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?

Map: The Most Popular Chain Restaurants By State


Americans are notorious for our love of fast food, and now, thanks to Thrillist, we can identify the home (founded or headquartered) of individual chain restaurants by state. The clever-map-creating folks over at Thrillist HQ impressed us all with their Booze Map of the USA, but their latest map, “Red, White, & Food” (full-size here), leads me to believe that they might just be getting started with these diagrams. Some of the findings illustrated in this map won’t come as much of a surprise — like that fact that Washington is linked to Starbucks, New York to Sbarro, California to In-N-Out, Vermont to Ben & Jerry’s or Ohio to Wendy’s — but other chain restaurant homes seem less intuitive.Other maps we love:

World Health Map
Fascinating Map Of London
Cold War-Era Map Of No-Go Zones For Soviets
French Wine Metro Map
Hipster Heat Map
Map Of World Currency
Zombie Survival Map
US Stereotypes Map
US Highways As Subway Map

Restaurant Chains Flock to the Malls

Horseburgers: Slovenia’s Unusual Delicacy

horseburgers
Sean McLachlan

The horse has been with us for thousands of years. A loyal steed that has pulled plows, helped us migrate to new lands and carried us into battle, there is no more noble animal. We’ve honored the horse in myth, art and song, so what more fitting end to this fine beast than to eat it?

Horse meat is a good source of iron and is a free-range meat that’s low in fat. Horses produce far less methane than cows, so they’re easier on the environment too. As I mentioned in my post about Slovenian cuisine, Slovenia is one of the many European countries where horse is considered a delicacy. I’d never tried it before so while I was in the capital Ljubljana I decided to set out to one of the most popular places to eat horse – a horseburger stand called Hot Horse.

The branch I went to is in Tivoli Park, a large green area filled with families enjoying a sunny weekend. Hot Horse is located right next to a kid’s play park offering slides and games. No pony rides, though. That would have made my day.

Hot Horse looks like pretty much any other fast food place you’ve seen, with garish colors and plastic furniture. I ordered a horseburger, small fries, and a Coke for €6.50 ($8.67). As you can see, the thing was huge and slathered with ketchup and mayonnaise. I had to scrape much of this off to actually taste the horse meat.So how was it? OK. It does have a distinct flavor, a bit like beef but more mild with kind of a nutty taste. I enjoyed it but wasn’t converted. Of course, I was eating a horseburger in a fast food joint and not a horse steak at some fine restaurant, so perhaps I wasn’t experiencing horse meat at its best. Still, I came away more glad for the experience than impressed by my meal.

This made me think of all the other exotic meats I’ve tried – kangaroo, bison, alligator, ostrich – and how I wasn’t converted to them either. There’s a reason that beef, chicken and pork are the most popular meats around the world. They’re the most flexible, able to take on all sorts of different flavors depending on the recipe. They’re also cheap and easy to raise.

While the big three aren’t my favorites (venison takes first place, followed by game birds) they constitute 95 percent of my meat intake because they are easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to afford.

So if you’re in Slovenia, try out some horse. Just don’t expect Hot Horse to rival to Burger King anytime soon.

Check out the rest of my series, “Slovenia: Hikes, History and Horseburgers.”

Coming up next: Ten Random Observations About Slovenia!

horseburgers
Sean McLachlan

In America’s ‘McFarthest’ Place, Strippers And Coyote Hunting But No McDonald’s

south dakotaIf Rebecca Bierman gets an urge for a Big Mac, she has at least four options to satisfy the craving.

“I can go to Pierre or Sturgis, here in South Dakota,” says Bierman, a farmer and rancher who lives in Glad Valley, South Dakota. “Or I can go to Dickinson or Bismarck in North Dakota.”

The McDonald’s in Pierre is 142 miles from her home, the Sturgis branch is 147 miles away, and the golden arches in Dickinson and Bismarck are 146 and 159 miles away respectively. According to Stephen Von Worley, an artist and scientist from California, the area between Glad Valley and Meadow, South Dakota, is the “McFarthest” place in the country, that is, the part of America that is farthest away from a McDonald’s location. But there are places to eat in the area and one establishment even has strippers and coyote hunting contests.


sparky's restaurant isabel south dakotaAccording to Bierman, who grows wheat and oats along with her husband, Gene, there are only two houses with a grand total of three people in Glad Valley. There are no restaurants or businesses. She lives a mile and a half outside of town, if you can call Glad Valley that, and her husband is the town’s volunteer fire department.

“We’re very, very rural,” she says.

Bierman likes Big Macs but not enough to drive hours away to get them. Her husband wouldn’t eat at a Mickey D’s even if there was one across the street. When they want to go out to eat, there are two restaurants that are each about 20 miles away. There’s Sparky’s, a place that serves “regular American food” and is famous for its caramel nut apple pie in Isabel, a hamlet that, according to South Dakota magazine, has two farm implement dealers, a grain elevator, a medical clinic, a grocery, a hardware store and a few other businesses.

And there’s Smoky’s Bar & Grill, the only restaurant in tiny Meadow. A little further afield in Dupree, there’s a family restaurant called the Ranch House Café and an hour away, in a place called Eagle Butte, there’s a Dairy Queen, a Taco John and a gas station with a deli inside. She isn’t exactly spoiled for choice, but she isn’t complaining.

“We eat at home a lot,” she says.

strippers at smoky's bar and grill in meadow south dakotaWhen you live in a town as small as Glad Valley, you learn not to burn bridges and Bierman was guarded when asked which place she prefers.

“I could never tell you which place I like better,” she says. “That would get me in trouble around here.”

If McDonald’s decided to open a location in the area, would it be popular?

“I’m sure people would go there,” says Cindy Longbrake, the county auditor for South Dakota’s Ziebach County, which includes Glad Valley, plus the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. “I don’t make a special trip to go to McDonald’s but if they opened up around here, I’d probably go sometimes.”

Maybe so, but McDonald’s doesn’t have fully nude strippers or coyote hunting contests, as Smoky’s does.

“We’re an unincorporated town, so the girls can go fully nude. They don’t even have to wear pasties on their breasts,” says Lisa Wagner, the owner of Smoky’s.

Wagner said that the place has been open on and off since the 1950′s when a guy nicknamed Smoky ran the place.

“When Smoky owned this place, if you were old enough to reach the bar, you were old enough to get a drink,” she says.

coyote hunting contest at smoky's bar and grill in meadow south dakotaThese days, Smoky’s is known for their charbroiled burgers and steaks, and their Sunday buffet, which includes three choices of meat, a full salad bar and coffee or lemonade for $11, or $9.50 for seniors. Every so often, Wagner has strippers come in to dance and offer table and lap dances. She lives next door to the bar and says the town has six houses and a total of five residents and five dogs.

“We’re down to five people because Bernie just recently left the nursing home, Renee passed away from cancer and her husband lives out at the lake now,” she says. “And we have one empty house, the woman died years ago but they’ve haven’t tried to sell it.”

Wagner is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 19 years. She doesn’t mind living in a rural area but says that her daughter, who is “kind of a vegetarian” missed Taco Bell and other fast food places when they moved to the community about a decade ago. For the moment, business is decent and Wagner isn’t worried about McDonald’s coming in to steal her customers.

“People call ahead with their orders, so we’re kind of fast food,” she says. “And besides, our burgers are much better than theirs anyways.”

[Photo credits: Frago on Flickr; Sparky's, Smoky's]

Fried Chicken In Ulan Bator: KFC To Open In Mongolia

Would you like home-style biscuits or mashed potatoes to go with your yurt?

No country is out of reach for global food brands these days, and this week it’s Mongolia. In partnership with Ulan Bator-based Tavan Bogd Group, Yum! Brands is opening up four KFC outlets in Mongolia this year.

A country known for its nomads and ger yurts, it’s the most sparsely populated country in the world. But it’s also growing: the Mongolian economy is expected to expand 15.7% this year, the fastest pace in Asia.

That means it’s prime real estate for a large restaurant chain looking to expand. But how do you go about introducing fried chicken into a place that’s usually known for mutton and goat?

“We are conducting a market survey together with a global research company to determine the market potential and identify eating habits of Mongolians, which will outline our development road map,” said Ts. Baatarsaikhan, chief executive officer of Tavan Bogd Group.

Which begs the question: do Mongolians prefer original or extra crispy?

[Photo credit: pshegubj]