Burger King Breakfast Revisited

For those of you who haven’t seen the strange pied-piper-style ads, Burger King has a revitalized breakfast menu. In the fall, I had the chance to preview the new breakfast at a PR event in New York.  It was one of the few times I’ve reviewed fast food under the nose of the executive chef and the chief marketing officer of a company.  They had hired a trained wait staff, and I’m certain that the cooks in the back were on their best behavior.  Though the waiters brought out regular, old BK food, it felt too controlled.  I wanted to see what these things would be like in the field, so I set out to try it again.

Burger King Breakfast

At the PR event, my favorite new item was the Mini Blueberry Biscuit.  In my last review, I raved about them: fluffy, light, hot, and packed with blueberry.  In the store, though, they disappointed me, arriving much sweeter and harder than I remembered.  There was even some kind of sugary, brown substance that had oozed out of the blueberry.  I found the Blueberry flavor I remembered, but not the fluffy buttermilk taste.

On the first pass, I didn’t like the Burger King Breakfast Ciabatta either: uninteresting aioli, so-so ham, bad tomatoes.  In the store, I liked it more.  The peppery aioli, ham, and egg were all better than I remembered.  I found the ham at the PR event slimy and green, but the ham in-store was edible and not too salty.  The egg cake was fresh, and the cheese was well melted.  Thought the tomato was still gross and the bun still too chewy, it appeared they had worked out a few kinks.

The biggest surprise came from the Pancakes.  At the PR event, I found them chewy and overly sweet, saying, “you have to put effort into cutting them.”  In the store, I had a completely different experience.  They smelled amazing, filling my nose with buttermilk; They tasted even better: light and fluffy like a pancake should be.  I almost felt like I was back at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Cape May, NJ.  Though the syrup was good, I felt like these pancakes deserved real Vermont maple.  They’re much better than the McDisks you get at the Golden Arches.  They are still fairly sweet, and you can almost eat them without syrup, but these were 500% better than what I had at the PR event.  Did I mention they were fluffy?

Last up was the Breakfast Bowl.  During the controlled event, I decided that the eggs were the stars of the show because they tasted like real, buffet style scrambled eggs.  Again, they were delicious and almost runny.  The sausage came nice and thick, the potatoes tasted light and peppery, and I found large chunks of green pepper in the bowl, as opposed to pepper skins at the PR event.  I was impressed the first time, and more impressed the second time.

Overall, I’d say the new BK Breakfast was 100% better.  I walked away from the restaurant feeling very disappointed because my blueberry mini was bad. Later, as I looked back over my notes and comparing them with my old notes an article, I realized that I had a completely different experience in the field.  The BK breakfast is really good, despite the weird advertising campaign with the suburban pied-piper.  Kudos to BK for a brave new menu!

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Regional Chain: Raising Cane’s

My obsession with regional chains began at Raising Cane’s.  On a trip to New Orleans, I saw one from the drive-thru line at the Frozen Daquiri chain.  I asked my friend what it was, to which he replied, “it’s a chicken finger joint.”

Chicken Fingers?

“Yea.  Chicken Fingers.  It’s really awesome.  You mean you’ve never been there?  We should go.”  Daquiri’s in hand, off we went in search of chicken in his grandparents’ Mercury.

Raising Cane’s

The first thing that hit me was the air conditioning.  It’s hard to live without in Louisiana.  The second thing that hit me was how new the restaurant seemed.  The decor felt modern, like a Skate Shop or Renovated loft.  It felt hip, not like a hangover from the 80′s, which is how many McDonald’s feel.  On an interior brick wall they had painted an enormous mural of their logo, Warhol-esque photographs hung on the wall, and pop music played on the speakers.  Much more compelling than any Burger King I’ve frequented.

So they nailed the concept.  How was the food?  Well, for a place that serves only chicken fingers, not bad.  Their crinkle cut fries reminded me of school lunches, but not in a bad way: crispy fry on the outside, light potato on the interior, and a proprietary dipping sauce, that most say is like ketchup, mayo, and Tony’s Creole Seasoning.  The fingers themselves were pretty good: meaty and crispy, with a good meat-to-breading ratio.  All too often, chicken fingers have too little chicken, too little fry, or too much of either.  They had the ratio down pat.

What struck me most, though, was the story of the founder, Todd Graves.  Printed on the wall inside the store was a short background on the chain.  Todd came up with the idea while at LSU.  He wrote up a business plan for a class he was taking and received a poor grade.  Undeterred, he and a friend worked jobs on oil rigs and Alaskan fishing vessels to make the money to open the first restaurant.  Today, this little Louisiana chain that could is now in over 10 states and has spread well beyond the South.

And I had never heard of it.

I knew there were other chains like it out there.  My hometown, Pittsburgh, had Primanti Brothers, a local favorite that few knew outside of Western PA.  I had only ever seen D’Angelo Sub Shops in New England.  Jeffrey Lebowski’s darling burger joint, In-and-Out, has yet to make an Eastern US debut.

Remember back to your first summer camp, or your freshman year of college, that first time away from home?  Remember meeting people from new places, and talking about what you had back home? “You put french fries on sandwiches?  That’s so weird!”  That’s what I’m trying to capture.

Stay tuned on Envie Recipes for more updates.

Regional Chain: D’angelo Subs

Long ago, I found that going to a grocery store on an empty stomach is a bad idea.  I buy too much because I’m hungry.  I used to live in Boston, and across the street from my favorite grocery store was a D’Angelo sub shop.  I got into the habit of grabbing a cheesesteak, or half of a cheesesteak, to calm my belly before purchasing groceries.

I grew fond of D’Angelo Subs.  Rarely outside of the New Jersey / Philadelphia area can one find a good cheesesteak.  Having grown up in Pennsylvania and gone to college in Jersey, cheesesteaks were close to my heart.  There were no cheesesteak shops in Boston, so D’Angelo had the market cornered.  But, their subs were delicious.

D'Angelo Subs

What’s so great about them?  For starters, they’re cooked to order on a grill, not pre-cooked and microwaved, like at Subway.  They cook the shaved steak with oil, grilled onions, and peppers, and then layer cheese onto the meat while it’s cooking.  They scrape the entire meaty, gooey pile onto a fresh-baked hoagie roll.  My cheesesteak pet peeve is when the cold cheese is placed inside the hoagie roll, and the steak is added on top.  The cheese often never melts, which ruins the experience.  D’Angelo offers gooey cheese with every sandwich.

My personal favorite is the Steak Bomb.  Genoa salami and capicola ham are added to the steak, and the toppings include peppers, onions, sauteed mushrooms, and melted provolone.  It can be very salty, so eaters beware.

My favorite cheesesteak from my youth was by Trip’s Steaks in Cape May, NJ.  Something about the melted cheese, the soft, flaky bread, and the cornmeal dusting was heaven to me.  But, D’angelos now vies for the top spot.  I’d call them my two favorite cheesesteaks, much to the chagrin of many Philadelphians.

New Englanders swear by D’Angelo and their parent company Papa Gino’s Pizza.  If you’re in Red Sox Territory sometime soon, I’d recommend trying one.

If you want to share your experience with D’Angelo, please reach us here.

Photobucket: A Hodgepodge

I’m trying to post with regularity, but I drew a blank on ideas for this week.  So, I decided to do a photo-melange of odds and ends to whet your appetites.

Here are some empanadas I had while on vacation in Argentina.  Simple and fast, they’re dough pockets with different fillings.  These had beef filling inside.

Chicken Mole I had in Santa Fe, NM, last year.  Delicious.

This picture I took on the hood of my car for the Double Down Showdown.  To sum the post up, the Double Down is awesome because it’s ridiculous.  The Doublicious is lame because it’s just a chicken sandwich.

Here are Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pancake Sausage Bites.  They were actually kinda good.  On SeriousEats.com, I called them “Morning Corndogs.”

If you stuck anywhere just contact us here.

Breville Panini Press Vs. Cuisinart Griddler: My top pick and why

Hey guys, I have recently talked a lot about stand mixers so let’s switch it up and today I am going to tell you guys about one of the most used appliances in my kitchen, the Panini Press.

There are a lot of options when you start looking to buy a Panini press for yourself which makes it confusing to decide which model is better and which brand would be more reliable.

Let me tell you that Breville and Cuisinart are the best brands for buying a Panini press and it’s not just me but my friends at homeguyd saying this too but how do you decide which one is best for you?

I have reviewed both the Breville Panini Press and the Cuisinart Griddler and here is what I found:

Clean Up

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes sometimes and burn our food by either forgetting all about it or overestimating the cooking time. Whatever the reason is, we are left with a charred mess in the end which we need to clean properly before we can use the Panini press again.

In this aspect, it is much easier to clean Cuisinart model than a Breville model because Cuisinart gives you the option of removable plates which can be then cleaned in a dishwasher while the same cannot be said for a Breville model.

Nonstick removable plates on my Cuisinart

For a Breville model, you would need to carefully wash the plates without being able to remove it and take care that other components don’t get water inside which turns into an arduous task. So, in the matters of cleaning, Cuisinart is the clear champion and will save you a lot of time.

Material used

Another important thing to consider when deciding between the two brands is that which provides you with a better construction and will last longer when used regularly.

The Breville model comes with a non-stick surface which lasts for a long time and doesn’t come off after a month or a year of usage whereas, the same cannot be said for a Cuisinart model.

A Cuisinart model will also include a non-stick surface but this is bound to come off after some time due to getting washed in the dishwasher or because you use a strong detergent to wash it. So, to protect the nonstick material I would advise you don’t dirty your Griddler too much.

Versatility

Another factor to consider while making the choice between these two brands is that how versatile the two models are. As we already know, Breville comes with a non-removable plate and so we can only use that plate to perform all our cooking whereas, a Cuisinart can use several types of removable plates which allows you to perform various waffle or sandwich recipes with considerable ease. Just swap your plate with the desired configurations and you are all set to grill or press.

making waffles in my Cuisinart Panini Press

Consistent cooking

One of the most important factor when considering which model to buy is that which model provides you with a better-cooked food.

After a lot of tests and research, we found that a Breville provides you with an evenly cooked food whereas, a Cuisinart provides you with an unevenly cooked food as the top and the bottom plates provide different temperature to your food.

Verdict:

There is really not a better choice in between these two brands, it is all about what features are more important to you. Clearly, I am in favor of the Cuisinart as it is more versatile and saves me tons of time on cleaning but if you want consistently cooked food, then go for Breville.

If you have any doubts regarding the products, please contact us here.

Tuesday visit to Louvre

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Since Martin is spending his spring break here with us, some sightseeing is in order.  We picked a good time to visit the Louvre…late morning on a Tuesday…as there were no lines at the entrance or the ticket machines.

View from inside the south wing of the Louvre... it's nice to peek outside from time to time to get your bearings while wandering through one of the world's largest art museums.
View from inside the south wing of the Louvre… it’s nice to peek outside from time to time to get your bearings while wandering through one of the world’s largest art museums.

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While Martin’s mission on this day was mainly to see the Greek and Roman works in the museum, one would be remiss not to pop in to see “La Joconde” (The Mona Lisa).  I didn’t photograph the world’s most famous portrait to post here… we all know what she looks like.   What you see below is the mob of tourists that one always finds in front of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, which is secured behind bullet-proof glass.

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In The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, a brother and sister run away from home and live secretly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hiding from the guards and gathering coins from the fountain for spending money.  Martin and I were just talking about how much we love that book when we turned a corner and found ourselves alone on a grand staircase for just an instant.  Fun to imagine having the Louvre to oneself to explore.

 

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I Went up to 18th arrondissement

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Anna and I went up to the 18th Arrondissement, the Monmartre area, this morning for a baking class offered by Cook’n With Class.  We made croissants, pain au chocolat, pain raisin, and babas au rum.  The recipes are simple so it’s the techniques that must be mastered.  This is the kind of cooking class that I still enjoy…those that teach techniques that are just about impossible to learn from a book.

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 Rolling croissants is very satisfying.  Can’t wait to try it at home.

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 Lovely little pastries just waiting for the oven.

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These raisin buns were to die for.  Funny that I’ve seen them in bakeries over here for years and never bought one, perhaps because they look too sweet. The kicker is that these rolls are “glued” together with vanilla pastry cream and that gives them an amazingly rich flavor….definitely the surprise of the day for me.

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This dough that we learned how to make today is comprised of 80 layers as you can see plainly in these fresh out of the oven pain au chocolats. The chef explained to us that the French like their pastries to be baked until quite dark.  They like the burnt caramel flavor as in Creme Caramel and Creme Brulee.  He said that baking this way signifies that this is something to be eaten right away, not saved for later and reheated.  According to him, Americans eat baked goods that are undercooked, “blond” and that uncooked gluten is hard to digest even for those who are not gluten sensitive.  In other words, no more snacking on raw cookie dough.  Don’t know if all this is fact, just passing along the advice of our french pastry chef friend.

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Anna plating her babas au rhum…. just after she had doused it with a very generous glug-glug of Rum.

No foggy London Town

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No foggy London Town for us last weekend… it was 60 degrees and blue skies!  Looks like London will beat Paris in the race to Spring.   It’s a quick and easy 2 1/2 hour Eurostar train ride from one capital city to the other…Gare du Nord to St. Pancras….thanks to the Channel Tunnel (otherwise known as The Chunnel).  Construction of this undersea link between England and France began in 1988 and was open for business in 1994.  I was surprised to learn that this idea had been around since 1802,  when Albert Mathieu first proposed just such a tunnel.  His vision, however, was one of horse-drawn carriages, oil lamps for illumination and an artificial island mid tunnel for the purpose of changing horses.

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Here’s a little something that has surely saved my life in London countless times.  I wonder how many foreigners had unfortunate run-ins with cars and motorbikes before the city started directing us which way to look before crossing the street.

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We spent most of our weekend in the Notting Hill area where #2 son lives these days.  It can be a bit crowded on Saturday due to the wonderful and popular Portobello Street Market but otherwise a fabulous neighborhood.  We especially enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the outside patio of Portobello Ristorante Pizzaria, 7 Ladbrook Road, (Thanks Janos and Sevgi!)

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On our way to Whole Foods on High Street Kensington (their upstairs food court is a wonderful spot for lunch) we were lucky enough to arrive just in time to help celebrate this company’s return from duty in Iraq.   A bystander informed us that there is a little parade and ceremony for each troop as they make their way home.  Welcome home guys!

Here's a quick glimpse of the french countryside from the window of the Eurostar. We are looking forward to renting a car in a couple of weeks to explore la campagne.
Here’s a quick glimpse of the french countryside from the window of the Eurostar. We are looking forward to renting a car in a couple of weeks to explore la campagne.

Another rainy day in Paris

Another rainy day in Paris.  How does that Billy Joel song go?
It’s a rainy night in Paris, and I’m sitting by the Seine,
It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain,
Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine,
But in the morning there’ll be hell to pay
Somewhere along the line.
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This is what Anna wanted to do after finishing her schoolwork.  I, on the other hand, just wanted to get out for some fresh air so I grabbed the raincoat and umbrella and set out to wander.  I decided to turn down every small cobble-stoned street that I could find.
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Now here’s one of the magical things about Paris.  I emerged from one on these passageways to this spectacular sight.  I’ve been to Notre Dame many times, climbed the claustrophobic circular stone staircase to stand nose to nose with the gargoyles, but I still find it thrilling to round a corner and come face to face with Our Grand Lady.
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What to do on rainy sunday in Paris

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What to do on a rainy Sunday in Paris?  Well, it’s the first weekend of the month which means that the museums are free.  That also mean that the museums are incredibly crowded….the lines at the Musee D’Orsay were hours long.  Most shops are closed and you can only sit at a cafe drinking chocolat for so long.  That is why we were pleased to encounter this crowd of people right on our very own Rue Bonaparte.  There was an air of excitement and anticipation but no signage to indicate what was going on.  Obviously we just had to stop and watch like everyone else.

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Turns out that this was the Hermes Ready to Wear Fashion Show (Fall 2012 line) and we quite enjoyed watching the models, designers, and special guests arrive.   I especially enjoyed watching the paparazzi, which, by the way, must be a very boring way to make a living 99.9 percent of the time.

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So after a little Internet sleuthing, we found the schedule for the other designers’ shows and set out once more.  This time we were looking for the Yves St Laurent show and all we knew is that it would be at the Jardin Des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement.   It was dusk when we arrived via metro and since we didn’t have an address, we just started circling the perimeter of the park in search of clues.  In case you are wondering how large this park is I have downloaded this lovely map below.

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See…that’s a big park.  We were about 3/4 of the way around, it’s was raining and cold and very dark by this point and we were considering heading back to the station when we the Mercedes and the Jaguars began to arrive.  Then came the camera flashes and the rush of the paparazzi.  We approached the crowd just in time to see Salma Hayak slip into the gates then stood for quite a while to do what Anna was there to do, which is to critique the wonderful dresses, coats, shoes and hair styles of the fashionistas.

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Just as we were about to succumb to the elements and head for home we noticed that the photographers were beginning to chatter and jostle with each other in an even more noticeable fashion.  The next car to pull up to to gate was instantly surrounded and a gentleman (a driver, I think) called Anna and me to step out into the street to watch.
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So here it is, my first and last paparazzi shot. Good thing Katy Perry has blue hair or she might not have been so recognizable from our vantage point.

In the mood for Love!

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Have you heard of the love locks of Paris?  This is how it works…the happy couple puts their initials on a padlock, clips it onto one of two bridges in Paris and throws the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying love.  This is the Pont des Arts, a nice little pedestrian bridge that connects the 6th arrondisement to  the Palais du Louvre in the 1st.  Supposedly, this is the bridge to which you affix your love lock if you are in a committed relationship.  The other lock-festooned bridge is over by Notre Dame and is apparently designated for those lovers who may not be quite ready for the commitment bridge.  I hear that that “lovers fling” bridge has many more locks on it than this one so we’ll have to check it out.

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This lovely old lock caught my eye because the initials are those of my brother and father, neither of whom, I hope, traveled to Paris in 2009 with a certain LGB.

In the mood for a room with a view!

View to the left...Place St Germain des Pres
View to the left…Place St Germain des Pres

Greetings from Paris!  I’ve decided to hijack my own blog for the next couple of months and use it as a way to keep in touch with friend and family during our sabbatical.  First stop, Paris, where we have rented a delightful little apartment on the left bank.  As much as I love the woodsy views of our home in North Carolina, it’s such a treat to have this beautiful city right on the other side of these charming, floor to ceiling casement windows.

 

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View to the right…Rue Bonaparte

Anna and I left home on leap day… a fitting date to start a journey, wouldn’t you say?  We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, stiff legged and foggy brained, as are all who endure the ridiculously small seats of coach class for 8 hours.  We were met at our apartment on Rue Bonaparte by the rental agent, a lovely young american from Maryland, who gave us the keys and a couple of instructions and was off.  Too tired to search for a great lunch spot, we popped in the first cafe we saw and ended up with a somewhat forgettable meal and went straight back for a nap.

Now I hate jet lag as much as anyone and possibly more than most.  But getting my daughter up after a 2 hour snooze was near to impossible.  So, while Anna was comatose on the couch, I ran to the Monoprix to purchase our basic survival items…water, fruit, yogurt, coffee (for me) and chocolate (for her).

It was the promise of pizza that got Anna back on her feet that first evening and we found a wonderful little restaurant Pizzaria Positano (15 rue Cannettes, 6eme).  The pizzas came straight out of the wood fired oven and had that wonderful crunchy yet chewy crust that we love.

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View from bedroom windows

So we are off to a great start!  I’ll try to post a little something each day and possibly add some recipes if I ever get around to cooking again!  Please send us hellos using the comment button below.