Sunday, May 8, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Chak's Review of McDonald's Gilroy Garlic Fries

(NOTE: Commercial use of this article without permission is strictly prohibited - details in the Remarks section located at the end of this article.)

The southern part of Santa Clara County is home to the majority of a special herb made in the United States. That, of course, is garlic. Yes, many people know about Gordon Biersch that invented the original garlic fries. This is probably why Gilroy has it's famous Garlic Festival each July. Then, I have heard from various anchors that McDonald's is having it's version of the garlic fries, of which there were reports that the garlic does come from Gilroy. People from all over the United States have wanted to try one of the Garlic fries at McDonald's, so I decided to check it out and see for myself. In an exclusive investigative blog, I have my review of the McDonald's version of the garlic fries despite that the garlic fries were sold out in just a few days. Reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Mercury News have watched this development.

But the question is on whether the garlic fries made at McDonald's made the grade in my taste test. I went to a McDonald's at the San Carlos Street location (one of four in Silicon Valley and one of three in San Jose) to find out for myself. While I also ordered a couple of cheap burgers to go along with the fries, although the burgers are not used for this blog.

When I looked at the garlic fries, the fries and garlic are definitely cooked. The fries itself resemble a typical McDonald's french fries. The fries do look appetizing, but what about the taste itself? When I took my first bite into the McDonald's version of the Garlic Fries, the fries was certainly tasty, but not the garlic mix and parsley they put into the fries. I felt that while the fries itself was the same as a typical McDonald's regular fries, the garlic mix that McDonald's used was rather a bit cheap, with a bit of an off-garlic taste. I also barely felt the parsley as well - they were at least fresh to my taste buds. The garlic mix is not made the same way as most people would make.

Gordon Biersch, a brewery that is based in San Jose, was behind the invention of the Garlic Fries that is renowned to be world famous. Dan Gordon first invented the Garlic Fries back in 1994 when the fries were first introduced at the former Candlestick Park in San Francisco - that signature dish quickly became a hit among people. The real garlic fries consists of potatoes, garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper, and vegetable oil. Olive oil can't be used during frying as their smoke point is lower than most vegetable oils. The garlic is cooked partially so that people could taste and smell the garlic aroma.

The next thing to watch is the ingredients - I put my own estimates as to what ingredients were used in the overall mix, as McDonald's is not able to reveal the exact percentage. According to the Mercury News, the ingredients used in the mix included garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and salt. In contrast to the original Gordon Biersch version - which many do use for making garlic fries, the McDonald's version seems to be using more affordable versions of their ingredients, and replacing black pepper with Parmesan cheese.

To my personal taste buds, there was little or no olive oil. I personally felt that the olive oil accounted for only 10% of the overall vegetable oils used (the rest is vegetable oil) and about 15% for the mix overall. Parmesan cheese to me accounted for 30% of the total ingredients used, as that ingredient overpowered the olive oil that I tasted. As I barely felt the parsley in my taste, I put the parsley at about 15%. The chopped garlic to me was fully cooked and accounted for only 30%, while salt counts the remaining 10%. In comparison, Gordon Biersch's original garlic fries mix for my estimates only has partially cooked garlic (50%), parsley (20%), olive oil (15%), salt (10%), and black pepper (5%). Note that Parmesan cheese was never used in the original garlic fries, despite the small drizzle of olive oil. Furthermore, Gordon Biersch's garlic fries never contain any additional ingredients - the ingredients are very straightforward and the company - known for it's beer brewing in San Jose - is very honest about their commitment to not have unnecessary ingredients.

My consensus is that while the McDonald's version of the Gilroy Garlic Fries may be not as appetizing as the original Gordon Biersch's version due to the added Parmesan cheese. I felt that the Parmesan cheese was unnecessary to add in my attempt to feel the real garlic taste, which was barely noticeable. Those with any diary concerns should be advised - the McDonald's version may not be suitable for those people. However, despite the downsides to my take, McDonald's version of the Gilroy Garlic Fries barely made the grade. However, it's a cheap option for those who can't afford the original garlic fries.


Fries: 7.5/10
Garlic Mix: 6.5/10
OVERALL: 7.0/10 (C-)

Chak's Grading - Score is out of 10:
A = 9.0 to 10
B = 8.0 to 8.9
C = 7.0 to 7.9
D = 6.0 to 6.9
F = 0 to 5.9

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak


1. The picture in the article is taken by the original author of the blog showcasing the McDonald's version of the Garlic Fries at the San Carlos Street location, and is the property of the blogger.

2. This article can ONLY be shared with permission of the original author if the article is used for any commercial purposes - including newspapers, radio, television, etc. For any inquiries, please e-mail the blogger at the e-mail address shown in this article. THE REPRODUCTION, RETRANSMISSION, OR ANY OTHER COMMERCIAL USE OF THIS ARTICLE WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR OF THE BLOG IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chak's Take: The Longest VTA Light Rail disruption in VTA history?

Cinco de Mayo in 2016 was not so lucky when I woke up to hearing KLIV news on the radio in the morning, while at the same time, tuning in to NBC Bay Area morning news program, Today in the Bay on TV. In fact, NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48 was part of the subject, as the incident happened just outside their studios.

The subject was a male person that managed to climb on top of one of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail trains at the Component station, closing off traffic and light rail service from Gish station northwards. Service was only available between Civic Center and either Santa Teresa or Winchester stations. The Almaden shuttle ran normally without problems. The subject, who according to deputies identified as 25-year old Kyle Lewis from Prunedale, was on probation. The light rail delay was severe that bus bridges had to be called in. Light rail service for Alum Rock and Mountain View must get through the Component station in order for service to start. However, the service was not that fortunate, as only a very limited number of trains were able to get through. Lewis's goal was to "disrupt the morning commute," as he was feeling agitated that if officers were to get close to him, Lewis would spit back at officers. 

Given that NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48 staff saw the activity, they were first to be there, as the studio location on North First Street near Component Drive made it possible for their crews to reach the scene in seconds. The VTA light rail station at Component is only less than 100 feet from the station. News crews from other stations generally took took less than 45 minutes to reach the scene, depending on their location. San Francisco or Oakland-based stations may take longer if those stations do not have a Santa Clara County bureau. 

For me, going to San Jose State University entirely by car to avoid the possibility of service disruptions in the light rail system had to be my best bet. Traffic in the Silicon Valley took longer than normal, as accidents crippled the morning commute, particularly on northbound U.S. 101 from as far back as Blossom Hill Road. City streets were also more crowded than normal as well, including Capitol Expressway, Tully Road, and Senter Road. 

But the main question posed the practice of how VTA would handle any hostage situation. Two VTA spokespeople spoke on the issue. Brandi Childress said in VTA's blog that the VTA light rail system operates 154 of the 168 hours per week, or 22 of the 24 hours per day. The light rail starts moving around 4:15 AM on weekdays and 5 AM on weekends/holidays as opposed to 4 AM on weekdays (line 68) and 5 AM on weekends/holidays (all of them except line 22's 24 hour service). VTA's blog is also the place of what VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress calls it as "the high voltage light rail system is not a place to trespass or interfere with operations" in regards to the incident. The high voltage - ranging from 750 to 800 volts, is actually a live overhead voltage of which a single contact with that voltage can kill a person instantly.

In my many years seeing VTA light rail grow from it's roots in 1987, I have never seen such an incident that would delay half of the number of VTA commuters that would force people into their cars like me. However, the overall system does face serious challenges ahead despite losing ridership between 2001 and 2010, of which I question what could happen next for the transit agency and the farebox recovery ratio. I shall explain more on my take on that part the next time I write about VTA.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak