When it comes to savory backyard burgers, local grillmeisters will tell you few premade patties compare to Schnucks' "Chef's Mignon." Introduced in 2000 as part of the supermarket's "Loaded Burger" series, the Chef's Mignon combines high-quality beef, cheddar cheese, onions and special spices that — as the name suggests — transform the pedestrian burger into something akin to fine steak.

But could it be that Schnucks has changed the ingredients of its coveted Chef's Mignon? That's the question a reader posed last week when he called Unreal to tell us that the grocery chain was now using ground chuck instead of sirloin to make its patties. The informant further revealed that the acclaimed burger no longer contains the Worcestershire sauce and Lawry's seasoning that once made it so tasty. "It's fraudulent!" our source cried. "They continue to call it the Chef's Mignon, but it's not. It's a poor imitation. Someone needs to call them out!"

Well, Unreal knows a meaty story when we hear it. We quickly called Schnucks' director of communications, Lori Willis. If the supermarket is indeed passing off an inferior patty as the Chef Mignon, the public must be warned.

In an RFT exclusive, Willis tells Unreal that Schnucks has changed the Chef Mignon from sirloin to certified "Angus" ground chuck. Aha! But, she adds, the change came four years ago and was designed to improve the flavor of the burger. "Our premium burger program has constantly evolved, mostly due to customer feedback," Willis adds. "The Angus chuck makes for a distinctively juicier taste. We also now use natural cheddar and Gorgonzola cheeses and fresh red onion as opposed to frozen onion in the burgers."

Mmmkay, but what about the Worcestershire sauce? Willis admits that the Chef Mignon no longer contains the ingredient. Gotcha again! "The feeling was that it didn't add much flavor and the brown color of the sauce made the meat look old," Willis explains. "The customer can still put it on their hamburger at home. I know I like it on my burgers."

As for the Lawry's, Willis will only reveal that the burger contains premium spices. "The chefs want to keep some things a secret," she notes. "At the same time, we're open to suggestions. I encourage your source to give me a call. I'd love to hear his thoughts." 

Everybody Must Get drank
Taste-testing is by far one of Unreal's favorite office pastimes, and we always have good sippin' in the form of, say, vodka, within arm's reach. You can bet that when we got wind recently of drank, a new drink, we were all over the editorial-team taste-test.

The drink, which comes in a sixteen-ounce purple tallboy, is described in press materials as an "anti energy" drink and an "extreme relaxation beverage." The magic ingredients come in the form of melatonin, rose hips and valerian root. And the catchy slogan, appearing on the front of the can?

"Slow your roll."

Sitting around drinking coffee one morning, Unreal and company wondered what it might be like to consume an anti-energy drink and an energy drink at the same time. Our minds wandered to drinking drank with alcohol. Naturally, next came the taste test.

"Smells like a Rockstar!" yelled a staffer upon saddling up. "No, purple Kool-Aid!" offered another thirsty writer.

Drank is an iridescent purple — in the lilac family, you might say. We decided that drunk alone, drank tastes exactly like "that baby-aspirin Motrin stuff." Drunk with Red Bull or vodka, drank tastes like drinking nothing. One staffer suggested that drinking drank during a smooth-jazz listening session might be nice.

"WARNING: This product may cause drowsiness," the can advises. "Not recommended more than 2 servings within a 24-hour period."

That is where things get interesting. After only a coupla sips of drank, several of us were feeling bleary-eyed, unfocused, cockeyed. The letters on our computer screens seemed to squiggle and squirm like amorphous little amoebas.

Memphian Terry Harris, CEO of drank's distributor, HBB of Missouri LLC, has already placed drank in more than 100 St. Louis stores, including Beverly Hills Grocery & Liquor and Cool Smoke. We chatted with him the day after the taste test to see if he'd heard about this reaction.

Unreal: So what provided the inspiration for this drink, drank?

Terry Harris: Well, a lot of it was through CEO Peter Bianchi and his background in the music business, being around people who wanted to relax and slow down a little bit.

So like T-Pain and other rappers who wax on about purple stuff?

I guess to some degree, but it's more of a slow-your-roll deal.

And how'd you come up with the name?

Christina Brozek, drank flack: "Drank" is slang for a prescription-grade cough syrup that's abused by some people. As a musician, Peter has seen its detrimental effects and wanted to create something that could let you slow down but wouldn't be harmful.

Why so tall?

It's two servings per can. We do have another product out called drank deuce, which is a two-ounce shot.

Is drank more of a late-night elixir?

Harris: I don't know if "elixir" would be the proper term, but it's got a wide audience, no doubt. We're finding out that drank is replacing wine, beer, Ambien, Xanax — whatever people are taking after work.

We mixed drank with Red Bull and with a premium French vodka called Pinnacle.

Do you mind me asking why?

Seemed like something other people might try. Public service, if you will. But it created a funny, cockeyed haze. Have you heard of that?

Never. We aren't marketing the product to mix with alcohol by any means.

Is it effective at treating sore throats or the common cold?

We've never tested it for that.

I ask because it was pretty medicinal on the palate.

It tastes pretty good. Dimetapp tastes pretty good, too.

Hmm. Guess we'll put that down on our list of things to taste-test after work. 

Things Are Looking Up
Unreal loves sunlight and blue skies as much as the next person. At the moment, the sky outside our office window is a bland, overcast white and it's making us feel a wee bit sad. Fortunately, we happen to have the phone number for the Sky Factory, a company in Fairfield, Iowa, that manufactures false windows and skylights with eternally sunny and bucolic views and even palm trees, for those who like that sort of thing.

Fairfield happens to be a pilgrimage site of sorts for students of Transcendental Meditation and the Yogic Flying technique, but the Sky Factory has nothing to do with that sort of thing, spokesman Jeff Stone assures us when we get him on the phone. You can actually see the fake sunlight — with your eyes, not just with your mind.

Unreal: Do you have a Sky Ceiling in your house?

Jeff Stone: I can't really afford one. It's about $105 per square foot. But we have one in our office. It's a circle with a fourteen-foot diameter, mostly sky with a few cherry blossoms in the corners. It uses the full spectrum of light and mimics daylight. It's nice having one over me — much better than our old office, which only had one window.

So Sky Ceilings make for happy workers?

Well, the environment is much more enjoyable.

Who else buys these things?

Seventy percent of our sales are to the health care market. A lot of CT and MRI scans are in basements and the rooms are cold and unfriendly. Sky Ceilings make them more enjoyable and less claustrophobic. We've also been selling to the casino industry.

To make people happier to lose their money?

No. Their approach is to keep people in there longer. There are no clocks, lots of bright colors and they pump fresh air through, and it's hard to get out, in terms of finding the exit. The Sky Ceiling plays with their circadian rhythms. It gives the illusion that time is standing still. We also put a ceiling in a PGA Tour golf shop, over the areas where they want you to spend more time and money. It hasn't been scientifically proven that it works. Recently we installed a Sky Ceiling in a prison in France. It's programmable to provide daylight for the prisoners and make their experience better.

Aren't prisoners supposed to suffer?

I can't answer that. It's France. They've got laws about human rights and whatnot.

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