Amalgam Day

Hello fair readers!

For the post du jour, I’m whining writing about a couple of things that have been in the hopper for a little while but needed proper motivation to be written.

Today is that day. Hooray!

Before we get to it, an amalgam is “a mixture of different elements,” the second definition of this word according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

First things first. I have decided that instead of “Hump Day,” Wednesday should be called “Slump Day.” I mentioned this to a friend of mine this morning because I feel very strongly against using the word “hump” – gross. And also it really does feel like a slump. Is anyone really motivated on Wednesday? Anyone? I’m waiting. Or we could just call it Amalgam Day, but that wouldn’t always apply.

Next on the list:

So apparently I’m a masochist. It takes me forever to realize that something is going to suck no matter how much I want it to not suck.

<Dramatic Deep Sigh>

Today turned out to be incredibly chilly, rainy, and windy, so I decided to get myself a hot meal at lunchtime. Since I didn’t have time to go out for a real sit-down meal, I ventured to go for McDonald’s, the only fast food place close by to my office. I know, you’re probably thinking, “There’s your first mistake.” I hadn’t been to Mickey D’s in a couple of weeks and so I was ready for it to reward me for my abstinence.

I also thought that perhaps they’d be having a Good Fry Day and I would be able to benefit from it. We all know what Good Fry Days are at McDonald’s – you get your bag and these perfectly cooked golden sticks with just the right amount of salt on them await you to consume them. They become the cornerstone of the meal, though Chicken McNuggets or a Big Mac aren’t too far behind. For the record, it was NOT a good fry day. I got hot fries but they were overcooked and had a puke yellow color to them, so they were not all that appetizing.

In any case, I decided that on top of getting a regular lunch meal, I’d opt to try a hot coffee drink, since they have already begun putting their holiday beverage advertisements out at the drive-thru. (I guess it worked….)

There’s no way in hell I would try anything with “peppermint” in it from McDonald’s, so that nixed the “Peppermint Hot Chocolate” and I didn’t want a regular latte, not that I trust them to make a great one. My go-to coffee drink is a mocha when I’m feeling splurge-y, so that’s what I decided on.

I know, we’ve been here before, right? Also here. I keep signing up for the pyramid schemes and believing I’m going to make my money back.

Needless to say, it did not live up to the expectations my little heart had set.

Pros: the ‘mocha’ was hot; it had whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top
Cons: it was mostly just espresso with not enough milk in it and was entirely too bitter; the best part of consuming this ‘mocha’ was at the end when I got the extra bit of syrup and whipped cream mixed in with the last of the drink. I should have just gotten a regular cup of coffee.

Basically, I’m living out the cliché definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The hope here is that having written about these disastrous drinks on a couple of different occasions, I’ll actually like, REMEMBER that the next time I think I am going to manifest that perfect coffee drink I’m craving and I find myself at McDonald’s.

I have yet to hear from anyone that these things are actually satisfying, unless you’re addicted to super sugary stuff and go for the drinks that are all syrup with a drop of espresso in them.

All of this leads me to my final point, and one I didn’t think I’d ever say:

Dear Starbucks, PLEASE SET UP A NEW LOCATION IN MY CITY! Urbana has the Starbuckses because the University of Illinois is there. We Champaigners don’t have one, unless you count going up to the mall area, which I don’t. You know what we get instead? A plethora of Espresso Royales.

Don't be fooled. It's horrible.

Espresso Royale is even worse than McDonald’s AND they charge you up the ass for their beverages and baked goods. I can’t say enough bad things about that place, and after trying them at least five times before giving up (are we seeing a pattern here?), I can say with confidence they don’t know how to make coffee OR hot chocolate.

I NEED a Starbuck’s. They may be all corporate and “everything that’s wrong with America,” but I am desperate. They know how to make a freaking mocha without screwing it up and know a little something about the art of coffee, even if they’re not everyone’s ideal. Plus, they make a damn fine pumpkin spice latte.

I don’t even need a giant Starbucks with a drive-thru. I just want a little shop set up within a mile of of where I work in the southwest corner of Champaign. Is that really too much to ask? Please, Starbucks, come and put Espresso Royale out of business!! It’s a travesty that that place is even staying afloat because they’re doing everything they can to keep people out, trust me.

I actually really like my newly adopted city but if I were appointed City Planner or whoever makes these kinds of decisions, I’d ban Espresso Royale and start getting some much needed coffee shops in the coffee-less areas for the suburbanites. It’s time to get the good coffee drinks to us coffee snobs in the farther out regions. (Some of us ninety-nine percenters have spending priorities such as I do – it’s all we’ve got! Did I say the word ‘coffee’ enough in this paragraph?)

To sum up: McDonald’s keeps on disappointing and it’s annoying; Starbucks is neglecting a very important area of the country and needs only to send me an email if they want to know where to set up their next location.

Happy Slump Day.

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Dear Wendy’s, I love ya but you’re not a bistro.

On a recent excursion to the sole Wendy’s in my fair town, I had the opportunity to try their new line of French fries. These new fries are supposed to call forth healthier images of a fried treat (more like a staple) that is consumed daily around the world as if the next potato famine will start any second now.

Made from Russet potatoes, left with some critical minimal amount of skin on for a more natural effect, and seasoned only with sea salt, Wendy’s portends that this is the new standard of fry that is going to beat out McDonald’s’. <~~~~I swear that that is the correct way to properly put McDonald’s in the plural possessive. Those two apostrophes are annoying, however.

Before I cite some other articles on this topic, I’m just going to give my totally subjective, casual opinion on them. Which is….they’re really not all that good. Honestly, what peeves me more than anything else is that these new fries completely took over the old ones, and I happened to like their classic yellow, thicker cut fries. We had no choice whatsoever in this matter. The old ones tasted great with ranch (quelle surprise) and Kevin liked to dip them into Frosties. I’m a big fan of Frosties. Big time. Chocolate, not vanilla. Their coffee chocolate dessert thingy is good, too, where they mix in candy and stuff with it. But in a pinch, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Frosty. Mmm.

Okay, back to the fries. We were mourning the old ones. Quite frankly, if we just had the option of choosing between classic and these new “bistro” fries, I’d be okay with that! I’d just never order the bistro fries. I mean, even Arby’s and Jack in the Box have multiple fry options. Curly vs. classic. Why can’t they get on board with this? Yeah, it’s one more thing to fry up but it’s just potatoes and chicken nuggets in the fryers over there. BFD, ya know?

These new fries are skinnier, the ends burn more easily, and I don’t know if it’s the 1% skin on them or what, but the flavor just isn’t….”Hurry up and eat me!” like I do with other places’ fries.

I love me some sea salt. But there’s no way that these fast food fries are potatoes + salt and that’s it. And I surmised correctly! Check out this article on all the crap that the fries are processed with – I’m telling you, it’s nasty. And if you have some extra time and wanna see what an actual food blog wrote up about the fries, check out what Serious Eats had to say about them.

I disagree that the old ones had no merit but I do agree that they were inconsistently cooked.

In summation, I’m sorry to say it, Wendy’s. The new fries are more a fail than a success. Please stick to what you do best, which is make above average fast food. And your new salads are bomb, too. But your thinly veiled marketing campaign to disguise your fries as anything but regular, same-old processed ones is lame. Bring back the old fries that never pretended to be anything than what they were – mediocre and bad for you!

What’s Cheap and Tastes Like Liquid Crack?

For any of you who have read this other post by me, you won’t be surprised by the answer. Check out the photos first and then the actual review below them.

 

Where could it be from?

Aha! No real surprise here.

 

Holly jolly holiday cup o’ joe.

Normally I stick with my tried-and-true regular coffee from McDonald’s when I go during breakfast time. Small cup, four cream, three Splenda. (I used to get it black and take it into work where I’d doctor it with real half ‘n half. Ah, the corporate days when someone stocked the fridge with free half ‘n half.)

Today, I made the choice to try their new Caramel Mocha. I don’t really know how this works, seeing as a mocha drink is already awesome as it is. I mean, hello –  espresso, chocolate, steamed milk, and whipped cream. But the caramel edition intrigued me.

But when I tasted it, the first thought that popped into my head was, “Whoa. That’s too bad.” It was so sugary that it pretty much tasted like liquid crack. From the caffeine in the espresso, the “chocolate”, plus the sugary caramel flavor mixed in, I prayed I wouldn’t bounce off the walls at work.

They didn’t put whipped cream on it.

I didn’t even finish it.

Sorry, Mickey D’s. Not this time. Please try again. I wasn’t “sipping the joy.”

The Next Big McThing: McCafe!

Well, everyone – it’s here. It’s a little queer. It’s McCafe. McDonald’s’ response to Starbucks having a corner on the coffee market is to roll out their own line of espresso-based drinks. If you believe their tagline, it’s its own little coffee world. (I think that’s going a bit too far, however.) My favorite part about that photo is the freshly baked biscotti that I’m sure they lovingly make at 4am, along with their Southern style biscuits in each of the homey kitchens McDonald’s sets up for their workers.

There is a McDonald’s steps away from my office building in Midtown. This morning I went in to get some coffee and a little breakfast and what greeted my eyes was a colorful spread of their new coffee drinks they now provide, including Iced Mochas, regular Mochas, Cappuccino and Lattes. (I can’t remember if they all had a Mc in front of them, but I will think it’s fantastic if they call it a McMocha!) They also have flavored Mcsyrups, in case regular coffee is too boring for you: vanilla, sugar-free vanilla, hazelnut and caramel. Need a jolt after consuming a 2,000 calorie fast food meal at work? Wake up with a sugar-blasted coffee drink! You’ll find the coffee somewhere amongst the sprinkles, whipped cream, syrup and milk.

I don’t know how seriously people will take this. People under a certain age will not want to drink coffee, and let’s face it, half of their clinetele are children; but even they will not succumb to the marketing ploy of wanting a coffee drink, regardless if there is a set of golden arches emblazoned on the plastic or styrofoam cup. I will not be a hypocrite and say I do not enjoy McDonald’s’ regular coffee. Because I do! I don’t care how “white trash” or hoosier that is. There is something about the flavor that is really good. I’m not the only one that thinks so, either. I’m not saying that just because I like it makes it good (I mean, billions of people enjoy porn and that doesn’t necessarily make it ‘good’ or ‘right’ – right?) but it’s definitely better than any office coffee I’ve ever had, and in my petite opinion, whips Dunkin Donuts’ ass. Click here to see a photo of Mickey D’s’ ingenious coffee lids (I know, they’re plastic, and they fit onto a styrofoam cup. I just know I’m killing off some rare species every time I drink a cup of their coffee…), a picture of which I found on a site touting the horridness of the design. Ah, irony.

I am also partial to McDonald’s’ coffee because my mom always drank it on road trips. I think the smell of the hot coffee steaming up the car when we would go on long drives reminds me of those family trips with my mother at the wheel, sipping on coffee to keep her awake and all of us from careening into a bridge abutment. (Anybody catch the Tommy Boy reference there?) So maybe when I’m drinking McDonald’s coffee at work in the morning, I’m really sipping on a better time and place when I wasn’t groggy with fatigue at 8:30 in the morning.

If you want to “wake up to what’s new” you can go online and play with the new coffees and “create your own.” I think the marketing of all the photos will be far more exotic and enticing than the actual flavor. Now, I haven’t tried any of these concoctions yet so I will post an update when I’m willing to shell out a few bucks for one of these sugar bombs. I do enjoy a good cafe mocha, it’s just I’m so skeptical of enjoying one from McDonald’s. I feel like they must be grinding up plastic espresso beans or something. It doesn’t fit it in with the fact that I frequent McDonald’s somewhat regularly, since I can grab their coffee in the morning before work anytime I want. And I do enjoy their breakfast.

Speaking of their breakfast. Word to the wise: McDonald’s’ “Big Breakfast” is simply a Sausage & Egg Biscuit meal with all the pieces given to you separately in a planet killing, styrofoam platter with lid. No kidding, I opened up my Big Breakfast recently, TASTING hotcakes on my tongue, only to discover that I had a biscuit, a piece of sausage, a “folded over” scrambled egg pile, a hash brown thing with syrup, jelly and butter crammed in the bag. Where the freak were my pancakes, God bless it? What on earth is the difference between that and ordering the meal? I don’t even eat McDonald’s’ hash browns. I can’t stand the taste of the chemicals or oil or whatever it is that shellacks the shredded potatoes together. So I was steamed that I had accidentally ordered something that a) I wasn’t craving and b) it came with something I never eat.

Okay I just Googled the Big Breakfast to discover that someone else posted something about this on his/her blog (using my same template, so it looks very similar) and that it’s really supposed to come with a buttered English muffin. And this person claims that the era of the Big Breakfast is over but I am here to announce that that is false. Check out this post for yourself.

If any of you readers out there have any comments on McDonald’s’ coffee or if you’ve tried anything from the McCafe, I’d love to hear about it! I just don’t know how I feel about the yuppieness of coffee being mixed with the not-so-upper-classness of the fast food joint McDonald’s. Are they running out of people to market to? Is there some demographic they’re not hitting? Pretty sure infants, toddlers, elementary school kids through high schoolers, college kids, people in their 30s-40s and then senior citizens all eat at McDonald’s, and with a startling regularity. We’ve all seen the old couple at McDonald’s at 6am who are eating their regular breakfast, reading the paper, sitting at their usual booth and wearing matching visors. So who does McDonald’s need to get to that they haven’t yet? Is the CEO stomping around at meetings going, “We have to BRING MORE PEOPLE IN! Instead of ‘1 billion hamburgers sold’ it’s now going to be ‘1 billion lattes sold!'” It’s like that joke that David Cross tells about how he’s sick of McDonald’s advertising all the time: “If I wake up and don’t see or hear an ad for McDonald’s…I don’t say to myself ‘Hey…did McDonald’s go out of business?'” Exactly.

I’m not saying to boycott the new McCafe. I just don’t understand it, is all. I think what it reminds me of is my crappy coffee place at college, where they tried to make decent coffee drinks but they were more sugar and toxic waste than anything else and really weren’t worth my Declining dollars. (I distinctly remember one of my old college friends telling the girl behind the counter how to make her hazelnut coffee drink, since she herself had worked at a Starbucks.) It’s unfortunate but that’s how I see McCafe panning out. Prove me wrong, McDonald’s! Let’s see you dip some of Starbucks’ numbers a bit in this already shitty economy. In one corner, we have a fast food chain that started out sixty years ago that has dominated the globe with its universal taste, and in the other we have a still relatively new but powerfully dominant coffee chain whose sole purpose for existence is selling people overpriced, overburnt-espresso-based drinks but does it with corporate panache. Who’s gonna win out?

Only time will mctell.