Well, that calm after the hyphen storm didn’t last long. Here’s Chow, Baby’s latest wild-eyed rant: In case you didn’t know it, Angus is just a breed of cow. Like Hereford, Jersey, Holstein, Elsie. Honestly, the only real difference is that Angus has a huge advertising budget. Thirty years ago, in a truly brilliant feat of marketing, the American Angus Association started advertising its very best cuts as “Certified Angus Beef,” a fuzzy label that encourages people to hear “Blah blah Angus blah blah best.” Top that with three decades of cross-promoting, licensing, fast-food partnerships, and more advertising, and by now every beef-eater in America thinks all Angus is holy cow.
But it’s not. Angus beef is graded into the same USDA Prime, Choice, Select, and dog-food categories as any other beef cattle. That top-of-the-line “Certified Angus Beef” – which, by the way, you will find at Chili’s but not at Del Frisco’s – usually grades at the upper end of Choice; it is indeed as flavorful and juicy as any other beef with this rating. But just-plain Angus is just another cow. The breed/brand name alone doesn’t mean squat.
Yeah, yeah: Marketing is evil, consumers are suckers, Chow, Baby is peeved at the both of youse. So what else is new? McDonald’s Third Pound Angus Burger, that’s what. Other fast-food chains have had their Ooh-Ooh Angus! burgers for a while, but McDonald’s holds a special place in Chow, Baby’s bitter marketing memories.
Example: The other day, Chow, Baby was hanging at retro-cool Rocket Saloon & Grill (1416 N. Main St.), mellowly chomping on highly seasoned and highly addictive onion rings ($4 big basket), when here comes its bacon blue-cheese burger ($6.75) – presented open-faced, with the meats and cheese on one bun half, the lettuce and tomato on the other. Suddenly the childhood/childish trauma came rushing back: The hot … stays hot! The cool … stays cool! That was the late-’80s’McDLT, whose heavily rotated commercials starred Jason Alexander (with hair!) working a crowd into a song-and-dance frenzy over crisp cool lettuce (it’s on YouTube; do check it out). The greatest innovation of all time? Nope, just great meat-marketing. Turned out that on the list of factors contributing to a fine burger, lettuce temperature isn’t very high up there. In the case of the Rocket burger, for example, the juicy, flavorful half-pound patty counts for a bit more. Is it Angus? Chow, Baby didn’t ask. Chow, Baby doesn’t care.
Then a few days later, at Chubby’s Burger Shack (7618 Camp Bowie West), Chow, Baby was reminded of the mid-1990s Arch Deluxe, on which McDonald’s frittered away a $100 million ad campaign (that was a lot in those days) to convince Chow, Baby that here was a “sophisticated” burger for “adult palates.” It had Dijon mustard! Which you needed a lot of, to drown out the dry, overcooked, flavorless meat. Yeah, well, Chubby’s has Zatarain’s mustard, which is even better, but you don’t need to add any flavor or moisture to the half-pound Chubby Burger ($5.25 with cheese), shmooshed flat to hang over the edges of the 5-inch bun. (It’s a Mrs. Baird’s bun, which is a brand name that actually means something.) It’s certainly an “adult” burger – but is it Angus? Chow, Baby didn’t ask. Chow, Baby doesn’t care. And Chow, Baby is certainly never buying into brand marketing ever again.
Huh. Actually, Ronald’s Swiss & Mushroom Third Pound Angus ($3.99) isn’t all that bad.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.