Saturday, August 19, 2017

Escalation

You just knew it was going to happen in the middle of the summer when everyone let their guard down and had hoped to catch a breather. In retrospect, however, it's not surprising that it finally came to pass. After years of incremental advances, the escalation finally came, and an international line was crossed. Of course, by any objective measure, it makes no sense. One would have hoped that cooler heads would have looked at the consequences, prevailed upon those in positions of power, and convinced them of the wisdom of backing down. But that's not the case, and now we have to live with the consequences.

North Korea? Oh, yeah, I hear there's some brinkmanship going on there as well, something about a nuclear device. No, the line I'm referring to is at the International House of Pancakes, known far and wide as IHOP, and their announcement on July 31 that they were introducing French Toasted Donuts.

I mean, we've been blindsided before by over the top creations. But we're not talking about your one-off Texas State Fair concoctions like the fried cheesecake-stuffed apple sundae, or the funnel cake bacon queso burger or Oreo beer. Rather, every now and again one of the big chains introduces something nationwide that sounds for a brief second like it might be worth trying. But then common sense kicks in, and we wonder "what where they thinking?"

Take Taco Bell's croissant tacos. I like croissants. I like tacos. So together they are – what? Light and flavorful? Not so much. Think for just a minute of the combination. Flaky crust. Heavy beans, beef and sauce. What could possibly go wrong? In describing it, "messy" is probably the best adjective, though "unwieldy" and "disgusting" also come to mind.

Or how about Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza, which wraps a peperoni pie with Pigs in Blankets. Again, separately, a pair of winners. But together? And in that category also goes Carl's Jr's Most American Thickburger. A cheeseburger. Fine. Topped with a hot dog. Uh oh. And because that's not enough, it's garnished with - wait for it - potato chips. As one reviewer said, too often "Most American" and "revolting" are synonymous, and this is no exception.  

So in a land where sometimes the sum of the parts is not only greater than the whole but makes a mockery of the components themselves, should we be surprised that Frankenfoods have come to the breakfast table? It just proves that in a world where we have lost the ability to shock there are still bridges to cross. Or in corporate speak from Alisa Gmelich, VP of Marketing at IHOP, "We really felt like we had the opportunity to be bolder in our product innovation and really push forward in the breakfast leadership space." Like I said.

Ergo, the French Toasted Donut. And per the press release, there are not one, not two, but three variations. First, "A cream-filled eclair is dunked in vanilla French toast batter, then griddled, then showered in macerated strawberries, strawberry glaze, and powdered sugar." But, as the commercials say, wait, there's more: "Vanilla French toast batter gives a warm apple fritter its top coat before sizzling on the griddle. When it's done cooking, it gets loaded with cinnamon-sugar apples, powdered sugar, and whipped cream." And because, well, at this point, why not? Because what could be better than all that than that with bacon? "A Bavarian cream-filled eclair-style yeast donut gets dipped in IHOP's vanilla French toast batter before getting griddled. Once golden and crisp, it gets topped with chopped hickory-smoked bacon and a maple glaze."  Just reading them makes my insulin production ratchet up to DefCon 4 levels.

What's curious is that in the world I inhabit the talk is of of whole grains, of more fish and less red meat, of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits. Yet, IHOP says it got its inspiration for the new products by feedback the brand received on social media channels and from monitoring food trends. Said Gmelich, "We pay very close attention, especially in the breakfast space, to what is really going to resonate with our guests and what is going to motivate them to come in more often." Meaning for every recipe out there for Quinoa Beet salad in "Healthy Living Weekly," there's one for Deep Fried Cherry Taco Pancake in "High Cholesterol Monthly."

Alternate facts, indeed.

-END-

Marc Wollin of Bedford does like a good fried onion ring. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.