Category Archives: Allston

Fat Sandwiches in Allston

All illustrations and pictures by Andrew Abbott unless otherwise noted.

The Restaurant

First Bite Cafe
76 Brighton Ave
Allston, MA 02134
http://www.firstbiteallston.com/
Yelp!

Unfortunately, the Boston Gastronauts have never visited this restaurant.  However, we did get delivery twice, and we have no complaints about their delivery service.  We’ve only ever ordered the Sub Danger-Zone Subs, which are delicious, and which we talk about in greater detail below.

Andrew’s Take

So this week our return to the gastornautical world brought us full circle back to our first encounter with the Fat Sandwich. No I’m not talking about lard spread thick between two pieces of bread, although we have encountered something similar when we were at Cafe Poloina a while back. Fat sandwiches aren’t any ordinary sandwiches. These sandwiches are generally filled with stuff that isn’t normally seen between two pieces of bread (or garlic bread for that matter). The two things showing up most frequently on these sandwiches are french fries and mozzarella sticks. So if you were that kid at the lunch table in school stuffing potato chips into your peanut butter and jelly sandwich this place is for you. They have a whole section of their menu titled the “sub danger zone” where you feel a whole buyer beware vibe while reading your choices. It’s almost like being on death row and choosing your last meal except that it all comes stuffed in a hoagie roll.

They even have “vegetarian” options though seeing that everything still comes fried on the sub I can’t imagine they’re that much better for you then anything else in the danger zone. This time around I got the Fat Willard sub. I don’t exactly know who it’s named after, but I was hoping it wasn’t a reference to the movie Willard. In that case the chicken on my sandwich wasn’t chicken it was more likely “chicken”… Anyways the sub was loaded with fried chicken, french fries, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese all on garlic bread. These things are monsterous let me tell you. I made the mistake of ordering a large. The difference between a small and large is only a dollar and size wise its nearly indistinguishable so a word to the wise is not to press your luck and go with a small. I think I’ve run into this problem before.

I did indeed get a little bit sick after eating the entire thing, but I feel it was the overload of fried foods entering my system after not having eaten anything so heavily fried in a while. I have had one of these sandwiches on three separate occasions and this is the only time I really felt it after eating. Each time I had a different sandwich but every time they were absolutely delicious. I’ve also had run ins with the Fat Dog sub being comprised of about six hotdogs , pepperoni, mozzarella sticks, french fries, marinara sauce, and melted cheese and the Fat Bull which had steak, mozzarella sticks, french fries, and melted cheese. The actual problem with these bad Larrys is you can’t really leave any left overs cause they most likely wouldn’t re-heat very well.

The one thing about these subs that bothers me though is everything just tends to blend together by the end into one big cheesy/saucy/fried mass. Sometimes you might not even taste any meat on the sandwich if theres too much of one thing or another. I feel like putting these things together must be somewhere between an art form and an exact science. Then again if your willing to ingest something called a “fat sandwich” I don’t think your necessarily concerned with distinguishing the flavor of everything in the sandwich. These things are built for a purpose and that purpose is to fill an empty stomach, and then some. So if you’re starvin’ like Marvin, and you’re in the area I definitely recommend giving the First Bite Cafe a try, and if you’re gonna’ try for the Sub Danger Zone make sure you fast for a few days before hand!

Ché’s Take :  Gotta Have It


“KFC Double Down ‘Sandwich’” by Mike Saechang.  It uses the Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License

For a second, whenever Andrew and I talk about a fat sandwich, in my head I see lard in between two pieces of bread. That would be gross. Of course, some people react the same way to the fat sandwiches that we actually ate. Why don’t I? Or for that matter, why does the Double Down gross me out more than a sandwich with fries on it? Simply, First Bite’s fat sandwiches are honest, in the way that the Double Down is not. It’s American over-consumption as a celebration, instead of as an addiction.

And let’s be honest here, every person in the United States is either addicted to brutally unhealthy food, or to dieting. Sometimes a person will swing wildly from one to the other. The more important factor affecting the health of the United States is obesity. According to the Weight-control Information Network, an organization run by the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 3 people in the United States is obese. The causes for this are multi-faceted and complicated, but it is possible, in general to point to more processed food. This is how America’s upside down relationship with food has developed. The real wages of the United States have remained at a constant low lull for the past twenty-five years, compared with their meteoric rise in the mid-seventies. Early in his book The Paradox of Plenty, Harvey Levenstein makes research backed point that “the best way to improve the diets of the poor was simply to put more money in their pocket.” Because the subsidized food programs in the United States, from WIC to School Lunch, rely heavily on processed foods, and wages have not improved, the diets of the poor and middle income people of the United States have steadily worsened, which we see in the consistent rise of obesity. No amount of nutrition awareness will change that.

Yet there has been an increase in nutritional information. Nutrition facts labels are the one way that this new consciousness actually helps a consumer. In a perfect world, somebody would walk into a store, compare the labels of similar products, and then walk out, beaming with capitalist joy at their healthful purchase. In the corporatecontrolled, semidystopian world we live in, this kind of thing would only happen in the commercial for a health food store. Instead, the ideas of nutritional eating are instead used by food companies to sell you their products, no matter how unhealthy they might be.

This is my beef (chicken?) with the Double Down. Other than the fact that it made me feel like I wanted to die, the (sort-of) sandwich attempts to make apologies for its obvious heart-attack causing properties. It comes in a “healthier” grilled chicken version, which while lower in fat, is higher in sodium. What really takes the F***ed-Up Award, though, is that a lot of the debate around this sandwich is whether or not its low carb, something KFC plays up in their “So much chicken, there wasn’t room for a bun” tag line. When somebody asks “Can the Double Down be considered a low carb food?” what they’re really asking is “Can there exist a universe where two pieces of fried chicken cemented together with cheese and bacon be healthy for you?” The reason they don’t ask the second question is because any thinking person nearby would slap them.

The reason that the Fat Sandwiches from First Bite don’t offend me is because you know exactly what you’re getting. There’s no low carb debate. There’s no lip service to healthier options. The part of the menu that the Fat Sandwiches appear on is called the Sub Danger Zone. The reason you eat these sandwiches is that you want to eat them, with no apologies for how healthy they are. It also ensures that you know that they’re an occasional food. KFC does not want to make the Double Down an occasional food, because that would cut into the enormous profits that the sandwich is making.  Remember, this sandwich was only supposed to be around until May 23rd.  After it sold over 10 million, KFC decided to extend its run.  This is fast food reduced to its most destructive form. Not only does it make sure that the people that work there have poor health because of the wages they pay, but it also makes sure other people making poor wages have equally poor health. That’s what I mean when I talk about fast food as an addiction. It’s having a pusher, for their own benefit, tell you every reason to do something that’s unhealthy for you,  and doing it, because you do not have any other choice. One situation is biological and one is economic. The net result is the same.

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Filed under Allston, KFC

Double Downs in Brighton (Or Anywhere Else)

Illustration by Andrew Abbott

Ché’s Take: American Fat, American Meat, The American Spirit

“KFC Double Down ‘Sandwich'” by Mike Saechang.  It uses the Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License. “Victory Gardeners” from the Library of Congress database.

The problem is not the Double Down. The sandwich was a personal problem for me on Sunday, when we ate the things. Even when Andrew and I went to Café Polonia, which serves lard as its butter and probably used the same to fry my potato pancakes, I didn’t feel as awful about myself and the world as I did after eating this sandwich. But the Double Down itself is not the problem. Nobody will live on a diet of Double Downs, in fact, because the Sandwich itself is not actually all that tasty, it will probably die a slow death, following in the footsteps of the Hula Burger. No, the Double Down is not the problem. America’s fascination with fat, especially meat fat, is the problem. Luckily, this is a problem that can be solved.

When food critics write about the Double Down, they live up to their prissy reps. Take for example this blog post by Mark Morford. He rips on the executives of KFC, saying:

“Hell, even the oil titans right now raping Canada can claim to be supplying a commodity that runs the engines of the world. Even Wall Street ogres can claim to be partaking of a time-honored tradition of gutting the U.S. Treasury at the expense of the ignorant masses. But head of marketing for, say, Kentucky Fried Chicken? Oh, you poor soul. Hell hath a special room for you.”

Really now? There are two problems here, first of all assuming that the three have nothing to do with each other, and secondly, the Double Down is any worse for you than the rest of fast food. Many of the news stories point out that the Double Down actually has fewer calories than the McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich. The lie of chicken as healthier comes into complete focus when something can compete with the Double Down as a less healthy option, especially another chicken sandwich.

Americans have always been obsessed with meat because it has always been so prevalent here when compared to the rest of the world. A month ago, I cited Hasia Diner’s discussion of what it means to eat meat daily. Diner and Werner Sombart, who Diner discusses, saw this as one of the crucial differences between America and Europe. Jeremy Rifkin in his book Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, explains how American beef specifically moved from an almost feral American Longhorn to the fatted, grain fed, British influenced marbled beef that we have today. Uncle Sam gives this beef his stamp of approval. Rifkin describes how the USDA created its grading system based on beef’s “fat content and started with the assumption that fatty beef was of higher value and preferred by consumers over leaner cuts of beef.” America loves fat, and as humans, we biologically love fat as well. Still, the fattiness of our beef, and now our chicken is a relatively recent development, and has less to do with a protein-heavy diet than a fat-heavy diet.

In the end, this love of all things fatty isn’t even American in origin, as I mentioned above. In Rifkin’s book, he has an entire chapter called “Corpulent Cows and Opulent Englishmen.” In this chapter, Rifkin describes how the British grew to love fatty beef, a love which they exported by buying up much of the American range to raise their obese cows. An American preference for marbled beef soon followed.

The food critics who deride the Double Down as too “American” and the Tea Partyers who hope to return to a nostalgic (also racist and jingoist) vision of the American past are really two sides of the same coin. Both make an arrogant claim to describe what America is, and always has been, based on a strange kind of nostalgia or anti-nostalgia. The Tea Partyers, if they truly lived up to their name, would move from Red Coats to red meat, and fight against a British culinary choice that is now killing millions of Americans. The boogie liberals who write against the Double Down and hate it for being too American take a very narrow view of what America is, and give the whole of American history up to the right wing and the politics of free consumption. To say that this or that is American because it is conservative denies that Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, Tecumseh, Frederick Douglas, Crazy Horse, Joaquin Murieta, Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton, Caesar Chavez etc. are not only part of American history and identity but crucial to it. One thing that all of America seems to agree is that what is crucial to our culture is self-sufficiency. Diabetes, obesity, and agra-business are some of the largest enemies of self-sufficiency today, and they are all intertwined in a net of governmental and corporate complacency and profit. Grass roots movements, from the community gardens movement in Detroit to the Re-Vision Urban Farm right here in Boston do just that, and with a little support, these models could be used throughout the United States, like Victory Gardens during World War II. To reiterate, the Double Down is not the problem. The entire food industry and its governmental sponsors are the problem. Fighting against it, and for healthier and self-sufficient eating and livelihoods is not un-American, but comes from the truest patriotism in the American spirit.

Katrina & Andrew’s Take:

Photos by Katrina Thorne

I’m going to preface this entry with the fact that me and this particular KFC have some personal history. One time when I was really jonesing for a chicken pot pie after a long day of work I placed my order with the nice lady behind the counter and decided to use the restroom in the mean time while waiting. I went in back and knocked on the door. I knocked again just in case. There was no answer and when I checked the knob it wasn’t locked so I went right in. What did I find? One of the gentlemen who worked trying to pee into the toilet from all the way across the room. Needless to say now but I’m already nervous at this KFC even when I’m not about to devour a double down.

As gastronaut adventures go this wasn’t the most far out food we’ve encountered. Our team included a few new recruits and we made the trek out to that wonderful land of chicken, that little bit of Kentucky away from Kentucky, KFC. There we purchased the new “double down sandwiches.” For those not in the know this “sandwich” is two pieces of chicken with two pieces of bacon, two pieces of cheese, and some sort of sauce slathered in between. This sammich isn’t going to double down anything but it will double up your cholesterol.

Amongst the members there was discussion about how this could be considered a sandwich. It’s marketed as not needing any bread but can it still be called a sandwich? I guess that technically the chicken included in this disaster is breaded but I call shenanigans and I’m sure John Montagu the 4th Earl of Sandwich would also. In fact you can consider me the Earl of Shenanigans when it comes to the Double Down.This thing also comes in a convenient little sleave in case you were wondering how you eat it without making a mess. But before you finish eating, the sleave is soaked with grease and is pretty much rendered useless.

The sandwich may seem small upon first glance but it is extremely dense. It even feels heavy when you’re lugging it around in that little brown paper bag. And once its in your stomach it sits there like a rock. Like some sort of deep fried dark matter from down south. Some members felt extremely sluggish after consuming the chicken while others complained about stomach and general body aches. Extreme motion after eating this is not recommended. Although you may feel like you need to take a nap after eating it that would probably be the worst thing you could do.

This may in fact be the antithesis of the “naked” burgers that are wrapped in lettuce instead of using a bun or any of those other new fangled healthy options popping up in resturants all over. While all these other restaurants are trying to save us KFC just might be sneakily dooming us. The convenience of fast food is too strong for the masses. Even when some of these places advertise “fresh” options you still know it’s most likely going to be waiting for you under a heating lamp. The Double Down is a conundrum in itself in that you could easily make it yourself, but you don’t want to because then that just makes you feel like the evil one rather than Colonel Sanders.

This isn’t the first mess in the long line of fast food trying to top everything. McDonalds had the Super Hero burger that combined three burgers into one sandwich. One burger is enough to handle let alone three. And Burger King has put the Quadstacker into rotation which is four layers of patty, cheese, and bacon. These weren’t the first nor will they be the last in the long line of ridiculous fast food items that soon may be incorporated into some people’s normal diets.

YUM:  A Taste of Immigrant City in Somerville


One last thing before we close.  Instead of Agra-business and KFC, in a couple of weekends you can support immigrant rights and independent restaurants.  The Welcome Project, a Somerville based immigrant advocacy group, is hosting a fundraiser featuring local Somerville restaurants and entertainment.  Find out more information here.

When?:  April 30th, 6:00-10:00 PM

Where?: Somerville Armory

How much?:  $40, more to sponsor

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Filed under Allston, Fast Food, KFC

Tongue Sandwiches in Allston/Brighton

Illustrations and photos by Andrew Abbott

The Resturant

Taqueria El Carrizal

254 Brighton Ave
Allston, MA 02134

Yelp

Andrew’s Take:

Before I get into this weeks post I’d like to take you, the reader, into the Boston Gastronaut’s very own time machine and go back to March 19th to add onto the post from couple weeks back. Seeing that I missed the week Che went to Machu Picchu for beef hearts and tripe, I met him there this past Tuesday to conduct our interview with Emily Gonzalez of Blast Magazine. The interview went well and if you’ve already read the article you can tell we had a lot of fun. The food was also pretty amazing. Needless to say it made me regret missing it the first time. What most people don’t think about is that the meat they’re usually eating is muscle. So when confronted with beef heart you should just know that you’re essentially eating the same thing. The beef heart was served on skewers and if you hadn’t been told it was beef heart in the first place you probably couldn’t tell the difference between it and any other cut of beef beyond the fact that its much more tender. The way it’s prepared and served with fresh corn and potatoes is really simple but perfect.

The tripe came the same way. Tripe on the other hand is a bit different. We’re talking about organ meat here so there’s possibility of texture issues for some people. The best comparison I could draw, for myself anyway, was it was a lot like beef flavored calamari. The consistency was a little bit firmer than straight beef fat and it was chewy like squid. So if you don’t dig chewiness then tripe might not be for you but I urge anyone to try it if given the chance. The beef flavor was strong throughout the tripe which was nice. Both dishes were accompanied by different sauces. One was a bit spicy the other more savory and both were creamy in their base. They also gave us “fancy” ketchup. I’d definitely recommend both the hearts and tripe for anyone new to adventurous eating. (Jumps back into the time machine)

So this week part time Gastronaut and full time roomate Mike took me to one of his favorite spots near our apartment. El Carrizal boasts having Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan food on the menu. It’s quite an impressive array of choices you have going in there. We got there around lunch time and the place was packed. We got one of the last tables which could seat four when Mike told me about how once when he was there on an equally crowded day they sat him down with a table already full of people eating. I was thinking we were about to end up having lunch with two complete strangers, but the crowd started to thin out and we ended up keeping our own table. Not that I would’ve had any problem eating with strangers. If anything it would’ve added to the experience. Everyone at the restaurant was really nice and the service was good.

Hearing that the pupusas were tasty there I ordered some of those to start. Pupusas are the Salvadorian equivalent of pita bread. They’re like thick tortillas fried and then filled with some combination of cheese, meat, beans, or veggies. What doesn’t sound good there? That’s right. Nothing! The Carrizal pupusas were filled with pork and cheese and served with jalapeno coleslaw and some zesty red sauce. Nothing to strange here just incredibly delicious. They also had pupusas served with beans and squash. I’m assuming those were the vegetarian option, and would also be quite delicious.

On the menu they have what’s listed as the “Mexican Sandwich”. It comes with cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and spicy habanero sauce all stacked on a nice airy loaf of white bread. You get to choose what kinda meat they stuff in there. Your choices are beef (alright), chicken (okay), and lengua (whaaaaat?). That last one’s the tongue meat. It’s chopped up and spiced up and covered in melted cheese so really it’s kind of hard to taste it with everything going on in this sandwich. There’s a ton of lengua on the sandwich itself so every once in a while you get a big mouthful of it. Again the tongue is another muscle that people shouldn’t over think eating because it’s not much different from any other beef you’d eat. It’s apparently much more fatty then a normal cut of beef. I also felt it was much more tender, almost like stew beef. The cavemen loved to eat it back in the Paleolithic era according to Wikipedia. Not that they had that many good ideas back then, but they did manage to figure out fire. So if you feel up to it, release your inner caveman and eat some beef tongue cause its really quite delicious.

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Filed under Allston, Guatemalan, Mexican, Organs, Peruvian, Salvadorean, Somerville, Tongue