Posts Tagged With: Fast food

Review: Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich

True innovations in fast food are few and far between. More often than not, they’re simply the same old recycled ideas with a slight twist. Case in point: McDonald’s comes out with a breakfast sandwich using pancakes instead of bread, and Jack In The Box follows suit but substitutes waffles. Then Taco Bell takes the waffle concept a step further with breakfast tacos. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then every fast food chain in America must be feeling the love. The consumer, however, is not. There’s simply very little originality. Everybody’s got their version of a chicken sandwich, a fish sandwich, etc. So when Arby’s introduced the Smokehouse Brisket last year, the public sat up and took notice: this was a truly innovative new product, one that hadn’t been seen before. Something that never had feathers or swam in the ocean, and while it may have once stood in a field and mooed, it wasn’t ground up and flattened into an uninspiring gray patty.

Bet you’re drooling now.

By all accounts, the Smokehouse Brisket was a runaway hit for the struggling chain best known for their roast beef sandwiches and “horsey” sauce. Arby’s declared it their most successful new product launch in company history; sales increased 12%, and approximately one out of every five customers tried the new offering. Unfortunately, it was only available for a limited time. Unwilling to look a gift horsey in the mouth, Arby’s has brought the sandwich back this year, though it’s uncertain how long it will be available.

If there is any justice in the world, this will become a permanent addition to their menu, because I’ve gotta say – the Smokehouse Brisket is one of the most delicious fast food sandwiches I’ve ever had. It’s a truly unique product, unlike anything else on the market.

Arby’s describes it like this:

It’s slow smoked for 13 long hours. Which proves we’re pretty passionate about brisket.  Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket is piled high with slow-smoked beef brisket, topped with smoked Gouda cheese, crispy onions, BBQ sauce and mayo, and served on a toasted, bakery-style bun.

My first impression? This sandwich is stacked. True, it doesn’t look like the photo below – these things never do – but it comes pretty close. It’s the rare fast food sandwich with true heft. Bite into it, and a few things are immediately noticeable: the delicious smokiness of the beef, the pleasantly mild gouda (smoked itself, the perfect accompaniment to the brisket), the sweet-with-a-touch-of-tang barbecue sauce, and the fresh, soft chewiness of the bun. The sandwich screams quality: the beef is a cut above anything else out there, and in an industry ruled by American cheese – one in which pepperjack is considered exotic – the use of gouda isn’t just “out of the box,” it’s downright inspired. The bread is especially good: it’s got that “bakery fresh” taste. The finishing touch that truly elevates the Smokehouse Brisket is the addition of crispy onion straws. These offer a nice textural contrast, though they were a bit overwhelmed by all the smoky, beefy goodness. I think you would be hard pressed to find a sandwich this good even if you were in a barbecue joint in the Deep South, one in which everybody speaks in a drawl and peppers their speech with plenty of “y’all”s.


Arby’s has a winner here, and if they continue to offer innovative menu additions (a similarly inspiring Roast Beef & Swiss on King’s Hawaiian sweet bread was also well received last year), then Wendy and Jack had better be worried, while the Burger King is going to have a tough time hanging onto his crown.

My rating: 5 knives. This is as good as a fast-food sandwich (or really, any menu item) gets!

5 Knives

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Categories: Beef, Fast Food | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

320/365: National Fast Food Day

Hurry up and enjoy today’s food holiday! November 16 is National Fast Food Day.

Dietitians may cringe, but fast food is wildly popular worldwide, especially in the U.S. It is estimated that 41% of Americans eats fast food at least once a week, according to Pew Research. Fast-food and drive-through restaurants are a direct result of he popularity of the American automobile in the years following World War I. Walter Anderson built the first fast-food restaurant, called White Castle, in Wichita, Kansas in 1916. A second location in 1921 made White Castle the first fast food chain of restaurants; they were known for their 5-cent slider hamburgers. White Castle was a success from the very beginning, and spawned many imitators. The earliest included A&W Root Beer, who revolutionized the concept of franchising in 1921; 7-Eleven in 1927; Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1930; McDonald’s in 1940; and In-N-Out in 1948. The term “fast food” first appeared in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 1951, and the concept became especially popular during that decade. Fast food is often vilified for being a highly processed nutritional nightmare, but it is this emphasis on speed, uniformity, and low cost that has made fast food popular with consumers. No big surprise: who doesn’t appreciate a tasty, cheap, quick meal?

As you might imagine, different variations of fast food are popular in other parts of the world. Japan’s got their sushi, the Middle East has kebab houses, Asia has noodle shops, and the U.K. is known for their fish ‘n chips. The Dutch serve French fries with mayonnaise (and other sauces) and meat, and in Portugal, local dishes such as piri-piri (marinated grilled chicken), espetada (turkey or pork on sticks), and bifanas (pork cutlets) are served with – once again – French fries. The common denominator.

I would personally love it if White Castle expanded to the West Coast. I’ve only ever been there once in my life, on a road trip to the midwest in 2011, and it was like the Holy Grail of my vacation. Alas, no such luck, but we do have Jack In The Box out here, which is hard to find back east. Kind of makes up for the White Castle slight. We were in Salem, the state capitol of Oregon, tonight to get our culture on and catch some dance. Afterwards, we swung by the aforementioned Jack In The Box. This photo was taken in the car at 10 PM, and isn’t nearly as impressive as it tasted. Trust me…my Sourdough Jack and french fries were delicious!


Categories: Too Weird to Categorize | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

224/365: National Julienne Fries Day*

No matter how you slice it – though it had better be in long, thin strips – today’s food holiday is a tasty one. August 12 is National Julienne Fries Day!

Not to be confused with National French Fries Day, of course. We could have gone wild that day and eaten jumbo-sized steak fries or wedge fries! (Alas, we did not. Ours were julienned, which is the most popular method of preparing french fries, at least in the fast food world). Julienning is a culinary knife technique in which a food is cut into long, thin strips similar to matchsticks. Carrots and celery are frequently julienned. When potatoes are julienned, they are often referred to as “shoestring” fries. The origin of the term is unclear, though it is French and may refer to a person named Philippe. Just kidding, named Julien.  The technique was first described in François Massialot’s Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, published in 1722.

According to Wikipedia, instructions for proper julienning are as follows:

With a sharp knife the raw vegetable is sliced to length and trimmed on four sides to create a thick rectangular stick 6 to 7 cm (2.4 to 2.8 in), then cut lengthwise into thin 1 to 2 mm (0.039 to 0.079 in) slices. Stacking these slices and again cutting lengthwise into thin (1 to 2 mm (0.039 to 0.079 in), equal to the thickness) strips creates thin uniform square sticks. Julienne usually applies to vegetables prepared in this way but it can also be applied to the preparation of meat or fish, especially in stir fry techniques.

Work that knife, baby! And don’t forget your ruler, apparently. Sheesh. Technical much?

We weren’t in the mood for precision cutting this evening, so we opened a bag of OreIda french fries instead. And baked them. Oh, the ignominy! But we used a real good quality ketchup. And fry sauce from Arctic Circle.

National Julienne Fries Day

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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