California Melt My Heart

I didn’t enjoy last week’s Great Taste of America, the Dallas BBQ, that much, but at least one person actively hated my review of it, so I guess we’re even. McDonalds never makes me sad for long, though, and this week’s California Melt is everything I have possibly ever wanted in a burger.

I mean, look at it! You can’t see the meat for the cheese! It looks messy, and it is. You can’t pick it up without getting that cheese sauce on your hands and around your mouth. GOOD! The primary reason I go to McDonalds is so that I can leave feeling alarmed at my ability to devour processed food.

It’s got a beef patty, bacon, two slices of peppered cheese, lettuce, onions, and that sauce. That sauce. If I’m being brutally honest, it probably covers up the other flavours more than it should, but the combination of the runny cheesy goodness with the crunchy lettuce and the salty bacon is a taste sensation to behold. If they made this a permanent menu item I would probably cry.

This is definitely the best one so far, but this Wednesday’s Great Taste involves nachos, which is a guaranteed way to get me to eat something, so let’s talk then.

Dallas Delight?

Week 2 of the McDonalds’ Great Tastes of America promotion is the Dallas BBQ sandwich, which they actually stopped serving yesterday but hey, I never claimed that timeliness was a trait of mine. I also don’t have a photo, again. Am I even committed to this food blogger lifestyle?

The Dallas BBQ is a beef patty topped with dry cure bacon, shredded lettuce, red onions, cool mayo and the ‘Dallas BBQ sauce’, served in a sesame seed bun of course. My verdict on last week’s Great Taste, the Miami Special, was that aside from the sweet, tangy sunblush tomato sauce, it really wasn’t that special. I hate to say it, because no one loves McDonalds like me, but I’d have to say the same for this one too, and it doesn’t even have the sauce. Maybe it’s because I ordered mine at 11pm after a disappointing, sober night out. But there just wasn’t any flavour.

The bacon would have been a nice touch, but it was limp and lacklustre. The red onions were about the tastiest part of the whole thing; I don’t know what makes the Dallas BBQ sauce any different to a regular BBQ sauce but it lacked any of the fruity, smoky tang that I’ve come to associate with it.

I feel a little bit heartbroken but you can’t win them all, I guess.This coming week’s special, the California Melt, features a cheese sauce and that’s probably enough to win me over. Til then.

Miami Treat

McDonalds are running another set of five theme weeks, Great Tastes of America, which is excellent news for me because it means I get to eat every single one for the sake of this blog (just kidding, I was going to get them all anyway).

First up is the Miami Special, which I didn’t get a picture of because I’m a Bad Blogger. I’ve never been to Miami so I have no idea what the burgers are like there, and as such I’m going to assume they’re just like this. Which is no bad thing. It’s not really a huge leap from any other burger, but it’s big and oval, comes with bacon, two slices of cheese and a Sunblush tomato sauce that is wonderfully tangy – I’ll raise my burger to that. I actually wish they’d run with this instead of the Big Tasty, which I controversially dislike.

Concurrently, they’re running a Hot & Spicy Buffalo BBQ Chicken burger which is (shock-horror) spicy and very flavoursome, Smoky BBQ McShaker fries which are like salt-and-shake for chips and make them taste like BBQ Pringles, and a Galaxy Cookie Crumble McFlurry that I haven’t had yet but promise I will have by the time the promotion is up. I’m no fool.

Til next week.

All You Can Eat: To Me, A Challenge

I eat a lot so restaurants that exist under the premise of ‘all you can eat’ are nothing short of a challenge to me. Eat as much as I physically can, until I have to leave hurriedly in case I throw up all over your pretty water feature? You’re on.

It was this that brought me to Max Orient, an all you can eat Chinese buffet on Camden High Street. My first mistake was, of course, going to Camden on a Saturday lunch time; the place was, obviously, heaving and I have intense social anxiety. That aside, though, Max Orient is easy to identify from the huge dragon on it’s front and, surprisingly, provides a somewhat more relaxed haven from the frantic atmosphere of Camden market.

I grew up in a town where one of the main sources of entertainment was eating at a pan-Asian buffet (which sounds tragic but then, what could be better than eating as many chicken balls as you fit in your gob?) and Max Orient did not challenge my buffet worldview. You sit down, pay £8.80, order an inordinately expensive coke and then – you’re off! Grab a plate and prowl the multiple aisles of food containers.

They have all the essentials: chicken balls, samosas, spring rolls, noodles, rice, beef in black bean, stir fried mushrooms, and prawn crackers. They also have chips, for the blander among us, and plenty more beside. Basically, it’s everything you’d expect. The food is not the greatest Chinese food you’ve ever tasted, because it’s not meant to be; it is good though, and quick and bountiful. And that’s why you go to an all you can eat buffet. And I did eat all I could.

A Meating of Minds

I like meat. That is basically the fundamental point of all my reviews here, and my life philosophy. I will eat meat that is closely related to processed garbage and call it a culinary marvel – and believe that.

MeatLiquor (in Welbeck Street, London) and exists under the premise that all a menu needs is meat and liquor to thrive. It is correct, and its several variants are testament to that – MeatMarket in Soho, MeatMission in Hoxton, ChickenLiquor in Brixton, and other MeatLiquors around the country. I’m just going to be honest here and throw my cards on the table: this is my favourite restaurant. I went for the first time last year after having it hyped to me for years and it lived up to all that and more. I could spend a fortune there. I probably would, if I had one.

Before anyone who has been to MeatLiquor tells you anything about the actual meat or liquor, they’ll tell you things that might put you off: the length of the queue to get in, how it’s dark in the restaurant, how the music is loud. This is not untrue. I have seen people amass by the bar, and queue round the outside of the building, but here’s the rub: if you get there at the right time, you don’t have to. On both times I’ve been there recently – weekday evenings, after work – I was able to sit right down, and get served right away. But I’d say it’s worth the wait, anyway.

It is also dark, and loud. It’s going for an underground dive bar with raucous guitar music and dim, hazy lighting vibe, and it nails it. I’ve not had trouble reading the menu or seeing my food, but my eyesight is fine, so it’s quite possible my experience isn’t representative. I wouldn’t let it put you off, though; it’s something you get into, rather than repulsed by. Maybe.

There’s a long list of a variety of cocktails, which really pack a punch, alongside beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks and, crucially, magnificent, creamy milkshakes that can be both hard and soft. The food, meanwhile, is essentially what would be on my bucket list, if I ever wrote one. I am nowhere near to having tried everything on there, but I hope before I die that I do. Even the simple bacon cheeseburger is a juicy, messy sight to behold, but the Dead Hippie is to – well, die for. The onion rings are huge and crispy, the chilli cheese fries are eye-wateringly spicy, the Bingo Wings are hot and flavoursome, and the Rib Licker is, I’m reliably informed, like the McRib but meatier, and just as messy. As previously stated, I respect any restaurant that provides a roll of kitchen towel over flimsy napkins, and I’m increasingly starting a love affair with any restaurant that serves its food just flat out on a tray. That’s a restaurant that says: we don’t expect you to make a mess, we want you to.

And you will, so it’s a good job it’s dark. Long live MeatLiquor.

Lotus Kitchen of Vegetarian Delights

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, located in Withington, Manchester, might be my new favourite takeaway. Frequently when ordering takeaway I’m limited to just a few items on the menu, and my vegan friends have even fewer options, if any. At Lotus, every item on the menu is vegetarian with many vegan options, all clearly marked.

I ordered the Salt and Pepper Crispy Veggie King Prawns and the Special Fried Rice for me and my partner to share (which came to slightly over £14) and got about ten enormous fake prawns (or frawns for the portmanteau fans among us) and a very large portion of rice (easily enough for two platefulls).

A very common problem I have with fake sea food is the tough texture which I find very peculiar with something intended to be fishy, but the frawns were very soft. The prawn part of the crispy prawns didn’t have a hugely strong flavour but the crispy batter on the outside was peppery and delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed them and only let my partner eat one or two before I finished them off.

The Special Fried Rice was equally wonderful. It had at least three different fake meats in it. Pieces of fake prawn, thin slices of a chewy, tofu based dark meat and strips of what I assume was a gelatin based product similar in texture to mock duck, but with a much more appealing appearance than mock duck generally has. There were also various vegetables mixed in, and the rice itself was perfectly cooked.

Overall, this was one of the tastiest meals I’ve eaten in a while, and I’d recommend this restaurant to vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike.

Mega Chips

While perusing the delights on offer in the M19 section of Just Eat, one of the people ordering takeaway with us suggested the Don Paulo takeaway, which they described as “real italian food”. Scrolling through the menu it did at first seem to be full of fancy italian food, and much cheaper than Domino’s.

That was when we discovered the “Mega Chip Pizza”, nestled incongruously between the more traditional margarita and funghi pizzas. Although I couldn’t eat it as it wasn’t vegetarian, another member of our group did order it. It turned out to be exactly what we expected: a pizza with a handful of chips sprinkled artfully across the top. When asked to describe the pizza, Frankie, who ordered the pizza, stated “It was both mega, and chips. It did what it said on the tin.” He described the crust as “disappointing” as there was “too much margin on the pizza. The crust to pizza ratio was all off.”

We also ordered pizza chips, which was a portion of chips with tomato and cheese on top, and was delicious by all accounts.

They appeared to be slightly confused by our order of a pizza with no cheese on top, as they did give us that pizza, along with an identical one with the cheese. The extra free pizza seemed to be a replacement for some tiramisu which we ordered but didn’t show up until we called back and asked for it again. The tiramisu did eventually arrive two hours after we originally placed the order, and was a good sized portion.

In general the food was cheap and fairly nice, even if some of the pizza crusts were a bit overdone and the food arrived an hour and a half after we placed the order.

It was a learning experience, and what I learned was that I probably just wanted Domino’s.