Monday, May 26, 2008

Cracker Barrel Bacon and the New Age Vortex

Ahh the great American road trip! Bottles of dew and jerky, and that odd "been in the car a little too long" scent that says, "Thats right baby I am free and on the road.. no.. as a matter of fact I do NOT live in my car" Not sure if its just a guy thing, but I've never see a group of girls piling into a car and driving for hours just cuz its fun. There was a time in my life where the open road with a cassette in the tape deck blaring and the promise of beer on a Sunday just across the state line was all one needed for a good time. I am here to tell you this is a young man's folly. Sure the cassette was replaced with an iPod and the bottle of dew gave way to an "energy drink" and well perhaps the length of the road trip may have been a little too ambitious. I am still numb in some of my parts. In less than 36 hours we drove over 1100 miles, drank some whiskey and had our socks rocked off, not a bad way to kill a weekend, if I was younger. I wish I could say I had something better to do, but alas, some things never change.

Destination: Sedona, home of new agey types that love their sex stones (aka 'fuckin rocks') and there positive vibration vortexes. There are artistes aplenty as well as some pretty spectacular views, if you are into that sort of thing. But this was no reason to drive nearly 600 miles in a day. Now good rock-n-roll, thats a whole other matter! I have a few friends I haven't seen in a while and they gots themselves this little rock and roll outfit. Now if you think the type of crowd you might expect to find in Sedona wouldn't exactly be the same type of crowd you might expect to enjoy some kick ass rock and roll, you would be correct. At one point the management of the bar was asked to have the band "turn it down a little", apparently they were waking people up at a nearby hotel. Rock and fucking roll baby!!! Show was great, we discussed bacon among other things afterward, good times.

So the morning after, you realize, wow, now we gotta go all the way back......whose dumb idea was this anyway?? Wait a second... didn't we pass like 4 or 5 Cracker Barrel Restaurants on the way here? You can't get that in California, so off we went, only 90 minutes to the closest one. Sunday morning at the Cracker Barrel off Deer Valley and I-17 is like some sort patience exercise that I wanted no part of, I have seen shorter lines at Hollywood clubs. Seriously, don't these people have something better to do on a Sunday morning besides stand between me and my bacon? Fortunately location was a non issue for a couple of road warriors such as us and the next location was near Sun City; at 11 am those old folks had already had breakfast and lunch and were at home taking a nap before supper time. No real line or wait, whoo-hoo!! Cracker Barrel is a "country cooking", serve breakfast all day, type of joint. Its also a, we got tons of over priced "kitsch" in our "country store", that you have to navigate through when you pay in order to get out of there, but thats a whole other rant. For all its setup, I was expecting a good bacon experience. Ya know when you go someplace and you get the bacon, these two flimsy strips come out with your plate and you are left wondering, "WTF?!"? Well not at Cracker Barrel the standard is 4 big meaty strips, and they are thick too! I was not disappointed, and the fact I had ordered an extra side of bacon, "just in case" was well, a stroke of genius, because now I had twice as much of this good stuff. Flavor was rich and meaty, meat to fat ratio was about standard, and the preperation was just right, a lil crispy but still chewy. I ate my fill and for the next 9 hours I was thinking, "Man that was some tasty bacon....are we there yet?!"

3 out of 5 strips and an extra half for the generous portions.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Boar's Head & the Lakers **Guest Post**

Our good friend Charles reviewed some tasty bacon....

"Forewarning: I am not a bacoterian and don't have the palette of a sommelier. However, I am a bacon carnivore. I promised Bacon Chris for a review, so here it is. While hitching a ride with Chris after imbibing ales and what-nots during happy hour at BJ's Brewery (thanks Chris) we took a detour to Gelson's to check out the bacon selection. Two packages really caught my eye. One was a peppered bacon which looked like it had 8 meager standard slices for $8. The value
proposition wasn't there and I can't even remember the brand name. Nevertheless I was tempted because I had never gnawed on pepper-laced bacon. The other one had an incandescent glow of red originating from the core of this vacuum-pack. The name, rather brand was Boar's Head. It was a product of Canada, but it definitely wasn't the ham-type nor was it Peameal bacon. This was true bacon so I snatched it out of the display fridge and immediately took it to the check register (as well as picking up a roasted chicken).

The following night while the Lakers were down 20, I needed a distraction. Furthermore, I was hungry so I reached in the fridge and pulled out the Canadian-made pork belly. I went against the cooking instructions and obeyed the Lords of Bacon cooking technique. I pre-heated my oven and threw in several slices of the Boar's Head. Lo and behold, Kobe's team is within 7 points and I hear the crackling of cooked bacon. Okay, so I don't know whether it was because of baking it, as opposed to the traditional frying, but DAMN, these slivers were amazingly delectable! Salty, of course, but not overpowering; there was no hint of hickory nor applewood, but tasty just the same; the texture really got me. It was like eating moist beef-jerky--a little bit chewy but melted when it hit the back of your throat. I had to bake the rest. When I ate the last piece, wanting for more I look up at the TV screen, the Lakers took out the Spurs 89-85 to take a 1-0 lead. What a night!"

4 out of 5 strips

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gelson's Premium Center Cut

So a few of us went out for a beer and a little of the 1st game of the Eastern Conference Finals. We arrive at the bar and while its not especially crowded or busy, our seemingly annoyed waitress took 10 minutes to let us know she would be with us in "just a minute". I did not have a good feeling about this. Another five minutes later and we were able to order a couple pitchers and some appetizers (sliders with bacon...duh). Maybe it wasn't going to be so bad. Thankfully there was a game on, and good conversation and good friends, if this had been a mission of drinking and boozing, we were off to a rocky start. I know, you are thinking "Whats this got to do with Gelson's", its coming don't be so impatient, bacon is life and life is about the journey. Bacon Jason arrives and when our waitress comes back around he orders an iced tea and then made what seemed to the rest of us a reasonable request. "How many slices of bacon come when you add bacon to a sandwich? Can we just order a plate of bacon?" Not only did it seem reasonable to us, we had done exactly that in this establishment before. However our server, obviously having a bad day, and unable for her sake to "fake" it; looked at us all as if we had asked her to climb up on the bar and copulate with a donkey. I'm not sure if she was a bacon hater or was baffled by the request, or what exactly, but somehow she wandered off and we didn't get to order a plate of bacon. Needless to say our already stellar service became even less of a priority for Miss bacon hater. We were eventually able to get a second round and Bacon Jason this time did not ask but simply told her "Bring us a plate of bacon, 10 to 15 strips". As she scurried off to the kitchen to see if putting "just" bacon on a plate was even possible you could tell she was anticipating a fleeting moment of joy when she was able to come back to the table of bacon jerks and tell them "I'm so sorry but we don't do that!" I saw her emerge a few moments later, glare at our table, and proceed to the little touchscreen console where they put in the orders, apparently she was the only one in the service industry that didn't feel like serving tonight. I made a mental note to look for floor scraps, spit, and anything not right with the bacon that I knew would be arriving soon. (trust me we will get to the Gelson's) More talk, drinks, and basketball and what light through yonder kitchen door breaks? Is that the sound of angel's trumpet's in the distance? The oh so difficult special order of a bunch o' bacon on a plate emerges and is brought to our table and after a quick loogie check there was much rejoicing. I have found that a lot of restaurants really phone it in when it comes to bacon, but this stuff was full of flavor, warm, not to greasy, all in all good bacon, and had it not been for the service of the one waitress, worthy of review. All but our vegetarian friend had some and we all agreed, bacon is always worth the wait. So time passes, yadda yadda yadda, more of the same lackluster service and we decide to head out.

Its a little after 9 and I had planned to swing by the nearby Trader Joe's ya know to peruse their bacon aisle, its a hobby. But alas they closed at nine and I am out of luck, which kinda sucked as I was thinking about bacon now and once you start thinking... ok.... you got me... I never actually STOP thinking about bacon. So Charles bets me that Gelson's is open, did I mention I am giving Charles a ride? Well I am, and he bets me they are open, and since they too are close by, we decide to check it out. For a point of context (and you thought we were close to the actual Gelson's review....silly) let me say a little bit about the stores I keep mentioning. I have like 4 friends that read this, and I am pretty sure they all know the stores I am talking about, however, on the off chance someone that I haven't begged to look at this does read it and has no contextual perspective on these stores, this bit is for you. Trader Joe's is like an Indie rock band when it comes to supermarkets, like say Modest Mouse or Death Cab For Cutie. You may or may not have heard of them or their music, but you know right away they are not an Aerosmith or Rolling Stones. Check em out some time they got good deals and a lot of things you just wont find anywhere else. It was their uniqueness that made me think hmmm I could score some interesting bacon there. But I was too late for that now. Gelson's is (to me anyway) a bit snooty, over-priced "boutique" type of supermarket. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the store, but that type of store tends to attract the Jag and Mercedes crowd and well, I have never really fit in with them. So anyway, Charles bets they are open and I figured they may have some bacon you don't typically find at your Safeway, or Kroger store, so its on, and off we go. (So close to the review, remember thats what this is about, almost there)

Gelson's is open, and being that Charles had lost our last bet we called it a wash and headed in to the store in search of smoked meats. But before I get to that, if you have whole rotisserie chickens for sale, and its 20 minutes to closing, lets say you have a dozen or more of them, do they leave em under the heat lamps for tomorrow? Shouldn't you like, blow em out on the cheap if you don't? It is 20 minutes to close, nary a Jag, Benz or BMW just a couple of drunks on a bacon bender... but I digress. Let me say this, they did not disappoint on the bacon selection. There was some standard brands like Hormel, and something called a "Range Pack" which was simply a 2lb sliced chunk of bacon in a box, I guess bacon from a box makes you feel more like a cowboy, it could have been the nifty "cowboy kneeling over a campfire" silhouette on the box that did it though. There was canadian bacon in several varieties. Even that abomination and sin against bacon Turkey 'bacon', I'll go into that in another post perhaps. Normally I would relocate that stuff to say, the cold cereal aisle, it simply does not belong with real bacon, but there was a time factor, also the fact we are the only non-employees in the store, made such a mission a little too obvious. There was even some pastrami looking thing called beef bacon, which for some of the same reasons I detest turkey 'bacon' I should scorn this other non traditional non pork goodness, but somehow the generous marbling of fat on the meat, it won me over and I couldn't hate it, maybe in another review one day. They have a few premium brands along the top row, one enticing 8oz for $8 peppered bacon, of which I cant recall the name, some delicious looking Boar's Head brand bacon (no I didn't know they made bacon either) and the house brand Gelson's. (Yay we are here....see wasn't that fun?) I opt for the house brand as I haven't tried it before and its also probably only available here in the Gelson's chain. I felt so exclusive I wanted to drive a Benz. Well Charles cant resist the Boar's Head brand and to be honest who could blame him it was a deep bacony red and looked so tasty sitting there staring at us, hoping we would choose it to be the one to go home with us, little did it know it wasn't going in a BMW but a lowly Honda, we totally messed with that bacon's head. Charles promised to write up a review so be looking for a special guest post soon.

I dropped off Charles and the Boar's Head and hurried home to cook up my Gelson's Premium Hickory Smoked Center Cut Bacon. It was $5 for just 12oz, not a full pound, that means it has to be good right? Well I fired up the oven, thats right oven, its the only way to cook bacon. I'll post on the virtues of oven bacon later, or you can google it, trust me though, no pants + frying bacon in a pan do not mix, oven is the way to go. I almost forgot to snap a picture of the bacon before I cut it open so I ran into the bedroom where the camera was charging and just threw the bacon on the bed and snapped a picture real quick, and I noticed, my comforter on the bed is bacon colored, cool. I laid out the bacon on the cookie sheet, it doesn't seem especially thick for thick cut bacon, in fact there are about 16 slices in this 12 ounce package, a good "thick" cut should be about an ounce per slice. Anyway the oven is preheated and in goes the bacon and before I can figure out how to bleach or sew some sort of marbling into my bedspread, the bacon is done. There is some shrinkage, not a significant amount but more than one would get with a high quality bacon. I paper towel the batch of bacon and have a taste. Hmmm, you would think with this much build up there would be more to it than this. Its not bad tasting, but for hickory smoked, it has little to no hickory flavor. It is in most respects, rather bland. I think perhaps its because the savory bacon from the restaurant is still upon my palate, so I do a quick Mountain Dew gargle and rinse to remove any previous bacon flavors from mingling and try again. This time I do get a little more flavor, unfortunately its the flavor of grease, and not even a good salty bacon like grease, just an oily taste. As I sit here and finish the last piece I think to myself, shoulda tried the Boar's Head.

This bacon gets a nothing to write a blog about average taste of 2 strips.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quick Bacon Spot

Everyone has hobbies, and well I was perusing the bacon section of my local Von's... (Don't hate, some people knit, or read, or play WoW, I cruise the bacon least I'm out of the house.) And I came across this little beauty:

That is a vacuum sealed package of your standard thick cut grocery bacon. What is awesome is its 104 oz of of your standard thick cut grocery bacon. Maybe you are hosting a breakfast, lots of family is coming over, something like that, but a package that size... to me that says commitment. Think about it, whatever your favorite prep method is, cooking a pound of bacon can be a time consuming endeavor (Wait for the post on instant bacon). This is 6.5 times that!! I can imagine a lone bacoterian buying that as their week supply, (family breakfast be damned this baby is mine) and cooking a portion at breakfast, lunch and dinner 'til that pre-cut slab of goodness is all but a memory (No I did not buy it....this time but I have commitment issues). You break that vacuum seal and its on, a race between you and not wasting any of the six and a half pounds of the "good stuff".
I wonder about the marketing that went into a product like this. "Well I think what we need is a pack of bacon in the.... say 100 ounce range, we just aren't serving the clientèle that need their bacon in the 6+lb at a time quantity" Is there that demand? Are people buying so much bacon at once that this size package is a viable marketing option? I guess there must be and I am glad, it means there are people like us out there.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The weight of Heaven

The weight of heaven? 7 lbs.
4 pounds of it in the form of a Mahogany smoked slab of bacon that wafts a smoky, meaty aroma that gives you an enticing preview of what you are about to consume!!
The other three pounds are in the form of the same quality bacon, but in solid, thick slices that are primed to jump from the package to your frying pan and make your little tum-tum feel like the chosen one.
This bacon from is honestly some of, if not the best, I have ever tasted. The smoky, mahogany flavor is balanced very well so that both tastes tweak your palate. Whether you prefer your bacon cooked up still meaty or crispy, this will please all bacoterians and maybe even convert some vegetarians - it IS that good.
We took advantage of having access to a meat slicer to slice our 4 pound slab into very thick slices. The pre-crowning moment was slicing off 1" THICK BACON STEAKS! The crowning moment was the grilling and eating of them - I HIGHLY recommend trying it if you get the chance.
My bacon steak grilled up quite nicely and just emanated mouth-watering bacony goodness! Yes, it emanated.

The picture ( taken with a cell phone ) shows the stare-inducing thickness of the bacon steak just after slicing.
I give it my highest rating 5 STRIPS OF BACON.

Now stop drooling and go get your own, grill and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bacon Mints you say?

Uncle Oinkers Savory Bacon Mints...... Go ahead, let that sink in for a minute. Thats right I said bacon mints. Mints? yummy, refreshing....Bacon? well of course bacon... but together? I never thought those two flavors should be combined. Having now had the bacon mints it is confirmed, those two flavors should have never been combined. Let me say this, all you will ever need is one, just one of these bacon mints, ever... in your entire life. Its a pretty good deal you get a pack of a hundred for under two bucks, thats less than two cents per mint, at the rate of one per lifetime, really very affordable. The first thing I did when I opened this up, and what I make all my victims...err I mean taste testers do, is breathe in that savory aroma. Now this is no naturally flavored bacon mint, the aroma that hits you tells you right away this is some sort of chemically induced wrongness. At first whiff, it is neither minty, nor bacon-y per se, but more like what a plastic microwave bacon tray would smell like if it caught fire. Now here is the kicker, they taste worse than they smell. Thats right if the smell doesn't start the convulsions, the flavor most certainly will. I had someone see these at my desk and I tried to warn him. I made him give it a sniff, he gagged a little but now people were watching, he had to try one. He lasted approximately 3 seconds before the taste really invaded his mouth, and brought him to his knees there in the hallway, scrambling for a trash can to spit the thing out. I thought he was going to puke right then and there. Fortunately, his breakfast stayed down, then he discovered probably the most frightening part about these little nuggets of joy. Just because the mint was now in the trash, the taste wasn't gone. I am not sure what is in these little guys that is sooo long lasting but it must be like that Stride brand gum. It really "hangs in there", like give me a brush or steel wool to scrub it off my tongue "hangs in there". So minty refreshment? Not so much. Humorous office gag? A little. If you have a tin of tiny mints, place one of these in with the others and you could play bacon mint roulette. On a scale of 1 to 5 strips of bacon this only gets a half strip and thats only if you enjoy seeing other people in misery the way I do.

Upcoming Reviews...

Jason will be reviewing and describing the Mahogany Smoked Meats Bacon experience. I will be putting in my 2¢ on a couple of bacon like products as well. We have a few recipes to review as well as one of our daily staples "instant bacon".

We are the Lords of Bacon

My friend Jason and I have an unnatural and slightly frightening obsession with bacon and all things bacon. Much to the chagrin of our co-workers we can carry on a conversation about bacon for hours... literally. We have found that there are other bacon worshippers out there, and we thought we would share our experiences with different bacons and bacon type products, as a sort of way to separate the gimmicky from the delicious, for ourselves and the other bacon lovers out there. So welcome, can you smell whats frying? Yup... BACON!