Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014: Some great bacon recipes, and a review of the Bacon Wave

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a review of bacon at a local eatery, a review of bacon cooking with a microwave tool, and some great recipes online.

BACON IN THE NEWS  This week, my news feed served up a great set of recipes "Around the web: 5 satisfying, healthy(ish) bacon snacks."  Check out the brussels sprouts with bacon and cheese!

Of course, the pig virus news is all over the web.  I guess the supposed "waning" of the bacon "fad" has been completely overcome by this new (old), scary, "newsworthy" information.  It is continually amazing to me how the media exaggerates virtually everything.  Bacon prices may go up a few cents, but don't worry, eat bacon and be happy!

WE HAD BRUNCH at Kevin's Place in Deerfield, Illinois.  A very cool retro-ish diner/restaurant, they offer some great dishes.  My son Jack had the crunchy french toast, which he thought was better than mine (insert unhappy face here).  Their secrets?  Use thick bread (double thickness of a normal slice) and after soaking with egg whites, and coating with some cinnamon and sugar, they put a crunch coat of Honey Bunches of Oats crushed cereal. He absolutely loved it; I'll be using those ingredients too!

 I ordered the bacon omelet (of course).  It featured monterey jack cheese, guacamole, and bacon.  The
omelet was excellent, but the bacon less so.  I found out that the bacon (I also ordered a side separately) is from US Foods, a foodservice company.  The bacon was disappointing.  Not crispy, not flavorful.  Hey Kevin, get better bacon!  But the other menu items looked amazing (and my family corroborates this).

BACON DOG AT SCOOTERS!  My son and I also had a late meal one day this week, after a trip to the gym.  We stopped at Scooters - a great old-school fast-food place in Lake Bluff, IL.  Of course, it's Lake Bluff's Favorite Restaurant since 1986!  Naturally, I had a loaded hot dog with bacon.  Pictures below.  A good Chicago-style hot dog.

Notice the sign for sausages by "Coach" in the picture below:

ON TO THE BACON!  This week, I didn't cook up a pound or two/three of bacon.  Instead, I tested the BACON WAVE microwave bacon cooking tool.  Admittedly, it was an impulse purchase at Walgreens, but it is something I've wanted to try for quite some time.

I had my doubts.  Would it cook evenly?  Would it splatter bacon fat all over the inside of my microwave?  Would the house smell like bacon for the rest of the day?  Would the microwave inject bacon smell into anything I cook in it later?  These and many more questions will be answered.

The box contains a heavier-than-expected plastic unit with two plastic skewers, plus an instruction sheet. 

The sheet tells you to insert the bacon in the slots (just like the picture on the box) and then skewer the bacon so that it doesn't sit on the base of the cooking surface.  The edges of the bacon should be 1/4 inch or less beyond the racking. 

To the left is a picture of the unit, the instruction sheet, and the bacon I used.  The bacon was my "go-to" product - Oscar Mayer.

Inserting the bacon wasn't difficult, except for the fact that this slab of bacon wasn't evenly cut.  One end was more fatty, and narrower than the other.  This had an effect on the final outcome, but didn't deter my first test.  (I'll be trying this again in the future.)

As you can see, the bacon crisped up pretty well.  The irregular shape did result in a sub-optimal outcome, but the good news is that the bacon splatter didn't occur inside the microwave, nor did it smell up.

The bacon looked OK and tasted well, although I'm still more of a fan of pan fried bacon over any other method.

This device is great if you're in a hurry or too lazy to prepare bacon the right way.  Bottom line: a keeper and good addition to the kitchen.  Once I receive my Bacon Bowl (mentioned in previous posts) I'll try that as well!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19, 2014: Trip to Razorback country, and Boar's Head versus Jones Dairy Farm

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with some bacon news and a Bacon-Off between Jones Dairy Farm and Boar's Head brand bacon
BACON IN THE NEWS this week starts with my trip to Fayetteville, AR, for the kickoff of our Field Agent (TM) year.  It was a great several days with my friends and colleagues.  Field Agent is the leader in mobile market research and crowdsourced information gathering.

For more info, go to the website and watch the 90-second video, and then contact me.  There is not a single business that can't use these services which are faster, better and significantly less expensive than traditional methods.

My colleagues and I landed in Kansas City, and drove to Fayetteville.  On the way, we stopped at Arthur Bryant's. Since the BBQ Pit Boss for many years was named Woodrow Bacon, I had to include a picture.
Bryant's, one of the most famous BBQ joints in the world.  Check out their website and when in Kansas City, be sure to visit!  Don't be discouraged by the security guard out front during the middle of the day...

While in Fayetteville, we went to the Arkansas-Kentucky basketball game.  How often do you get to go to a game of any type that is featured in the top 10 on ESPN - the final play wasn't just top 10, it was #1 with a stunning Razorback victory in the final second.  By the way, Henry Ho told me he would get me some actual razorback pig bacon to evaluate...

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Fayetteville.  I have to say, it was some of the worst bacon that I've had in a while.  Hey, Holiday Inn, invest in some better bacon!  I know the food service guys have good stuff.  Here's a small picture of the bacon on a styrofoam plate.  It was not inedible (true of most bacon) but it wasn't good.

As far as true bacon news (as in media news), there were slim pickings this week.  Most of the Bacon news was about Kevin Bacon (he's doing great), his daughter's awards (she's doing great) or the famous philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon and his art (he did great - how about the Baconian Method?)  The only noteworthy bacon link I found was a third party look at the Bacon Bowl, which I ordered several months ago.  Unfortunately, demand exceeded supply, and they sent me a letter saying I should reorder again.  Now that their ads are back on TV, I'm assuming that they've solved their problem.  I'll order the Bacon Bowl along with some of the other 'bacon cooking tools' and evaluate all of them in a future post.



The Boar's Head looked great in the package.  It was labelled as one pound, and I got three extra ounces.  Off to a good start.  The bacon was very thin, which makes it hard to peel.  It stuck to itself and pulled other pieces with it.  The slab was HARD and unbending... not sure what that means; it was nearly at room temperature.  The odor was neutral; I expected some smokiness.  Because of the thickness, I had to cook this pound in two batches.  Upon cooking, I did see significant shrinkage and it produced a healthy 130 ml of rendered fat for future recipes.  It crisped up extremely well, and I give it a 4 here.  It did have minor curl and good succulence and I give it a 3 here.  Flavor was solid: I'll give it a 3.75.  A good, solid bacon.

The Jones Dairy Farm dry aged "sliced bacon" came in at exactly one pound. The slab was the opposite of the Boar's Head and was completely limp; no firmness at all!  The slices were thin, but not as thin as the Boar's Head.  It did have a nice fresh scent of smokiness.  Cooking process resulted in very low shrinkage, and virtually no stickiness.  It crisped up a little better than average, and I give it a 3.  The flavor was bland; a little lower than average at a 2.  Succulence was also only a two.  This bacon was boring, with low flavor, but you could possibly use it on sandwiches.  I wouldn't kick it off my breakfast table, because it would take a REALLY bad bacon for me not to find it acceptable.  I'd pass on this Jones Dairy Farm as an everyday bacon.  It certainly wasn't the food service variety that I sampled and loved in my December 15 post.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014: Bacon Prices Soaring! and North Country bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with some roller-coaster news about bacon prices, and a bacon-off between the North Country bacon out of New Hampshire.


"Pig Virus May Send Bacon Prices Soaring"

Oddly enough, just last week we commented on widely reported news that bacon prices were coming DOWN due to the "fad" about bacon going away.  My father-in-law, Rich, sent me a clipping from the newspaper that said this also.  Nothing could be further from the truth: first of all, the love of bacon as a food group is not a fad, nor is demand going away for any other reason.  Demand for bacon will always be high. 

Well, wouldn't you know it, just this week, it is being reported that the pork virus is back at work, and that bacon prices are going up again!  Which is it, media?  Up or down?  In any event, it's only going to add or subtract maybe fifty cents on a pound of bacon.  I wonder what the sensitivity to price fluctuations is for bacon specifically?  Probably, like tobacco, demand will be pretty flat irrespective of price.  

Funky Buddah Maple Coffee Bacon Porter Beer

Wow, that's a mouthful.  The Funky Buddah Brewery, in Oakland Park, FL just released a new Maple Coffee Bacon Porter beer.  Here's a quote from the product manager: "Bacon is a provocative term to use in a beverage."  I agree.  Provocative in a "I gotta have it" kind of way.  I have to figure out how to get some.
“It’s an important beer for us,” says brand manager John Linn. “The name resonates to people. … Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is the first one — the catalyst that got the lounge notoriety outside the South Florida area.”

Today's Bacon-Off features two North Country Smokehouse bacons: Fruitwood Smoked vs. Pepper Rubbed.  North Country came highly recommended, but disappointed. 

The Fruitwood Smoked had a very nice aroma of smokiness along with a sense of sweetness coming out of the package.  The net weight of 12.5 ounces was a 1/2 ounce bonus over the package weight, and post cooking was 4.9 ounces with 40 ml of rendered fat.  It was, like all North Country bacons, very very chewy.  It had a great overall flavor: 4 out of 5; a crispness factor of 2 out of 5 and average succulence.  Should be good in recipes, but due to chewiness, not appropriate for sandwiches.

The Pepper Rubbed bacon was very syrupy out of the package - due to the fact that it's prepared with maple syrup.  Its flavor was NOT "overpoweringly peppery" like most peppered bacons, and so from that standpoint had a good flavor score of 3.7; it too was very chewy, no matter how long I cooked it; Crispness of 2; and average succulence of 2.5 out of 5.  It weighed in at a net of 12.2 ounces and fully cooked was 4.8 ounces with about 40 ml of rendered fat. 


Read more here:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January 4, 2014: First Bacon of the Year, Dabecca, and Twin Peaks Restaurant

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES with a look at Dabecca Bacon and some bacon news.


Bacon Prices Dropping!  Great news for porcine lovers.  They attribute it to the 'fad' passing.  But bacon loving is as human as the love of libation, and goes pretty far back in recorded history.  Who are they kidding, it's not a fad but a simple love of good food!

I had a business network meeting last week in Wheeling, IL.  We initially planned to meet at a Starbucks at 11:00; unfortunately it was a drive-through only.  Next possibility was Cooper's Hawk, a great wine-themed restaurant.  However, that opened at 11:30 and I only had until noon.

Finally, like Laurel & Hardy realizing that the solution to the problem was staring them in the face all along, we decided to head over to the Twin Peaks Restaurant

Our waitress, Bella, a former Miss Wheeling, served me up a great-tasting Bloody Mary, complete with a thick slice of bacon.  She inquired of the bacon's source, and the answer was Aramark, and the bacon was a
hickory smoked variety.  The bacon was excellent, as was our meeting.

Twin Peaks gets mixed reviews with most people on Yelp, agreeing that the food is only so-so, but that the views are excellent.  Our waitress, Bella, was mentioned in a few of the posts as an 'excellent mixologist'.  I think you'll agree that my Bloody looked great; I can promise you it tasted even better.


Over the holidays, we visited the Whole Foods in Chicago.  Of course, I went right to the butcher to check out the meat.  I saw a great display of Dabecca Bacon, and of course I had to sample it.  I tried the

DABECCA APPLEWOOD SMOKED bacon and tried it alongside their DABECCA BACON CHIPOTLE.  I was not disappointed.

Dabecca has a nice website.  In their About section, I learned that they got their start in Texas, and that they supply lots of restaurants and delis.  Here's what they say:
We currently cater to many of the Marriott's, Hyatt's, Four Seasons, and Ritz Carlton Hotels, as well as various other 4 and 5 Star Restaurants. Our retail products can be found in Whole Foods Markets, Bristol Farms, HEB Central Markets and local delicatessens.
Because I purchased an uneven weight from the meat deli, I dispensed with the weigh-in and the rendered fat measuring.  Both bacons started out pretty thickly, larger than 1/8 inch.  However, they got significantly thinner during cooking.

The Applewood smoked may be my new favorite!  The top of the picture shows the Applewood; the bottom, the Chipotle.  The Applewood crisped up perfectly and had terrific succulent pieces.  What a great aroma and flavor.  I grade it 4 on crispness, 4 on succulence, and 4.5 overall.

The Chipotle was great, but not as excellent as the Applewood.  It was much more limp than the Applewood and not at all crispy; rated 2.5 there.  Flavor was great at 3.5, with a 4 on succulence.  You can't go wrong with this bacon.