If there were a Halloween zodiac, 2013 would be the Year of the Candy Corn. It seems there are more riffs on those sugary little faux-corns than ever, from limited-edition candy corn Oreos to a Starburst fruit-flavored variety. Here’s what to expect on your last-minute Halloween candy run.
Fried chicken is enjoying a golden age in Washington. Two new chicken and doughnut joints—GBD and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken—opened in the past three weeks, and more restaurants than ever are offering fried chicken specials. Not that crispy birds are a new trend; old favorites such as the Hitching Post and Levi’s Port Cafe are still going strong. So who fries up the tastiest morsels of meat? We tested 14 varieties to find out.
As mentioned, fried chicken is popping up everywhere. In an attempt to show our arteries some mercy, we established a few ground rules for qualification. First, we only sampled chicken dinners—no tenders, poppers, sandwiches, rip’ns, etc. Every bird under consideration had to be available for carryout to the general public on a regular basis. Finally, we deployed anonymous fried chicken fetchers (ahem, interns) to ensure a fair trial and to guarantee that the chicken arrived promptly and, more important, warm and relatively crispy.
The crunch-factor wasn’t the only deciding point—we know a little something gets lost en route from fryer to office. The ideal birds had both flavorful meat and a well-seasoned skin, and delivered a satisfying grease fix without getting too greasy.
When the “greatest food on wheels” rolled onto Washington streets this past February, we expected another vendor slinging popcorn and funnel cakes. It’s a surprise, then, to pass by the purple, circus-themed Cirque Cuisine truck and see a menu boasting quiche filled with local corn, squash, and ricotta, or crab-topped watermelon gazpacho. What kind of act is this?
It turns out co-owners Sean Swartz and Jessica Shields are both former clowns who toured in South America—he with the second-largest circus in Mexico, she with a small troupe in Peru. The two connected over dinner at the pop-up Sensorium and shared visions of starting what Swartz calls “the social circus,” an organization to involve kids with exercise through tumbling, trapeze (Swartz is currently an instructor), and other cardiovascular tricks. The plan is still in the works, but they’re taking a similar healthful approach to their truck in the meantime: a menu of dishes with mostly organic or local ingredients from farmers markets and the Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-op, with vegetarian and gluten-free options—plus the occasional bout of unicycling.
Call me Ishmael, and the Quizno’s lobster and seafood salad sub the white whale.
Last summer I undertook a taste test of chain lobster rolls, seeking out the best of the worst. We caught rumors of a Quizno’s lobster special, but it had seemingly vanished by the time we’d lined up others from Subway, Au Bon Pain, Marvelous Market, and Panera. Then, around Lent, it resurfaced, but remained hard to find. Not every Quizno’s carries the sandwich, some that do don’t advertise it, and it’s absent from Quizno’s main menu except in the nutritional information. The sub is as mysterious as the sea meat inside.
Determined, I stopped into a local Quizno’s. Currently there’s no sign of it on the location’s menu of “chef-inspired” items like grilled flatbreads, pesto chicken, sliders, and other foods chefs might make if they worked at Quizno’s. But when I asked the man behind the counter if the store carried lobster rolls, his answer surprised me. He offered to make up a fresh batch of lobster salad on the spot.
Promising signs included a toasted (artisanal!) bun spread with butter, and the whole fresh-made thing. Less promising: how quickly the accommodating Quizno’s employee emerged from the back with a bucket, and started scooping the pink stuff onto the bun. Old promo material shows the sandwich simply dressed with lettuce, but we jazzed it up with some tomato and banana peppers—not a purist approach, but this is a place that spells crave with a “q.” The result? Not that bad, actually. The dominant flavor is industrial-strength mayonnaise, which could be worse considering the unknown origin of the “and seafood” portion of the meal (best guess: shredded fake crab, which is a mix of real crab and pollock). The little knuckle-like nuggets of lobster were tasteless, but speaking purely from a visual point of view, they simulate lobster pretty effectively. And as one relieved cubicle-mate astutely noted:
“At least it doesn’t smell bad.”