Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​

I had a good friend who worked at Domino’s Pizza in the mid-’90s. He worked the late shift and was left in charge. On occasion, he’d invite me to hang out with him. I got to spend time behind the counter watching the delivery drivers come and go, watch my buddy make the pizzas, and he’d also let me make my own pizza. I’ll never forget the contraption they used that would apply the cheese pellets (and they were indeed pellets). You’d load the proper amount of cheese into an elevated cone, then slide the pizza under, press the release button, and bam! A perfectly cheesed pizza.

At the time, I ate Domino’s pizza and would order a pie for delivery now and then.

But that was more than 20 years ago, and it wasn’t too long after that I met my wife, who was instrumental in nudging me toward learning to appreciate better food. She loathes Domino’s, and I haven’t eaten it since.

Recently, I decided it was time to revisit the chain. Admittedly, I fell victim to their marketing, and the idea of eating a pizza with a soft doughy crust, that’s sweetly sauced, and with a generous amount of cheese appealed to me.

I may have temporarily lost my mind. Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​”

The Popcorn at Madison Theater

The Madison Theatre before World War II

The Madison Theater on Madison Ave. in Albany first opened in 1929, 86 years ago. It survived the Great Depression and—from what I can glean from the few articles written about it—it managed to largely stay open until about 2004 when the CVS next door proposed demolishing it to make room for a drive thru.

Thankfully it survived and in 2013 the owners of Tierra Coffee Roasters who ran the adjacent coffee shop, purchased the theater and completely gutted, and refurbished it. It now houses three small (90-120 seat) screens, and an 168 seat performance space. It reopened in early 2014 showing old movies and newer, second run flicks. I’ve seen 3 movies there, and the theaters are nice. They have wonderfully comfortable chairs that recline, and modern surround sound systems. It’s a great venue to see a movie, especially if you’re a movie buff who’s into classics. They run a lot of classics and it’s a blast to see old favorites on the big screen.

It was the popcorn though, that really got my attention.

Coconut oil popped

Before the mid 90s, most movie theaters popped their popcorn in a coconut oil blend. In 1994, food cops, The Center for Science in the Public Interest orchestrated a consumer scare campaign in the hopes that consumers would pressure theaters to abandon using coconut oil in their popcorn because of it’s high saturated fat content. They effectively demonized coconut oil and the campaign worked. By the mid to late 90’s coconut oil popped popcorn had disappeared from theaters.

But today the science has changed—as it often does— and coconut oil is now thought to be healthy. I have a jar of coconut oil in my pantry, and I use it for frying on occasion. It adds a distinct coconut flavor to foods cooked with it, it’s not a neutral oil and it works best with foods that have a neutral flavor, like… popcorn!

The popcorn at Madison Theater is popped with coconut oil. The coconut oil adds a pronounced, but subtle, coconut flavor to the popcorn. It also adds an unctuousness that air popped popcorn or corn popped in lighter oils simply does not have—due mostly to it’s high saturated fat content. They also use real butter at Madison Theater, and the combination of the butter and coconut oil is amazing. It’s the most flavorful popcorn I can remember eating. It is delicious, and it’s worth a trip to Madison Theater just to have the popcorn.

Guilty Pleasure

Many have a food that they guiltily eat in secret. A food they secretly love. Maybe it’s incredibly unhealthy. Maybe it’s something others sneer at as not worthy of culinary consideration. Perhaps it’s so over-the-top indulgent they’re embarrassed to admit they enjoy it.

For me, one of those foods is Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Did I just hear you quietly scoff under your breath? Suspend your disdain for a moment, because Kraft mac-n-cheese, done right, is one of life’s little joys.

Kraft mac-n-cheese is a kid favorite. They love it. My daughter constantly requests we make it for her. It’s so popular that some restaurants have it on their kids’ menu. It’s easy to dismiss it as kiddie food, something an adult palate would never bother with. It’s also neon orange. The color is totally fake. It’s outrageously bright orange. It’s as if it were saying “Hey, look at me!” It has no real cheese in it. The ingredients list reads like a college level science exam. Plus, it has no nutritional value other than carbs and a little protein.

In spite of all the negatives, the kids are on to something. Because it’s diabolically delicious.

Continue reading “Guilty Pleasure”

Bad Chain Restaurants

I have a love-hate relationship with chain restaurants. Like anything, there are good ones, and there are bad ones. But not everyone agrees. Mention Cheesecake Factory among a group of foodies and the groans and sneers will be palpable. This, in spite of the fact that Cheesecake Factory is actually one of the better chains in America today.

I have a fascination with bad chain restaurants. I’m like a deer in the headlights when I discover one. Like a car wreck on the highway, I can’t help but stare. I can’t look away. There is just something about eating really bad, really cheap food that I enjoy. Oddly, I’m attracted to places that are guaranteed—pardon the pun—to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. It’s masochistic. I know.
I recently scratched my bad chain itch by dining at CiCi’s Pizza. Though calling it dining is a stretch.

Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants”