MRE Showdown

USA & Russia pt 1

I had an idea for a do ahead blog to drop in some weekend when I wasn’t able to do the normal blog.  I thought it might be interesting to compare MREs from different countries with the US being one for sure.  The only other country’s rations I could find easily was Russia’s so I ordered up some of each.  Due to the fact that there are multiple meals involved this will be a two part post starting with the challenger, Russia.

The Russian one actually is one package for a full day or 3 meals whereas the US ones are packed one meal per package.  Neither one had what I’d call anything like a normal breakfast but both have fairly high calorie count as you’d expect to need if you’re doing strenuous activities often associated with military life.

The Russian arrived first and as you can see in the first photo it was vacuum packed.  Inside is a cardboard container with a nicely packed series of packs and containers.  Now this is all in Cyrillic and I don’t read Russian so this is pretty much a by guess and by golly although some I could figure out.  So here’s what was in the box:

3 large foil tins, 2 small foil tins, 1 small round can, 4 packs of crackers, 2 individually packed tea bags, one pack of coffee, one mystery foil pack, one pack with peaches I figure is a desert of some sort, a pack of powder with fruits & vegetables on it I figure may be a drink powder, 3 packs of sugar that are at least 2 tablespoons full, salt and pepper packets, 3 two packs of what I assumed were wet naps (they were), 5 charcoal tablets for water purification, 3 waxy tablets and a foldable heater, 6 matches and a striker, 3 spoons, 3 napkins, some weird little plastic device and something that is clearly a pill of some sort.

Since I wasn’t planning to start a fire on my table I threw most of the accessories in my emergency zombie apocalypse stash.  I decided one big tin, one small tin / can, one pack of crackers, one of the other packs and a caffeine source would make a meal.  Here’s the first batch.

The first big tin turned out to be rice and meaty flavored fat dish, allegedly beef.  It honestly had a fairly decent flavor with a  bit of black pepper added. The crackers had a kind of stale taste that was the first thing you noticed and was a bit off putting but I powered through.  The little can turned out to be filled with a cheese flavored substance much like the old C rations had canned cheese but this wasn’t quite that good.  It did have a mild cheese flavor and covered the cracker taste but that’s about all you can say for it.  The mystery foil pack had jam that made me wish I still had crackers left.  It was sweet and tasted like a cross between apple and apricot.  The tea I heated in the microwave and it was nice and strong and a packet of the sugar made it something to carry you through a few more hours.

Here are the contestants for the evening meal.

The tin that looks like dog food was a salty beef in liquid and the white stuff is congealed fat.  When heated it the beef was tender and swimming in what I’m going to call broth.  The beef wasn’t bad but there was so much liquid it had to be part of the equation so I took half the semi-rancid crackers and broke them in to small shards and added them to the mix.  In addition to soaking up the “broth” it had the added benefit of softening the crackers and masking their taste.  The smaller tin had a meat paste that sort of tasted like patê if you’d never actually had any.  The other half of the crackers were devoted to this delight.  The final course in this meal was the fruit bar thingy.  As the picture showed it definitely had peaches but also finely chopped nuts and a peppery taste from some spice.  It wasn’t bad but it’s not going to be on my “gotta get me more of that” list.  So filling but not a meal I’d really want to have again.

The last I only snapped after the lids were removed as my enthusiasm waned but I supplemented with a nice snap of the tea and coffee.


The big tin had a beef stew in it and was actually the best of the lot.  It was mainly potatoes and beans in gravy but there was enough meat to let you know it was beef stew and honestly was fairly good.  The small tin had eggplant paste the consistency of pumpkin pie filling but not the taste.  I didn’t know how you were expected to eat it but I busted out another pack of the crackers and used it as a dip.  It wasn’t as disgusting as it looked but it was filling.  The green pack was a drink powder but didn’t have much of a distinct flavor and the coffee was everything you’d expect instant coffee to be.  I didn’t but if you added a bag of the sugar to the coffee that would get you moving for a while.

The beef stew and the tea were definitely the highlights of this package.  To reflect my final judgement let me tell you what should be a joke in the Russian army if it isn’t already.

Why did the Russian dog lick his butt?  Because he was trying to get the taste of the Russian MRE out of his mouth.

To be fair the packaging was well done and the contents efficiently packed.

Part 2 will be 3 US MREs.

Finger Food


This weekend I decided it had been a while since I’d had any food from Africa and I had seen something about a new Ethiopian place opening just a few weeks ago so I took the culinary passport to Abugida Ethiopian Café.

The restaurant is in what used to be a house with 2 parking places in front and a lot of parking in the back.  There was only one car in the lot when I got there and I wondered if they might be closed but it just turned out they weren’t busy.  I walked in and there was just a guy playing with his baby at the register and he called the young lady who waited on me.  Everything was freshly painted and they have décor that let’s you know it is an African restaurant plus they play African music.  The menu is not extensive being just one page with both meat and vegetarian options but it is all ethnic so don’t expect to get the kids a chicken nugget meal.

The young lady who took my order asked if I’d had Ethiopian before to make sure I knew about injera and offered to answer any question.  I decided to go with the Doro Wet which is the spicier of the two doro dishes.

So just up front they don’t bring silverware, you eat the meal with the injera bread by tearing off a chunk and scooping up food.  I’m sure they would have brought some if requested but it’s not provided normally.  The doro wet is a chicken leg in a gravy made from herbed butter, onion, garlic, berbere spices, and other stuff and a boiled egg for good measure.  The white pile on the side is aybe, an Ethiopian homemade cottage cheese.  When she brought the plate she carefully spooned the chicken leg and egg onto the injera and covered them in the sauce and left the balance of the sauce in the little pot.  The spoon in the pot actually looked like it was made from animal horn but I didn’t confirm that.

A nice thing about this place is in addition to the injera the food is served on they also bring an extra one rolled up so you have plenty to scoop and eat with.  The chicken was very tender and the egg was suitably eggy but the sauce is where all the flavor is in this dish and it is tasty and just spicy enough that I broke a light sweat before I finished.  The aybe had a nice mild cheese taste, frankly better than any cottage cheese I’ve had from a store.  At first I was skeptical that one chicken leg and an egg were going to be sufficient to the task but I was stuffed by the time I got though and had my coffee.

This was the set up I could see across the room plus a cappuccino machine to the right that didn’t make the picture.  Honestly I expected to get some strong black coffee but that was not the deal when I agreed I wanted the Ethiopian coffee.

What happened was they came to what I thought was just a display in the corner that you see below and grabbed a cup and saucer went to the back and 10-15 minutes later I was served up a little pot of coffee plus a little brazier that had some resinous incense sprinkled on an ember.

The coffee was stronger than your average American cup of joe and while sugar was provided dairy was not part of the standard setup.  I was offered milk if needed but I declined.  I sat and enjoyed a couple of tiny cups of coffee and wondered why this place wasn’t busier.  I enjoyed the food and coffee but honestly what made the biggest impression was the people.  While I was there I had my main server but there were three other people, not counting the baby, who worked there or at least passed through the dining room and every single one of them asked if I needed anything or if they could do something for me.  Very warm and welcoming and all from Ethiopia from what I could discern.

If you don’t mind getting a little handsy with your food I’d recommend trying this place out.

In case you missed it the first time here is the Tell Me More page for Ethiopia.


What the Fries?

This weekend I actually hit food trucks in Augusta, GA and Charlotte, NC both times with friends and live music so it was a pretty good weekend.  I didn’t take any photos or note the name of the truck in Augusta because I am a slacker sometimes.  That being the case I’m going to focus on Saturday evening’s food truck but want to give a shout out to the folks who made that polish sausage on a big roll with grilled onions and peppers plus slaw but sadly no napkins.  It was a miracle we didn’t wear more of it than we did.  Also thanks to Renee, Mike & Kim for sharing the evening and enduring some good and not that great cover bands on the Commons in Augusta for St. Patrick’s day.

Saturday evening I had my stuff together a little better and met with friend and fellow food enthusiast Jody at Food Truck Saturday (FTS), sponsored by The City Kitch and Wild Wing Café in northeast Charlotte.  We had been stalking a food truck called What the Fries Charlotte for a while trying to find a time and place we could meet to check them out and this event worked out.

From the skies you’d never know we had a short rain delay but the evening turned out to be a fantastic one for eating outside.  As you might expect from the name the headline truck specializes in fries but not just any fries.  They had a number of different and interesting selections and we settled on the Truffle Parmesan fries and the Smokey Bacon Fries.

One of the great benefits, aside from good company, to bringing a friend is you get to try more things that you would on your own without being a total glutton.  I was the primary on the Smokey Bacon and Jody was the primary on the Truffle Parmesan.  Both were good but the general consensus was the Smokey Bacon was the better of the two.  The sauce on the Parmesan Truffle was creamy, truffley and parmesany and the fries were good.  The Smokey Bacon was really good. Applewood bacon, shredded smoked gouda, tomatoes and scallions on fries that were cooked through but not crunchy.  The flexibility of the fries let you fold them around the great toppings like a potato corral and scoop up the tasty results for a delightful bite.  After downing those we decided we had to try at least one more thing from one of the other 6 MoFUs (that’s Mobile Food Units I learned from the City Kitch blog).  Since we were in topped carb mode we strolled over to Bebo’s Mac Shack and grabbed a small Chili Mac and Cheese and two forks.

This was some serious comfort food.  The base is their straight up mac & cheese which has pesto cream cheese, smoked gouda & cream topped with chili, shredded cheddar, scallions, sour cream and a few jalapenos to keep it interesting.  This was definitely worth having and without a partner I’d not have been able to hit two trucks without ditching some food.

According to the website they will be doing this a couple of times a month (1st & 3rd Saturdays) with a rotating line up of food trucks so I will definitely be going back for seconds.  A couple of tips if you plan to go; parking was tight at 6:00pm when I got there so be prepared to walk a short ways, there are places to set up a chair if you are so inclined or you can pull up a curb, there is a limited beer and wine selection, and I didn’t see any public restrooms but I wasn’t looking for one either so I could have overlooked them.

Anyway I’d recommend the event, What the Fries & Bebo’s Mac Shack food trucks.


Cheese, Coconut & Weird Yoga

Papi Queso

Well this weekend was another food truck lunch.  I happened to see a tweet that the Papi Queso Truck would be at an event at Sycamore Brewing.  It was a brunch for the Salty Coconut Can Release.   How could I pass up a gourmet grill cheese truck at a brewery.

The brunch was from 9-12 and I got there around 11 so it wouldn’t be too early but hopefully they wouldn’t have run out of too many things.  I guess I should mention you won’t just notice Sycamore Brewing as you’re tooling around town as it’s kind of on a side street but that means they have lots of parking on the street and in their spacious lot.  They were already serving up draft beer in the taproom and selling cans of the aforementioned Salty Coconut beer (more on that later).

In addition to the regular menu Papi Queso had a couple of special items for the event, a Salty Coconut French toast and a croque monsieur sandwich.  I went for the croque monsieur because if you’re going to get a fancy grilled cheese you might as well have one with a snooty French name too.

It was taking them about 10 minutes per order so I went in and grabbed a pint of the Salty Coconut Red Ale and a 4 pack of the cans to help bide my time (just the pint not the 4 pack too).  This was a very interesting beer.  You immediately got the coconut taste and then the smooth red ale washed it away until the next sip.  I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of it but this was a great change of pace beer.


The croque monsieur was a really tasty grilled cheese as you might expect from something made from French rosemary ham, gruyere cheese on French Pullman bread with sea salt and scallions sprinkled on the top plus a side of truffle mornay sauce for a little dipping.  I’m thinking any of the menu items would certainly be worth trying and like any good grilled cheese provider they offer tomato soup as well so you can get all your comfort food needs met at once.

I was going to just go sit in my car and eat the sandwich but the Sycamore Brewery has a beer garden plus additional seating at picnic tables and on one of these tables was a lady on all fours and a guy was taking her picture with two other folks standing there watching.  Well I figured I might as well have a show while I ate and sauntered over to one of the other tables to observe this spectacle.  By the time I got to table the young lady was contorted into some odd pose with her hands on the table and her legs up around her elbows which made an impressive centerpiece for the picnic table.  Based on my observations the story I decided on was that it was a photo shoot for some yoga studio or classes or something.  One of the other folks was the posers husband and joined her in some of the shots doing some tai chi looking stuff.  It was an interesting accompaniment to brunch.

Final judgements; Papi Queso Truck – Yay Cheese!, Sycamore Brewing – Yay Beer! also they have food trucks regularly on site, Yoga show – Yay yoga pants!




Well I did a little searching for some new countries to take the culinary-passport to and while I didn’t find a restaurant dedicated to Norwegian cuisine I did find one that had a Norse theme and a Norwegian burger so that was the stop this week.  The Valhalla Pub & Eatery is in uptown Charlotte on South Church street at the mouth of a cool little alley with several restaurants shops.  I was in the same neighborhood almost exactly a year ago so you can find that post if you’re interested.

Since I know from my Norse mythology you don’t just roll in to Valhalla and I couldn’t find any Valkyries to take me I settled on a Lynx.

It was nice parking at the end of the light rail line and riding uptown.  I experienced no frustration, didn’t cuss at anyone, and didn’t have to find or pay for parking when I got there.  Yay transit system!

The Valhalla lives up to its name and is a nice little pub.  It wasn’t crowded when I got there but it started to get a little more lively as the football crowd started arriving to watch some match.  What?  There’s no football being played now you say.  True.  This was the other football, the one with the totally round ball.  Some of those fans were odd but there was no face or body paint (visible). One guy brought his ball like he thought a pick up game might happen or maybe it was his lucky ball, I don’t know.  Anyway I got out just before the match started so I won.

Back to the food and drink.  I went for the previously mentioned Norwegian burger and a local brew, Black Blaze Chocolate Milk Stout, to wash it down with.

The Norwegian burger is not your normal round burger but an oblong mix of beef and pork on a nice soft roll.  It came with Jarlsberg cheese, a smattering of red onion, something called Norsk sauce and fried egg topping it off.  That egg was over easy and runny so it added a little moisture to mix.  It was good and I liked that they were very spare with the red onion.  You got a taste but they didn’t overwhelm the meat and cheese.  The other item I considered was the Norwegian meatballs but since I did meatballs for Sweden that felt like it would have been redundant.

The Chocolate Milk Stout was really smooth and as you can see from the photo quite dark like a good stout should be.

I did appreciate the sentiment expressed by the chalkboard hanging on the wall.  And this isn’t something you hear everyday but the bathroom was kind of cool too.  No pictures were taken in there because I do have limits.  Standards no, limits yes.

Overall I enjoyed the outing to Valhalla and honestly I can see doing it again.

For some more authentic examples of Norwegian culture check out the Tell Me More page.