Forget Cronuts. Try These 6 International Food Combinations.

hirotomo t, Flickr

Everyone loves a good food trend or weird restaurant. In fact some people even travel for them. But sometimes trends quickly turn to obsession. This year that has been the cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid bred in New York and quickly copied around the world. For example, north of the border in Canada, you can get your hands on a bacon jam cronut burger.

Maybe it’s because it’s a weird combination. Maybe it’s because we all have a secret desire to eat trashy baked goods. But whatever it is, odd food combinations make people go wild. Here are six other food creations from around the world that are right up there with the cronut, and may just be worth traveling for if you’re in search of an odd eating experience.

1. Animal Doughnuts

Japanese animal doughnuts (also know as “doubutsu doonatsu” in Japanese) are a weird/sort of cute combination of a love of anime and fried dough. They’re exactly like they sound: doughnuts with animal ears and faces that are sort of reminiscent of Hello Kitty. If Hello Kitty was made by a pastry chef.

ManEatManila, Flickr

2. Ramen Burger

Why go for a regular bun when you could make one out of ramen noodles? Created by ramen lover Keizo Shimamoto in Brooklyn, the ramen burger is an attempt at combining everyone’s two favorite things: burgers and noodles. A classic example of an uptown/downtown trend, it’s a hipster dish with a classier layer. If you can call a pan-fried ramen bun classy.

3. Crookie

In Canada, you can get your hands on a croissant stuffed with an Oreo. Because nothing says classy like a double stuffed cook sandwich in a French patisserie.

4. Doughnut Burgers

If you thought the French would be offended that their national pastry of choice would be combined with the American fried classic, think again. Turns out, they’re all about doughnuts. Well at least that’s what we can assume from the latest campaign from French fast food chain Quick: the Homer Menu. Inspired by none other than Homer Simpson, it’s a burger in the shape of a doughnut. And if that’s not enough for you, they also have a cheesy doughnut offering; a classic doughnut filled with melted cheese. And no, it’s not brie.

5. Nutella Fries

Nope, it’s not brought to you by the Europeans. Nutella fries are all thanks to the Canucks, who are debuting the dish at this years Canadian National Exhibition. I see no reason why this won’t take off in food trucks across North America.

6. Birizza

Ever eaten biryani? It’s a rice-based dish popular across Asia and the Middle East, but in Sri Lanka, thanks to the local Pizza Hut, you can get it in a pizza version. Curry spiced rice with chicken or paneer in a dough wrapper? You didn’t think you’d be eating calzones on your next trip to Southeast Asia did you?

Travel Like A Boss: Le Parker Meridien’s Burger Joint – Secret New York Food Spots Part I


While it’s really not the best kept secret in all of midtown Manhattan, The Burger Joint, tucked inside of the Parker Meridien is certainly a gastronomic underdog.

About 10 years ago, this local favorite was essentially created from scratch, carved from a tiny nook toward the back of the reception area and modeled after a greasy spoon you would find somewhere in the Midwest. Replete with wood-paneled decor, cheesy movie posters and impromptu scrawling on the walls, the Joint is so popular with the neighborhood that the lunch line forms before they open at 11 a.m. and doesn’t die down until way into the afternoon – only to pick up again just before dinner. The menu, aimed at the heart of the minimalist, consists of burgers, fries, beer, soda and shakes – nothing else. Under advisement from the super friendly staff, we ordered the works on a medium burger with fries.

With so many burgers in the ring for best burger in NYC, we were unsure how the Joint’s take on the revered beef patty would compete, but take our word for it; this is definitely up there with the best. It’s just the right amount of succulence you want in a burger. With the bun toasted just right, and the mustard ketchup combo, you have to wonder what the other guys are doing wrong. Well, we may know that secret. The Burger Joint employs a full-time butcher, working around the clock processing only the best beef money can buy – no additives, no spices, just great beef. The answer may lie in the freshness.

SkyMall Monday: Protein Ketchup

gadling skymall monday protein ketchupThe other day, while relaxing in SkyMall Monday headquarters, I was about to enjoy a juicy hamburger with some french fries when an alarm went off in my brain. I realized that a burger and fries was not a very nutritious meal. Here I am, trying to get in shape for my wedding and I’m denying my body what it really needs. I immediately put the burger down and thought about what I could do differently to ensure that I was eating healthier. This hamburger situation was dire and needed to be corrected. I had to take better care of myself and treat my body with more respect. That’s when it hit me. I had to turn to some real nutrition experts to fix this mealtime dilemma. Surely SkyMall could teach me to eat better. And thanks to our favorite catalog, I ended up having a healthy meal. What did I eat? That very same hamburger and french fries…smothered in Protein Ketchup!You see, the problem isn’t with what you’re eating. The issue is your choice of condiment. Currently, the ketchup that you are eating (probably Heinz since Hunt’s is for losers) has zero grams of protein. ZERO! How do you expect to get any protein if the meaty hamburger that your devouring is smothered in ketchup with zero grams of protein?

Think that condiments don’t need to be a source of protein? Believe that ketchup is just an unhealthy sugar sauce that you don’t need to eat at all? Well, while you’re cleaning mustard stains off of your shirt, we’ll be reading the product description:

With 15 grams of protein, zero fat, and two servings of tomatoes in every “dipper-style” one-ounce cup, Protein Ketchup delivers the taste and mouthfeel you expect, with the nutrition you want.

The problem has always been that we’ve wanted a more protein-rich ketchup but haven’t been willing to sacrifice the mouthfeel. Well, our day has come.

Why have a family-sized bottle of protein-less ketchup when you can stock your cupboard with dozens of one-ounce cups of protein-rich condiment ready to fuel your body and fill your garbage with excessive amounts of waste?

Now you can eat all of the burgers, fries and ice cream sundaes that you want so long as you coat them in some rich, properly mouthfeeling Protein Ketchup. It’s guiltless eating that’s sugary sweet. Enjoy!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

The most exclusive hamburger in the United States

Hamburgers at NYSENew York is home to some amazing burger joints. The Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien hotel, a handful of Shake Shack locations and Burger Burger down on Stone Street topped the list for me … until I found some incredible sliders in an unusual place.

Skip all the city’s hottest dining destinations, and march yourself down to Wall Street. No, I’m not joking. There’s an amazing hamburger at 11 Wall Street, just in from the corner of Broadway and Wall. Those of you who work in the neighborhood are probably feeling a bit confused right now. That’s the address for the New York Stock Exchange!

Yep, exactly.

One of the most recognized and important financial centers in the world is also where you’ll find some incredible eats.

Though you’re probably most familiar with the bustling exchange floor that you’ve seen on CNBC, there’s a lot more going on inside that building, which is closed to the general public. To get into the NYSE, you need a reason, and to sample the fare, it has to be an important one.

I found myself at the NYSE a few weeks ago for a closing bell ceremony with IR magazine. After the bell announced the end of the trading day, I joined the other guests at a cocktail reception in an elegant space clearly designed to exude the gravity of both the building and the reasons people have for being in it. The hors d’oeuvres passed by carefully clad waiters was of a caliber you’d expect to find only at the most prestigious restaurants in the city, and nothing disappointed.

But, those burgers

Despite the fact that I find myself at some upscale eateries, I have a penchant for pedestrian grub that I’ll never overcome. I can’t resist a great hot dog, and a carefully crafted hamburger, for me, is heavenly.

A waiter walked by me with a tray of sliders, and it never occurred to me to decline. Confession: passing on these tasty treats didn’t occur to me after this scenario was repeated several times.

The burgers were tiny (duh – sliders), taking a mere two bites to consume. The fact that they disappeared so quickly is probably part of the reason why I had so many, though both taste and my absurd appetite doubtless contributed. Perfectly prepared, they were somewhere a tad south of medium, leaving them juicy but not dripping … perfect for eating with nothing more than a cocktail napkin between the burger and your hand.

The meat itself came just short of the edge of the bun. At first thought, this may seem meager, but experience proves otherwise. When I chomp into a big burger, I want the flesh to pass the bun and hang over the side, reinforcing the feeling that I’m biting into something that’s undeniably substantial. With sliders, however, this doesn’t work well. Passed hors d’oeuvres mean eating while standing, and a higher risk of spilling something on yourself. The lack of overhang reduces this risk, allowing you to eat and enjoy worry-free. While this is a plus for the average person, it’s incredibly important to me (I tend to spill).

Nothing, frankly, compares to sinking your teeth into one of these sliders. The burst of flavor is powerful. The outside of the burger is slightly crisp, though the inside is soft and moist. In two bites – three or four if you’re a normal person – it disappears, and you’re left hunting for a waiter. After all, you don’t want to wait for everyone else to take one!

So, how do you get the chance to dine on these delicacies?

While it helps to know somebody who knows somebody, your best bet is to have a friend (a) whose company is going public and (b) who is important enough at that company to be able to score an invitation for a guest who doesn’t work for that company at all. Good luck with that

Of course, you could always come up with a great idea, start company, make it fabulously successful and go public on the NYSE.

Until then, however, you’ll have to be content to drool.

[Photo courtesy of IR magazine]

Should you eat at American chain restaurants when you travel?

denny's japan american chains travelFor people traveling the world in search of culture, adventure and, in a philosophical sense, themselves, it’s probably discouraging to see so many signs of American consumerism all across the globe. Virtually anywhere you go, you’re bound to see American restaurant chains serving variations on the “classics.” Is that a bad thing? Should we be avoiding these establishments in favor of eating only in local restaurants? I’ve been giving this topic a lot of thought lately and don’t profess to have the answers to all of these questions. Like most travel conundrums, this one comes down to personal preference. So, how do I feel about American chains overseas? My travel experiences will make that pretty clear.Truth be told, I don’t eat much fast food when I’m home (road trips being the exception). It’s typically unhealthy, unsatisfying and unappealing. However, I’ve found that the quality overseas is significantly better than at the American locations. I ate at a Burger King in Israel and my burger was fresher, tastier and resembled the photograph on the menu more than anything I’d ever had at one of the chain’s domestic locations.


I also ate at a Denny’s in Auckland, NZ. It was 2am, I was intoxicated and needed to get my fix of greasy breakfast foods. Some things are universal, so whether I was at home in New York City, back in college or on the other side of the world in New Zealand, Denny’s seemed like a good idea after a few drinks. Was it my favorite meal of that trip? Of course not. Did it serve its purpose? My lack of a hangover the next morning would signify that it did.

pizza hut indonesia american chains travelOn a recent trip to Indonesia, my girlfriend and I stopped into a Pizza Hut to pick up dinner for our friends. Not only did the menu contain items that no American Pizza Hut carried, the location itself was as lovely as many high-end restaurants in New York. Much like when I was in India, it was obvious that Pizza Hut was catering to the burgeoning middle class. A trip to Pizza Hut was part of a special evening. Why’d we choose an American chain when the streets were lined with warungs serving every type of Indonesian food you could imagine? The answer to that question explains every trip to an American chain I’ve ever made overseas.

We were curious. We wanted to see the Indonesian interpretation of pizza (there were chicken sticks in the crust!). I didn’t have the Maharajah Burger at the McDonald’s I saw in India, but I wish I did. Not because I expected it to be better than any saag paneer I might enjoy there, but because I wanted to see how McDonald’s handled not being able to serve beef in the predominantly Hindu nation.

This is not to say that every bite of American food I’ve had while traveling internationally was an act of investigation. Sometimes I just want a taste of home. The longer the trip, the more likely I am to eventually crave a burger, a slice of pizza or a bagel. If I can find those in a chain, so be it. Cravings are fun to satisfy.

Whether you like them or not, American chain restaurants are becoming ingrained in cultures around the world. While many people are seeking out “authentic” experiences, they are ignoring the fact that modernization and globalization are redefining the very sense of authenticity (not that any one person can ever explain what is or isn’t truly authentic in a place – it’s a word that should be removed from every travel writers lexicon). I love eating locally and experiencing the cuisines of the world. But I also love seeing how American culture is reinterpreted to fit into the social norms of other places.

I’ll continue to visit American chains overseas (though I passed on going to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Bali) purely out of curiosity and a thirst (pun alert) for familiar tastes. I understand why others eschew these businesses. I get that people want to fully immerse themselves in new places. For me, however, those chains are part of my immersion.

What about you? Do you eat in American chains overseas? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.