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. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #115 - TL;DR (Lab Sandwich)

Sandwich - Bacon, Egg, Cheese Spread
Date: 4/6/18

It was Friday morning and I was just going to make myself a simple breakfast sandwich and be done with it but I was struck by a bolt of inspiration and before you know it I had the lab coat and goggles out and there were beakers with colorful smoke pouring out of them and I was doing some bonafide sandwich research. What I mean is that when I was assessing my cheese situation I saw that I had cheese spread and I realized I hadn't tried it on a breakfast sandwich. I've used pimento cheese but not cheese spread. It's only a matter of time before I buy a can of spray cheese and give that a try. If you're not going to click that link regarding spray cheese just know that it contains this line - "Proponents of natural cheese cited this additive when lobbying to have Kraft’s products regulated as “embalmed cheese.” Embalmed cheese. That sounds pretty bad-ass. Cheese spread is probably a step up from spray cheese and with the Owl's Nest you get a gum trifecta - guar, xantham and locust bean. That is quite a blend of thickening agents but the product does have a smooth spreadability so they must know what they're doing.

This is pretty much the look I was going for.

This is the other side of the sandwich. Whatever. 
The Sandwich - bacon, chicken eggs, cheese spread. I already knew I was going to go with a soft scramble for this sandwich. That's been my preferred style lately. When I realized I would be using the cheese spread that's when this took on a more experimental tone that might be worth writing about. (That's debatable). I put a thin layer of cheese spread on both pieces of bread and added a generous splash of green Cholula hot sauce. The eggs turned out exactly as I wanted them.

The Result (TL;DR) - This was a winner. The most valuable data taken from this experiment was that the soft scramble eggs, horseradish cheese spread and green hot sauce combine fantastically - both texturally and flavorfully. This pillow of flavor rested on top of the bacon to create a relatively simple but delicious sandwich.

(The plan was to make this the shortest review yet. Write a brief description and then lay out the results. Throw in a photo and publish it. Simple. Then I started listening to sitar music and that changed everything. Perhaps the theme of this review is that my intentions and plans are malleable and easily thrown off course by processed dairy products and sitars. Things could be worse.)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #114 - Kwik Trip aka Spelling Counts

Sandwich: Egg White, Ham and Cheese Muffin
Location: Kwik Trip (formerly a PDQ), Stoughton Road.
Date: March 10, 2018
Cost: $2.69

My previous review of Kwik Trip happened by accident - I was on a road trip with some folks and we pulled over for gas and snacks and I snapped into sandwich reviewer mode and #94 happened. This is how it goes when you are America's Premier Breakfast Sandwich Reviewer™ (Which as of this moment I have proclaimed myself as. I'm willing to abdicate this title to a worthy individual but I will need proof. Articles such as "The Sausage McMuffin/Big Mac Sandwich Hack You Have To Try" will not be accepted as evidence and will likely cause me to want to punch you in the bacon bits. I would never do that, of course, but I'll consider it momentarily.) Anyway, this visit was much more deliberate - I had things to do on a Saturday morning and this new Kwik Trip (formerly a PDQ) was on my route and I wanted to check in and see what they could offer the Madison Breakfast Sandwich Market. This is the type of information that you, the consumer, expects from America's Premier Breakfast Sandwich Reviewer™.

Is anybody else getting tired of all these intentionally misspelled brands? It was fine for awhile but now that it's standard for people to send you a message that says "K CU L8R" I think we've gone too far. Elon Musk should be airdropping pocket sized dictionaries all across this country rather than selling crappy flamethrowers and launching cars into space. I know I sound like Grampa Simpson but in my day we spelled words correctly and we wrote them in cursive and we made our own molotov cocktails and when we dreamed of space cars they didn't have wheels and weren't attached to rockets WHICH IS TOTALLY CHEATING AND DEFEATS THE PURPOSE.

Excuse me. Let me tell you about this sandwich. Here are some photos that will help calm me down. I'm sorry I made a joke about punching people in the bacon bits. I don't even know what that means.

Note - this was a Saturday morning. During the work week there are at least three times the sandwiches on display.

What is there to say about this other then I can already tell that muffin should be toasted more.

The plastic cutlery did a really swell job of slicing this open to reveal exactly what I thought I would see.

The Sandwich - Egg White, Ham & Cheese Muffin. If you look at the photo of the hot case above you'll see that the slot for this sandwich is empty. I took the photo and grabbed a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Muffin and right after that Hairneted Sandwich Chef Lady brought out a new batch of sandwiches. I opted to alter my selection in the name of freshness. I already mentioned the muffin, which needed more toasting. This would have made a big difference as the whole sandwich had a rubbery consistency that I wasn't appreciating. Other than that it tasted exactly how you think. The American cheese was melted, that ham was of a standard deli quality and the egg white was just fine. I think this may be the first egg white sandwich I've ordered which means I don't get to complain about not having a runny yolk. I really missed that yolk. Additional toasting and a runny yolk (which would never happen in this situation) would have made a big difference here but you play (eat) the hand (sandwich) you're dealt (foolishly choose from the hot case).

The Result - 2.19 That's No Yolks out of 5 That's No Yolks. This is a $2.19 sandwich masquerading as a $2.69 sandwich. You might be thinking "that's only 50 cents", and it is, but in the world of grab & go breakfast sandwiches that is the sweet spot and the consumer has several options under $3. There are many factors that might lead to somebody buying a Kwik Trip sandwich - convenience being the most likely. My ranking here is weighted more towards what other choices people have rather than my just my personal preference. Honestly, this sandwich was fine for what it was although it's unlikely I would seek one out for enjoyment rather than research and reporting. I'm well aware that I have loftier expectations than most consumers. I do think the coffee that PDQ carried at this location was better than the Karuba they now carry as a Kwik Trip. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Breakfast (For Dinner) Sandwiches #113A & 113B - These Sandwiches Have a Name

Sandwiches - Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit with Arugula and Dijon Mustard
Date: 3/2/18

Earlier this week I joked on a group text about bringing breakfast sandwiches to an event and one of the participants asked for "bacon & cheese biscuit, egg over-medium, with arugula and dijon". Oddly enough I already had all of those items in my fridge so I made a plan to do some work in the lab. Friday I would have breakfast for dinner. How exciting!

Of all the sandwiches I've made in the lab this is the first using biscuits which I now realize has been a horrible oversight. My excuse is that I don't usually keep biscuits around the house, but, I had some leftover from a meal earlier in the week and the lab is for exploring and in this case, filling a blank area on my sandwich palette. To be clear they were the refrigerated kind, I didn't actually bake biscuits. I've always had a affinity for Poppin' Fresh (The Pillsbury Doughboy) and I even had a t-shirt with him on it when I was younger and that's no joke. Poppin' Fresh turns 53 years old in just a couple of weeks - the day after St. Patricks Day! That ticklish little bastard is probably due for a makeover at this point and with a name like Poppin' Fresh I think he's got a bright future as a heavily autotuned rap singer. I want to be in his band and I'm going to tweet this at them as soon as I'm done here and that also is no joke. This is serious stuff.

Biscuits make for pretty pictures.

It was so tasty I had to make another.
The Sandwich - Bacon & Cheese Biscuit, Chicken Egg Over-Medium, with Arugula and Dijon. I took it as a sign when I had all items on hand so I did not stray from the recipe - even on the second sandwich. The one detail that I would have changed is to use an American Single for the cheese, which I didn't have. I used Stone Ridge Marble Cheese - a combo of monterey jack and colby which melted better than I thought it would. You can't tell from the photo but I broke the yolk on the second sandwich trying to fish out a large chunk of shell. As a result there was no runny yolk but I managed to eat it anyway. You can see I cooked the eggs using the puck method. It just makes sense when you're dealing with a round bread such as a biscuit.

The Result - This was a winning combo, indeed. The dijon adds a proper spiciness and blends with the peppery arugula. That, combined with the bacon more than atoned for the somewhat bland cheese choice. The biscuits held up admirably and were perhaps just a little too dense. They weren't as flaky as Pillsbury would have you think and they're a touch on the sweet side. They didn't crumble though and that's crucial. I have dubbed this sandwich the McEvan, named after the original requester. This is what it will be called at my all day breakfast sandwich restaurant that I will never open cause I'll be too busy playing bass on tour with Poppin' Fresh. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #112 - Stalzy's aka Fundamentally Speaking

Sandwich: Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Stalzy's Deli & Bakery
Date: February 17, 2018
Cost: $7.50

I reviewed Stalzy's in August of 2015 and I hadn't been back for breakfast since. During that visit I ordered The Brooklyn and I recall thinking it was tremendous but sandwich related duties had kept me from making it back there until now. It didn't feel like two and half years since my initial visit but the sandwich industry waits for no man and I was excited to return and try something else.

In keeping with protocol I have not read my previous Stalzy's review so as not to influence my ranking in this review. The other side of that coin is that there is a good chance I'll repeat myself but let's not kid each other - nobody remembers what I wrote two and a half years ago and you're not going to go back and read it now. You're probably not even going to read this. 
I was nearly swayed by that Pork Breakfast Sandwich but decided to go with the standard and a promise to myself to get back there relatively soon to try the other.

It arrived jauntily propped across itself with a rakish pool of yolk peering from underneath.

The Sandwich - Breakfast Sandwich. The only choices offered on the menu are the meats but I suspect they would cook the chicken egg however you like and substitute the bread for other options they have on hand. I was in the mood for bacon so that was an easy choice. The classics will never fail you. At no time was I tempted to try the bologna although that would have been a first for these pages. I don't consider bologna a breakfast meat but I'm wondering how much of a difference there is between bologna and pork roll, the breakfast staple of the east coast. That's a discussion for another time and sandwich. The execution of this sandwich was nearly flawless with the egg cooked just how I like it and the American cheese and mayo combining into a fantasticated viscousness. Truth be told the sandwich might not need the mayonnaise but it worked for me. The bread was toasted to the level required for a sandwich of this nature - anything less and it would risk falling apart. The bacon was just a touch crispier than I like it but I'm quibbling about minor details at this point. Ultimately this is a solid, basic breakfast sandwich with the mayo being the the only deviation from the classic BEC model. Sometimes it's all about the fundamentals.

The Result - 4.48 Bacon Fundamentals out of 5 Bacon Fundamentals. As Vince Lombardi might have said, "Gentlemen, this is a sandwich." I think I've covered all the details I need to with this sandwich. It was everything I wanted a breakfast sandwich to be on that morning. Some days you want ginger aioli and arugula and house made kangaroo sausage and other days you want the classics. I also heartily recommend the potato pancakes. I don't know if they make the jams/jellies in house but they are fantastic as well.

I just dipped back into my review from August of 2015 (Sandwich #34) and I concluded that review with "I may make it back to try the classic breakfast sandwich at some point." I'm slow but I'm a man of my word.

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