Sunday, January 5, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #150 - Einstein Bros. Bagels aka Should Have Stayed In Vegas

Sandwich: All-Nighter
Location: Einstein Bros.® Bagels
Date: December 28, 2019
Cost: $6.59

When I heard Einstein Bros.® Bagels had added a new breakfast sandwich to their menu I knew it was time to revisit them and see if things had improved since my last visit in 2015.  Things didn't go very well on that trip so there was a chance for redemption here. At the end of a calendar year, we all can get a bit reflective and redemption is often a by-product of that. Perhaps even your nearby chain bagel shop with hundreds of locations nationwide is worthy of a second chance?

The All-Nighter is their new sandwich, now available nationwide at participating locations. It debuted in Las Vegas with the angle that it offered consolation after a night of indulgences and it proved to be popular enough to expand to the full chain. At least that's how the story goes. It smells like marketing and PR bullshit to me, but who cares? Is the sandwich any good? This is all that matters.

It arrives from the kitchen (the counter, actually) pre-split.
                
For all the potential oozyness this sandwich has, there is a remarkable lack of oozyness.














 
The Sandwich - All-Nighter. Cheesy Hash Brown gourmet bagel with American cheese, bacon, eggs and a jalapeño garlic aioli. So much potential here. Brimming with opportunity. Spoiler alert - that potential is squandered. All of these chain places refuse to make runny eggs and the part-time employees are forced to cook with microwaves so it's hard to have high expectations, but that's what we do here. This sandwich does feature two chicken eggs, and if both of those were runny you'd have a real napkin-grabbing mess on your hands, literally. But wouldn't it be nice? The cheese could have been meltier, the bacon was fine. I'm going to focus on the bagel since they have "bagel" right there in their name. It was smaller and lighter than expected. It's a "Cheesy Hash Brown gourmet bagel", so I assume they mix hash browns right into the bagel, but it just struck me as a regular bagel. If it had more heft it could withstand the amount of sandwich slop I'm picturing in my head. (And let me tell you, this image is VIVID. I'm writing this on Sunday morning and I haven't eaten yet.) Even the jalapeño garlic aioli didn't really make its presence known in terms of flavor. It added some needed viscosity, but that was about it. 

The Result - 3.66 Things That Don't Always Stay In Vegas out of 5 Things That Don't Always Stay In Vegas. This isn't a bad sandwich but in the hands of a proper restaurant, it would be so much more. You know what it is? This is a $4.29 sandwich masquerading as a $6.59 sandwich. Every component of this sandwich left something to be desired and in the end, I was no longer hungry, but I was emotionally unsated. The hot chocolate I ordered helped with that. It usually does.

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #149 - Lab Report: Pick a Peck of Pepper Cheese

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - English Muffin, chicken egg (puck style), bacon and two types of pepper cheese
Date: December 10, 2019

A brief report from the lab due to the fact that I had two kinds of pepper cheese and was awake far too early on a Tuesday morning. 

The cheeses in question are Crystal Farms Cracked Black Pepper White Cheddar and Sartori Black Pepper Bellavitano. The English Muffin was a Newly Weds Foods Sourdough (King Size). Note that the Newly Wed Foods site has some amazing "Breakfast Sandwich Concepts" recipes if you're looking for inspiration beyond the scope of my admittedly limited cooking skills. "Fried Onion Ring, Sausage Patty with Poached Egg (and Goat Cheese)"? Yowza!
This was a simple construct - I put one cheese on the top half and one on the bottom half and toasted the muffin. Honestly, it could have been toastier but that's how it went down. Add bacon and chicken egg and some Cholula hot sauce (just in case there wasn't enough pepper flavor), and *BOOM* - Tuesday morning breakfast sandwich.

 
The photos don't lie.
The Result - Was it too peppery? No! Was adding Cholula Hot Sauce overkill? No! Was this an amazing way to start a Tuesday? Yes! Does anybody care? HELL NO!

What did we learn here, if anything? I think the big takeaway is that is you have trouble sleeping and are awake at 5 am for no reason you should consider making a tasty breakfast sandwich. 

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #148 - Berry Pike Cafe aka Something, Something in Evanston

Sandwich: Rhonda On The Fly
Location: Berry Pike Cafe
Date: November 17, 2019
Cost: $7

What are you going to do if you're in Chicago and you need a quick breakfast sandwich but the best place is closed on Sunday and you really should get on the road?

You just might grab a coffee and drive to Evanston while you ponder your situation, eventually landing on a place called Berry Pike Cafe that has a sandwich named the "Marcellus Wallace" (even if you know you aren't going to order that sandwich).


Enticing options.

As far as crappy photos go, this one is much less crappy.

 
That cup of coffee in the background was pretty damn tasty. I didn't take a crosssection shot cause I didn't want to cut it in half cause there was no yolk to see.
The Sandwich - Rhonda On The Fly. I wanted sausage and the pepper jack cheese sounded like a good option. Normally it's served on a plain bagel but I swapped that for an Everything bagel. I was pretty excited about this. Even though I knew it wouldn't be served with a runny yolk I was still a bit disappointed when presented with the visual evidence. I added some hot sauce, I guess I was really, really ready for a trip to flavor country this morning. That didn't happen. Somehow this sandwich just didn't have the verve I was looking for. It had all the components but they just didn't add up. The sausage didn't pack enough taste-power to cut through the other flavors and even the pepper jack cheese and hot sauce didn't flex enough. Maybe my taste buds were all whacked out this day cause it almost doesn't make sense. The cheese was nice and melty though. The bagel could have been toasted more. This all sounds rather negative and it probably shouldn't as the sandwich was, "fine". I think my expectations were a bit high as I was prepared for a tasty treat and it didn't hit me how I wanted it to. Also, I was on a mini-vacation and everything is better on vacation, right? 

The Result - 3.33 That's The Way It Goes out of 5 That's The Way It Goes. There isn't much more to say that hasn't already been covered. The sandwich was OK but my expectations were above that. Perhaps it's due to my last trip to Chicago which resulted in the only 5.00 rated breakfast sandwich thus far. The coffee was really good and this little succulent plant in the window was simply adorable.



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Friday, November 15, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #147 - Dunkin' Donuts aka Beyond Reviews and Puppet Shows

Sandwich: Beyond Sausage Sandwich
Location: Dunkin' Donuts
Date: November 15, 2019
Cost: $3.99

Earlier in the week I was thinking that if I was any kind of cutting edge breakfast sandwich reporter I would be writing about this new fake meat sandwich that Dunkin Donuts now offers. It has the entire fast-food press pool vibrating with excitement. Sandwich based reporters from all corners of the country have been lighting up our Slack app with their musings. I had wished I was joining in but the Dunkin Donuts in my city are not near me and it would be silly to drive all around the town just to eat a Dunkin Donuts sandwich. The last time I had one it didn't go so well.

But I was intrigued. And then I realized my Friday commitments would take me within striking distance of a Dunkin' Donuts.

Before I get into the sandwich I need to touch on a few points.

Through our work in the lab and in the field, we have proven that it's possible to make an excellent breakfast sandwich without killing some animals. (What about the chicken egg? Huh? Blah-blah-fucking-blah...NO!) The secret to a great vegetarian breakfast sandwich is avocado. We know this. Is fake meat really necessary? I doubt it, but I had to find out firsthand. My point is that I wanted to try the "Beyond Meat" sandwich even though my gut tells me that fake meat is a scam put out by "Big Vegetable". That's right - it's a conspiracy. Wake up, people.

More importantly, I have to question why Snoop Dogg was chosen to help launch the Beyond Meat sandwich line. My initial thought when I heard that was "you gotta be higher than fuck to eat one of these sandwiches" cause that's what we associate Snoop Dogg with. Well, that and narrating animal videos. I guess he's a vegetarian now though and Dunkin is clearly all-in on trying to reach that crucial but elusive Gen Zinneal™ breakfast consumer. They're a fickle demographic.

This is it, the lone photo. I went to the drive-thru and took this after turning the car around so the sun would come in the window for better lighting.
The Sandwich - Beyond Sausage Sandwich. The only choice is American or White Cheddar cheese. I went with the American to make it more like a classic breakfast sandwich. Let's get right to the fake meat part - the patty size is ample. It looks good. It didn't have as much smell as I thought it would, usually these things immediately fill the car with their scent. The first taste that hits is black pepper, overwhelmingly so. I expected more fennel and salt but not so much. The flavor dissipates quickly after the bite, it doesn't linger on the tongue long. I'm not sure if we can blame that on the lack of a dead animal or something else. The consistency is a bit smoother than actual sausage and all these factors give it away as an imposter. If you were served this and nobody told you what it was but they kept looking at you funny while you ate it you'd think maybe they had snuck in some turkey sausage or tempe or soyage. You'd know they were up to something. Everything else is pretty standard fast-food breakfast sandwich quality - melty cheese, decently toasted English Muffin, puck egg with no runny yolk because once upon a time somebody ate an undercooked egg and thought they got sick. All the normal things you expect when somebody hands you a sandwich through a little window and directly into your car. By the way, here's a free idea for a place with a drive-thru window - put up some cute little curtains and have the employees do a little puppet show while consumers wait for their food. Get rid of that faceless speaker - people can order directly from the puppet(s). Bingo. Please send me my check for $1,000,000.00. Thank you.

The Result - 3.25 Ethically Treated Puppets out of 5 Ethically Treated Puppets. This sandwich was leaps and bounds better than sandwich #21 from Dunkin which contained actual bacon. That counts for something. Overall, the sandwich was fine. For $4 and given the circumstances, it was perfectly acceptable. If you're a vegetarian, tack on a few extra points. Yes, you'd be better off getting a sandwich from an actual restaurant - something with avocado and delicious cheese and a runny yolk. You'd prefer that. We'd all prefer that. If you're stuck in a position of limited options the Beyond Sausage Sandwich will suit you well. Will it last as a nationwide offering? Will enough people order it to keep it on the menu? The product itself probably has a much longer shelf life than meat. These places shake up their menus all the time so I won't be surprised if this falls off in 8 months after Snoop Doog has gone back to eating juicy ribeye steaks.

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Breakfast Sandwich #146 - Lab Report: Deriliction of Duty and Some Organic Stuff

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - Chicken Egg (puck style), bacon and some organic stuff
Date: November 13, 2019


Just bear with me for a minute on another report from the laboratory. It's entirely possible I'm veering wildly off my mission with yet another lab report but that's the way things are. Nobody feels worse about subjecting you to another lab report than I do but the lab is not for "feelings" or "hugs", it's about science. Obviously.

Imagine my shock when I realized I had a different type of bacon, a new type of English muffin AND some kind of organic macaroni & cheese on hand. I knew I had to fashion a sandwich. Nobody could deny such a thing.

The use of mac n cheese is not new to the lab although previous attempts used leftovers of the homemade variety. This time I had Full Circle Market organic brand. My regular go-to bacon is Usinger's Applewood Smoked but I had switched it up and purchased the Hickory Smoked variety. In the past, I had tried a few varieties of English Muffin with Bay's and Thomas' being the most frequent. Last trip to the store I stumbled across an endcap display for Dave's Killer Bread and ended up purchasing some English Muffins made with "Rockin' Grains" (whatever the fuck that means). Those are also organic and GMO-something-or-other.

The point is that there were several items that had not yet been tested in the lab and that's my excuse for sandwich #146 being yet another lab report rather than a report from the field.

You have to admit that mac 'n cheese spilling out of the sides is rather tantalizing. Honestly, I spent way, way, way too long agonizing over whether to put the egg between the bacon and mac 'n cheese, or the mac 'n cheese in between the bacon and the egg. This is what I considered the entire time the egg cooked. Ultimately I thought the mac 'n cheese probably wouldn't want to stay in place and I might need to mash it into position. I was afraid if the egg was beneath the mac 'n cheese I would prematurely break the yolk when trying to mash the mac into place. That thought made me feel emotionally fragile and so I decided the egg would go on top. You dig?

Clearly putting the egg on top was the right choice because this yolky boi was ready to gush like Sally Fields after winning an Academy Award. I don't know how those two noodles ended up on top but they look good up there.
The Result - This will seem obvious but adding macaroni to a sandwich is quite possibly the definition of overkill. Even creamy macaroni and cheese is a bit much. Don't get me wrong, the sandwich was tasty but probably not worth the extra effort of making the mac 'n cheese, or the extra calories and carbs. How many of you are going to make mac 'n cheese at 7am while drinking coffee, anyway? That's a little peek behind the curtain of the lab. The Rockin' Grains muffin tasted a little too wheaty and grainy but kept this from being even more unhealthy than it already was.

Let's just move on.

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #145 - Lab Sandwich on National Sandwich Day aka Throwing Our Vegetarian Friends A Bone

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - Chicken Egg (puck style), Smoked Gouda, Avocado, Red Onion, Leftover Wheat Bun
Date: November 3, 2019

When I saw that National Sandwich Day was falling on a Sunday this year I knew that I would have to skip church and seek salvation in a sandwich. It's the only true path. Your absolution lies between the slices of bread. Accept this or be damned to an eternity of overly-mayonnaised sandwiches. The horror! I wouldn't wish that on most people but let's be honest - some folks don't deserve a good sandwich

My loose plan was to go out to one of my favorite breakfast sandwich joints and really wallow in the beauty of the day. That changed when I realized I had all the makings of a fine breakfast sandwich, sans meat. A lab experiment unfolded before my very eyes. A perfectly ripe avocado, leftover hamburger buns, smoked Gouda cheese, red onion. Never waste a perfectly ripe avocado.

The bun dictated that the egg be cooked puck style. We're going to go behind the scenes in the lab here for a minute while I confess that I broke the yolk of the first egg. I promptly ditched the egg and started over. Most days I would have gone with it but not on a National Holiday. I went outside, lowered my flag to half-staff and started over with a fresh egg. Somewhere a rooster crowed "Taps".

That Gouda didn't melt as Gouda as I would have liked it to but that avocado is in its prime.

That's the oozy yolk we strive for.
The Results - It was missing that salty and fatty flavor that dead animals provide but this was a real treat. Avocado and red onion are great together and a little Cholula Hot Sauce pushes it over the top. The Gouda didn't melt properly but did add a slightly smokey flavor - just not as much as bacon would have. Starting over with a new egg was the right move on this reverent day. 

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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Breakfast Sandwich #144 - Return Of The Son Of The Forgotten Sandwich

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - Bacon, Two Chicken Eggs, Havarti Cheese, Red Onion, Texas Pete's Hot Sauce, Brownberry 12 Grain Bread
Date: October 19, 2019

Oh, another sandwich from the lab? Just throw it on the pile over there. That's what you're thinking and that's OK. In fact, that's what I'm thinking too but I'm staying true to my mission - for if a sandwich is not logged into the internet, did it ever really exist? We don't have time to tackle such questions in the lab. We are all about data. Existential Sandwich questions are tackled down the hall in the Department of Sandwich Philosophy and although our work overlaps and is somewhat entwined it is indeed separate.

I didn't think this sandwich was a bold experiment although a quick glance through my files does not reveal past use of Havarti. Is that possible? It's a nice melty cheese although perhaps a bit mild for a breakfast sandwich. It's fun to say "Havarti" though and especially fun when you add a fake vampire accent. It's probably Dracula's favorite cheese for that reason alone. Texas Pete's Hot Sauce was also a new variable in the lab. I may get a bit Cholulacentric in my hot sauce usage but I know what I like.
That is perfect bacon right there. Crispy but still with some bend to it. (Bacon bend not shown).


That Havarti certainly did melt nicely. 

There was some runny yolk but I didn't cut through it when I sliced. Still, the eggs were a bit overdone. (Texas Pete photobomb).
I may have given away my results above. Havarti melts nicely but it really needed the onion and hot sauce to give the sandwich the flavor push it needed. That's not a bad thing, but it is the main takeaway from this experiment. It's a shame I cooked the eggs just a bit too long - perfect bacon and perfect chicken eggs deserve to be paired together but it was not meant to be on this day. Also, Texas Pete's is a fine hot sauce but I think I prefer the flavor profile of Cholula on my breakfast sandwich.