Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: KFC Pulled Chicken Burger


"If pulled pork was the dish of 2014" begins KFC's press-release - presumably typed with one hand while the other one fumbles around, trying to keep a finger on the pulse - "then 2015 will become the year of pulled chicken"

And with that, middle-class journalists and bloggers let out a collective scoff and churned out think-pieces and tweets ranging from dismissive nonchalance to disdain to the extent that you'd think they were reacting to the news of a new Royal baby.

I hadn't seen such a negative response to a fast food promotion since 2009, when KFC (US) brought semi-pro level gluttony to the masses with its release of the Double Down - kicking off a trend of replacing the boring components of fast food meals - empty carbs like bread and crust - with more "EPIC" things like some meat, and some meat with some cheese on top of it.

There was an argument for the Double Down's vilification though - replacing a bread bun with two pieces of fried chicken isn't conducive to anybody's healthy diet besides that of an Olympian in training, or an alligator.  Its critics critics had an angle, at least.

With Pulled Chicken though, KFC are guilty of a much more serious crime than promoting excessive consumption - they're trying to be cool.  They've seen a new type of fast food emerge over the past couple of years - served in repurposed warehouse spaces and NPC car parks on Friday nights, they think it looks fun, and they want to join in.  The response they've been met with is a resounding "You can't sit with us".

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

(UPDATED) THE WRITING'S ON THE WALL (!!) for Leeds' Bro-Food Misogyny

I mentioned last week in my Almost Famous review that their embarrassing attempt at "subversive" branding was enough put me off going there again, and as such they fell off my radar entirely - we had nothing to offer each other.  That was, until I saw this article by Helen Graves last night, which brought some more details to my attention.

Photo: Helen Graves (helengraves.co.uk)
In particular, there was a justifiably negative response to the women's bathrooms, specifically the fact that the walls are plastered in first-person displays of low self-image and low self-esteem.  "Why can't I be thinner?" is one of the questions being forced into female customers' subconscious while they look in the mirror.  "Maybe laxatives are the answer?"  Other snippets designed to nudge women towards Almost Famous's feminine ideal include suggesting "My hair is too frizzy" "My nose is too fat" and "I wish I had boobs like Katy Perry".

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Review: Almost Famous


I like to think I've got my finger on the pulse when it comes to Leeds, so imagine my surprise earlier this week when Almost Famous opened up in the plot which previously housed Escobar - not only was I unaware that Almost Famous was coming over from Manchester; I also had no idea Escobar had closed.

If you're unfamiliar with the place, Escobar wasn't awful - you could get a pint of Heineken and a Tuaca for exactly five pounds - but thanks to its 7am license its default role was a last-chance saloon for staff from other bars and post-club stragglers, as well as being Disneyland for opportunistic middle-aged guys trying their luck for a one early-morning stand.  In hindsight, it was quite a sad place.

With all of its gorilla statues and pick & mix sweets on tables and walls covered in affable, jovial slogans straight out of Innocent Smoothie: the teenage years labels, Almost Famous yearns to be seen as anything but sad;  it's totally cool!  Not like those boffin restaurants with their booking policies and table service and menus that contain punctuation!  The name above the door might have changed, but the sense of desperation still lingers.  From the American Psycho monologue repeated on the walls of the Men's bathroom to the sub-Banksy "political satire" on the walls which would have been frowned upon by Nathan Barley (Cigarette packet warnings with cleverly subverted slogans like "Government Kills", "Poverty can seriously damage your wealth") - just looking around the place made me cringe so hard I almost shit out a diamond.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Eating Peru


I read an article the other day which stated "Foodie Holidays Popular Among Young Travellers", which suggested that handsome, sophisticated globetrotters aged 18-34 (check, check and check) are choosing holiday destinations specifically because they wanted to try the food in that location.

I hate the thought of being predictable (although I do like the thought of being considered young, so that part was fine) and yet, the results of the survey had a point - food influences most of the decisions I make on a daily basis, so of course it's going to hold some sway when deciding on a holiday destination.

I don't know which Millionaire playboys they got to take this survey though, whose thought process goes "I'd like to eat so-and-so, therefore I'm going to jet off to its country of origin" - Kanye West?  Maybe, but his days of ticking the 18-34 age box are long gone.  A far more likely scenario is "I'd like to eat so-and-so, therefore I'm going to go to Aldi and buy most of the ingredients, and then go to Morrisons on the way home and see if they've got any suitable substitute ingredients in their world food aisle"

So that's what I did...

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Review: Ruby Jean's Diner at Nation of Shopkeepers

Is there a type of restaurant so tied to a particular time and place in history as The Diner?  Hearing the word conjures images from a bygone era - an era of flick-knives, rock & roll, slick pompadours and McCarthyism.  I am of course, talking about Leeds circa 2012 - when Fieri's Law was passed.

Named after amateur wrestler lookalike/ska-punk uncle Guy Fieri - presenter of TV's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - the statute imposed that at least 50% of existing restaurants in Leeds - as well as any new openings - must carry the same branding and decor as a branch of TGI Friday from 1994 or a high school production of Grease - with a menu to match.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Review: Zucco

I've never been to Italy - I've never laid in a gondola, looking at the stars while a man serenades me with a song about Cornettos; never posed for a photograph that looks like I'm holding up the leaning tower of Pisa, with dozens around me attempting the same thing and looking like uncoordinated backing dancers in Soulja Boy's Crank Dat video; I've never even done a third hypothetical Italian thing, because I haven't been to Italy, like I said.

My knowledge of Italian food comes from three sources; a Penne recipe that my Mum got from a Sainsbury's advert in 1992 - containing a tin of tomatoes and a Pepperami - Goodfellas frozen pizza, and Goodfellas by Martin Scorcese (if this film doesn't subconsciously spring to mind every time you slice a clove of garlic, then you weren't paying enough attention).  That's why even with my firmest intentions, and the most enthused recommendations from friends who are really very good at eating well, it's taken me absolutely ages to get round to visiting Zucco.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Eating Barcelona: Beef Tongue and Burgers and Blue Cheese Gin

As a departure from the thematic resonance seen in Parts 1 & 2 of my Barcelona round-up - an account of Tapas so thorough that it needed to be split into two like a work of Young Adult Literature - Part 3 serves to tie up all of the loose ends; the street food and fast food and the bars with nothing else in common other than the fact they're not Tapas.


La Sagrada Familia is surrounded by exactly the sort of restaurant you'd expect at a major tourist attraction.  As soon as you emerge from the Metro you're met with 2 of the Big 3 fast food chains.   Cross the road on any of the Cathedral's four sides to get a better view of it, and you'll be faced with restaurants plastered in photographs of pale hotdogs and limp bravas, looped infinitely like a cartoon backdrop.

Remarkably, La Taqueria - a tiny, busy, authentic Mexican street food cantina - sits just two minutes walk away from all of that, down a quiet leafy side-street (Passatge de Font) at the back of the Sagrada Familia that you wouldn't think to wander down without a good reason - memories of eating there last year was enough reason for me.