Slick, sleek & slimy

I have fond mem­o­ries, though my cho­les­terol lev­el does not, of eat­ing at D’Best Sandwich Shop in Boca Raton. It’s been a few years, but as I  re­cent­ly munched on a Miami Cuban-style cheeses­teak1 my mind start­ed wan­der­ing and I got to won­der­ing if D’Best still ex­ist­ed. As I went look­ing for their web­site, I re­called a few of their re­gion­al twists on the cheeses­teak, like the New York style, a New Jersey style… not to men­tion their in­cred­i­ble non-steak ex­plo­sion of an en­tire Thanksgiving meal di­rect­ly on­to a bun (D’Pilgrim).

D’Best still ex­ists, al­right… but I was tru­ly un­pre­pared for what I found.

You see, back when I’d vis­it, D’Best-the-subshop was a place you’d leave coat­ed with a thin lay­er of grill grease. Had to wait in line? You’re wash­ing your hair tonight. The place was by no means messy, but it had a cer­tain un­fin­ished qual­i­ty to it… def­i­nite­ly the kind of place where the food mat­ters more than the brand­ing. I’d de­scribe it as feel­ing some­how hon­est… com­plete­ly lack­ing in pre­tense. Kind of blue col­lar? Yeah, I guess.

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  1. For the cu­ri­ous: a sin­gle slab of steak topped with swiss cheese, mayo and pota­to sticks — a rather un­healthy twist on the ubiq­ui­tous pan con bis­tec, and al­so not a cheeses­teak.

The Premium McWrap packaging is very nicely designed

McDonald's Premium McWrap 1I’m clear­ly no stranger to mar­ket­ing, but my ca­reer hasn’t yet brought me in touch with prod­uct pack­ag­ing. I like pack­ag­ing, and I’ve ac­tu­al­ly bought things over the years be­cause they were nice­ly pack­aged — stuff like can­dy,1 Altoids Sours, some ran­dom bike part… and yes, I’ve even bought my­self a few low-balance gift cards2 to keep in my this is so awe­some file.

I re­cent­ly found my­self im­pressed with the card­board pack­ag­ing around the McDonald’s Premium McWrap — I should prob­a­bly go ask for a clean one while they’re still avail­able. I guess I didn’t no­tice when they added this item to the menu, be­cause I or­dered my first one by mis­take. My an­noy­ance at pay­ing about dou­ble what I ex­pect­ed turned to in­trigue about as soon as I peeked in­to my drive-through bag.

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  1. Still pissed that my par­ents wouldn’t buy me Bubble Tape.
  2. Confuse your lo­cal cashier to­day — ask for a $1 gift card!

No Ovaltine please — we’re cool

As a kid, I didn’t know any­thing about Ovaltine aside from their com­mer­cials, so I hadn’t seen it as a spon­sor of clas­sic ra­dio and tele­vi­sion, as a joke on Seinfeld, or as a big fat liar in A Christmas Story. I can’t re­mem­ber any of my friends hav­ing any­thing to say about it, ei­ther.

I was to­tal­ly un­bi­ased.

But from the company’s mar­ket­ing alone, I could tell that rich choco­late Ovaltine was un­cool. I had nev­er drunk any — and decades lat­er, I still haven’t — but if I ever had, I cer­tain­ly wouldn’t have told any­one about it.

I’m not ex­act­ly sure why the stuff made my lame-sense tin­gle as a kid. Maybe be­cause Ovaltine was named af­ter a shape (and shapes are for lit­tle kids), or that its mar­ket­ing proud­ly pro­claimed that it was full of vi­t­a­mins (like every­thing par­ents love, and kids don’t), but what I sus­pect it was… was a lit­tle more ba­sic than that.

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There was bread in the air

It was dark and the car was point­ed east — some ex­press­way was be­hind it and some more was ahead, with the ex­act pro­por­tions rapid­ly chang­ing. Its win­dows were down and its sun­roof was too. Around here, la madre nat­u­raleza usu­al­ly cra­dles us close to her sticky and of­ten gross bo­som, but she had tak­en the night off.

In Miami, mid-60s is fair­ly cool for any time of year. I take what I can get.

I couldn’t hear what was play­ing be­cause the en­gine and the wind were too loud, and I was de­ter­mined not to be that guy. I prob­a­bly had some­thing on my mind too, but who can re­mem­ber? For a stretch of road per­haps a half-mile long, how­ev­er, the air and my thoughts were sud­den­ly full of the un­mis­tak­able scent of freshly-baked… sour­dough. I think it was sour­dough.

This was pleas­ing to me. Then it went away. I kept dri­ving.

Deliciously clever dessert marketing

dessert

I went to a restau­rant re­cent­ly, one that could be placed com­fort­ably in the same genre as Cheesecake Factory. Nice at­mos­phere, food’s great. But what stood out most to me was the way they mar­ket­ed desserts.

What would you think the top rea­son is that peo­ple don’t or­der dessert? I’d guess that the first or sec­ond (the oth­er be­ing health/weight con­cerns) is that their en­trée leaves them too full to eat more. How do you sell a dessert to some­one who’s too stuffed to eat one? Get them to or­der it be­fore they’re stuffed.

Our serv­er ini­tial­ly men­tioned, then re­mind­ed us on al­most every ap­pear­ance she made at our ta­ble, that all of their desserts are de­li­cious, made-to-order and take up to 30 min­utes to pre­pare, so my din­ing com­pan­ion and I should get our dessert or­der in ear­ly if we don’t want to wait.

This might not give a non-critical thinker pause, but — you know — I tend to no­tice when someone’s reach­ing for my wal­let. I al­so un­der­stand that restau­rants tend to run at pret­ty slim prof­it mar­gins, and how im­por­tant at­tach rates of desserts, drinks and ap­pe­tiz­ers are to their busi­ness.

They re­al­ly want you to have that slice of cheese­cake, even if they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be box­ing it up to-go. Clever, huh?

New Orleans, in food

To say that my sister and I enjoyed the food during our trip to New Orleans would be an understatement. Anticipating a blog post like this (and for posterity), I took photos of nearly everything we ate, and checked in at each restaurant using Foursquare.

Foursquare normally annoys me, but in this case, was very helpful in logging all the places we went, on which days we went, and so on.

(Unless otherwise noted, my meal is in the foreground.)



Tuesday, March 9




Dinner: Parasol’s Restaurant & Bar

Me: Hot Sausage Po Boy. Despite being a lifelong disliker of pickles, I decided to try my sandwich with them anyway, having ordering it “dressed.” While I’m not sure they added much, it was not bad with pickles. Mine was also a little light on meat, at least compared to Allison’s.

Allison: Roast Beef Po Boy.


Wednesday, March 10




Lunch: Gumbo Shop

Me: Red Beans & Rice with Smoked Sausage Gumbo. Gumbo was yumbo.

Allison: Chicken Andouille Gumbo.





Dinner: Port of Call

Both: Burgers (mine with cheese, hers with mushrooms) with baked potato. While I was a little surprised at the lack of fries as an option, I didn’t mind at all. The baked potato was amazing. Also, I wasn’t going to break out the flash, but yeah, the lighting was a little on the low side.


Thursday, March 11




Brunch: Slim Goodies Diner

Me: Robert Johnson Burger

Allison: Havana Omelet. Came with tortillas!





Snack: Creole Creamery

Me: Black & Gold Crunch Ice Cream

Allison: Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream


Dinner: Verti Marte

Verti Marte, a convenience store with sandwich counter in the back, had no seating, so we ate this meal in the car. Sorry, no photo; we were hungry.

Me: Muffaletta, something I had never tried. My reaction was along the lines of: “I’m pretty sure I’d list half of the ingredients on my do-not-like list, but boy are they good together!” Quite possibly my food highlight of the trip.

Allison: BBQ Po Boy


Friday, March 12




Lunch: Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Me: Chicken Fried Pork Chop. Mine was good, but I was jealous of her chicken.

Allison: Fried chicken. Quite possibly the best I’ve ever tried.





Dinner: Slice

Allison: (From left) Bacon, Basil, and Garlic; Pineapple; Fresh




Me: (From left) Jalapeño and Andouille Sausage; Greek; Fresh




New Orleans: A++++ Would nom again~~~