Archive for the ‘OUR RECOMMENDATIONS’ Category
Joined a couple of my co-workers out to happy hour at Granite City Brewery. During the 4-6pm happy hour, all flat breads were only $4 – so I ordered one of each. The Peppered Bacon and Tomato pizza really stood out (for obvious reasons). The ‘sweeter’ taste of the tomato and cheese, against the spicy bacon was unreal. I must also say that the bacon was cooked perfectly in little bit-sized bit. We ended up ordering another. This is a must try if you’re ever near Granite City Brewery.
So I’m a man of many diverse tastes. One of my favorite hip-hop albums ever is “Taste The Secret” by Ugly Duckling. The recurring theme of the album revolves around a fictional fast-food restaurant named “Meat Shake”, which makes milkshakes out of, you guessed it, meat (and “secret syrup”, amongst other creative ingredients). I’ve often daydreamed about what this would be like if it were to actually be incarnated. Well this extremely clever bit of musical fiction just kicked through the 4th wall like Chuck Norris on a meth bender and came crashing into my little world. I got the memo about Jack In The Box‘s Bacon Shake and I hot-footed to my nearest franchise to see what it was all about.
Like most of you who are reading this, I’ve been burned by edibles that claim to be bacon flavored too many times to count. Gummy bacon, bacon mints, bacon soda. All like licking a salty mudflap. Horrific. It’s no understatement to say that despite my enthusiasm, I approached the Bacon Shake with much trepidation. One would assume that a major chain like Jack wouldn’t release a product, even a limited edition one, without extensive positive testing and feedback. However, in my mind, the odds of the Bacon Shake being the holy grail of desserts were neck-and-neck with the chance of it making me want trade in my assaulted tastebuds for a kick to the groin for even thinking such dreams could come true. The words “bacon syrup” in the description were my biggest concern. I’ve had shakes and other frozen confections with actual crumbled bacon in them and they were delicious. Jack was taking the route that pretty much all the failed bacon novelties had. It was going totally artificial.
I ordered my shake, pulled into a dark corner of the parking lot and got my partner in bacon crime Andrew on the phone so he could bear witness to my first reactions. The following is a summary of my report.
Initial observations. It really smells like bacon. Not like liquid smoke or sweaty aluminum pipe or season salt. Actual bacon. It’s faint but it strikes my nostrils as pretty darn authentic. This does much to ease my nervousness as I go for the straw. I take the first pull and… magic. I was in stunned bliss. So much so that I think Andrew asked if I needed him to call for medical assistance because I had been poisoned. Far from it. It tasted like I was eating vanilla ice cream with a spoon made of bacon. The essence of bacon spun harmoniously within the vanilla ice cream. This pleased me. It wasn’t trying to taste like liquified bacon, which was my biggest fear. It was trying to be bacon in your dessert, and it pretty much nailed it. No artificial aspects to the flavor, no terrible aftertaste, sucker-punching you in the palette when you think you’re home-free. Just honest to goodness marriage of vanilla and bacon, without the chewing. If I had to nitpick, I’d say it just needs the tiniest dash of salt to really clinch it but it’s not a deal breaker by any step of the imagination.
Kudos, Jack In The Box food scientists. We shall be chalking this one up as a W. Next time you pass your neighborhood chemist, instead of giving him or her a wedgie or making fun of their pocket protector, give them a solid high-five. Or perhaps invite them to your local Jack In The Box for a Bacon Shake. For a limited time only. Now if those same scientists could only make the Bacon Shake a little healthier. The nutritional facts on it are pretty abysmal. The large is almost 1100 Calories with 108 grams of sugar, 461mg of sodium and 54 grams of fat, 37 of which are saturated. Sadly, that’s not really going to be enough to stop me from mainlining them every chance I get until they’re yanked from the menu. Bottoms up!
Update 1-13-12: So this seems to be an absolutely polarizing product. I’m not sure if the critics are just more outspoken than the fans or if I’m just an anomaly in the gastroverse (along with a couple others). I have indeed gone back for more bacon shake-ness, at a Jack nearly 100 miles from the first one, and the product was consistent with the original sample. This leads me to believe that it’s not a matter of some franchises blowing the recipe during concoction, so I can’t try to blame some of the bad reviews on that. As with anything in life, some people are bound to not like it and that’s totally fine. The only thing that bums me out is how many folks who are review it clearly have a sour attitude towards bacon and it’s popularity in general. Multiple reviews lead off with “Bacon is so over” and other statements that bacon’s popularity is overrated, which makes me skeptical of their expectations, interpretations, or even proper mindset towards the product in the first place. I wouldn’t expect a guy with a “Rap sucks” shirt to appreciate, or positively review a top-rate hip-hop album, for instance. I respect his right to an opinon, though. I myself was admittedly skeptical but put any expectations aside and found a shiny silver lining. I’m a hardcore bacon fanatic so I represent the other side of the coin so my own opinion has to be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s all a matter of taste, right?
Update 1-21-12: This will be my final amendment. I went back for thirds, really paying attention to the most frequently cited issues with the Bacon Shake by other reviewers. This time I did the shake alone, whereas I had eaten other menu items with it previously which could have influenced my palette. One of the biggest complaints, besides the taste in general, was of an aftertaste. I did not get any sense of bad aftertaste. I personally didn’t get any real aftertaste at all, frankly. Regarding the taste overall, I really thought to myself “does it taste like bacon?”. Perhaps not the same as if I had actually chewed up bacon with a mouth full of vanilla shake, but in my opinion it’s unmistakably bacon flavored. If you didn’t tell someone that it was a bacon shake and they tried it, I firmly believe that four out of five would tell you that it tasted bacon-y. Like buttered popcorn Jelly Belly Beans, the taste is close enough to the real thing that it’s creepy. How you take that taste, well that’s up to you.
As mentioned previously, I recently tied the knot with The Vegetarian. As many of you know, the pre-wedding period involves showers, where the couples receive gifty things. Well, my now mother-in-law, well knowing of my shadowy superhero-esque alter ego of BetterThanAndrew, vigilante baconologist, was appalled that I didn’t have a bacon press. Being the upstanding enabler that she is, she rectified the situation by begifting me an Old Mountain cast iron press.
It’s quite the beefy (err, porky) unit. I’m not sure where it tips the scales but it strikes me as being around the 4-5 lb mark. Then again, I’m a terrible estimator so I could be way off. (Edit: confirmed at around 4 lbs) It’s hefty, though. It measures in at about 7.5″ in diameter and centers nicely in the flat portion of a 10″ skillet. It’s got enough surface area to cover 4 good slices vertically. It was pre-seasoned, which was convenient. No fussing with baking it in the oven for a couple hours before I could use it to smash some swine.
Construction is solid, IMHO. I don’t have other presses to compare it to but my meter is that I’m pretty sure that if I was attacked by a secret agent assassin in my kitchen I could use it to deflect his gunfire and then smash his face in, Jason Bourne style, with no consequential damage to the press. The handle is attached by two beveled flat head phillips screws, flush with the pressing surface so there’s no concerns with scratching your cookware, and secured topside with a washer and nut. A crush nut or split-washer would instill more confidence but I’m not terribly concerned about the nuts coming loose, even after assassin attack. If they did it’d be a quick fix with a screwdriver and a wrench (or pliars, or what have you, if you’re not someone with a Bob Villa-endorsed workbench). The handle is a nice chromed steel with a coiled grip. I’ve never had issues with it heating up during use and it has excellent knuckle clearance from the press surface. Some of the “competing” units I’ve since seen online have a stubby wooden knob or similar grip that’s looks like a quick ticket to blisterville if you’re not careful. The only downside I’ve found is that the heads of the screws can get grease packed up in them during the cooking process. All that really means is an extra couple seconds during the cleaning process, though. It’s of very small concern in the grand scheme of things.
It does what it was designed to do very well. It prevents curling, speeds up cooking time and evenness, and reduces spatter, even better than my old pan screens did. Clean up is a breeze. Hot water and a bit of Dawn and she’s all ready for another round with that smiling pig looking up at you as if to say “Anything I can do to help, sir!” It’s the quintessential bacon preparation tool, besides tongs, and I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to own one. Bacon tested, BetterThanAndrew approved!
This bad boy is available from a number of online retailers for under $20.00. Do your bacon proud!
We’ve been on a bit of a tear with all the goodies that Madison Chocolatiers West have sent us. Below is a guest post from our esteemed contributor Big Red.
Not the Caramel Apple of Your Childhood
Let me first preface this by saying that the first job I ever had was working on an apple orchard. I’ve probably eaten every man-made apple concoction, including caramel apples, so I’m a pro, right? Well, I was until the other night when a friend introduced us to this behemoth of deliciousness and I was quite rightly put in my place. Ladies and gentlemen let my introduce a bacon-infused caramel apple, coated not only with caramel but creamy peanut butter and chocolate mixed with perfectly fried bacon bits. Now the average eater might consider running away from such a monstrosity. However, fear not my fellow feasters, these flavors were so finely crafted and blended by chefs at Madison Chocolatiers West (MCW) that even your youngsters would be begging for more.
The only concern I have is with regards to packaging. Cellophane wrapping is all fine and dandy but double-knotted ribbons are not, especially when they are the only thing standing between you, your four other friends and death, errr, I mean dessert. Buuuuuut, fast forward 30 minutes.
“That’s sick…how good that is” a fellow diner said between what were most definitely collective sighs of contentment, regret, and shortness of breath, and I whole-heartedly concur. As I dove into my friend’s leftovers (yes, I had already inhaled my own piece) I was aware that I was dangerously slipping into a modesty-out-the-window-let’s-pig-out-and-love-every-minute-of-it kind of moment, and yet, I did not care one bit. With each bite my mouth readily welcomed this power-packed flavor. It was like my teeth were mini drills happily chugging away through each layer: the crisp squirt of Grannysmith apple followed by a warm hug of caramel, a mouthwatering (by this point, quite literally) peanut butter explosion and concluding with dark chocolate mixed with what I swear was bacon just out of the frying pan (not possible given that this apple flew all the way from New Jersey and I was sitting in Seattle…but you get the gist). Now some of you may think, “But bacon and apple?” and I say to you that the bacon does not take center stage: each bite is a perfect balance of salt, sweet, and bacon love. So do me a huge favor: pull up your big boy (or girl) pants and dive in. You are not going to regret this!