Archives for posts with tag: International

Countries, cities and regions are frequently linked to their famous foodstuffs. When you travel to that place, or go to a restaurant serving that particular cuisine, there’s always a local delicacy that you have to try; otherwise, did you really visit that location and eat what the locals eat?

Thus it is with Montreal. While the city is also famous for its French cuisine, bakeries, and smoked meat, in my humble option, poutine reigns supreme above all other local foods. I’ve had the chance to visit the city several times, and no visit is complete without one (or two, or three…) meals featuring poutine. Therefore, on my last visit this spring, even though I had already eaten poutine and a smoked meat sandwich for lunch, after a full dinner I needed to make a stop for one last fix at Montreal’s most famous poutinerie: McDonald’s.

I knew McDonald’s in Montreal had poutine, little did I know I arrive soon after the release of their Three Cheese and Bacon Poutine, also known as a Poutine au bacon et 3 fromages to the locals. Their regular poutine contains gravy and cheese curds over their regular fries, but this edition also contained bacon pieces and a shredded cheese blend. The price for this delicacy was 5.24 CAD, and after adding a medium soda and tax, the total was 7.74 CAD which is $6.39 USD as of this writing.

IMG_5953

One potential flaw in my plan for this snack: I purchased the food then walked back to my hotel before eating it. I hustled back, but it was still in the bag for 5ish minutes. While I held the bag open to reduce moisture and forestall sogginess, some sog was inevitable.

IMG_5947

Of course, the presentation of the poutine didn’t help keep it crispy. It was served in a box with a lid. I understand wanting to keep the whole mess contained so there was no leakage in the bag, but closing the box only created more humidity. The other issue is that the poutine took up all the space in the container, so it was difficult to pick around to choose my bites. If I’d eaten at the restaurant, I probably would have dumped it on my tray, and I think it would have been a better eating experience.

IMG_5948

Anyway, onto the actual eating experience. Upon taking the poutine out of the bag, I was greeted with a cheesy and bacon aroma. It was loaded with cheese, but I didn’t notice the traditional cheese curds. Instead the three cheese blend looked like it came from a bag of shredded cheese that you can get in a market. This doesn’t make it automatically bad, but without the curds, this isn’t really poutine. It’s more akin to disco fries. Of course, after some digging, I did find cheese curds buried underneath the initial layer of cheese, so they made sure to cover all their bases.

IMG_5949

I tried a bacon piece before I dove into the full experience. To their credit, the bacon wasn’t just bacon bits from a plastic container. It looked like McDonald’s actual bacon chopped up into good sized chunks. They were smoky and salty, and generally maintained their crispness as I ate.

IMG_5950

The layer of triple cheese on top, by now fully melted and solid posed as a real obstacle to digging down and getting some fries. It was thick, and the plastic fork may not been have been the best utensil for the task. I did sneak a plain fry on the side, and not much needs to be said about it: fresh McDonald’s fries are delicious.

IMG_5951

The poutine was really salty. I kept reaching for my drink as I ate. The bacon was a nice touch to break up the flavor, but of course added to the saltiness. As mentioned above, I was surprised we got whole curds. Not because they don’t belong, but because in McDonald’s interpretation of poutine, I figured the three-cheese blend would be enough. I can’t pretend to be an expert in cheese curds (I’ve only eaten them on poutine), but these met my standards in terms of cheesy flavor and squeakiness.

IMG_5952

Taking all of the components together, cheese was the biggest flavor, as the curds and cheese blend were the star of the dish. The next strongest flavors were unsurprisingly the salt and smokiness of the bacon. The fries were in the background, mainly as a vehicle for the more assertive toppings and the gravy as well had a slight beefy oniony flavor, but I really only  tasted that when it was isolated with the fries. The poutine was so cheese forward that I’m not sure that extra layer of cheese was necessary, or at least if McDonald’s wanted that cheese to make this their dish, then a smaller amount could have been used. It was hard to pick around the cheese to get non-cheese bites.

IMG_5954

As I continued to eat, I ran into the inevitable poutine problem (exacerbated by the walk to the hotel): eating poutine is a race against the clock. The fries are only getting soggier as they soak up the gravy and the gravy combines with the cheese to create humidity which saps crispness. The box also didn’t help, as the pouting filled the confines, so there really was no access to outside air. By the end, this was a soggy mess, with congealed gravy, which made some of those last bites undesirable. There were some untouched, fries that somehow stayed crisp on the bottom, and they were a nice reprieve.

IMG_5955

The Bacon and Three Cheese Poutine was a large portion of food, which I consumed after eating a full meal. Is it something I’d eat all the time if it was available in the U.S.? No, probably not. It’s a large, heavy side dish to add to a meal, plus poutine is something you want to eat immediately, and I usually save my fries for the end. However, if you really want to indulge and can handle being stuffed to the gills, then it’s worth it. Sure, this isn’t a traditional poutine, and if you have one chance to eat it in Montreal, you’re probably not stopping at McDonald’s, but if you find yourself in a McDonald’s in La belle province, treat yourself to something you can’t get back home.

 

Advertisements

In honor of Chinese New Year, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled posts to review another fast food item from China! I’ve spent far too much time in my life in Shanghai Pudong Airport, but one advantage to flying from that location is that it contains one of the few Burger Kings I’ve seen in China. Since I’m usually flying back to the United States from Pudong, it’s a tradition of mine to fill up at the local BK before hopping on a 10-15 hour flight, and this past week was no different.

Looking over the menu, there were two items which are not currently available at U.S. locations: a Spicy Whopper and an Italian Stacker. Since I guessed the Spicy Whopper was just a burger with some hot sauce, I though the Italian Stacker would make for a better post, so that was my choice.

The Italian Stacker is offered with up to four patties on the burger. I opted for the single version, which only had one burger patty. The sandwich was 23 RMB alone or 40 RMB for a meal, which came with a medium fries and medium soda. The meal price increased 8 RMB for each additional beef patty, which seemed reasonable enough.

Upon ordering the sandwich, I had literally no idea what to expect. I couldn’t access wifi in the airport, so I couldn’t do any research on the sandwich beforehand. In fact, I still don’t actually have an official description of the sandwich. A cursory Google search returned no results, and not even Wikipedia includes a mention of the Italian Stacker in its article on the BK Stacker (someone should edit that- is this blog credible enough to serve as a source?).

img_5725

Anyway, the picture on the menu looked like there was some sauce and bacon and cheese. I noticed that this location offered chili fries (which were called spicy meat sauce fries) and I hoped that this chili was not going to serve as Italian tomato sauce. I … was wrong.

img_5726

Upon opening the wrapper, the burger looked a little small, but I did order the single, which is the equivalent of a regular cheeseburger. It had the regular sesame bun and the patty looked like a regular American burger. It smelled like bacon, which gave me some hope for a good experience. I lifted the top bun, and the insides looked kinda gross. The sauce definitely looked like the chili, and the bacon was not typical American style crispy bacon: it was wide cut and soggy.

img_5728

I picked up the burger and it was a tad messy and soggy from the sauce. My first bite had an overwhelming bacon taste. I wish it had been crispy though. On the second bite, I realized the sauce was definitely chili, but it had a slightly off taste. It was a thin tomato sauce with chunks of ground beef. It could have used some more seasoning, especially salt, and maybe some spice. I thought I taste a hint of oregano, but that may have been wish casting. Instead, the main seasoning seemed to be diced onions. Perhaps it’s my personal taste in not liking onions, but the sauce seemed to get more oniony as I continued eating.

img_5729

Other than the bacon, cheese and chili, nothing else was on the burger. Luckily the bacon carried most of the taste when it was in a bite, because I was not a big fan of that chili. The burger itself had that same flame-grilled (TM!) taste you’re used to, but it was smaller than the bun. There was a good amount of bacon on the burger, and it did start to overwhelm the patty at times. I think if I’d gotten at least a double, the beef would have stood up better

img_5730

The best bites of the burger were where the sauce ended up melting the cheese, so they combined into a gooey, cheesy sauce. It helped to hide the strong onion flavor, and it paired really well with the burger and bacon. Towards the end, I tried to create as many of those bites as possible, but there was only a single slice of cheese to work with.

img_5732

As a novelty item, this was fine. I probably shouldn’t; have expected a semi-authentic tomato sauce, and I’m guessing I, and other foreigners, would be more receptive to the taste if it was marketed as a chili cheese burger, and not something with Italian flavor. I’d also prefer crispy bacon, but that’s probably asking too much. I would be interested in an actual Italian burger (free idea Burger King!), having tomato sauce paired with provolone. But until that’s a reality, I’ll probably stick to a safer choice next time I’m in China.

After a looooooooooooong hiatus, I’ve decided to restart posting. While I catch myself up to speed with some new eats in fast food, I’m going to post some things that I’ve eaten over the past two years and intended to add to the blog, but never actually wrote them up. While most of these items are likely discontinued at this point, they will never be forgotten.

We lead off with the McDonald’s German Sausage Double Beef Burger. In a first for the blog, this was an international exclusive item. I ate it in Shanghai in November 2015 and it was advertised as a limited time item. Some internet sleuthing (i.e. Googling) shows that the burger has also been available in Germany and appeared in China in 2013.

IMG_3889

While the combination of a pork product to a burger is not a particularly new phenomenon, usually we’re talking about bacon, or maybe even pulled pork. This was my first experience seeing sausage added to a regular burger. I’m guessing the general German theme and time of the year meant this was a leftover from Oktoberfest, but the window advertisement did not reflect those assumptions (or I just couldn’t translate them properly).

IMG_3895

Anyway, onto the actual burger experience! The burger itself was 19 RMB (around $3 USD) and a meal was 26 RMB. Note that meals in China do come with a soda and fries, but the soda is a small and the fries don’t seem to be same size as a U.S. medium. The price for the meal and sandwich fell in line with the regular menu items.

As with all McDonald’s sandwiches in China, the burger comes wrapped in paper. No box. Upon first glance, the burger looked a little flimsy. Even without looking at the window poster, when I think of a double burger with sausage and a pretzel bun, I’m expecting some heft. Instead, it looked and felt small. The bun was tiny and compressed and it just looked like a regular bun. Peeling off the top bun to get a look inside, sitting on the top the burger were two sausages placed on the burger patty. The mustard or mustard sauce looked a little sparse/not evenly distributed, and of course the burger patty itself looked dry. This did not look good.

IMG_3891

Tasting the components all together, it wasn’t that bad! There was a little spice to the experience, probably from a combination of the sausage and mustard. The burger acted more as a filler, providing bulk but not much in terms of taste, and the bun was just there. If the sandwich had been properly sauced and the burger itself seasoned, this would have been pretty good. Unfortunately, that minimum standard wasn’t met and it didn’t live up to the sum of its parts.

IMG_3890

Running through the ingredients individually, if the bun hadn’t been made to look like a pretzel bun, then I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t just regular bread. It had no particular taste. That could have been saved it there had been more of the mustard/mustard sauce. It looked and tasted like a golden brown mustard, my favorite kind. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough, and the little that was there was not evenly distributed. While a mustard bomb would have overwhelmed the sandwich, considering the dryness of everything, more was needed.

IMG_3892

Moving onto the German sausages, I was surprised there were two. I expected one sausage split in half. The sausages had a decent char on them. They were bigger than a breakfast link, but not quite large. They fit comfortably over the burger patties and didn’t make the sandwich unwieldy. I don’t know what exactly a German sausage is supposed to taste like, but these had a nice flavor. Once again, there was some spice, and they had a little smokiness. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste the char. Lastly, as I mentioned, the two burger patties were dry and didn’t have any flavor. The dryness did take over the sandwich when I didn’t get any mustard in my bite because the two patties were so large. Even some salt and pepper, which is standard on McDonald’s burgers in the U.S. would have helped a lot.

IMG_3894

Overall, the German Sausage Double Beef Burger was a disappointment, though with some tweaks, it could have been pretty good. I was dubious of the sausage, which wound up being the best part. The mustard was good, it just needed more. Add some burger seasoning and maybe a slice of cheese, and this would have been a winner. If the bun hadn’t been made to look like a pretzel bun, it would have been fine, as opposed to underwhelming. Aside from the taste, one surprising thing was that the burger didn’t actually fill me up. There’s a chance this is because I was eating a late dinner (after 8:30), but one would imagine two burgers plus two sausages on bread should be filling. So this falls into the mediocre category, but it has unrealized potential.