Tag Archives: food

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.  🙂

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diet colas with artificial poop

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The other day I wrote about a spa using bird poop in facials, and at the end of the discussion I joked about what would be the next use of poop.  At the time, I was unaware of a breaking news story about diet colas that is somewhat related.  (Are you getting scared yet?)

diet cola - now with more artificial poopRecently the patent details for the artificial sweetener aspartame became available online, and well, it’s made with a certain byproduct.  (Are you sure you want to keep reading?  It might get even worse.)  Obviously it’s an artificial sweetener, which has certain connotations, but there’s more than you’d expect.  Some versions of aspartame are made by harvesting the protein waste (i.e., poop) of genetically modified E. coli bacteria, then adding methanol to it.  (On a side note, how someone invented this process is beyond my imagination, so I looked it up.  In 1965 a chemist was trying to create an anti-ulcer drug, and while generating a hormone for it, he licked his finger and accidentally discovered the sweet taste of aspartame.  Go figure…)

Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners, and it’s sold under the brand names NutraSweet® and Equal®.  It’s used because it’s about 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so less can be used, which lowers the calories in the food or beverage.  It is used in thousands of different food products.  The FDA maintains that it is completely safe.

It may be safe, but this is one of the those things that I kinda wish I didn’t know…

eating bacon to live longer

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bacon - sea of baconI just heard about a 105-year-old woman in Texas who says her secret is that she eats bacon every day.  I don’t know if that will stand up to medical scrutiny, but it’s worth something.

The article reveals her bacon “secret”, which should be enough for the whole article.  But then it talks about her birthday party, which featured over 200 guests, which is okay, I guess.  But then it goes into explaining why bacon has gotten a bad rap lately.  It’s somewhat ironic, given the subject of the article.  Apparently some research study linked processed meat to a premature death.  But check out their results — they claim that eating less than 20g per day (which is 0.7 ounces) could prevent an estimated 3% of premature deaths each year.  So if you eat only a bite or two of meat per day, you have a 3% chance of living longer.  For people who follow that advice, I wonder what the odds are on premature death due to not enjoying life as much…  (To each their own, but that advice wouldn’t work for me.)

The article then references another study saying that even a single serving of processed red meat increased the risk of participants dying by 20%.  I may not be a statistician, but I figure the risk of dying is 100%.  🙂  You can eat all the plants you want, but it is appointed for everyone to meet their Maker at some point.

Obviously bacon is somewhat unhealthy — not completely, but in some ways.  However, if a single serving of bacon (or any red meat) increases your risk of dying by 20%, and this woman has eaten bacon every day for 105 years so far (which could be up to 38,000 times), what would her risk of dying be?  I’d like to see one of those researchers calculate it and go tell her.  Maybe she’s like one of those cartoon characters who is invulnerable to the laws of physics because they don’t understand it.  🙂  Either way, whatever she’s doing has worked for her.

This breakfast platter from Tony's I-75 restaurant in Birch Run, MI, has 1 pound of bacon.

This breakfast platter from Tony’s I-75 restaurant in Birch Run, MI, has 1 pound of bacon.

I’m not claiming that all this research is bogus, but I think there’s a LOT more to it than just saying eating meat will kill you early.  I’ve known quite a few people — including my grandparents — who ate big country meals all the time (which included lots of butter, gravy, and fried foods), yet lived to be 90+ and still had above-average health.  I know that’s a small sample, but when you consider how Americans used to eat versus what we now “know” about nutrition, it’s amazing any of them lived past 25.  I’m not saying fattening foods are healthy, but I do wonder if natural / organic fattening foods might be healthier than much of the modern stuff with preservatives and additives and chemicals.  I can’t prove it, and I’m not convinced either way yet, but I do think there’s a lot more to nutrition and healthiness than we currently know.

Regardless of whether bacon is good for me or not, I’m now hungry for bacon…

holiday eating is not making you fat

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In recent years I’ve heard some “experts” on TV say you should eat light on Thanksgiving so you don’t become obese.  First of all, that’s stupid, and second, the research doesn’t support such tomfoolery.  According to a study, the average weight gain for the holiday season (including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s) is just 0.8 pounds.  That’s not a typo.  For all the hype from the media outlets, you’d think people were becoming instantly obese from a couple of big meals.  0.8 pounds is nothing — you can gain that just from eating normal, or if your regularity is not as regular.  I figured the number would be higher, given the big holiday meals, the extra cookies, and the parties.

Obviously some Thanksgiving meals are more fattening than others, but a traditional feast shouldn’t be that bad.  I figure a normal Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be more unhealthy than some of the things you can get at restaurants, particularly all-you-can-eat buffets.  Plus you might be eating less processed food, which could make it healthier.

To diet on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day is foolish, if you want my opinion.  It’s hard enough to diet and eat right, particularly if you enjoy eating.  To miss out on the most special meals of the year would be depressing.  If you’re seriously trying to lose weight, one way to approach it is to eat healthier in the days leading up to the big meals, to rationalize eating a lot at the family get-togethers and parties.

Of course, common sense disclaimers apply.  For example, if you’re on the verge of a heart attack or some other severe health problem, maybe you shouldn’t eat a huge meal, but in that case, you should do something about it NOW.

Let’s get back to the study, if I may rant for a minute.  The health “experts” shouldn’t try to make people feel bad during the holidays if the research shows that the holiday eating isn’t the problem.  Here’s what irked me most about the article:

In the study, 14% of overweight and obese individuals gained more than five pounds during the holiday. In the abstract, the researchers wrote, “holiday weight gain may be an important contributor to the rising prevalence of obesity, even though absolute values for weight gain in this study were less than anticipated.”

Okay, so obese people gained more weight than average.  That’s not exactly breaking news, since they’ve obviously been gaining weight before then, so they’re just continuing the trend.  But notice the quote from the researchers, which basically says they’re still sticking to their hypothesis even though the statistics don’t support it.  Hopefully some people were reprimanded over that kind of junk.

So in conclusion, don’t feel bad about eating a few big meals during holiday feasts and parties.  The obesity problem isn’t caused by a couple of big meals here and there.  (Shouldn’t that be common sense?)  And the next time a news person on TV says to cut back during the holidays, eat another piece of pecan pie… or pumpkin pie… or cookies… you get the idea.  🙂  Eat, drink, and be merry.

World Cheese Dip Competition

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The annual World Cheese Dip Competition will be held again this weekend.  Some day I will attend this, and talks are already in discussion among the Buffet o’ Blog staff to conquer this challenge next year.  (Copious amounts of research will be required, which will be fun!)

Anyhow, I looked at the Facebook page for the event, and saw a couple of ads worth passing along:

I’m married, so I’m not commenting on that!  Moving along…

The way I understand the event, everyone who attends gets to sample cheese dip and vote for a People’s Choice Award.  So the last ad really does apply.  (Don’t tell my doctor!)

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?