August 09, 2001

I'm a McDonald's fan. I think it has to do with the fact that when I was a kid, we ate out a lot, and although Hardees was pretty good, McDonald's had a playground. So that's where I wanted to go, and what you eat in your formative years has an effect on your tastes for life.

I've largely gotten over it. I spent five years in a position at work where I had to travel at least once a month, and I got to eat out on the company's dime. When they yanked the per-diem for entertainment a few steps in to year one, I realized that being alone and bored in a strange town is pretty dull. Then I realized that I was allowed to eat pretty well (sure, I had to keep it in line, but you can go a LONG way when you're allowed forty to fifty dollars for dinner). I started with nice steaks, and over the course of four years realized that there are other expensive foods out there that are worth eating. I developed quite a palate.

My nose can tell me if the seafood is going to be any good, and the general aroma around the kitchen door will tell me if they're seasoning things well, or if they're just using lots of MSG to cover their mistakes. I'd give you a laundry-list of the different animals I've eaten (it's impressive, and it includes rhinoceros, hippopopoptomos, elephant, and mupawni worm) but it's long and I've forgotten where I put it. But I will say that my tastes have grown to encompass some weird stuff, and I've acquired the skill to prepare quite a bit of it (I make a mean california-roll sushi, and just ask my neighbors about the cajun-style shrimp-on-the-barbie I did last weekend).

I still like eating at McDonald's, though.

On Tuesday I saw the Big'n'tasty, their new promotional sandwich, and thought "hey... they're putting tomato and lettuce on a McDonald's burger... they're going after the Whopper crowd." I like Whoppers a lot, so I thought I'd give the Big'n'tasty a shot. What the heck.

The results? Well, if you are torn between a McDonald's Big'n'Tasty and a Burger King Whopper, go with the Whopper. Both sandwiches have very similar toppings, and the juicy vegetable flavor you get from them is nigh-identical. But the flame-broiling on the Whopper adds a very noticable flavor to the meat that nicely complements the other flavors, while the McDonald's patty is bland by comparison. Indeed, it sits very exposed under the transparent flavors of the condiments, and is found wanting. Perhaps this pale flavor is perfect for the McDonald's cheeseburger (a great little sandwich, as long as you're not expecting something from the "juicy hamburger" class of fast-foods) but it failed the Big'n'tasty in a big ('n'tasteless) way.

In other, completely unrelated news, I've heard that restaurant critics get free food. If there is someone from Burger King corporate headquarters reading this, I'll accept gift certificates, but it's going to cost you at least $20 before you can beat out McDonald's french-fries.