Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23, 2014: Bacon from Kohler, and a Bacon 5K in Chicago!!

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES this week with a trip to Kohler, Wisconsin (which involved bacon consumption), a trip to Covington, Kentucky (which involved bacon consumption) and a test of the aforementioned Kohler bacon.

BACON IN THE NEWS this week had a few interesting and noteworthy stories:

A PALEO CANDY BACON is featured here.  Huffington Post occasionally has a great bacon-related article, but this particular recipe looks incredible.  I am going to assemble the ingredients I don't currently have, and try this in an upcoming post.  To quote the article, "Low Carbers rejoice! You CAN have your candied, chocolate covered, peanut butter dipped bacon AND eat it too...."  Yaay!

THE BACON CHASE in Chicago has been announced.  I love "Chase Meat Candy Majesty"...  this is a 5-K race to benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital. The race will be at 7am on June 7, at Montrose Beach.  Register here.  When you get to the finish line, here's what you get:
  • Fun with like-minded bacon lovers
  • Unlimited bacon at the finish line. 
  • Bacon bits along the course. 
  • A free Bloody Mary. 
  • A t-shirt. 
  • A bacon scented race bib. 
  • Access to the festival area.
I'm IN.  Jillian? 

BACONFEST NORTHSHORE has been announced; tickets go on sale tomorrow (Monday). This event is sponsored by the Glenview (IL) Park District.  I will most certainly get the VIP package for $75.  The event is from 5-9pm on April 26th in Glenview, IL.  Click some of those advertisements to help me pay for it!

MY TRIP TO KOHLER was eventful.  We stayed at The American Club, and I have to tell you, it's the best hotel room I've stayed in, in my entire life.  That's saying something, as I've been to all 50 states and
many foreign countries on business.  Phenomenal.  Great food at great restaurants, and, of course, BACON.  Their go-to is Neuske's bacon, which has been reviewed here several times.  At breakfast in the Wisconsin room, I had eggs Benedict with a side of the great stuff.


THE MARS CHEESE CASTLE, discussed in an earlier post, was our stop on the way home.  Picked up a Neuske's Bacon cheese, which, unfortunately wasn't bacon-y at all.  The cheese, per the label, was in fact 'squeaky', but that feature alone doesn't make it worth the price.  At the castle, however, you can get an entire slab of smoked bacon.

ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, I had the pleasure of having dinner at the Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar, in Covington, Kentucky.  Incredible farm-to-table dining with an outstanding menu, and a great service staff.  Kelly was our server, and made some great recommendations! I asked Kelly if there was any bacon on the menu (my standard question) and she brought me a plate of locally-smoked jowl bacon.  Although the
picture is unappetizing, the palate was astounding.  I met the chef owner Stephen Williams; what a great place.  Highly recommended.

I SENT MY FRIEND RODGER STUDWELL SOME BACON FOR HIS BIRTHDAY from the North Country (previously reviewed) and here was his reaction and review.  Way to go, Rodg!
Peppered bacon with maple syrup was a hit this morning with the Studwell clan! Laura cooked it medium in a heavy skillet for about 20 mins, frequently turning with surprisingly little fat rendered. Texture was chewy like a thick softened jerky. Residue maple syrup gave it a smoked rib consistency and flavor. Coarse ground pepper gave a long lasting aftertaste that accented the smokey sweet jerky taste. After I sampled several strips, Laura made me the classic bacon egg and cheese on a bagel. Surely a great start to the weekend! We look forward to next weekend and the fruitwood smoked bacon debut.

ON TO THE BACON TEST! We shopped at the  "Shops at Woodlake"in Kohler, which includes the Woodlake Market.  It was there that I acquired some local bacon.  To be expected, the bacon looked great in the case, and came wrapped in specially lined butcher paper.

Notice the case signage; very nice "KITCHENS OF KOHLER - THICK SMOKED BACON - Product of USA" at $5.39 a pound, I'm not seeing a huge spike in bacon prices.

Even the label was upscale, with a lot of information from a great printer.  


You'll see the 3-way below (for rookie readers, pre-cooked at room temperature on the left, after flipping in the center, and draining on paper towels on the right), and it reflects a certain muted, paleness to the bacon, uncooked.  I doubt if there are any additives to change the color (which some manufacturers tend to do).

The bacon was packaged at 1.000 pounds (seems like too much precision) and post cooking, weighed 4.8 ounces.  It produced 150 ml of rendered fat.

Here's the very nicely printed label=====>

The hickory aroma was strong out of the package, very intense.  It crisped up well, but was more 'crunchy-chewy', or 'crunchewey'.  There were some nice succulent pieces, and my son said they were "awesome.  This is above average store bought, flavor 3.25, succulence 3.0, and crispness 3.5.  Worth a re-do, but not a 4-hour drive out of your way to get.  Stick with Oscar (which is the primary sponsor for the Northshore Baconfest, by the way) for every day.

Friday, February 21, 2014

February 21, 2014: Sage - gets Gold Medal - made of bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES today with a rare midweek post - but well worth it!

Last night on Conan, Sage Kotsenburg, winner of a Gold medal at Sochi for snowboard slopestyle, received a medal made of bacon, whereupon he promptly ate it.

On February 10th, Kotsenburg tweeted thusly:

 Last night, he got his second medal, from Conan, and immediately consumed it.  Conan said that the bacon came from Godshall's Quality Meats in Pennsylvania.

The video is here.

Godshall's is available at Sam's Clubs nationwide (maybe a good reason for me to get a membership).  Perhaps a missed opportunity: While there are plenty of tweets (@GodshallsMeats) and good facebook postings, there's nothing on the website.  I guess they think consumer's don't go there first?  What do you think?

See you on Sunday!

Friday, February 14, 2014

February 16, 2014: Valentine's Day & Wisconsin "Gas Station Bacon" vs. Razorback Finest

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES this week with a recap of Valentine's Day (and an idea for you for next year), some bacon in the news, and a cook-off between some central Wisconsin "gas station" bacon versus some real Pig Sooie from Razorback Country.

BACON IN THE NEWS starts with the Atlantic City Bacon Fest!  Yes, it's another in a series of bacon themed events across the United States.  It features items like a BLT with a full pound of bacon!  This one is at the casino "Tropicana" - I wonder if they are combining bacon and OJ.  Oh, wait, OJ is on a starvation hunger strike - but I digress...

A REAL DOWNER article in the Montreal Gazette belittled my original home state of NJ and its Bacon Festival at Atlantic City this week (come on, Canada, get with the program!)  A quote from the article: "Humans should be setting a sustainable standard of living, not promoting and celebrating the ingestion of bacon."  Whoah.  Don't you know that the Primal lifestyle, promoted by world-class scientists, says that bacon is good for you?  Check out the article "How I lost 130 Pounds and Fell in Love with Bacon."  And, dear Gazette, didn't you know that the feral pig problem in America is reaching epidemic proportions?  Here's an article in Wildlife News from May of this year that talks about the problem.  Let's get those razorbacks and eat 'em!

WZZM in GRAND RAPIDS tested the Bacon Bowl... they got similar results as I did in my review last week.  You can watch their positive video review here.  I still don't think it's worth the purchase price, although if truly only $10 when sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond, I might reconsider.  Definitely not worth buying online with $12 S&H on top of each one you buy.

MULTIPLE FOLKS TOLD ME ABOUT THE CURRENT FOOD NETWORK MAGAZINE, and one friend even gave me a copy!  Go pick it up at the newsstand, as I did.  Great articles, including a 50-recipe insert from our friends at Oscar Mayer.  A bacon buying guide along with a fun quiz.  Here's the LINK.

VALENTINE'S DAY WAS FRIDAY, as you all know, and I trust that you did something special for your honey.  Last week, I posted a link to a video on how to make a bouquet of bacon flowers for that special someone.  I did something a little simpler.  I went down to Walgreens and got myself a fake rose plant in bamboo.  The kind that sits in a dish full of wet gravel.  I made my bacon 'rose' thusly:

Take one slice of bacon, and roll it up.  Tie it together with a bit of kitchen twine and sit it vertically in a ramekin dish on top of some paper towel.  Stuff paper towel on top, and microwave on high for a little over a minute, and here's what you get (above).  A little shrinkage, but a perfect shape!  And no need to use power tools as in the video.

I think you'll agree that the 'rose' shape is nearly ideal.  A tenth of the time that it took those ladies, and no damage to the cupcake tin.

The finished product came out great; I won't tell you how well (or not well) it was received.  And yes, I DID also give traditional flowers.


Wisconsin "Gas Station" Bacon and some authentic Razorback Bacon are my test subjects today.

I was in Central Wisconsin last week, but unfortunately, I couldn't shop for any of the several butcher-crafted bacons because of their silly Blue Laws - all the retailers were closed on Sunday.  So I stopped on the way home at a gas station, and behold - 12 ounces of bacon packaged just right, and for only $3.89!  So I snapped it right up.  When I arrived home, my friends at Field Agent came through and on my doorstep was a package from Arkansas - real Ozark Peppered Bacon! 

First up, the GAS STATION BACON.  I know it's somewhat disparaging, but I'm just having fun!   Based on the label, it's from a place called "Custom Meats of Marathon, Inc." which appears not to have a traditional website, but does have a facebook page.  Their storefront is nondescript (see above), and they have a very funny post from the other day that says "Planning a romantic dinner at home? Stop in to Custom Meats and we can set you up with the best cuts of meat!"  The meats in the case aren't exactly packaged in a super appetizing way.  Take one look at their retail location... would you buy a romantic cut of meat here? But let's give them the benefit of the doubt and try the bacon.

Here is the 3-way shot; pre-cooked, cooking, and post cooked.   It was labelled at 12 ounces, and I got 12.4 ounces out of it net.  It cooked down and produced 70ml of rendered fat.  This had to be the widest bacon I have ever cooked.  At first, I thought it might be jowl bacon, but it's not.  Uncorking this vintage, it had just about no nose at all; surprising for supposedly hickory smoked bacon.  Plain color, but as you can see, that developed during cooking.  It had an interesting appearance, accentuated by it's difficulty to chew and overall lack of flavor (1.5).  Didn't really crisp up (2); had little succulence (2). Not sure what I would use it for. It only cost me $3.89.  I'm sure they have really good stuff at Marathon; I just didn't get the right batch.


Again, thanks to my buddies at Field Agent!  Watch the 90-second video and sign up as an Agent - and if you're a business, every organization can use Field Agent!  After attending the Arkansas-Kansas basketball game (about which I posted previously), they made the commitment to ship me some real razorback bacon.  It was Ozark Trails Brand hickory smoked peppered bacon.  In fact, it's featured in a bacon flight at BarBacon - a must-stop when in NYC. My wonderful daughter Caitlin got me a T-shirt from there when she visited recently.  On the right is a shot of the BarBacon 'flight' from their website.  Can you pick out the Ozark?

The package came from Zingerman's, which has a whole host of great bacon-themed foods and products.

This bacon is quality.  Upon opening, the aroma was classic Hickory Smoke.  Coloration was excellent out of the 12 ounce package, which netted exactly twelve ounces - a sign of good QC.  It produced only 60 ml of rendered fat, with very little shrinkage. Exactly twelve ounces and twelve slices - do you think maybe there's a biblical connection?  Hmmm.

Here's the 3-way shot.  I'm not a particular fan of peppered bacon, but as you can see, this was precisely the right amount of pepper.  It was very flavorful bacon, pepper appropriate.  Crisped up great (3.5), had average succulence (2.5) but was excellent on flavor (3.5).  A definite re-do.  The bacon disappeared from my test kitchen quickly.  One note to my Arkansas friends - this bacon comes from the Ozark mountains - of which 75% or more is in Missouri!  I want real Arkansas-bred pig bacon!  Next visit....

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February 9, 2014 Part 2: General Custer's Bacon and Bacon Valentines

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES after a long drive back from central Wisconsin.  I just had to post about two topics about which I learned today.

HOW TO MAKE A BACON VALENTINE now has to be one of my all-time favorite videos.  Two chicks demonstrating how to make bacon flowers and put them together into a bouquet for your Valentine.  The page is HERE  Please click and watch the video.  I will be doing this on Thursday to be ready for the DAY.

GENERAL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER had his own favorite BACON, and his wedding anniversary is today, in 1864.  Being a graduate of the same institution as said Custer, I felt an obligation to  link to his anniversary HERE.  I find it very cool that his wife's maiden name is Bacon.  I wonder how far she is from Kevin?  They have to be related, right?

Enjoy, and we'll see you next week, as I review some interesting bacon and include NEWS.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 9, 2014: Getting ready for Valentine's Day and Road Bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues as we prepare for V-Day, and coverage of bacon on the road.  Spoiler: no bacon cooking this week due to a ski weekend.

VALENTINE'S DAY IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING - it's Friday - and you still have time to order some bacon goodies online. 

I've reviewed bacon from BACONFREAK before... the bacons are generally too oily, overly flavored (I particularly didn't like their Cajun bacon) and over-cured (evidenced by the deep translucence in the fat).  You can look at the headlines to find my previous posts on this bacon.  So I would caution you about ordering it for home cooking and use... but the chocolate goodies!  They look great!

How about the following products, which can be ordered (and get to your honey in time for Friday's big day!) HERE.  Follow the promotion on the page to save 20% - and NO, I don't get any $$ for this info:
  • Boss Hog Dark Chocolate Covered Bacon Strips
  • Milk Chocolate Hearts Flavored with Bacon
  • Chocolate Rose Lollipops Flavored with Bacon
  • Chocolate Caramel Pretzels Flavored with Bacon
HERE IS ANOTHER OPTION to please your special person.  A really easy to make recipe of toast, bacon and egg.  Picture below, easy to make, thoroughly overdocumented recipe page here.

ROAD BACON!  This week, I've been on the road and unable to prepare my usual bacon review of home-cooked commercially available fare.  However, here are two bacons from the road.

The first is a bacon cheeseburger at Kodiak Jack's in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Outstanding burger, cool ambiance with lots of taxidermy products (you don't see that every day!) at Jack's, and just good bacon.

The second was a road bacon & eggs breakfast at a Marriott.  I am a big Marriott traveler and use the chain whenever I can.  This one was perfectly cooked crispy bacon in a warmer, with a side of scrambled eggs.  Most hotel self-serve bacon, eggs and sausage is limp, overcooked and flavorless.  But Marriott gets it right.
Again, no funding to me for these plugs!

We had dinner at a great place in Wausau, Wisconsin

Amanda took care of us, after we had a great conversation with Haley, who said a friend of hers likes bacon.  Haley was a great conversationalist, a community volunteer, teacher and basketball coach, in addition to being very pretty!  Haley suggested that we order the Bella Bella pizza, which we did later.  Thank you, Haley! 

However, in the meantime, Amanda overheard our conversation about bacon, and brought me some Neuske's thick sliced smoked bacon, which we immediately consumed.  I had a flight of beer:

the bacon, followed by the pizza.  From left to right: Golden Ale, Tragically Hopped (super hopped!), Tartan Toddy, and Jupiter, with Amanda in the background.

Redeye, in Wausau is highly recommended.  Great beer (brewed there), great service, great food.  And bacon.  A very cool place.  A definite re-do.  What more could you want?

I know, there was some 'non bacon' stuff in here.  Just chalk it up to the "My life" part of "My life with bacon", ok?  See you next week.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2, 2014: Getting Super Bowl ready with a review of the Bacon Bowl

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues today with a short post; no "bacon in the news" section, but a review of the much-advertised "Bacon Bowl".

IT'S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY, so there are dozens of sites with great appetizer recipes.  I particularly liked this Parade magazine site, that features six bacon-themed dishes.  I haven't tried any of these, but frankly, how can you go wrong?  There's BACON as a main ingredient!!  I particularly like the jalapeno - bacon appy. The bacon-wrapped tater tots are featured in the picture. Check them all out here.

ON TO THE BACON!  This morning I made an absolutely delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Using the old standby, Oscar Meyer, on a flat cast iron griddle, the bacon crisped up perfectly and tasted like a little bit of heaven. 

THE BACON BOWL experience was interesting, starting with the website, which can be found here.  The site has a cool video about the product, and starting the ordering process was painless.  Just click the big red "Order" button.  I actually ordered the product about two months ago, when I first saw the commercials, and soon received a letter saying that they ran out of bowls because "demand has been overwhelming" and to "please re-order".  Seriously?  I wonder about the story behind that debacle.  Did their manufacturer screw up?  Did someone use metric instead of English units of measure, like NASA did in 1999?

The actual ordering process was unpleasant, because they popped up a shopping cart with a default of ordering more than one product.  They say "get the second set free," but of course you have to pay "S&H" - the shipping & handling cost as much as the product itself!  I actually thought that the site had errors because my total order was over $22.  Bad design and bad idea - I know that vendors like to make money on shipping but they have to know that it produces ill will on the part of the consumer.
The set arrived in a nondescript box (unlike the Bacon Wave which I reviewed last week).  In the box were four of the bowls, which are heavier than they look.  They are made of some form of very heavy plastic-like material, which of course has to be microwave safe.  They have small handles, to make it easy to pick up and pour off the bacon fat, and there are two spouts to make the pouring mess-free.  Looks like a smart design.  The outside of the bowl is coated with what seems like a non-stick material.  The box also contains an instruction and recipe book.

The instructions say to cut two pieces of bacon in half, and place them in an "X" on top of the convex bowl. Then take two more slices and wrap them around the bowl.  The process was fairly simple, as you can see.  Then you just pop them into the oven (which I chose over the microwave) for 35 minutes or so.
Results:  I would call two of the bowls completely "unusable" because they fell apart.  The other two had gaping holes in them - which would let other ingredients fall out.  I chalked these errors up to bacon slices that were too thin, and not amenable to the process.

For the second attempt, I used slightly thicker bacon and double-wrapped in some cases.  The results were much better, but still, one of the bowls came out completely bad.

You can see that I added partially cooked eggs and cheese into the bowls, for quick breakfasts on the go.  It's just like eating an apple! I'll just microwave these for a few seconds to warm them up, and they're ready to go.

The little handles and spout for pouring bacon came in handy, as you can see. Once the Bowls cooled a little, I poured off the fat.  The bacon does take a little bit of work to remove it from the bowl - it tends to stick.

Remember, when pouring hot bacon fat, do it into a metal or glass container, like this Guiness can! 

Overall, I'd say that the bacon bowl was not worth the price.  It's a fun idea, but there are other ways to get the same outcome.

Here's one: you can achieve the same effect by using a cupcake tin.  After the bacon is partially cooked, you can add eggs, cheese, or other ingredients, and then finish cooking.  I wrote about this process in a post last year.

Enjoy the Super Bowl!