October 06, 2004

Fine dining on a thin budget

Boston Post Road
Milford, CT 06460


In my many years of Restaurantouring I've come across many surprising and exotic dishes. But, rarely have I come across an establishment with a menu that seemed so familiar and, yet, surprised me by the uniqueness of the fare.

Such was the case with my sampling of the entres and side dishes at one McDonald's Restaurant.
It is located in Milford, CT, but word has it that there may be several other locations as well.

As I like to try several dishes over a few days or weeks to get an overall sense of the eatery, I returned several times over a two week period, ordering a different assortment of courses each time. Or, at least I tried to. But, more on that later.

I presume that the proprietor -- a Mr.Ronald McDonald -- is of either Irish or Scottish descent, and the menu reflects that heritage very well. Though my attempts to speak with Mr. McDonald were to no avail. When I asked employees if I could speak to Ronald McDonald I was consistently met with a blank stare followed by an exasperated "Sir, he's just a clown."
I came to presume that his employees wished to protect him from being bothered with questions from a restaurant critic because he may be an excentric personality. That would also go some way in explaining much of his food.

Let me begin with the breakfast menu.

There is a menu item that Mr. McDonald has dubbed the "Egg McMuffin." What this is is a fried egg, Canadian-style bacon and cheese served on an English muffin. It is essentially an Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce, and served as a sandwich rather than open-faced.

The egg is fried and the yolk unbroken, yet, cooked; not runny. The most interesting feature is that the egg is perfectly flat and round, as if cooked in a shallow round tin. I've never seen anything like it. It also seems to be seasoned with salt. (Not for nothing, but I like to add my own salt to my eggs.)
All in all, it's not a bad item. But there are better and more interesting concoctions to choose from.

The sandwich is served (if you wish to pay for an "extra-value meal") with a side of hash browns. These are like no hash browns I've ever encountered before.
The taste is familiar enough, but the oddest thing is that they are carefully shaped and set into a sturdy flat oval shaped patty. The breakfast chefs must spend a considerable amount of care while grilling the finely-diced potatoes in order to get them to hold their shape.

I'm not sure that such aesthetic creativity is worthy of a simple side of hash browns. But, I must admit it had me somewhat impressed.

Another breakfast item that I sampled is called "The Big Breakfast". The only thing is: it's not particularly big.
It consists of what seems to be approximately 1 1/2 scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, a bisquit and the ever-present side of hash browns.

The scrambled eggs were tasty enough after I sprinkled some black pepper over them. But, they had an almost stale quality to them. Not outright rubbery, but close enough that I began to wonder if they had been cooked much earlier and then simply reheated when I had placed the order.
But, that would just be silly, wouldn't it? Why in the world would anyone pre-cook something that takes only about a minute to prepare?

The sausage patty was pretty standard fare. It had a nice spicy zing to it that was improved by a sprinking of black pepper.
It, like the fried egg in the aforementioned "Egg McMuffin", was perfectly flat and round. Perhaps the chef is pounding the sausage material into a flat plank and using something akin to a circular cookie cutter to achieve such a consistency of size and shape.

On one occassion I attempted to pay my compliments to the chef on his remarkable ingenuity in implimenting such unusual means of producing a sausage patty, but was unable to get past the language barrier. He didn't speak English and I don't speak what I presume was Gaelic. He was a kind gentleman, though unusually dark-featured for an Irishman.

The bisquit, however, was not so impressive. My advice to Mr. McDonald is to hire a new pastry chef.

The bisquit was not at all light and fluffy. It was, rather, heavy and somewhat greasy. The grape jam that I added made it a bit more palatable. But, after having eaten about half of it, I set it aside.

The third, and last, breakfast meal that I sampled is a strange sandwich called a "Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddle".
The egg is of yet another uniquely McDonaldian variety. It is a scrambled egg that is folded over thrice into the shape of a perfect square. I tell ya, my fellow connoisuers, these chefs must be very well compensated to bear with the exacting standards that Mr. McDonald has laid down for his restaurant's culinary offerings.

I was also very impressed with the bacon. It wasn't too rare and neither was it overdone. The grill chef has a mighty fine feel for his craft. My compliments again.

But, the most astounding pieces of this parquetresque puzzle were the handles of the sandwich. They are akin neither to an English muffin, a bisquit or a bagel; they are more like two pancakes. The most original aspect of the taste is that they seem to have maple syrup cooked within the pancake batter!
A more unique combination of tastes I have never endured than I did with each bite of this masterpiece.

Another strange feature of the pancakes was that they each had a stylized "M" seemingly branded into them. Yet another indication that Mr. McDonald spares no expense nor effort to make sure that his selection is unlike any other dishes that could be found in any other fine restaurant.

I've also sampled several items from the lunch and dinner menu. Yes, singular; menu. They are identical, and I have no words of recommendation for any of the dining options.

But, that's for another column.

So, 'til next time,
Bon apetit!

Posted by Tuning Spork at October 6, 2004 09:32 PM

McGriddle? Really? I never even heard of one of these before and you actually ate one? Are there any limits to what you will do in the interests of science?

Posted by: RP at October 7, 2004 03:52 PM

You make me wanna call the cops on that "Mr. Wendy" guy.

Posted by: Ted at October 7, 2004 08:18 PM

RP; Yep, the McGriddle sandwiches aren't half bad. Y'oughta try one!

McDonald's does breakfast pretty well. But, after 10:30am, they're "food" is disgustingly queasingly horrible.

But try the Sausage, egg & cheese McGriddle sometime. It's a surprisingly filling stand-in for breakfast!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at October 7, 2004 11:37 PM
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