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Hole-y Matrimony

Dunkin It saddens me when lovebirds go through all the trouble of a fast food wedding, yet didn’t bother to incorporate anything edible into their marriage proposal. And lest you think that McDonald’s—in both China and Mexico—is the only suitable venue, a couple in New Jersey recently chose Dunkin’ Donuts. They are so fanatical that have been known to hit the drive-thru twice in one night. Tragically, there aren’t any photos of this ceremony. Howevever, there is one of  the winners of a 2004 "Hole-y Matrimony" contest sponsored by the chain. [WABC New York via Consumerist]

Photo from FPSnewswire

Chinese Burgers For the Masses

Sp I was a little surprised when Xi’an Famous Foods made the reverse migration from Flushing to Manhattan’s Chinatown around this same time last year. Maybe that’s the natural progression after appearing on No Reservations and Bizarre Foods.

Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, the father and son team behind the popular Northern Chinese food shop are setting up a 5,000-square-foot “commissary” in East Williamsburg and have visions of franchising the business, branding harder and creating a line of frozen food. Very chain-like, indeed.

Fittingly, P.F. Chang’s is already on the bringing-it-to-masses beat. CEO and president Rick Federico has sampled Xi’an’s cumin lamb and stewed pork burgers and is “thinking about how we might apply a sandwich into our business." The closest thing the Chinese chain has so far is (no, not a banh mi) a Sichuan Chicken Flatbread containing the most American of ingredients: melted cheese.

I’m anxious to see how P.F. Chang’s might interpret the cuisine—but they had better hurry or Xi’an will make it to the suburbs first.

KFC China's Spanish burger ad from Ads of China

Food: The Bests and Number Ones of 2010

What else is being snowed-in good for if not whiling away the day aggregating best of lists? Here is a completely random collection of food-related bests (and a few worsts) of 2010. When there wasn’t a ranking—and many didn’t play favorites—I simply chose the first on the list or picked a popular choice when there was a number of different respondents. Because I wanted to allow for clickable links, this isn’t a traditional tag cloud with the more mentioned getting larger fonts. Also, with the exception of ABC Kitchen and Lincoln, there weren’t many duplicates.


Do you care what I ate for Christmas? No, I didn’t think so. (Minimizing the number of photo-centric this-is-what-I-ate posts is a goal for 2011) But I’m bored and house-bound; cut me some slack.

Normally, I cook over the holidays even if it’s only for a small number of people. This year I just wasn’t feeling it, next year I need to get out of the city.

What prix fixes were to be had? Many seemed perfectly nice, but dull and like hotel dining (not these hotel restaurants, of course). Maialino was on my radar, especially once I learned they were serving egg nog (why so scarce?) but they were fully booked. Barbuto didn’t seem like a bad second choice. The $65 family-style meal turned out to provide variety (I thought you’d get to pick from each course, but you got everything) and generous portions. Rustic and hearty makes sense on Christmas.

Barbuto appetizers

Antipasti included toasted bread with sheep’s milk ricotta and pannetone with chicken liver pate. The sweet slices combined with the rich spread was perfect. I also like using pannetone to make mustardy ham and swiss sandwiches that evoke cubanos.

Barbuto salads

After the salads of chickpea and Maine shrimp and beets and burrata (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten the soft oozy cheese twice in one month—then again, I rarely eat Italian food) I was already getting dangerously full.

Barbuto pasta

I preferred the linguine with bay scallops, chiles and Meyer lemon over the black-truffled risotto, if only because I like strong flavors and more texture. I feel the same way about rice pudding and especially pudding puddings.

Barbuto porchetta, chicken, sides

I know Jonathan Waxman is known for his roast chicken, and this crispy version with salsa verde was great. How do you compete with porchetta, though? Roast pork and polenta will always win. The only way the tender meat could’ve been any better would be if pieces of crackly skin were incluBarbutodessertded. Mashed pumpkin, cauliflower with anchovies and a potato gratin were on the side.

Ok, I just said that pudding is boring, but serve it with whipped cream and biscotti and call it a budino and I’ll shut up.

Barbuto * 755 Washington St., New York, NY

The World Beyond New York

Old_spaghetti Thanks to the we-live-in-The-Shire NY1 segment, “The World Beyond New York,” I’m reminded that life happens outside of New York City. And sometimes this life involves eating and people writing about it. Said eating and writing is just done a little differently. For one, chain restaurants are treated just like any other restaurant.

I’m not sure if that is because there are fewer restaurants to write about (even as a chain-booster, the volume of openings here, notable and otherwise, demand more of my attention) or if they’re just well-liked. Time to dial down the snark and let the earnestness envelop you. That's what I plan to do in 2011.

“Well, kiddies, prepare to have your mind blown at The Old Spaghetti Factory, a chain restaurant with one of the most interesting butter-and-cheese pastas out there.” [Toronto Star]

A reader wants to know how to make Olive Garden’s Stuffed Mushrooms, Chicken Marsala and Zabaglione, and the paper delivers in spades. [Augusta Chronicle]

Open Table has determined the top 50 US restaurants of 2010 based on customer reviews. Of course you’ll find Daniel and The French Laundry…and The Melting Pot in Myrtle Beach. [Open Table]

Just because I write for Metromix New York doesn’t mean I have insight into their Des Moines coverage. Bonefish Grill (one of my favorite chains) made their 33 “can’t miss” restaurants of 2010. [Metromix Des Moines]

“I've always loved the Southwestern Eggrolls from Chili's so I hunted down copycat recipes and began experimenting.” The result is Chicken Tex-Mex Wontons. [Charleston Gazette]

“New places I can't wait to try: Capital Grille at the Garden State Plaza, part of a national chain I enjoyed in Philadelphia…and DelMonico, the Cedar Grove steakhouse from Village Gourmet owner Bob Wong and some guy named James Gandolfini.” My internal response: Garden State Plaza is a fine mall and already houses Napa Valley Grill, no E. But Capital Grille? I work down the street from one and it has never enticed, maybe because the financial district is already steaky. Commenter response: “OMG Your making me hungry. lol.” Oops, said I wasn’t going to snark. []

Chain Links: Muy Nuclear

Kfccambodia Pizza Hut and Burger King will soon be opening in Cambodia, and it has street vendors worried. Already present KFC, the first international chain to enter the country, could be the reason that one vendor used to sell 80-90 chickens per day and now sells half that. [Phenom Penh Post via QSRweb]

I’m not familiar with the mouthful of a business, Nestle Toll House Café by Chip, but Saudi Arabia soon will be. [QSRweb]

Wing Zone opened their first international location in Panama and will be expanding to the Bahamas, Mexico and Japan. Sadly, nuclear, on the sauce list, is simply translated as muy picante. [QSR]

There are still countries in the world untouched by McDonald’s. Zimbabwe is one of them. They’re certainly not without fast food, though—I spy hot dogs, pizza and fried chicken. [The Zimbabwean]

Siam Reap KFC photo from saopaulo1/

Some Things Never Change

Kraft diverticolors one year later We seem to have resolved the McDonald’s burgers don’t rot mystery. Now I’m wondering if American cheese slices ever go bad. These red, green and blue Kraft “Diverticolors” still look as bright and plastic-y as they did when I bought them in Oaxaca over Thanksgiving last year.

Granted, I’ve kept them refrigerated for the past 13 months (the beauty of owning two fridges is that neglected food– jars of halo halo toppings, shrimp-pastey sambals, half-decade-old Smucker’s butterscotch sauce –can be kept apart from good food) but that’s a good amount of time past their April 2010 expiration date. I suspect they won’t ever mold. As to a change in flavor? I’m just not adventurous enough to find out.

Blizzard+Cabin Fever=Hawaiian Dreaming

Makittii-Hawaii-Flyer-Front Just last night, which happened to be Christmas, Hawaii randomly came up and not just because we had just been at Painkiller (the only group in the entire place!). One friend has expressed interest in moving there, but hasn’t visited said she didn’t like Polynesian food (because I’m a nit-picky doubter, I would be surprised if she has ever been presented with poke, poi or lau lau. And to be fair, my only experience with the cuisine were a few childhood meals–one, where I grossed out other kids by eating octopus tentacles and goopy, mauve, pounded taro from the buffet table, which was I thought was the point of putting food out to eat–with various Hawaiian friends of the family).

I’d like to go one day, if only because it feels like such an ‘80s American fantasy honeymoon destination. My issue has always been that if I’m going to travel that far (oh, I just realized it’s only ten hours, no longer a flight than going to Buenos Aires) and spend that kind of money, I’d rather just go to SE Asia.

But now that I know about Makitti, a Hello Kitty-themed Japanese seafood buffet in Honolulu, my tune has changed a bit. 

Also, if this blizzard clears up, I plan on checking out L&L tomorrow since it’s near my office. Do you think Hawaii would be too much of a stretch to use for Fast Food International?

But Will There Be Beggar’s Purses?

Qg photo Finally. As much as I disparage false nostalgia in music and fashion, I have been waiting for the ‘80s to show up in cuisine, even if only for a night (and far more highbrow than my first-hand experiences). Vinegar Hill House will viewing the decade through the lens of American Psycho for New Year's Eve.

My suburban take would feature Cajun blackened redfish, Southwestern something, quiche, wine coolers, goat cheese, raspberry vinaigrette, taco salads in giant fried tortillas—and obviously, bread bowls. Odd how sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, sushi and pesto never went away.

Photo of Quilted Giraffe's beggar's purses and truffles from Insatiable Critic

Barrel of Fun


There are days when I feel like I know a lot of things, and other when everything is completely new to me. KFC Party Barrels supposedly being synonymous with Christmas in Japan falls into that latter category.

The Financial Times reports:

“Through one of the most successful advertising campaigns, which started in 1974, KFC Japan has made eating its chicken meals at Christmas a national custom. This happens on December 23, 24 and 25, but particularly Christmas eve. Sales for the three days are equal to half normal monthly sales, the company says."

And indeed, there is a whole Japanese KFC holiday microsite. The Party Barrel appears to include eight pieces of fried chicken or four pieces with six soy garlic chicken tenders, a “Caesar salad” topped with bacon and grated cheese, a chocolate-hazelnut mousse cake sprinkled with gold dust and a commemorative plate for ¥3880, which is about $46. Extravagant.

McDonald’s is trying to get a piece of that action with their iCon'BOX. And even MOS Burger, known for their namesake foodstuff, is selling Christmas fried chicken. It’s hard to compete with that chocolate cake, though.