Sunday, August 12, 2018

ScreenX

Place: Slim Chickens
Lunch: Buffalo wings (w/ranch dipping sauce), potato salad, toast, lemonade

Slim Chickens is by far my favorite of the chicken finger chains (places like Raising Cane's and Zaxby's).  It has nothing to do with the fact they have the coolest name in all of fast food, nor that they have the creepiest logo...

Eat me, bitches
It also has nothing to do with the chicken fingers, which between the finger chains are nearly indistinguishable.  Even Slim Chickens' "Slim Sauce" is a copycat of Cane's signature sauce.

The reason I love Slim's is their wings.  There's 11 sauce options to have them cooked in and they're all great (my favorite is Korean BBQ) and 17 dipping sauce options to go with them.  You can even have your tenders tossed in the wing sauces for more flavor, though they’ll be wet.  I’m not a big tenders fan, but I’ll do the sauced tenders here anytime.  At least when I'm not in the mood for wings.  (HINT: I am never not in the mood for wings.)

The second reason is their abundance of sides, including a macaroni and cheese that's actually edible and a potato salad that tastes of dill and bacon.  It is one of my all-time favorite potato salads.

Then there's the dessert jars.  Real glass Mason jars full of yummy.  The year-round one has a mix of brownie, pudding, whipped cream, and Heath bar pieces.  It's just incredible.  The seasonal Strawberry Cheesecake one is also amazing.  Plus you get to keep the jar.

And don’t pass up the lemonade.  Not too tart or too sweet.  Pretty smooth lemonade.

They have a chicken sandwich on the menu too, but it's not your mom's beloved Chick-Fil-A.  It has a cayenne seasoning and is dressed with cayenne ranch sauce, plus pickles, lettuce, and onion strings.  It's nasty in the best possible way.

There's also wraps and optional grilled strips.  Plan on about a half dozen lunches there to really wrap your brain around the whole thing.  And even then you won't have gotten through all the options, but you'll be hooked so it won't matter.

The Slim's I'm having lunch at is in a new shopping development I now stay at a lot, right next door to my hotel.  Also within walking distance is a shiny new multiplex with a large format auditorium called "ScreenX".  And last night, I watched my first ScreenX feature, The Meg.

A ScreenX auditorium looks pretty normal when you walk in and get seated in your luxury leather recliner with butt warmer.  It looks pretty normal when the movie starts.  The technology isn't used throughout the feature...it's scene-specific.  But when it kicks on the first time, there's a 'wow' factor.

What happens is suddenly the image widens down the auditorium side walls.  The ENTIRE SIDE WALLS all the way to the back of the auditorium.  The trick is achieved using a network of projectors corner mounted at the top of the wall.  They're not stretching, it's expanded footage.  It was used a lot for the underwater action scenes in The Meg.  Trippy, man.  I tend to sit close to the screen...third or fourth row...but in this situation, sitting further back might be more rewarding.

I think it's kind of gimmicky, and it's far from perfect.  There are  black lines down the corners of the front of the room.  The surround speakers poke out of the image like aircraft windows.  And the side wall image quality isn't always up to snuff with the main front image.  Plus those side images aren't meant to be seen by the human eye jutting around a corner.

So...interesting, but not really revolutionary.  Maybe one day we'll have globe-shaped auditoriums where the image can be all the way around and above us, so you really feel like you're looking around at a universe.

There are few ScreenX auditoriums in the US currently and few movies that support the technology.  But if the opportunity arises, check it out.  You're not going to want to pay the premium ticket price for every movie this way, but for the occasional big dumb blockbuster, maybe give it a whirl.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Mac 50

Place: McDonald's
Lunch: Big Mac, fries, Hawaiian Punch

Shiny.

There's a 50th birthday celebration happening starting today.  No, not mine.  That was a couple of years ago.  Thanks for not showing up to the party nobody threw.  McDonald's is celebrating 50 years of the Big Mac.  Starting today, they're giving out Mac Coins with Big Macs that are redeemable for a future Big Mac.  Or you could just collect them, like I'm going to do.  They'll be available through the end of the year and have different designs.

The Big Mac was created by Pittsburgh-area McDonald's franchisee Jim Delligatti (today would have been his 100th birthday and he almost made it, living to 98) and was on the menu of every McDonald's by 1968.  It originally sold for 45 cents.  Locations in my area get $4.29 for it today, which just seems insane for what it is.

As the jingle used to remind us, the double decker features "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame bun."  It was far from the first double decker (a brief history here), but it's still their best seller.  USA Today claims McDonald's sold 1.3 billion of them last year.

I still eat quite a few Big Macs, probably 30-40 a year.  It really is a unique taste.  A balance of flavors that just works.  Don't hold the lettuce.  Don't pay for extra sauce.  Just order it as is.  It's as successful as it is because they got it right the first time.  It has aged very well.

Still, there have been limited time variations offered over the years.  The Mega Mac came in two styles...one with four of the standard patties, and one with Quarter Pounder patties.  There was the original Mac Jr, which was just the regular hamburger dressed like a Big Mac that occasionally showed up on the old dollar menu.  More recently we've seen the bigger in every dimension Grand Mac and the new Mac Jr, which was based on the larger Grand Mac patty and bun.

Imagine not having access to Big Macs.  I spent my ten teenage years on a remote island hundreds of miles from the nearest McDonald's.  When I would be on vacation trips back home or on school band trips to a McDonald's market, that's all I'd eat whenever I could manage.  The group would go to one place, and I'd walk to the nearest McDonald's.  One year in high school, one of the basketball players while traveling to a city that had one (our team had to fly to games), bought a duffel bag and filled it with as many Big Macs as would fit.  Back in school the next day, he sold every one of them for $10 each.  Day old Big Macs that at the time retailed for well under $2 out of a duffel bag.

So happy birthday to Jim and to the sandwich you created.  You probably didn't set out to create  a true American icon, but that's exactly what you did.