Archive for ‘fast food’

August 31st, 2011

High tech food court

You may remember me saying that the thought of eating at a food court makes me queasy, but the idea of a food court is still something I love. Why? The food court was the setting for almost every crappy American teen movie I saw when I was growing up in Japan, so it made sense that in my young mind, the food court was THE place to be. As an adult, the food court still has its appeal, but surely we can do better than Sbarro and Hot Dog on a Stick, can’t we?  Yes!  FoodParc in New York City is as close to a traditional food court as possible, save for a 21st century twist unrelated to food.  But first things first…how is the food?  It’s not overly gourmet (read: expensive) as Eataly or Food Hall, but that they offer non-chain fast food makes all the difference.
FoodParc serves up the usual suspects: burgers, pizzas, Asian food, cup cakes, coffee and even beer.  So why is this better than what’s found at your local mall?  One word:  Quality.  How much would you pay for delicious food that doesn’t leave your fingers with that greasy, barbecue restaurant feeling?  Instead of a reheated corn dog, FoodParc lets you opt for a tasty treat like grilled salmon with rice noodles.  But surely every food court offers variety, right?  What sets this place apart?  Just look around (and don’t call me Shirley).

It’s the future…or is it?  That FoodParc was designed by a conceptual artist for Hollywood movies like Blade Runner, Aliens, and Mission: Impossible III, means it’s pretty likely that the phrase ‘out of this world’ will be overheard describing more than just the food.  For a Japanese girl who grew up dreaming in Hollywood, eating at FoodParc felt as if I had just arrived on set.  But don’t take my word for it.  Watch for yourself, as even the most jaded New Yorker is taken aback at the scenery.
In the future, will we have to suffer through long waits on line for food?  Not if FoodParc has anything to say about it.  In the digital age, ordering from a cashier is just so passe. At FoodParc, orders are placed via computer, and payments made by credit card.  When your order is ready, you’re notified by text message.  With food of this quality, I suggest upgrading to the unlimited plan, as you’ll probably become a regular.
The future may only be just around the corner, but FoodParc is a few blocks further.  But if you’re looking for a unique place to catch up with friends without putting up with those annoying teenagers hanging out at the mall’s food court, FoodParc is definitely worth a visit.

August 25th, 2011

The day I became a fan of tacos

Growing up in Japan, when I heard the word ‘taco’, I knew a good meal was coming.  No, it’s not what you’re thinking, because sadly, there’s no good Mexican place in Tokyo.  When a Japanese diner hears the Japanese word ‘taco’, he or she knows they’re not going to be served a Mexican classic, but instead, about to enjoy…octopus, tako.   Most Japanese people wouldn’t know what a Mexican taco even looks like.  I, however, was different. Thanks to a fancy grocery store that sold imported luxury items, I was familiar with the western version, having once seen a festive yellow box with some mysteriously shaped item inside.  In the dark recesses of my mind, I wondered what this taco thing was all about.  Can you imagine my excitement when I finally got my hands around a real taco?  It was my turn, as now I was invited to this party of ground beef, shredded lettuce, and salsa.
Wouldn’t a place with the word ‘taco’ in its name, be the perfect restaurant to sample this Mexican delight?  One of my college friends believed that theory and convinced me that my ‘introduction’ to tacos, be at Taco Bell.  Unfortunately, the excitement transformed into annoyance upon my first bite.  The sensation to hit my lips was salty, and the first chew led to crumble.  I guess it happens to all rookie taco eaters at least once in their lifetimes — taco shell shatter.  After one bite, my mighty taco had turned into a messy taco salad.  The experience was so disappointing, that it derailed any curiosity I might have had about Mexican food for years to come. Until…

…about 10 years ago, I was sent on assignment to Los Angeles to study the culture of…low riders.  Looking back, maybe they just wanted me killed?  Anyway, I was happy that finally, my anthropology degree would pay off!   During our lunch break, one of the coordinators took me to a Mexican place for lunch; an unassuming little taco stand in some industrial area of East Los Angeles that was equipped with metal bars that separated customers from cashier.  In addition to that comforting scene, I noticed that all the menus were in Spanish.  Feeling awkward, I was about to ask him if we could change our lunch plan.  Surely there must be a sushi place somewhere nearby, right?  Well, somehow we found the only block in Los Angeles without one.  At that point, I would’ve settled for even a Yoshinoya, but all I could see around me were car repair shops and factories.  ‘Ok’, I though, I would just have to dig in my heels and try to enjoy the experience.

Finally, the food came.  I was shocked.  I ordered tacos but there were no shatter-prone yellow shells.  Instead, I found flour tortillas wrapped around delicious smelling grilled meat.  I was then led to the topping bar, where before my eyes, lay salsas the color of the rainbow, alongside cilantro and onion.  This time, my first bite was a colorful explosion of flavors with a spicy kick.  And more important, thanks to the soft tortilla…no crumble!  This experience left me a couple of questions.  Why there’re two pieces of tortillas come as one taco?   How will I find my way back to this taco stand my own?

June 5th, 2011

Donut Burger

No, I didn’t eat a donut burger, but I came across this article that talks about the strangest fast food.  It starts out with lightweights like “Frozen Hot Chocolate” and “Pulled Pork and Egg Sandwich”.  Other than the technical difficulties of frozen hot chocolate may present, I don’t think they’re so strange.   Let’s meet contestant #10, the Fried Butter Ball.  According the article, they’ll take a scoop of  frozen butter, dip it in fennel cake dough, then deep fry it.  Were they the only ones who could have thought of this?  After a quick Google search to find out, it turned out, not surprisingly, that Paula Deen has her own Fried Butter Ball.  Her recipe adds cream cheese to the butter.  My stomach says yes, but my heart literally says no. I’ve had deep fried ice cream, which I think is a little bit of a different story because ice cream still retains its cold creamy texture so the contrast of hot and cold, works (for me).
#12 is ever so intriguing a Donut Burger.  2 donuts instead of buns, a patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, and tomato (you need some vegetables, right?).  In the video, the cook casually mentions this is “around 2,000 calories, you know.”

Walking down 9th Avenue in Manhattan, I saw a sign I couldn’t resist even on a cold December afternoon.  It said, “Come in for donut ice cream sandwich!” “Let’s go inside just to see what it’s like.”  Famous last words.  We talked to the guys for a few minutes, tried enough flavors–obligating us to make a purchase, and ended up with this delicacy.  The guy who was eating the donut burger in the video was saying that the sweetness of the donut is not very noticeable.  As much as I hate to admit it, he was right.  When you devour a donut with ice cream, the donut loses its star status and becomes the supporting character to the creamy protagonist.  Turns out, they got along well.  The donut doesn’t outshine but provides a delicious ‘insulation’ that absorbs the cold shock your palate faces when eating ice cream. Surprisingly not too sweet; it was pretty good. Is it surprising that after finishing the whole donut ice cream sandwich  (I ate most of it), we walked about 70 blocks that day in 25 degree weather–trying to find the next place to eat!

Some other interesting entries that made the list of strange fast foods were McDonald’s “McLobster” and Burger King’s Mimosa. The McLobster doesn’t interest me, since I can’t quite picture McDonald’s employees out on the briny, checking the lobster traps each morning, but a Mimosa at Burger King; sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?  Well, it did, until I read that their magical Mimosa recipe is OJ + Sprite. Even though I used to make my own, signature brand of orange soda with its own secret ingredients (cola and OJ), the charm of the Burger King Mimosa, while probably not horrible, is not what I was hoping for; still, it beats Sunny Delight, right?