Monday, 4 February 2008

California Adventure '08: Junk Food and Road Snacks

An 8 day journey, just me and my father, driving from Ontario to California in a small rig (a 5th wheel truck with a trailer). Ontario-Michigan-Indiana-Illinois-Missouri-Texas-New Mexico-Arizona-California. It rained, snowed, winds blowed etc. No warmth - just storm. That was my California Adventure. Hours of just sitting, watching America go by.

I had hoped to sample the ribs of St Louis, the bbq of Texas, and obviously some wings along the way. Unfortunately, in this business time is money, money is time and with my father behind the wheel, it was go go go. My cuisine was fast food and truck stops. Here was some of the less than gourmet choices I had, for better or worse.


Yes, with billions and billions served, we helped increase their numbers. By the end of the trip, I felt like Morgan Spurlock since we ate here at least once a day. Why, why, why did we do this one might ask? Several reasons: it's cheap; it's everywhere; it's one of the few places on the route that can accommodate a 30 some-odd truck and trailer.

From state to state there was very little difference from what we get here in Canada. One item I only saw in Barstow California was the Angus Third Pounder Burger.

Wikipedia describes this burger as: "Angus Third Pounders - A test product that is currently being offered in Southern California, Columbus and the New York metro area. There are three sandwiches; the Angus Deluxe (American cheese, sliced red onions and sliced red tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise); Angus Mushroom and Swiss (sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese and mayonnaise); and Angus Bacon and Cheese (bacon, American cheese, sliced red onions, mustard, ketchup and pickles). Designed to compete with the Angus Burger from Burger King. "

I went with the bacon and cheese. So how was this monster-for-McD's? Well, the taste wasn't anything special. And half-way through the burger, I was sick of it. Perhaps it was because I had eaten a lot of McD's already, but I really think it was the meat. It was like 2 quarter pounders cheeseburgs, and I just can't eat that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all anti-Ronald. But there is a certain artificial/chemical feel you get when eating too much. The bacon was also disappointing. If this is a test project, lets say fail and move on to the next best thing.


Yellow Pages Wings

In many of the motels we stayed in, I took to reading the yellow pages in the half an hour or so we had by check-in and sleep time. In Antelope Valley ( yes, Antelope Valley was the region, Lancaster was the city, also in California), there is a little place called The Wing Stop. I wish we could have 'stopped' and tried their wings.


Carl's Jr.

A burger chain not offered in Canada (at least Ontario), we did stop to try their burgers after seeing many billboards and a spot to stop. It was interesting because half the menu was burgers, the other half was tacos. The menu had some interesting looking choices, like their "6 Dollar Burgers," which is supposed to emphasize that its a good quality burger because of its expense, but coming from Canada where most burger combos are around $6, this didn't work on me.

You might remember Carl's Jr for their controversial Paris Hilton ads with her eating a sloppy burger over a car. What a terrible ad choice.

Their fries were McD's shoestring rip offs. They weren't bad, but they were limp and salt-less. If your going to copy, you've got to do better than the original.

The above is a Western Bacon Cheese Burger. A 'Charbroiled All-Beef Patty, Two Stripes of Bacon, Melted American Cheese, Two Crispy Onion Rings and Tangy BBQ Sauce'. It looks like a horid mess, but it was good. The bacon was real bacon (crispy, tasty, not at all like McD bacon). The patty itself tasted like burger king, and the onion rings made for an interesting taste. I expected there to be some more condiments on it (all the bill-boards showed the main condiments on the bottom of burgers, opposite most other chains and construction logic).

My Pop, on the other hand, got a Famous Star burger (just a simple burger with cheese). He enjoyed it, but it was nothing special.

When I ordered my combo, they asked what size. I wasn't sure what they were referring to exactly, when the server stated the size of drink and fries. I went with a medium, but my drink was surely a large by other places standards.

So Carl's Jr was good; worth checking out if on the road and looking for a fast-food alternative.


Desert Star Hot Beef Jerky

At all the Flying J truck stops we frequented, there is lots of snack food. One such item was jerky, and one brand stood out:

"If you have not experienced the Arizona desert sitting around a campfire away from the lights of the city with its clear open view of the heavens, you will have missed the special experience that the Desert Star’s offer. Desert Star brand of beef jerky was inspired by the simple challenging life of the desert. The extremes of temperature, storms and horizons reflect the extreme taste sensation of our Desert Star beef jerky products. This brand of beef jerky combines a unique blend of spices, marinated to absorb the essence of lean cuts of beef and spice, cured with the slow smoky flavor of an outdoor fire, making eating this product reminiscent of the outdoor “Desert Star” experience. "

Ok that's a bit much, but the 'hot' style jerky started off good, but ended badly.

First, like the bag says, it is soft and delicious. There was little effort in the chewing, giving it a fresh texture rather than rawhide. And there definitely some heat. From the picture below, you can see it peppered with heat flakes.

The flavour was smokey, with a strong hint of teriyaki in it. Some burn, some flavour, it seemed all good.

The bag had some interesting information. Not only all the chemicals, but the beef is "Sourced from USA, Brazil or Uruguay". Mmmmm, meat from uruguay. Intersting . .

Well, after eating a little bit of the snack for a few days, it just didn't sit right in the mouth and the belly. Too much of a good thing? I don't know, but I don't want seconds of this for a while despite the initial great jerky taste to begin.

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