My Twitter feed is set up such that I barely ever know what is going on around me in Boston but I can tell you immediately when there is an earthquake in Los Angeles or it is raining in San Diego. As such, all I’ve been reading about today is the opening of a Shake Shack in Los Angeles.
Up until now I generally decline to participate in the American Regional Fast Food Burger Wars as it’s the gastronomical equivalent of arguing whether something is called “soda” or “pop.” You know where I am from. You know what my favorite fast food burger place is. I know where you are from. I know what your favorite fast food burger place is. But seeing photos of people in West Hollywood lined up around the corner to have a freaking Shake Shack burger just made me feel so bad for them.
Listen people, Shake Shack is not that good. They are not bad at what they do. But they are also not good at what they do. Here is a brief bullet point list of reasons:
The Burgers: There is literally nothing special about their burger. The burger and bun are indistinguishable, in many ways, from dozens of burgers I can get in the Boston area (Uburger, Roxy’s, Burgerfi etc.), so I’m assuming it’s just like the dozens of burgers you can get in your town too. The one exception being that the meat lacks flavor and they overcompensate by putting horseradish in the sauce (a la Arby’s). So yeah, Shake Shack is like the Arby’s of burger restaurants. They should be so proud.
The Shakes: I have never had a “concrete” from Shake Shack that was not a liquid mess on receipt because it takes them a freaking hour to cook a freaking burger (that still manages to be raw in the middle half the time) and 2 minutes to make a concrete and they set the ice cream products under a heat lamp while they wait to be combined with your burger. I know, I know. They have a separate line for shakes and you’re supposed to order separately. Bitch, I’m not standing in line twice for your shitty-assed fast food to go. You are a fast food restaurant and you offer a limited menu consisting of burgers, hot dogs and ice cream products. Learn to prepare them all at the same time.
The Fries: They serve crinkle cut fries. This is not even worthy of further discussion.
Also, while I’m dipping my toes into this quagmire of burger opinions, I’ll go a step further. Five Guys not that good either. So what if they have a million options? The more combinations of burgers you can create, the more chance of stumbling on one that is terrible. This message can be expanded to all restaurants that give you five thousand options for things (of which there are many): You are a restaurant. Your job is to combine ingredients in a way that tastes good, and provide me with a listing of a finite number of outcomes (this listing is sometimes referred to as a “Menu”). This activity is a really important part of your job and is a large percentage of what I am paying you for.
So back to you, Five Guys, your burgers are underseasoned, your buns are dry and bland, and you rely on 17 different topping options as a crutch to cover it up. No thanks.
[Hey guys congrats! We won the Do Us A Flavor competition a few months ago with Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy, it was such an exciting and happy thing and not at all immediately pre-apocalyptic and I wish I had found the time to post a happy post about it but here were are, so let’s move on.]
Our nation has reached a critical juncture. We are faced with monumental decisions about how we will progress as a country. Everything we thought we knew, everything we thought we could trust, is being dismantled and thrown into disarray before our very eyes. I am talking, of course, about the Lays Do Us A Flavor competition.
Just last week, I was walking through Wegman’s when what did I see on the shelf but a bag, no, several bags, of Lay’s Wasabi Ginger potato chips.
In the year 2016, the very same Wasabi Ginger potato chips that had been eliminated by the voice of the American people three years before are sitting on the shelves ready to sneak into your pantries. And yes, I do think these chips are delicious and yes, I do think they deserve their day on the shelves, but I ask you, at what cost? The people have spoken and made their choice and the people chose Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips. What message, then, does it send to the American people to place these Wasabi Ginger chips on the shelves? Do our votes not count? Are our voices not heard? Is the will of the people eternally destined to be trampled and oppressed by the whims and fancies of the potato chip establishment? Wasabi Ginger had a time and that time was the ’90s. I believe I speak for all of us when I say we must not go back in time. I believe the American people deserve more. I believe that if the red-blooded, natural-born American people decide that cheesy garlic powder tastes different from, and distinct from, and less establishment than, sour cream and onion powder, it is their God-given right to elect that chip over any other chip. The freedom to choose the flavor of the deep-fried potato slivers we cram into our mouths when we are super drunk or depressed or at a barbecue is what has always made America great, and what will continue to make America great for years to come. God Bless Lay’s, and God Bless America.
I am so overwhelmed by potato chips right now. I have a backlog of potato chip reviews that would stress out the fucking Dalai Lama. But we have a new site that I want to link to, and so all of these goddamned fast-food-flavored Pringles and reincarnated Lays Do-Us-A-Flavor rejects can take a fucking pause and let me say that these bizarre Guinness flavored potato chips are one of the most disgusting things I have ever eaten.
I almost feel irresponsible saying this, because I don’t “like” Guinness. I actually hate Guinness. I love beer but I hate all stouts and porters any anything of the sort. But I’ve given these disgusting chips like five chances and I stand by my decision. I defy any Guinness fan to try these ass-flavored chips and tell me they taste good.
Just to clarify, before today I have never, ever tasted a bad potato chip. Potato chips can certainly be not good. They can be less than enjoyable. But this is quite frankly the first time in my life I have had a freaking painfully, disturbingly bad potato chip. Actually, make that two, as I tried both Guinness and Guinnes + Chili flavor. Spare yourselves.
Whatever massive food conglomerate makes Fiber One bars (they are so modest and heroic and humble they don’t even identify themselves on the wrapper) should be given the National Medal of Freedom for their tireless efforts to make low-calorie, high-fiber versions of most of the desserts I don’t allow myself to eat anymore.
First a warning about Fiber One products. They are so tasty, but you need to BE CAREFUL. You may have one Fiber One bar. If think you deserve a treat you may have two Fiber One bars. Three Fiber One bars? Ill advised. By extension, do not have four Fiber One bars. And for the love of christ do not, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, have five Fiber One bars. It is not good for you and it will not be good for you. Seriously just trust me on this one.
The Ultimate: The Caramel cheesecake one. The high-fiber snack of my dreams. Graham cracker crust. A cheesecake part that is sort of cheesecakey and instead more bready but it’s fakebread so I don’t even know what is happening. It’s technically maybe non-refrigerated dairy but I don’t even care.
The runners up:
The cinnamon coffee cake one – my gateway Fiber One bar, always in my heart forever.
Most of the brownie ones (but not the weird mint one) – I’m not big on chocolate as a concept but they are pretty good for fake brownies.
The lemon one – tastes a tiny bit metallic and is not as close to a lemon bar as other bars are to their namesakes.
Not my faves:
The strawberry cheesecake one – I am not a fan of strawberry gel in anything, from Pop Tarts to Nutrigrain bars to strawberry jam. If you are, go nuts.
The weird mint brownie one
Swing and a miss: The cranberry orange bread one. Flavor is ok but it’s just way too chewy. Too much chew = no Fiber One fakebread illusion. We can’t have that.
Uhp! Nope! Stop! Zip it! I don’t want to hear it. If any of you so much as THINKS about making a comment with the words “corporate” or “swill” or “their cups have completely ruined my relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in it, I will roll my eyes at my computer screen in the general direction of your profile picture.
You can calm down because I am not going to discuss Starbucks coffee, we all know what it tastes like and what it costs and what its strengths and weaknesses are and I basically have nothing to contribute on the topic. Today, however, I am compelled to discuss Starbucks food, which has been BLOWING ME AWAY lately.
Ok, so this doesn’t really fall under the umbrella of “lately,” but KIND bars are the greatest bar-shaped food product on the planet, and the only meal replacement-y thing I can truly accept into my heart and replace a meal with. They are totally commonplace now, but I am proud to consider myself a KIND bar early adopter. As such, I know that Starbucks was an early adopter as well. You could get KIND bars at Starbucks before you could get them anywhere else, and I appreciated that. I could write a whole post on KIND bars but I won’t, because this post is about Starbucks. So thanks, Starbucks, for having KIND bars years ago and also for recently bringing them back because it seemed like you weren’t carrying them for a spell there and I was really stressed out about it but they are apparently back and I just bought one yesterday so we’re cool.
Evolution Harvest Nut and Seed Mix
I remain highly suspicious that Starbucks was/is trying to replace KIND bars with these little Evolution Harvest nut and seed packs. In my heart of hearts I would like to be angry about this but holy moly the Pecan, Pepita, Cayenne and Lemon ones? These are what those bizarre and disgusting savory KIND bars were* trying to be, but they are actually totally delicious. I can only hope for a world in which KIND bars and Evolution Harvest packs may one day peacefully coexist.
Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches
Did you know that we are smack dab in the midst of a freaking Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich Renaissance? Are you aware that we have recently emerged triumphant from a long and painful period during which there were no Starbucks Breakfast sandwiches? You may not remember this, but during the Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich Era 1.0 they experimented with serving them and then had to stop because the microwaved eggs were, as microwaved eggs are wont to do, creating pervasive fart smells in all of the shops. I swear that I know this to be true but I am not going to provide any proof because I don’t want any “Starbucks+fart smell” nonsense in my Google search history/AutoComplete bar and whatnot. But I promise, it happened and I read about it one time. So to recap, there were breakfast sandwiches, and then there weren’t breakfast sandwiches, and now there are breakfast sandwiches again. And the sandwiches are now both odorless and COMPLETELY FREAKING DELICIOUS.
That is not to say that the process is completely worked out. At any given moment, I can pretty much promise you that they do not have the sandwich you are about to order. Stashed away in a drawer, Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches are the Schrodinger’s cat of sandwiches. If you ask if they have a Spinach Egg White and Feta wrap, even if they say they do, there is no real way of knowing that this is true. In reality, they both have Spinach Egg White and Feta wraps and are out of Spinach Egg White and Feta wraps until the drawer is opened and the wrap is observed. I have found that the most efficient solution here is to say “Ok, you are going to go to the drawer and read off what sandwiches you have, and I am going to choose one.” It’s tricky to deliver this in a way that sounds polite and not at all bank robber-y. I am still working on it. Regardless, I am not going to recommend you go out of your way to get any specific breakfast sandwich, because they probably don’t have it. Just trust me, they are all good. So pick one ::cough:: SpinachEggWhiteFetaWrap ::cough:: TurkeyBaconEggWhiteCheddar ::cough:: and go with it. Starbucks is freaking KILLING IT on the microwaved breakfast sandwiches right now and you don’t want to miss out.
Cranberry Bliss Bars
I have actually never had one of these but I can tell just by looking at them that they are fantastic. They look so good you don’t even NEED to eat them. Just go to Starbucks and look at a Cranberry Bliss bar. It’s great.
What the hell is Moon Cheese? And why is Starbucks introducing it to me? According to the packaging, Moon Cheese is just cheese. 100% cheese. It is dehydrated and aerated in some strange way that turns it, texturally, into the bastard child of a parmesean crisp and a cheese puff. Here is a closer look, in case my phone photo is in some way more illuminating than the photos on the bag (it isn’t):
I’m not sure whether they are calling it “Moon Cheese” because it is kind of like the dehydrated space food no one ever buys at a museum, or because they look like little rocks and they’re working the whole moon-is-made-of-cheese trope. Probably a little of both. I am willing to ignore this, though, because flavor-wise they taste like what I would imagine that sassy anthropomorphic cheese wheel on the Cheez-It commercials to taste like, and by that I mean they taste AMAZING. I have only eaten one bag of these so far but my mind is blown and I can already tell they are going to be life-changing. Cravings for night cheese and a crunchy snack can now be simultaneously satisfied. You can eat cheese on the go and the unfinished portion can be safely tucked away in your purse for later. And most importantly, now that mankind has stepped up its nonperishable cheese game, I no longer need to fear a post-apocalyptic world. Thank you Starbucks. I am sorry I ever questioned you. Oh, and they go great with coffee.
And finally, for fairness, a lowlight:
Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese popcorn
I tried the Moon Cheese and was riding this “damn, coffee and cheese really are the BEST COMBINATION IN THE WORLD” high and saw this blue cheese popcorn and just KNEW it would be amazing, and it wasn’t. It tastes like Smartfood, faintly blue cheese flavored. I also realized that this is the second time I have a reviewed a popcorn by saying “It tastes like Smartfood, ergo it is terrible.” This got me thinking that some poor saps out there must like Smartfood or they wouldn’t make it, and maybe I should stop reviewing things this way. So I’m going to do something different. This Friday (Christmas), Starbucks will be closed but the Curious Shopper will be OPEN, and if you see me, you might be asked to try Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese popcorn and let me know what you think about it. And you might also get some of Curious Shopper’s Favorite Things for your troubles. And yes, just so we’re clear, I did just compare myself to Oprah. Merry Christmas!
* Were? Are? Have they discontinued them yet or are they just going to be perpetually reduced to clear?
Manhandled by nerds AGAIN, so time to rant. Let’s talk about trees.
No not those trees that haunt my nightmares.
Everyone is freaking out about the fact that Reese’s factory-produced mounds of chocolate-coated peanut butter/sugar paste are not sufficiently tree-like down to the hairline detail.
Here is what I have to say to these people:
For real. Take it from me, I am a connoisseur of all things seasonal Reese’s:
THE REESE’S TREES HAVE NEVER LOOKED LIKE TREES.
THE REESE’S HEARTS HAVE NEVER LOOKED LIKE HEARTS.
THE REESE’S PUMPKINS HAVE NEVER LOOKED LIKE PUMPKINS.
THE REESE’S EGGS BARELY EVEN RESEMBLE EGGS, AND EGGS ARE JUST A SIMPLE ELLIPSE WITH Y = e^(0.2X)
#1 Why is this such a big deal this year? Do we really have nothing else to worry about than the shape of Reese’s peanut butter trees? (Hint: we have much more to worry about than the shape of Reese’s peanut butter trees).
#2 Does literally everyone complaining not realize that the little cutouts they are pining for a) Increase the surface area and in as a result the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio, and increasing the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio in seasonal Reese’s is a bad thing, and b) aren’t actually present on a real life tree and actually are a figment of our 6-year-old crayon drawing imaginations much like smiling suns and stick people?
#3 And you know what else, haters, why don’t you all take a jar of peanut butter and some melted chocolate and try to fashion a tree to your illusory specifications, and then get back to us.
I am feeling seriously confused. I went to a reception with delicious bacon wrapped scallops and brown sugar sticks and all people could talk about was this stupid WHO announcement. So I just read it all in full and am still totally confused. First of all: Before today, did people think processed meats were good for us? Me yesterday: “Yeah, I’ll probably die of bacon.” Me today: “Yeah, I’ll probably die of bacon.” Nothing has changed.