Mary's West Coast nacho adventure is up and running. The competition for nacho supremacy will be fierce. Here it goes......
Never fear, the Nacho Report is here! You're faithful and favorite nacho enthusiasts are back and better than ever! We took the summer off and went just over 5 months without nacho goodness- even passing on the nachos at our local movie theatre, and let me tell you, they'd give TDBank Garden a run for the glory- just so we'd be ready and able to bring you the best season of Nachoismo ever! We have high hopes for this season, and we're looking forward to bring you Reports from 7 new arenas as well as a handful or more of perennial favorites and perennial repulsives. Whose cheese will reign supreme? Only one way to find out!
The contestant: New Jersey, Prudential Center
Eaten on: October 8 @ Devils vs. Stars
Season 4 of the Nacho Report gets it start where it so often does: The Rock! Last year we gave them a bye for the home opener in hopes that by waiting, they wouldn't serve us a tray of cold pathetic garbage. They did alright last year, so this year we dove right in.
After the first period (Ah, the first period. When things were still exciting and joyous in Devils land), Ashok joined the nacho line while I went to pee (why am I sharing that?). With fresh, clean hands I found Ashok as he was getting napkins. Before we could return to our seats, I took a chip and dipped. Shocked, I grabbed him by the arm and announced "I think we have a contender!" Holy freeholy catfish (if you get that reference, I love you); Jersey had finally gotten all the elements together!
Ashok left me to indulge while he went to get more free sushi. In his absence, I learned that all was not as well as we thought. Now that the cheese was both steaming hot and properly seasoned.... some of the chips were stale. Yes folks, that's right. The Rock failed the easiest part of the whole nacho experience: the chips. They have now 100% lived up to their San Jose Sharks Award from last season. They have shown us that they have all the elements, they have the tools and technology, but they just can't get them all together at the same time. Such a pity. What a letdown.
Naturally, we had to disagree when it came to the lettergrade. I think that failing at the easiest part of nacho preparation warrants a straight B. Ashok thinks that a B+ is more deserving because of the "magic cheese". He appreciated the paradox that the cheese provided: the colder it got, the hotter/spicier it got. Eventually he saw my side of things, and since it is always harder to grade the first nachos of the season, we went with a B.
There was no rest for the weary (and weary we were after a long-assed ride and too much freakin' traffic) as the Capitals home opener the next night beckoned!
The contestant: Washington DC, Verizon Center
Eaten on: October 9 @ Devils vs. Capitals
Not going to lie, we were not excited that the nacho eating season was getting an early taste of the Verizon Center. This is the place that was spared a big o' "F" two seasons ago simply because we ate them. They're stingy with the chips and stingy with the cheese that they dump on the top layer of chips. I guess you really can't complain about that though, because they taste nasty and are ice cold. Do you want a lot of something that tastes like dirty ass or a just a little? Right?
Anyhoo, we decided we would try to help DC crawl out of the nacho cellar. Mmmm.... nacho cellar. Wouldn't that be awesome? We ordered and asked that our cheese please be on the side, which they were happy to do. Still, having to ask for something so commonplace and logical deducts valuable points.
We dipped, and... well... I guess you can't say we were disappointed as we've come to not expect anything too far above "edible" to describe these. They were kinda-sorta warm, but there was no punch to the cheese. There was a certain special creaminess that I enjoyed, but certainly the heat was lacking. And like usual, they don't give you very much.
Once again, we debated the letter grade. I thought C or C+ because compared to the sewage we'd been served in the past, these were much more pleasant. But Ashok was able to convince me to see things his way: not enough chips, having to ask for the cheese on the side, not hot enough and lacking spice... I guess that is a lot of deductions. However, I refused to subtract more points because they cheese wasn't "magic." There will be no point deductions based on Ashok's weirdness!
And with that, The 2010-11 Nacho Report is underway!
A 2.5 week break was much needed as we are about to embark on a NR first: 3 nachos in 3 different places in 4 nights! The search for a winner of the Golden Nacho Trophy is taking us to the Golden State where 3 brand new contestants throw their chips into the ring! Or, should that be onto the ice? Stay tuned!
The quest for nacho glory took us on a 5-day journey to a far away, magical land known as California. 3 arenas lie in wait, and we were happy to take our taste buds on an adventure unheard of until this trip: 3 nachos in 4 days. What did we learn? Start at the top!
The contestant: San Jose, HP Pavilion
Eaten on: October 27 @ Devils vs. Sharks
Our first stop was the Shark Tank, a building we were both excited to see. But more importantly, a building whose nachos we were excited to eat. That probably had to do with the long day: waking up in Boston at 5 a.m., traveling 7 hours on a plane, eating a late lunch/early dinner (lunner?), not to mention the jet lag.... In any case, we were hungry!
It was after the first disastrous period and a lesson about "hockey etiquette" from an usher (you can feel me rolling my eyes, can't you?) when Ashok went out and found our snack. He handed me a plastic tray that was scalding hot and overflowing with chips. Seriously, it looked like a little craggy mountain nestled between two gorgeous hot springs made of cheese. It was so picturesque, we just had to take a picture (how appropriate).
You see how the gentlemen in the middle (if you could even take your eyes off that cheesy chip) looks like he has gray and black hair? He really didn't; the gray you're seeing is steam. Glorious, glorious steam!
To say the cheese was hot would be a gross understatement. It was ridonkulously hot. I had to put something between them and my jeans because I was certain the skin on my leg was starting to blister. It was amazing! Ashok mentioned that the cheese was kept in a big steel pot and was being ladled out; we weren't sure if we had seen anything like that before, but maybe that's the secret to perfection.
But still, we had yet to eat them. The chips were nice; thick and round with not too much salt. Dipped into one of those gorgeous cheese pools, somewhere, angels sang a chorus of "Hallelujah"; nice and spicy. Or at least, that first bite was. After that, the cheese seemed just slightly spicy. Maybe the hot hot heat burned our tongues and left us desensitized. But it didn't matter; we were in nacho bliss. I think it took us about 20 minutes to finish them, which is probably a Nacho Report record (although the Elias Sports Bureau has yet to start keep stats on us).
As much as we thoroughly enjoyed the Tank's nachos and are proud that Boston may not just run away with the Trophy this year, we still could only give an A-. As good as they were, we just couldn't help but think that something was missing. Granted they did everything right, but there wasn't anything extra, like the oddly-delicious seasoned chips in Ottawa or the spiciness of the cheese in New Jersey (Whoa. Did I just give The Rock's nachos a compliment??). But San Jose should be proud. We're being tough this season, and an A- definitely gives them bragging rights.
But for how long?
Anaheim was just 2 days away!
The contestant: Anaheim, Honda Center
Eaten on: October 29 @ Devils vs. Ducks
Perhaps you saw your faithful nacho f(r)iends on TV during the 1st intermission with a guy in a Ducks jersey? Well, that guy is Ashok's old college roommate, Nick. He flew out from Connecticut and joined us in Anaheim for a little Disneyland (Nick works for Espn so we got in for free!) and some sun at Newport Beach, and then of course, the Devils-Ducks game. He told us that the concessions were recently changed over at the ol' Duck Pond, so he was hoping to hear a rave review. It's a matter of pride, I guess. Unfortunately, he would not taste the nachos himself, so there is no guest report. I'm sure he'd love to tell you all about the churros though, but I'm not giving him the forum to do that. Nachos it is!
We got in a line after warmups and Ashok ordered. Interestingly, where Toronto before them had the cheese in a bag, Anaheim has the chips in a bag. The tells you two things right off the bat: 1) they're more than likely fresh, and 2) they aren't going to be dumping the cheese over the top of them.
Next came the cheese- there was a mass ton of it. And right when I turned away to snag some napkins, Ashok grabbed my arm and blurted "Oh my God, she put more cheese on!". Indeed, there were now 2 mass tons of cheese. Oh Anaheim, you sure know how to play the game!
We return to our seats and Ashok rips open the bag. Huh. Is that all there is? For the amount of cheese we were given, we thought there'd be an avalanche of chips pouring out. But no. There weren't very many at all; barely enough for two people to share. But at least they were fresh and tasty.
The cheese, albeit plentiful, let us down, too. We didn't want it to, we swear! It was very smooth and creamy and had great kick and a lot of flavor, but it wasn't hot enough. We weren't asking it to live up to San Jose's standards, but they have a really good product in Anaheim that's being tarnished by something as simple as putting a little fire under the pot. With a little flame-age, they could easily become a contender, provided that you don't split one tray between two people. More chips please!
We debated and debated the letter grade, but based on this season's nachos past, we went with a B. While the temperature of the cheese can make or break you, the fact that the cheese was so good otherwise helped keep that pesky little minus sign from tagging along with the B.
With two down and one to go, we were anxious to see how the City of Angels would compare with the rest of the Golden State's nachos. Fortunately, we'd only have a mere 24 hours to wait to find out.
The contestant: Los Angeles, Staples Center
Eaten on: October 30 @ Devils vs. Kings
The last stop on our Tour of California. We met an old high school friend of mine and his gorgeous family for lunch, then got our game faces on (knowing that Kovy would be booed whenever he saw ice time, I proudly donned my Kovalchuk jersey) and headed to Staples Center. It's too bad our friends weren't able to join us for the game; if there's anyone that knows about cheese, it's Andrew York! Maybe next time.
Upon inspection, it was almost assured that LA would not be taking the California crown; just one pool of cheese that was hastily and messily poured, as evident by the number of chips that were also covered. That's not good people.
So we started with the chips, which were extremely light and airy triangles. They were also like no other that I had ever tasted, and I couldn't put my finger on it until Ashok mentioned that they had no salt. Yup; that was it all right. Not a stitch of sodium to be found. Interesting move, Los Angeles. Interesting move. Ashok just called it "Hollyweird", but it added an unusual element that I found enjoyable.
So next came the dip. Ugh. Cold. Not disgusting Dallas-from-last-season cold, but cold. Which was a pity really, because it was very creamy and just slightly spicy. If you were to draw a line and the cheese with no kick went to the left and got progressively worse, and the cheese with kick went to the right and got progressively better, this cheese would be hugging the line on the right side. But for whatever reason, that was OK with me this time. Maybe it's the lack of salt on the chips, which is my guess because that's the one factor that made the chips different than every other place we've been, but something about these nachos really appealed to me. And I think had the cheese been hot, I would have been raving about them.
But for LA, it was not to be. We couldn't even finish them, because the chips that had gotten splashed by the cheese during the preparation were cold, soggy, and inedible. Fortunately there weren't too many casualties, but enough to knock Staples Center down to a dismal C-.
And with that, the three arenas of California had entered the Nacho Competition, but only one put on the foil and came out fighting. One month and 5 cities into the battle, San Jose is now leading the charge. With a trip to champion TDBank canceled for November, it will be the city of St. Louis that gets their very first opportunity to wow us. It's going to take something close to perfection to come out on top. I hope they can do it (because that'll be delicious)!