I can't say that IHOP and I are very well acquainted. It might be because all the IHOP locations near me are in crappy areas of town, or out of state, or shadowed by better restaurants. The only one within a 20 mile radius of me is next to Connecticut's first and only Sonic, and when push comes to shove, I'm happier eating burgers in my car than I am eating pancakes next to high school stoners. Oh wait, the stoners flock to Denny's. Disregard that.
Because of my IHOP jeunesse, I look at my experience with the new IHOP At Home line as an anthropological study, as I have never viewed the majestic Cinn-A-Stick Pancakes in their natural, greasy habitat, nor had I watched the brilliant mating rituals of the compote and whipped topping upon a pancake horizon to create the Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity. But I knew what to look for. One winter, long ago, Dillinger and I journeyed to an IHOP and feasted upon its bounties.
Needless to say, if eating at IHOP can be considered a journey into Bruce Chatwin-esque territories, eating IHOP At Home is like going to a pet store and playing with abandoned, slightly defective puppy mill dogs. The IHOP At Home line, which I'll abbreviate as IHOPAH, consists of three varieties of frozen breakfast-inspired items, all of them coated or fried before cooking. I took a little trip to my local Walmart Supercenter and checked them out. All of the products were cooked in what seemed like the hellfires of New Jerse- er, hell itself, in a 450 degree oven. Before cooking, they resembled edible, bulbous building blocks.
Starting with the Strawberry Cream Cheese French Toast Stuffed Pastries. The SCCFTSP look pretty when you open the package and when they're cooking, are fragrant, like fresh beignets. They consist of a slightly sweet, crispy dough that, when bitten into, yields a sauce that looks like the end result of a Strawberry Shortcake gang-related stab wound.
The sauce, which appears to be the bulk of the pastry in the photo, only occupies a scant third of the midsection. It congeals after cooling and has a mild, sweet taste when isolated from the pastry- very creamy and fruity, but when eaten together, is really buried in the fried dough flavors.The next generation in the noble line of the IHOPAH dynasty is the Griddle 'n' Sausage, the McGriddle-inspired maple, sausage, and pancake combination in yet another form thrown together in more ways than Taco Bell products. Well, don't get your hopes up, breakfast-craving late-night McDonald's goers. It's just another classic textbook example of "frequently imitated, never duplicated." The Griddle 'n' Sausage smelled like syrup when I opened the package, smelled like syrup when it was cooking, smelled like syrup when I lifted it to my mouth to take a bite, and tasted like grease and meat. What gives? I felt as though this phallic phinger phood was trying to woo me by wearing syrup-scented perfume, much as I tried to woo Keepitcoming by dousing myself in a caustic dose of BK Flame, both equaling in massive failure. Though these were juicy and salty, they gave me a headache and just tasted like fried sausages rather than pancake-wrapped ones.The last of this divine trio was the one I was most curious to try, the Sausage and Cheese Omelet Crisper. Billed as the love child between a McDonald's hash brown and a microwaved omelet, it actually tasted pretty close to its roots. The result is a somewhat bloated rectangle of egg and potato, which took the longest to cook with twenty minutes in the oven, and smelled burnt and greasy when it came out. After letting it sit for a few minutes, I found that it had crisped up and yielded a fluffy, soft interior. Okay, it was more like mushy. The exterior was the crispiest and least greasy of all three, probably because it was the only one that lacked a dough or batter around it.
With the Omelet Crisper, the crust comes from a potato-based coating which crisps up like the outside of a hash brown in the oven. The mouthfeel wasn't quite exactly like a hash brown. It was definitely more dense and floury. It's essentially a giant stuffed tater tot, which makes it delicious. Though I think that the flavor could use more sausage chunks and spices, the overall texture and sensation was definitely that of a crispy omelet. The cheese was gooey and creamy inside and the eggs were more like McDonald's egg squares, but two out of three ain't bad. This was the best of all three, which is like saying that Big Bird was the least gay of all the Sesame Street characters. Nobody wins.
That being said, none of these made me feel very good. I forgot the third and last reason for why I don't go to IHOP very often- it makes me feel bloated and gives me a headache. I have a free monthly biological reaction for those symptoms that I don't need a $10 frozen breakfast gamut of products for. I threw the bulk of these away and went for a walk. If you're not a giant lardass, they're not for you.
Labels: 3, 4, 5, breakfast, frozen, meat