Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
McDonald’s is ready to debut what it’s calling its “best burgers ever”. So does that mean that the burgers we’ve been buying are O.K. but in fact not the best; I’ve always wondered? Well you won’t have to wonder about the KFC Chicken Nuggets any longer but you might want to hear about wine and baseball in San Francisco and boy have I got wine listings for you a long with two great recipes, Enjoy
McDonald’s Makes Tweaks to Its Classic Burgers
The company announced recently that it is making a few changes to its burgers, including new, softer buns and more Big Mac sauce on its signature Big Macs. Some tweaks have also been made to the cooking process to yield a more consistent sear and meltier cheese, and the company is adding white onions at the grill for a caramelized flavor.
For the hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, McDouble and Big Mac, the buns will be softer and freshly toasted; (again are the buns we’re eating now from yesterday?) the cheese will be “perfectly melted”; white onions will be added to the patties while they’re still on the grill (White Castle or diner style) to give them a “juicier, caramelized flavor”; and Big Macs will have more Big Mac sauce, according to the Chicago-based chain. Menu prices for the burgers will not change. (Hummm, see the related article regards price increases)
“We found that small changes, like tweaking our process to get hotter, meltier cheese and adjusting our grill settings for a better sear, added up to a big difference in making our burgers more flavorful than ever,” Chef Chad Schafer, senior director of culinary innovation for McDonald’s U.S., said in the release.
“The difference between the OG double cheeseburger and the new and improved version are actually huge,” says Kate Hogan, Director of Digital Specials and Features. “The shiny bun is so inviting (now can we talk about why a “shiny bun” is inviting”?) and the burger itself has a great grilled taste like it came off of your own barbecue.” Though Hogan isn’t usually a Big Mac person “the addition of the extra Mac Sauce and the fragrant new bun make it eat like a real, messy pub burger instead of your run-of-the-mill drive-through,” (that it apparently was?) she adds.
A “shiny bun” is what I always look for and if the cheese is supposed to be “perfectly melted” why does it look like it’s frozen in place in the PR photo and you know that the onion chips have been placed with tweezers and how about that ketchup jusssst gently oozing out. I can see that they’re going for that “smash burger” look and feel and I can’t blame them but how come my sandwich at any burger place never looks like this?
Oh and no we didn’t even bother.
Please look for my Smash Burger recipe contained here.
Some One Keeps Eating Burgers In Spite of a Little Price Increase
McDonald’s reported consistent 12.6% same-store sales increases across all markets for the first quarter ended March 31, 2023, driven by both traffic growth and menu pricing.
In fact, according to Placer.ai, McDonald’s traffic growth has been consistently positive in the high single digits-double digits throughout 2023, while the rest of the quick-service industry has been struggling with negative traffic, on average, over the past six weeks.
“We’re seeing really good consistency — a mix of check and traffic growth— around how we’re positioned from a value and affordability standpoint,” Ian Borden, McDonald’s CFO said. “It’s about the focus on execution and how that’s translating into a better experience. And we’re seeing really good consistency in that feedback from our customers and in the improvement in the customer satisfaction scores that we’re seeing.”
But Oh Contre Says Yahoo Finance
According to Yahoo’s market report on April 27 you maybe buying a burger but not fries or a dessert and even thought McDonald’s had a juicy (Yahoo’s word) first quarter those fat sales and profits aren’t guaranteed this year as consumers begin to push back on higher prices for things like Big Macs and fries.
“We are seeing in some places resistance to pricing, more resistance than we saw at the outset,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski warned on the company’s Tuesday (4/25) earnings call.
McDonald’s said it’s seeing “pressure” on its key units per transaction measure. (In plain English) that means the typical cost-conscious McDonald’s customer is balking at higher menu prices.
As a result, they may be buying a hamburger — but not getting a side of fries due to inflation. Or those with a little more cash in their pockets could be buying more premium McDonald’s dinner items — but leaving out a dessert and turning the smile upside down.
McDonald’s first quarter same-store sales rose 12.6% both in the US and internationally. Shares of the McNugget maker are up 10.6% year to date, outperforming the Dow’s 1.1% gain.
Half a Glass
Why Can’t the Chicken Nuggets Taste Like the Chicken Sandwich?
“As the original fried chicken experts, we’re introducing a chicken nugget made the way only KFC can, hand-breaded with our distinctive Original Recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Simply put, you’ve never had chicken nuggets like these, they’re the chicken nugget America deserves, and worth the wait. Now that’s Finger Lickin’ Good!” says Nick Chavez, CMO, KFC U.S.
The tasting panel wasn’t quite as enthusiastic; “Solid bite of chicken and I liked the breading and chicken flavor but I’d get the tenders as the nuggets are too dry for a chicken place that boosts a high-end cooking process.”
“The Buffalo Ranch dipping sauce has quite a spicy finish that covers the dryness of the nugget but is way too spicy for me and covers the actual taste of the chicken.”
We have rated their chicken sandwich #2 behind Popeyes in the past. We also had a similar experience at Carl’s Jr. (Hardy’s) when we did our chicken sandwich review. We ordered their tenders and the sandwich and were taken by the tenders but really disappointed by the sandwich, can’t figure it out as it’s the same chicken cooked in the same way, go figure.
Foley Family Wines In “Premiumization Mode”
While some companies retrenched during the pandemic, Foley Family Wines adopted the opposite strategy. Led by billionaire Bill Foley, the company has consistently grown through acquisition, and the pandemic years were no exception.
“I’m known as a serial acquirer,” says Foley. The most recent acquisition tear started in June 2020, when Foley bought Ferrari-Carano in Sonoma County, adding major volume to his business in a portfolio of wines priced at $15 or higher a 750-ml. Six months later, the company acquired Kenwood, California-based Chateau St. Jean. Most recently, in July 2022, it acquired Silverado Vineyards, a leading producer of luxury wines from estate vineyards across four Napa Valley appellations.
Those three purchases brought Foley Family Wines’ volume up to nearly 1.9 million cases in 2022, according to Impact Databank estimates, bringing the company closer to Foley’s stated goal of reaching 2 million cases. More importantly, the acquisitions further cement Foley Family Wines in the super-premium and luxury wine space. “We’re in premiumization mode now, and have moved away from some of the less expensive wines we were formerly involved with,” Foley explains. “At this point, more than 90% of our wines sell for more than $15 a bottle. Some are sold for $300 a bottle or more.”
Even in an uncertain economy, Foley Family Wines president Shawn Schiffer says the company’s positioning in the super-premium wine space is in line with what consumers want. “From a price point perspective, wines priced above $11, and even above $15 and higher, are still doing pretty well,” he says. “Our portfolio in the higher price points has kept us pretty insulated from some of the impacts of the economic downturn.”
Wine Hopes to Hit it Out of The Park for the SF Giants
“Everywhere you can buy a hot dog, you should be able to buy a glass of wine as well,” said Evan Goldstein, who begins his first season as the Giant’s Master Sommelier.
The Giants were the first major league baseball team to serve wine at games beginning in 1977 at Candlestick Park, the former home of the Giants. It’s not surprising perhaps, given their proximity to Wine Country. Now, they’re the first sports organization to have their own sommelier, who wants to take it to the next level.
“I don’t want people to think wine is just for those who are sitting in luxury and corporate suites,” Goldstein said. “We’ll find opportunities where people can bring wine into their world, from the (less-expensive seating) 415 section to the promenade level to the upper deck.”
Goldstein, 61, is one of 273 Master Sommeliers worldwide. With his well-educated palate, Goldstein said he’ll focus his efforts on developing the synergy between wine and baseball.
Goldstein said he’s fond of Sonoma County wines because they’re diverse and affordable. “As an overall wine culture, Sonoma County is very approachable,” he said.
“In Sonoma County, you’ve also got the cheeses, the oysters, the vegetable stands, the Barlow and Bodega Bay. You’d be hard-pressed to find all this in other places.”
The Master Sommelier has one metric he’s hoping to achieve. He wants to increase wine sales at the ballpark by 20,000, from 80,000 glasses last year to 100,000 this year. Oracle Park, the Giants’ home since 2000, has a wine bar on each level, California wine carts along Promenade and View Levels and seven other locations that offer wine on tap.
“There’s always the possibility that the players and the fans could wind up like me,” he said, “a guy who’s as crazy about wine as I am about baseball.”
Spring is the time of year for a number of wine events and judging’s in NorCal and everyone has a list of their best. I’ve done my best to gather at least some of the winners for you to consider. Many of the winners are ultra-local with limited production so you folks in Louisville are out of luck. I’ve put an * on some I know to be in decent distribution and if you care enough you can visit a winery’s web site you can usually get distribution information. There were over 1,200 wines submitted to the North Coast event and the winners list is dizzying but the following list will get you to a tasty place.
TEN TOP VALUE WINES FROM THE NORTH COAST WINE CHALLENGE
Daryl Groom, chief wine judge of the 2023 North Coast Wine Challenge, suggests these 10 wines that represent good value — a great wine for a good price — across all the wines entered in the contest. Here are the ones he selected, from sparkling to red:
*Scharffenberger Cellars, (NV) Brut Excellence Méthode Traditionelle, Mendocino County, 99 points ($23) formerly owned by John Scharffenberger of chocolate fame and now owned by the top notch Roederer folks who have raised the quality level. Really nice wine for the price.
Husch Vineyards, 2022 Dry Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, 99 points ($18)
Husch Vineyards, 2022 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, 98 points ($18)
*Francis Coppola, 2021 Diamond Collection Chardonnay, Sonoma County, 97 points ($20)
*St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, 2021 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, 97 points ($22)
*Alexander Valley Vineyards 2020 Merlot, Alexander Valley, 92 points ($24)
Miro Cellars, 2021 Cuvée Sasha, Chevalier Vineyard, Mendocino County, 97 points ($24)
*Pedroncelli Winery, 2020 Mother Clone Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 96 points ($24)
Girasole Vineyards, 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, 90 points ($18)
Carol Shelton Wines, 2022 Wild Thing Rendezvous Dry Rosé, Mendocino County
* Some national distribution
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Reasonable Pinot Noir
**Castle Rock 2021 Mendocino County Pinot Noir delivers clean fruit, ready to for a burger. 86 – $13
Handley 2019 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 92 $38
Siduri 2020 Anderson Valley Skycrest Vineyard Pinot Noir 91 $35
Handley 2019 Anderson Valley Helluva Vineyard Pinot Noir 93 $50
**County Line 2021 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 92 $36 second label to high end Radio Coteau
Members Tasting 6th Annual SIFF Wine Awards
BEST SPARKLING WINE
Breathless NV Blanc de Blancs, Sonoma County 98 Points
BEST AROMATIC WHITE WINE
En Garde 2021 Allez Blanc, California 94 Points
BEST SAUVIGNON BLANC
Gehricke 2022 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Mountain 91 Points
Dutton Estate 2021 Chardonnay, Kyndall’s Reserve, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley 96 Points
BEST PINK WINE
Benziger 2022 Rosé, Sonoma County 97 Points
BEST PINOT NOIR
DeLoach 2019 Pinot Noir, Green Valley of RRV 97 Points
BEST RHONE WINE (Tie)
Idell Family 2018 MB-5V Red Wine, Oscar Vineyard, Sonoma Valley 98 Points
BEST RHONE WINE (Tie)
Larson Family 2019 Syrah Sonoma Coast 98 Points
BEST RED BLEND
Bartholomew Estate 2019 Press Release Red Wine, Sonoma Valley 95 Points
Buena Vista 20120 Zinfandel, Private Reserve Sonoma County 95 Points
BEST CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Sebastiani 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cherryblock, Sonoma Valley 98 Points
BEST DESSERT WINE
Larson Family 2018 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Dolce, Carneros 98 Points
Chris Sawyer, renowned sommelier & consultant
And Why Not Some Cheese with Your Wine
Good Food Cheese Awards
The nearly 2,000 entries in the 2023 Good Food Awards included artisanal cheeses from around the US, with 36 selected as finalists. Of these, 20 winning cheeses—and one yogurt—were celebrated at the awards ceremony held in Portland, Oregon (where the event moved this year after 11 years in San Francisco). The awards recognize outstanding artisanal products in 18 categories from five regions: North, South, Central, West, and East.
I can attest to the Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue being a winner.
That’s My Whine and I could me wrong…
Here are a couple of recipes for , are in fact right here. Smashed Burger with Sweet and Red Onion, Bacon, American & Cheddar Cheese, Salmon Fillet Marinated in Olive Oil, Tarragon/Dill & Shallot . Enjoy!
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks, matches wine and food and offers wine country tour information and planning in Santa Rosa Sonoma, CA.