Posts Tagged ‘hamburgers’

A Tale of Two Limited-Edition Burgers: Lotteria’s Twin and McD’s Gold Ring

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Limited-edition fast food campaigns are made to lure in people exactly like me. I just don’t really eat all that much McDonald’s. I’m not the kind of person who would rather starve than eat a flimsy cheeseburger, but I also need to avoid putting my system into salt shock by eating — what I admit — are pretty tasty fries.

The point for me is, when it comes to fast food, pursuing the novelty is the pleasure. Last week there were two very different novelties to pursue: Lotteria’s Twin Burger and the Gold Ring at McDonald’s.

It takes two

“Lotteria’s new Twin Burger is not to be confused with a double burger.” Rocketnews 24’s headline issued what to me was a clear challenge. “Not to be confused”? Why confuse a double burger with a sandwich that aligns a tartar-sauced, deep-fried shrimp patty with a two-tone cheeseburger on a long bun . . .  when you can make it a double burger.

Here is the curious oblong package you are handed at the register when you order the Twin Burger:

The partly unsheathed twin

The sheathed Twin

You could eat it like this and get the same 801 calories, but what fun would that be?

The unsheathed Twin

The unsheathed Twin

And so, armed with a straw, I began the dismantling process:

L2.5

Soon, a new, more formidable burger emerged:

photo-1

Quite frankly, I was intimidated. For starters, it was going to be hard to get it in my mouth without getting tartar sauce and cheddar grease everywhere. And then even once I managed to do that, what would it taste like?

“It has flavors,” I managed, after the first bite.

photo-2

“Actually, it works fine. Surprisingly edible.”

And that’s when it dawned on me I had basically created a fast food surf  ‘n’ turf burger. In a way, it was anti-climatic.

The worst part was the aftertaste, but that has zero to do with whether you eat it horizontally or vertically. Unlike our next contender, the Twin is available through the end of the month (July 31), and for one coin (¥500) at that, so if you feel inspired to try this union of two popular Lotteria burgers, head on over. However, it would be a mistake to take this post as a recommendation.

Put a ring on it

On July 6, McDonald’s launched its one-day-only premium Quarter Pounder “Jewelry” series with the Gold Ring: a kaiser roll just barely wrangling two colossal slabs of smoky bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, a quarter pound of beef, and the gold ring itself, a round of pineapple. The slathering of BBQ sauce, featuring over 10 spices, makes this stack a slick mess. That said, it was quite the production number.

McDonald’s president Eiko Harada was quoted, “Other companies might be able to develop the same quality of food, but they can’t offer it at the price, scale or speed that McDonald’s can.”

Regardless of your thoughts on the rest of that statement, when ever-ready intern Eric and I descended on my local McDonald’s on Saturday we laid a flavor foundation picking at our fries for well over 10 minutes before our burgers finally came, so I’m not entirely sure if that was the speed he is referring to. In any case, they did  arrive (two of the 24 the location was prepared to purvey) with a bow and a prompt to examine the included documentation. The illustration on the card below was probably the best part of the whole meal.

The invitation

The invitation

Out of the bags, into the boxes. First slide obi-like wrapper off, then life the box lid up, remove the inner wrap:

The deboxing

The deboxing

The bacon made us shudder in terror. Neither of us were able to eat it all.

photo-9

Thick enough?

I had Eric take the first bite:

Digging in.

“My first impression of the thing was pretty good,” he said. “The smoky bacon, soft Monterrey Jack and tangy BBQ sauce combined well. A few bites in, however, and certain ingredients got overwhelming. Notably, the bacon and pineapple. The former was just way too thick. I had to remove several pieces to get through the sandwich. And the pineapple made the burger tough to eat and was too sweet alongside the already sugary sauce.”

photo-11

Inside the Ring

Allow me to loudly proclaim ditto on the bacon. These shields of pork can only be called such since they come from the same area of the pig’s belly. It’s really too bad, because I think the sandwich could have benefited from the crisp that (what many would argue) “properly” fried bacon would have brought. The sauce was less sweet than feared and even had a bit of kick thanks to those 10+ spices.

As Eric walked away, he said, “I’m a little disappointed in the Golden Arches,” but I felt nothing. The utter lack of necessity, combined with a flavor that ended up still tasting somehow like McDonald’s despite being completely new, bred neither love nor hate.

This food was not only fast but fleeting. July 6 was supposedly the only day the Gold Ring would be available, but Black Diamond day is coming up fast. Adventurous eaters ready for McDonald’s spin on a truffle burger should mark their calendars for this Saturday, July 13.

Watch this space.

Moldy Mos Burger confirms kōji boom

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

The launch of Mos Burger’s new limited edition Salt Kōji Burger on May 24 officially confirms that salty mold is now the flavor du jour in Japanese kitchens. Kōji, or to give it its long-winded name, Aspergillus oryzae,  is a domesticized fungus that has been used in the production of miso, sake and soy sauce for centuries. Salt kōji, made by mixing salt and kōji with water, then leaving it to ferment, is also a traditional seasoning, but one that had rather fallen out of use until it enjoyed a revival in the latter half of 2011.

Who says mold can’t be cute?

According to Yomiuri Online, the craze for salt kōji started off when Komego, a miso store in Fukui Prefecture, started selling it for use as a simple seasoning back in January 2011. Word spread with restaurants around the area using the ingredient, causing it to eventually catch on with the mass media.

It was traditionally used as a seasoning for vegetable and fish dishes, but now cooks are enthusiastically using the ingredient more creatively with meat as well as in soups and sauces. Marinating meat or fish in salt kōji converts the starches and proteins into sugars and amino acids increasing the umami, or savory flavors, of the meat. Though salt kōji can be bought, it’s quite simple to make at home, and plenty of cooking websites have featured instructions (see video) on how to whip up a homemade batch.

Fukui Prefecture, which has been a driving force behind the boom, has now introduced a kōji mascot to highlight the benefits of this versatile ingredient. Kōji-kun is drawn in the image of a grain of rice with some weird stuff growing out of its head, to illustrate the fact that kōji starts out life growing on grains of rice. Kōji is also depicted in cute cartoon form in the manga and subsequent anime of “Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture” a story about an agricultural student who can see and communicate with bacteria.

If you’d like to try out this taste sensation for yourself at Mos Burger, then you’ll have to hurry as there will only be 1 million Salt Kōji Burgers available. Rather than being used as a marinade for the meat, the salt kōji is mixed into a special mayo sauce for a salad topping of crispy nagaimo and edamame.

Burger franchises take a second go at success

Friday, October 21st, 2011

After an extended absence, Wendy's is scheduled to return to Japan in December.

It’s official, the square burger is back on the menu in Japan. Wendy’s Burgers, which withdrew from the Japanese market at the end of 2009, is now back, just two years later. Scheduled to open in December, the exact location of the first new store has not yet been announced, but Shibuya Keizai Shimbun has revealed that it will be somewhere in the fashionable Omotesando area.

The swanky location is probably a sign of things to come. When Wendy’s announced that they were planning to reopen earlier in the year, it was reported in the Independent newspaper that they “promised to add new products like premium sandwiches and hamburgers with gourmet toppings served in a ‘contemporary atmosphere.’ ”

Though Wendy’s control the external image of stores, the internal image is up to whoever is running the franchise in a particular country. From 1980 to 2009 that company was Zensho, but it appears that this company wasn’t forward-thinking enough to compete in the ever-evolving world of fast food in Japan. This time franchise will be managed by Higa Industries, the company who operate the hugely successful Domino’s Pizza chain in Japan.

Burger King, which also withdrew from the Japanese market (back in 2001), only to relaunch in 2007, seems now to have a firm grip on things and are staying up to speed with the changing market by luring customers with limited-edition burgers and promotional campaigns. In November, for instance, the company will be offering a 30-minute tabehodai (eat all you can) on Whoppers. From Nov. 1-15, if you order a L set whopper, it’s possible to get as many second helpings as you can eat within the allotted time by simply presenting your receipt and empty wrapper at the counter.

To relaunch Wendy’s, the company is now running a campaign to recruit a fresh face to represent the brand. Budding young stars can apply via Oricon Style. Applications will be accepted up until Oct 24. The winner will be named “Wendy-chan” and will travel the country for two months promoting the upgraded version of the fast-food chain.

Japanified burgers on the tourism menu

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Seared skipjack tuna served in a toasted bun with salad, available only in Kochi Prefecture

Would you go travel hundreds of kilometers just to get a bite of an unusual burger? According to Tokyo Walker, the residents of Kuroshio in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku, are hoping foodies from around Japan will be induced to do just that. At a special one-day event in Ginza this summer they unveiled their katsuo tataki burger at a store selling Shikoku produce. Made with a slice of seared salted tuna, topped off with veggies, special sauce and katsuo flakes, the burger is a regular item on the menu in restaurants in Kuroshio.

Foodie tourism is a big thing in Japan: Several years back, one town was reinvigorated by an influx of tourists keen to test sanuki udon (noodles) on the basis of a popular book on the subject.

Lately, unusual burgers have also proved to be a big draw with travelers. The ramen burger, for example, invented a few years ago, has attracted tourists to Kitakata, Fukushima Prefecture. Visitors are keen to sample this original snack, which utilizes fried noodles instead of bread as the burger bun, thought recent events may, understandably, have slowed trade down somewhat.

Others have followed suit. The hotate (scallop) burger, invented in Betsukai, Hokkaido, consists of two giant scallops wrapped and fried in a spring roll casing then popped in a burger bun along with lettuce, onion and a slice of cheese. Though the burger sounds a little odd to us, in the 2010 Gotouchi Gurume (local cuisine) Grand Prix in Ginza it pleased the judges and came first place.

If none of these burgers tickle your fancy, then perhaps you ought to Matsushima Island, Miyagi Prefecture, for a bite of oyster burger. Coated in batter and breadcrumbs then deep fried, the oyster is served between a bun with the usual garnishes. Sounds pretty yummy to us but we’re still not convinced we’d travel all that way just for some original fun in a bun.

If you are that type, though, be sure to book a ticket for Tottori Burger Festa, where you can sample all the local burger meibutsu (signature dishes) in one place.

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