TRAVELODGE ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT ENGLISH BREAKFAST

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I went to Joshua’s wedding. I reviewed the food at said wedding. I left all our loyal three readers hanging with the promise of a review of my Travelodge breakfast.

Well, here it is goddamit. Late but not forgotten. I hope you have not lost two weeks of your precious life waiting for this banger to drop.

But if you have, let’s get straight to the chase: the Travelodge all-you-can-eat English breakfast is an absolute crock of shit.

At £8.95 premium on top of your room cost, this is probably one of the worst ways you can spend money, in a nation where it’s hard to extract any value from anything whatsoever.

It features uncooked lukewarm tomatoes, flavourless and lukewarm mushrooms dribbling a liquid that may well be tears, and the kind of sausage that could be achieved with well-mashed paper and budget sausage flavouring. I can’t even be bothered describing the rest. The Heinz condiments were at least reliable.

On the day I visited, there weren’t even initially any forks available, so I resorted to attempting to cut bacon, which was probably the highlight of this profound shit show, with a spoon.

All-you-can-eat? I ate very little. Even that was far too much.

Of course, you could argue that I should have tried the ‘continental’ breakfast elements as part of my nine-quid haemorrhage to try and lessen the damage, but by this point I was psychologically broken. I left my key card on the desk with a quietly-uttered and insincere thanks and walked into the suburban street, a sense of hopelessness consuming me.

1/10

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JOSHUA’S WEDDING

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The chicken option

How’s the food? Are you enjoying the food?”

Have you enjoyed yourself?”

With limited personal time on his most ceremonial of occasions, my Average Food Blog co-conspirator Joshua Seigal, in his interactions with me, cast himself in the role of nervous food industry PR supremo at the opening of a new restaurant or bag of crisps.

Rightly so. The cuckoo clock of fate had turned around, and betrothal boy is facing the full critical force of his own co-creation.

I retained a non-committal air in response to his entreaties, for I had cast myself as a meandering, increasingly vague guy with no plus-one, eating and drinking excessively, for free. The increasing vagueness seems to unnerve Josh further – he displayed far greater anxiety in these brief chit-chats than he did during the wedding ceremony itself, where he appeared collected and utterly confident in his life decisions.

The ceremony itself is, however, not what we’re here for. So, to the consumables.

As is customary, before the sit-down face-stuffing, guests were offered snacks on platters in a phase of forced socialising, table-setting, and speedy front-loading of alcohol. The offerings were at the mildly fancy end of pretty standard fare; mini tartlets, spring rolls, bit of fish on a stick. Nothing to either be too interested in or too concerned about. This gave me a degree of hope that Josh was truly living up to his Average Food roots. Yet he was to reveal his hand in due course.

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Kids’ poet and wedding guest extraordinaire Neil Zetter was more enthusiastic about the appetisers than I

My selections were duck to start, chicken to middle, the dessert selection that everybody got by default.

The duck was sweet, crispy and compelling. The chicken was tender and juicy, with a spinach and blended carrot accompaniment that was disappointing only at the side of the meat. The dessert selection was undoubtedly the pièce de résistance, and the cheesecake the pièce de résistance of the pièce de résistance. An assault of fruit and dairy flavours ravaged the palette.

What I am saying here is that this food was not average. It was not even average by wedding standards. I felt more than a little betrayed. I wanted more.

Sadly my credentials as a food critic were not acknowledged by the venue staff, so I did not get to try everything. The items I couldn’t select I will report on using the overheard quotes of others on my table:

some sort of weird salsa, possibly a ratatouille.”

The tomatoes were prone to spraying”

A meal and a puzzle.”

If it were socially acceptable, I would like the plate clean.”

That is all the vowel noises.”

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Another piss-poor picture of food taken by a wine-drunk man

I am unable to properly critique wine, but I will comment briefly thus: both white and red were good, but the red was noticeably better.

It is hard to sum up this eating experience, or keep this blog to a length that could be considered reasonable by our 10-15 regular readers.

Never in all my years of consuming and reviewing average food had I been faced with such a multi-layered assault of undeniable quality, and left with so many questions. Why were white chocolate fingers or bacon-flavoured pop chips not on the menu? Has Josh sold out entirely, or is this an isolated occasion where average must be abandoned in the name of social cohesion? How can love win in an age of casual hate? Why was there no gravy?

An epilogue to this blog will follow, in which I review the Travelodge all-you-can-eat breakfast, my pivotal and formative experience in the morning after the nuptials.

APPETISERS: 6/10

STARTER: 8/10

MAIN: 8.5/10

DESSERT: 10/10

JOSHUA’S WEDDING OVERALL CONSUMABLES RATING: 8.5/10

EPIPHANIC BANANA

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some bananas from the internet

Remember Giles Coren? Believe it or not, about ten to fifteen years ago he used to be funny. I used to nab my parents’ copy of the Times on a Saturday, and giggle to myself as I read his restaurant reviews. He would spend the majority of the ‘review’ wanging on about whatever took his fancy, and only get to the food, almost tangentially, in the last paragraph. He would also write droll columns on stuff like, you know, how we should tax fat people extra. I know, I know. Hilarious, right?

Now, I don’t know whether he has changed or I have changed (both, probably), but he is not at all funny anymore. I think the rot started to creep in, as with so many of us, when he got married and had kids. He became incredibly smug, and started going on about how amazing his daughter was. (Well done man, you successfully propagated your genes! Big fucking whoop.) He also became more right wing, bemoaning political correctness and ‘snowflakes’. One of his most moronic moments came when he described football as “just a bunch of grown men chasing a ball around a field.”* This is the kind of thing you hear a lot from football-sceptics, and it is absurd. You may as well describe a car as “just a sort of steerable oblong on wheels” or a restaurant as “just a big room where you go and sit on a chair and put items into your face.” Or a Giles Coren article as “just a glorified piece of toilet paper.” Ho ho ho.

Be this as it may, the apotheosis of Coren’s idiocy surely arrived when he came out with a ridiculous piece of nonsense on the theme of bananas. He said that he loved bananas, “because they taste like cake.”* Bananas taste like cake in the sense that piss smells like bacon – you can kind of discern the similarity, if you squint very hard through your monocle, but all in all the resemblance is extremely tenuous, the main difference being that, in each comparison, one of the ‘comparands’ is delicious, whilst the other one is terrible. You see, I have always hated bananas. They are either sweet but intolerably gooey, like chowing down on a bar of slightly hardened sick, or they are firm but tasteless. The thought of eating a banana is a about as appealing as munching wet polystyrene.

Or so I thought. I eat bananas every now and again, going by the logic that the degree to which I dislike a foodular item is probably positively correlated with the degree to which it is healthy. Early today I had a banana epiphany. On top of my microwave lay an overripe banana, with them brown marks on it. I don’t get paid for this blog, so I was of course hungry. I thought to myself “why not pinch your nose, swallow your pride, and eat that banana?” Ladies and gentlemen: I ate that banana. And it was kind of amazing. Sweet and buttery. Let it be known that this is NOT a review of bananas per se. This is a review of that one specific banana. There is another banana on top of the microwave as we speak; I don’t think I can bring myself to eat it. No future banana experience will ever live up to the one I had this morning. In fact, the only banana experience that will ever come close will be the day Coren gets one up his hairy, sanctimonious fundament.

The banana I ate this morning: 9/10

All other bananas, ever: 1/10

*I’ve just googled the quote and I can’t find it. What’s he gonna do, sue us? What I did find, however, was a whole heap of other nonsense which makes me dislike him even more: women comedians ‘not being funny’; how his ‘biggest fear’ is his four-year-old son being overweight. What an arsecandle.

**again, a perfunctory googling will not yield the quote. But I’m pretty sure he said it. In fact, to borrow the words of the great philosopher Harry Kane, I’d swear on my daughter’s life.

MAXIM PREMIUM ICE CREAM LOLLY – BOROVNICA (BLUEBERRY)

Maxim Premium

As a child, my mum always used to say to me: “Never underestimate Slovenian ice cream lollies.”

I nodded dutifully, while never fully understanding the weight, or indeed point, of her words.

But now the day has come, and I understand clearly. For Slovenia’s very own Maxim Premium blueberry-flavoured ice cream lolly is one of the leaders of its kind.

From the sublime crunch of the white chocolate coating to the subtle nudges of fruit provided by the cold creamy goodness within, this is a once-in-a-generation sweet freezer-originating treat. Inspired. Experimental. Traditional. Confusing, in all the right ways.

I cannot give it a ten out of ten. The Slovenians, as far as I’m aware, are a modest people, and I am very concerned that they would take a full marks as a badge of satire. I am absolutely not here to lampoon. In the realm of European sweetmeats, I have a reputation for taking matters extremely seriously indeed.

Also, if we’re going to get down to the very brass tacks of the matter, this ice cream lolly is too small. You could argue that eating a Maxim Premium is an experience to be treasured regardless of such crass issues as size, but it’s also, crucially, one that calls for elongation. The latter argument is, for me, far more compelling, so gets 0.5 points knocked off.

Another 0.5 reduction is for having a brand name that more evokes a type of scented condom than a delicious cold food experience. 

I can admit it now: for all these years, I have unconsciously been underestimating Slovenian ice cream lollies, flying in the face of my mother’s marvellous advice. Never again. Never. Again.

Oi, Magnum: Ljubljana called. It’s just chuckling on the end of the line. Shall I tell it you’ll call back later?

9/10

FISH FINGERS

fish fingers on a plate

Someone else’s serving suggestion.

I truly cannot believe that we haven’t at any point in the patchy life of Average Food Blog covered fish fingers, but I have analysed the content in forensic detail and concluded that this is indeed the case. Sadly the case.

Sincerest apologies, microscopic readership, but it’s make-up time.

For my most recent bit of life I have been spending some time in Greece, where the cuisine is mostly fantastic, with very occasional bouts of true mediocrity. Given the mostly fantastic part of the last sentence, you may assume that I have not been, at any point in this period, eating fish fingers.

Of course, whenever ‘you may assume’ features in writing, there follows with tiresome predictability a striking down of that assumption. This is not a forum for striking down assumptions about assumptions. I have retained fish fingers in my diet.

The psychologies behind this may well be complex; perhaps a mix of tightly gripping on to parochial culture, a longing for home or a deep-seated desire to wilfully participate in the destruction of all life on earth. I am not a psychologist.

What I will remark upon with greater certainty is that I am and always will be a profoundly unimaginative home cook, and that I actually like fish fingers, in as much as you can have affection for any of the most average of foods.

A review of the goods in question is almost completely redundant. The fish fingers of any sea-flour mill tradition are more or less identical in all but one feature.

They taste without being tasty, and get a bit crispy when exposed to significant heat for 20 minutes or so. In the parlance of lower-league football, they ‘do a job’ – they’re your 6.5/10 every game defensive midfield journeyman, a real fans’ favourite.

The signifiant key difference brand-to-brand is in regards to tendency towards losing crumb to baking trays through a phenomenon known as ‘sticking’. I have noted that major Greek fish finger brands sadly do have this tendency. In contrast, Bird’s Eye will be with you, fully intact, until the end. Sometimes, there is a reason why the market leader is just that. No-one wants a partially-soggy finger.

Point of note: fish fingers can act as either a trigger or salve of bouts of depression, depending on the specific tone of gold they display upon exit from the oven.

Sauces? I’ve tried a few. Normally I go in for a splodge of both ketchup and mayonnaise. So string me up and pelt me with those ice crystals that form at the back of the freezer.

FISH FINGERS: 6.5/10

POPCHIPS (SMOKY BACON; RIDGED)

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Ridged. For her pleasure. 

‘Healthy’ versions of well-loved, artery clogging snacks are not usually any good. The case for the prosecution involves such uninspiring witnesses as ‘chocolate’ made out of carob, which is to chocolate as Brad Pitt’s brother Doug is to Brad  – sort of like him, but with all the magic extracted – and low-salt baked beans, which are so insipid they make me want to intravenously inject lard directly into my aorta. By this logic, then, the virtue-signalling Popchips (“popped, not fried”) should be pretty crap. After all, ‘fried’ is normally a synonym for ‘damn tasty’. ‘Popped’ makes it sound like popcorn – the most overrated comestible in the history of snackendom.* At the very best, I imagined something akin to a rice cracker. In other words, I didn’t imagine I would get a taste or texture that was much better than polystyrene.

Reader, none of this came to pass. Popchips are in fact delicious. The variety on which I shall focus in this thesis is the ridged, smoky bacon flavour. Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘Oy! A nice Jewish boy eating bacon!’. But I can assure you that no swine were harmed in the making of said crisps (or if they were, they weren’t then used as ingredients); they are officially ‘suitable for vegetarians’. I couldn’t be bothered to read the back of the packet to ascertain how they get such a robust porcine flavour, but it doesn’t involve anything too sinister because the whole caboodle has only NINETY NINE calories in it. I know this because it is emblazoned in massive letters (or numbers, actually) on the front of the pack. I guess they thought leaving out that extra calorie would make all the difference, in the same way as people charge 99p for stuff instead of a full squid.

Smoky bacon ridged Popchips differ from their non-ridged cousins by dint of being ridged. (A deeply anodyne statement, sure, but you can’t fault its logic. And that’s what we’re all about at AFB: raw, hard, uncircumcised logic.) As such, they pack a deep, heavy crunch worthy of a McCoys. If I have one complaint about the flavour it is that it is a little too salty, but otherwise it is excellent – powerful and muscled, like a heavy metal riff pounding its way across the taste buds. In short, this is a crisp that makes it presence felt, like when Eminem does his rap battle thing in 8 Mile. Yo I’m a ridged mutha ‘ucker gotta love that crunch, gonna munch on me fo ya mutha ‘uckin lunch.

Yes, smoky-bizzle popchizzles are the dizzle.

Although I have been focusing on the ridged variety, much of the aforementioned applies to normal Popchips. They all have decent flavour, and none of them resemble polystyrene. I would happily forego fried crisps for the rest of my life in favour of Popchips. That is a fairly strong statement, and in about two minutes I am probably going to look back at it and wonder what the hell I was thinking, but in the giddy heights of 10:56 on a Wednesday morning in March, fuelled by nothing but lukewarm tea, I am damn well standing by it.

Smoky Bacon Ridged Popchips: 9/10

*a subject for another article. But seriously, fuck popcorn.

WHITE CHOCOLATE FINGERS

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some fingers, yesterday 

Fingers. Sticks. Rigidity. Mouths. I’m not going to make any jokes involving these notions. What do you think this is, a Year 8 playground? I’m trying to run a highly respected gustatorily-based academic journal here. Save the puerile shit for Giles ‘I used to be funny but now I’m a prick’ Coren.

Ok, let’s crack on.

I am a relative newcomer to the Finger scene. They were a ubiquitous presence at birthday parties from between the ages of about 2 and 12, before a whole different sort ‘finger’ became de rigeur (I’m sorry, I’m sorry), but even then I only went to about two or three such parties a year. Never had many friends, you see. (And just LOOK at me now!) It is very rare to encounter chocolate fingers outside of the context of a children’s party. I’ve no idea why this is the case, it just is.

With the aforementioned finger lodged somewhere in the dusty recesses of my anus consciousness, I went shopping recently. I happened upon a box of chocolate fingers, and I thought to myself: “I could bosh a pack of those. Why the hell not?” And why the hell not indeed? Last time I looked, there was no law against it. #MeToo has surely not extended to this type of finger (I’m so, so sorry).

So, dear reader, I bought. I bought, and I boshed. I boshed the entire pack in a single sitting. Beaucoup de boshing ensued.

The fingers were of the white chocolate variety. The lesser spotted albino chocolate finger. And they were delicious. Crunchy yet firm, and fearsomely addictive. Try eating a single white chocolate finger and then not boshing another few; it’s impossible. They make Pringles look like dates. (Seriously, dates are the opposite of addictive: have one date and you won’t want to even look at another date for about a year.)

Another great thing about chocolate fingers is that you can eat them in a variety of ways. Here is my preferred method: (1) snap in half, (3) put half the finger in your mouth, WITHOUT CHEWING, (3) suck the chocolate off until all that remains is some slightly soggy but nonetheless al dente biscuit, (4) chew/crunch the biscuity bit, (5) repeat with the other half of the finger, (6) continue with the rest of the pack. Hours of fun for all the family.

Chocolate fingers, according to a respectable source,* come in a plethora of flavours, including toffee, white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. I’ve never had the dark chocolate ones but I can’t imagine they are much good. If I want dark chocolate I probably am not in the mood for a finger, and vice versa. I’m also not quite sure how toffee fingers would work. Surely the elasticity of the toffee would have a deleterious effect on the crunch of the biscuit. I don’t know, I haven’t tried them. And quite frankly, after boshing the white chocolate variety, I’m never trying another finger again.

Once you’ve gone white, you’re all right.

White chocolate fingers: 10/10

(This blog wins the award for the most uses of the verb ‘to bosh’ in a single blog post.)

*Wikipedia