Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taco Bell news, hot off the packet.

Our regular trio of taco sauces Mild, Hot, and Fire (although that's a stretch since the only difference I can discern between Hot and Fire is Hot has more water added to it) now has two new partners in the condiment bins - Verde and Fire-Roasted. The astute among you will notice that the packets are the same size as the other sauce packets, but say Border Salsa at the top instead of Border Sauce. Verde is in a green packet, not unlike the color of Kermit the Frog. Fire-Roasted is in a maroon packet, or maybe garnet. (Not ready to go out on a limb and say that it's purply-brown.)

Taco Bell has had "Green Sauce" for as long as I can remember, but they have always done a poor job of letting customers know that they have it, so it led a meager existence on the steam table with a small ladle in it, getting baked half to death. It was mostly a green chile sauce, and didn't really have much in the way of a tomatillo flavor. The Verde Border Salsa has tomatillos as its third ingredient, after water and green chiles. While most of you that have had real Mexican food will look down your nose at this packet with its soy additives and preservatives, this is a real leap forward for salsa verde in general. I think that if the public warms up to this newly accessible flavor, it will mean great news for tomatillo growers and aficionados (except for the if-you-like-it-now-because-I-liked-it-before-then-it-sucks hipsters).

The Fire-Roasted salsa has a smoky flavor, like what you might expect from a sauce that said "adobo" or "chipotle" on it somewhere, but the ingredients seem to indicate that the tomatoes are fire roasted. This isn't a bad flavor, but it's not for everyone. If you have inclinations for barbecue sauce and hot peppers, you might see if this is for you.

Unfortunately, between this newness of the sauce and the general popularity of Taco Bell on a Friday at lunchtime (especially the store in question), it was difficult to decide whether drive-through or walk-in was the better bet, but I took my chances with walk-in so that I didn't leave the car running. The drive-through line was backed up well past the speaker, but I also saw once I got in that they were similarly backed up inside the store. I saw six or seven people standing around by the counter and a couple more at the soda fountain. As it turned out, only the person in front of me had not ordered yet, and he tentatively went up to the counter to order shortly after I got there. He kept looking over his shoulder the whole time, like the Feds were watching him and he was just waiting for them to close in. I can't hear what he orders as the store is quite loud, and the man in front of me is ordering in broken English. I also can't make out what the cashier is repeating back to him, since she speaks a different variety of broken English.

Then, the source of the backwards looks appears - the man's wife walks into the store. He goes to talk to his wife for a second, away from the cash register. The talk, nod heads, and he turns back to the cashier and starts walking away, with an open hand that he waves as if to say "No, no, forget my order, we have to go". This is the part that I am most surprised about. The cashier gives him the most exaggerated "No, you didn't" look, including the side-to-side head move. Somehow, she calls him back to the register to make him finish placing the order that he has not even paid for yet. After watching him be bullied by the cashier in front of his own wife, I decide that perhaps I should go to my safer neighborhood Taco Bell and order through the drive-through.

I did grab a couple Verde packets before I left, though.

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