Wednesday, December 30, 2015

O Christmas Sandwich, O Christmas Sandwich!

Well, the holidays came and went. Hope everyone had a swell time and ate some good gourmet. I know I did. Of course with the holidays comes all the seasonal goodness and with all the seasonal goodness comes...CHRISTMAS SANDWICHES!!!

The Greg's Gourmet Dictionary defines Christmas Sandwiches as "turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy packed into a buttered dinner roll." See, the trick is you don't want too much of any one thing because then you're gonna make a mess and look like an asshole. What you wanna do is start with a thin slice of turkey, top it with some stuffing, then use the potatoes as a paste to keep everything together. Top that with some gravy and you're good to go. In recent years I've become fond of trying the sandwiches on all different kinds of rolls: white, wheat, Hawaiian, sourdough, ciabatta; it's a pleasure. 

Moving on, here's the entree:

This was actually very poorly plated on my part. In a twist of Greg's Gourmet fate, I began my plate off with a small side of fruit salad, which is something I never do. I think packing that onto the plate is what caused such a spacing discrepancy and, in turn, created some wasted empty space up front. But that's okay. I made up for it:

It's a lot harder to make leftovers look attractive.

Oh, and here's something new - the delicious and sensuous 10 Layer Fruit Salad:

I have a story about this salad that I'm gonna post later, but for the record it contains: pineapple, watermelon, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, bananas, kiwis, apples, and Maraschino cherries. 

If you haven't tried this then you should! Candy Cane Marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate, available at Sprouts.

Oh, and here's a piece of fake poop just cause:

Anywho, hope everyone had a great holiday season and wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Return of Albertsons

Well, sort of.

Return in the sense that I had to make a special trek to visit the closest Albertsons, which served as my first such visit to the chain since Haggen came in and destroyed everything. I guess that dates back to February or so.

Anyway, I made a special trip to Escondido to pick up two specific items that only Albertsons can deliver. At work I started a little theme day called "Wedges N' Wings Wednesday" which, of course, capitalizes on the glorious combination of chicken wings and potato wedges. I don't know about you but I think the pair goes together like milk and cookies or turkey and gravy or Jared Fogle and jail; it just seems like a natural combination.

Albertsons has a nice deal at their deli called "Pick 3"; an entree and two sides for $5.50. It's a deal I used to get once a week in the early days of Greg's Gourmet, but eventually it was time to move onto other eating challenges, so I haven't had the "Pick 3" since 2013 or so. Imagine my happiness when I stepped into this Albertsons, ventured over to their deli, and saw the same sign that I grew to know and love once upon a time at an Albertsons not so far away: Pick 3 for $5.50. Oh, the glory! Granted, the Albertsons in Escondido doesn't have the extensive 8-flavor wing bar as the one that used to be on Balboa Avenue, but hey, it had 3 flavors of wings plus wedges. Good enough for me. For my second side I got, of course, mac n' cheese:

I don't remember the wing flavors here but I think they were regular, zesty, and honey...and they were FANTABULOUS. Everything about this meal was awesome, even the epic farts it gave me afterwards. I can't wait to go back. 

The second item I came for is a product that has been a favorite of mine since before the Pick 3 and that is, of course, the purple bag of Albertsons chocolate chip cookies:

Seeing that shade of purple again made me feel like Indiana Jones first laying eyes on the Holy Grail. These cookies are THE BEST. THE BEST, JERRY. THE BEST! I bought two bags; one for home, and one for the Cookie Party at work the following day. My plan (and hope) was that no one would go into them and I'd just take that bag home at the end of the day. At 5 PM I was in the kitchen and they were still sitting there, untouched. When I headed out at 5:50 the bag was gone. GONE. Obviously someone missed these things as much as I did. 

Oh yeah, I also bought some Strawberry Lemonade Gatorade which, for some reason, is really hard to find locally. Albertsons easily went 3-for-3. 

The question I'm curious about is when (and if) Albertsons is moving back into the stores they bought back in San Diego. They purchased the Haggen in Rancho Bernardo but due to ongoing legal issues, it's not exactly known if (or when) they're coming back. The other question is what will this reincarnation of Albertsons be like? Keep in mind they're now part of Safeway/Vons and that chain sucks big time. I guess as long as they have the wing bar, chocolate chip cookies, and strawberry lemonade Gatorade then I'll be happy. Actually, you know what? I think having ANYTHING there other than Haggen will make me happy. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

5 Things Haggen Did Wrong When Entering Southern California

I went on an extensive visual rant about Haggen a few weeks ago as they were commencing their "going out of business sale." The question on everyone's mind is how could a large grocer fail in such a short period of time? It's a case study that I'm sure will find its way into college business courses for years to come, but in the meantime we're left with the scattered pieces of a failed business, multiple lawsuits, and a whole lot of questions that don't have answers. What we can do in the meantime, like all good Americans without rhyme or reason, is speculate.

Although it's now closed for good, the empty aisles within these walls aren't much emptier than they were when the store was open

In my fascination of this failure, I've been researching Haggen for a few days trying to find clues as to what the hell happened. I've uncovered some interesting tidbits about the company as well as a handful of corporate conspiracies, like this was all preordained. While I lean more toward it being a failure of general idiocy and incompetent management, all of Haggen's 146 stores ultimately suffered the same fate. 


5 Things Haggen Did Wrong When Entering Southern California 
(and Nevada and Arizona)

1) Entering Southern California

Yeah, just entering Southern California was a dumb move from the beginning. No research of the market, no understanding of the demographics, no clue on anything. You know why everyone makes fun of us Southern Californians? It's because we're crazy. We're nuts. We panic at the first drop of rain but then wear sandals during a storm. We pay large amounts of money to fill up our gas tanks and then sit in traffic for two hours on one of our 57,895 freeways. Why Good Will Haggen felt compelled to join us down here is as surprising as Ted Cruz saying something that doesn't sound like it originated from a can of horse feces. 

I've never actually been inside a closing supermarket; it's a surreal and eerie feeling

2) Expanding from 18 stores to 164 overnight

I don't know if these Albertsons and Safeway stores were a packaged deal or if Haggen just went all in when acquiring them, but what kind of dumbass expands tenfold overnight? Even if those 18 stores were more successful than a pig that shits bacon, why even flirt with that kind of disaster? Heck, even if those 146 stores WERE a packaged deal, WHY WOULD YOU DO IT? I used to work for a retail company that operated two successful stores for many years. One day they decided to expand and opened three new stores within the span of five months and have struggled ever since. Now, let's do the math; if that family-owned retail business were to expand like Haggen did overnight, then they would have gone from those two original stores all the way to EIGHTEEN. How can a business sustain that kind of growth in such a short period of time? Answer: they can't. 

The aisles became narrower and narrower as the going out of business sale dragged on

3) Cut employee hours and pay

Having somebody take over your company and then cut your pay is like giving money to someone who just bought your house. Click this link to shimmy over to Haggen's Glassdoor page where you can read rants and reviews from Haggen employees where one of the most common complaints is that shortly after arriving, the company immediately cut the hours and pay of its employees. According to Glassdoor, many full-time employees were demoted to part-time as schedules were randomly shifted and paycheck numbers gradually decreased. How can you expect your work force to give a shit if that's how you're going to show your appreciation right off the bat? 

The first time I entered a Haggen was a couple weeks after it transitioned from one of the local Albertsons. Immediately upon entering I noticed that employees seemed unhappy and I think Glassdoor confirms why. You may need to sign up for an account, but it's worth it if you want to read firsthand accounts of those who were trapped in the hull of the ship as it sank.

Shrinking produce

4) Jack up the prices

Haggen was frickin' EXPENSIVE. Who the hell conceived this pricing structure? Haggen was so expensive that it wasn't until their going out of business sale hit 40% off that their prices became moderately competitive - and even then it was a stretch. The other thing is that these stores were operating in neighborhoods that simply couldn't afford that kind of a price increase and those who could didn't bother because hey, I could get the same product for 50% less right down the street! A Naked juice and small thing of blackberries goes for about $8 at Haggen. I drive up the street to Sprouts and the price drops to $4.50 for the pair. It was like that ALL THROUGHOUT THE STORE!

I guess this dildo banana keeper is one of them Trader Joe's-esque items Haggen was so proud to carry

5) Zero marketing upon arrival

I don't know, maybe they did have marketing but it was probably so dumb that I never noticed. I think they sent out an insert or two in the beginning but outside of that we may as well have invited Kevin Bacon from Hollow Man to stand on a street corner waving a sign and the results would have been the same. Dude, how do you even pronounce Haggen? Is it Haggen like HAHAHA or is it Haggen like HEY HEY HEY? One of the articles I read today actually answered this question: it's pronounced HEY-gen which means I've been saying it wrong like an asshole for eight months. See, if they had any kind of introductory campaign to the community then we could have learned how to say the damn place's name properly. 

At least they weren't in short supply of 3 Musketeers bars!

Nobody even knew what this place was about. The general thought was it would be like a Trader Joe's or something but it didn't really carry any new or unusual products. It also tried to pride itself on having great-tasting fresh produce but let me tell ya: their produce tasted like donkey shit and looked worse. The worst watermelon I ever tasted was from Haggen and their berries looked like they had tuberculosis crawling on them. Oh, and their Honeycrisp apples went for nearly $4 per pound, but you could find the same apples for 99 cents a pound right up the street at Sprouts. Boom. 

8000 people were in danger of losing their jobs. Some managed to find work but many were let go just in time for the holidays. Oh, that's another thing: the original closing date for our local Haggen stores was two days before Thanksgiving. They extended it 10 days into December, but eh. Who gives a shit? You'd like to think that maybe this was a mistake based on pure ignorance but the reality is Haggen operated like a bunch of assholes. Employees didn't find out about the closures until they heard it on the news or read it on the Internet. 

Currently Haggen is suing Albertsons for, like, selling them failing stores or something. Albertsons bought back a lot of their original properties but anti-monopoly laws may prevent them from setting up camp. Even if they do win their case, it'll be months before these stores are up and running again. Unless your local store was purchased by a Gelson's or a Sprouts then chances are you're gonna have a large vacant building to stare at for a while. Oh, and it also seems that Haggen is selling off their original 18 stores in Washington and Oregon. They claim the stores were doing well but who the hell knows? I guess the idea is they'd sell them but maintain the Haggen name but who really cares anymore?

Thank you Haggen for providing future business students with a fascinating case of corporate greed and idiocy. Also, congratulations on being inducted into the Greg's Gourmet Hall of Shame where you'll join Vons, Jack Link's Beef Jerky, Wendy's, and Blue Buffalo as true demonstrators of incompetence. Kudos from all of us at Greg's Gourmet!

There's something oddly poetic about where the stop sign is framed in this picture, like, stop being a jackass, Haggen! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Greg's Gourmet - The *New* T-Shirt!

Don't look now but Greg's Gourmet blogged a whopping *FIVE* times in November, the most in any month since July of 2014 and only the second time since July of 2013 that I've hit that number. Is Greg's Gourmet officially back? I'm not sure. It's been a good two years or so since I've regularly blogged and I've tried to relaunch this site a few times since then but it just hasn't stuck. We'll see how the updates continue along before officially declaring GG back in the game. I will say this though: life is a lot more entertaining when people know you're a food blogger, a critic, and kind of an all-around douche. All the more reason to stick with it.

But check this out: coming soon to a discount rack, dollar store, or rag bin near you - Greg's Gourmet...THE BRAND SPANKIN' NEW T-SHIRT!!!

The product turned out better than I expected. With the vast amount of colors and detail I wasn't sure they'd come out as clearly as they did. The guys at VistaPrint did a heck of a job!

I made this logo several years ago during this blog's prime but never did anything with it, which is weird because this one is superior to the others in virtually every single way. Here's a closer look at it:

I love that this asshole is wearing his own t-shirt as well, a clear nod to how egotistical and all around narcissistic this blog is. 

I don't have a devised plan for this shirt yet. I experimented with a product line a few years ago via Cafe Press. If you hop on over to the Gourmet Models section of the site you can see some of the old shirts and other goods we produced. For some reason the "Gourmet Gear" store at Cafe Press isn't working, but I've got a note into them to figure out what's going on. Either way, trying to pimp out that store and sell products was hard enough. Plus everything there is a rip off anyway so it's like what's the point? I sell a $20 t-shirt and get eighteen cents from it? Nah. 

Still, I'm really happy with how this one turned out.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Recap

Quick recap of my favorite  holiday in the history of the universe because it's the one day of the year where you're actually encouraged to eat like a pig.

First up, my specialty and signature dish: the mashed potatoes:

I wound up mashing 5 pounds worth of potatoes this year. My response when people ask me what my secret ingredient is: love. My response when people ask how much of each ingredient I put in: haven't a clue. I just keep experimenting until it's just right. Yessir, these potatoes may have been my best ever:

Main course:

Got two types of stuffing there; one with sausage and the other with sage. Obviously this is all fantastic but one of the things I love most about Thanksgiving is the return of the mighty CHRISTMAS SANDWICHES!!!

Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and gravy packed into a dinner roll. It's the PERFECT combination of everything that is right in the world. The only thing that tops it might be this:

The bummer is that these guys are seasonal, unless we bust out some turkey at other points during the year. Remember that Faith Hill Christmas song from The Grinch? There's a lyric in it where she's all like "it'll be Christmas alllll the tiiiiiime!" That should be changed to "it'll be Christmas Sandwiches alllll the tiiiiiiime!" For real. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you weren't fighting anyone in Walmart on Black Friday like a loser! Happy holidays! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Star Wars Micro Machines

My boss had a birthday recently. He's not a fan of anything flashy but we wanted to present him with something cool and, since he's a huge fan, something Star Wars themed. It may have taken too long to get custom Star Wars pastries made in the short amount of time we had so I thought hey...let's just get the cupcakes and then top them ourselves with...STAR WARS MICRO MACHINES!!!

With all the frosting here they're clearly reenacting the Battle of Hoth

So I grew up in the 90s during the boom of the wildly popular Galoob line of Star Wars Micro Machines. From 1994 to about 1998, Galoob produced a plethora of Star Wars toys including playsets, ships, and action figures, but few matched up to the awesomeness of Micro Machines. 

Virtually every ship seen in the original trilogy, and to an extent the special edition releases of the late 90s, had its own Micro Machine. Even frickin' Dash Rendar's Outlander, which appears as a tiny speck in the re-release of Episode IV, received its own Mini-Me. Business was booming...until it wasn't. Eventually Galoob overextended itself, producing different variations of toys that were already on the market. Sales tanked and they were bought over by Hasbro, who maintained the Star Wars Micro Machines brand for a few years but discontinued it following the lackluster release of The Phantom Menace line. 

Over the years they gained kind of a cult following and certain pieces sell moderately well on eBay. I should know - I started buying certain figures earlier in the year to complete the collection that I started all those years ago - toys from my childhood that I kept. 

With the relaunch of the Star Wars franchise, Hasbro decided to revive the Micro Machines line and they've invaded stores nationwide. I bought these cupcake bad boys at Target for about 10 bucks total. Considering that 3 ships in the 90s went for about $7, I'd say $10 for 7 ships and two figures is a pretty good deal. Are they the same quality? Absolutely not. These ships feel flimsy and are obviously made with different material. Some also sport slightly different designs and colors from the Galoob lines which makes certain ships look like cheap knockoffs that may have been produced to fool people in the 90s. But, hey, they're back and that's good enough for me. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Campbell's Soup is Trash

Allow me to preface this by saying that I'm not a big fan of soup. I just...I don't get it. What's the point of having liquid meals unless your jaw is wired shut? It's just not a food that's really stuck with me. But alas, I found something at the market the other day that really stood out to me that follows the usual pattern of gigantic companies serving us crap. Study this image here:

You could take a drink from the ocean and you'd still find more sodium in this one little can

Guys, I have little girly hands; this can is not that big and it's got 480mg of sodium per serving, and Campbell's wisely divides the serving sizes up into 2.5 because there's always some schmuck out there who wants half a serving of soup. That means the total sodium amount in this one little can is 1200mg!!! 


That's the frickin' equivalent of this:

A Big Mac and large fries has nearly the IDENTICAL amount of sodium as one little can of Campbell's "Healthy Kids" soup. Can you believe that? What kind of health conscious person looking out for their offspring's interest is going to believe that 1200mg of sodium is "healthy" for their child? It's almost humorous how blatantly delusional Campbell's marketing department is. The thing is, people are gonna believe that Campbell's soup is good for you and especially a can like this that's branded as "healthy". Heck, it's even got low calorie and fat content! But the sodium is just as bad if not worse. I mean, I'd take the Big Mac and fries over this any day.

The good news is that Campbell's is currently rethinking their recipes and looking to roll out alternatives with fewer ingredients and, I'm guessing, lower sodium. Their sales are down and tastes are changing because people are catching on to all the bullcrap these giant food companies are slipping out to us. 1200mg cans of "healthy" kids soup is one of them.

Not that I'm a big soup connoisseur as I said, but I'm just sayin'. Give your kid some fruit or make chicken soup yourself using real ingredients. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What Happened to Chili's?

I recently visited Chili's. I hadn't been to one since 2007 in Santa Clara, but I knew what they were all about; a slightly upgraded version of Denny's with a baby back rib signature dish.

After experiencing a below par dining experience and feeling lost on their menu, all I can think is...WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO CHILI'S??? Guys, what is going on here? 

First of all, let's get one thing out of the way: Why in the HELL is prime rib on the menu at Chili's? What's next? Roasted grizzly bear? When did Chili's go all fine dining on us? Their menu is seriously suffering through a major identity crisis and Chili's has no clue what it's trying to be other than a "one stop shop" for anything and everything. It's like the AM/PM of the restaurant industry. Want a burger? Check. Steak? Oh yeah! Mexican? Absolutely! I guess I can understand this identity crisis as Sizzler has tanked and I'm not sure how good TGIF is doing since I don't hear much about 'em anymore. I guess they had to expand their menu to stay competitive.

But wait! If the food tastes good then who cares if their menu is a little confused? Well, that's the problem: their food sucks, at least at this location. On this particular day I was starving and opted for a ribeye steak...yeah, yeah, after trashing about them about the steaks I go and order one. I'm an asshole, I get it. The steak came with an order of two sides from a list of about six uninspiring selections. The result? The steak experiment didn't really work out:

Ribeye steak, beans, a butter lugey, and crusted mashed potatoes

So I usually order my steaks medium and more times than not they're served to me well done. Today I decided to live dangerously and ordered the ribeye medium rare. Because I had little faith they'd cook it correctly anyway, I figure it'd automatically cook to medium. The plan backfired. The steak came back rare, not the biggest issue in the world, but just, like, why the hell can't anyone properly cook a steak? Gordon Ramsay must be rolling around in his lamb sauce. 

The mashed potatoes were a disaster. Too much butter, not enough seasoning, and for some reason they were topped with this crusty cheese shell thing. Like everything at Chili's, it's just butter, cheese, and salt. That's it. Even the frickin' steak had a glob of butter on it, but it was still okay (despite the wrong cooking temperature). The potatoes? Awful. Since I make the greatest mashed potatoes in the universe, I was especially insulted by their incompetence. 

For an appetizer we ordered nachos, but instead what we got were, like, cheese chips:

Let's just add cheese onto everything to mask the fact that we don't know what we're doing anymore

The last part I'm gonna share is the dish from the other member of my party who ordered a chicken club sandwich thing. The problem? It had so much lettuce on it that even a vegan would complain. Check it out:

The San Diego version of Fangorn Forest

Note the lettuce on the plate; that was actually TAKEN OFF from this half of the sandwich. I DIDN'T KNOW THIS SANDWICH CAME TOPPED WITH A SALAD, CHILI'S! YOU SHOULD UPDATE YOUR MENU ACCORDINGLY! 

The baby back ribs, the original Chili's specialty, now just randomly appear in the menu. It's just very strange how this place has evolved but if you're looking for junk food I'd check out Denny's instead.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Jerk Store Called

On the eastern side of the state of California there are a set of beautiful mountains. Along that set of beautiful mountains is a two-lane rural highway. Along that two-lane rural highway is a little shack in a gopher hole of a town called Olancha, population: 192. In that gopher hole of a town along that two-lane rural highway beside a set of beautiful mountains is a shack known famously as Gus's Fresh Jerky, or as I call it...THE JERK STORE!!!

I had sex with your wife

So yeah, the 395 travels along virtually the entire eastern side of California where you see a bunch of gnarly small towns, old west attractions, and roadside stops such as Gus's. We had passed Gus's a few times before but opted to skip it last time because, well, the exterior looks like the kind of place Jared Fogle would lure young children into so we avoided it. But alas, this time we felt brave to venture inside and it actually has quite a lovely interior. In addition to a plethora of jerky products, it also has ample supplies of honey, pistachios/nuts, and salt water taffy. Prices are a little high, but that's to be expected. Service is nice and friendly and they provide free samples. 

They carry traditional types of jerky such as sweet and spicy, honey, teriyaki, etc. but are also known for carrying more exotic meats such as buffalo, elk, and venison. They happened to be out of elk and venison but wouldn't you know it, they had buffalo in stock so, naturally, it didn't take long to make my selection. That one bag costs $20 though so you would think it would be amazingly delicious, right? Ehhhhh. Not quite.

If a natural flavor is added then does that actually make it natural?

So, buffalo jerky. It's not much, it's stiff, it's got flavor, and it also contains more sodium than a Denny's double cheeseburger. The aroma from this package is so strong that you'll feel like you just snorted a line of salt. The taste is so strong that you'll need chap stick after a few bites to clear the salty residue on your lips. Is it bad? Depends on your taste. It was okay for me but $20 for this tiny bag and a flavor that's dominated by salt isn't really worth it, not to mention it contains sodium nitrate. 

That's another thing: why the nitrate? Why is a jerky that claims to be "really fresh" utilizing the services of a nitrate? "Well, Greg, you idiot; jerky by nature is filled with preservatives and that's what nitrates do." Yes, but nitrates also cause cancer and people are starting to avoid products that contain them as an ingredient. It's also important to point out that some of the best jerky products on the market DO NOT contain nitrates or nitrites. Perky Jerky, Sprouts brand, and Krave are just a few. Pair that with the fact that they have better ingredients, less sodium, and actually cost LESS than crap like Jack Link's and it makes you wonder how some of these nitrate-packed brands even stay in business.

I thought Gus's "really fresh" jerky would be just that: really fresh. But it's kinda sorta not. I get it, though: it's a roadside novelty so it's pricey, it's salty, and it's supposed to be delicious. That's the shtick and the appeal, but it just wasn't for me.

If you're on the 395 and want to try some out for yourself, there's signs about 50 miles in either direction advertising it so it's hard to miss. I would, however, be open to trying the elk or venison, as those are two proteins that Greg's Gourmet is yet to try. If you happen to give them a whirl then let me know how they are!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Why Did Haggen Fail in Southern California?

Earlier this year, Haggen was a medium-sized chain of twenty-something supermarkets in the Pacific Northwest. By March they had expanded to 160 overnight, primarily in Southern California. In September they declared bankruptcy and by the end of November there'll by a bunch of vacant markets in San Diego. The 160 stores they purchased were comprised of Albertsons and Safeway. Nobody really cares about Safeway but there's a near unanimous agreement that Albertsons, simply put, was the shit. Haggen, simply put, is shit.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into my newly converted Haggen was how ugly it was. It felt like a market that you'd find out in the middle of nowhere with boring and dull colors and a general lack of any sort of excitement that the good supermarkets are supposed to elicit (check out Sprouts to see what I mean). Pair that with the fact that prices skyrocketed while employee morale tanked and you knew it was just a matter of time before these goofballs would throw in the towel. I'm just not sure we thought it would be this soon.

Anyway, I've been venturing to Haggen the past couple of weeks in an effort to possibly take advantage of some sales. Needless to say, even with Haggen finally lowering their prices for their "going out of business" sale...THEY'RE STILL OVERPRICED!!! For your enjoyment, here are some pictures and observations from Haggen. I'd just like to preface by saying nothing here is the fault of the employees. This particular Haggen is going out of business THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING and these people are being LAID OFF. These goons came into Southern California, took over all these stores, pissed everyone off, and now they're leaving a trail of destruction behind. I feel for the employees. The Haggen executives, though? Morons.

Anyway, the first stop on our tour of Haggen is the (former) butcher block, which is now nothing more than a series of empty refrigerated displays. I'm guessing they were the first to be let go. When you really think about it, this is actually kind of a cool set for the beginning of a horror movie. Come to think of it, Haggen's entire existence is much like the beginning of a horror movie.


Maybe this is how they save themselves some work so they don't have to restock the sample trays

The Haggen discount cart. Even after the announcement of their bankruptcy and departure plans, these were still the only clearance items in the store

The pharmacists and service folk have all peaced out

Even the flies have had enough of Haggen

Items randomly scattered around the floors. Haggen couldn't sell Pee Pee Pads to a toilet

On a plus note, Haggen is probably the only place in America that sells green blueberries

For some reason there's a couple rolls of paper towels stuffed under the dairy fridges. Maybe a leak? Maybe a who cares?

Haggen missed the memo that generally the generic brand is supposed to be LESS than the name brand

The reality is that Haggen was doomed from the beginning as they were entering a market they obviously did zero research for. Prices are bad. Employees are unhappy. Their produce is overpriced and disgusting. A thing of blackberries and a Naked Juice goes for $8 here. I could go over to Sprouts (which, of course, is what I do) and get the same for $3.75. 

It's been real, Haggen, but you suck. I hope you apologize to all of the people who are losing jobs right in time for the holidays. Actually, it would be nice if all these people find other jobs and walk off so by Thanksgiving there'll be no one left to run the store anyway. 

Haagen-Dazs? More like Haggen-Don't. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Awesome Twosome

Have you ever wondered why sushi restaurants still have things on the menu like chicken and beef? It's because of people like me. I'm "that" guy who refuses to divulge in anything that was conceived below sea level. So likewise in my recent venture to Big Bang Sushi, I was the only schmuck at the table who ordered something that grew up among the dirt and trees:

Not only did I NOT order sushi, but I ordered BOTH chicken and beef

99/100 times I'll probably go for the combo plate. To be honest, this was just okay. Not bad, not great. Just okay. To be honest it actually left me really hungry as these are decently small portions. But hey, combo's a combo.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Karl Strauss Farmhouse

I love menus that get creative. Granted, sometimes it's just one dish out of fifty but still. I can't tell you how many places I've been in even the most obscure tiny towns where the menu features cheeseburgers, turkey clubs, and seafood salad. It's obnoxious. Karl Strauss Brewery Company is a hot spot in San Diego and I had the opportunity to venture to the joint in 4S Ranch for lunch not too long ago. The menu had the basics, had a few items that took a different spin on the basics, and then there was...THE FARMHOUSE:

What appears to be a smashed pile of corn-infused dogcrap atop my burger is actually a fried egg. Beneath the fried egg there's a slab of pork belly. Beneath the pork belly is a cheeseburger. I was expecting a beautiful mess but because the egg was overcooked it kept everything together. Whether that was intentional or not, I don't know. For some reason over easy eggs seem to be a struggle for restaurants these days. 

But overall it was a pretty good burger. Not sure I'd order it again but it did the job. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All American Dessert

As is tradition, here we have the delicious, the luscious, the supremely patriotic ALL AMERICAN DESSERT:

The problem with this dish is it's so big it's actually hard to get a good shot of it given the dimensions and lighting of the table/room. But alas, this was probably the best All American Dessert I've ever made. Unlike in previous years, I used ALL of the cake and ALL of the Jello and ALL of the strawberries. Usually I have some left over but this time I packed it all in tight for an epic dessert experience similar to an unguided tour through Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

A little late given that it's a 4th of July post but hey, whatever. And how about Joey Chestnut losing in the Hot Dog Eating Competition? Wow. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Carl's Jr. American Burger

Hot dog and potato chips on a cheeseburger. Why? Because America. That's why.


Yeah, I had to try this and the results were lackluster to say the least:

It's like a barbecue on a bun

This is one of those ideas that's brilliant in philosophy but the execution leaves much to be desired. It's kind of like the Wendy's Baconator which is all kinds of processed sludge that seems like it should taste delicious but in reality tastes like moldy gym socks. 

Now, this burger is more edible than the Baconator but it's just...weird. You got the softness of the hot dog contrasting with the crunch of the potato chips plus the cheeseburger. I finished it. It was okay. But that's all. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blue Buffalo's Sweet Little Lies

Do you feed your dog Blue Buffalo? Yes? THEN STOP.

Here's the thing: a lot of people are oblivious to the kind of crap that large conglomerate dog food companies put into their products. Brands like Purina and Hill's bask in the nonsensical glory of telling you that decomposing chicken beaks are good protein for your dog or that Chupacabra blood is an essential nutrient.

But then you have a company like Blue Buffalo that comes along promising to be the "healthy" and "holistic" alternative to all these silly conglomerates that produce food with the nutritional equivalent of a bubblegum wrapper. Instead, Blue Buffalo promises to be the company that packs its food with HEALTHY and WHOLESOME ingredients. But you know what I think? This:

Here's a company that strives to create an image of a clean and trustworthy entity when in reality they're like Sarah Michelle Gellar from Cruel Intentions and snorting secret vials of crack when nobody's looking.

By now you've heard of Purina's smear campaign and LAWSUIT against Poo Buffalo which included the findings that their "poultry byproduct free" food actually contains up to 22% poultry byproduct meal. In case you're bad at math, that's a FIFTH of the ingredients that are made up of slaughterhouse poultry parts that aren't used for human consumption. Dog Food Adviser, a non-partisan website that reviews the quality of commercial dog food, lists animal byproducts as feet, heads, and undeveloped eggs. For a complete list as well as some educational reading, click here for the entire article.

Blue Buffalo in its human form

The disgusting part about poultry byproduct, other than it being low quality protein, is the fact that it's defined as "poultry", which means they don't actually KNOW what animal they're feeding your dog. Poultry can be defined as chicken, turkey, duck, fowl, etc. Imagine a large vat at the slaughterhouse that contains the feet, beaks, feathers and other unmentionables of the birds already chopped up for processing. THAT'S what Poo Buffalo was putting in their supposedly "byproduct free" dog food. Aside from blatant false advertising that's gonna cost them millions, it's also really disgusting. 

However, what pisses me off about Blue Buffalo is their refusal to accept any responsibility. You see, I think deep down Purina and Hill's know their foods are crap. For example, Purina likes to tell you that grains are actually good for dogs and that canines have evolved from carnivores into omnivores (they eat meat and plants). They also use this cute little graphic on their website that even Stevie Wonder could see is a load of poultryshit:

It's like I'm trying to figure out one of those Magic Eye pictures

Yeah, okay, those molars are clearly made for CHEWING MEAT. If you need any more clarification that your dog is a carnivore and NOT an omnivore, simply look in their mouths. Do those molars really look like they're built for grinding corn? I don't think so. 

Next week Purina's gonna try to convince us that Predator is an omnivore too

As I was saying, Poo Buffalo has refused to accept any responsibility for this and instead they pass the buck onto their suppliers. See, the SUPPLIERS were being dishonest, therefore THEY'RE the ones to blame and are being dragged into this as well. Now, maybe on some distant planet or galaxy that may be entirely 100% true. But lest we forget that a short three years ago, Poo Buffalo announced a voluntary RECALL of their foods for containing a surplus of vitamins that could potentially be damaging to your pet. Their response at the time was eerily similar:

2012 recall:
We came to this conclusion after discovering that our ingredient supplier had made a scheduling error and produced a Vitamin D supplement immediately prior to preparing the ingredients for the BLUE products that are in question.
And just today on their Facebook:
Given all the misinformation out there, we would like to give you a quick update on the legal front. As we had informed you on May 9th, today we formally brought claims of breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment against the parties responsible for the intentional mislabeling of certain ingredients that were shipped to us and other well known pet food brands through May 2014.
First of all, these clowns went SILENT on Facebook for FIVE DAYS prior to this statement. The company that cares SO MUCH for YOUR PETS had NOTHING TO SAY as developments continued to roll out and when they finally broke their silence...they passed the buck. I mean, think about this for a second; intentional mislabeling? What kind of suppliers are you in bed with that they're INTENTIONALLY mislabeling your product??? Even so, let's play devil's advocate for a second: HOW DOES IT GET TO THE POINT THAT 22% OF THE INGREDIENTS ARE MADE UP OF POULTRY BYPRODUCT? HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN, HUH???

Seriously, what's Poo Buffalo's quality control strategy? Don't they do any sort of internal audits to ensure that their food is as high quality as they claim? Especially after their supplier kind of screwed them over just three years ago? I'm sorry, but I don't buy any of this. Actually, I'm not sorry at all. My second dog, Cara, ate Blue Buffalo and she had allergic reactions to it that were never diagnosed because vets aren't trained in canine nutrition. Because of my history with this company, even though my current dog Jenny isn't on it, I still find this blatantly offensive, disgusting, and I think these guys are in general just a bunch of buttholes.

Looking to switch your dog's food? DO YOUR RESEARCH! Purina and Hill's have gajillion dollar marketing budgets and they're extremely effective but they're incorrect. RAW is always the best diet for your dog. Avoid grains, wheat, corn, and soy. Canines are NOT omnivores and their bodies are NOT designed to digest that kind of stuff which is why you see a lot of allergic reactions. Is your dog neurotically licking its paws? Look at the ingredients panel. The best kibble out there, far and away, is Orijen and Acana, both of which are produced by the same company, Champion Petfoods. Both are rich in protein that use REAL meat and are chalked full of supplemental super foods. Further, the company is EXTREMELY TRANSPARENT ABOUT WHERE THEY SOURCE THEIR INGREDIENTS FROM. Orijen and Acana: Greg's Gourmet approved.

Jenny, basking in the glory of grass and tennis balls

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rob's Jalapenos: Best Burrito in San Diego

After non-rigorous trials and next to no actual test meals at other restaurants, I have finally uncovered the greatest burrito in San Diego: The Carne Asada burrito from Rob's Jalapenos in Carmel Mountain Ranch:

Downing one of these bad boys generates enough power to measure on the Richter Scale

Hooooly guacamole. I don't even LIKE guacamole but this burrito is seriously outta site. The only thing that's possibly better is the Carne Asada plate which throws in lettuce, beans, and rice so you can make your own. But if you're out and about looking for the greatest burrito in San Diego, don't stop at Taco Hell or Hell Taco or El Pollo Stupido; check out Rob's Jalapenos. Oh yeah!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Smart Ones Deflated Frozen Desserts

Got another example of how food photography is the greatest thing in the world. Smart Ones, which specializes in somewhat healthy frozen entrées and desserts (and is owned by one of the major conglomerates) has seriously upped the bar for the most superficial packaging pictures I've ever seen. I call this...Deflated Dessert:

It's like an oatmeal and spit dessert or something

No, that dessert was not altered in any way, shape, or form. That's exactly how it (as well as the other three) came out of the box. And Smart Ones will likely say "oh, something went wrong during manufacturing which is why it looks so strange." Yeah, this isn't the first box of these things I've had and are you really gonna try to tell me that under NORMAL circumstances it's really gonna look like a sundae that comes out of a five star fine dining restaurant? I don't think so. 

The best part of all of this? It actually tastes really frickin' good!