Thursday, September 23, 2010

Volume 5, Number 26: The Restaurant Diet Soda Dilemma... and Possible Solutions

Last night, I was thinking about how restaurants tend to be very limited in terms of diet sodas you can choose from (they usually have either Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke, but not much else). I dealt with this issue while eating at a few different restaurants during my vacation earlier this month. On most occasions, I had to have a regular soda because the only diet soda being offered was Diet Coke (which I dislike, to say the least).

You may know that sodas are dispensed in restaurants by mixing carbonated water with a concentrated syrup. And I got to thinking last night, what if you took the sweetener out of the syrup and put it in the carbonated water instead? And then, what if the fountain was hooked up to two different carbonated waters (one with high fructose corn syrup in it and the other containing my preferred aspartame/acesulfame potassium blend)? And finally, at the fountain, the customer could indicate whether they wanted the regular or diet version of a soda just by pressing a button or flipping a switch. In particular, it would allow diners to have the diet version of any regular soda being served at the restaurant, including examples that otherwise aren't available, such as:
  • Diet Mug Root Beer. Today, restaurants that serve Pepsi products will offer Mug Root Beer but not Diet Mug Root Beer.
  • Fanta Zero (orange soda). Most restaurants that serve Coke products offer Fanta orange soda--but I've never seen the "zero calorie" version of that particular soda (not at the supermarkets I shop at, anyway--Coke's web site says it does exist, though). My soda fountain idea would allow a diner to make one.
  • Diet Dr. Pepper--I know that Arby's serves it but I don't know of any other restaurant that does.
  • Here's a bonus for all those who actually liked the "new" Coke back in 1985: As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, if you took the aspartame out of Diet Coke and added high fructose corn syrup to it, you'll get that short-lived formula (also known as "Coke II"). So any restaurant serving Coke products could conceivably sell that particular formula using the unsweetened Diet Coke syrup/high fructose corn syrup-sweetened carbonated water mix.
After some searching the web, I've found that Coca-Cola has been piloting a new fountain dispenser called the "Freestyle" that dispenses over 100 brands of soda. Now that could be a solution... although after reading on the Coca-Cola Freestyle Facebook page about how expensive it is to build and maintain these Freestyle machines, I'd just as soon wish that they'd make a relatively cheap fountain that dispensed 12 or 20 different varieties. Choosing from 106 different sodas--potentially including ones that aren't available in local supermarkets--appeals to me, but right now I'll be happy with being able to choose from 5 or 6 different diet sodas.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Volume 5, Number 25: TV Party Next Week!

Fall is my favorite season of the year, and it has been for many years. There are many reasons, in no particular order--the smell of dead leaves, the colors of the dying leaves, the cooler temperatures, no snow or unbearable heat, not as much rain or thunderstorms as you have in spring, a new model year for the automotive industry, new seasons in the NFL and in college football, the division races in baseball, and later in the fall, new seasons in the NHL and NBA.

But today's blog entry is not about any of those reasons. It has to do with another reason, another new season, this one for television. Back in my childhood, when cable didn't offer much in the way of original programming (and my parents didn't subscribe it anyway), the "Big Three" networks trotted out a variety of shows, from sitcoms to dramas, some new (and nothing like the mix of so-called "reality TV" cluttering the airwaves today). In particular, it was great to see new shows after three months or so of nothing but reruns (as the networks reran all their sitcoms and dramas during the summer months back then). There would be a number of shows that would interest me every year, some of whose names I shout out today whenever I listen to "TV Party" by Black Flag ("Life Goes On! Life On Mars! Werewolf! Benson!") Some, I wish I could go back in time to see because I missed them due to my father's overriding TV preferences (I never got to see Voyagers, a 1981 NBC show about two time travelers, because it was on against 60 Minutes, which my father always watched; The People Next Door, about a man whose imaginary visions become reality and the family that has to put up with them, was a 1989 CBS sitcom I would have loved to have seen, short-lived though both shows were).

OK. Back to the present day. Next week is chock full of new shows and premieres, and there's one more the following week that will interest me, in the closest thing I'll have to my own personal TV Party. They are:
  • Being Erica, Tuesdays at 9pm Eastern Time on CBC (third season begins September 21): One thing I would miss if I moved away from Detroit is Canadian TV. Being Erica stars Erin Karpluk (who also appears in the CW series, Life Unscripted) as a single woman in her 30s who has met a therapist who can take her back in time to fix her laundry list of life regrets. Karpluk has said that the third season will be darker and feature more future time travel (this happened once in season 2 last year).
  • Detroit 1-8-7, Tuesdays at 10pm on ABC (starting September 21): I'm not a big fan of cop shows--I mainly watched the long-missed Life On Mars for the temporal displacement angle--but I want to see how this series portrays the city of Detroit. (No, this is not the show that led to Warren Evans' resignation as Detroit's Chief of Police.)
  • Hell's Kitchen, Wednesdays on FOX (eighth season begins September 22): Of course! Hopefully the new season will be better than the previous one (in which we pretty much had only one highlight: sous-chef Scott going off on Benjamin when the latter tried to run the pass). The new season may have promise if this video is any indication (it's the first time I know of that a chef has imitated Chef Ramsay during service).
  • S*#! My Dad Says, Thursdays at 8:30pm on CBS (starting September 23): I've been following Justin (the son who posts his 73-year-old dad's remarks on Twitter) on both Twitter and Facebook. That Twitter feed has given rise to both a book and this sitcom, in which William Shatner will play the obnoxious but ultimately wise and lovable dad. I would have preferred either Christopher Lloyd or Harvey Keitel in that role, but Shatner's gotten much better with age so I'll give him a shot.
  • Outsourced, Thursdays at 9:30pm on NBC (starting September 23): If only because I want to see what humor the writers of this show can get out of an American training customer service agents in India when those jobs used to be in the United States (and heaven knows that customers would rather be talking to American customer service reps and customer service quality tends to suffer when it's based outside North America). Chances are, I won't laugh and will tune out within the first 15-20 minutes.
  • No Ordinary Family, Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC (starting September 28): A family survives a plane crash in the Amazon River and each member of the family emerges with a different super power. "Life Goes On" meets "The Fantastic Four"? I hope so. I've always been taken by superhero stories--including an idea for one I came up with back in '98 in which the Earth passes through an unusual spatial anomaly (an "indigo hole") and everyone on the planet becomes super-powered as a result. Heroes had such potential before NBC execs messed up Tim Kring's plans for that series. Hopefully ABC won't mess with No Ordinary Family.
Hoarders' third season (A&E) premiered last month. I've been watching that show since it started on August 17 of last year. But I wish the producers of that show would distinguish true hoarding--where people keep junk either because of sentimental value or because they think it can be fixed--from sheer slovenliness (lazy, shiftless slobs who can't even dispose of their own excrement--a recent episode featured a woman with a house was caked with cat feces and piled with bags of her own crap).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Volume 5, Number 24: To St. Louis and Back

I spent a few days in St. Louis last week and finally got one item on my "bucket list" checked off--going up to the top of the Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the United States. I will be posting pictures to my Facebook page soon.

My reviews on diet sodas I've been drinking lately:
  • Pepsi One: Thumbs down. I didn't like the aftertaste (which is disappointing because I thought sucralose would have a better aftertaste than aspartame). I like two other Pepsi diet products better (Diet Pepsi Lime and Diet Pepsi Max; I haven't tried Diet Pepsi Cherry yet).
  • Coca-Cola Vanilla Zero: Thumbs up, and a contender (along with Coke Cherry Zero) for the Diet Soda Federation's Inter-cola-nental Championship.
  • Coca-Cola Zero: Thumbs down. I didn't like it as much as the Cherry or Vanilla Zero (I guess I need the extra flavoring that the Cherry or Vanilla Zero's have to mask the aftertaste).
  • Fresca: Thumbs up. As expected, the aftertaste from the aspartame/ace-K blend is better than when it only used aspartame. But I still have wax nostalgic for the "Disco Fresca" with the saccharin in it.
  • Diet Rite Black Cherry: Thumbs down. It goes down easily enough and it doesn't have much of an aftertaste, but it doesn't offer much in the way of flavor.
  • Diet A&W Cream Soda: Thumbs up, despite the fact that it uses aspartame--rather than the aspartame/ace-K blend used in Diet A&W Root Beer--as its artificial sweetener. Why? The flavor of this cream soda seems to overpower the aftertaste of the aspartame. (In fact, back in the days when I drank regular soda on a regular basis, I preferred Faygo Cream Soda over A&W Cream Soda because I thought the flavor of the latter was too strong, but where the diet versions are concerned, having a strong flavor works in A&W's favor.)
Moral of the story: Maybe I need to rethink my strategy for trying out diet sodas. The sweetener matters, to be sure, but so is the flavor of the soda (I prefer that it be strong enough to drown out any aftertaste the artificial sweetener may have).

Diet sodas I'll give a try soon include Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper, Diet Squirt and Sam's Cola Zero Calorie.

Here's an update on my weight and diet: I've gone down to as low as 183 lb. (8 pounds down from my "record" 191 at the end of July). I'm at 185 right now but I attribute that to eating a lot of restaurant food between September 3 and September 9. There are still no crackers, chips, cookies, ice cream in my house, and since August 31, there are no Pop-Tarts in the house, either. I did buy a box of 6 SuperPretzels, but only because I wanted to have those one more time before I said goodbye to them (they're gone now--I had one a day over 6 days). The only "regular" soft drink in my house right now is a carton of Minute Maid Fruit Punch (which I bought thinking it was fruit juice--only to find, to my shock, that it actually has high fructose corn syrup in it, and so much of it, in fact, that it has more carbs than regular Coca-Cola).

And finally, an update on that Tigers road jersey entry in the Uni Watch Design-A-Jersey Contest (as featured in my last two blog entries): I came in 13th with 150 votes. I appreciate each and every vote I got from you--thank you.