Another day, another cool sandwich contest. This time, TLC has paired with Panera Bread for a “create your own sandwich” event, with a bunch of cool prizes. First place is $10,000 cash, a $500 Panera gift card, free Panera bagels for a year, and your creation will be featured at Panera Bread locations nationwide. All entries will be judged (on a meticulous scoring system, with “taste appeal” and “creativity of sandwich” being the main factors) and twenty finalists will be submitted to the public for voting.

“DO NOT STEAL”

It’s a fun idea, and it’s worth trying if only to see how many cool ingredients Panera offers. Like the People’s Burger at Red Robin, I’ve thrown my hat into the ring with the Fusion Chicken Satay Focaccia. I tried to translate some of my favorite Thai food into a grilled sandwich, with a blend of Eastern and Western vegetables. Obviously, the very concept of a sandwich is somewhat rare in Pacific Asian cuisine (the Bahn Mi notwithstanding), but I feel like I did it justice.

I’d encourage everyone to enter, and be sure to post your recipes in the comments here. Voting starts Oct. 22, I’ll be sure to remind everyone. A lot. Too much, probably.

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Fast food chain Carl’s Jr. is trying out something a little different with their latest burger. For starters, it’s made out of ice cream and cookies. The Ice Cream Brrger is a chocolate ice cream and sugar cookie sandwich done up with icing to look like a hamburger. Avoiding actual hamburger-flavored ice cream was probably a good choice, because while I’d have been all for it, I doubt it would’ve sold well. Unfortunately, the Brrger is only being tested in Orange County, meaning I won’t be able to try it. Ice cream sandwiches have been a pretty big blind spot here on Sandwichtalk, something I hope to fix this summer. If any readers happen to try the Ice Cream Brrger, be sure to let me know in the comments.

With a pun this bad, you KNOW it’s good.

The newspaper I write for, The Kalamazoo Gazette, was part of an ongoing project last week by reporters throughout the state to find the best Coney dog in Michigan.  As a sandwich aficionado, I’m all for this.  A lot of people don’t realize that Coney Island hot dogs originated in Michigan, rather than New York.  Throwing chili, onions and mustard on a hot dog is one of the best things you can do with it (in my humble but correct opinion), and there are places throughout the state which do a great job.

A Polish and Chicago dog from Dogs with Style. I've tried (and enjoyed) their Coney as well, I'll probably be posting a review soon.

The full archive is available here.  I’ve also included a link to my thoughts on some of the non-Coney offerings at Dogs with Style, one of the Kalamazoo spots the team visited.

According to research firm Technomic, Wendy’s has dethroned Burger King as the world’s number two fast food chain.  While Wendy’s narrowly edged out BK in terms of annual sales, both were still far behind McDonald’s, with an enormous $34.2 billion in sales.

There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on, invoking everything from mascots to health food trends.  Some of it’s on point, and some of it (in my opinion) is way off.  To me, I think this is an indicator of Wendy’s hard work at managing their image as a higher quality, healthier alternative to McDonald’s.  They’re not going after Burger King or anyone else specifically, they’re just presenting themselves as a niche market, a drive-thru burger place with leaf lettuce and fresh(er) tomatoes.  McDonald’s is always going to be on top, because they’ve found the ideal point of convergence between price and quality, but Wendy’s can pick up the more discerning crowd, which lacks in volume but (hopefully) is loyal.

Winter is coming.

Remember, I’m not saying Wendy’s actually is a healthier, higher-quality alternative.  I don’t have any nutritional values in front of me, but it feels like if you’re health-conscious, any place with a drive-thru probably isn’t the best bet.  But through their advertising campaigns, Wendy’s has managed to project an air of quality, which seems to have caught on.  People know they can go there and pick up a salad instead of a burger in they so choose.  For their part, Burger King seems to be in a bit of a tailspin.  They’ve been trying a couple of different brand concepts and menu items, but nothing so far seems to have caught on.  They’ve relied on being a household name for too long, and now they’re going to have to work to stay in the game.

When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die.

The thing to keep in mind about this is that when chain restaurants compete, you win.  Prices drop, and franchises begin offering more creative, bold options in an effort to redefine their brand.  As long as Burger King puts in work and doesn’t thrash around, we should be in for some interesting sandwiches over the next year or so.

Sandwich Link: JAPADOG

January 30, 2012

I recently found this website, and I can’t stop thinking about it.  It belongs to a Canadian hot dog stand chain called JAPADOG, whose stated mission is “making the world happy and alive through hot dogs!”  The chain boasts five locations in Vancouver and a new one in New York City.  JAPADOG prepares their hot dogs “Japanese-style,” which means that they include a number of traditional Japanese vegetables, sauces, and even meats in their recipes.

No JAPADOG, No Life!!

The thing I love most about JAPADOG is their boundless enthusiasm for hot dogs.  The owners are truly living their dreams, as evidenced by the comparatively detailed history section on the website.  Although the English isn’t always perfect, the website is fun and ambitious.  It’s not often I come across someone whose passion for sandwiches rivals my own, and it’s a nice feeling.

I have no idea what kind of hot dogs these are, but they look AWESOME.

The hot dogs at JAPADOG also look delicious.  I’ve always wanted to eat hot dogs with regional themese, and the use of Japanese ingredients lends it a somewhat classier look.  (These are the kinds of recipes I expected from the famed Yesterdog of Grand Rapids, by the way.  I got pickles and mustard with a side of condescension instead.)  A couple offerings which look particularly tasty are the terimayo, which includes teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed, the yakisoba, which is an arabiki sausage topped with noodles, and the ebichiki, which is a shrimp sausage topped with chili sauce and dried shrimp.  They also offer traditional undressed hot dogs, for the less adventurous visitors.

All in all, JAPADOG looks great.  I don’t anticipate being in Vancouver or NYC any time soon, but next time I am it’s definitely on my list.  Anyone who’s in the area, be sure to check them out and let me know what you think in the comments.  And on a related note, can any Japanese readers confirm that this is anything like how hot dogs are prepared in Japan?  I honestly have no idea.

As part of a marketing push for the re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, French fast food chain Quick is offering a couple of Star Wars-themed burgers.  They have a Jedi burger with onions and a spicy-looking Darth Maul burger, but the sandwich which has attracted the most attention is the “Darth Vador Burger,” a hamburger which includes cheese, Thousand Island-style dressing and from the looks of it, some kind of hot peppers, all on a jet-black bun.

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

The bun is apparently just dyed, and not new flavors have been added to go along with the coloring.  Adding strange colors to fast food isn’t a new gimmick; I remember about twelve years ago Burger King ran a promotion about green ketchup and barbeque sauce.  But dying your bun a color normally associated with burnt food may not be the best decision, Star Wars be damned.  Since it’s exclusive to the French/Belgian chain, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to try this burger, which is a shame.  But if any French Sandwichtalk readers come across it and decide to give it a try, be sure to post your thoughts in the comments.  May the Force be with you.

Today’s post is a little different.  In addition to blogging about sandwiches, I also write for the Western Herald, Western Michigan University’s student newspaper.  I generally cover crime/public safety and breaking news over there.  As part of our restaurant guide, I wrote up a list of the best sandwiches in Kalamazoo in a number of categories, including wraps, vegetarian options, and subs.  For those of you in Kalamazoo, this will be your bible.  For those of you elsewhere, enjoy a glimpse into the local sandwich landscape.  A couple of them will be familiar to long time fans, but there’s plenty of new material.

Super Satisfying Sandwiches

And I suppose now is a good a time as any to plug my other projects, so I will!!  I also write for a local music publication called Kalamazoo Local Music, which provides a great guide to the local music and concert scene.  And if you like Sandwichtalk but wish I blogged about movies and TV shows and cartoons instead, fear not!!  I run another blog called Gentlemen, Behold!!  that covers different pop culture topics.  If you like Sandwichtalk, I’ll go out on a limb and say you’ll probably enjoy GB.

I’ve been a little bit busy with all these different projects, but I hope to keep updating both blogs regularly.  Check back frequently for the latest updates!!