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The Nibbler: Have it your way, all day

By CHRIS SHERMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2002


The Nibbler: Chris ShermanHere's more proof that post-modern life knows no borders. In a society where some people prefer cold cereal for dinner with Will & Grace, Burger King has come up with the perfect breakfast food: hamburgers.

After a brief test-marketing, BK has brought burgers for breakfast to the Tampa Bay market.

It makes sense both ways. When the fast food chains entered the breakfast business they had to create a new generation of mutant breakfast foods, hand-held or eaten off of, skreeeech!, foam plates.

This latest offering lets customers admit to the truth: We want burgers three meals a day.

Only catch is that BK lines are already busy making breakfast for the eggs-and-bacon sticklers, so burgers take an extra couple of minutes. That's a drag for some during rush hour. Others take the time to wake up and smell the ground beef.

Vegetarian-unfriendly

The no-meat crowd has proclaimed today National Meat-Out Day to urge diners to go without for one day.

The Nibbler would suggest that restaurateurs should check to see what's on their menus for those who want to go meatless: Not much.

They could add plenty, just by doing what most vegetarians now do, turn to ethnic dishes (and Twinkies). Much of the world doesn't eat animal protein or fat because it can't afford it, not out of religious or moral concerns. Consequently, most cuisines have many dishes with minimal or zero animal protein.

To be honest, the pure vegetarian health food restaurants of our salad-and-Birkenstock days are few today, and the gourmet temples of vegetarianism are rare nationwide. But in Chinese, Mexican, Indian and Japanese restaurants there are choices and many can be used by restaurants of any stripe, including pasta with tomato or mushroom sauces, all-bean chilies, vegetable patties, vegetable soups, curries and stir-fries. This can be as plain as a no-lard bean burrito or as sexy as pasta stuffed with pumpkin and an orange ginger sauce.

Lay off the cheese, eggs, butter, lard and cream sauce (or be willing to serve without) and you'll please the pickier vegans as well.

More importantly, kitchens that learn how to buy and cook good vegetables can put something nutritious and interesting on the plates of the rest of us, too.

C-store treat

It's not all brand-name chaos in the convenience store. Underground gourmets know that a new generation of immigrants has found a niche in storekeeping and often augment the junk food with street snacks from very different streets and more elaborate dishes, from spinach pies to feijoada. The Nibbler has his eye out for all of them.

- Food critic Chris Sherman writes about dining and restaurant news in the Nibbler. He can be reached at (727) 893-8585 or by e-mail at sherman@sptimes.com.

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