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World of Coca-Cola (Atlanta, GA) – Just A Kid In A Soda Shop

March 7, 2011

During last summer’s fateful Atlanta training session, the firm booked our conference rooms in a hotel down the street from the World of Coca-Cola. For those who have never been, the World of Coca-Cola is essentially a museum; it has exhibits filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia, shows and galleries with Coca-Cola characters in them and, most importantly, it has a tasting room where you can taste every single international and domestic beverage produced by the Coca-Cola Company.

(It’s a happy land, filled with sugar, caffeine and carbonation!)

Due to scheduling constraints (training and dinner reservations and all), I only had half an hour to go through the entire World of Coca-Cola. And, after taking the mandatory intro tour and quick 3D World Cup movie into consideration, I essentially had half of that time in the glorious Coca-Cola tasting room.

Now I if I had all the time in the world, I would have gone into that room, slowly sipped every soda, then created mental notes about the flavors in each beverage…but given that I only had 15 minutes left at that point, I just ran around like a kid in a soda shop and pounded sample after sample.  All 45+ of them. (I was on a sugar high after that one, for sure.) I did take pictures of all the labels (cause I’m a dedicated food blogger like that!) but, honestly, I really have no idea what most of them taste like. No idea EXCEPT for one:

(Avoid drinking Beverly at all costs!)

Side tangent: During the introductory tour, you watch this short animated film where one of the characters mentions something about looking like we had just tasted Beverly. I didn’t get the reference at the time but once I took a swig of this stuff, I understood – without a doubt, Beverly is the most foul soda on the planet. Absolutely and utterly disgusting. I can’t tell you what flavors are combined in order to generate Beverly but whatever it is, Italy can keep it.

(Unfortunately, this post is going to end really abruptly as I can’t tell you anything else about the World of Coca-Cola…but I had fun! Does that count for something?)

World of Coca Cola
121 Baker St NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
(404) 676-5151
Website: http://www.woccatlanta.com/
Twitter: @WorldofCocaCola

 

Fuel City (Dallas, TX) – The #1 Taco Ever Sold In The State of Texas

February 18, 2011

So there I was, alone in my red rental Chevy Aveo, driving down Industrial Blvd in Dallas, TX on what felt like the sketchy part of town. I pull into the parking lot of Fuel City – a gas station filled with massive trucks loading up before their long road ahead – and park my car. Still dressed a blazer, slacks and a pair of pumps, I walk towards the convenience store sitting at the end of the pavement. A homeless man sees me getting out of my car and starts following me, asking if I have a quarter to spare because he’s hungry and wants a bite.

———-

…Okay, you might think I’m joking but this is EXACTLY how it played out.

Why did I drive to the middle of nowhere? Tacos.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles so I’d like to think that our Mexican food is the best in the nation.  I know this may not be true, I know I’m totally biased, but I’d still like to think as such. My aunt, who has lived the last 20+ years in Texas, thinks otherwise and has emailed me more than once about how, if I want to try “REAL” Mexican food, I should go for a visit. (C’mon now. Real Mexican food can only be found in Texas? Those are fightin’ words!) So when work sent me to Dallas for a business trip, I figured, “Hey! I’m going to get myself a Texas taco and see if there’s any bite behind that bark.”

Even though I’ve already set up Fuel City to be like Crapsville, it’s seriously a legit taco place. In December 2006, Texas Monthly named Fuel City’s tacos the #1 taco ever sold in the state of Texas.  Listen to that title again: #1 TACO EVER SOLD IN THE STATE OF TEXAS. If I was going to compare tacos, one on one, this was the place to do it.

Anyway, back to the story…

———-

I walk inside the store, past the fridges of alcoholic beverages, and up to a small, metal framed window on the right. I order two tacos: one barbacoa and one pastor. I pick up my little styrofoam to-go box, wrapped in a plastic bag, and walk back to the parking lot as there’s no seating anywhere to eat. On the way out, I fumble with my purse for a bit, trying to dig out my camera to take a picture of the glowing Fuel City sign overhead, but I can’t find it so I drive back to my hotel instead.

So there, in my red rental Chevy Aveo, parked under a tree in front of the Doubletree Hotel in Dallas, I open my little package and taste a Texas taco.

Verdict? If this are “REAL” Texas tacos, I freaking hate them.

The meat was stringy, dry and tough. There was no real differentiation in flavor between the beef barbacoa and the pork pastor. The worst part of it all: the obscene amount of grease. I’m not over exaggerating this one either – oil was pooling in the bottom corners of my styrofoam to-go box and coating the tortillas in a thin red sheen. (I even took a picture of it, I was so appalled.)

(This is NOT appetizing.)

To this day, when I think about Fuel City’s tacos…I should have given that hungry homeless man my food.

(Was this review too harsh? Fine. But it really did suck.)

Fuel City
801 S Industrial Blvd
Dallas, TX 75207
(214) 426-0011
Website: http://www.fuelcity-tacos.com/home.htm

Fuel City on Urbanspoon

Neptune Oyster (Boston, MA) – Yes, Still More Lobster Rolls

February 15, 2011

(Is she done talking about lobster rolls yet? Nope, not yet…)

Now that we’ve covered NYC lobster rolls (at least, for the moment), let’s talk Boston lobster rolls. As I mentioned in a previous post, lobster rolls are really a New England thing and New York, albeit close in distance, is just not quite close enough.

NYC’s lobster rolls got nothin’ on Boston’s.

When looking up restaurants for my weekend trip to Boston with my favorite “sister” Jenn, Neptune Oyster in the North End was the one place everyone seemed to agree on. The wait was supposed to be long (some reviews quoted wait times in hours), but the food was supposed to be worth it. In particular, I was told to order at least one of the three following things:

  1. Anything from their raw bar
  2. Their clam chowder
  3. Their lobster roll

(Of course, we ordered all three.)

———-

We got lucky on the wait – we arrived about half an hour after they opened and immediately snagged two seats at their counter. If we had arrived 15-20 minutes longer, there would have been a crowd waiting at the door and people meandering in and out, putting their names on an ever-growing list. The place is small so keep that in mind if you ever show up yourself.

(My favorite – the kumamoto)

We started off our meal with two oysters apiece – one kumamoto and one kusshi. I slurped the clean and briny kusshi first and the sweet and creamy kumamoto second. (I just recently discovered my love for kumamotos and wanted to savor that flavor as long as I could.) A perfect start!

The clam chowder was served next. Little cubes of potato and celery floated around in the thin soup  and plump clams rested at the bottom of the shallow bowl. I wish the soup base was a tad thicker (for heartiness sake) but the clams were fantastically fresh.

(Butter is better!)

Lastly – the pièce de résistance – the lobster rolls. Like some of the other lobster roll places I’ve been to, we were given the option of a cold roll with mayo or hot roll with butter. We ordered one of each and split the two plates between the two of us. (Note to self: I need to stop ordering the cold mayo rolls; I like the hot buttery ones exponentially better! Why do I insist on tasting the mayo ones!?)

These were some of the largest lobster rolls I had ever seen. I was full after half and, after two halves, thought I was OD’ing on lobster. (I never thought you could OD on lobster, but I came close!) Like all the other seafood we had at Neptune Oyster, the lobster was fresh, sweet and meaty and the warm roll sopped up all the dripping juices, making it a delicious buttery sponge of goodness. Definitely the best lobster roll I’ve had in life thus far.

———-

Okay, now that I’ve had lobster rolls in NYC and Boston, the next stop is Maine…

Neptune Oyster
63 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 742-3474
Website: http://www.neptuneoyster.com/

Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon

Pearl Oyster Bar (Manhattan, NY) – Lobster Rolls Continued

February 15, 2011

(Since I feel like talking about NYC lobster rolls some more…)

Pearl Oyster Bar is supposed to be another heavy-weight in the NYC lobster roll arena but honestly, compared to Red Hook Lobster Pound and Luke’s Lobster, I don’t think it can handle the competition.

(Yes, I know this picture is horrific and poorly taken.)

First off, its lobster rolls are priced at “market price”, which ends up being a good $5-10 more than Red Hook’s and Luke’s. However, the size of its rolls (in comparison) does not increase in proportion with the increase in price. (I’m sorry, I’m cheap and I like to get the best bang for my buck.)  Secondly, it smothers the lobster with mayo which is a big no-no for my personal palate. If I’m having lobster, I’d like to be able to taste it in its all-natural glory. Therefore, when we’re talking about lobster rolls, Pearl Oyster Bar is out of the competition.

My qualms with its lobster rolls aside though, Pearl Oyster Bar has some good food.

The clam chowder, for example, is hearty, with a hint of bacon. It is slightly thinner than your typical chowder but it’s still tasty.

Even better than the clam chowder? A bucket of steamers. Peel the the thick skin off the neck of the clam, give it a couple swishes in clam water to wash off the sand and grit and then dunk the whole thing in melted butter.

There is nothing better than fresh seafood prepared simply – just stick with the raw and steamed and you should be fine.

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-8211
Website: http://www.pearloysterbar.com/

Pearl Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Red Hook Lobster Pound (Brooklyn, NY) / Luke’s Lobster (Manhattan, NY) – Lobster Rolls 101

February 15, 2011

Let’s talk lobster rolls.

Before visiting the East Coast, I had no idea what a lobster roll was. I had never even heard about lobster rolls. It’s originally a New England-y food (due to the abundance of lobster out there?) and is, very simply, lobster meat stuffed inside a roll.

Get it? Lobster meat + roll = Lobster roll.

I think I’ve eaten more lobster in the past four months than I had in the year prior, solely because of the number of lobster rolls I’ve inhaled since moving to NYC. There are quite a number of places in Manhattan and Brooklyn that specialize in these babies, but here are two of my favorites if you’re around the area:

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Out of all the lobster roll places in and around NYC, Red Hook currently reigns supreme for me. It’s a trek to Red Hook from my little apartment in Hell’s Kitchen but it’s worth it. As soon as you walk in, you’re smacked in the face with the aroma of melted butter…If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.

Red Hook Lobster Pound serves two different types of lobster rolls: the Maine and the Connecticut. The Maine is a cold lobster roll with mayo; the Connecticut is a hot roll with butter.

(…mayo is nice…)

The Maine roll is great because the mayo flavor isn’t overpowering; there’s just enough to make it a savory bundle of goodness but not so much that you feel like you’re eating a heavy lobster salad. However, I’m personally not a huge fan of the temperature of the roll – it’s a personal preference and I just don’t like cold lobster.

(…but butter is always better…)

On the flipside of the Maine is the Connecticut, which I think is the hands down winner between the two.  A warm, toasty roll soaks all the dripping melted butter and the lobster meat just tastes sweeter than its mayo-covered counterpart.

Note: Although the lobster rolls at Red Hook are not to be missed, feel free to pass on the lobster bisque. Not creamy enough for a satisfyingly thick bisque, not flavorful enough for a rich broth, the soup falls a bit flat. It does come with huge chunks of lobster meat floating in it but if you’re looking for meat, you might as well order another roll.

Red Hook Lobster Pound
284 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(646) 326-7650
Website: http://redhooklobsterpound.com/
Twitter: @redhooklobster

The Red Hook Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon

Luke’s Lobster

Luke’s Lobster holds a place in my heart as my first lobster roll ever. It also happens to be the best place in the city to go when you want a lobster roll.

Luke’s only serves one type of lobster roll –  a chilled one with butter and a swipe of mayo on the roll itself rather than mixed with the lobster –  but also has crab and shrimp rolls (similar concept, different shellfish). If you want to try all three, their taste of Maine platter solves that problem. (As you can see in the picture below, the sandwiches are small though and only good for a bite or two.)

For me, Luke’s rolls come second to Red Hook because, somehow, the lobster in their rolls are not sweet as Red Hook’s Connecticut or as savory as the Maine. To tell you the truth, the first time I went, I actually preferred the shrimp roll to the lobster one. (I know – blasphemy, right?) However, with three locations in the city, it’s the most convenient way of satisfying your lobster roll fix.

Note: If you go to Luke’s during the holiday season, order a pumpkin pie soda if it’s available. If you love pumpkin pie, this deliciously bubbly beverage has those same hints of all-spice that you’ll love. (Sadly, it’s a seasonal drink – I haven’t been able to find since last year!)

Luke’s Lobster
93 E 7th St
New York, NY 10009
(212) 387-8487
Website: http://www.lukeslobster.com/
Twitter: @lukeslobster

Luke's Lobster on Urbanspoon