Food / Cooking

Más Taco

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I’ll be back – With hopeful yet prophetic words I grudgingly exit the best taco joint west of the Mississippi almost three years ago.  But back I am!  Coming off weeks of backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park, this gem was the stuff of daily cravings.  Homeward bound, Más Taco is my first destination over Beartooth Pass within tiny Red Lodge, Montana.  The restaurant is just as I left it.

Famous for having the finest chow outside Yellowstone Northeast Entrance miles away, Mike has not let fortune go to his head.  His passion is still fly fishing.  Off-river, Más Taco gets his full attention.  Many of the same people help Mike turn out plate after plate of 100% fresh ingredients blended into a perfect meal.  Always an artful presentation.  And chaos?  Seven people working full bore in a galley kitchen.  It was like my recent trip under polar ice aboard Nautilus (upcoming article, of course).  Except for plenty of fresh air and sunshine.  On a plate.  Nature at its finest.

Trader Joe’s Navel Oranges

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Weekly shopping would not be complete without a stop at our local Trader Joe’s.  Once a novelty, this grocery store chain has become a must-visit for specifics.  Why?  As with our Coffee Filter article, Price, quality, and consistency … When something works, why look for anything better?

Joe’s navel oranges.  Consistent size, fresh and juicy, and a good price.  The four-pound bag is $4 on the East Coast but $3 in Phoenix … guess they are coming from California this time of year.

The serving size is misleading, though.  One orange?  Really?

Free Offer:  When Trader Joe’s drops the $3.99 and prices bagged oranges on the even dollar, we’ll give them a banner ad for a year!

Bass Ale

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MERRIMACK, NEW HAMPSHIRE  is home to a smaller of the dozen Anheuser-Busch breweries.  With their world-touring Budweiser Clydesdale team also in residence, you’d think the town has its share of glory.  But within the dizzying array of acquisitions and mergers, AB InBev ended up with one of the United Kingdom’s best exports, Bass Ale.

For the American market, Bass Ale, once the best-selling beer in the world, is made in this country.  AB InBev have pledged funding to support the Bass brand in America, and since June 2012, Bass has been brewed in Merrimack, New Hampshire at 5% ABV for the American market. – wiki

Long one of our favorite imports, Bass, a smooth bitter English ale, was a bit out of reach.  But as a domestic, this niche beer with the oldest registered trademark in the world is now as affordable as a mass-produced choice!  Great decision by Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Make it where they drink it.  A global company reacting locally!

Bonus trivia:  Budweiser Clydesdales began their stomp in 1933 to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition.

Boylan Bottling

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boylan bottling logoWhen I come off trail, nothing kicks the dust out of my throat like an icy cold refreshing root beer.  Not high fructose sugar water hawked by corporate America.  The real thing.  Boylan’s root beer has it all – flavor and kick.

A rich sassafras flavor derived from cinnamon, sweet birch, vanilla, and wintergreen oil. – Boylan

As Saba’s Jerry Hill famously taught us, hand-crafted is nearly as good as it gets.  Boylan’s, with cane sugar and natural flavors, handcrafted since 1891, is the pinnacle of our highly competitive American soda market.

After knocking back a bottle or two, I had to know their secret.  Was it ginger?  Where did the tang come from?  Boylan Bottling was characteristically silent.  I tried multiple departments, running through all the extensions of their telephone system.  No one would share their secrets.  

“The ingredients are on the label”, Samantha sweetly explained.  Yeah, I could be as nice with an unlimited supply of Boylans for private consumption.  Rumors abound.  Unconfirmed reports mention the addition of anise and that master spice, black pepper …

Barkeep, get me a Sarsaparilla!

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Five Guys Burgers

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fiveguys-burger-charlotteobserverTwice a year or possibly a dozen times more, a hamburger and fries are necessary to balance the universe.  Make everything right.  American Comfort Food at its prime, protein and starch.

No one does it better or more consistently than Five Guys, even hobbled as they are by the All-Powerful FDA.  Most impressive, the fries are burningly fresh.  If I’m going to subject my body to fried food, it better be well-prepared fried food.  That’s why I save up my fat-intake points for a Five Guys visit.  The potatoes are labeled with the grower’s name – Five Guys makes a big deal out of that, the kitchen is wide-open, and the manager is constantly circulating, cleaning, adjusting the work flow.

After visiting a few franchisees across the country, I’ve yet to find one with lower standards than perfect, a great testament to Jerry Murrell’s philosophy. Keep It Simple, Simon.

If we could get the FDA out of our business, I’d like my burger medium-rare.  Condiments?  Salt and pepper only, please.five-guys-potatoes-thedailymeal

Most health reviews place this restaurant chain’s food as among the most unhealthy on the planet, which means even the experts acknowledge it must be good!  Everything in moderation.  I’ve moderated to a small fries with my burger . . . 

Rule of thumb? For each visit to Five Guys, I visit Agno or Pure Fare thirty times.

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Triscuit • Wheat Thins

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field-of-wheatEven before I could count past eleven, I knew there was a difference between “adult snacks” and the stuff pawned upon non-voting kittle.  Within the latter group I waited.  Better nibbles would have to wait until I could see over the kitchen counter.

wheat-thins-triscuitEventually counters lowered.  I saw what I was missing, and began to appreciate.  As the Art of Cooking took hold upon my imagination, I marveled at the Triscuit ingredients:  “Wheat, water, salt”.  That’s it.  Amazing.  Simply amazing. 

When calories consumed surpass necessary, appreciation of a good snack increases.  If you’re gonna snack, go for the good stuff.  Triscuits and hummus.  Maybe some Cracker Barrel Asagio, olives, a few pepperochini with your Wheat Thins?  Don’t forget the pickles!  WHEN is our Vlasic article coming out!?!  Product testing calls ~

Editor’s note:  From the very start  AmericanToolbox has endeavored to present entertaining, positive, and non-political articles on American products, people, and companies.  With sadness we learn Mondelēz,  parent company of  Nabisco,  is laying off half their Chicago workforce.  Associated production will be performed at an upgraded plant in Mexico.

I stopped purchasing York Peppermint Patties when production moved from Reading PA to Mexico.  The days of buying four or five packages of Oreos to take to the kid’s birthday parties may likewise be coming to a close.

Support American Nabisco workers in the following ways:

1) Check the Label: There are two ways to know if your Nabisco snacks are made in the U.S. or Mexico:

  • Check for the words “Made in Mexico” under the ingredient list
  • Check the plant identification code, which is part of the expiration date code: do not buy if the initials “MM” or “MS” are listed.  The initials AE, AH, AP, AX, AZ and XL all indicate American-made products.

Trader Joe’s Coffee Filters

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trader joe coffee filters

BLINDED BY SUMMER SUNRISE, I move with half-closed eyes, by feel, to the Technivorm.  With luck the night before I’ve set up the coffee maker with filter, grounds, and water.  Joe’s Dark Roast is my usual.

Trader Joe’s is a relatively new event in my life. We go back a decade or so.  I’ve noticed some products are fair rather than good.  Packaging can be insubstantial.

Trader Joe’s is where I get fresh dairy. Coffee. Hummus.  Bread.  Maybe salmon jerky.  Staples, like baked beans, Saltine Crackers, ammonia, coffee filters, these are usually purchased from the regular grocers.  But one day I threw TJ filters into the basket.  For two bucks, I’d give them a try.

Several years later, I’m still a believer.  Price, quality, and consistency.  After noticing a competitor’s filter coming apart when wet – certainly makes a mess when dumping out, I didn’t bother with any more market research.  When something works, why look for anything better?

trader joe coffee with filters