Saturday, July 28, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #122 - Casetta Kitchen aka Delicious Clickbait

Sandwich: Porchetta Egg Sandwich
Location: Casetta Kitchen
Date: July 21, 2018
Cost: $9

Back in May I came across this Food Network article which claims to list the best breakfast sandwich in each state. The Food Network is big on these state by state lists and it gets a little ridiculous - 50 States of Hot Dogs? I guess so, but I'll save you the clicks and spoil the surprise - Wisconsin's entry is a bratwurst, which isn't a hot dog. 50 States of Brunch? I was prepared to be annoyed by that list but I'm going to save you clicks again and tell you their choice for Wisconsin is Graze and they start it off with an order of cheese curds and I can't argue with that. Having said that, a brunch list is about as cheeky as the concept of brunch itself, which is to say, plenty.

As for the breakfast sandwich list I have all the usual complaints about these types of things. How much actual research was done to compile this list? What metrics were used because she sure as shit didn't come here and try more than a precious few of this states offerings. Maybe The Food Network has a Network of Nibblers™ spread all across the nation and they're feeding their info to a writer in Brooklyn who is pretending to know what is going on here in flyover country. If that's the case WHY THE FUCK WASN'T I CONSULTED? I'm sorry. I'm not angry. I'm somewhat upset (very) and a bit disappointed (unfathomably). I just love breakfast sandwiches so much and I hate to see a list which hastily proclaims a sandwich the best in the entire state and callously ignores the rest of the sandwiches, who, perhaps it goes without saying, have feelings too. It's irresponsible and obvious clickbait and boy oh boy did I fall for it cause here we are.

But here is the truth as I know it - the more we learn about sandwiches, the less we know about sandwiches. If one truly has the knowledge of the best sandwich in the state they can show that that have done they research and back it up with with a litany of facts and footnotes and flavor profiles. They did none of this. So we're left with clicks. Clickbait, precisely. That's probably what people want to read anyway, and in most cases, they just want to look at a photo. Nobody really wants to read an exhaustive study on breakfast sandwich offerings in Arkansas, or Wisconsin. There isn't compelling demand for say 100+ reviews of breakfast sandwiches primarily based around a single metropolitan area. I can prove it. My point is that just because the market will accept and even reward watered down proclamations paired with a juicy photo doesn't mean the statement is any less irresponsible. Still, I wish I had the time to introduce myself to each and every sandwich on that list.

I did finally find the time to introduce myself to the sandwich they chose to represent Wisconsin. Casetta Kitchen wasn't on my radar until I read the clickbait article although I think they've been around for a couple of years. They are primarily a breakfast and lunch spot aimed at the downtown business crowd and while they have a few options for breakfast sandwiches during the week the Porchetta is only available on Saturday.

You have options.

That irresistible yolk. I couldn't handle it, I just had to...


It's making a strong case for itself. 
The Sandwich - Porchetta. No options are offered. They don't tell you they are going to cook the egg perfectly to your liking without even asking how you like it. They don't tell you that when your sandwich appears the top bun will be cockneyed off at a rakish angle and when you see the yolk it will appear to you as a nipple appears to a hungry baby. That would, admittedly, be a weird thing to put on a menu. It's weird enough to put it here. The provolone cheese is a good choice for this sandwich as it adds a touch of creamy consistency while taking a backseat to the porchetta and giardiniera. The first bite gave me me a Fraboni's porketta sandwich flashback to the days when I worked near the Monona Drive location and ate it with regularity. The meat has a similar herby, smokey, dense flavor but this sandwich is completely different after that. The giardiniera comes on strong here and gets a bit aggressive in my opinion. That's really my only complaint with this sandwich. The kaiser bun is perfect. Perfect. It's soft and malleable but dense enough to hold everything together and mop up the runny yolk. I should have asked them where they are from.

The Results - 4.71 Delicious Clickbaits out of 5 Delicious Clickbaits. This is an excellent sandwich. Best in the state? That's something that every diner needs to decide for themselves. It's a personal decision between the eater and their taste buds and whichever Sandwich God they choose to worship. My only issue is with the giardiniera - it overpowers the meat and that's a real problem due to the uniqueness of this sandwich. Nobody in the area offers a sandwich like this but the porchetta flavor gets walloped over the head by the spicy mix shortly after it hits the pallet and detracts from the porchetta being the star of this show. I'm exaggerating a bit for emphasis, but not much. I'm more critical of great sandwiches and I don't think that's unfair. I just want it to be the best in the state, regardless of what The Food Network thinks. Do you think they really care about us? They do not. They won't even read this. They're probably too busy working on their 50 States of Bone Marrow or 50 States of Raclette or some other bullshit. 

Unrelated to my sandwich I will mention that I had a bite of the Ham & Cheddar and that sandwich is also fantastic. You would do well to peel off from the Farmers Market some Saturday morning and get yourself a real nice sandwich at Casetta Kitchen. I'll also mention the coffee was excellent. I think he said it was a light roast of an Ethiopian blend from a roaster in Stevens Point. I'm not completely sure about that and it doesn't matter cause this isn't a coffee blog.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #121 - Lazy Jane's aka Still Lazy After All These Years

Sandwich: Speedy Eggwich
Location: Lazy Jane's Cafe
Date: June 24, 2018
Cost: $4.25

My previous review of Lazy Jane's was in May of 2016 but I didn't know that until I looked it up just now. It's likely I would have guessed it had been about two years. I usually don't consider going there due to the inevitable line-out-the-door but it was suggested to me on this early morning and I immediately heard the call of the scone. I knew if we got moving we'd beat the line and we did. It didn't appear that much had changed since my previous trip and why would they change anything? Why mess with a line that snakes out the door every weekend?

They wisely file would be diners past the bakery case (OK, they probably don't have a choice) and choosing your scone is probably more difficult than deciding what combo of eggs and protein you'll be getting. Not to spoil the review but in the future I might be better off ordering three scones and coffee and juice. I can make eggs but there is almost no chance I'm going to bake scones.

That's a proper cheese melt right there.

The cross section reveals truth.

The Sandwich - Speedy Eggwich. It's the only breakfast sandwich on the menu and there are no options offered. As luck would have it I was in the mood for sausage although I did briefly flirt with the idea of getting a scramble or something other than a sandwich. My sense of duty prevailed and I padded it with a side order of cheesy grits and a scone. Wholly unnecessary but irresistible. You may be aware that when I review a place for a second time I do not read my previous review so as to have an entirely fresh perspective. This can, and does, lead to redundancy or consistency, it depends on how you look at it. Having said that I'm pretty sure this order was a duplicate of the order from two years ago with the possible exception of scone choice.

Upon preparing for the cross section photo the first discovery was that the chicken egg was not runny. I fought back my tears and valiantly soldiered forward. Sense of duty, again. I've had plenty of sandwiches that didn't have a runny egg but I was really hoping for it on this one. Also apparent from the start was that the English Muffin was overly toasted and a bit too crunchy. It gave it a dryness I didn't appreciate. It was getting harder and harder to continue but I was hungry and of course I was going to devour this sandwich - let's not kid ourselves. On a positive note the sausage hit the right notes and the cheddar cheese was melted properly. 

The Result - 3.12 Senses of Duty out of 5 Senses of Duty. The sandwich was OK but I had higher hopes and ultimately it kind of missed the mark. It didn't have the squish or the goo-factor I'm looking for in the morning. Perhaps I should have trusted my instincts and left you people without an update on the Speedy Eggwich? I think the sandwich might be an obligatory menu offering - I'll bet it isn't ordered nearly as often as the scrambles and whatnot. Still, there are positives in these situations, such as the cheesy grits and scone. The cheesy grits aren't on the same level as those from Crema Cafe but that's an unrealistic standard. The scones are still fantastic. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #120 - Introducing the Big MacMuffin?

Sandwich - The Big MacMuffin
Date: June 20, 2018

It started during a short road trip a couple of weeks ago. It was late morning and we decided to hit a McDonald's for a quick breakfast sandwich and get back on the road. From a scholars perspective my interest in a McDonald's breakfast sandwich was not particularly high that day having already reviewed them for #17, #66, #83, #95 and #97. From a road-trippers perspective I was ready for one. But it was late morning and I kind of wanted a Quarter Pounder. I wondered aloud if they might put an egg on it but we knew that they wouldn't. They aren't "Have It Your Way" Burger King or "Think Outside The Bun" Taco Bell. They are "Billions and Billions served" which is another way of saying "this is how we make it and you'll like it just like everybody else".

Without getting too long winded here I screwed up my order and ended up with a "Sausage McMuffin with cheese" which does not include an egg and costs $1.84. It was kinda sad but I got over it, eventually. No egg - no review. That's how it works around here.

A week later I started thinking about Big Macs and what if McDonalds made a breakfast sandwich version of the Big Mac? I can see why they wouldn't want to mess around with it - branding, menu diversification, easily confused consumers and all that. Sure.

That's what the lab is for.

I wanted all components of a Big Mac represented and I already knew the song so I didn't have to research that.

Two all beef patties = two chicken eggs + bonus bacon
Special sauce = mayo on the middle bun (the "club" bun), Cholula green sauce on the crown.
Lettuce = fresh garden mix
Cheese = two slices of American
Pickles = finely chopped giardiniera mix
Onion = red onion
Sesame seed bun - 1.5 English muffins

Methodology - the eggs were puck-cooked in large Mason jar lids. (Side note - I'm done with those things. No matter how much cooking spray you use the egg sticks and they are a pain in the ass to clean and I'm going to buy some non-stick egg rings and do it right.) I wanted to cook the eggs over medium but I was afraid the sandwich would just become a mess so I went a little further. There was no runny yolk on this day. The English Muffins were pre-toasted (a little too lightly) and the finely chopped giardiniera was put on the heel so the pieces could wedge into the nooks and crannies. A couple of pieces of bacon were placed on top. Egg #1 was added along with a slice of cheese. The club bun had mayo applied and was added to the stack. Fresh greens were next, followed buy egg #2, cheese slice #2 and red onion. Green Cholula sauce was applied liberally before the sandwich was "crowned".


Same sandwich, different angle.
The Result - This was a winner even though there are a few improvements I could make. Toast the English muffin a bit more. Go for the runny eggs, why not? The cheese wasn't melted quite as much as I would have liked. Still, the flavors were there and nothing was overpowering. The giardiniera, bacon, hot sauce and American cheese all came together like champs. Those mixed greens made this a well rounded meal, right? The club bun was crucial so don't you dare say it was a gimmick. This was one of those sandwiches you pick up and don't put back down. It all paired nicely with a glass of cheap sauvignon blanc. I didn't try to cut this in half for a cross section photo, I knew it couldn't keep itself together.

I'll be forwarding this to McDonald's so they can add me to their board of directors or some other cushy position that only requires a few hours of work per month.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #119 - Willy Street Co-op (North) aka I'm Gonna Need You To Go Ahead And Make That Egg Yolk Runny, Mmmkay?

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Willy Street Co-op (North)
Date: May 27, 2018
Cost: $2.99

Sometimes you find the sandwich and sometimes the sandwich finds you. Welcome to yet another installment of "Accidental Sandwiching". 

There isn't a great story here and I won't try to gussy it up with hyperbolic verbiage and flowery anecdotes and prose. I am probably incapable of that anyway. I went to the North side farmers market and then angled over to the co-op to get one more thing. Sitting at the outside tables there was a couple eating breakfast sandwiches. You know what happened next. 

**Full Disclosure - I am a partial owner of the Willy Street Co-op. My involvement in the day to day business affairs of the co-op is virtually non-existent as the store essentially runs like a well oiled machine without my input. A patchouli oiled machine, but a machine none the less. Honestly, they don't treat me as an owner, more like just another Joe Schmoe walking around looking for bulk quinoa and organic water lily seeds. To them I don't even have a name, I'm just a number. From time to time I offer suggestions but I have the distinct feeling they think my ideas are "pure shit". Excuse me, "pure 100% organic composted manure". Some of my forward thinking ideas that they have ignored include putting a water park in the parking lot, responding to letters and complaints exclusively in haiku and bringing back Chad Vader as a shift manager. They refused all of them. You see what kind of people I'm dealing with?

There is just something about a grab 'n go hot case that I find comforting.

Capturing beauty in the early morning sun. That's a line from a Joni Mitchell song, I think.

Face the sausage patties into the sun, That's the extent of my sandwich photo advice. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich. They also had a bacon version. These were of the pre-made grab 'n go variety so there were no options. I liked that they listed all the ingredients right there on the tiny sign and they were all actual identifiable things rather than partially-hyphenated-sodium-something-or-other. Nobody makes a grab n go sandwich with a runny egg, that's just the way it is. I don't have to like it but I have to accept it so I knew before I unwrapped this how the chicken egg was going to be, and it was. The sausage was surprisingly lacking in personality. It probably could have used more fat and a sprinkling of ingredients that would result in a volley of incensed letters being heaped upon the desk of the Co-op Reader editor. The cheese was somewhat lost in the shuffle here and didn't do anything to distinguish itself. The English Muffin could have used a toasting, it was a bit floppy, no doubt the result of being wrapped in foil in the hot case. These things happen but it's still a little bit sad when it does, isn't it? (It is.)

The Result - 3.11 Accidental Sandwiches out of 5 Accidental Sandwiches. The sandwich was fine but underwhelming. That was the description my companion uttered regarding the bacon sandwich and it mirrored my thoughts. It needed a kick, a boost, an elbow to the ribs. They probably had hot sauce inside and that would have made a big difference but I was outside and wasn't going back in. That would be the way to do it - give it a little makeover after you checkout and then wrap it back up and be on your merry way. I know the co-op can do better but I just wasn't angry enough to send them a letter itemizing my outrage. They get enough of those already.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #118 - Tip Top Tavern aka Struttin' 'Round The Barnyard

Sandwich: The Rooster
Location: Tip Top Tavern
Date: May 6, 2018
Cost: $8.95 with breakfast potatoes or mixed green salad

My intention was to visit the place that The Food Network claims has the best breakfast sandwich in the state of Wisconsin. If I had done a bit of research I would have known they are not open on Sunday so the plan changed to "what is nearby and has outdoor seating and might not be crowded on a beautiful Sunday morning". Tip Top Tavern hit on all points. I'll get back to that other place soon enough but for now I will say that it's foolish to go around stating things about best sandwiches in an entire state if you can't show the research to back it up. My agent tells me The Food Network has not reached out for consultation and guidance so for the time being we can assume that they don't know what they're talking about. Also, I have an idea for a show that somewhat fits their network but I won't be hemmed in by FCC guidelines and I want a person in the lower corner of the screen doing real and/or fake sign language and/or interpretive dance at all times. This is non-negotiable. Call me, Food Network (actually a text would be better), and we'll start some dialogue. Frankly speaking, I think America has seen it's share of people running around throwing pots and pans and frosting cakes and yelling and crying. Enough already.

Somehow it had been over 3 years since I'd been to the Tip Top for The Rooster. That was way back at Sandwich #16 when I was last there. I was way overdue for a recap.

I forgot to take a photo of the menu but they have the info on their site:

That's a fine looking sandwich.

Things got a bit messy when I cut it in half. More on that later.
The Sandwich - The Rooster. It just occurred to me that this is called "The Rooster" yet roosters don't lay eggs. I thought it was named that due to the egg. Maybe it's called The Rooster because it's a breakfast sandwich and roosters are synonymous with getting up early? No matter, a chicken ain't nothing but a bird and I don't care who laid this egg. This sandwich had a nice blend of flavors and the bacon was about perfect. I thought the special sauce was just mayo until I looked up the menu but it added a welcome viscosity. The red onion was a nice bonus, I'm a big fan as long as it's added with a light touch, as it was here. The egg was also about perfect with plenty of oozy yolk. So far, so good right? There were some problems. The tomato was a sad out-of-season slice and my dining companion was wise to remove it entirely. I suppose I could have done that but I still would have complained about it here. The biggest problem was toughness of the sourdough bread. It required a bit of sawing from the serrated knife and by the time I had it halved my oozy yolk was mixed into my greens and I had to take a few deep breaths and count to 10 so I wouldn't become upset. I was able to compose myself, I think the bloody mary helped, and I felt the sun on my face and I knew everything would be OK and that I should just enjoy my sandwich. The side of greens was a sprightly companion to The Rooster.

The Result - 3.97 Rooster Eggs out of 5 Rooster Eggs. The sandwich was tasty and despite my issues with cutting it in half the bread didn't tear up the roof of my mouth. If the bread hadn't been as hearty as it was the sandwich might have become a mess. Still, the cutting situation lead to some aesthetic improprieties that can't be ignored and although I don't want to dwell on it too much I fear I already have. I'll say this - The Rooster is a mighty fine sandwich, I just don't think this was the best version of it. 

Now that I've completed my review I have gone back and looked at my first review of The Rooster. I rated it a 3.99 although the bread on that sandwich didn't produce the anxiety that this one did. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #117 - Crema Cafe aka The Elusive Special

Sandwich: Southern Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Crema Cafe
Date: April 21, 2018
Cost: $11.75, comes with cheese grits and a petite salad

No doubt you've seen my previous sputterings about Crema Cafe. I've made no secret of my love for Crema and reviewed them earlier this year for Sandwich #110 and also in April of 2015 for Sandwich #20. Truth be told there was one additional visit to Crema between Sandwiches #110 and #20 but it was off the record as I was with [redacted] and we agreed that our discussions regarding [redacted] should be kept under wraps. But OH MY GOODNESS if you could have been a fly in my soup at that meeting you would never look at a sandwich the same way again.

I had no plans to visit Crema until I saw their weekend specials posted and I knew I had to try that Southern Breakfast Sandwich. The use of pimento cheese caught my eye as I've done some work in the lab with pimento cheese and found it to be an excellent option for breakfast sandwiches. The folks at Crema obviously had similar thoughts or they read about my research in one of the trade journals and decided to peer review my work. (That almost assuredly didn't happen).

The only problem with reviewing this sandwich is that it was a weekend special and by the time I post this it will no longer be available. The good news is that Crema seems to rotate popular specials such as The War Pig (which started as a weekend special at Crema but now lives life as a regular sandwich on the Off Broadway menu) so if you keep an eye on their social media you may get the chance to try this sandwich.
Perhaps the secret to getting a good photo of the menu is to write it in chalk and post it on a wall where there is a lot of natural light. 

Somebody had to be in the back and it might as well be the petite salad.
The Sandwich - Southern Breakfast Sandwich. No options are offered. Let's start with the roll - it was chewy (in a good way) but not too heavy. It was solidly up to the task of keeping everything in check. This wasn't a particularly sloppy sandwich but greens and charred onions are the types of ingredients that try to slide out the side every time you take a bite. Did that happen here? No Sir or Ma'am, not with the rustic roll on the job. There wasn't a predominant flavor in each bite, it was more about the sum of it's parts - the greens, onions, ham and pimento cheese combined to give this an earthy, salty, creamy goodness that was a refreshing change from your basic breakfast sandwich. The greens also provided a bonus crunchy texture. Honestly, the chicken egg was kind of lost in the shuffle here and if I may be frank, if not blasphemous, I don't think that it mattered. It was fried and did not have a runny yolk. The bread and sandwich probably could have held together with a runny yolk but it may have teetered right on the edge of being a sloppy mess. We'll never know for sure but I'm pretty sure I could have handled it.

The Result - 4.70 I Feel Specials out of 5 I Feel Specials. I think I've already said everything I need to say about the sandwich but I forgot to talk about the sides. The adorable serving of cheese grits and the petite salad really pulled everything together for me. Grits 'n greens - the perfect sides for a breakfast sandwich? They were on this day. Potatoes are overrated

I just went back and read my review of #62 The War Pig and it concludes with the note that perhaps that sandwich could have handled a runny yolk but it might have been sloppy. I don't know if that means I'm consistent or redundant but 117 breakfast sandwiches is a lot of damn sandwiches and there are only so many things you can say about eggs.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #116 - Mint Mark aka Flavor Piñata

Sandwich: Chimera
Location: Mint Mark
Date: April 20, 2018
Cost: $8

Within a few of weeks of Mint Mark opening it's doors I was receiving tips/demands that I try their breakfast sandwiches. Most recommended the Chimera although the Sunday Morning (not available on Sundays) also had it's supporters. 

While I'd been there for drinks and a few small plates from the dinner menu I had yet to make it for breakfast. The breakfast menu is only available Monday through Friday and it's rare that I go out for a breakfast sandwich during the work week unless it's a grab-n-go type of a deal. 

It was only a matter of time and on this morning I felt the call of the sandwich shortly after waking. You know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't, I can't describe it but you might need to slather some mustard on your condiment chakras. I don't know. I'm not a doctor or a medicine man or a lawyer or even an escalator.  

Some day there will be an exhibit of my crappy menu photos at the Photography Hall of Fame and this one will probably be included. 

I sat near the window precisely to get a shot like this. Where does that jalapeño slice think it's going?

I thought cutting this in half would be problematic but I just had to see.
The Sandwich - Chimera. I was in the mood for sausage this day, actually, I was in the mood for this exact sandwich. I knew I was going to get it before I left the house so the Sunday Morning sandwich will just have to wait. (I'm looking forward to it though - a ham breakfast sandwich has to be done right and we have a couple of very solid offerings in Porter and Johnson Public House. The bar has been set.) There are no variations offered upon ordering. The sandwich is an adorable little flaker and won me over as soon as I saw it. The biscuit was crumbly and I feared the worst as I cut it in half for the crucial cross section shot. It actually held together better than I though and SURPRISE - like a potentially salmonella-laced piñata the sandwich unleashed runny yolk. I did not see that coming. What a pleasant surprise. Happy birthday to me. (It was not my birthday.) The jalapeños were milder than expected, as was the sausage. I don't know if the sausage is made in house but it had a lean and smooth texture to it. The cheddar blended well and is the perfect cheese for this sandwich. There are a lot of flavors here that mix well but none are overpowering. The biscuit just barely kept it together and if this had been a larger sandwich I don't think it could have done the job.

The Result - 4.62 Flavor Piñatas out of 5 Flavor Piñatas. There is a lot here to trumpet - flavors and sights and textures - it's a beautiful and delicious sandwich and deserving of the praise that it's supporters sent my way. I did wish that it had a little more kick, not much, just a touch. I kept expecting that little extra nudge, be it the sausage or peppers or dijonaise or some combination of those. It didn't happen. That shouldn't detract from the glory of this sandwich. I'm quibbling about personal preferences at this point but somebody has to do it.