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Localization of the Week: Wendy’s Philippines Salad Bar

Salad bars used to be a big deal in the pre-kale era (don’t even get me started on the glory of the Wednesday baked potato bar at my middle school cafeteria). Probably because it was an excuse to load up on shredded cheese, bacon bits and thousand island dressing in the name of health.

Wendy’s is credited with introducing the first fast food salad bar, in 1979. The concept had a two-decade run before fading into American history.

In July, Wendy’s in the Philippines brought the salad bar back to life. Being 2014 a hashtag #WeDeserveThis has been deployed and a crowdsourced Facebook campaign solicited salad items to be included. With the exception of lychee gelatin, the offerings wouldn’t likely throw Dave Thomas into fits. The spring rolls, spaghetti and salisbury steak on the regular menu? Maybe.

The salad bar technique appears to be borrowing lightly from the Chinese Pizza Hut playbook.

 

Top 5 Shocking Discoveries About Applebee’s and Tennis Stars

The Cincinnati Masters attracts tennis pros from around the globe. The Marriott in Mason, Ohio, is the official hotel of the tournament. It also happens to be next to an Applebee’s. Culture shock–and eventual understanding–ensues.

5. There are no mopeds in Mason, according to American athlete John Isner.

“I always say Carrabba’s has great Italian food to a couple of the Italians, and they look at me and laugh,” he said of another restaurant in Mason. “I still stand by that. I don’t know, I think it’s easy. Everybody has their own car, it’s easy to drive here. You’re not fighting awful traffic and mopeds and all sorts of the stuff in Rome.”

4. Despite the lack of mopeds, Cincinnati and its suburbs are still world class.

“I’m super comfortable; I think most Americans are,” he said of staying in Mason. “I prefer Cincinnati, personally, over a tournament like Madrid or something. For me, it’s better. There’s a lot to do here, in my opinion.”

3. Former player and Croatian, Ivan Ljubicic, thinks Applebee’s is a Japanese restaurant.

“Especially coming from Europe, when I eat my first meal at Applebee’s, I feel. …,”  Ljubicic said, puffing out his cheeks and holding his arms out to indicate the width of a sumo wrestler. Then he added, “But the desserts are fantastic, it has to be said.”

2. Maria Sharapova doesn’t get it. “It’s really slim pickings here, in terms of the healthy options,” said the highest-paid female athlete in the universe. She rents her own house and supposedly cooks her own food.

1. Latvian Ernests Gulbis gets it better than anyone.

“But throughout the years, and I’m not joking, I start to love this place,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to come here. I don’t know. It feels somehow — even this Marriott where we’re staying, the atmosphere there, the Applebee’s next door — you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Localization of the Week: Cheese Fondue Whopper

Burger King has introduced a burger that would be near and dear to my processed cheese-loving self if I were anywhere near South Korea. It’s the Cheese Fondue Whopper, which appears to have swapped out American slices for melted white cheese that may or may not be Emmental.

Actor Lee Jung-Jae makes dipping a fast food burger into processed cheese (in the commercial he submerges half the Whopper into the fondue pot) look like the height of sophistication. The bachelor pad penthouse terrace probably doesn’t hurt.

 

 

 

Put a Ring In It

When you passively await fixations to blip on your radar, dry spells are a given. (The summer has been upsettingly slow for palate/palette abuse.) Finally, a solid food proposal came my way.


We can all agree this would be more romantic if the ring was oozing out of a molten chocolate cake (heck, even the new cinnamon version), right?

Bâtard

threeshovelBâtard doesn’t seem radical on the surface. It’s a nice restaurant in Tribeca. But thinking back to my experience in the same space over four years ago, it feels like twice as long in restaurant years. Gone are the tablecloths, much of the hush (though this was two days after the great muffling) and pretense, no biggie if you want white burgundy but aren’t willing to spend three figures. Unlike at Corton, no one would’ve given a shit if I took out my purse-sized SLR instead of leaving it at home, a more frequent occurrence lately because who cares about blogs anymore? Bâtard has an active Instagram account.

batard bread

No amuses. There is still bread, though.

batard chilled pea soup, fluke, salsify crumble, sweet shallots, mint

Anyone who ate at Bâtard in the early days–you know, a month ago–recommends the pea soup with sweetbreads. It has since given way to a more summery version, chilled and minted, and containing ribbons of raw fluke. The crisped salsify that looks like bacon is still present, as is the tableside pour.

batard octopus pastrami, braised ham hock, pommery mustard, new potatoes

Octopus “pastrami” might be the breakout hit. In fact, the spice-crusted cephalopod terrine, garnished incongruously but deliciously with grainy mustard, capers, ham, and potato, appeared on Good Day New York the following morning. Oddly, it was the almost sweet rye croutons that really brought this dish together.

I slunk into mild martyrdom because I don’t have fine dining friends (I have plenty of brunch friends, bbq friends, beer and burger friends, and Neverending Pasta Bowl friends, thanks) and was starting to spazz over not getting the birthday dinner I truly wanted. A well-meaning question from the loosening vegetarian almost made me say and do regrettable things. “Is there chicken on the menu?” With the exception of the schnitzel special, there’s not only no chicken on the menu, but no poultry whatsoever.

batard veal tenderlon tramezzini, sugar snap peas, sweetbreads, sauce diable

I may have opted for the veal out of misplaced defiance. It’s a serious entree, described playfully as “tramezzini,” a nod to the breading wrapped around the rare tenderloin that’s more like a wellington than an Italian sandwich. The crunchy snap peas added just enough freshness to the rich jus, chanterelles and sweetbread cube.

batard black forest, chocolate sablé, kirsch chantilly, bing cherries

The black forest dessert, incorporating straightforward chocolate, cherries, and cream, was the most overtly Germanic. Sweet and pleasing, it just made sense.

Keeping with the more accessible theme, the relatively low point of entry ($55 for two courses) is nice, but you’d have to crazy to not find the extra $20 for two more dishes.

Bâtard * 239 W. Broadway, New York, NY

Would You Rather? Chinese Edition

Would you rather:

Photo via meituan.com

Photo* via meituan.com

Eat Beijing burgers in NoMad?

or

Crab rangoon and Brooklyn Lager in Shanghai?

*I’m 99.9% certain that’s not the chain in question, as it appears to be a one-off in Qingdao that serves chicken sandwiches. In fact, there’s no (English-language or crappy Chinese Google translate) online evidence of the existence of an Uncle Sam Fast Food in China. I would ponder if this was just an elaborate hoax, but some teenager in Brooklyn did win an Uncle Sam’s logo contest–at least according to China Daily, which may or may not be a legit publication.

 

 

The Gorbals

twoshovelI’ve lost all ability to gauge what others will find compelling. My call for birthday travel mates to the Aqueduct casino fell flat (I decided to just take myself out to Bâtard) yet an equally arduous journey to Forest Hills to sleuth out the Northeast’s only Sizzler has generated interest. The Gorbals on opening night was also not a strike out.

Who wouldn’t want to eat in the nation’s coolest Urban Outfitters that’s barely an Urban Outfitters. Space Ninety 8 could be described as a concept store. Or it could be described as “More Anthro. More Curated,” as a sales clerk was explaining to a customer. “We don’t have sales,” he added.

That means you’ll weave past the macramé dreamcatchers, white lug-soled sandals, one size fits most Eileen Fisher for millennials linen shifts, and Japanese lip balms in containers camouflaged as fruit. All of a sudden a bar appears on the horizon of the men’s section on the third flor. Take a left and you’re dining in-store next to an open kitchen.

the gorbals cocktails

On the early side, the restaurant was populated but not at capacity; there were enough free seats to cause arrivals to balk at sharing the communal table in the back. The crowd was also slightly older than one might imagine, and by older I just mean over 30 with a sprinkling of the truly middle aged. (I went for a beer afterward at Iona and there was not one person over 24–or wearing a bra–in the back garden.)

the gorbals banh mi poutine, thrice-cooked fries, hoisin

I was expecting small plates, and for the most part they were. Not so with the banh mi poutine, total blogger bait which appeared first, unbidden, and was appreciated all the more for it. I wouldn’t describe this as tasting like a banh mi, though. The rich hunks of pork adhered to the fries and pickles with melted cheese kind of translated as cubano. Regardless, I couldn’t stop picking at the delicious pile.

the gorbals falafel-crusted lamb sweetbreads, cool ranch hummus, green garlic

Falafel-crusted lamb sweetbreads completely made sense–even the subtle ranch-flavored hummus didn’t seem out of place. What is ranch anyway but buttermilk and a dill-heavy herb-blend?

the gorbals jewish lunchbox, fried barley, gefilte fish cake, poached egg, dill'd kimchi

I didn’t catch a photo before the “Jewish lunchbox” was shook up in front of us. This was the least successful dish, perhaps because the barley posing as rice was lukewarm. Timing was a little haphazard, but I won’t begrudge anyone on their first night. Gefilte fish holds no nostalgia for me, though I can appreciate a spongy fish cake, a nice runny egg yolk and kimchi (with more of that dill).

the gorbals chewy carrots, smoked brown butter, almond cake

You should order at least one vegetable. Carrots, shriveled  with a velvety texture, come with nearly candied brown tufts called almond cake that based on color and the dish’s vaguely Nordic vibe kept signaling rye to my brain. Not rye.

the gorbals bacon-wrapped matzoh balls, horseradish mayonnaise

The friend who had taken me out couldn’t decide if the bacon-wrapped matzoh balls were a “dick move” or not. A dick move that got slightly neglected because they came at the end of the meal and were a little heavy (I blame the poutine) even if the horseradish sauce livened them up. These might work better as bar snacks.

I guess this is L.A. food, though it feels just as much like Brooklyn food. The “Barn” section of the menu is where the fun is concentrated, and I would characterize this food as fun. In many ways, it’s less serious than the merchandise on the floor. Nothing is outrageously priced, nothing is overly precious. I guess fun is pretty subjective? (says the person who wants to spend a summer day playing Keno in a dark, smoke-filled space). The talons attached to the schnitzel were causing some commotion; one had to be sawed off at the table before the woman would accept the plate and another diner requested the gnarled chicken foot be removed before leaving the kitchen.

The Gorbals * 98 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn, NY

 

American Falafel

The AP article, “Falafel to go: Mideast food chains expand abroad” illustrated with a photo of Cafe Bateel (Bateel is the Godiva of the United Arab Emirates but with dates not chocolate) quickened my pulse a bit.

Abroad doesn’t automatically equal the US, however. It’s Russia, Turkey, the “Far East” and more regions of the Middle East that are getting the slightly upscale cafes found in malls.

We’re also not getting Man’oushe Street, the Dubai chain specializing in the namesake flatbreads commonly topped with Kashkaval cheese, thyme and sesame seeds.

America just gets Just Falafel. The first US branch recently opened in Fremont, California (NYC and New Jersey are both listed as locations on the website) which prompted the addition of a new regional variation to its line-up of wraps called the Californian. You know, beets and salsa. There was already an American served on a sesame-studded bun with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar–and everybody’s favorite: cocktail sauce.

By that score, the New Yorker will be garnished with thousand island dressing and kidney beans?

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Skewers, Shawarma, Sable

snack eos duoSnack EOS Ninth Avenue near Times Square can feel more exciting simply because it’s not Eighth Avenue. Even so, there are a few charmers like Larb Ubol that stand out, and now Snack EOS, which was new to me, and possibly new period. Peaceful and non-plasticky, it’s a nice respite from the humidity and suitcase-draggers–and the $14.95 snack box isn’t a bad deal for a sit-down lunch. The taramosalata (pictured) with lots of warm pita and a yellowfin tuna skewer a.k.a. kalamaki with olives and a farro salad, is just one combo from a choice of three starters and an equal number of mains.

 

 

la goulette delivery

La Goulette Can you accurately judge a restaurant based on delivery? Probably not. La Goulette already gets points, though, for being one of the only Tunisian restaurants around (and by around, I mean that I can walk to). I appreciated that you could get chicken shawarma (there is merguez, but not much lamb in other forms, oddly) in a style not involving pita or rice. Who cares whether roasted cauliflower and artichokes are a traditional accompaniment  or a modern concession, it worked. There’s plenty of starch in the falafel and hummus-filled “veggie mix.” Don’t worry.

baz bagels nova & sableBaz Bagel It might also be wrong to choose a nouveau Jewish cafe based on the wallpaper. I’ve been researching palm tree and fern wall coverings for the past month and wanted to see some in the wild. (I was also obsessed with the Alloro’s green interior when it first opened, but never enough to prompt an in-person visit.) The food? That’s more difficult to parse. I wasn’t at Baz under pure food-enjoying circumstances to start with (beyond the wallpaper-scoping) yet even if I was paying more attention, the price to proportion might’ve seemed slightly out of whack.. One would think  something described as a tasting plate (nova and sable) and costing $18 would be shareable. Not so. A bagel sandwich might make more sense–or moving on to Black Seed or Russ & Daughters Cafe next time.

 

Tears by Proxy

Twice in the past two days I’ve encountered examples of dining-induced tears by proxy. I’m not sure if this counts toward my ongoing Crybaby Compendium. I’m pretty sure Judge Judy would consider this hearsay and bust a gasket over it.

I haven’t watched the video responsible for these tears, so it’s possible that simply hearing about salad dressing could make a woman cry. Could someone less cynical go watch it and report back?

* * *

Because I’m a crybaby about dining alone but not getting a nice birthday dinner because I’m too self-conscious to dine alone would be more tear-provoking, I have been toying with the idea of sushi, the solitude-averse’s compromise. In my reading up, I came across Eric Asimov’s 2011 review of Sushi Yasuda, which opens with an anecdote about a  friend who enjoyed dining at the French Laundry alone.

“Wouldn’t she miss out on the communal relishing of shared flavors, delights and memories?” he wonders.

Sure, but she wanted the freedom “to laugh or to weep as the mood dictated, without the sort of inhibitions companions might pose” as we all might want.

Asimov gets it, but wants to make it clear that he’s a guy so this has not been a problem for him. “Being a somewhat stolid male, I have rarely found crying at the table to be an issue,” he reassures.

You and me both. I still haven’t made a birthday reservation. And I’m still not clear whether or not it’s ok to cry during Yasuda’s omakase or not.