Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mystery Meat

Place: Taco Bell
Lunch: Grilled steak taco (no tomato), combo burrito, nachos supreme, root beer

I was inspired to eat here by the recent news stories about somebody filing a lawsuit against Taco Bell claiming that their taco meat...isn't.  (Who else would hear such a story and think "Gee, I haven't had a Nachos Supreme in awhile".)

The lawsuit alleges that Taco Bell's "Taco Meat Filling" (as the label on the pre-cooked plastic bags shipped to restaurants reads) is 36 percent beef and otherwise fillers or extenders which, if true, makes it not only not technically "beef", but not even "taco meat filling" (which the suit claims the USDA's Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book says must contain at least 40 percent fresh meat).

Taco Bell has issued a statement..."At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods.  We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef.  Then we simmer it in our proprietary blend of seasonings and spices to give our seasoned beef its signature Taco Bell taste and texture.  We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website.  Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later — and got their "facts" absolutely wrong.  We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food."

That hasn't stopped the food Nazi's who believe anything that doesn't grow out of the ground organically shouldn't be eaten from jumping all over this and coming up with ways to make this sound as gross as possible.  They see an opportunity to get face time, and they're taking it.  It DID, however, get several sites to modify the tone of their stories a bit (even if Taco Bell didn't actually specifically name a higher percentage number of the beef content in their response).

(EDIT...They have since I wrote this.  "Our seasoned beef recipe contains 88% quality USDA-inspected beef and 12% seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture."  They also said "Our seasoned beef contains no "extenders" to add volume, as some might use.")

Extenders in fast food taco meat are not uncommon.  I'm relatively sure two of my favorites practice this (actually, I know for a fact one does, and am pretty sure on the other based on texture).  There's lots of stuff you can use to make the meat go further.  And it's not always done in the name of saving money on beef.  There's several health-conscious websites offering up recipes with extenders such as beans and tofu to make things healthier while still offering a real beef taste. could technically say I use an extender in my beef enchiladas because I add refried beans to my enchilada meat mixture.  Then again, I also call them 'beef and bean enchiladas'.

Really...How much 'healthier' could it be whether or not it's a high percentage of beef?  This is Taco Bell.  It's still going to be covered in liquid cheese and processed sauces. 

Give me specific proof of ingredients that increase potential harm over their regular processed beef in that meat filling, and maybe I'll reconsider.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Viva La Beans

Place: Viva La Bamba
Lunch: Lunch buffet, Coke

Viva La Bamba is the new Mexican joint in the old Urbandale Happy Joe's space that Happy Joe's occupied probably two years longer than they had any right to.  (Happy Joe's actually moved into a smaller location over on Douglas Ave, which may as well be renamed the 'Urbandale Pizza Mile'.  Does Happy Joe's really do any business?)

Viva La Bamba is a family-owned restaurant, but this is their second location.  Their first location is in an old KFC building.  When they initially started that one back in 2004, the building 'remodel' was so haphazard that they just painted over the Colonel in the tower on top of the building, and the Colonel's silhouette was still visible.  They've come a long way... the new place has been extensively remodeled with a lot of wood and stone.  It's easily the nicest decor of any of the local Mexican joints. 

One of the things they did was use Happy Joe's old buffet bar to do a small lunch buffet of their own. There's a big pan of beans, taco meat, usually some fajita meat, some enchiladas, and deep-fried tacos (where they fold meat into a shell and deep-fry it).  Plus the usual garnishments...lettuce, cheese, some salad dressings, taco and tortilla shells. 

The ultimate attraction for me is the beans.  I love their beans.  Wet soupy beans.  And I can have as much of them as I want.  Bowls of beans.  Beans with cheese.  Beans with taco meat and cheese.  Beans beans beans.  All the freaking beans.


They've caught on quickly.  They're doing a good business.

So much for the mild weather.  It snowed early in the week and we've been in the 0-20 degree range ever since.

But that's January for you.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Place: Qdoba
Lunch: Chicken Mexican gumbo (with fiery habanero salsa), Coke (because the Dr. Pepper fountain was spewing nothing but soda water)

Usually when I come in here, the entire crew is sitting in the dining room eating together and they look really put out to have to deal with an actual customer.  Today, they actually left somebody working, and he actually appeared to be happy to have a customer.  This never ever happens here.  Ever.

I'm working through a pretty good head cold this week that kept me at home yesterday.  Had some Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup with a little cayenne pepper added in (spicy soups really help clear my least for an hour or two), then slept the entire afternoon away.  Pretty deep sleep, I think, because I dreamed.  I don't dream much anymore that I remember.  I dreamed about Christmas shopping in a rather odd mall.  The other shoppers may have been zombies.  But like the living in the real world, they totally ignored me.

Still, I questioned the wisdom of coming in today.  Still pretty groggy, though the fever and sweats are gone.  But I did get a lot done this morning.

Part of what brought this on may have been overexertion last week.  Between hauling all that Dublin Dr Pepper and my new DVD shelf units upstairs (not to mention assembling said shelf units), I got a workout.  That tends to result in whatever virus may be lurking within me to go full...viral?  Sure, why not.

Totally worth it, though.  If you must buy self-assemble furniture, buy IKEA.  Their crap is SO much easier to put together (and ultimately SO much nicer) than any of the other self-assemble crap at the usual big box stores.  And they had the only units anywhere close to the size and dimension I was looking for.  Plus they let you customize your shelving to your specific needs by selling extra shelves for the units.

Pretty mild January thus far.  Mostly temps in the mid-20's.  Not nearly the snow we've received the past couple of years.  Today's the first cloudy day of the week, I think.

Still not bad.

After the past couple of snow-heavy years, we were due for the break.