McDonald’s France promo pairs “baguette” burgers with famous cheeses

french cheeseIn a move that’s either sheer genius or…a sign of the Apocalypse, McDonald’s France is giving their cheeseburgers a serious makeover. From February 15th through March 27th, customers will be able to get their burgers on a baguette, with a choice of four different French cheeses–three of which are prestigious Protected Designation of Origin (PDO; formerly known in France as Appellation d’origine contrôlée, or AOC) products. These cheeses are under strict production guidelines and can only be made within a specific area in their region of origin. Ooh la la!

According to culture: the word on cheese (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor), the cheese selection consists of Cantal, a buttery alpine style; Fourme d’Ambert, a creamy, spicy blue; Saint-Nectaire, an earthy semi-soft number, and “generic” chèvre, aka fresh goat cheese.

The cheesemonger/writer in me is thrilled to see something other than processed orange crap on a hamburger, and in France, I think this concept will fly. I don’t think America is ready for le gourmet burger with cheese yet, but it will be a great day when fast food actually consists of real food.

5 French Phrases to Know When Cheese Tasting

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.

Fine dining in Antwerp

fine dining in AntwerpFor such a small country, Belgium certainly has contributed to world cuisine. French fries, for example, are actually Belgian, making that whole “freedom fries” movement back in 2003 even stupider than it appeared. They also gave us Belgian waffles, although over here they’re called “Brussels waffles” after the capital. And let’s not forget about Belgian chocolate!

I’ve been exploring Antwerp, a wealthy city with hardworking inhabitants who like to splash out on fine food. Here are four restaurants worth a visit. Office casual attire is the rule here. Entrees range from about 15-25 euros ($20-28) except at Flamant Dining, where they’re a bit more.

My first night I dined at Brasserie Appelmans. This restaurant and absinthe bar only a few steps from the cathedral in the heart of historic Antwerp is popular with both tourists and locals. It’s strange to go from the Gothic spires and 17th century facades outside to modern minimalism inside. Through dim lighting you see a split-level plan with little décor besides mirrors, exposed brick and woodwork, and candlelit black tables.

For a starter I had an incredibly rich tomato soup with fresh cream and meatballs. It was almost filling enough for a main, but I managed a big bowl of Antwerp stew with veal prepared with Grimbergen Dubbel beer and served with thick-cut Belgian fries and salad of white cabbage, celery, and cherry tomatoes. After a long day’s walking and with the winter chill setting in for the evening, it certainly hit the spot.In keeping with the décor of the restaurant, the absinthe bar is dim and chic. It looks very popular and they had a large variety of absinthes but I didn’t partake. I can get absinthe at home in Spain and it’s not the thing to drink alone, certainly not alone in public. Both the restaurant and bar are busy by 7pm, as are many places here. Living in Spain I find Belgians to be early eaters!

Another fine restaurant is Felixpakhuis. Located next to the redeveloped docklands and the famous Mas Museum, it has a spacious and bright interior that gets quite loud as it fills up. Again bare wood and minimal decoration is the rule, although this time the colors are light instead of dark. For starters I ordered pumpkin soup with scallops followed by the Coc au vin. Both were well done and I appreciated the more casual atmosphere than you get in many high-end Belgian restaurants. While service was good at all the places in this post, the waitstaff at Felixpakhuis were the friendliest and quickest of them all. Make this your stop after seeing the Mas.

For those seeking the high end, try Flamant Dining, a restaurant on the first floor of the equally exclusive Les Nuits hotel. This is not a place you’ll stumble upon; locals have to tell you about it. It has a more intimate feel than the others, with a roaring fireplace and fine but minimal décor. I started with crispy goat cheese in a pig’s cheek spring roll with sweet red onion cream. For the main I had Australian filet pur grain fed with a pepper sauce, green salad, and Pont Neuf potatoes. Both were cooked to perfection, the pig’s cheek dissolving sweetly in my mouth. I found the pepper sauce a bit strong and overbearing on the excellent filet, but scraping a bit off solved this.

Another well-known and popular place is the Dome, which is a restaurant, a bistro, and bakery all within sight of each other. I had lunch at the bistro, a less formal and quicker option than the actual restaurant. A long aquarium took up one wall and windows took up much of the rest of the space, so between the fish and the Art Nouveau mansions outside I had plenty to look at during my meal. The chef brought out a series of small portions, including mackerel with mustard vinegar, scallops with pumpkin sauce and salad, spicy calamari (perhaps too spicy for some), and swordfish a la plancha with butter sauce. I’m a land lubber and rarely order seafood, yet I thoroughly enjoyed and finished everything. The restaurant, where you eat under a large neoclassical dome, is more formal and is hugely popular with the locals. The bread from the bakery is excellent.

The only criticism I have of Belgian cuisine from my limited experience on two trips to the country is that it’s too heavy. My appetizers were always too filling, yet too tasty not to finish. I saw very few small or light appetizers listed on menus, and when the hearty main course was set before me, all thoughts of dessert disappeared. Considering that many desserts included Belgian chocolate, this shows just how stuffed I was!

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Masterpieces in Silver!

This trip was partially funded by Tourism Antwerp and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.

Water park shut down because of burgers, fries, mozzarella

Is it a pool or an aquatic buffet?

Vandals made a mess of the Waterworks Waterpark in Prince William County, Virginia, and law enforcement is ready to slap the cuffs on someone. Hamburger patties, fries and pretzels were tossed into the pool, but the nastiest bit was smearing mozzarella cheese on the water slide. Of course, you wouldn’t want to put any of this near your lips.

The culinary disaster required that the park be shut down until the pool can be drained, sanitized and refilled – sans grub. The deed was done sometime between 10 PM Friday and 8 AM Saturday. Hoping to catch the culprits soon, a reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.

[photo by Tine72 via Flickr]

Let freedom (and its fries) ring!

I recently took a trip up to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding. It was my first time in the area and, as I’m wont to do, I intended to eat my way through the seaside towns, stopping at roadside shacks for lobster rolls and fried seafood goodness. So I pulled into the first restaurant I saw: Marc Anthony’s in Onset. It was midday and the checkered table cloth-clad joint was awash in Red Sox cap-wearing locals. I ordered a lobster roll, which the cashier yelled out for the grill-slaving cooks behind him and then a side of French fries.

“And an order of Freedom fries,” he yelled out. Just then a needle scratched across a record from somewhere in the heavens above. Huh? Freedom Fries?

Remember those? If not, here’s a brief refresher: the anti anti-war politicians (and those who loved them) spent the lead-up to Iraq war by trumpeting this name change in 2003 because of the French government’s refusal to go along with the Bush Administration’s plan to invade Iraq. Two of those legislators, congressmen Bob Ney (R-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC), had the House cafeteria officially change the name of French fries to freedom fries seven years ago last week. They weren’t the first to do this, but the press coverage of the event inspired many restaurateurs to jump on this jingoistic bandwagon. In my old Brooklyn neighborhood, a diner suddenly began serving “Freedom onion soup.” On a trip to California, I saw “Freedom toast” on a breakfast menu.

Two years later, Walter Jones admitted he was wrong for backing the justifications for the war and put the French back in fry in his workplace cafeteria. And so, much like the reasons given for the war, this ridiculous burst of anti-Gallic liberty-spewing re-monikering quietly went away. At least I thought it did.

Apparently not everyone got the notice. In fact, once I started searching for freedom fries, they weren’t hard to find. I even found Congressman Bob Ney who now has a talk radio show. I requested an interview with the congressman and he responded with another question: could we do it on the air? I agreed. And so later that day, I asked Mr. Ney on his radio show if he had any regrets.

“Would I do it again? Yes, I would,” he told me and then said something that kind of surprised me coming from the man who helped give us freedom fries. “Would I change my vote if I knew what I know now about weapons of mass destruction? I would not have given full authority to President Bush to do what he did.” Ney went on to say he really became the face of freedom fries for the troops, not really for the war.

So with this edible anachronism still around, it’s possible to go on a freedom food tour of the country. If you want to party like it’s 2003, your first stop should be Cubbies in Greenville, NC, the supposed first restaurant in the country to serve up these calorically terrific fried potatoes with a side of good ol’ American liberty. Geno’s, the famously “English only”-loving Philadelphia cheesesteak spot proudly serves them too. I called to find out if they were still on the menu, and when I asked why they haven’t gone back to the original name, gruff-voiced Geno (or some guy who sounded like his name would be Geno) hung up on me. The outcome was very similar when I called Marc Anthony’s in Onset. Other places where you can still get a dose of your freedom and your, uh, pommes frites in one basket are the mini-chain of Toby Keith-owned restaurants (now there’s a big surprise), I love This Bar & Grill (locations in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Thackersville, OK.

And when Congressman Ney goes out to a restaurant how does he order his fries these days?

“I’ll order French fries,” he said.

Let’s just hope the Italians don’t offend us next. A slice of pepperoni freedom pie or spaghetti with Uncle Sam’s meatballs just doesn’t have a very edible ring to it.


Be sure to check out Episode 5 of Travel Talk TV, which features a Santa Cruz beach adventure; explains why Scottish money is no good; shows how to cook brats the German way; and offers international dating tips!