Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Rating System

In my quest to eat, review, and rate every French dip I can get my hands on, I have created a standardized review system with which to judge each sandwich. The system has five main criteria: One for each member of the French dip "Quadfecta" (bread, meat, cheese, au jus) and a criterion for miscellaneous extras. This last criterion has four sub-criteria, which will be discussed below.

Bread [10pts]:
Bread is one of the staples of the French dip. It should be somewhere between hard and soft, crispy and soggy. It should be warm, not cold, and should at least pretend to be a French baguette, even it is just an imitator.

Roast Beef [10pts]:
This is the meat of the sandwich... literally! It should be thinly sliced, but there should be enough of it to make the insides of the sandwich three-dimensional. I prefer it to be lightly packed, not as dense as Osmium. It should not be pink or black, but a nice brown color, and should contain little fat. There is enough of that on the cheese. Any infringement on these standards will result in a loss of points.

Cheese [10pts]:
Often of Swiss nationality, the cheese is another key component of the French dip. The cheese should be a little melty, but not oozing everywhere out of the sides of the sandwich. This means that the cheese should be slices and not gross cheese sauce. Also, the cheese points of a sandwich will take a hit if it is not included but instead costs extra.

Au Jus [10pts]:
The au jus may be the easiest and hardest of all the "Quadfecta" to get right. While it may be little more than brown salty broth, the au jus can neither be too salty nor too brown. It should also be warm, and should compliment the sandwich perfectly. One of the biggest problems in this category is not being supplied with enough au jus, as it often comes in a small cup that is hardly sufficient to smother your sandwich in. Also, like the cheese, there will be a deduction of points if this costs extra.

Miscellaneous [10pts]:

  • Appearance [2pts]:
    The French dip is not a beautiful sandwich by any stretch of imagination, and there is no expectation the the dip be covered in gold leaf. Because of this, only 2 points are possible here. Nonetheless, it should not look like you are the second person to eat it, and it should at the very least be recognizable as a French dip.

  • Price [3pts]:
    Price is one of the most important non-taste criteria. Nobody wants to pay $13 for a French dip the size of a fist. The more bang you get for your buck, the higher this score will be.

  • Restaurant [2pts]:
    This criteria rates the restaurant in which the French dip was eaten based on its cleanliness, service, and atmosphere, in addition to minor details such as drink selection.

  • Extras [3pts]:
    This section, worth 3 points, reviews the extras that come along with the French dip, such as fries, fruit, cloe slaw, or corn, just to name a few.

The system has a potential for 50 points, 10 from each main criterion. Each dip will be given a grade based on its score. The grades are as follows:

48-50 pts:
A superb French dip. This dip receives the highest honor of this blog, and it is highly recommended every reader, even if they are vegetarian, give this sandwich a try.

44-47 pts:
A really good French dip. This French dip is a good example of what a sandwich should strive to be. If you go to this restaurant, it is recommended you get this French dip, even if something else looks better.

38-43 pts:
A good French dip. This sandwich is pretty tasty, but nothing all that special. A solid entry into your stomach, if you are craving a French dip and happen to be at a restaurant that has one of these, its a pretty safe bet you will get what you are looking for.

30-37 pts:
A standard, run-of-the mill French dip. This is the type of French dip that you could easily cook up at home for a fourth of the price. Nothing special here. This isn't the French dip we are looking for. Move along, move along.

20-29 pts:
A sub-par French dip. This sandwich probably has more than one major flaw to it, and hardly does justice to the name "French dip." You will be left wondering what could have been. If you go to this restaurant and crave a French dip, I advise you to get something else. This French dip will probably make you a little sick, and only if nothing else looks good should you even dare order this.

19pts or below:
This French dip is awful, and should be avoided at all costs. It will probably make you never want to eat a French dip again, and nobody wants that. If I wasn't born in a state whose residents were characterized as "Minnesota Nice," I probably would have asked for my money back. It also probably gave me intestinal issues.

Throughout my reviews, it may seem that I am a little rough on the restaurants. However, it should be noted that French dips have the potential to be amazing, and are no joke, regardless of the humorous tone of this blog. Always remember: "With great sandwich comes great responsibility."

With the technical stuff out of the way, it is time to finally start eating some French dips. Check back soon for my first review.

Overview: The French Dip Review (A Preview of Deliciousness to Come)

Since the dawn of time, mankind has loved eating four things: Meat, cheese, bread, and brown salty sauce. Unfortunately, for eons man found no tasteful way to combine these four separate forces of nature. That all changed in the early 20th century. While physicists were still struggling to find a unifying solution for electromagnetism, gravity, strong force, and weak force, chefs in the 1900's created their own version of a grand unification theory, winning what was known thereto as the "Unification Race" (the sickly and lesser-known cousin of the "Space Race" and the "Caucasian Race"). These chefs succeeded by fusing all of the four "super foods" thus: They first cut a french baguette lengthwise, then placed sliced roast beef in on the bread, topped it with melted Swiss cheese, and placed the other side of the bread on top. They then dipped this creation in a steamy, salty, browny au jus sauce, which modern restaurants often serve on the side, evidence of the theory of French Dip Evolution, popularized by the great English naturalist Charles Darwin. By doing so, the chefs solved one of the greatest problems in contemporary science and created the greatest invention since the axle:

The French Dip

This blog was created to celebrate this culinary masterpiece of deliciousness. Like most red-blooded men, I love French dips, and I have taken it upon myself to review these little pieces of heavenly cuisine wherever I go. While this blog will mostly focus on the French dips found in Southeast Minnesota and Northeast Iowa, I hope to expand the scope of this blog, eventually reviewing around the country. I hope that will join me on my quest to taste as many French dips as possible in an attempt to find the best French dip I can, and to honor the sandwich we all love: The French Dip.