Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Unhealthy and healthy (food)

Out of Danny Meyer's restaurant empire, I think the only ones I hadn't been to yet were Blue Smoke and Union Square Cafe. Since I had a rough day at work, I decided to do some bingeing and stopped into USC for their burger. The burger is a nice big round patty that came out really juicy and buttery, although medium despite requested medium rare. It came with two big slabs of bacon which were terrific, and melted cheddar cheese which was flavorful but not overwhelming. The bun was nice although the bun bottom got squished as is usually the case with most half pound+ burgers. There were only a couple slices of cucumber and red onion, with no lettuce or tomato accompanying the burger. I wish the burger had a more beefy flavor, but overall it was quite good and very satisfying. While the fries looked great, I opted for the garlic potato chips instead. They weren't as garlicky as I would have liked, but very crisp and a nice middle ground between too airy and too dense. However, probably because I don't snack regularly, my jaw got sore from all the chewing of the chips.

So after the burger I was walking up to midtown to go home when I noticed a Pump Energy Food on Madison Ave. This is an interesting franchise. Right now there are 5 locations (all in Manhattan) and while they all follow the core healthy food concept, the menus at different locations vary drastically. The one on Madison reminded me of a Chipotle. Customers can choose from a wrap, a bowl (with brown rice), or a salad. To their selection they add a protein, a vegetable, and condiments. Considering the burger binge, I decided to get a whole wheat wrap with brown rice, ground bison, spinach, cucumbers, and diced tomatoes for dinner. The prices are also similar to Chipotle, although it looks like they give you less food (proper portion perhaps?). It was good but not great, but overall a good option for something healthy that keeps well on the way home.

I never understood brown rice. I don't understand why it's ridiculously more expensive when it tastes so much worse than white rice. If you go into many restaurants in China or Japan and tried to order brown rice, they'd probably get pretty pissed and consider you dishonoring the restaurant for asking for an inferior product. I also cannot stand brown rice sushi. Sushi rice is supposed to have flavor but the brown rice is often still mealy-tasting and the texture is horrible for sushi.

I also don't think that brown rice is as healthy as its promoters tend to say it is. I find that health claims in America are almost always relative. For example, there are claims that soy protein does wondrous things and lowers cholesterol. That's not exactly true. I'm sure it lowers cholesterol when you're using it to replace bacon, but otherwise, I've also read plenty of things that advise against regularly eating soy protein. While brown rice contains more fiber than polished white rice, there's still a lot of carbs there in each serving, and I wouldn't consider that particularly healthy for most people.

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