Zephyrhills: The Bottled Water Debate

Last week I was involved in a friendly debate about bottled water, as to which brand has the best taste. I’m rather neutral on this issue. I think that all bottled water is basically the same. I can’t tell the difference among any of them. I don’t stockpile bottled water, but when I do occasionally buy some, I buy the cheapest brand on the shelf.

If I had to pick a single brand as the best, I’d choose Fiji. Why? Because it costs more. It must be better, right? It also helps that the bottle is uniquely square. The water has a way of shimmering down the side of the plastic, which makes it look more appealing. Of course, I’m sure that these are all calculated efforts to trick the mind into thinking that their product is better than the competition. I still believe that all bottled water is pretty much the same.

I have two coworkers who are originally from Florida. They both swear that the best bottled water on the planet is Zephyrhills. Supposedly, it is gathered from natural springs in the state of Florida. These two people insist with all of their might that no other water comes anywhere close to tasting as good as Zephyrhills. Personally, I can’t tell any difference at all. Zephyrhills tastes no better and no worse than any other water.

After listening to them go on and on about it, I felt inclined to tell them that there are only two kinds of water: salted and unsalted.

Zephyrhills isn’t sold where I live. One of these two coworkers is so enamored with this water that she gives money to another woman in the office to buy cases of it when she travels down to Florida. She buys a whole carload of it at once. I’m not exaggerating! Personally, I think that is crazy. Not only is it a terrible waste of resources, there is simply no way that this water is any different than the others. It’s hilarious to see how elated she is to get her hands on a bottle of Zephyrhills. I’ve tried to tell her that it’s no different than other brands, like Deer Park or Aquafina, but she firmly insists that I am wrong. She can taste the difference, she says.

I took to the Internet in search of evidence to support my argument. It didn’t take long to uncover some interesting facts.

First, FDA regulations allow water bottlers to say that their water comes from a natural spring even when it doesn’t. Any company can claim that they are selling natural spring water. It is a meaningless term.

Now for the kicker! It comes from a report in the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida newspaper. The article clearly states that both Zephyrhills and Deer Park bottle their water at the exact same plant using the exact same water. That’s right — two different labels, two different prices, but the exact same water. Boom. I rest my case.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go take a drink straight from the faucet at my kitchen sink.

Burger King Sucks

In my opinion, Burger King has become the worst fast food chain in the nation. I think that most people can agree that their food has gotten worse over the years. I almost never eat there, but the few recent times that I have made the poor choice to do so have only proven my point all the more.

There are two Burger Kings in my close vicinity. Neither of them ever has more than a few customers inside. One of the two was completely rebuilt from the ground up not long ago. They demolished the old building and built a brand new restaurant. Despite that effort, there are still hardly ever any cars in the parking lot.

When the rebuilt location reopened six months ago, I went there with a friend for lunch. Sadly, the food tasted like the same low-grade stuff they were serving before. I ordered the original chicken sandwich, which in essence is an overpriced tube of processed meat, salt, and breading. I don’t understand how they can call that chicken. The average chicken nugget have more real meat in it than their original chicken sandwich does. I’ve since been back and ordered a Whopper, which had nearly no taste to it. It was oddly bland and tasteless.

As if to illustrate Burger King’s decline, soon after the new building was complete and open for business, their electronic sign at the drive-thru that displays your order stopped working. To this day, more than six months after the display broke, the sign has still not been replaced. What remains is a large glaring empty hole on the drive-thru menu. The sad display says it all. I see it as a metaphor for the entire company.

This morning was the last straw for me. I stopped by my local Burger King to pick up a sausage, egg, cheese Croissan’Wich — a product which I used to enjoy. At a cost of over $3, what I got today was a dried out breakfast sandwich that looked like it was made more than two days ago. The edges of the dried egg were a dark discolored yellow-orange. The sausage was noticeably dark and dry. When I ate it, it tasted like a mass of salt. After a few bites in, I bit into a hard rock-like pellet in the sausage. I threw the rest of it away.

Burger King is due for a complete overhaul. Until then, I’m done. I’ve decided not to eat at there anymore. These days, there are far better alternatives.

Most Cereal

Kellogg’s introduced Most back in 1979. I remember eating this cereal many times as a kid. My grandmother often had a box on hand. It was one of her favorite cereals. Sadly, Kellogg’s discontinued Most at some point at some point in the late 80s or early 90s. I haven’t been able to find the exact year it was taken off the market.

This once classic cereal popped in my mind last week. I did some research. The most detailed information can be found on the website of MrBreakfast. On that site, there are several people calling for the company to bring it back. It’s nice to see that there is still interest in it, but I doubt that would ever happen. I wasn’t able to find any mention of it on Kellogg’s website. I wonder if people would buy it if it came back.

Most cereal box

Cordial Cherries are Nasty

I used to be rather fond of chocolate covered cherries when I was growing up. It was easy to get excited about the treasure of a single cherry inside a Whitman’s Sampler box of chocolates. They only put one in a box, and I’d once revered that cherry as something special.

Fast-forward to the present day. I no longer like them. It would probably be impossible for me to finish even a small box of cherries today. They are way too sweet. And very messy!

This past week, for fun, I posted an informal poll on Facebook asking my friends for their opinion about chocolate covered cherries. I received a hefty response. As the comments began to roll in, the general reaction was decidedly negative. But after a couple of days the love/hate ratio began to slowly even out. In the end, the naysayers held the majority.

Personally, I have a suspicion that the older generation likes them and the younger folks do not. I wasn’t able to prove that theory with my silly poll, but what the hell, I’ll assert it anyway.

I don’t know what the white muck surrounding the cherry actually consists of, and it would probably be best not to know. I’ve come to realize that it is this internal goo that makes the whole experience downright nasty. It tastes like cough syrup or that foul cherry fluoride that we were once tortured with as kids at the dentist.

Skimming the list of items that make up a Queen Anne cordial cherry, I counted 21 different ingredients, some of them bearing absurd chemical names. Yuck!

In the future, if I get a craving to bite into a mysterious substance that is ludicrously sugary, I’ll buy a Cadbury Creme Egg.

My Apology to Chobani

This morning I was in an outlandish mood and posted to Twitter the following comments about the yogurt I was eating for breakfast:

If a homeless man defecated into a cup it would probably taste better than this Chobani non-fat yogurt. Just awful.

I laughed out loud as my finger tapped to tweet that remark. But after checking Twitter during my lunch break I saw that the Chobani company had written me a public message about what I’d said. Their response? “Ouch.” They went on to ask what I didn’t like about their yogurt. I immediately felt like an ass. A feeling of shame washed over me. I was only upset at having bought the non-fat version of their product.

Someone at Chobani had apparently searched Twitter for mentions of their brand and read what I said. What I had posted was truly over-the-top and absurd. I compared their food product not only to the taste of human feces, but I threw gasoline on the fire by adding that it tasted like a homeless man had shat in a cup. Instead of ignoring my searing remark, the company replied with a friendly “ouch” and asked why was I unhappy with my meal. It was completely unexpected. I was impressed.

Chobani went on to reply to me twice more in a friendly back-and-forth I’d had with them via Twitter today. They told me that they were not offended by my tweet. I apologized to them for what I’d said and thanked them for their sense of humor. In turn, they wrote me back and said they liked my sense of humor too. I was floored with how they handled my vile tweet. I’ll certainly buy more of their yogurt; even more so now, thanks to their delightful exchange. I have a new respect for them and their company. I’ll just have to make sure to not buy the non-fat variety next time. Hehe.

Well done, Chobani. I wholeheartedly take back what I said this morning. I offer my sincere apologies.

Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts

Passionate coffee drinkers love to disagree in the debate over whether Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts brews the best cup. In this instance, I’m talking about standard brewed coffee from these two places only. I’m not going to judge the coffee from McDonalds or discuss more complex drinks like lattes and espressos. I’m also not talking about the ground coffee that is sold to be brewed at home.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a coffee snob. I’m not saying that McDonalds has terrible coffee, but I think of their coffee as being a side item to the food. Their breakfast combos come with a drink, which is usually coffee by default. In the instance of a combo, I find that their coffee is acceptable to drink, as I would be there for the food first and foremost. (Disclaimer: I do not endorse eating at McDonalds!) However, when I go to Starbucks, I’m going specifically to get coffee, and I put that experience to a higher standard than a side item from a fast food place.

Starbucks makes their coffee very bold and strong, which happens to be the way I prefer it. Their coffee tastes bold, rich, and hearty. While I happen to love it, the sheer strength of their product isn’t for everyone. I’ve picked up a few cups for coworkers to sample over the years and one person complained to me that it was as thick as mud. Of course, that person was probably used to making coffee that looks like iced tea when it’s poured.

I don’t often go to Dunkin Donuts. Their coffee is always a bit weak in strength for my taste. Adding to my dislike, the staff always seem insist on adding the cream and sugar themselves, and they always overdo it! It is easy to go too far with the extras when the main product isn’t very strong from the start.

I’m writing all of this because I went to Dunkin Donuts this morning. I deliberately went inside so I could control the final product. Despite the fact that I was standing in the store, they still wanted to put the cream and sugar in from behind the counter. I agreed, but said I wanted very little of either. When I got my coffee, it was shockingly light in color. The coffee was so weak that the cream had nearly turned it antique white.

With Starbucks coffee, it is so strong that it takes a lot to overdo the cream or sugar. With weak Dunkin Donuts coffee, a couple of packs of sugar turn it into virtual sugar water. Seriously, the cup of coffee I had this morning was so sweet, it tasted like I was drinking from a hummingbird feeder.

In closing, Starbucks is the best place to get a solid cup of brewed coffee. That said, if you’re looking for a breakfast sandwich, both Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are equally horrible. Avoid the hot foods from either establishment at all costs!

I Want Breakfast Until Noon

I think that all restaurants should serve breakfast until noon. This is especially true for fast-food joints. All too often, such places end the breakfast menu at 10:30, with a few exceptions. That is too early for people who want to sleep in. The best case scenario is being able to order breakfast all day. If you can’t offer me breakfast all day, then at least draw the line at noon, when it is technically no longer morning.

The Worst Meal I Have Ever Eaten

Seemingly out of nowhere, I am going to write about the worst meal I have ever eaten. In order to tell this story, I have to cast my mind back over ten years ago to a day when me and a co-worker stopped for hotdogs on our lunch break.

The eatery is called Goodberrys and only has locations in Raleigh, Durham, or Cary North Carolina. Goodberrys has a good reputation in the Triangle for their ice cream and frozen custard. I don’t particularly have a problem with their desserts, but I can say first hand that their hotdogs are a complete abomination. They are so bad, I imagine that eating one could possibly take a year or more off of your life.

I remember the meal like it was yesterday. We each ordered hotdogs from the location in Cary and ate them on our way back to work. I have to say that the Goodberrys in Cary is historically the worst of them all. Neither of us could choke down an entire hotdog that day. My teeth simply could not separate the internals. I liken it to biting into a rubber, steel-belted garden hose. To this very day, it remains the single grossest thing I have ever eaten from a restaurant in my life.

Hilariously, my girlfriend Laura has had the same experience. She told me that her encounter with a Goodberrys hotdog happened almost fifteen years ago. She said the hotdog had the consistency of a rubber stick with a bone in the middle. Disgusted, she threw the rest of her half-eaten hotdog to the stray cats that had made themselves a home around her house. The stray cats would not touch it! That says it all.

I realize that it has been over a decade since I ordered hot food from Goodberrys, which isn’t really fair to complain about now, but it may as well have been yesterday. It continues to haunt me as the most terrible meal I have ever consumed.

To summarize, if you are in the Raleigh area, for heaven’s sake, do not order a hotdog from Goodberrys. Trust me, they are absolutely dreadful. I seriously have my doubts that what they are serving even legally qualifies as food. You’re likely to get more flavor and nourishment from ingesting a dead cat on the side of the freeway.