Category Archives: Food Critic

2014 National Cheese Dip Competition

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cheese dip research, 11-8-12, 2A couple of the Buffet o’ Blog staff attended the National Cheese Dip Competition this year.  Let me just say it was AWESOME!  And let me also add that next time attendance is required for all Buffet o’ Blog staff — just because you don’t want to miss it.

Perhaps I should quantify my opinion.  It wasn’t like a carnival or state fair — there were a few side activities and music, but the primary event was trying lots of different cheese dip recipes.  If that sounds like a good time to you, then you should definitely go.

There were around 15 entries in the competition, including both amateurs and professionals.  Fortunately, there was plenty of cheese dip to go around, at least while we were there.  And all but one of the cheese dips were good.  The one that failed was trying to be healthy — which may not have been the whole problem — but it was both too liquidious (runny) and grainy at the same time, somehow.  Perhaps just that one batch was messed up, because I can’t see them entering that.

I think the amateurs outperformed the professionals in the competition, and I even voted for an amateur group.  When the final results came out, my choice didn’t win, but I don’t think the voting results are necessarily fair.  Each person who attends the competition gets two votes.  However, additional votes can be purchased, which is where I think it’s not fair.  For a restaurant entering, it would be worth investing several hundred dollars for more votes, in the name of advertising.  Being able to display the championship logo and advertising that you won the National Cheese Dip Competition is a big deal!  That will result in more sales, no doubt.  For amateurs, a group with more money can sway the votes in their favor.  So I don’t pay much attention to who won.

Most of the entrants were from around this area, but one group was from San Francisco.  I learned that most people there don’t know what cheese dip is, but a guy from Jacksonville, AR, married a woman from San Francisco, moved out there, and told them they should sell it in their restaurant.  On a related note, all of the entrants were friendly, and it was just non-crowded enough that you could talk for a bit with them, which made the experience more fun.  We enjoyed asking them what made their cheese dip special, or what the secret ingredient was — we received some amusing answers.

Overall, I would give the event 4.5 stars out of 5.  The only real knock against it is that they didn’t have sweet tea.  (Hello, we are in the South here!  Besides, tea is very profitable.)  At least the bottled water and other beverages were affordable.

Speaking of profitable, all proceeds were donated to a group that performs medical services for those who can’t afford it.  That’s admirable.

Also, if you’re wondering why the National Cheese Dip Competition would be located in Little Rock, Arkansas, I’ll explain that in the next post.  🙂

the ultimate BLT sandwich

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I saw a commercial the other night for an “Ultimate BLT” from Arby’s.  It had my attention because of how often they said bacon (probably 7 times).  They used big grandiose terms like “monument to bacon”, etc.  So naturally I was expecting good things from this new food of theirs.

Then they actually shows the sandwich, which contains only 5 pieces of bacon.  I was suddenly disappointed.  And that’s with their commercial depiction.  Here’s a picture of one that someone purchased.

Arby’s “Ultimate BLT”. There might be 5 pieces of bacon, but not 5 full strips of bacon. This is so not the ultimate BLT.

I realize fast food often does not look like the commercials — I get that — but this is not an “Ultimate BLT” by any stretch!

So a question arises.  For something to be declared the ultimate BLT, how many slices of bacon are required?  And should any other ingredients be included?  (I realize there may be purists who say a BLT cannot have extra ingredients, but what if it makes it better?  Plus, we are talking about a modified title of “Ultimate BLT”, which implies it should be the best possible BLT.)

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, because you might have ideas I haven’t thought of.  To get the discussion started, the Buffet o’ Blog staff talked about it around the virtual water cooler:

* I think anything to be declared the “ultimate” in bacon should have a minimum of 1/4 lbs of bacon… anything less and it just sounds a bit puny.  I’d laugh if I saw a commercial touting something like 1/8 a pound of bacon!

* Even if one cares about the other 2/3 of a BLT, you’d still need bacon to be prominent over the LT.  I’d say at least 1/4 lbs, but I’d recommend (and like to research) 1/2 lbs.

* To be “ultimate”, they’ve got to take it to the next level.  BAM!  For starters, add melted cheese to it, and Miracle Whip.  Some chipotle sauce would go well with it, too, I think.  For the cheese, could probably use cheese dip with Rotel to pour on it, just make it thick enough to stay in the sandwich.

* Add a fried egg to it!  Well, if you’re gonna call it ultimate, add several eggs and more bacon.  And cheese, of course.  Tell me this wouldn’t sell like hotcakes!  I would eat this for any meal of the day.

Any more ideas?

taking tacos where they’ve never been before

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Taco Bell has a new commercial that says they’re “taking tacos where they’ve never been before”.  That sounds like a good figurative phrase, but they were actually using it literally — they used a helicopter to take a food delivery truck filled with 10,000 Doritos Locos Tacos to a town in Alaska, because of the prank/hoax someone had played on the entire town.

That’s a neat idea.  It also would’ve been cool if they had dropped 10,000 tacos over the town from an airplane.  That would be something to see!  (Well, I wouldn’t want that to happen in my area, because it would also create a huge mess.  But hey, free tacos.)

So, um, I’d like to start a rumor that a Taco Bell is coming soon to my house…  🙂

Let’s take the phrase more figuratively.  What would you do to make tacos better than ever?  One taco variation I’m waiting for is the chicken-bacon-ranch taco.  If you use quality ingredients, it would surely be most awesome.  (The Buffet o’ Blog staff are all huge fans of the chicken-bacon-ranch pizza at Larry’s Pizza.  Just put that in a taco shell and it would be great.)  I figure a pizza taco would be great, too — use pork sausage and pepperoni with pizza sauce and lots of cheese, inside a taco shell.

What ideas do you have to make the ultimate taco?

a burger with too much bacon

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Burger King has for years said you can “have it your way”, and in Japan, you can add 15 strips of bacon to a burger for an extra $1.25.  (I don’t know what it costs at Burger King in America, but many restaurants charge an extra $1 for 2 small strips of bacon.)  It may not be premium bacon, but, it’s bacon.

Adding 15 strips of bacon to one burger should be plenty for most people.  However, there is always someone who will say, “Needs more bacon.”  (Check out our Food Critic series for evidence of that.)  So one guy in Japan added 1,050 extra slices of bacon to his burger, which made it $90.  I don’t know how he arrived at that total — maybe he just checked how much money was in his wallet.  Either way, that’s a LOT of bacon.  It doesn’t even look like a burger anymore — more like the tower of bacon.

To no one’s surprise, he was unable to finish the burger himself.  On a related note, sharing bacon with co-workers is a great way to improve morale around the office and build friendships.

new Pizza Hut crusts, plus our ideas

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It’s not uncommon for American restaurants to feature cultural variations on their foods in other countries.  Even McDonald’s has some vastly different options around the world.  But what’s odd is when an American food company takes American-style food and offers it only in other countries.

If you click this picture to enlarge it, be forewarned that it will probably make you want to order pizza. If only I had a printer that could “print” out a real pizza like this when ordering online…

For example, Pizza Hut has several new types of crusts for their pizzas in the Middle East.  America has had the stuffed crust pizza for years, which is a great idea.  Now, in the Middle East, there is a crust with hot dogs in it, and there’s a crust that’s made up of mini cheeseburgers and one made with chicken nuggets.  That seems like something you’d have in the U.S. first.  Rumor has it they are considering bringing these crusts to the U.S.

Here’s some I’ve heard of (with the commercial linked so you can see it): Crown Crust Chicken (with chicken nuggets), Crown Crust Burger (with mini “burgers”), Star Pops Pizza (with “sausage pops”, which look like mini hot dogs).  Also of note, from Malaysia, there’s the Golden Fortune Cheesy Crown, which has shrimp, fish, pineapple, and “crowns of cheesy liquid gold”.

I’m all for innovation, but I’m not sure those ideas above will make the pizza better.  The Buffet o’ Blog staff discussed this topic, and all of us agreed that the next logical evolution in pizza crust should be to add bacon.  Now there’s a can’t-miss idea, if implemented well.  Why hasn’t one of the pizza places thought of that?  (It’s obvious to us, which is just another sign that we should open a new restaurant, if we can acquire the necessary funding.)

Now if you want to think outside the box on improving pizza crust, here’s an idea: make the outer rim of crust breaded like southern fried chicken.  There might be logistical issues with making it work, but that’s what R&D departments are for.  If you could pull that off while maintaining the necessary texture and not having the crust absorb too much grease, it would be most awesome.  And then, as some of you are already thinking, add bacon to that.  🙂

We have more ideas, too, so, Pizza Hut (or other pizza restaurants), if you’re listening, have your people contact our people.  We’ll work for cash money and/or free food.  🙂

review of Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Taco

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I finally tried the Doritos Locos Taco at Taco Bell.  It probably was a detriment to my weight-loss efforts, but it’s in the name of research, so it’s okay, right?  🙂  I also got a few other types of tacos for comparison and reference (also for research — gotta have a benchmark!).

This isn't my cat, but while searching for a picture I found this one, which is cool. It links to the original site.

My review is that it is good.  However, I expected a little more.  I must admit that I am somewhat spoiled when it comes to good tacos.  I don’t normally get plain tacos at Taco Bell because I often eat tacos at a certain Mexican restaurant that are really good, plus I make my own sometimes.  I’d say the Doritos Locos Taco is better than their normal taco, but I prefer some of their specialty tacos, like the Double Decker and the Nacho Cheese Crunch.  Maybe if Taco Bell would put the Doritos shell inside one of those specialty tacos, it would be even better.

Maybe they could figure out a way to make a taco shell out of Cheetos — that would be even better.

the Darth Vader burger

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Ironically, after publishing this week’s caption contest featuring Darth Vader and Ronald McDonald, I happened across an image of a Darth Vader burger.  Apparently some restaurant in France has created a Darth Vader burger which has a black bun.  It definitely looks evil!  (I’m not sure what evil tastes like, and I don’t really want to find out.)

They also created a Jedi Burger, which looks lame.  Are those marshmallows?  And what’s that sauce?  I may not want to know…

The restaurant says the black bun is just from a dye, that it should taste the same.  It actually looks kinda cool, though it doesn’t look edible.  Still, I’d try it, given the opportunity.

For those of you curious why this is happening now, it’s to promote the re-release of The Phantom Menace — this time in 3D.  And if you noticed the spelling of Vador, apparently that’s how it’s spelled in France.  I don’t know why it would change, but whatever.