Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Breakfast Sandwiches #155 & #156 - Lab Report Or Perhaps A Love Letter

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich #155 - English Muffin, Egg, Bacon, American Cheese, Spicy Chili Crisp.
Date: February 13, 2020

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich #156 - Sourdough, Eggs, Bacon, American Cheese, Deli Deluxe Sharp Cheddar, Avocado, Spicy Chili Crisp
Date: February 27, 2020

I guess I'm late to the party for the Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp Cult. I'm no fan of cults but I enjoy a nice party and the party is here, right here on my taste buds. The party rages and shows no signs of abetting. The neighbors can call the cops, who cares? We'll greet them on the front lawn and fling forkfuls of Spicy Chili Crisp in their direction and soon they'll join us and we'll make them a breakfast sandwich laden with Spicy Chili Crisp and after one big bite they'll let me take their guns and blast holes in the ceiling while we dance about and yell like idiots.

I don't know why I'm blasting holes in the ceiling of my kitchen. I guess this is cultish behavior after all.

This review was meant to be a love letter to Spicy Chili Crisp and it was easier to post it here than to actually mail it to:

Guiyang Nanming Laoganma Special Flavour Foodstuffs Co., LTD.
138-15 Jianlong Road, Longdongbao
Guiyang City, Guizhou 550012

I may still send them a postcard. My original plan for this review was to take one of the all-time great love letters and alter it to be about Spicy Chili Crisp but it seemed too (A) difficult, (B) confusing and (C) creepy (somehow):

‘My Own Condiment, Your flavour is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-rose chili flakes of yours should be made no less for the madness of noodles and broccoli than for the madness of sandwiches. Your slim gilt soul is the flavour between passion and poetry.’

See what I mean? (Stolen from the letter of Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas). Honestly, I like it, but it's still kind of weird.

Also, "Foodstuffs" is my new favorite word and I may start adding it to the end of every restaurant I mention. "OK, cool, I'll meet you at Los Gamelos Foodstuffs at 7".

This is what we're talking about. I'm getting Lao Gan Ma's face and apron tattoed on my neck next week.
Here is a little background on this sauce. The formatting of that page is horrific but it'll give you a good history of this foodstuff, if you care about that. From what I can tell she is the Chinese equivalent of Aunt Jemima and the Quaker Oats guy and Uncle Ben and Tony The Tiger all wrapped into one.

But you probably don't care about any of that.

You just want to know how it tastes and nothing I say here will truly elucidate the matter. But that won't stop me from saying it's oily, garlicky, crispy, spicy (but not overly so) and rich. My favorite word to describe it though is "earthy". Yeah, earthy. I'm not even going to try to explain that, you'll just have to try it for yourself. Rather than read about my sandwiches you should already be on your way to the Asian Market (or for my Asian readers, "The Market") to get some of this stuff.

So, what's all this about? It's about how this condiment pairs so perfectly with chicken egg. That's what we set out to research with these sandwiches and you can already tell how well it went.

It's so cute.

Overcooked the egg a bit but you can see that spicy chili crisp creeping out and that is VERY exciting.
The Sandwich - English Muffin, Egg, Bacon, American Cheese, Spicy Chili Crisp. A classic breakfast sandwich combination now enhanced by Spicy Chili Crisp. It's a full, wide flavor (which sounds like I'm describing some new kind of Marlboro, but I'm not.) The egg was not as runny as I would have liked it but I wasn't worried about it on this day. The sandwich was fantastic but I knew I had to try it in a different configuration.

 You can see the Spicy Chili Crisp lurking beneath the perfectly ripe avocado. The top piece of bread holds my last slice of Deli Deluxe Cheddar Kraft Single and a slice of Kraft American Cheese.

Terrible photo of yolky deliciousness.
 The Sandwich - Sourdough Bread, Egg, Bacon, American Cheese, Deli Deluxe Sharp Cheddar, Avocado, Spicy Chili Crisp. I had one slice of the Deli Deluxe Cheddar left but I didn't think that was enough so I added an American Single. This was my only misstep on this sandwich, I think when it combined with the sourdough it made it just a bit gummy on the palate. Otherwise, this might be the best breakfast sandwich I've ever made. The Spicy Chili Crisp and the avocado paired perfectly with the chicken eggs, cheese and bacon and I don't have anything else to say about this sandwich other than when I took the first big bite I loudly proclaimed "Holy Fuck That Is Tasty". Can I get a witness?

I remember it fondly.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #154 - Eagle Crest Bar aka Snowy and Toasty

Sandwich: Egg Sandwich
Location: Eagle Crest Bar
Date: February 9, 2020
Cost: $7.25

I'd been to Eagle Crest before, but never for breakfast. In fact, I didn't know they served breakfast, but it was a windy and snowy Sunday morning that was ripe for adventure so I headed to Eagle Crest with a backup plan in place should breakfast not be an option. I didn't even look it up on my phone, I just drove. That's what passes for adventure in the 21st century.

They are well known for their giant burgers and I knew if they had a breakfast sandwich I'd be in for a heapin' helpin'. On a day like this when you're staring down a solid 75 minutes of shoveling snow, you may as well carbo-load early and let the day sort itself out

It was a solid plan. 

A rare photo of the entire menu

Were the hash browns necessary? No, they were not.

It practically defied stacking.
The Sandwich - Egg Sandwich. Bacon, Texas Toast, chicken eggs over-medium, pepper jack cheese. The cheese and the Texas Toast were the only shifts from my standard sandwich order but I felt the need to take advantage of the options provided. Importantly, they ask you how you would like your eggs cooked.

The sandwich arrives open face, resplendent in its overindulgence. That's a lot of damn bacon for one sandwich! We haven't been keeping track but that may be the most bacony sandwich to date. The cheese had a melty slump, just barely containing the shimmering yolks beneath.

I carefully assembled the bacon onto the egg half of the sandwich, tapping deep into my renowned Pick-Up Sticks skills, but in reverse. I didn't want to burst the yolk until the sandwich was fully constructed. Honestly, the bacon was overly crisped so it stacked more upright than I would have liked. Crowned with the Texas Toast, also a bit toastier than I care for, it stood up straight and tall, proud sandwich that it was. With a little pressure from the crown the yolks gave way and released the golden nectar of the bird. There we go. 

The sandwich had to be cut in half, it was simply unwieldy in its full state. Things became messy at this point and a few good napkins were sacrificed, but no photographic evidence exists of this disaster. 

The Result - 3.8 Snowy Sandwich Adventures out of 5 Snowy Sandwich Adventures. The sandwich was good but not great. The overly crisped (for my tastes) bacon and the overly toasted, slightly dry, Texas Toast were the knock on this sandwich. The double oozy yolks tried to make up for that and provided ample moisture mopping opportunities, but it wasn't quite enough. That sounds a bit more negative than intended because this was a good sandwich that could have been great with a few adjustments. And it was hearty! So hearty. But not heart-healthy. (I am not a doctor. Please consult with a physician before taking sandwich and/or heart advice from a blog.) You don't get breakfast sandwiches of this heft very often. 

Overall, Eagle Crest is a comfy Sunday morning spot that I recommend without hesitation. As noted here many times, part of the sandwich experience is about setting your day on the right track and that was accomplished here.

Also, the hash browns were perfectly crisped and that's worthy of praise.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #153 - Wilson's Bar & Grill aka Sandwich Time Warp

Sandwich: Egg Sandwich
Location: Wilson's Bar & Grill
Date: February 2, 2020
Cost: $4.75

The stats don't lie but I would not have guessed that almost 4 years had passed since my last breakfast sandwich at Wilson's. It's crazy. If that wasn't crazy enough the price of the sandwich hasn't changed over that time either. The menu is different although the breakfast sandwich options remain the same. Wilson's is caught in a time warp and I think that's a good thing.

There are still dozens of televisions and if there is a game/match/contest/battle taking place somewhere in the world they'll probably put it on for you. I'm not sure if they'll change the channel on the monitors above the urinals in the men's room, but you can ask. You should ask. This particular morning was the day of Super Bowl LIV so the most compelling story in sports was broadcasters sticking microphones in front of random faces in Miami and asking them to say anything about the game taking place 8 hours later. I learned nothing.

Classic choices.

A bit of a glorious mess happening here.
The Sandwich - Chicken eggs over medium, bacon, American cheese on wheat toast. This was my standard Wilson's order in the years prior to this blog although I sometimes went with the rye bread.

We happened to be sitting directly across from the grill so the cook himself took our order and I could tell he was a man who takes pride in his work. I'll reiterate what I said in the last review about being able to order your eggs cooked as you like them - the importance of this cannot be overstated. This is a hill that myself and several chickens are willing to die on. Actually, the chickens have no say in the matter. It will not surprise you to learn that the eggs were cooked over medium with runny yolks. The bacon was just a touch crispier than I like it, as was the toast, and the cheese was served with a proper melt. There isn't anything of note to say about this sandwich except that it was a bit haphazardly assembled. You can kind of see it in the photo above. It didn't ruin the sandwich but these little details all come into play when we're looking at the big picture.

The Result - 4 Four Year Hiatuses out of 5 Four Year Hiatuses. The runny yolks offset the bacon and toast and made this a properly sloppy sandwich. Overall it was a solid sandwich but it had room for improvement. That's usually how it goes at Wilson's. I've had better sandwiches there and I've had worse. Not much changes at Wilson's and given how much flux the neighborhood has seen it's comforting to know you can still get a breakfast sandwich here that will point your day in the proper direction. The hash browns are also reliable and the bloody mary is delicious. My neighbor at the bar enjoyed a few whiskey and sodas while I had my sandwich and while that strikes me as a rough choice at 10 am, who am I to judge? His wife was probably at church and he wanted to watch an in-depth profile on Patrick Mahome's favorite wristbands.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #152 - Lab Report: Lightning Round and Shitty Web Sites

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - English Muffin, chicken egg, bacon and cheese with spinach.
Date: January 28, 2020

Let's just get right into this with the basic info: Newly Weds King Size Sourdough English Muffin (their web site is clunky but they have some good looking recipes on it if you're into that kind of thing), Usinger's Uncured Bacon (not shown on their site), scrambled chicken egg with some baby spinach mixed in cause I had to use it up, Kraft Deli Deluxe Sharp Cheddar (linked to some weird wholesale food site cause the Kraft web site is garbage and appears to only list about 2% of their products. That's probably the issue with Kraft - they're so busy gobbling up brands they don't even have time to add them to their site. They probably don't even know what they own anymore. Not cool, Kraft.) and finally Cholula Sweet Habanero Hot Sauce (this is the only site linked here that actually links directly to the product in question). 

This particular lab project was focused on processed cheese and hot sauce. 

When I first considered buying the Deli Deluxe cheese my thought was "this is silly". And it is. Deluxe processed cheese? C'mon. But we can't assume these things and the lab exists for this reason.

We also wanted to test drive the Cholula Sweet Habanero Hot Sauce. Full disclosure - this hot sauce was sent to me by the Cholula people along with a Cholula pajama set. These items were won as part of a contest and were not sent to me because I am America's Breakfast Sandwich Sweetheart, although I am that, obviously. 

I could have centered this on a plain plate and removed the rice cooker but I did none of that.
The Result - The Deli Deluxe Cheese isn't quite as creamy and melty as your good ol' regular processed American cheese but it does have a bit of that cheddar zip. It worked well on this sandwich but ultimately I don't think it's worth the higher price tag. In terms of flavor, I think you'd be better off purchasing your favorite cheddar cheese from a creamery such as Shullsburg Creamery and you'll get way more cheese for your buck. However, it does melt better than real cheddar and you may appreciate that for your sandwich. 

The Sweet Habanero hot sauce was new to me although I've been partial to Cholula brand hot sauces for years. The sweet and the heat hit the tongue immediately but the heat dissipates quickly, which is good for a guy like me. If you're a real heat seeker you might need to douse your sandwich with this to get the burn you crave. For me, it's the perfect amount of heat and not as hot as I expected when I saw "habanero". I still prefer their green or original hot sauce for a breakfast sandwich, but I'll be trying to find the perfect compliment for this flavor.

Finally, I recommend throwing a little spinach into your scrambled eggs. It gives the sandwich some color and all manner of vitamin and mineral. You don't get the runny yolk you get when the chicken egg is fried or whatever but you can do that next time. 

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #151 - Tally's Tap & Eatery aka Egg Reassurance

Sandwich: Tally's Sunset Special
Location: Tally's Tap & Eatery
Date: January 12, 2020
Cost: $9

I'd been to Tally's a few times but either hadn't noticed the breakfast sandwich hiding at the bottom of the menu or it was added as part of their recent menu update. I'd like to think they added it specifically because they noticed that I'd been coming in but I know that's not true and I can't convince myself that I'm a sandwich influencer in Waukesha County. Not yet. But let's be honest, Waukesha County could probably use some influencing, sandwich or otherwise.

I was just about to order Breakfast Tacos when I saw the Tally's Sunset Special lurking in the horizontal stripe at the bottom of the menu. Your yolks can run, but they can't hide. This day just took a turn for the better - a breakfast sandwich has come into my life. A surprise breakfast sandwich. Oh, the glory. 
I nearly missed it.

Nice, right?

This photo is a disaster. It looks like I tried to cut my sandwich in half with a ballpoint pen.
The Sandwich - Tally's Sunset Special. The name confuses me as the sandwich is only served during breakfast which is more of a sunrise type of situation - but let's not get sidetracked by that. 

As far as breakfast sandwich meats go, if given the choice, ham is usually not going to make the cut with me. I'm always afraid I'll get some sad deli ham and that's not a proper foundation for a sandwich. But I had no choice on this day. Ham was my destiny and I was OK with it because the menu description started with "Two eggs prepared the way you like" and the importance of this cannot be overstated. Too many places just tell you how they're going to make your chicken egg, or worse, they don't even tell you! You order your sandwich and all of a sudden you're playing egg roulette with a person you've never met. That's a dangerous game and I don't like my odds and frankly, it's inexcusable. The egg is versatile and can be served on a sandwich in a variety of ways and we know you can do it. So, pull it together menu-makers of America. Give us egg variety or give us...death? That seems a bit dramatic but I think you understand my point. Are you with me here, America? If you are not, I cannot in good conscious be your sandwich influencer.

I ordered my eggs over medium and they were done perfectly. You've already seen the yolks so you know this. 

Before I went off on my egg rant I was talking about the ham. It was NOT sad deli ham. I cannot pretend to know the origins of said not-sad ham, but it was not sad. Not at all.

The other part of this sandwich that I liked was that it comes on a grilled asiago focaccia bun. Here was the only misstep of the sandwich. This bun did not appear to have been grilled. It was tasty and it held up throughout the entire process, but it was rather squishy and grilling it would have helped quite a bit and given it hat nice toasty quality. Perhaps the underside was lightly grilled and I couldn't see it on the inside of the sandwich. If so, it merely kissed the grill.

Oh, there was also cheddar cheese. It was lost in the flavors of the ham and the asiago bun, and that's fine.

The Result - 4.30 Egg Temper Tantrums out of 5 Egg Temper Tantrums. This was a somewhat basic sandwich with the added touch of being served on asiago focaccia that may or may not have been lightly grilled. My ham trepidation was unfounded. Being allowed to order my chicken eggs any-damn-way-I-please and then having them arrive exactly as I thought was reassuring. My wish that the bun had been grilled a bit more was only minimally upsetting. I enjoyed this sandwich and the hash browns were fantastic as well.

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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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