Saturday, July 27, 2019

Beyond Meat Me at Del Taco Bro!

Testing! Testing! One...two...testing!

Hey, uh, is this thing on?

Dude, and fellow Homeskilleteers, it was made quite apparent that there was a big server kaboom or some internal bug that got in and kind of messed things up for us here. So we gon' try this again.

Del Taco now offers 'Beyond Meat' (aka, totally plant based "protein") tacos and burritos and since I kind of hate Del Taco I decided to give them a try.

Not because I hate myself, its because you, mercifully, wont buy these. Or maybe you will. Then after you read this we can compare notes.

You ready?

*deep breath*

Let's go!

The ingredient abbreviations almost spell something naughty

Okay. Here's the thing with me and Del Taco:

I am from California, where these things run rampant much like the Circle K's here in Tucson. Simply put, they are everywhere. And, its not like they are terrible, it's just...they're not very good. Del Taco is fine. It's there when you need it. But if it's near a local taqueria you then need to ask yourself: do I need it? Probably not. Go for the mom and pop taco shop and get you something a bit more authentic. But if you were like me and you're cruising on the lonely roads of some desert estate and the rumbles in yo tumbles begin to take warrant, and the option is a Del Taco then, yes. Go ahead my friend. Get you some Del Taco.

The last time I had Del Taco was several years ago, visiting my dads in Palm Springs, sometime before they both passed in 2014. The wife and I were just baffled as to how many there were in that area. Dumbfounded. So much in fact that we just pulled into one, ordered some glop and went for it. Actually in a Del Taco. That is always a bad idea. Sitting next to folks that think the food is actual "Mexican" fare in those hard plastic booth chairs watching the city traffic blur by can be quite the polarizing experience. If you want a soft glimpse into what depression is actually like then do that.

The wife straight hated the food. Called it pure garbage. For me I wasn't as bold in my opinion. It tasted like, well, Del Taco. A complete sibling of the Bell variety. But like the one who had to go to a special school because they don't excel widely enough in academics and got caught stealing erasers from a previous institution's teachers lounge.

That said I rolled up to the one here in Tucson, on Broadway and Euclid, and ordered me up three different options of their Beyond Meat treats: a regular ol' taco, the avocado taco and the 8 layer burrito. This time though I opted to take them home instead of sitting and taking pictures next to those customers that never ever seem to be stoked to be eating in a Del Taco. Deliberating in front of our cat Lil Poundcake seemed like a much less dire form of food journalism.

Here are the results!   

Oh we gonna taco 'bout it

In all honesty, the Beyond Meat taco tastes just like a taco. Well, a Del/Bell taco. The flavor and the consistency of the "beef" was kind of impressive. But then again the whole Beyond Meat product is a pretty solid one. I've had it  a few times before and was always okay with it. Not mind bending but...good.

This was a fast food taco. Nothing more to say about it. If you frequent or are at least familiar with the Del/Bell notion of a taco, then you'll get it. And if you're a veg/vegan who misses the crunch mess delight of childhood flavors then you are granted some familiar mercy.

It's that taco. Only now you can eat one.

On to the next!

Thats an avocado, not a Yoda turd

One thing I did like was that next to the drive thru window, Del Taco has a schedule of when their avocados arrive. That's kinda cool. For me, their shipment arrived the previous day so I was hopeful that my avocado taco would be relatively "fresh".

Here's the thing: most employees of DT did not graduate from the, or any, culinary institute. What I received was a taco with a big splorp of jammed in avo. Mind you, I love avocados (heck...I'm from CA!) but this was just one big brick of a scoop. So I did have to manage a bit and redistribute to get a taste of the green glory and not all in one go.

Remember that taco I mentioned earlier? The regular shmoe of the instant option chain food world? Yeah. Its just like that.

But with a big hunk of avocado rammed in it.

So I'll let you take it from there. Because I think you can figure it out.

*in my best Buzz Lightyear voice* "To infinity...and Beyond Meat!"

If you're down a Fleshlight, just use this

Now here is where the experiment went instantly south...and not of the border.

The 8 layer burrito was kinda gross. The Beyond Meat was barely visible and I really couldn't taste it among the swill mulch of sour cream, "house" red sauce (like you know, fast food "hot" sauce), cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, filmy beans and squishy guacamole. It was all just ill proportioned with a very heavy hand on the gloppy articles, such as the cream and sauce. This, for me anyway, did not go over to well. Sorry. But it was just a tasteless, drippy mess.

So there it is. I did this so you wont have to. If you dig on the Del then give it a go. But if you're not down to get down then just say no. The Bell is usually your better option in the face if such fare. But, honestly, this is Tucson and those aforementioned family run and done taquerias are everywhere here. So it seems silly to go out of your way to enter the LONE Del Taco here in the T-money.

Unless you're into that thing.

But if you read this blog and my other stuff, I'm going to assume that you're really not.

Although it is always fun to give sport for such nonsense.

And for that...I thank you.


Camera, Typing and I'm Fine, No Really...I Am
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Trying This Again, 2019

Metal Influence:

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Cool Treats To Beat The Summer Heat

I am not a snob. Well...not much of one. Okay, I am a little. Especially when it comes to chain concepts and corporate restaurants.

Like Starbucks has some good stuff but I'd rather go to my neighborhood coffee joint for an eggy bagel sandwich and a tall iced coffee (just a splash of milk please). Not only does it usually taste better but it just makes me feel better. You know, supporting local, helping out the little guy. Or gal. Or gender non-specific. You get where I am going here...

So when I got an email from the PR firm behind Nekter, a juice bar I have only walked or driven by with no intentions of going in because, yep, it's a chain, to try some of their new summer treats at first I was thrilled. But then I had my concerns.

Now, when I did his Dunkin' Donuts media event a few months ago I had the same reaction: 'Hey thanks for the invite...but it's probably going to suck'.

Turns out the Dunkin' event was a blast, I got a lot of cool free stuff and the spring line of donuts were awesome. Knowing that and putting my pettiness aside, I responded with a "I'd be delighted!"

So on a very hot afternoon, I made my way to the Nekter on Grant Ave. to see what all of this "juice" and "smoothie" and "healthy cleanse" business was all about. On a wider spread scale though...

Okay Nekter...let's see what you got

When I walked in I was immediately greeted by district manager, Chris Crawford, who, just a day earlier had been in a bit of a slam bang in her car. Trying to avoid a racoon, in her new car, Chris swerved and went off the road and slammed into a pole. But, here she was, smiling and eager to get me sampling some of the Nekter goodies.

I like that work ethic. So I was impressed from the get go.

Since I lead a rather "interesting" life as a food writer, I was drawn to Nekter's "Toxin Flush" juice blend. A swirl of fresh spinach, parsley, apples, lemon juice and pungent ginger, it looked intimidating by being so darn green and quite mossy. It smelled potent too. Oh man, was this "heath" stuff going to kill me?

It's a distinct possibility.

The taste was something I am not used to but after the second chug I was pretty much hooked. I could instantly feel the healing properties of that blender spun elixir. My body, not going to lie, kind of buckled under the weight of such freshness and cleansing glory, but it was also thanking me. I do believe the night before I was sampling (ok, I was straight drinking) beers from a newly formed brewery set to open here in Tucson. The owners were also big fans of single malt scotch so after a pint or three, out came the tumblers filled with the oaky hued devilry. To say the least, my pushing 50 body needed a bit of saving. Thank you Toxin Flush!

Hoo doggies...this stuff is really good

Next up was a superfood smoothie called the Berry Banana Burst. This calmed my palate down a bit from the astringency from the Toxin Flush with a merry mash of blueberries, strawberries, agave nectar, housemade cashew milk and, yes, bananas.  Now I know that smoothies cause a dividing line between those that love them and those that think smoothie drinkers are privileged yoga hipsters who enjoy gentrifying neighborhoods to meet with their standards, but I am here to tell you I really don't care about either side. Because the triple B was double plus delicious.

I stand on the firm territory of all things yum and thankfully, so far, all that Nekter has been putting in front of me, via manager Chris, has been awesome. Maybe its my California rearing and living for 30+ years that has made me reluctant to dive head fast into the blended health mash so adored by moms, or dads, donning babybjorns and complaining that their vegan bacon tastes "too much" like the real deal, but I might have to don ironic thick eyeglasses and arrive on my bike made entirely of recycled penguin blubber to get more of this stuff. Or not. I don't care anymore. This stuff is tasty.

Next up was one of Nekter's handcrafted bowls, and I opted to give the Dragon Fruit variety. First they blend a compound consisting of dragon fruit (obviously), bananas, pineapple with butter and water via coconut into an almost froyo consistency. It is then topped with hempseed granola, coconut flakes, strawberries, more bananas, more pineapple and agave nectar. That's right....hempseed granola. You heard correct. Get over it, this was mad refreshing, almost better than froyo. Thats "frozen yogurt" for you non-froyo rubes out there. This was fun, slightly stunning, cool and, lets just be honest, making me feel better. How? By not being craft beer or slow roasted pig and game for a spell. My aging body needed this moment. A brief time in some lush berry refrigerant replete with more agave sweetness. I actually like this. Am I going to be some midlife crisis juice bar patron who suddenly becomes aware of his mortality and viscerally gives into the whims of mass marketed body benefits due to quick blended nuts, berries and penguin blubber? Probably.

Its just good is all.

Finally, Nekter has something called "skoops", which are vegan, non dairy, gluten free, anti-refined sugar frozen treats. Are. You. Fxxking. Kidding. ME?

Whatever man. Lets delve hacky sack first into this gawdam ish as I really can't stand it anymore. What did I get you ask? The coconut vanilla skoop. That's right...some blend of coconut milk, Madagascar vanilla, even MORE agave nectar then finished with pure sea salt with the addition of some blue and straw berries along with a sprinkle of that colon cleansing granola. How was it?

Crap. Good. It was good! All of it was good. Was it because it was free? No. I get lots of free food and drinks and sometimes hate, hate!, what I have to swallow on spec. This stuff? I liked. A lot. So you'll probably see me at a Nekter near you at some point.

You so very well will.

Just don't say anything to me when you do. Its not out of shame. Far from it. It is out of submission.

You got me Nekter. You win.

A detox power blend...yes I seriously needed this

I want to thank all involved for converting me to the powers that be the blended mercy for these guts, brain and inner works of mine in so need of the occasional "healthy" cleanse to ease me into the late afternoon of my life career. Since this visit, I have been back twice, TWICE!, seeing as they gave me a plastic tumbler equipped with a straw with the promise of a discount because of said ownership of plastic tumbler emblazoned with the word NEKTER on the side.

It sits in my car, waiting. Hopeful. And to be honest with you, I don't care who knows. At this point, I want them to know. I want to be free. Pushing 50, I need balance. So when some stumbling chode outside of a dark watering hole inquired about my Nekter vessel, asking if I hated all things right and true with the current state of the nation, I just put two fingers to his cigarette balmed lips and whispered:

"Shh...if you only knew my friend. If you only knew..."

Then got in my car in search of something called the Turmeric Sunrise. Or the Mango Delight.

I don't care.

Just don't ask.

Or look at me.


Also, Nékter reveals all things watermelon this summer. They roll out Watermelon Cooler Juice, a hydrating watermelon drink with a touch of cooling, fresh mint; and the Watermelon Berry Smoothie, a light and refreshing blend bursting with the flavors of the season — watermelon, sweet strawberries, lime chia seeds and a touch of agave nectar.
The season gets even juicier come July with the mouthwatering watermelon tasting event on Saturday, July 27 at the Nékter Juice Bar location at 2501 East Grant Road. From 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., guests can cool off and refresh with in-store tastings of fresh watermelon juices and smoothies, Skoop flavors, and more.

See you there!

Thank you Nekter!

Camera, Typing and Rethinking His Opinion About Chain Juice Bars
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A 105 degree Afternoon, 2019

Metal Influence: 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Yeah baby...yeah!

In 1997, riding off of his success from Saturday Night Live and its subsequent dual rock comedy punch known as "Wayne's World", Mike Myers delivered a movie inspired by late 60s British spy films, better known as "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery".

I know you've seen it. We've all seen it. It was one of those cultural cinematic "fxxk its" that seemed to arrive out of nowhere during the era of ebbing grunge that brought the aging post punk/baby boomer generations into a glory spiral filled with images and appropriations of an era not that long past. The memory hole is a tough one to get out of, such as Pitfall Harry sucked into the 8 bit tar pit in the infamous, and aptly named, Atari game "Pitfall".

You see what I did there? I brought us all back.

Like a time machine.

An evil time machine?

The Diet Coke of evil perhaps...

Brewmaster Allen and his cryogenic creations

The good folks of 1912 Brewery, most notably owners and brewers Alicia and Allen Conger, both proud military veterans, are such devoted fans of the Austin Powers franchise that they decided to theme their 4th year anniversary after the beloved series.

When they opened their operation, publicly, on July 4th 2015, they did so with a vision to bring a different angle to the growing beer brewing community here in Tucson. Mainly to focus on the effervescent qualities of the difficult to manage sour brews, especially within the Gose variety.

As a usual fan and quaffer of hoppy or citrusy beers, it took me a spell to get developed in to the ideal that 1912 was delving on a higher delivery. But once I gave in and accepted, I was an instant fan. It takes a certain palate and even some form of patience to appreciate the effort it maintains to seethe and develop ales based around fruity aspects, honing past malted wheat that spirals into tart bites and even astringent overtones.

That sounds totally pretentious but...sorry. Its true. Bare with me here.

So when Alicia and Allen invited me to sample their beers for their 4th anniversary, a party set to pop on Saturday July 6th, I was more than willing to leave the nest for a second, giving my Instagraming of our cat Lil Poundcake a break. I totally concurred doctor.

Now to present to you, the reading and drinking public of the Tucson Homeskillet, are the fantastic brews in store for you this summer to commemorate 1912's fourth ways of the International Man of Mystery.

This is your bag. Baby.

Fook me?

In the third Austin Powers installment, "Goldmember", we were introduced to a pair of Asian hot to trots going by the names Fook Me and Fook Yu. Get it? Yeah baby. Kinda like Alotta Fagina and Felicity Shagwell, plays off of actual Bond characters such as Pussy Galore and Octopussy, etc etc.

1912's 'Fook Me' is a Gose style flavored with pineapple, orange, lemon, carrots, lemon and lime. Oh man, was it good. The fruity coincidences are all there, collaborating into a foam broth of subtle, yet niche, complexity.

We were, as they enjoy reminding, off to a very groovy start.

Fook Yu!

Since we are pairing off with a grand set of twins, to follow was their 'Fook Yu', a yielding scope melding Asian pear juice the dry hopped with bourbon soaked ginger. Yeah. It was like that.

Imagine a follow up to a twin sister/brother/gender non-specific other/piranha fish lazer fantasy you have been so recklessly harboring (you cheeky monkey!), sort of like a happy ending route equipped by some tart rainbow elite squad lead by bubbly ground squirrels armed with caustic suds bazookas.

Sorta like that. But without the need for clean up on aisle zoo reference.

But better.


Sorry, That Never Happens...I Swear

This option...was a lot of naughty fun. Sort of like watching Skinemax after dealing with some dude speaking Paris talk and stuff down at the video arcade who was hassling you because you don't speak French or whatever. It was cool.

A quote stemming from the craggy British grilled protagonist, apologizing for a uncontrolled bulge during a rather inappropriate setting, "Sorry That Never Happens...I Swear!", is a Gose style beer that has a deep purple (Deep Purple? Groovy baby!) color, flavored with elderberries and blueberries with hints of lime and cinnamon.

A subtly tart sipper that would make any FemBot's head explode.

It is that shagadelic!

Zippy Longstocking

Now lets examine, and drink, ex-zip-it A here.

The "Zippy Longstocking" is a German inspired wheat beer fermented with a wild yeast blend provided by Texas laboratory cultures. Not too sure what that means exactly, but after a few sips all I could say is Zip it! And zip it good!

The flavor profile you get wields banana, citrus, cloves with a hovering notion of vanilla.

This is the kind of 1912 brew you need to be drinking while listening to Burt Bacharach.

Or Foxxy Cleopatra.

Or anything on BBC 1.

Regardless of how you enjoy it, the Zippy Longstocking will definitely get your mojo working.

A Mojito beer? Oh behave!

And speaking of mojo, well...mojito, the 1912 evil geniuses have brought back a fan favorite, "Got My Mojito Back Again", in time for their anniversary and Austin Powers' themed event.

This one will really freak you out because it has all of the elements that an actual mojito cocktail has. Just don't do what I did and slam it down hard. The intense key lime and mint essence there is sound as a pound, a real shindig for your tastebuds, so take your time with this one.

With all of this amazing pussycat swinger fare, it looks as if 1912's celebration on Saturday July 6th is going to be better than...ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

But wait...there's more!'re not supposed to know about this

The Conger's are going to unveil 2 or 3 new brews exclusive to their 4 Year Anniversary shindig that they are not even mentioning. Yet.

But they said go ahead and just teeeeeease it a little in my blog.

So I am. And here you go. Gonna throw you a friggin' bone.

Fortunate me I had a taster of the beer things to come this weekend and all I can say is:

"Yeah baby!"

See you there.

And thank you Allen, Alicia and everyone at 1912!

You are all so very, very groovy baby. Ow!


Camera, Typing and Oh Behave!
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
4th of July Week, 2019

Metal Influence: