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November 9, 2017 / Roy

Behind the Column: Press trip to Denny’s HQ

Have you ever been to Spartanburg, South Carolina?  It’s a beautiful, little southern town, with a history that dates back to the Revolution.  Founded by Scots-Irish from the Appalachian Mountains, it was named after a regimen that fought for the colonies against the British.  The old days, though, have passed, and through quaint, Downtown Spartanburg’s main street is, well, odd.

Denny’s HQ

The tallest building in town is Denny’s HQ, which looms over Main Street – their old business district – like a government monolith.  When you stand at the foot of the building, you notice that it’s made of granite and stone panels, not FBI/J. Edgar Hoover/Beltway concrete.  They have quite a nice park laid out at the food of their building, and the company is a major employer in the town.  It’s quite a nice place, actually, like a reverse Monet: horrifying from far away, but beautiful up close.

I learned all this on a trip to Spartanburg this past Mark.  The impetus for the journey was an invitation from Denny’s to a press event at their HQ to unveil Baconalia, a promotional celebration of Bacon that they launched in March.  I was more than happy to oblige, mostly because A) I had never been to Spartanburg, B) I love South Carolina, and C) I love Bacon.  It was a fun trip, which included meeting the guys from Mr. Baconpants, sampling the food straight out of Denny’s test kitchen, and hearing about the new product creation process at Denny’s.

We tried their four new menu items for Baconalia: Bacon Flapjacks, Bacon Meatloaf, BBBLT, and the Maple Bacon Ice Cream.  We also sampled the Peppered Bacon, which they’ve developed and then used to create three new Bacon and Egg platters: Pepper Bacon and Eggs, the Ultimate Bacon Breakfast, and the Triple Bacon Sampler.  Those were merely variations on a theme of Bacon, Hash Browns, and Eggs with the Peppered Bacon mixed in, so they explained that, and just had us sample the bacon.

As the pictures above show, their HQ food wasn’t dramatically different or better than the food that appears in actual restaurants.  As I write in my column on Serious Eats, I can never write critically about the food at a Press Event, because the audience will always be skeptical of the controlled environment, as well they should be.  Surprisingly, though, Denny’s was giving us a very real look at their food.  They put specially crafted an sculpted dishes out for us to photograph, with perfect sunny-side-up eggs, and what we ate was meticulously cooked in small portions.

Sadly, the whole of Baconalia was more of a “sprinkle fest” than anything else.  Though avant-garde in some respects, the dishes mostly were places that bacon pieces could be sprinkled: in pancake batter, onto ice cream, our layered on to a sandwich.  The Bacon meatloaf had pieces cooked into it, but the overall trend was variations with bacon, not new dishes.

September 5, 2017 / Roy

Behind the Column: Chuck E. Cheese’s

“Nothing makes you feel creepy like walking into a Chuck E. Cheese’s alone, with an SLR camera.”

Cheese Pizza

This week, I covered the new pizza at Chuck E. Cheese’s for SeriousEats.com.  It was no ordinary experience.  Well, none of them ever are (33 slices of cheesecake, all of the mix-ins at Coldstone, etc.).  This one, though, was run-of-the-mill in terms of content: try the pizza, decide what you think.  The experience, though, was another matter.

When I walked in the front door, I stepped outside my own body and looked at myself: a lone male with a photo apparatus entering a place filled with children.  It just looks wrong.  I started to panic.  If I were accused of anything by security, what was I going to say?

Me: “Honestly, officer, I was just taking pictures of the pizza!”
NYPD: “You people make me sick.”
Me: “Food bloggers?”
NYPD: “That’s it smart-ass it’s taser time!”
Me: bzzzzzzzzzzz….:: gurgle::

I had visions of grandeur for this post.  I wanted to dive in the ball pit. I wanted to do a hilarious Conan O’Brien style video of some kids beating me at skeeball.  I could have gotten some hilarious footage of kids saying things about the pizza.  In reality, I walked in, realized how strange I looked, and spent the next half hour reading the news on my phone.

Frankly, it looked as fun as I remembered.  One kid was absolutely rocking a game right next to my table and carrying armfuls of tickets back to his table.  It made me miss going to Chuck E. Cheese’s as a kid, and I wanted to join in the fun.  But, sadly, I couldn’t.

Well, I could have.  I was not the only 20-30 year old that seemed to be milling about unaccompanied by a minor.  Once I realized that there seemed to be other unaccompanied adults, I almost had a panic attack.  ”All of this is strange,” I decided.  ”I’m going home to watch Lost.”

June 3, 2017 / Roy

Introduction to Biscuitville

If I asked you to guess what type of restaurant Biscuitville was, I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to hazard a guess.  I had never heard of them, but a college friend recommended them to me.

If you’re not from North Carolina or Virginia, chances are you’ve never heard of them.  There are only 50 restaurants, all located in those two states, and all within a 2-hour driving radius of Greensboro, where the company is headquartered.  They focus mostly on breakfast, and most restaurants aren’t open after 2 pm.  Believe me, they’re worth rising early for.

My first trip to Biscuitville was also in my first week of having my own SLR camera (Nikon D3100 for those interested).  The photos aren’t perfect because I was still on the early end of the learning curve.  For that, I do apologize.

biscuitville-sausage-egg-ultimate

The moment I laid eyes on the Ultimate Sausage Biscuit, I knew it was my breakfast that day: egg, two sausage patties, and two slices of cheese on a biscuit.  It didn’t disappoint either.  The sausage tasted really meaty, with a medium amount of pepper and spice.  It was much thicker than Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans sausage.  The egg was still moist and had brown fry marks on it – a good sign that it was freshly fried. The American cheese hadn’t melted, which disappointed me, but that has become the industry standard, so I can’t blame them.

 

biscuitville-ham-1

The Ham biscuit is fairly simple: a thin slice of cooked country ham on a biscuit.  It was salty, as country ham is, but there was a nice balance between ham and crumbly biscuit.  Some biscuits pull apart into flaky layers.  Other biscuits are more like a muffin: one single composite unit.  Biscuitville’s are the latter as opposed to the former.

biscuitville-chicken

The cashier recommended the Chicken Biscuit to me, and she was right.  A really flavorful fried chicken breast atop their crumbly biscuit.  I found the fillet very meaty and not too salty.  In fact, tasting their juicy, meaty breast changed my opinion of Chick-fil-a: Biscuitville’s is much less brine-y and has much more chicken flavor.

Luckily for me, this was not my only trip to B-ville while in North Carolina.  The first try, though, I found simple but awesome.  Look for another post on their sandwiches soon, as well as an interview I had with the CEO of the chain.

March 10, 2017 / Roy

Common Kitchen Faucet Problems and their easy fix

Kitchen Faucets have become an essential part of your kitchen and it is important that they work at all times without any issues.

But there are many common issues which you will face while using a Kitchen Faucet and knowing about them could help you in solving the issue quickly and efficiently. So what kitchen faucet problem should you be aware of?

This is a list of the few most common Kitchen Faucet problems which you would face when using it in your kitchen:

Leakages

One of the most common problem when using a Kitchen faucet would be the frequent leakages you would face once you have installed a Kitchen Faucet.

The dripping of the water from the faucet handle can result in a lot of water wastage and needs to be fixed immediately. Luckily, it is pretty simple to fix these leakages and you can do it yourself too.

You will need to read the instructions though but on a whole, the process is quite simple. Leakages can occur because of the loosened O-ring or the Cartridges in your Faucet and are not working properly anymore which might need to be replaced for the leakages to stop.

All you have to do is open your faucet and read the instruction manuals on how to replace the O-rings and the cartridges and your faucet will be as good as new.

Leaking Faucet

Low Water Pressure

Another frequent problem that you will encounter with your kitchen faucet is that after some time the flow of water won’t be as strong as it was initially.

This could be due to several reasons which include that there is too much debris or mineral deposits inside the pipes or the kitchen faucet. It is easy to fix this issue by a simple cleaning of the pipe and the kitchen faucet.

You would need to remove the kitchen spout and clean it free of all limescale and blockages. Once you have cleaned your faucet and pipes, this problem should be resolved.

But sometimes the issue runs deeper than that, your faucet and pipes might be clean but the main pipe might not be able to transfer water at a high pressure.

This would be a case if all the faucets in your home are producing low-pressure water in which case you would need to call a plumber and get it fixed or if not here’s how you can do it yourself.

Rusting and Corrosion

Another common problem faced by Kitchen Faucet users is that after some time the faucets might start showing signs of wear and tear.

Your spray head might become difficult to move or there might be rusting over your faucet. In such cases, it is better to call a plumber and see what the issue is. Sometimes the only solution for this issue is to install a new Faucet but first, check out the list of best selling faucets at Homeguyd.

Sprayer Leaks

In many faucets which come with a sprayer, you will notice that there will be a leak from various parts of the house.

But this is something easily fixable, all you have to do is tighten the various nuts and bolts in your hose connections and joints and ensure everything is tightly fixed together and you will notice that your hose will stop leaking once everything is tightened. Here’s an easy sprayer quick-fix.

April 29, 2012 / Roy

Reflections on Soda

Reflections on SodaFor the last six months, I haven’t really written about fast food for Serious Eats. Instead, I’ve penned a column on soda with my girlfriend, Carey, who happens to be the Senior Managing Editor of the site. It’s one of a few co-authored columns, but it suits us well: I cover regular soda, which she hates; she covers diet soda, which I can’t stand.

I’ve had a few ruminations brewing in my mind, and I thought I’d share them.

On Nepotism

Some of you might be crying “nepotism!” Yes, my girlfriend is the Senior Managing Editor of Serious Eats, and we co-write a column. No, it is not an example of nepotism, but rather of utilizing one’s network. I happened to be at the Serious Eats office one day when Ed Levine proposed the column to me, and we rolled Carey into the mix to cover diet soda because I hate diet soda. Nepotism is not ever turning your writing in on time, and never being scolded or reprimanded.

On Corn Syrup

High Fructose Corn Syrup tastes like chewing on aluminum foil if you taste it right next to sugar. It’s faint, but the difference in taste is there.

On Espresso Coffee Soda

I’m hopelessly addicted to Espresso Coffee Soda from Manhattan special. It’s so good, once it hits the lips. You do need to watch out for foam cascading out of a freshly opened bottle, though.

December 11, 2011 / Roy

From Fastfoodr to Slowfoodr

For the better part of the last year, I’ve cataloged some of the exploits of being a Fast Food Blogger.  I’ve tremendously enjoyed giving you all a glimpse into the life of a fast food writer, but my tastes (in writing at least) have changed.  I’ve passed the torch for Fast Food Bureau Chief to Will Gordon, and I think he’s already done a great job to spice up the column.  I’m now focusing on Soda for drinks.seriouseats.com/ along with Carey Jones.

This does NOT mean I dislike fast food, as my tastes haven’t changed.  (In fact, I was at Five Guys just yesterday.) I’ve always preferred sitting down to long meals, tasting bits of many things, and enjoying my food along the lines of the Slow Food movement.    On top of that, in college, I was a French and Italian major, which are two regions of the world which adhere to Slow Food Principles.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to marry two passions of mine: food and romance languages.   So, I will be switching to writing more about Slow Food on slowfoodr.wordpress.com

I’ll continue to post fast food related items to FastFoodr, and it will continue to serve as my main site for SeriousEats.com related posts.  However, I want to begin to explore a new and different part of the food world.  I hope you’ll check out the new site!

October 25, 2011 / Roy

Taco Tour Day 0

It’s always nice to leave New York. As great as it may be, it can feel confining. I jumped at the opportunity to spend this week touring Texas and New Mexico with SeriousEats.com editor Carey Jones.  One week driving around the South / Southwest, paid for by someone else?  I’m in.

The first stop on Day 0 was Houston.  If “Highway” doesn’t come right after “Houston” in the dictionary, it should.  I’ve never seen so many highways in my life.  Though the city is laid out on a map in rather straightforward terms, it seemed as if they elected to build highways instead of regular roads.  For a relatively “new” city, it makes sense.  Supersize for your growing population.

The first stop was El Real, a former theater converted into a Tex-Mex restaurant.  Carey grew furious as I spent the better part of the dinner transfixed by “A Fistful of Dollars,” which they projected on the wall.  Their puffy tacos were quite good: crispy tortillas filled with picadillo beef, a peppery and spicy loose ground beef.  Not to miss were the house salsas and the queso. A can’t miss, though, are their churros: quite possibly the fluffiest, crunchiest churros I’ve ever had, dusted ever so gently with sugar and cinnamon. These weren’t the stale, microwaved junk they Sodexho served you in high school; no, handmade by a Mexican baker, they’re to die for.

At the end of Day 0, we’d had 5 tacos, 4 salsas, and 1 amazing churro. Not a bad way to christen a journey!

October 17, 2011 / Roy

Interview with the Biscuitville CEO, Part II: Family Business

A few months ago, I published the first half of an interview I did with the CEO of Biscuitville, Burney Jennings.  He told me a great deal about the company, its operations, and its philosophies.  You can read the first part of the interview here.

As I said in my first article, “fast food executive” conjures the image of a rotund man in a suit.  Burney looked more like a golf pro: slim and trim, with a big smile.  Here is part two of our interview.

Me: So, they tell me Biscuitville has one of the highest turnover rates in the industry.

Burney: Phil Johnston [author of Biscuitville: The Secret to Building a Sustainable Competitive Advantage], whom I really like a lot, has done a great job with statistics. I won’t say 39% because I don’t truly know, quote him and not me, but yes, we do have very high turnover in terms of product. And we don’t have a big warehouse, so Larry (our warehouse manager) can’t have lots of product sitting around.

Me: There’s no Ronald McDonald, there’s no Ray Kroc anymore. Other restaurants have that family connection. Can you comment about Biscuitville as a family owned business? How family owned is it? What has that been like? Has that put any strain on you?

Burney: It is a family business. Let’s start with the relationship with my dad. I slowly worked into this position of President. In 1996 I became president, but he was still active as Chairman of the Board. It took another 7 to 8 years before he became hands-off with the business. He is still Chairman of the Board. We have had discussions, but we haven’t had major disagreements. As a family business in going from the first generation to the second, it’s been a fairly smooth transition, which is pretty unusual. Usually, the first generation has trouble letting go… It is a family-owned company. I have brothers and sisters who own the business, but I am only that is active in the business.

Being a business that is local and owned by a family plays into being public versus being private. We have found that our customers like that we are a private company, a family company, a locally-owned company. On top of that, the way we compensate our operators is a profit-share. They really have an ownership mindset, which is important for us to maintain a high level of customer service and satisfaction.  I’ve seen them work, and they really get to know their customers and know them by name.

Me: Some of these chains grow at exponential rates. Subway largest chain in America right now. But Biscuitville has remained small, doesn’t have any debt on its balance sheet and no outside investment.  Can you comment on that?  Does that limit you?

Burney: It limits you in that you can’t add 20 restaurants next year. We could if we got outside investment. It limits you because you don’t have the dollars to do so. But we’re okay with the slow growth.

Me: Have you ever felt the pressure? Just for a small expansion?

Burney: No, none.

Me:  Well, Burney, thanks for your time and thank you for answering my questions so openly and candidly.

Burney: Of course!  I’ll be excited to read the interview!

September 20, 2011 / Roy

Blake’s Lotaburger Review

blakes lotaburger burgerI love New Mexico. My parents have been taking me there since I was a child, and I always loved it: hot days and cool evenings, dry air, and New Mexican Green Chile. Blake’s Lotaburger piles the green chile on their burgers, and they are awesome. Their other toppings are nothing to write home about, but their green chile burger is some of the best food out there under $5.

You can read my review on Serious Eats here.

August 4, 2011 / Roy

Can Fast Food and Fitness Co-Exist?

How can you work at a health and fitness company, but then write about Fast Food?

People often ask me this question, in some form.  How can I eat fast food, and be taken seriously as a someone in the health and fitness sphere?  How can I possibly eat a Big Mac knowing what I know about McDonald’s and the Nutrition Facts?  Haven’t I seen Food, Inc.?

I think it helps to take chronology into account.  I wrote about Fast Food long before I started working at a fitness company.  Between June ’10 and December ’10, I ate fast food approximately once per week, as I was writing about one column per week.  And in that time period, I gained weight.  In January ’11, I started writing around twice per week for Serious Eats and thus eating fast food twice per week.  And my weight went down.  Why? I paid very close attention to what I was eating the other 90% of the time.

In the half year from June ’10 to December ’10, I became much more involved with Serious Eats.  I attended review dinners, I visited their offices, and I was the recipient of many doggie bags.  Consequently, a large percentage of the food I ate came from restaurants — generally very rich food — and it was primarily free.  That took me to a point where I was the heaviest that I’d been in my entire life.  From January ’11 to May ’11, I almost doubled up on fast food, writing two columns per week.  But, I cut out things I used to eat and drink: Oreos, BBQ ribs, Hamburgers, and Miller High Life.  I added in Spinach, Tofu, Chickpeas, and a lot of salad.

I don’t pretend that Fast Food is healthy.  In fact, I know it’s not, and I know why it’s not.  But I am a pragmatist.  It’s there, and we eat it.  Some of us eat too much fast food, and ought to reduce that amount.  Some of us eat a harmless amount of fast food and a harmful amount of other rich foods that don’t carry the same negative stigma.

Yes, it is a hypothesis.  I haven’t done nearly enough research.  But, my diet experience made me think that fast food becomes a scapegoat for deeper, systematic issues with the American Diet, and that notion prompted me to want to work in the health and fitness sphere.