Pat Kiernan is a familiar face to nearly every New Yorker with a television. He brings us not only our city’s daily news, but also the occasional piquant observation during his “In the Papers” segment (an online version of which can be had at PatsPicks.com). It’s no secret that Gotham’s favorite local news anchor is actually from Canada. He opens up about what foods he misses from his native land, his fervent hatred of melons, and why Tim Horton’s is better than Dunkin’ Donuts.
You’re one of the first people up in the city. What do you like to eat for breakfast?
I’ve been, for the last 13 years, importing Shreddies from Canada. I was stunned to arrive here and realize that what I thought was such a ubiquitous [breakfast] cereal wasn’t sold here. I subsequently learned that it was for a short time, but they never really put any marketing behind it and people couldn’t see it to be any different from Life or any other square cereal. I was just up in Mont Tremblant, skiing over Christmas, and in the back of the car, in addition to the ski equipment, was a dozen boxes of Shreddies.
I thought you might say Tim Horton’s. Are you a fan?
Yes. I think Tim Horton’s has cleverly de-emphasized the doughnut in the name and are in a healthy — or healthier — eating space. There’s some nice sandwiches… I actually have a weakness for apple fritters. I’m curious to see how the U.S. expansion goes because I think they’re in a good spot, in terms of fast food. It’s neither a Subway or a McDonald’s.
Isn’t it a Dunkin’ Donuts competitor?
Every experience I’ve had with the two is that Tim Horton’s has done fresh better than Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s interesting, the rabid Canadian fandom of Tim Horton’s — I don’t think there’s quite the same affinity for Dunkin’ Donuts.
Does it taste the same as it does in Canada?
I was worried that they might not execute well here because the locations are, in some cases, revamped Dunkin’ Donuts locations and the Riese Organization, [which owns and operates them], doesn’t have a sterling track record. But I think Tim Horton’s set some pretty clear quality standards and I’ve been impressed with the quality.
All of this said, I’m a little bit conflicted on the whole U.S. expansion. Now, there’s a Tim Horton’s three blocks from my home. And for the aforementioned 13 years I’ve been in New York, it was my Canadian airport treat. Now that it’s down the street, it doesn’t seem as special. You’re drawn to what you can’t have.
Speaking of wanting what you can’t have, are there any particularly Calgarian — is that even a word? — foods you miss from home?
There’s a restaurant chain in Western Canada called Earl’s and their signature dessert for as long as I’ve lived has been a mocha-Kahlua pie. It’s not particularly complicated. It’s a frozen ice cream pie on some sort of crumbled Oreo crust, but it’s one of those things that, every time I go back, I seek it out and enjoy it still.
It doesn’t seem like there are any many specialty dishes from that part of Canada?
It seems like that’s the case with many Canadian foods — other than poutine. My kids go to the United Nations school and one of the things they do from time to time is a class pot luck. The Italians bring in their pasta and the Japanese kid brings in sushi, but it’s not so easy with Canada. We brought in some cheddar last time.
Do you cook much at home?
We cook regularly at home. We’re not big foodies in the way that we are experimenting with a different recipe every night. The cooking at home tends to, five nights out of seven, emphasize: “Let’s get the kids fed, let’s get on with the day.” It’ll often be salmon on the grill or spaghetti and meatballs. It tends to be simple: protein, vegetables, and potatoes or rice.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
No meal is complete for me without dessert. It doesn’t have to be a lot of dessert. Often, I find the dessert portions are larger than I want them to be. But I absolutely need some sort of dessert to move on with the end of the meal and bring it to its conclusion. It’s typically got a chocolate component to it — that’s not mandatory.
Are there any foods that you hate?
I’m not a fan of spicy. And I don’t really consider it an entree if there’s not meat in it. The idea that I would order some sort of vegetarian platter or would go to the hummus place up the street doesn’t work for me. Oh, and all foods in the melon category.
That’s a strange hate.
No, not really. I think when you find other melon haters, you’ll find that those of us who don’t like the texture and taste of melons are on board together. Many people profess love of the melon and other melon-type foods. Not me.
Tune in tomorrow, when Pat fills us in on his favorite food news story of 2009, his most adventurous meal in the city, and how he feels about being recognized when he’s eating.