Q&A with the Cat Critic

Oh, yes, I do get your mail.

And every once in a great while I attempt to answer a few of your questions.

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Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve about restaurants?

-E.A., Brooklyn, NY

A: I’d have to say it’s offering me a “doggy bag” at the end of the meal. Really.

Q: How many times do you try a cat food before writing a review?
-A.W., Minneapolis, Minn.

A: Normally once is enough. If it doesn’t bowl me over within the first couple of bites, I generally don’t give it a second chance.

Q: How did you get your start in this line of work?
-G.A., Smileyberg, Kan.

A: I was born. And I’ve eaten cat food ever since.

Q: Where else can we follow your prose?
-N.B., Eagle Lake, Texas

A: Besides the blog? I’ve just submitted my magnum opus to Ball of String Magazine. Wish me luck, and cross your fingers. I would if I could.

Q: Do you have to a wear disguise when you go into a restaurant or pet food store for a review?
-K.T., Empire, Colo.

A: Occasionally I can go as a British Shorthair or a Persian. But at the end of the day, I am what I am. Nobody is going to mistake me for, say, the Woodchuck Food Critic.

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The answer is kibble. Now what was the question?

PurrfectTableMention the fact that you are a cat food critic to anyone within shouting distance, and the deluge of questions starts.

“What is a good meal to serve after a tough day of napping?”

“What pairs nicely with a fine Salmon Pâté ?”

“I’ve ignored my owners all day. If I pretend to like them now, I’ll get whatever I want to eat. What should that be?”

“What’s up with dogs?”

Well, friends, except for the last one, the simple answer is kibble.
Yes, kibble.

In this case, I’ve had marvelous success recommending Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro line. On separate occasions, I’ve experienced both the Tuna and Salmon. Let me start with the basics. They are 100 percent grain-free, high in quality protein; fortified with vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids; farm fresh, and locally sourced, all made here in the U.S.

A handful of well-chosen ingredients simply, nay, perfectly put together. For me, this is food at its truest and best. Sure, there have been culinary high-wire acts as long as I can remember. But none that approach the classic taste and satisfying crunch of Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro.

Now that I’ve given you the universal answer, I’m off to pilates. Or I may go back to watching that yellow finch in the birdfeeder.

Happy eating.

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Surf’s Up

A cat’s aversion to water is widely accepted as fact, but in truth, not all cats feel the same about taking a dip. One domestic breed, the strikingly beautiful Turkish Van cat, actually delights in getting wet.

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Scientists contend, and I concur, that our dislike of water comes from house cats’ owners shielding them from the elements since the earliest periods of domestication.

Still, the draw for water is there. And nowhere was that more evident when I encountered Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Surf +Turf.

In fact, the meat, so often overly baked and dry in other cat foods, was the juiciest I’ve had in recent memory. T

hat success was repeated in luscious flavors of fish served with a sauce I was still licking up long after the meat was gone.

This meal deserves my highest recommendation: a rare 5 out of 5 paws.

Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Surf + Turf 5.5 oz. can, $1.69 retail. Available at Petco and other independent pet specialty stores. 

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My Alaskan Salmon Odyssey

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My Alaskan hosts, Haaken and Brad, and I woke up extra early (slightly before noon) and headed to Anchorage, which happens to lie just a couple hours’ drive from the Kenai River.

We drove into town and stopped at Moose à la Mode for our first coffee of the day. It was there we had scheduled a rendezvous with a man known as the “Salmon Whisperer.” 

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We said our quick hellos, and then he led us to his favorite fishing spot. The plan was for us to spend the rest of day in search of King Salmon.

After outfitting themselves in waders and gear, Haaken, Brad and the Salmon Whisperer ventured into the river. I, not being a huge fan of water, chose to idly observe from a warm rock on the bank.

From there, I could see, well, nothing much at all.

Apparently, we were two weeks away from the actual salmon run.

The morning was a bust, but Haaken invited me to lunch at his cabin. He promised it would be simple. It was anything but.

Imagine my surprise as a plate of Salmon Pâté appeared. Flavorful, rich, and extremely pleasing, this meal was an education in the glories of fish. So deeply fragrant, you know it’s coming before it’s on the table.

My interest was piqued since the old man didn’t seem to be much of a fisherman.

It didn’t take much detective work on my part to find the empty Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Salmon Pâté cans hidden in the kitchen.

Any disappointment I may have had in Haaken’s ruse was immediately pushed aside by the knowledge that I could recreate this wonderful meal by simply opening a can.

Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Salmon Pâté 5.5 oz. can, $1.69 retail. Available at Petco and other independent pet specialty stores.  

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An Ode to Meat

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I’ll keep this short and sweet.

You know I like my meat. I like a petit filet, very lean, not so lean it lacks flavor, but not so fat that it leaves drippings on the plate. And I don’t want it cooked-just lightly seared on either side, pink in the middle, not a true pink, but not a mauve either, something in between. Bearing in mind, the slightest error either way and it’s ruined.

So when I first sat down with the Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Beef Wellington, I knew it would take a lot to impress me.

The seduction began immediately-sublime pieces of real meat, 100 percent grain-free. Even now, I grow weak in the hind legs as I remember it.

It was not food so much as a poem about beef, a meditation on texture, a sculpture about deliciousness. It left me licking the plate long after it was gone.

Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Beef Wellington 5.5 oz. can, $1.69 retail. Available at Petco and other independent pet specialty stores.  

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Purrfect from farm to table to cat dish

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Review: New Purrfect Bistro sets whiskers twitching with anticipation.

It’s easy to become jaded in this job.

Monday’s lobster fra diavolo was “fra devoid” of flavor.
Tuesday’s mee krob was as interesting as an old ball of string.
And Wednesday’s (or was it Thursday’s?) tripe has already been forgotten.

The memorable dinners I can count on one paw.

And then there was this: An exquisite meal delivered under the “nom de plume” Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro.

The English language has few words that can accurately describe the moment I first saw it plated, so I’ve been forced to create the following: “scrumdelicious,” “awetastic,” “wondermazing.”

But I get ahead of myself. Admittedly, I’m easily distracted.

Let us begin with the Beef Wellington.  “REAL DEBONED MEAT” was the description on the label, much as “big rock” might be the description of Mt. Everest.

Chicken à la King was followed by Tuna Pâté. Bite after bite, rich little moments of food ran into one another as if to create a kaleidoscope of tastes and textures, or a polychromatic fantasy that ended in a Taj Mahal made of chicken and tuna.

I ate it silently, focused. Alternating bites of sliced and pâté, I savored the experience as one might a firm scratching behind the ears or a midnight stroll after finding the pet door open.

Rounded, rich and deeply engaging, there are 21 Purrfect Bistro recipes–100 percent grain-free, featuring chicken, salmon, tuna, beef, duck and turkey–including 5 dry choices for you kibble aficionados.

In the interest of a balanced review, there were two minor missteps to the evening, both self-inflicted:  no scratching poles nearby and no warm shaft of sunlight in order to take the perfunctory after-dinner nap.

My rating: Awetastic. Scrumdelicious. Wondermazing. Your choice. Either way, a rare five paws up.

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A love of Pâté honed in France

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When I first envisioned re-creating the solo backpacking tour I took as a youth, I promised myself that I would skip the places that I had previously visited as a kitten. But despite my intentions, I found myself being strangely drawn back to Paris.

I believe it was the Pâté.

Stepping off the Eurostar almost eight years later felt strangely surreal. Paris was just as familiar to me as an old sock toy. It had been my first international love, and it was time for a reunion. I felt nostalgic as I walked down the cobbled streets.

Eventually, I found myself stopping at a familiar bistro. The meal I had there can only be described as remarkable, in other words, a note-for-note re-creation of Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Tuna Pâté.

I remember the waiter bringing it to my table. The plate was artfully arranged. The lighting was perfect. It was like I was starring in my own private cat food commercial.

It was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. And back. And tail.

As I chewed through the soft, palate-pleasing mouthfuls of tuna, and experienced the never-ending depth and flavor… I even got a little homesick.

My take: Trip to Paris, roughly $1,350. Can of Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Tuna Pâté 5.5 oz., only $1.69 at Petco and other independent pet specialty stores.

You do the math.

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