BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist
The chews conquered Bakersfield long ago, but Dewar's may have the opportunity to stretch the reach of its beloved taffy.
The Creamsicle-flavored Tiger Chew was introduced in December in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which gets a portion of the proceeds from sale of the candy. Heather Dewar said early last week that she's been speaking to representatives of the charity, who want to take the chew nationwide.
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"It's quickly become one of our most popular flavors with both kids and adults," she said. "How big it will be in the end? Who knows, but it's not going away any time soon."
The flavor was the idea of Chris Wilson, whose 5-year-old son, Ryan, is a leukemia survivor. According to an article in Bakersfield Life magazine, the family discovered the diagnosis when they took the then-17-month-old boy to the doctor's office in 2008 for an earache. They have a website, www.Tigerfight.org, to raise awareness and funds. Their slogan: "Fighting Leukemia and Growling along the Way!"
Dewar said Wilson was the project manager for her company's recent expansion.
"We knew his son is a survivor, got to know his story, how involved he was in the charity, and last summer he talked to us about this new flavor," she said. "We ordered various orange flavorings, tested them last fall to see which one offered the best aroma and was the closest to the 50/50 Bar flavor, and the response has been so strong."
Dewar said the next step is to work with a graphic artist on a design for a box and a wrapper that would communicate the charitable connection to the product. It's currently in a typical Dewar's wrapper.
"We have to incorporate the Dewar's logo, the LLS logo and Tigerfight.org," she said. "We want to make that connection for the customer, so the charities will get some exposure."
Great breakfast report
Reader David Irvine, who keeps us posted on his dining adventures, writes about one of our favorite breakfast spots, Happy Jack's in downtown Bakersfield:
"I know Happy Jack's for killer burgers and pies but who knew they did breakfast as well? My wife and I visited them this morning for one of our usual Saturday outings looking for a great breakfast joint in and around Bakersfield. Well, not only did we find one, but it ranked with the best (Carla's on Union, 24th Street Cafe, The Red Wagon in Shafter and Donna Kaye's). The experience we had at Happy Jack's has topped them all. The aunt and niece that run Happy Jack's should give lessons to other restaurants that have service issues. ... On this visit I had a hard choice to make between huevos rancheros con chorizo and the chili-verde omelet. So I asked the recommendations of the niece and she gave me the top three, with the chili verde coming in at number 1.
"My wife and I have tried chili verde all over this town and I have to say we have found the best. Tender little chucks of pork in a not-overly-spicy chili-verde sauce. ... It was served with the Happy Jack potatoes, which are awesome and also your choice of toast or tortillas. My wife said it was so good it made her eyeballs sweat.
We also ordered a milk, which has to be the coldest milk in this town. Served in a cold glass it was so cold that little ice crystals started to form. All in all, this has been the best experience ever and should be visited by all. One more mention is that this is a CASH only restaurant, so bring the green."
Who orders steak at Mexicali? You should
Reader/friend of the column/man about town/raconteur Mark Price tipped me off to a most unusual treat: the New York steak on the menu at the Mexicali restaurants ($19.95).
He explained that Mexicali is his dad's favorite restaurant and when he took him there he noticed how alluring the steak was that a woman was eating at a nearby table. He ordered it and now won't order anything else.
So we sampled it. It comes with a cup of vegetable soup or a salad and a choice of rice and beans or French fries. The soup was solid, but the fries were routine, so next time we'll get the known quantity, the rice and beans. This steak is a solid bargain: a well-trimmed, fire-grilled beauty that had almost no fat on the outside to trim away and looked to be lightly basted with butter. Butter makes everything better, and it's at times like this that I thank God I'm not on a low-cholesterol diet. The beef probably would've been flavorful without it, but it was the crowning touch.
I can't say it's the only thing I'd order there, as I'm partial to the enchiladas and tostadas, but it is a great value. Check it out.
IHOP is giving away free pancakes to anyone and everyone on Tuesday to celebrate National Pancake Day. On this day, the family-friendly restaurant chain is aiming to raise $3 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in celebration of the organization's 30th anniversary. In other words, they're hoping for a lot of contributions to a good cause on that day.
Student essay contest
Olive Garden is sponsoring an essay contest for students. The prize is a $2,500 savings bond and trip to New York City. The essay topic: "How would you help end hunger in your community?" The deadline is March 22, and the contest is open to students from first through 12th grade. The essay can be from 50 to 250 words. Olive Garden also will provide a $5,000 grant to help hunger initiatives in the winner's community.
Submissions will be judged based on creativity, adherence to theme, organization, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Pasta Tales entry forms and complete rules are available on Olive Garden's website at www.olivegarden.com.
New and different
Quiznos has brought back for a limited time the steak house beef dip on garlic focaccia bread, made with black angus steak and Swiss cheese ... Famous Dave's is bringing back its Sweetwater catfish entree on Feb. 11. They are currently offering cod strips as an appetizer ... Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar will celebrate its 10th year in business by offering new seasonal menus, bringing back classics and participating in the Kern County Nut Festival. They also have a Wine Maker Dinner coming up on April 4 with Wrath Wines from Monterrey, priced at $98 a person, not including tax and tip ... Baja Fresh has added seafood bowls to lure in the New Year dieters, including a Skinny Wahoo Bowl and Grilled Chipotle Shrimp Bowl ... The Crest Bar and Grill has a special Valentine's Day menu, with three appetizer options, lobster bisque or salad and three entrees, dessert and wine. Cost is $90 a couple and $50 for singles. Call 833-9998 for reservations.
Soft serve falls on hard times
Dairy Queen at the Valley Plaza food court has closed. The irony: we lose our Blizzards in winter in Bakersfield.