Friday, December 31, 2010

BACONQUEST


The Team of Experts (from left to right:) Jim, Andrew, Kevin, Serafina, Patrick 
  
Me at the Arby's Drive-Thru Window

It all began with a single vision: to find a way to turn homework into bacon. Everyone met at my house and jumped into my car, and with little delay we were on our way to do just that. My friends and I spent two hours driving up and down Kirkwood Highway in order to find and review the best bacon that the local fast food restaurants had to offer. We considered over ten different locations from Elkton to Bear to Newark, but in the end we decided to settle on Kirkwood Highway. We stopped at several different places, sometimes only to find that the restaurant either no longer sold bacon or would not sell bacon. These places were Taco Bell and Starbucks. It is no secret that Taco Bell is my personal favorite for fast, good food, but we had to take off serious points when we found that they no longer carried any items on their menu containing bacon. Soon after, my friends and I were again met with disappointment and an awkward goodbye to the restaurant staff when we stopped at Starbucks Coffee, only to find that they could not make us their "artisan bacon" sandwich because their oven was turned off. I don't know when Starbucks closes on a Thursday night, but it was only 7:00 P.M.


Clockwise from top-left: Panera's Chipotle Chicken Sandwich,
KFC's Double Down, BK's Double Stacker, Wendy's Baconator,
Arby's Bacon Chicken & Swiss

When at long last, after a long journey of driving from restaurant to restaurant with a bag of food slowly increasing in size, we finished our quest for bacon. It was then time to eat. We all went back to my house and quickly unwrapped the glorious feast from its less-than-glorious covering. Our eyes fixed on the bacony bounty that lay before us, we had no idea where to begin. Before long (and before it went cold,) I handed out plates and pencils and score sheets as one of the others cut each sandwich into six pieces. It was time to get down to some serious work. We began each test by first cleansing our pallet with a soft drink and taking our slice of the sandwiches, making notes and making comments about its physical appearance and scent and just how appetizing it looked in general. After giving our first impressions, we all took a bite and wrote down our scores and gave our thoughts. It was entertaining and pretty funny to see all of us (especially Andrew) taking it so seriously.



We began with the Burger King Double Stacker. A little over three dollars, it consists of two meat patties, two slices of bacon, cheddar cheese, and a yellow sauce. As we picked up our individual slices, we all quickly noticed that they were small, the cheese looked almost fake, and the whole thing very unappealing. Jim remarked that it looked like a "Phisher-Price Burger with plastic cheese." When we took a bite, the immediate reactions signaled that our fears were true. The bacon was flimsy and thin, and worst of all, you couldn't even taste it. We quickly wrote down our score and moved on.

The Arby's Chicken, Bacon & Swiss is just that. It was a very good looking bun with good looking chicken and good looking bacon and good, real looking swiss cheese. We all took a bite, wrote down our scores, and discussed. All of us were in agreement that it was definitely a good, solid sandwich. At only a little over four bucks without the combo, it was a little expensive, but well worth it.

The KFC's Double Down sandwich was good looking. It looked really bad for you (as Jim's initial reaction, "The first thing I think of is 'fat'," illustrates,)  but it also looked like it tasted really good. We were not disappointed. The Double Down is real looking, meduim-thick bacon with good cheese between two pieces of boneless fried chicken. Jim, deciding he didn't want to eat beef and thus could not participate in most testing, decided to buy himself one before the taste test. That's how appetizing this sandwich seemed. It was a little greasy, a little heavy on the taste of chicken, and five dollars without a combo, but we all agreed it was worth it, just maybe not if you're tight on cash.


Inside of the Baconator
 Now things were really starting to get exciting. Most of what we had eaten already was great, and we decided to try the Wendy's Baconator next. Hyped to be the greatest fast food bacon out there by many, including bacontoday.com, we moved through our first observations eagerly. It looked like a real burger with real, thick cut applewood smoked bacon, a big bun, and decent looking cheese. When we took a bite, reactions were mixed. We all noticed that the bacon taste came after, which was fine, but as Serafina said, the bacon tasted like it was cooked in an oven, not a skillet. A good amount of people on the team declared that it seemed almost out of place somehow with the rest of it. By itself, it was definitely good bacon. Put into the burger, it was also good, but not what we thought it would be.


Me Enjoying The Chipotle Chicken Sandwich
 It was then that our heads turned to the beautiful item that was left. We could still smell the fresh and incredible scent that comes with all Panera Bread food. Before us was the Chipotle Chicken Sandwich. This aromatic sandwich was made up of what we tasted to be perfectly cooked grilled chicken topped with real cheddar cheese and a spicy, smokey chipotle spread with thick cut and slightly crunchy bacon on french bread. It comes with tomato, but as a personal preference, we excluded it from our order. To our surprise while stopped at the Panera Bread on Kirkwood, we found that it cannot be ordered without the combo for a lower price. They could sell you just the sandwich, but at the combo price of about seven dollars. For that seven dollars, though, you do get a nice combo and a sandwich which was very big in comparison to the others we had that night. You could get a good two or three bites out of our individual slices instead of the one you could get out of the samples from the others.

The Scores
Our scoring was done on a ten point system individually by the five of us (Jim, as stated before, didn't eat the beef and as such did not partake in scoring,) and then the scores for each item were added together and multiplied by two. This was Jim's idea, and it worked very well, since we now had an easy way of giving scores out of 100 and assigning a grade. These are the results of the top five fast stops for bacon anywhere on Kirkwood Highway and their items' grades:


5. BK Double Stacker 
...with a horrendously low score of 22. Its wet-noodle-like bacon is far and away beyond an F.


4. Wendy's Baconator
...with an average score of 57. A sandwich that isn't bad, but isn't for everyone. It averages to an F.


3. KFC's Double Down
...with respectable score of 79. It recieved a good solid C+ overall and left a good impression on us.


2. Arby's Chicken, Bacon & Swiss
...with a really great score of 82, you'll probably get the most bang for your buck with this B sandwich.


1. Panera's Chipotle Chicken Sandwich
...with an utterly fantastic score of 94, it easily won the best scores of all. It's a little expensive, but an A!


In the end, we were all in agreement that although some of the food we had tonght was amazing, you simply can't beat bacon cooked in a skillet over the stove at home. It was an incredible night and it was certainly a lot of fun. All of us consider this adventure to be a great and successful one. Thank you for reading and I hope it's been fun for you to read whether you like bacon or not. As a side note, the name of this post is a reference to BRODYQUEST, a nonsensical YouTube video created by Neil Cicierega of Potter Puppet Pals fame. Don't worry, I don't think the video is supposed to make any sense, but I like the part when he walks into the sun.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brains-- They're What's For Dinner


Drawn by Myself

 Lately, zombies have been on my brain. Luckily, though, I've been able to fight them off before they could eat it. We may change the rules and argue which portrayals of zombies are better, such as the great "Romero" zombie versus "Infected" zombie debate, but we all love them. "Romero" zombies are generally characterized by slow movement and having their heads as their primary or only weak point. "Infected" zombies, on the other hand, have the ability to run or in some extreme cases perform more complex motor functions such as operating a gun or even a car. For an index of more specific types of zombies and examples from film, literature or other media, click the "Our Zombies are Different" link at the bottom of this post. No matter how they're portrayed in media, though, they usually want to eat your flesh.

My personal favorite zombie movie is Shaun of the Dead directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It's a side-splitting movie that always fills the room when we show it at Film Club what seems like at least once every year. I still have yet to see Zombieland. Is it any good? I've heard mixed reviews at best. Other good zombie media includes the Left 4 Dead video game franchise and Jonathan Coulton's "RE: Your Brains." It's a song from the point of view of a zombie named "Bob," trying to reason with the survivors who have locked themselves inside of a mall. Before the whole zombie thing, Bob worked in an office down the hall from one of the survivors, and he apparently wasn't much of a nice guy to begin with. Jonathan Coulton's music is released with the Creative Commons Liscense, something Mrs. Healey tried to explain to us a while ago. Basically, it means people can use his music for free as long as they give credit to him and do not profit from it. To listen to the song, click the link at the bottom of this post.

On a more serious note, why do we all love zombies? Would any of us know how to deal with a zombie outbreak? I couldn't even begin to scratch the surface without taking hours to write this blog. If you think realistically, it's one of the more terrifying ways the world could end. Your local news starts to give details about a coming "green flu" epidemic in the area on Monday. On Wednesday, everyone is coughing and running a fever. On Friday, the military begins driving through the streets and there is widespread panic as people start to die from the quickly fatal virus. On Sunday, you wake up in the morning to find the streets empty, windows broken throughout your neighborhood, and the smells of gasoline and gunpowder are in the air. A house down the street is on fire, and you turn to find your family slowly limping toward you, gasping and groaning, arms outstretched. You are alone.

Describe your plan in the case of a zombie outbreak in the comments section and/or give your opinion on your favorite zombie media or whatever.

Left 4 Dead Intro Cinematic (Mind Swearing Warning)
RE: Your Brains
TVtropes.org: Our Zombies Are Different
5 Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Could Happen

Also, if anyone owns Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide or World War Z, may I borrow it? I've wanted to read them for a long time.