Category Archives: Food

National Cheeseburger Day with Buffalo’s Best

previously published on Buffalo SoapBox

Today is a very important day, and one I hope everyone is not only aware of but celebrating appropriately.  Today happens to be National Cheeseburger Day and if there is any one holiday we in Buffalo should get behind, it’s one involving food.

And really, when it comes to food, what’s better than a cheeseburger?  Aside from deep-fried anything or Gramma’s homemade pie?  Nothing, nothing is better.

There are a lot of places in Western New York to get a great burger but why not stick with the best?  You may have noticed I specified Western New York and not Buffalo, if so, very good.  That’s because for pretty much as long as Artvoice has been doing the Best in Buffalo series Grover’s in East Amherst has taken the top prize.

If you’ve never been down there, you have to check it out.  This place has amazing food at great prices.  Is there anything on the menu over $10?  You need to go for the Groverburger, at least if it’s your first time, but don’t limit yourself.  It may be a good idea to starve yourself for the day so you can start off with some cheeseburger soup, pizza rolls or maybe their parmesan chicken wings.

The place itself is as great as the food, it’s that perfect rundown cozy low-lit joint anyone should fall in love with.  For the record, the reason it’s so cozy and awesome, is that it used to be Grover Cleveland’s hunting lodge.

So when Cleveland wasn’t drinking himself stupid down in the old Canal Street, hanging people as Sheriff of Buffalo or marrying his dead best friend’s daughter, he was getting drunk and gorging himself on hearty roasted meats.  Have you ever seen Cleveland?  The man loved his meats.

Right now that is exactly what you should be doing, loving some meats.  So go.  Beer.  Meats.  Now.  Oh, just bring some cash.  Much like another best known secret of Western New York, this place doesn’t take card.

Don’t let that stop you though, don’t let it even slow you down.  Go out right now and celebrate National Cheeseburger Day.  Of course, in case you do miss it, National Hamburger Day is coming around soon.  In fact, there’s some debate as to when it actually is, so it could be in December, May or July.  Maybe we should play it safe and celebrate them all?  I’m always up for a trip to Grover’s.

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Untappd—Social Networking the Way God Intended

Recently, I had an idea for an app so I tossed it out my friend who runs BuffaloSoapBox.com and has had some experience with app development.  Although the subject material of this app is a mutual interest of ours, his response was more or less, “Meh.”

Nevertheless, I started trolling Google Play to see if something like what I had in mind existed already.  Through this halfhearted drunk Google Play stumbling I came across a choice little piece called Untappd.  For those unfamiliar, this is basically Foursquare for beer.

You ‘check in’ to whatever beer you’re drinking, add a photo, add your location, maybe a snobby comment, rate the brew and bam, your beer before work or the handful you have after when you go barhopping while your girlfriend thinks you’re still at work, are broadcast to all your friends and recorded to be used against you in court later.  Like every app out there you can connect it to Facebook and Twitter so it instantly shots your check ins to those sites, and your location is tied in through Foursquare.

There’s a few cool things about checking in to a particular beer—first of all, you can follow the brewery.  I can’t seem to figure out where to do this on the app, but if you’re on the website, the breweries you’re following are listed and you can click through them to see who else is drinking their brews and even which styles by them are trending.

You’re not just seeing random people across the country check in to beers.  Like Foursquare—and the interface is basically identical—you can friend people and see what and where they’re drinking.  This is a social app after all, so it isn’t just about what people are drinking, it’s where they’re drinking it.  Going back to the brewery pages, you can also see the bars where those beers are most popular.

The friend thing is cool because there are so many micros out there—I only have a handful of friends right now but they range from Pennsylvania to Oregon to West Virginia and California so I haven’t heard of any of the beers these people are drinking.

What if, for example, I had a buddy in Chicago, and he’s cracking open some microbrew he found at a dive bar on his way up to Kelly Lake, and this beer is brewed in Wisconsin and only sold within a three hundred mile radius of this bar.  Maybe it sounds pretty good.  Maybe it sounds so good you go visit him just to try some.  Or better yet, when he moves back to town, he brings a sixer with him.

Just saying…  Without Untappd you may never have heard of this beer.  This beer could change your life.

Most importantly though, Untappd puts things in perspective for you.  I don’t just mean that as you check into different beers you notice you’re maybe drinking too much.  That can happen, but this app isn’t for idiots playing beer pong who are marking down their cans of Natty Ice by sharpying hash marks on the wall.  You’re using this app to share good beer, not to let everyone know you think Genny Cream Ale is only a 2 out of 5 bottle caps.

The main thing I’ve learned from the brief time I’ve been using this app is that I drink shitty beer.  I want to believe it’s just the time of year, I’m a little broke after a couple vacations and you know how it goes.  My only major accomplishment with Untappd is that I’m friends with Wil Wheaton on it, it brought a tear to my eye when he accepted—but at the moment that only serves to twist of the knife that is my shitty beer drinking.

That buddy I mentioned in the example above is, in fact, moving back to Buffalo from Chicago, and he can be a little bit of a beer snob.  Maybe that can turn this around and help me save some beerface.

So check out the app and find me, shame me into drinking something that’ll make Wil Wheaton proud.

and the kellogg’s breakfast machine marches on

Am I the only one who thinks 28 flavors of Pop-Tarts is a bit excessive?

I’m only talking about the ones that are available; keep in mind that there are also ten limited edition flavors, five unfrosted, Pop-Tarts Splitz and the Printed Fun line (which are just creepy)—oh, and about a bajillion discontinued flavors like Pina Colada and Spaghetti-O Surprise.

Twenty-eight!

It’s a goddamn breakfast pastry!  Who needs that kind of variety?

OK, so maybe some people do. 

But are they really buying name brands anyway?  I don’t have any kids and it’s a big day if I buy something that doesn’t look like it came off the Repo Man set.  Of course, these people have TV shows.  Maybe I need a TV show. 

No, that wouldn’t work.  I don’t like people looking at me.

Pop-Tarts aren’t even the real deal; keep that in mind the next time you go to buy some.  They’re the ripoff, not the Toast ‘Em Pop Ups, not the Yogi Bear Tastee Tarts, the Crackin’ Good Toaster Pastries or the Little Debbie Toaster Singles (nice cupcake, Little Debbie). 

OK, so those are rip-offs too, but Pop-Tarts started it all.  Well, sort of.

Back in the day, generally assumed to be a Wednesday, but in this case a Sunday, Post announced that the process of sealing food inside of foil wrappers that they’d perfected on dog food, had been adapted to breakfast. 

Post-brand breakfast had previously been Grape-Nuts, so everyone pretty much quit their jobs, set their houses on fire, slept with their wife’s sister and generally partied like it was the end of the world (which in the 1960s they thought it was every other week anyway) since they were so balls-deep excited, since Grape-Nuts are friggin awful. 

You ever eat a bowl of Grape-Nuts?  It felt wrong, didn’t it?  It’s neither grapes, nor nuts, and a bowl of it lasts forever.  I’ve never been able to finish a bowl, never, and I’ve tried.  I’m not the kind of person who gives up easily against a bowl of cereal. 

I think to combat world hunger we need to air-drop a couple boxes into every third world country around the globe and wait.  Either all those starving people will kill themselves because Grape-Nuts are all we gave them to eat, or the whole hunger thing will be over since Grape-Nuts last fucking forever.

Moving on—

Foil sealed food.

Thus was born Post Country Squares.  Sort of.  They weren’t quite ready to release their breakfast pastries when they announced them on February 16, 1964, and that’s what gave Kellogg’s the chance to swoop in and steal the entire thing.

Within six months Pop-Tarts were on the shelves and the guys at Post were just beginning to realize how seriously boned they were.

Kellogg’s had the edge because they were already sponsoring every kid’s show on the air, from Yogi Bear to Scooby Doo and Secret Squirrel.  If it was a cartoon in the 60s, chances are Kellogg’s was bankrolling it in some fashion. 

Within a few years the breakfast pastry industry was raking in $45 million, and Pop-Tarts dominated it.  No other brand could survive more than a few years, and despite the guys at Post swearing their Country Squares were the superior product, even they couldn’t compete.

Post had also renamed their product once they saw how Kellogg’s advertising bitch slapped kids.  Country Squares wasn’t a cool enough name.  They needed something hip or fly or whatever.  Remember the ripoff Toast ‘Em Pop Ups  I mentioned earlier?  Until the 70s when they sold them off, those were made by Post, and were the original Pop-Tarts—the Country Squares that started it all.

My point here is that Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts were the Armageddon to Post’s Deep Impact, The Prestige to their Illusionist, the—I’m out of ideas, add to the list for me.

Furthermore, since September 1964, Kellogg’s has gone unchecked and virtually unopposed in the world of breakfast pastries and this market dominance has gone to their head. 

Gingerbread?  Watermelon?  Rainbow Cookie?  Salt Water Taffy?  French Toast?  Peanut Butter & Jelly?

You’re just doing it because you can.  You don’t even care anymore.  You’re rubberstamping any flavor some intern comes up with now.  It’s just a guy shrugging and saying, “meh,” every time your R&D department needs approval. 

competitors.. competitors.. nope, all clear..

You don’t have any real competitors.  The idea that Pop-Tarts has competitors is comparable to Country Time Lemonade serving cease and desist orders to every six year old with a lemonade stand.

See, they wouldn’t—is my point.  Little girls selling lemonade aren’t a threat to them, much like how anything in the world is no match for Pop-Tarts. 

Much like the honey badger, Pop-Tarts just don’t give a fuck.  They can do whatever they want.

Bottomline—you only need three flavors: Strawberry, Brown Sugar/Cinnamon, and S’mores.  Covers all the bases.  You have your fruit, you have your kind of sweet but kind of boring, you have your dessert.  What more do you need?  Do you really need Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Hot Fudge Sundae?  In a Pop-Tart?

Unnecessary.  Overcomplicated.  And in the case of Rainbow Cookie Sandwich, just plain stupid.

But its gone too far now to stop.  The Pop-Tart machine has become too powerful, it’s expanded and grown unchecked and without opposition for so long it may no longer be possible to temper its advance across the globe.

It’s like the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.  Or AIDs.  Or Japanese anime.  There’s no stopping it now that it’s rolling.

Pop-Tarts have spread around the world; they’re available in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.  They had only recently attempted to break into the Australian market at the time of  Steve Irwin’s death when their Strawberry Stingray Pop-Tart was discontinued amid complaints and cries of, “Too soon, too soon!”

Since Strawberry Stingray was the first and at that time, only flavor available in the Australian market, and not one likely to be popular anywhere else since Australians are pretty bat shit crazy with what they eat, Kellogg’s made the decision to pull out completely. 

As a result, Kellogg’s  stock plummeted as they were forced to eliminate nearly 1,500 jobs responsible for the development, testing and marketing of future Australian flavors such as Blueberry Balmian Bug, Wacky Wallaby Pineapple, Bogong Moth Milkshake Surprise, and a line of Witchetty Grub Go Tarts that were to feature different flavored frostings.

The loss of their Australian market has been the only true set back for Pop-Tarts, with the exception of the dumb shit that sued because his Pop-Tart broke and caught fire in his toaster. 

Apparently he’d also super-glued the plug into the electrical outlet, other wise I’m sure he could have just unplugged the fucking toaster.  No, unplugging it isn’t an option.  Clearly Kellogg’s just produces highly flammable foodstuffs with the intention of setting their customers’ homes on fire.

Setbacks.. setbacks.. setbacks.. right—no, haven’t really had any as they’ve spent the last almost forty years taking over the world.  But we must beware their popularity, their unchecked dominance of the breakfast-to-go market. 

Their ridiculous flavors could be just the start.  Who knows what will be next? 

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