Thursday, March 31, 2011

Archer Farms Potato Chips

If it’s a food, they’ll make it a chip.

As previously mentioned, Shaw, McHugh and I played cards at Dave’s house the other night. While Dave was supplying some growlers of beers from 75th Street Brewery, he suggested we bring some more beers and snacks. You’ll be unsurprised that nobody took us up on our offer to share in our 30-pack of Natural Light.

We brought over a few bags of intriguingly flavored Archer Farms chips from Target, too. Choosing which varieties was actually kind of overwhelming -- we settled on Buffalo Wing, General Tso and Greek-Inspired, but they’ve also got Macaroni & Cheese, Honey Barbecue Ribs, Parmesan Garlic, Maui Onion, Loaded Baked Potato, Fire-Roasted Fajita and more.

And then there’s Roasted Vegetable & Olive Oil, which we didn’t even consider for a second. I would like to posit that if you’re truly craving the taste of vegetables, maybe instead of opening a bag of chips you should think about making yourself a salad. 

The game started with 11 players. Shaw got knocked out early, after demonstrating a level of skill slightly above that as seen on Hip Hop Hold’Em -- which is to say, not much skill at all. When half the players were gone we consolidated from two tables to one and took a snack break. Here’s what we thought of the chips.

Greek-Inspired: The bag says they’re seasoned with feta cheese and kalamata olives, and that feta flavor made these far and away the crowd favorite. I think I detected a little bit of pepperoncini zing in there, as well. These were excellent.

General Tso: The back of the bag reads, “This sweet and spicy chicken dish was first served in a Chinese restaurant in 1977. Archer Farms brings you the flavors of this famous dish in a chip.” The first sentence may be true, but the second is an absolute lie. These taste like barbecue chips with a major helping of ginger and way too much salt. They also taste kind of like burnt. These were not good.

Buffalo Wing: Neither terrible nor memorable. It is time for me to accept that no wing-flavored snack will ever be a worthwhile substitute for actual wings. Chicken is necessary, although Buffalo Chicken in a Biskit or Buffalo Pork Rinds could potentially work.

Just a couple of hands after the game started up again, I got knocked out myself. The taste of bitter defeat -- it’s not an Archer Farms flavor yet, but I’d wager it probably tastes a lot like the General Tso chips.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Taco Factory

Proceed With Caution: You Are Entering a Hard Shell Area.

First things first, if you’re expecting Taco Factory to be a place like where you step up to the counter to order and then a foreman pulls a giant lever and the gears start grinding on some kind of automaton -- a tacomaton, if you will -- which then cranks out your food, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I know this, because despite the illustration on the wall, I could totally see into the kitchen where a couple of guys were clearly making my tacos by hand. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Since Kansas City Lunch Spots already posted a fairly comprehensive review of Taco Factory, I wasn’t actually planning on writing about it when I stopped in with Shaw and McHugh. Especially since The DLC called it “a middle of the road, cheapish whitey taco place that caters to boring people and drunks.” Still, we needed something relatively quick, and Taco Factory was on our way to play some cards at Dave’s house.

I ordered three soft baja tacos -- shredded beef, shredded pork and tempura fish (all tacos are $1.99 each). Once you place your order, you take a seat and wait for your number to appear on a monitor. It kind of feels like playing Keno, or at least it does to me, keeping in mind I’ve got a strange inability to comprehend how Keno works no matter how many times people have tried to explain it.

My number came up, and I got my tacos from the kitchen window. While the tacos here are no means authentic, I’m glad to report that I thought they were pretty delicious. The beef and pork were both well seasoned and juicy, and the batter on the fish was just light enough to give the taco a satisfying internal crunch without being too heavy.

Standard toppings include lettuce, tomatoes, Monterey Jack, cilantro, red cabbage, feta and aioli sauce. It was the feta and aioli sauce that really did it for me. Alas, the hot salsa my tacos were served with had zero heat, although the aioli sauce was so good it rendered the salsa a moot point anyway.

Tacos are available either soft or crispy, and the other filling options are ground beef, chicken, ground turkey and grilled veggie. You can also get a taco plate with two tacos plus rice and beans ($5.99), but I didn’t do that, because I will go with a third taco over rice and beans any day of the week.

We split an order of chips and salsa ($2.29), as well. Again, the salsa didn’t register, but the chips were good -- not too thick and not too thin. Shaw got his tacos crispy, and said he would’ve preferred a thinner shell that was more like the chips.

Outside of tacos, Taco Factory’s menu has burritos, quesadillas, salads and more with the same filling options. Bucking convention, McHugh got a burrito ($5.49-$5.99, depending on filling). I was impressed with the robotic precision of the queso application. Maybe instead of being an automated taco factory, this place is run by taco-making cyborgs.

Another difference between Taco Factory and actual factories is that it’s super bright in here -- and if I’ve learned anything from industrial films and various propaganda, it’s that factories are soul-crushingly dank. Taco Factory is so open and well lit, it’s almost like you’re on the set of The Max.

All in all, Taco Factory is a good bet for a quick bite. And for dessert they’ve got Choco Tacos ($2.79), which I’ve always thought are awesome. I’m glad I resisted the temptation to get one tonight, however, because we stopped at QuikTrip later and I saw they’ve got Choco Tacos for $1 less. But perhaps I shouldn’t mention that -- I don’t want the Waldo Taco Cyborg Labor Union coming after me.
7439 Broadway | Waldo, MO 64114Taco Factory on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 21, 2011

RA Sushi

Home of the very tasty, very awkwardly punctuated "RA"ckin' shrimp.

Travel back with me to late January 2011. The weather was cold, the year was new and Charlie Sheen was only annoying if you happened to be watching “Two and a Half Men.” Lunch Blog received an invitation to a special lunch preview of RA Sushi’s new menu, and while Robert couldn't make it, my fiancée Angela and I got to check it out.

Located at Park Place in Leawood, just north of Town Center Plaza, RA Sushi is very spacious and has a great modern feel. Also, I’ve been watching way too much HGTV.

We started off with Chicken Otoko Salad ($10), which features peppers, asparagus and fried noodle crunchies with strips of chicken cooked in a spicy yuzu dressing. I liked it, although getting the fried noodles from the plate to my mouth proved to be something of a challenge.

The other starter was the deceivingly fiery-looking Shishito Peppers ($7). They’re actually very mild -- after about three, you can feel a little heat starting to build, but the sauce is delicious and more than compensates.

Next up was an assortment of four new sushi rolls, each with an adventurous combination of flavors. Everything tasted fresh and looked sharp on the plate. The lineup was as follows:
Vegetable Tempura Roll ($7.50): Everything is better when it's fried, and this mix of asparagus, sweet potato and Japanese eggplant is no exception. It has a slight crunch from the tempura topping, and is drizzled with a sweet eel sauce. Besides, it has to be relatively healthy, right? It’s veggies!
Pacific Roll ($9.50): This one has a bit of spiciness within its mix of albacore, cilantro, jalapeno and cucumber. Topped with an avocado and mango salsa, red beet tempura bits and sautéed cashews, there’s a lot going on with this one but it works.
Tropical Roll ($8.50): This roll has cucumber, mango and avocado inside, and is topped with spinach tempura, masago and mango salsa and a spicy-style shrimp. Not as flashy as the other rolls, but tasty nevertheless.
“RA”ckin’ Roll ($13): This one was the Cadillac -- it's a crab and cream cheese mix that's battered and fried, topped with guacamole and crispy “RA”ckin’ shrimp, then garnished with a creamy ginger teriyaki sauce and red beet tempura bits. The “RA”ckin’ Roll was the big winner of the bunch.

For the main entrée, we were served the new Lobster with Garlic Sugar Snap Peas ($17.50). The lobster is sautéed with garlic and shiitake mushrooms, and the peas are a nice complement. I appreciated that they didn't go too crazy with the garlic -- just right.

Finally, for dessert we got to try some traditional Japanese ice cream via the Sweet Mochi Trio ($7.50). An assortment of mango, strawberry and vanilla ice creams in sweet rice cake shells, the kiwi and strawberry garnish along with whipped cream and chocolate makes it look cute on the plate. Like the noodles earlier, eating it was a bit challenging -- the rice cake was tricky to cut without smashing the rapidly melting ice cream into the plate. Well worth the effort, though, because it was a delight.

While we had the option to sample some of RA's new cocktails, due to the fact that we both had to go to back to work, we took a pass. If I hadn't, though, I would have definitely tried the Ginger Blossom ($8), a combination of Hendrick's Gin, St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur -- thanks Google!), ginger ale, muddled strawberries, and pink grapefruit and lime juices. And yes, I would have drank it like a pretty, pretty lady.

Thanks again to RA Sushi for the invitation.
11638 Ash Street | Leawood, KS 66211 RA Sushi on Urbanspoon