-a puts just pickles on their chicken sandwich. Not free lettuce, not free tomatoes. Free pickles.

Pickles have a very distinct taste and they don’t really add anything to the sandwich.

Again, I’m just saying.

Making a Difference, One Food Truck At a Time. Next Up: McDonalds.

J writes on Monday at 1:26 p.m.:

I’m back from vacation today and my first stop was to my favorite food truck on 6th and Chestnut, the one that I wrote about last time when I complained that he had switched to the thin gyro meat.

When I ordered the gyro today, I noticed that he had switched it back to thick meat. I’m not sure if he reads this blog. I’m not sure if my post had any impact, but in a world where we sometimes wonder if one person can make a difference, I’m proud to imagine that perhaps I did.

So today I’m taking on McDonalds.

I took the family on vacation this week. My kids eat fairly healthy at home. They are not vegans, but they do eat a lot of fruit willingly. When you are on the road though, it’s surprisingly hard to order fruit in a restaurant. So by the end of the week I thought my kids were going to become a Chicken McNugget.

But here’s one thing I noticed. EVERY TIME I WENT TO MCDONALDS I HAD TO BRING MY ORDER BACK.

Did you add sauce? Yes, sir, we put the sauce in. Get back to my table. Nope. Have to go back and get it. Listen, I don’t actually think you put sauce in here, can I get a pack? I’ll have to charge you ten cents for it, sir. WTF? When did McDonald’s Chicken McNugget sauce become its own commodity? So in these cases my kids just dipped their nuggets in ketchup because on principle, I will not pay for a cup of sauce.

They're made almost exclusively of corn!

Then I ordered one of those Chicken Clubs, which are supposed to come with bacon, tomato and Swiss cheese. Got it back, it just had lettuce and mayonnaise. I brought it back with a head full of righteous indignation and even cut in line (I’m sorry, but I had had a long day at the zoo) to announce that they had shorted me my bacon, cheese and tomato. They apologized and gave me a new sandwich.

But the piez de resistance was when my ten nugget value meal only came back with nine nuggets. Yes I counted, and yes I brought the box back. The minimum wage flunky working behind the counter looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but he gave me a new ten pack of nuggets and then watched me count them. And yes, I got an extra pack of sauce too.

I know this seems like a small thing, and on the individual level it is. But McDonalds doesn’t just sell one box of ten piece chicken nuggets a day. They sell thousands or millions depending on the store location, and if they are shorting everyone a McNugget, then they are making out at our expense. Same thing with bacon and Swiss cheese.

I for one am not going to put up with it anymore, and the fact that I have to check my order every time before I bring it back to the table sort of defeats the purpose of fast food.

I’m just saying.
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I point out:

Maybe Chicken McNugget sauce became its own commodity because they read your Ode to Honey Mustard.

Maybe you ARE making a difference…yikes. Better watch it buddy.

Marinating Cat

Via email yesterday at 1:09 p.m. Subject line-“This may be the most disturbing news story I’ve seen in a while” J writes:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/08/11/marinating-cat-menu-new-home/?test=faces

(It’s about how police pulled a man over for a traffic stop and found a cat marinating in peppers and onions in his trunk-he was going to eat it).
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I write back:

WHAT?

WHAT?

WHAT?

That is. OH MY GOSH.

I’m in disbelief.
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J responds:

Can you imagine someone sticking that sweet feline in a pot of peppers and onions? Not me man. He ought to be strung up.

Navarro, the car cat.

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I bring it back to the blog:

Could this be a Cake in the Conference Room post?

Speaking of cake in an office room, I just had a little sliver of A’s devil’s food cake: OMG it was so good.
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J:

I’d rather not blog about cats in peppers and onions. I love cats. I love peppers and onions. But the two do not go together.

But it does remind me of a song…because far too many things remind me of a song (to the tune of “Cat’s in the Cradle.”)

“And the cat’s in the kettle at the Peking Moon
“Where I go to lunch every day at noon
“They tell me that it’s beef or chicken or pork
“But it’s purring on my fork, yeah, it’s purring on my fork.”

I had one of those chicken sandwiches for lunch; my throat didn’t close up.

And I had a slab, not a sliver, but a slab of A’s cake. It was like there was a party in my mouth. Although every time I think of Red velvet cake I’m reminded of Steel Magnolias where they baked a red velvet cake in the shape of an armadillo and called it bleeding armadillo cake.
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Me:

“But it’s purring on my fork, yeah, it’s purring on my fork.”

That’s why I loved working at P.F. Chang’s.

No. Not because we ate cat disguised as other animals, but because I knew we were getting all white meat chicken and whatnot.

That and Family Meal. Family Meal was hilarious. A giant Tupperware vat with two, count ‘em TWO, different Chang’s delicacies-usually orange peel chicken and some type of beef or salad. No divider; one ladle.
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J:

I think you told me about Family Meal before.
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Then J comes out of his office and begins serenading me and the intern with his rendition of “Cat’s in the Kettle.” We all laugh about it, I tell him that he has a thing for parody versions of songs; at the office holiday party, while everyone else was sort of singing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, J was singing, “Walking Round in Women’s Underwear.”

He says it’s a video, and runs into his office. I hear some music playing, him chortling uncontrollably, and then his door slamming. Momentarily, he sends me the following link with the subject line, “That didn’t take long to find.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR4RNK1L2DA

PS-I tagged this as “Food Trucks” for obvious reasons (just because the man wasn’t going to sell the cat from his car doesn’t mean there’s wasn’t a food truck involved).

Enjoy.

Fast Food, It Gives So Much and Asks for So Little

J writes via email at 2:52 p.m.

So on my way back on my walk today I stopped by the KFC in the Gallery Mall and got one of those boneless chicken filets; fried, not grilled. As an aside, if you order the grilled chicken because it is more healthy I submit you are an idiot. If you want to be healthy, don’t eat at KFC. Grilled chicken will just remind you that fast food chicken is not the same product they serve at fine restaurants and breading and deep frying covers over a multitude of sins.

There's another chicken in that chicken.

Anyway, I ordered the boneless fried chicken breast. This comes without the bun or any other garnishment for $2, or $2.14 with tax. Money well spent, but I also got:

The opportunity to give feedback. Yeah, I called the survey on the back of the form. I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say, but then again I seldom do as readers of this blog will attest (have you noticed that while methods of communication have proliferated we haven’t had anything worthwhile to say in them?), but I punched all the keys and did my thing. I hope I made a difference. Sometimes you just gotta get shit done because shit doesn’t get done by itself, know what I mean?

I was motivated to do the survey because if you do the survey you get entered into a drawing for $1,000. This made it sort of like a scratch and win lottery ticket. When I was in high school, I was addicted to scratch and win lottery tickets because in Ohio they didn’t do things like check IDs. I won $100 once and spent a lot of money trying to win $100 again. But I didn’t consider it money wasted because I enjoyed the time I spent scratching off the win columns. These tickets are at least $2 and up now, so in a sense my chicken was free because I had the opportunity to win $1,000. No, I didn’t win, but people don’t win the actual lottery much either.

And on top of everything else, they gave me a coupon for $1 off the new doublelicious combo, which is KFC’s way of saying they are not even trying to pretend they are healthy anymore. From the picture it looks like the restaurant’s answer to the idea that the double down was a bit too much because it’s a chicken patty with cheese, bacon and that special sauce that you can never reproduce because it’s made 1,000 gallons at a time. Interestingly they do have a grilled version, but it’s much smaller in the picture and has lettuce, so I guess they are trying. Good for them. I’m not going to eat it, but good for them.
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I respond:

I wanted to say this about KFC:

I can’t eat there anymore. And no, not just because I’m a vegetarian. Because I have reason to believe they put MSG in their food.

Who cares about MSG when it makes things more delicious?

Me. I do. Because the last time I had KFC (3 years ago), I had an allergic reaction. And not just “ooooh, my stomach hurts and I feel crappy” but like, a true allergic reaction;  hives, itching, sneezing, migraine.

My roommates and I lived in the ghetto of New Brunswick a short drive from a KFC. We saw an ad for a meal special: $7 and you get two sides (hello mac and cheese and mashed potatoes!), chicken, biscuits, and a soda. Why yes please! I’m in college, poor, hungry, and have low food standards, sure! I’d LOVE some comfort food.

Never again.

Bad shit man, mess you up.
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J retorts:

I think I heard this story before. You are starting to do repeats.

I think you may have even used the same tone and inflection when describing your love of mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.
________________________________________________________________________________________________
I sass back:

Look. We spend a lot of time together. I guess I’m sorry about the repeats. Not really though, because I wouldn’t repeat myself if you talked about something other than KFC and their doubledown sandwich.

So I say: Get used to it.

And I believe in spreading the gospel about KFC and the MSG in their food, ok? IT WAS AWFUL. Awful! My roommates got sick too. We were all out of commish for two whole days. That’s disgusting. For food!…that was alright I guess, but if we had just pooled our cash we could have prepared a chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and bought the mac and cheese at Wawa, it would have been MORE tasty and not as intestine-destroying.

And I believe in the beauty of a well-done macaroni and cheese.

And a free America.

What?

I’m just sayin.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
J replies:

Repeats aren’t all bad, I suppose. I do still like Seinfeld even though I could quote almost all the episodes by heart.

FREE TIBET!

On Free Samples at The Gallery

Via e-mail yesterday at 1:56 p.m. (I took a sick day Tuesday)
____________________________________________________________________________
J writes:

So in my never-ending quest to act like a homeless person even though I make enough money to support a middle class lifestyle, I managed to scrounge an almost complete lunch today from free samples.

The Gallery Mall is a smorgasbord of this.

The cheese-steak stand (not a truck, so the sandwiches are about three times the price and frankly not as good—I think it’s called Charley’s Fried Subs or something) is always giving away samples of its California Chicken Cheese steak (a chicken cheese steak with ranch sauce and cheese) and its pretty good. Word to the wise though, the samples are better than the actual sandwich. I believe it was at the point where I suspected I had consumed a sandwich worth of samples that I broke down and bought the sandwich. The sample girl smiled; she had done her job that day she figured. Thing was, the sandwich itself was not as good as the sample. Not sure why, just know what was.

There’s also a collection of sort of Chinese places that give out samples of a chicken that I think is either bourbon chicken or teriyaki chicken, depends on the place. Either way it’s pretty good. Another word to the wise though, these Asian women are pretty sharp. If you walk the length of the Gallery mall and try to make another pass through for a free sample, she’ll pull the tray away and say, “no you’ve already taken a sample,” in broken English. It’s pretty gutsy and probably a power trip for a just-off-the-boat immigrant making a living passing out chicken on a toothpick, but then again I’m trying to scam an extra free sample on my way back to work, so it’s hard to know what’s more wrong with this picture.

I’ve sort of made a game about collecting free samples and I consider it a red letter day when my retarded friend is passing out samples at the Chic-Fila. I have no way of knowing if he’s actually retarded or not, but I do know he takes an inordinate amount of pleasure from passing out free samples, so I figure he’s not quite all there. This man is king of the sample universe as far as I’m concerned. Some days he gives out chicken nuggets, other days those milk shakes the store was promoting. One day, he actually gave out pieces of a chicken sandwich. I was in flavor country. He even let me take two unlike that Asian bitch from the sort of Chinese stand. You’d think his generosity would make me buy more items from Chic Fila, but alas when they charge $3.09 for their new Spicy Chicken sandwich it just makes me hope that he’ll put more samples out.
____________________________________________________________________________________________
I respond (at 11:52 a.m. today):

Edgy and awesome.

Also, you spelled Chik-Fil-A wrong. Or whatever.

Doughnuts: With or without holes?

Via e-mail, beginning at 2:54 p.m. today
___________________________________________________________________________
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.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
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.
______________________________________________________________________________________________
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.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
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).
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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:


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
J:

That is what a specific kind of donut is. Not all donuts. Not all donuts are created equal.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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.”
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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?