Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #99 - Starbucks aka Maybe You've Heard Of It

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg and Cheddar
Location: Starbucks (East Washington Ave.)
Date: September 12, 2017
Cost: $3.45

I think Starbucks is the last national chain for me to visit in the Madison area. I hope so, at least. I need to be free of these chains. There are a few local places I've been meaning to get to but time has not allowed and Starbucks was an easy stop before work. I needed to put this notch in my sandwich belt so I could move on to actual cafes and restaurants. Please God - do not allow Arby's to start selling breakfast sandwiches in the Madison area.

So, there I was at Starbucks. The line for the drive thru was predictably long at 8:15 am but I was planning on going inside anyway. I didn't want to lose whatever freshness the sandwich might have had by waiting until I got to work to eat it.

They have several choices of breakfast sandwich. I had no idea. I guess I don't go to Starbucks very often. I was in the mood for sausage so I didn't think about it too much. (Also, I've been making bacon-based sandwiches at home lately but not writing about them as they aren't really lab experiments. I haven't been pushing the sandwich envelope, just making simple, tasty sandwiches. Pro tip - if you're going to cook your chicken egg inside a Mason jar lid to get that "perfect puck" egg, use plenty of non-stick spray or your egg will stick to the lid and it tears the edges apart and it looks like it's been nibbled by vermin.)

Kinda sad looking.

I didn't have a knife so this was cut with my incisors. It was not nibbled by vermin. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg and Cheddar. These sandwiches come out of sealed plastic bag so while you have several choices you don't have any options once you have made your selection. Starbucks isn't really a food place - everything comes out of bag from a kitchen factory somewhere. For all I know this sandwich was assembled by robots. The chicken egg was exactly what you expect for a pre-packaged sandwich (if you're new to this blog that isn't a good thing.) The microwave setting melted the cheese perfectly - kudos to the Starbucks lab technicians who tested that down to the microsecond. The sandwich was nice and hot. The sausage was actually pretty good. It hit the spot I was hoping it would. Despite being microwaved the English Muffin held up fairly well and wasn't soggy. This is by no means a messy sandwich so it really didn't have it's mettle tested, but it worked.

The Result - 2.75 Breaking The Chains out of 5 Breaking The Chains. This sandwich was fine. It was OK. It was actually tasty in some ways. I can see how it would tide you over until lunch if you're on your way to work. But, it's a $2.75 sandwich masquerading as a $3.45 sandwich. That's not cutting it for this reporter. I swipe left. (I'm going to assume there is a sandwich blog out there where the reviewer either "swipes left" or "swipes right" on a sandwich and that is the review. I'm not going to Google it. You go ahead though. If that doesn't exist it seems like a perfectly good idea for some snarky millennial to pursue.)

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #98 - Ian's Pizza aka Nobody Thinks Pizza Is Sandwich

Sandwich: Breakfast Pizza - Denver Omelet, Meat Lovers.
Location: Ian's Pizza (State Street)
Date: July 29, 2017
Cost: $4

Pizza isn't sandwich. Nobody thinks it is. There is no reason to discuss this further.

A better topic might be to discuss the validity of "breakfast pizza". Breakfast pizza has been around for awhile (I know that is vague but I'm simply not going to do any research on this) and it's popular enough to warrant several options in the freezer section at your local grocer, but I feel it is a relatively new offering at local pizzarias. I believe it is new to Ian's, but it's also available at Glass Nickel, and there is a pie at Salvatore's called "Carbonara" that has soft cooked eggs on it. I've heard Echo Tap has one as well but it's not shown on their menu. There are probably others, but again, I just don't care to do the research. You should though. Please do, and report back with your findings. You have an assignment now. This is fun. I have faith in you.

Straight out of the gate I have to reveal my bias. I think all pizza is breakfast pizza and am firmly in the camp that believes cold pizza is a good breakfast. I've always felt this way and have proudly and happily munched on cold pizza for breakfast hundreds of times. This will never change.

I can't remember when I first heard about breakfast pizza, it was likely many years ago, and honestly, I can't recall what my thoughts were at the time. My opinion now, as I sit here as a respected (not true) and renowned (also not true) reviewer of breakfast sandwiches, is that it's somewhat gimmicky. It strikes me as an attempt to mix two different foods to create a new Superfood that is somehow better than the sum of it's parts, e.g. Taco Pizza. (Note - I have had tasty Taco Pizza but ultimately I want either tacos, or pizza, in their traditional form.) I suppose this says more about me than anything else and I am not categorically against blending of foods if that's what you're into*. If you want a Turkey Club Pizza I think you should have it. That's wonderful. There will be no pizza or sandwich shaming for that. I reserve sandwich shaming for terrible sandwiches, which are sadly all too plentiful.

With that in mind I biked up to the Farmer's Market on an absolutely perfect Saturday morning with the sole goal of trying some breakfast pizza. I wanted to make the trip worth my time so I ordered two slices.
Denver Omelette.

Meat Lovers.
The Slices - Denver Omelette and Meat Lovers. This was a tough decision. There were four slices I was considering. I knew I wanted to try two but three sounded like way too much. I passed on the Biscuits & Gravy option although I was tempted by the bulbous outcroppings of presumably flaky biscuit. The other temptation was the Mediterranean Delight with those salty kalamata olives. At no point did I consider the Huevos Rancheros pizza.

Denver Omelette - Tator Tots, Bell Peppers, Onions, Pepper, Ham, Eggs, & Cheddar Cheese. Those little tater tot bites pretty much sealed the deal on this one. Anything that reminds me of Potato Ole's is going to make a strong case for itself although the taste of the tots kind of got lost in everything here. I expected this to be salty due to the ham and tots, and while it was, it also had a slightly sweet flavor. Maybe that was the crust? The peppers had a nice crunch to them and the peppers and onion are the predominant flavors. The egg is supposed to take the place of the tomato sauce but it just doesn't work for me. Maybe it's a mental block on my part - expecting the regular saucy flavor and texture and not getting it. It's not an omelette and it's not pizza. Omelezza?

Meat Lovers - Breakfast Sausage, Bacon, Wisconsin Maple Syrup, & Eggs. The dude told me this slice also has a light layer of mozzarella on it although they don't list that on the menu. This one almost lost out to the Biscuits & Gravy but the inclusion of sausage AND bacon was what finally made me choose this. If you're a regular reader you know I often speak of the choice between sausage and bacon so when offered both at the same time I had to try it. It turned out to be a better slice in concept than in execution. The sausage was dry and the maple syrup flavor dominated in a way that I didn't appreciate. As with the other slice I missed the tomato sauce (although this could very well be a Pavlovian response to having a slice of pizza in my hand).

The Results - 3.18 (Denver Omelette) and 2.79 (Meat Lovers) That Ain't No Sandwiches out of 5 That Ain't No Sandwiches. I am willing to concede that these ratings are affected by my personal biases and preconceptions. I can't help that. I just didn't enjoy either slice all that much. I may dabble in breakfast pizza again but it's far more likely I'll be eating a leftover slice of cold pepperoni and onion while making a sandwich to take to work.

Note - I believe each slice was $4. That is the cost of a specialty slice, but I don't remember what my total was that day.

*Speaking of blending foods, have you tried the Mac 'n Cheese Brats from Jim's Meat Market? They're new this year (I think) and are not listed on the web site but they seem to have them all the time. They are excellent. I haven't eaten a whole one on a bun, they function perfectly as a sliced up little snack while you grill other items.

Happy National Sandwich Month, everybody. Let's make it a memorable one.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #97 - McDonald's aka Again? Are You McFucking Kidding Me?

Sandwich: Egg McMuffin
Location: McDonald's (East Washington Ave.)
Date: July 22, 2017
Cost: $3.39

At this point you probably think I'm a corporate shill, bought and paid for by Big Sandwich to lobby for their interests on Capitol Hill or in some tiny, fetid backwater of the internet. I understand why you could think that. I reviewed McDonald's just over a month ago and if you're keeping track you know this is my FIFTH trip to a McDonald's, which is embarrassing.

Just read on and keep an open mind. McPlease. I'm just a McRegular guy reviewing McSandwiches of my own accord I would never let outside forces or McSponsorships stain my McIntegrity. I hope by now you would understand this. This has been a long journey and some of of you have been along for the entire ride so you know where I'm coming from.

What's important is to understand why I went back to McDonald's. The reasons are three-fold and they are intertwined and they are as follows.

#A) Convenience. That's right, McDonald's entire business model is built on convenience and that hooked me on this Saturday morning. I was out running errands and I wanted a fancy and delicious breakfast sandwich but didn't want to expend the time and effort to get such a thing. A quick and easy sandwich would sate my hunger and provide an opportunity for a review. See #B.

#B) A sense of obligation. If you think I take the readership here for granted, you are wrong. Any publisher will tell that it's important to provide regular content. You people are like sponges in the condiment aisle. You're sopping up the glorpy knowledge I'm throwing down. If I don't provide it, you'll go elsewhere. There are thousands of sandwich blogs you could be reading instead of this one.

#C) Completism. If you read review #95 you know I was shocked and disappointed that I had somehow neglected to review the all-time classic breakfast sandwich, the Egg McMuffin. This oversight had to be corrected before I hit sandwich #100. It was chasm in my research that called out to be filled.


Slightly defective muffin.

Not, you know, sexy looking.
The Sandwich - Egg McMuffin. At this point it's ubiquitous. It's the trunk of the breakfast sandwich family tree. All other breakfast sandwiches are indebted to the Egg McMuffin in some way.

After all this buildup I have to admit I was mostly disappointed with this sandwich. The overall texture was rubbery (not in a good way) and while it had less of a salty flavor than I thought it would, it didn't have much flavor at all. The muffin was toasty and had a light crunch and the cheese was melty, but those factors were not nearly enough to bring this sandwich into a positive light. 

There isn't much else to say about this sandwich. It was unimpressive and forgettable. 

The Result - 1.43 McFuck Its out of 5 McFuck Its. This sandwich moved from my Bucket List to my McFuck It List in the blink of an eye. It's hard out there for a sandwich, even a classic like the Egg McMuffin. The Egg McMuffin is surrounded by sandwich competition from within the golden arches, AND all the other fast food chains, AND all the coffee and donut shops, AND all these boutique sandwich joints sprouting up in every city. Somehow it has hung around all these years so it must have it's fans and supporters. Not this reporter.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #96 - Tavernakaya aka Nice Buns!

Sandwich: Egg & Cheese Brunch Buns
Location: Tavernakaya
Date: July 2, 2017
Cost: $12

I had never been to Tavernakaya. I hadn't even considered it as a possible location for a breakfast sandwich or bun, as it were. A mantou bun is not technically a sandwich, it depends on if you consider steamed buns to be bread. If you define bread as requiring baking then these buns aren't going to qualify. I don't know and don't much care. I'm getting fast and loose with the rules around here since I passed the benchmark of 52 sandwiches long ago and there have already been reviews of crepes and open-faced sandwiches. One day a review of a breakfast burrito will appear here and all manner of outrage will be flung in my general direction and it still won't matter a lick. So what.

When I sat down at Tavernakaya it felt like it had been months since I had had a breakfast sandwich at a proper restaurant. If you don't count the bullshit sandwich I had at Panera (I don't) you have to go back to May 28 to find a decent sandwich arepa. That isn't very long ago, but it felt like an eternity. That's what happens when you eat a breakfast sandwich while standing in a parking lot (#94) or sitting in a car (#95).

If I hadn't snapped this photo I'd be hard pressed to remember what was in these.

Three little pigs - chorizo, ham, bacon. Also, sometimes you order a greyhound and you're expecting white grapefruit juice but it comes with pink and if it weren't for your delicious sandwiches you'd probably be sad. 

The real reason I took this is to bring back the memory of the tactile sensation that is the squeezing of the bun. 
The Sandwiches (Buns) - This would have been a hell of a lot easier if I had ordered three of the same but that wasn't going to happen. First, let's be clear that I did NOT order the House-Smoked Tofu option. I'm sure it's delicious but that isn't how we do things around here. You know this.

I could, and may, go on at length about the mantou buns 馒头 alone. You've had them. You know how wonderful they feel in your fingers. These had the perfect amount of taut-squishiness that feels oh so right in your hands. A gentle squeeze yields to the pressure, and when you release a light imprint is left for just a split second and then the bun snaps back to it's original form. I could squeeze these buns all day. I may take some into work and have them at my desk instead of one of those stress relieving balls that nobody actually uses.

The eggs are scrambled on all of these. A runny egg wouldn't really work here and I'm not even going to hold that against them.

OK, let's get down to business.

House-Made Chorizo. The only previous chorizo based breakfast sandwich I reviewed was back in February of 2015. Is that possible? Maybe I missed one. This chorizo was excellent for this situation. Not too greasy or cinnamony, it was suited for these buns. At a taqueria I could see wanting a greasier version, but for these, it was perfect. The avocado crema gave this bun a cool viscosity and blended well with the eggs. Cilantro was a crucial touch on this one. I give it a 4.55 overall.

Nueske's Ham. You've heard me praise Nueske's Ham at length so I won't do it again here. It's always fantastic. Here is where my skills as a reviewer are exposed for the fraud that they are. At the time I thought they had mistakingly put the spicy mayo from the bacon bun on this bun, instead of the togarashi maple. They look the same in the photo above. When I tasted a pepper spice I thought that was what happened but now I'm sitting here with a search engine and I find that togarashi 唐辛子 is chili pepper. I think I got hung up on the spiciness and didn't take into account the subtle maple. At this point I can't be sure. What I can say is that this bun had a richness and heavenly salty flavor that was delightful and made this my favorite. I give it a solid 4.85 even though I didn't know the word for chili pepper in Mandarin or even Cantonese.

Bacon. This one had bacon on it, hence it's clever name. This was a solid bun but I feel it is included simply because they have to have a bacon version on the menu. People think of brunch, they think of bacon, here is that bacon. There was nothing wrong with this bun, the spicy mayo and scallions gave it that extra touch. Although it was my least favorite (one of them had to be) it's still a good 4.31 on the sandwich scale.

If I had to do this all over again and I were me I would order two of the Nueske's Ham and one of the Chorizo and I think I'd be happy as a pig in...a bun.

Finally, I feel compelled to comment on the house salad. It was very lightly dressed mixed greens and if you're up to speed on my reviews you know I appreciate these as a side during breakfast. I find them to be refreshing alternative to potatoes.

The Result(s) - 4.57 Bun Averages out of 5 Bun Averages. I did the math and that seems like a good rating. These buns were excellent. Nice buns! $12 might seem a touch expensive for these but you aren't going to get this level of quality for much less than that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

America Number One Fast Food Chain Restaurant Sandwich Roundup U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Tomorrow we celebrate the Independence of the United States of America and there is nothing more American than the fast-food restaurant. Chain restaurants are also something our nation can be proud of. After that it goes downhill quickly. What do we have besides incredible National Parks and National Football Leagues? I can't think of anything else. (Did you see that we have Citizenship Ceremonies in National Parks? I didn't know that. The cynic in me says that it won't last for long but for now I think it's pretty great.)

Do fast-food and chain restaurants represent our shared culture and uniquely American ideals, freedom and vision or are they symbols of our laziness, homogeny and dwindling intellect? All of those things, probably.

To celebrate our nation's birthday I have compiled a roundup of all the sandwiches I have reviewed that are available from sea to shining sea. As our nation increasingly slides into a languid mental torpor I offer the following as the perfect reading material for letting your frontal lobe morph into xanthan gum.

These are listed by review number, location, sandwich type and finally, the rating I gave the sandwich. They are ranked highest rating to lowest.

#25. Taco Bell AM Crunchwrap with Sausage - 3.75
#66. McDonald's Sausage, Egg Biscuit - 3.5
#68. Chik-fil-A Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel - 3.5
#71. Panera Sausage, Egg & Cheese - 3.5
#55. Taco Bell Breakfast Quesalupa with Sausage - 3.4
#95. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McMuffin - 3.09
#42. Subway Bacon, Egg and Cheese - 2.98
#37. Einstein Bagels Bacon & Cheddar on Green Chile Bagel - 2.95
#17. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McMuffin - 2.29
#27. Hardee's Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich w/Sausage - 2.19
#83. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McGriddle - 2.06
#93. Panera Sausage Egg & Cheese - 2.0
#14. Cracker Barrel Egg Sandwich + Sausage Biscuit - 1.99
#30. Burger King Bacon, Sausage, Egg & Cheese - 1.974
#12. Sonic Breakfast Toaster with Bacon - 1.56
#63. Denny's Two Moons Over My Hammy - 1.56
#21. Dunkin' Donuts Bacon, Egg & Cheese on Bagel - 1.27

I skimmed the reviews as I compiled them and my general impression is that the top rated sandwiches are rated a little too high. Also, #83 and #30 are two of the better reviews. I'm not sure my opinion is valid but I'm sharing it anyway.

Review #30 is by far the most read review of those listed and is the second most read review of all time. That stat is a bit misleading as it was shared on Reddit which pushed its numbers up dramatically. #17 is a distant second in terms of fast-food readership. I don't know why that one is more widely read than some of the others.

I had no idea I'd eaten so many mass produced sandwiches and I don't know if it makes me feel dirty or like an All-American Hero. I do know that tomorrow I'm going to eat some bratwurst.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #95 - McDonald's aka McQuartet

Sandwich: Sausage Egg McMuffin
Location: McDonald's, Little Chute, WI
Date: June 18, 2017
Cost: $3.09

Nobody wants to read about another McMuffin. I know this. It still counts as research.  It's research I can totally phone in though, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

This sandwich came into my life as part of the same road trip that brought you Sandwich #94. There I was at a Mobil/McDonald's in Little Chute, Wisconsin on Sunday morning and I was facing down the digital menu boards. I knew I had reviewed the McGriddle as Sandwich #83 (in what I think is one of my finest reviews. It's a fucking masterpiece, OK?) and there was a sausage sandwich of some sort (Sandwich #66) and there was the another McMuffin way back in the early days (Sandwich #17) but I wasn't sure which one it was. I knew I wasn't going to get the Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. This may be a safe space for unencumbered research but in my head there is a venn diagram that consists of "Steak" and "Things To Order at McDonald's" and you could sail an aircraft carrier between those circles (I think that means it isn't really a Venn diagram but we don't get into math here). It did not occur to me until just now that this would be my fourth review of a McDonald's product. This is embarrassing.

I didn't want to think about it anymore so I ordered the Sausage, Egg McMuffin knowing it was likely that I had already reviewed it.
The color of this is all weird from the tint of the car windows. It was on my lap and I didn't grab a plastic knife and wouldn't have been able to cut it half very well anyway. You know what a McMuffin looks like, right?
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg McMuffin. I could have/should have ordered the classic Egg McMuffin with Canadian Bacon. It turns out I have not reviewed that, which is a major oversight on my part. Crap. The McMuffin isn't a bad sandwich. It's set the bar for grab and go breakfast sandwiches in the psyche of America simply due to it's longevity and ubiquity.

The muffin could have used a bit more toasting but the cheese was melty and the sausage had more flavor than my sandwich the day before. The egg was a perfect egg puck and was cooked through as is the practice at these types of places. 

The Result - 3.09 Accidental Quartet of Reviews out of 5 Accidental Quartet of Reviews. This sandwich hit the spot on this day but I was hungry and in a car. It wasn't great but I enjoyed it. It cost $3.09 so that's the rating I'm giving it even if that seems a little high. Chances are you've had one of these and you already know what they taste like. I don't have anything else to say about it. 

Epilogue - Now That I've completed this review let's compare past ratings of McDonald's items. This will be a lot of fun.

#17. March 29, 2015. Sausage, Egg McMuffin. 2.29
#66. September 16, 2016. Sausage, Egg Biscuit. 3.50
#83. February 2, 2017. Sausage, Egg McGriddle. 2.60
#95. June 18, 2017. Sausage, Egg McMuffin. 3.09

I don't know what it is that causes me to order sausage at McDonald's, I'm normally more of a bacon guy. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #94 - Kwik Trip aka You Be Trippin'

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant
Location: Kwik Trip, somewhere in the Fox River Valley
Date: June 17, 2017
Cost: $2.69

I'm not a fan of Kwik Trip for reasons unrelated to breakfast sandwiches and I wasn't even aware they had them. I probably could have surmised as much but I never go there and simply never consider them for anything. That's not entirely true, I used the free air hose at a location a few months ago.

As a passenger on a road trip we stopped for gas and whatnot at a Kwik Trip somewhere in the Fox River Valley and there I learned they have a plethora of breakfast sandwich options. I probably should have taken a photo of the entire hot case, which was teeming with sandwiches and possibly breakfast burritos, since the Kwik Trip web site sucks and doesn't list the menu options in a convenient manner.

The hot case has informative signs with all the info you need to make your sandwich decision. Their web site may be shit but their POP signage game is strong. 

You may be accustomed to my crappy photos but you'll have to accept a further drop off in quality here. This was taken standing outside the store near the propane tanks which is why there is not the normal "cross section" photo showing the sandwich innards. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant. Of the many variations of sandwich offered I went with a classic with a twist. I've been on a sausage kick lately but you may recall I have lamented the use of croissants for sandwiches in past reviews. I don't think they make for a proper vessel and they often are too squishy to maintain integrity. For a grab & go style sandwich a croissant is a risky choice as it may not prove to be road worthy. We're all about risks here, clearly, so I went with this one. The real choice I made, the actual hardest decision, was to only buy one sandwich. I was fully aware that I may not ever come back and I thought I might try two varieties so as to conduct maximum research. Ultimately I made the selfish decision to stick to a single sandwich as I had a full day ahead of me and didn't want to feel like a rat trapped in a grease trap.

So, anyway. The croissant was shaped almost in a square which makes for a better sandwich than a normal, elongated croissant. I suspect they bio-engineer them this way for sandwich purposes and I have to give them credit for that. The sausage was more bland than I expected. For any fast food restaurant or gas station I assume the sausage will be salty and grisly but this was on the bland side, which I guess is better than grisly. The cheese was American and was melty from being in the hot case. The egg was the typical non-yolky-we-dont-take-any-chances variety you get from all these kinds of places that don't like to have any fun and make their employees wear stupid polo shirts

The Result - 2.69 I Probably Wasn't Going To Come Back Regardlesses out of 5 I Probably Wasn't Going To Come Back Regardlesses. This sandwich cost $2.69 and was worth every penny, exactly. My overall impressions of the sandwich were "bland" and "squishy". I kind of enjoyed the squishiness. I think it helped the whole thing sorta melt in my mouth and slide down my gullet, which may not sound good to you but it worked on this morning while standing in the parking lot. The blandness was less impressive as blandness is in any type of food or endeavor. It was an OK sandwich, and for the price, perfectly acceptable if you're in a hurry and have low expectations. A guy like me, I have higher expectations.