Salad Blogging: Breaking down the barriers of blog topics
Turns out that people are actually interested in how my salad was.
I don't venture to Burger King too often. No, I'm not a fast food snob, I just prefer the myriad of other drive-throughs along Hempstead Turnpike to Burger King's rubbery meat and cardboard fries. However, last night BK was participating in a fundraiser for my son's school, so off we went. I would suffer so that the fifth grade can have their class picnic.
Have you noticed the proliferation of salads among fast food places these days? It's like they all got together in a show of unity to figure out ways to combat the Atkins diet. Lettuce! Tomatoes! One for all and all for one! And then the CEOs went their separate ways and ordered their product and development teams to come up with a better salad than their competitors.
So McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and whatever other franchises are floating around out there all came out with tasty, fresh and exciting salads at the same time. Not Your Mother's Salad! Taste the mandarin oranges, the cranberries and sesame seeds and apples! It's a fruit! It's a salad! It's a dessert topping!
Anyhow. I went for the salad at BK last night even though, in my heightened state of starvation, those Angus burgers looked tasty (turns out, according to my husband, that they - surprise! - taste like rubber).
I had a bad feeling about ordering the salad, but that had more to do with the cashier's reluctance to speak or understand English than with the food itself. Once we got it clear that I wanted the Fire Grilled Salad ® and I wasn't trying to tell her that her hat was on fire, and once I got past the fact that the odor wafting from her armpits was what one would imagine Michael Moore might smell like if he had just chased the ice cream man for ten blocks on the hottest day of the year, we proceeded.
You get a choice with the Fire Grilled Salad ®; chicken or shrimp. I have this thing against ordering anything that comes from the sea in a fast food place, but I was feeling daring so I stared the cashier right in the eyes, slapped my palm on the counter and whispered in a low, John Wayne-as-gunslinger voice, Shrimp. I'll try the shrimp.
We get our food and move over to the nearest table that could accommodate all of us, which turned out to be the table right under the air conditioner vent. This has nothing to do with the salad, but everything to do with creating the proper dining atmosphere. Granted, you're not going to get a quality dining experience when there are kids in the partly padded cell to the left of you throwing brightly colored balls at the plastic window in an effort to interrupt your conversation and ruin your dinner all at once. But let me tell you, it takes only one time for an adult to press their face against the window and mouth the words "I will eat you and your little sister for dinner if you don't stop throwing those balls right now" for a kid to really get it. The balls stopped coming at us and we made the attempt to get comfortable in the frigid air, though I had to keep putting my arms across my chest because apparently the town workers that were standing on line thought they could determine the temperature in the room by staring at my boobs.
So, the salad.
We didnít get off to a good start. I could see as soon as I opened the plastic bowl that there was mostly Iceberg lettuce packed in there. Caesar = romaine. Caesar does not equal Iceberg. The sooner all restaurants figure this out, the better off we will all be. Upon further examination of the bowl, I saw that there was more than a handful of Romaine, and the Iceberg was mostly of the chunky variety (I hate wilty lettuce leaves), so I decided to suffer in silence.
Mixed in with the lettuce were a few cherry tomatoes, a fistful of shredded carrot and a couple of cucumber slices. I examined each vegetable carefully, noting the texture and quality of each. The tomatoes were the right consistency of hard, the carrots were the correct shade of orange and the cucumbers did not have the feel of hardened jello. Good start! However, the topping that pushed the salad over the "I'm going to dread this" line to "this just might be good" line was the Parmesan cheese. I expected a few sprinkles of some no-frills Parmesan that smelled like a cow's butt, but was instead pleasantly surprised with actual chunky shavings of real, doesn't-smell-like-cow's-ass cheese. The lettuce/topping portion of the salad judging over, I thought we just might be onto something more than mediocre here.
Next up was the shrimp. At Burger King, they don't just toss a bunch of shrimp onto your salad. No, it comes separately. You know those bags you get from a Chinese restaurant when you order beef sticks (what? you never ordered beef sticks before?), the kind with the foil on the inside? Yes, a bag-o-shrimp. Said shrimp were swimming in some kind of murky brown mixture that upon first glance looked like sludge, but ended up having a much lighter appearance than first thought once the shrimp were removed from their keep-it-warm container. Now came the important part: the smell test.
I don't like my shrimp to smell too...shrimpy. Or fishy. There is no bigger food turnoff than trying to eat something that smells like Christina Agueleria's crotch. Not that I've smelled it. I just heard. From Fred Durst.
I decided to use my assistant for this one. I picked one of the shrimp up with my forefingers and held it to my daughter's nose. She recoiled immediately. Ewww, I'm a vegetarian, get that shrimp out of here. Gross. Ewww! Gawd, mom, you're so rude! Relax, I told her. I don't want you to eat the thing, I just want you to smell it. Does it smell....dead? She put her nose right next to the little creature, took a whiff, pronounced it ok smelling and then I gave her a little slap on the back of her head so that her head sprang forward and the shrimp ended up in her nose. No, not really. But I thought about it.
With the shrimp pronounced good-smelling by a certified vegetarian, we could move forward. I shook the rest of the shrimp out of the bag and they poured out like a rain shower of baby crustaceans right into my salad bowl. My sister broke out into a chorus of "It's Raining Shrimp" and my daughter crawled under the table.
I have to say, I was surprised at the amount of shrimp that came out of that bag. I expected seven or eight at the most, including the one up Natalie's nose, but were twenty-two, that's right 22 shrimp swimming in that pouch. I still don't know what the glaze/sauce was that they were covered in, but that doesn't matter because it tasted good.
Now, for the last moment of preparation. The dressing. Sweet Onion Vinaigrette, as it were. Ok, so points off for no actual Caesar dressing, but in a way I didn't mind because you just can't get a good Caesar dressing anywhere but a true Long Island Greek diner. As it turns out, they did have a Caesar dressing but, for some unknown reason, Miss I Smell Like Michael Moore decided I would prefer onions.
I opened the dressing packet with my teeth, because there really is no other way to open it properly and squeezed every last drop over the salad, wondering how this onion goop was going to taste when mixed with the brown, murky goop that the shrimp came in.
Croutons. You cannot have a Caesar salad without croutons! I searched the mess of BK food and foodstuffs on our table but alas, there were no croutons. I sent my daughter to the counter to ask Michael Moore for croutons. She reported back that they did not have any. I was incredulous. Many style points taken off. Many.
All the ingredients secured in one place, I put the cover back on the salad, made sure it was properly secured, grabbed the bowl in a frisbee grip and tossed it to my sister across the table. She threw it back. Don't ever think those high school days spent playing Frisbee instead of studying Trig won't come in handy, because they will. As I just showed you.
My salad was now tossed. Go ahead, I'll wait while you make your juvenile sexual innuendos. Done? Good, because they were lame. Surely you can do better than that.
I took one last glance at my wallet to make sure my insurance card was there. Then, in a style reminiscent of Babe Ruth, I slowly raised my arm and pointed to the hospital across the street. I uncovered the salad, grabbed a plastic fork, and dug in.
It was a caesar salad and it was good. Very good. At times, while I was shoveling forkfulls of shrimp, tomato and lettuce in my mouth, I would feel somewhat cheapened that I was enjoying a fast food salad so much, but then I would stab a cucumber, wipe it in the dressing that spilled onto the table, stuff it in my mouth and proclaim I love Burger King salad and I don't care who knows it!
In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to take one home for my husband, just in case he didn't approve of his New! Fresh! Angus Burger! Which he didn't. And damn if when I got home and watched with envious eyes as Justin unpacked his salad that there was not one, but two packages of croutons in the bag. Only, they weren't called croutons, but Parmesan toast. Personally, I would have called them Parkman Toast Chips, but that's just me. So I stole a bag from my husband's stash and ate them just on principle.
Overall my BK salad experience was a pleasurable one, if you are judging on taste alone. On the service end, they fail miserably. I mean, I'm not expecting white glove service, but I do expect that the people taking my order will be able to converse with me and won't smell like dead people.
The atmosphere gets an ok rating. Though my children have long passed the age of jumping into ball pits, and even though I find children who like to bang on windows in an effort to disturb me to be annoying little pissants, the presence of those play areas help me learn to appreciate that I no longer have to chase my kids through human-sized hamster tunnels when it's time to go home. I could have done without the sub zero temps, though.
Final say? Let Burger King toss your salad.