Under the Infuence

We are all influenced by those around us. Our personal circle of friends, family, and acquaintances affect how we view the world. In our jobs, professionally, we are constantly being pulled this way or that by our colleagues, superiors, and vendors. The media we consume—TV shows, movies, music, art, the national news, (food blogs!)—they all challenge or reinforce our views.

These forces are all, whether we realize it or not, constantly having an effect on what we like or don’t like, what we believe to be true or false, and what we deem valuable or insignificant.

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Death by Cheeseburger IV – Two Grass Fed Burgers and a Patty Melt Walk into a Bar

I’m not in love with grass fed beef. This is heresy in the foodie world. But I’ve yet to become fanatical about grass fed beef, while at the same time, not being ignorant of why it’s preferable over grain fed.

As grass fed beef becomes more prevalent, and I eat it more, I’m starting to like it more. It has an earthier, deeper flavor than conventional beef, which has taken me time to appreciate. My opinion may change in the future, and likely it will, but for now, it still doesn’t factor into my decisions when choosing what and where to eat. I’m still a bit apathetic toward grass fed beef. And me being frugal, its higher price sometimes causes my wallet to revolt.

Whole Foods has added burgers to the menu of their in-store restaurant. Being Whole Foods, the beef they use is grass fed, and they also claim it’s humanely raised. The feel good is there. But is the taste good there? Only for the strict purposes of science mind you, I intended to find out.

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Death by Bad Chain Cheeseburger – Crapplebee’s

I started doing a series of burger posts back in late August titled Death by Cheeseburger. I needed to take a break, because, as much as I love burgers, they are incredibly unhealthy and I don’t want to die just yet.

I also have been doing a series of posts titled Bad Chains, where I eat at a bottom of the barrel chain restaurant and write down my thoughts about the experience.

Those especially are a lot of fun. As much as I want to keep the content on the blog positive, (excusing a rant or two) sometimes I really enjoy reveling in just how bad the food at some of these chains are. I know, it’s weird, but I’m fascinated not only by food, but by food culture in general, both good and bad.

Applebee’s has launched a new burger menu. I haven’t seen any since, but during the summer, Applebee’s flooded TV with commercials about their new burgers. Applebee’s has been on my crap list for some time, as the food there is not good. They are ubiquitous though, and according to Wikipedia they have more than 2,000 restaurants in the US. So it’s likely most everyone has eaten there at least once.

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Death by Cheeseburger

Why do the tastiest things have to be so bad for us?

I just got back from my yearly physical, and it’s good news. I’m healthy as an ox. And that means I’m free to eat bad things for another year. So far, my love of food hasn’t caught up to me, and while I want to lose ten pounds (who doesn’t?) my BMI number doesn’t qualify me for my own show on TLC.
I realized I’ve not put my thoughts about burgers down on the blog yet. So the next few posts will be dedicated to those incredibly unhealthy, but also incredibly delicious, calorie bomb sandwiches made with ground beef patties.
I have very specific thoughts on what makes a great burger. It stems largely from a light bulb going off in my head after eating a few times at Five Guys, falling in love with it, and comparing their burger to others. Five Guys has nailed the perfect burger in my opinion, and I’ve dissected their burger down to its components to come up with a burger style that I find to be the most satisfying and delicious.

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Staycationaurant IV – Phoenix Part I – Best Pizza in America

Welcome to episode IV of my Staycationaurant series. I’ve got a lot to share about Phoenix, so I’m breaking this post up into two parts. Here’s part one. I hope you enjoy it.

This past weekend, I attended the wedding of the son of a longtime friend in Chandler Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. And as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I was quite excited to check out the restaurant scene in “The Valley”.

We were only in the Phoenix area for few days, and half of one day would be spent at the wedding. Time was not on my side. I did manage to squeeze in several interesting restaurants though, and overall I had some great food there.

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Some Chains I’d Like to See Come to Albany

Let’s face it, chain restaurants are ubiquitous. And people that don’t eat at chains are the exception rather than the rule. Chains get a bad rap. They’re associated with poor quality, highly processed foods, with little nutritional value. I’ve even chronicled some of them in my Bad Chains series.

But good things are happening. Consumers are demanding better quality food, while still desiring the convenience and familiarity that chains deliver, and restaurants are responding. Just recently, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell announced they are removing artificial ingredients from their food. Panera has pledged to do the same. Even Chipotle—arguably the leader in the “better fast food” category—has announced it will no longer use ingredients that contain GMOs.

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Bad Chain Restaurants III – Heartbroken

At the ripe old age of 15, I wanted a job. I needed more than the few dollars a week my parents gave me as an allowance. I wanted spending money. Ambition welled up in me, I needed to do something. My mother had previously worked at Dunkin’ Donuts and she was friends with the owner. She got me a job there.

It was June 1982, I’ll never forget it. I got hired as a porter. A porter was a part-time job, about 3 hours a day, in the afternoon. Porters did odd jobs around the shop. We cleaned the kitchen. We mopped floors. We helped bring in stock when the truck would arrive. We filtered the fryers. I didn’t love it, but I loved having a paycheck, and I loved being around all of the cute girls who worked the counter.
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Bad Chain Restaurants Part II – The Best Buffet in the USA

I used to live on Union St. in Schenectady. I worked on Central Ave. in Colonie. I was single then. I was foot-loose and fancy free, as they say, with no family to care for. I ate whatever, and wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, but I had yet to discover there’s a whole world of great food out there. I was also broke. I ate at a lot of fast food joints. I actually preferred them, and except for the occasional foray to Applebee’s, that’s where my restaurant dollars were spent.

Those were dark days.
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In Defense of The Cheesecake Factory

I don’t know if there’s a chain that is more divisive among restaurant goers than The Cheesecake Factory. There seems to be no middle ground. People either love it, or hate it. But it seems to endear a special distaste with foodies’, those for whom food and restaurants are more a hobby and obsession than they are sustenance.

It’s detractors cite The Cheesecake Factory’s gaudy, almost circus like decor as offensive. They find fault with it’s menu that gives new meaning to the word vast. They especially dislike the portions, which for some dishes are enormous. Worse, The Cheesecake Factory has a penchant for butter and cream, and many of the dishes have astronomical calorie counts as a result.
To complicate matters, on a recent visit, I was handed no less than three menus. The regular menu—that has dozens of dishes on it—the relatively new ‘Skinnylicious’ menu, and what was new to me, a happy hour menu.