Sunday, January 25, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #7 - Short Stack aka Don't Waste My Time With Pancakes

Sandwich: Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Short Stack
Date: January 25, 2015
Cost: $9.99, served with mixed greens, breakfast potatoes or toast.

Another location out of left field. Short Stack was on the list early but I thought it would be some time before I actually made it there. It must have been the name that put me off, the thought being that they specialize in pancakes which seems like a pointless endeavor. Other than kids and people who truly don't understand the idea of going out for breakfast, who orders pancakes? It doesn't matter, the savory portion of the menu looked solid, including the breakfast sandwich.

I like it when a place has a specific style of breakfast sandwich but still offers a few options. Take this sandwich, the egg is cooked over-hard, which I would never order that way if given the choice, but you get your choice of bun. The idea with this mission is to not substitute any items on the sandwich so as to keep the vision pure.

Not pictured: grits with pulled pork!

Aggressive. That bacon tried to touch me.

Ohhhhh jeez, she's a beauty.
The sandwich - I opted for the pretzel roll and mixed greens on the side. Pretzel roll turned out to be the right choice, there is plenty of cheese on this without adding the spicy cheese bread. The roll is soft and didn't quite hold up to all the tasty mess contained within, but I think that was a good thing. I enjoyed the slightly gooey nature of this sandwich. A sloppy sandwich is not always appropriate or desired, but in this case it felt right. The caramelized onions were perfect, and the rhubarb jam added a slight sweet & tartness that didn't really taste like rhubarb. They sparred with the salty bacon in a fantastic way. The tomato slice was like any other tomato in January, which is to say, kind of sad. It certainly didn't hurt the sandwich but it didn't have anything to offer. Everybody knows January tomatoes exist only to remind us that real tomatoes are so much better. Mixed greens were OK, I enjoyed the greens from Bassett Street Brunch Club more. The dressing there had a little more bite to it and these could have used a touch more dressing. I'm still glad I got the greens - adding potatoes would have been too heavy in my belly and the toast option just seems silly.

The result: 4.44 non-pancakes out of 5 non-pancakes. In August, with a proper slice of tomato and a little more zip in the greens dressing, this could be a 5, possibly. Maybe a 4.95. I'm not sure what it will take to get a 5 but we aren't letting the Russians vote so it may happen.

Bonus info #1. They have a bloody mary that looks great. The garnish spear includes a chunk of pickled beet! I didn't try it, but it holds a lot of promise.

Bonus info #2. Worried about your caloric intake? There is apparently a spin class just across the street at MMOCA. I don't know how you sign up or whatever, but it exists:
Raising the roof.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #6 - PDQ aka Never Look A Gift Horse (meat) In The Mouth

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Am Cheese English Muffin, 5 oz
Location: PDQ
Date: January 21, 2015
Cost: $2 or Free

Free sandwich. Are there two sweeter words in the English language?

I'm already reaping the rewards of this mission. I walked into work the other morning and a friend tossed me this sandwich and said "Here, put this on your dumb blog". No, he didn't say that, but it was implied, as it should be.

Generally speaking I prefer bacon on my breakfast sandwich, but, a free sandwich is nothing to get picky about. According to the PDQ web site they also offer a ham version of this sandwich. There may be other options as well, you'll have to visit your neighborhood PDQ to find out but only some stores offer these. 

Anyways, this delightful little surprise had sausage on it which is a nice change from the ever expanding presence of bacon in our lives.

The list of ingredients wraps halfway around the sandwich

Add some googly eyes and it would kinda look like Mayor McCheese

Like layers in sedimentary rock
The sandwich - I had to ignore the long list of ingredients. I'm sure there was plenty of mono-sodium-partially-hydrogenated-glyceridic-guar-gum but that's about what I expected. Processed foods for processed people is where we're at in America today. You don't go to PDQ for a Farmers Market experience. (Holy shit, you should click that Farmers Market link so you can read about the breakfast they're putting on this Saturday. Damn.) Anyways, the sandwich was actually pretty good. It could have been hotter but that's my fault cause I was late to work. The sausage was tasty even though it may have been made with horse meat - that's why I didn't read the ingredients. I wonder how these sandwiches come together at PDQ, is there really somebody there cooking eggs? It seems unlikely. You could spend $2 in a lot of ways that would be worse than this grab-n-go breakfast. Just think, if you have $3 you could stop for a sandwich and a scratch off lottery ticket and if you win $10 you're actually getting paid to eat this.

The result: 3.25 out of 5 scratch off lottery tickets. The cost ($2, not free) factored heavily into this rating. I won't be eating a lot of these, mostly because I have about 34 more places that are still on my list, but every once in awhile this is a good option to have.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #5 - Bassett Street Brunch Club aka Hor-cha-cha-cha-ta

Sandwich: Breakfast Sammy
Location: Bassett Street Brunch Club
Date: January 17, 2015
Cost: $10.95, served with breakfast potatoes or mixed greens

Bassett Street Brunch Club was on my list but I thought it would be months before I actually made it there.  It's inconveniently (for me) located in the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel on that goofy corner where Casa Bianca used to be. It seems to be aimed at the visiting parents of UW students and alums in town for "the game" and I am neither of those things.

After a coworker extolled its virtues I bumped it up the list as I had another place to visit that was nearby. It was going to be a Saturday Sandwich Adventure (TM). Saturday Sandwich Adventure - that might be the title of my first children's book.

The 50 minute wait was not unexpected late on a Saturday morning. No big deal, they have a horchata with espresso drink that I wanted to try and that might have been worth the trip on its own. This beverage has merit! If I lived or worked nearby I'd get one of these on a regular basis.

Lousy photo of the sandwich.
The sandwich - I thought it would pack more of a flavor punch. It was salty, that seemed to be the main flavor, more so than the gruyere, roasted peppers and onions. The bun was really good, kind of soft and spongy but holding its own against the contents. I was surprised that I didn't enjoy this sandwich more, it certainly wasn't bad, but the $11 price tag didn't help. It creates expectation. The greens were great, the dressing was tangy and not overdone.

Result: 3 out of 5 robots. This place has a robot theme that I like but don't understand. Come for the robots, stay for the horchata. Also on the menu - a stout with a shot of espresso in it. I was maxed out on beverage but that is probably worth a try.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #4 - More Work In The Lab aka Doubling Down On The Chicken

Sandwich: Homemade
Location: My house
Date: January 13, 2015
Cost: However much leftovers cost

The problem with buying eggs is that I always end up with 8 more eggs than I really want. Factor in some extra chicken wings and related items and you have the makings of a fine sandwich although I'll still have too many eggs.

I don't really want to be in the lab making sandwiches. I want to go somewhere and pay somebody to make me a sandwich so I can support the economy like a true American. On the other hand, if I don't eat these leftovers I'll be wasting food, and what's more American than that? Not much, with the possible exception of "not voting".

But, there is the distinct possibility that this sandwich is "cheating". Does plopping an egg on a sandwich really make it a breakfast sandwich? Probably not. Also, I ate this at 8:30 at night - not breakfast time. What constitutes a breakfast sandwich, exactly? These are questions that can't be answered in the lab - the lab is for experimenting, not addressing the great philosophical questions of our time. We're already in the lab so Plato will have to wait.

Ingredients: Egg (chicken), Cholula chicken wings*, Marzetti Ultimate Blue Cheese dressing**, celery, Brownberry 12 grain bread.

Leftover chicken wings (3 drummies, 3 wings, to be exact) and blue cheese.

Add celery

Add egg

Breakfast sandwich?
Result: 4.15 out of 5 chicken beaks. This sandwich was fantastic. After eating the first half I put extra chicken wing sauce on the other half and THAT is what pushed this into a 4 beak rating. I'm not sure what the egg added, but the texture was good, and I think it was a good buffer layer between the celery and the blue cheese dressing. The sandwich would have been fine without the egg, probably, but then it wouldn't be a breakfast sandwich.

All things considered I think this is a breakfast sandwich. Let's say there was a cool little tavern that was known for their chicken wings and they offered breakfast on the weekends. You go to this place on Saturday morning and they offer the sandwich I made here - I would order it without hesitation. In that case it would be a breakfast sandwich, no doubt about it.

*Several years ago the Cholula Hot Sauce web site had a recipe for chicken wing sauce. I've made it dozens of times but modified it to the point that its my own. If you like Cholula Sauce find any recipe for wing sauce and use Cholula in its place, it should work.

**I usually use Marie's Super Blue Cheese but I went to two stores and neither had it, so I tried Marzetti's. I'll probably go back to the Marie's although there was nothing wrong with the Marzetti's.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #3 - Additional Work In The Lab

Sandwich: Homemade Vegetarian
Location: My house
Date: January 11, 2015
Cost: Cheap

The plan was to hit 4 & 20 Bakery & Cafe this weekend. They make a righteous breakfast sandwich and its within walking distance of my house.

However, I already had everything I needed to try making a vegetarian breakfast sandwich and even though I know nobody gives a rats ass about sandwiches I make, I needed to put some more time in at the lab. Here in Madison there a lot of vegetarians and hippie types who don't want bacon and such on their breakfast sandwich. Crazy talk, I know, but they gotta eat too. Note, there will be no talk of vegan sandwiches here. Ever. That would be stupid.

Ingredients: Eggs (chicken), baby spinach, Stone Ridge butter kase cheese, avocado, a little light mayo with Cholula sauce mixed in, Brownberry 12 grain bread*.

*If you click that Brownberry link there is a recipe for a Bacon 'N' Egg Sandwich. 

I won't get into the cooking details but I made a sandwich. Here is proof:

Result: I give it 3.75 out of 5 organic parsnips. The spinach was a little dense, lighter mixed greens may have been a better choice (but I didn't have any). Butterkase cheese was a great choice, it's salty and melted well. The over medium eggs turned out better than sandwich #2. Avocado didn't add much more than texture but I wanted to use it since it was ripe. I should have used more Cholula, it could have used more kick.

4 & 20 is still on the list and I'll get there soon enough.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #2 - Homemade aka Try Walking a Mile In Their Checkered Pants

Sandwich: Homemade
Location: My house
Date: January 8, 2015
Cost: That would require some math. Cheap

I've never worked in a commercial kitchen, I can barely cook for myself. I have never put on one of those funny chef hats (although I think most cooks actually wear baseball caps - but you never see baseball players in chefs hats). They all seem to wear those checkered pants though.

At some point along this project I'll likely run into a subpar breakfast sandwich and there is a chance I'll go off about its lack of quality. Before I string together those adjectives and expletives I thought I should try my hand at making a breakfast sandwich so I know what goes into it. People say that before you criticize somebody you should walk a mile in their shoes, which I think is a bastardized version of a line from To Kill A Mockingbird:
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
So I decided to make a basic breakfast sandwich. (Yes, I have made them before but its a new year so we're starting over at square one.)

Bacon - Usinger's thick cut

Eggs - chicken

Cheese - sharp cheddar. Bread - Brownberry 12 Grain

 I'm not going to get into the details, this isn't a cooking blog.

Result: fairly successful. The eggs were supposed to be over medium but I think I cooked them a little too long. The cheese could have been more melty. The bacon may have been a little too crisp - you can see it was a bit crumbly. Maybe regular cut bacon would have worked better.

There you go, that's my standard. Any cook worth his or her kosher salt should be able to do at least as well, if not better, than this.

Breakfast Sandwich #1

Sandwich: The Buzzy Sandwich
Location: Players Sports Bar & Grill
Date: January 1, 2015
Cost: TBD 

[photo not available]

This is the sandwich that inspired this endeavor and I already wrote about it in the inaugural post of this blog. No need to say all that stuff again but the sandwich needs a proper marker so it is listed as sandwich #1.

I wish I had taken a photo of it but I had yet to come up with this ridiculous idea so it didn't occur to me at the time.

I'll make it back to Players soon enough and will check the cost. I think its important to note price so readers can make an informed decision about what type of sandwich they might want to pursue. Sometimes your taste buds lose out to your wallet.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Journey To The Center Of Your Gut

52 breakfast sandwiches is a hell of a lot of sandwiches. I came up with a quick list of 31 different places in Madison that are likely have breakfast sandwiches. I'm sure further research will yield several more but for now there is no danger of running out of choices.

This journey is all encompassing though - the plan is try all options available and every sandwich will be approached with a clean slate/palette. From the Egga Muffin to The Worlds Most Expensive Sandwich (which happens to be a breakfast sandwich), anything is fair game. I hope there will be greasy fast food and free-range-organic-heirloom-heritage bacon and chorizo y huevos tortas and scrambled eggs with bacon bits served on the back of a hedgehog soaked in champagne.

Can I get another napkin, please?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 - The Year Of The Breakfast Sandwich

When I woke up on New Years Day, 2015, I had no idea that the year would be declared The Year Of The Breakfast Sandwich.

The day started uneventfully with loose plans to watch the Wisconsin Badgers play in the Bloomin' Onion Bowl. Kickoff was early, 11 am, and Players Sports Bar & Grill was chosen for maximum television viewing and greasy food options.

Before I even got there I already knew I would order The Buzzy Sandwich, Players version of a breakfast sandwich. Players is consistent with the food and I'd had The Buzzy before so no surprises were expected.

Bloody Mary partially consumed, the sandwich arrived and started flirting with me immediately. The over medium egg yolk was oozing out in lava-flow fashion. I could see that the slice of American cheese on the bottom was perfectly melty.  Bite. Crispy bacon. Salty, eggy cheese. Damn fine. The Texas Toast held it all together. A wimpier bread would have buckled under the cheese and runny egg, but not this toast!

It was a mighty tasty sandwich. Maybe it was my overall pleasant mood, and the Bloody Mary, or possibly it was watching Melvin Gordon trample all over the Auburn Tigers, but this sandwich was TOP NOTCH.

Later I wondered if that breakfast sandwich could so positively affect my day, perhaps more breakfast sandwiches would do the same. What if I had a different breakfast sandwich each week for the whole year? What if this year was dedicated to the breakfast sandwich?

There is only one way to answer these questions and it will require 52 weeks of vague diligence and a hearty digestive system. The bar was set high on January 1 but that is no reason to shy from the task ahead. It will be done in the name of science, or something like science but involving more bacon.