Monday, March 28, 2016

McDonald's, Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris

Yes, I went to McDonald's.  In Paris of all places.  Before you judge, let me explain a bit.

When I travel, I use it as my "excuse" to eat at McDonald's, a place I never go in "normal" life.  This habit no doubt started while traveling in the US, where McDonald's can be the only safe option when in the middle of nowhere.  I can't say I've loved my more recent McDonald's meal experiences nor my beverages from McCafe, but ... in France, McDonald's is very different.  I was very curious to try it out.

To be fair, I  did not choose to go to McDonald's in the city itself.  There are just far too many amazing bakeries and restaurants in Paris.  No matter how curious I was about french McDonald's, there is no way I'd sacrifice a meal slot when in the city.

But, I stayed overnight at the Sheraton located inside Charles de Gaulle Airport so I could catch an early morning flight, and, I needed dinner.  My options were your typical airport fare.  Including ... french McDonald's!

I did a little bit of research, and learned that McDonald's in France is really different than in the US.  For starters, due to French regulations, the beef is all grass fed, non-hormone treated.  Chicken isn't rinsed with chlorine. They also have menu items completely unique to France, and people seem to love them.

But really, the appeal for me is the sauces.  I love sauces in general, and the French certainly know their sauces, and I was curious how that would translate into McDonald's.  Ojan was also sad that we never got croque monsieurs during our time France, so, here was our chance (yes, McDonald's in France has croque monsieurs!).

So I went, excited to order entirely different things, and see if higher quality proteins and fancy new sauces could make a difference.  Overall ... it was McDonald's, but both Ojan and I were really glad we went.  The sauces were sadly the weakest part of the meal, but I really liked the Croque McDo, and the dessert turned out to be fun at least.
Ordering Station.
Ordering was also entirely different, which I appreciated given my non-French speaking ways.

All ordering is done via touch screen terminals (or in advance from your computer, or online on your mobile.)  If you order from your phone or website, you just scan the QR code when you get there to get them started on making your meal.  So futuristic!

The menu was fairly amazing.  I knew I wanted the sauces, and Ojan wanted the McDo, but I was also drawn in by all the McCafe offerings, far better than in the US.  This McDonald's had macarons!  And tiramisu!  And donuts!  And speculoos McFlurries!

I selected a frozen dessert item, and was given the option to "pick up later", rather than with my meal, a great touch.  Ojan had just started to say, "Don't you want to order that later?  It will melt while you are eating the other food", when it presented the option.  Good job McDonald's!  Of course, I had no idea how that would work later, but I figured I would cross that bridge later (the answer: just bring up your receipt, clearly marked with a "Pick up later" item, and they handle it then).

It took us a while to order because we wanted to explore the whole menu, but finally we finished, and our order was delivered to "the kitchen".
Front Counter.
The front counter looked so strange with no regular registers, since everyone orders from the devices.  Instead of menus, the boards show the progress of the orders, showing the pending queue, and the ones currently being worked on

Staff were fast and efficient, as you'd expect.  Once ready, a human does call out the number and hand over the tray.
When we went, we intended this to be just a little snack before heading back to the hotel where we had executive club access and a bunch of other food still waiting for us that we had picked up earlier in the day.  But ... we wanted all the things!

Drinks were only 1€.  I opted for a sparkling water, Ojan went for Orange Fanta.  Nothing particularly novel here, besides the cheapest sparkling water I've ever encountered.
La Boîte à Partager. (Share Box). 10.90€.
"9 Cheese Balls (spécialités panées rondes à base de fromage), 6 Chicken McNuggets™ (spécialités panées au poulet), 3 Chicken Sticks (spécialités panées au poulet)."

Yeah, ok, this one was my doing.  I had my eyes on the Boîte à Partager.  Sure, I had no idea what was inside of it (translations were not available).  The photo looked like a pile of fried food, including nuggets.  Ojan wanted nuggets, and this way, I figured we could try more things.

It turned out to be nuggets, plus chicken strips, and ... fried cheese balls.

Our box was supposed to have 9 cheese balls, but we had 12.  Neither of us liked them.  Very thick, very fried crust, unremarkable, chewy cheese inside.  Plus, no dipping sauces made sense with this, they had nothing like a marinara.  Strike one.

Next, the nuggets.  We had 6 as we were supposed to.  I didn't try them, but Ojan was quite happy with his nuggets, but these are no different from in the US, sans the lack of chlorine I suppose.

Then, the chicken strips, similar to Chicken Selects in the US.  I tried one, and well, the chicken was better than expected.  White meat, not mystery chicken stuff.

But the real appeal of this box to me, besides trying random stuff, is that it came with ... 4 sauces!
The Sauces! (included with Boîte à Partager.)
The box had 4 sauces included, and we could pick whichever 4 we wanted.  Unfortunately, some of the more interesting sauces (cajun and sweet cranberry) were not available.  We opted for: Sauce Classic Barbecue, Sauce Classic Curry, La Sauce Chinoise, and Classic Moutard.

  • Sauce Classic Barbecue: This was just basic barbecue sauce, not interesting.
  • Sauce Classic Curry: Very strong curry flavor, not something I ever like.  If you like curry with potatoes though I could see this being good with the wedges?
  • La Sauce Chinoise (Chinese Sauce):  This one was fascinating.  Not really sweet and sour sauce.  Sorta like an orange chicken sauce.  Or plum sauce.  Asian inspired, but very sweet.  Interesting, but such a strange consistency, not actually very good.
  • Classic Moutard: Mustard.  Stronger flavor than what we have in the US, but not particularly interesting.

Overall, none were as exciting as I was hoping they would be.
Potatoes Moyen (Deluxe Potatoes) with Deluxe Sauce, Medium. 2.80€
"Quartiers de pommes de terre avec leur peau, épicés, frits."

McDonald's in France still has regular fries, but we opted for the more interesting option: wedges!

They looked decent, but really weren't very good.  I missed McDonald's fries immediately.  The wedges were thick, they were seasoned, but certainly didn't seem very fresh.  They reminded me of the frozen oven wedges my family always made when I was growing up.

I cheered with glee when I discovered a few regular fries mixed into our bag.  They were standard thin fries, and I loved them, mostly due to the surprise.  Bonus fries!

At french McDonald's, regular fries are served with a special fries sauce (mayo/mustard blend), but the wedges, a "deluxe" item, come with ... "deluxe sauce".  It seemed to be mayo with chives?  Or bits of pickle perhaps?  Not as flavorful as I was hoping.

Overall, I did not like anything here.  Wedges are available only in Medium or Large, no small option.  The other sides available were standard fries, or ... cherry tomatoes.  This must be a French thing, like the cherry tomatoes we were brought at a restaurant a few days prior as a starter too?
Croque McDo.  2.60€.
"Pain spécial, fromage fondu, jambon"

And finally, the croque, known as the "Croque McDo" (they call McDonald's "McDo" there).

I actually liked it.  Was it an awesome croque monsieur?  Obviously not.  But it was really different, and I ended up finishing the whole thing, much to my surprise.

That is not to say that it *looked* particularly good.  It was thin like a pancake.

The bread was thin slices of white bread, it sorta seemed like cross sections of standard hamburger buns?  It was toasted seeming, but likely just pressed on the cooktop?

Inside was a slice of round ham, with a slice of cheese on each side.  The ham was better than expected, but just ham.  The cheese however was rather awesome.  It was ... perfectly melted.  Not a single bite was left unmelted.  I wish I took an interior shot so you could see it in all its glory.  I think it might have been ... swiss?  Honestly, it tasted like American, but I'm sure that isn't what it was.

I know this doesn't sound great.  A pancake-thin-hamburger-bun-pressed-sandwich-with-generic-cheese-and-ham?  Yes.  BUT I LIKED IT.

It reminded me of the grilled cheese sandwiches my father used to make for us when my mom was at work, simple white bread, simple cheese, pressed down flat.  Comfort food for me.

Honestly, if I were back in France and looking for something reliable, I would actually get one again (although I'd try to leave out the ham, if they allow customization through the ordering system).  Yup, tasty, glorified grilled cheese.
Marshmallow Frappe. 2€.
The dessert line up really caught my attention.  I almost went for the speculoos McFlurry with caramel sauce.  Or one of the pastries from the McCafe.  But, just as I was making my final decision, I clicked on the Frappe section just to take a look.  I didn't expect to care, but the flavors were interesting.  Dulce de leche, marshmallow ...  A marshmallow frappe?  Uh, sure?

The consistency was actually great.  Like soft serve ice cream, slightly runnier.  Easy to suck up with a straw, but thick enough that you could dip a spoon in it.  Really quite good.

The flavor did indeed taste like a marshmallow, super sweet.  It was easy to gulp down the first half, but then I quickly got very sick of it.  It was way too sweet.  I should have stopped then, but I drank more, very quickly, and felt kinda bad afterward.

Also, uh why was it ... pinkish?

I'm glad I tried it though, and I think the flavor was fun.  Plus, the 2€ price was great.


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