Friday, December 7, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #129 - Cafe Hollander aka Saucy Soliloquies

Sandwich: Dutch Cowboy
Location: Cafe Hollander
Date: December 2, 2018
Cost: $12.95

I previously visited Cafe Hollander in October of 2015 and at that time my sandwich wasn't quite what I was looking for. I hadn't realized that three years had passed since my last visit but I felt the need to go someplace I don't normally go AND I had a gift card that needed spending. 

That earlier trip was on a Friday morning and this was a Sunday so I'm not sure if the menu has changed or if there is a different menu for weekend brunch. It's probably a brunch menu. I wasn't going to get the same sandwich anyway and this offered four choices in the "Handhelds" section. The Pretzel Breakfast Sammy has the same name as my sandwich of 2015 but they have modified it a bit - the Black Forest Ham is now Local Badger Ham (presumably not made from the thigh and buttocks of actual badgers) and they've removed the hollandaise. Could it be that they read my review of sandwich #41 and took my sauce-whining to heart and modified this sandwich? Doubtful. I'm pretty much not-a-big-deal but I'm going to take credit for this anyway. 

I was tempted by the "Walking Sausage"

You can see some of the "Twisted Brunch Frites" trying to photo bomb the sandwich.
The Sandwich - Dutch Cowboy. It was the six-pepper steak and smoked gouda that sold me. That sounded like a tasty combo. All the sandwiches come with scrambled eggs which isn't particularly creative (although scrambled eggs CAN be made with love, they often are not) and they don't offer any choices when you order. I hadn't really thought about the fire-roasted guacamole or the Noord sauce (whatever that is) when I ordered, but it turns out I should have given them consideration as they took over the sandwich. The six-pepper steak wasn't as outgoing and flavorful as I had hoped and the smoke gouda also got lost in the oozy-sauciness of the guac-Noord combo. The bun was soft and squishy but somehow kept everything together. I decided not to cut it in half for the standard cross section photo - something told me that wouldn't go well. 

The Result - 3.33 Saucy Soliloquies out of 5 Saucy Soliloquies. At the risk of going down the same path I went down in 2015, this sandwich got lost in the sauce and never really let the steak and cheese strut their stuff. It wasn't as much of a situation as the hollandaise hell-scape* I experienced previously, but it was still an issue. On it's own the steak was still on the mild side but it didn't stand a chance with everything else going on here. Still, this wasn't a bad sandwich but it did not meet the expectations I had put upon it and had just a bit too much of a creamy disposition. You know, I haven't complained about price for awhile but at $12.95 this is a little pricey, even if you factor in the Twisted Brunch Frites which are fun and kinda tasty but ultimately superfluous. I'm not a guy who respects potatoes in the morning unless they are perfect hashbrowns, so take that for what it's worth. 

I don't mean to sound too harsh here, I think I have higher expectations given how beautiful this space is. Maybe all that natural light gave me a false sense of security. I've only been here twice, both times for breakfast, so perhaps I need to try it for lunch or dinner. I have no idea what they are known for here, if anything. I should probably just use the rest of this gift card on beer which does appear to be their calling card. Once again I did not try one of their bloody marys although they sound fantastic. I believe they had one that had a bit of whiskey or something in it, I can't remember. I saw a few being delivered to others, and they looked enticing, but I was still drunk from church and decided to hold off. 

*It wasn't really a hellscape but I couldn't resist the alliteration, so here we are.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #128 - Low Effort Lab Work

Sandwich: Sausage & Walnut Dressing, Egg & Cheese
Date: 11/27/18

You may recall last year I did some research on a Thanksgiving leftover breakfast sandwich and was rather pleased with the results. At that time I lamented the fact that it's not easy to acquire a turkey egg which would really put the bow on this sandwich. I mentioned starting my search earlier so I would be able to make a sandwich with a turkey egg this year.

That didn't happen.

In fact, no research whatsoever went in to this sandwich. It's not all that different from last years model other than I nixed the turkey on this one. I also swapped the American cheese for a medium cheddar. That change was made out of necessity, not a desire to sift & winnow for sandwich truths.
You can't quite see it here but the egg is overcooked.  There would be no runny yolk on this day. Look how nice and melty that cheese is though. 
The Sandwich - I've pretty much covered that already. If there is anything you take away from this review, indeed if there was any reason at all to write this review, it's that you should make this Sausage & Walnut Dressing next Thanksgiving or tomorrow. It's fantastic and works well on a sandwich even if you overcook the egg. 

I suppose there is another nugget of knowledge here - leftovers make for good breakfast sandwiches. Don't let the The Man tell you your breakfast sandwich can only be made with sausage or bacon. Next year maybe I'll make turkey tetrazzini with my Thanksgiving leftovers and then I'll make a breakfast sandwich using those leftovers and I'll throw a massive turkey egg on it and we'll have turkey yolk and spaghetti spilling out all over the place. It's not a bad plan but I probably won't remember to do it. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #127 - The Heights aka I'll Melt With You

Sandwich: Breakfast Sandwich
Location: The Heights
Date: November 2, 2018
Cost: $7

The Heights is the latest restaurant from Underground Food Collective and helps combat what I'm just now realizing is a dearth of breakfast sandwich options on the near west side. Like many of my recent sandwich excursions this came in as a hot tip from an astute reader. I've not kept up with researching new restaurants and mostly rely on luck and lazy circumstance to guide my ship into the safe harbors of delicious breakfast comfort. (What?) Let's face it, Madison's restaurant scene isn't so big that I actually need to put much effort into discovering new sandwich options but I do appreciate it when readers let me know of developments.

I didn't realize how long it had been since I had the sandwich at Underground Butcher but it's been over 3 years. The Heights came along at just the right time, and I had rare weekday morning available to get over there. 

It pays to get the table near the huge window. Look at all that natural light! Is it petty of me to mention that I hate that plate? I don't like it at all. It doesn't fit with the rest of the aesthetic and I don't know why I care but I didn't let it break my concentration. 

When I say "Ooey", you say "Gooey". "OOEY!"

The Sandwich - Breakfast Sandwich is the only option on the menu, or is it? I did review a Croque Madame at Sardine in August of 2016 and it was one of the top sandwiches of that year, but I came for the traditional breakfast sandwich and that's what I ordered. No options are offered upon ordering. (Note the sandwich description on the menu photo above is accurate and varies slightly from the online menu.) My first impression of the sandwich was that it isn't particularly large but that's not always important. After I snapped my photos I angled the sandwich so I could cut it for the crucial cross-section shot. The brioche bun was still warm and it's spongy resistance held promise. As I drew the knife towards me I was not prepared for the explosion of yolk that for a fraction of a second I thought might traverse the edge of the plate. That would have been a travesty and I have to hand it to the plate - it did it's job and I shouldn't have judged it so harshly. The yolk was practically fluorescent and made me think (with no evidence) that the egg was super fresh and perhaps the chicken was out back clucking around in the alley by the dumpster. The salty soppressata hits you on the first bite and the creamy Hook's Triple Play balances it out. There is a touch of spice from the red pepper flakes in the soppressata but just enough to give it some character. The brioche bun is just about perfect - sturdy enough to withstand the sandwich innards but soft enough to mop up all that yolk.

The Result - 4.90 Unfortunate Plates out of 5 Unfortunate Plates. This sandwich practically melts in your mouth and it's flavor is much bigger than than the sandwich appears. It all blends wonderfully and while the flavors are strong they don't overwhelm. By the end of the sandwich I was still anticipating each bite and made sure to keep my brioche to yolk ratio in check so I wouldn't run out of either. 

If they would have let me smash the plate on the sidewalk I might have given this a perfect score. To be fair, I didn't ask if I could smash the plate.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #126 - What The Hell? aka Lab Failures

Sandwich: Chili Mac, Egg & Cheese
Date: 10/24/18

This experiment started as a chance to use my new NORPRO 666 non-stick egg cooking rings. A couple of quick notes about those cooking rings - why is their product number The Number of The Beast and if they are sold as "non-stick" why is the first instruction to coat them with non-stick cooking spray before use? I guess if you're cooking chicken eggs IN HELL they tend to stick on account of the extreme heat. How are you going to cook eggs on a medium to low temperature when you're in the lake that burns with fire and sulfer? These are problems that fall well outside the scope and mission of the lab. This is a modest operation we have here.

The non-stick egg rings were an attempt to ditch the Mason Jar lid method which I've documented and never been fully satisfied with mostly due to the hassle of washing egg out of the lid rim. While prepping for this I realized I had leftover chili mac and considered how I could add that to the sandwich. My immediate thought was that it would be an impractical mess but I went ahead with the idea because that's how it works around here. To realize the perfect sloppy sandwich you sometimes have to go too far and if that means going into the project with failure hovering in your peripheral vision, so be it.

Right off the bat I broke the yolk and put the ring in upside down. 

The cheese did melt a little more but not quite enough. 
The Sandwich - I already told you about the broken yolk and while I was messing with the English Muffin and chili mac (which was heating separately) I overcooked the egg a bit. The English Muffin wasn't quite toasted enough, the slice of American cheese didn't melt as much as I wanted and even though I assembled the sandwich and paused for a few photos the chili mac was still hot enough to burn the roof of my mouth. I didn't even attempt to cut the sandwich for the usual cross section photo and after two bites the sandwich was a predictable mess and I had a burnt hard palate, which was upsetting. 

The Result - The sandwich was OK but it had too much working against it and nobody thinks putting chili mac on an English Muffin is a good idea. It doesn't execute properly. I'll try to be more practical in the future or better yet, go to an actual restaurant. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #125 - A Lab Toss Off

Sandwich: Bacon, American Cheese, Soft Scramble Egg, Sourdough Bread
Date: 9/26/18

This lab sandwich was the result of serendipitous circumstances and dumb luck and coincidence which were as follows - I woke up at 5:00 am for no good reason and while making coffee realized I had bacon, eggs, American cheese slices and a loaf of cheap sourdough bread. These are the perfect items for constructing a diner-style breakfast sandwich.

The only thing that made this sandwich worthy of a lab report (that's debatable) is the sourdough bread. I don't usually have it on hand so I've not used it. The soft scramble eggs are also a newer process adopted by the lab but not worthy of reportage on their own.
Yeah, I could have buttered that bread to make it more like an actual diner sandwich but this was the healthier route to go.

That bacon isn't as well done as it appears. It's dark in the lab at 5:30 am before all the assistants and interns arrive with their nervous energy and ill-fitting lab coats and need for fluorescent lighting.
The Sandwich - I've pretty much covered that already. There isn't anything special to say about this but I do love how American cheese slices get all melty. There were 4 slices of bacon and 2 chicken eggs. That seems like crucial information. 

The Result - Simple. Tasty. Quick. Everything as expected. If you ordered this off a laminated tri-fold menu for $3.49 you'd be pleased with your choice especially if a lady with a beehive hairdo served it to you and called you "Hon" and had the pot of coffee in hand ready to warm up your cup. I don't want to tell you how to feel but I think you'd be very happy indeed and if you don't agree I'm not even sure why you're here but you should hang around anyway.

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #124 - The Old Fashioned aka More Like A Lunchfast Sandwich

Sandwich: The Old Fashioned House Burger
Location: The Old Fashioned
Date: September 16, 2018
Cost: $9.95

I hadn't been to The Old Fashioned in quite some time and it had been even longer since I reviewed one of their sandwiches

There isn't anything fresh and new that needs to be said about The Old Fashioned. They continue to deliver excellent food, drinks and atmosphere even if I do think the Wiscocentric theme is a touch corny. It doesn't matter and it isn't half as annoying as anything related to Texas pride. (Oh relax, Texas.)

My Sunday evolved into lunch at The Old Fashioned prior to the Willy Street Fair so the opportunity to review a sandwich fell into my lap. While I looked over the menu I tried to find something that I wanted more than the house burger and I couldn't do it. I consciously tried to avoid this review and it couldn't be done. The Sandwich Gods had spoken.

Is referring to a burger with an egg on it as a "breakfast sandwich" a bit of a stretch? Probably, although there is precedent here - I had The Buzzy Sandwich with a burger patty on January 1. That particular burger patty was served on bread and consumed before Noon whereas this one was on a proper burger bun and eaten well after Noon. I don't care. One of these days I'm going to review breakfast tacos or a burrito and I'm not even going to pretend to apologize for it. Oh jeez, I just remembered my last review was a HOT DOG. Never mind. I should just delete this entire paragraph. 

SAKES ALIVE! She's a beauty! That yolk is on the move. So precarious. The bartender caught me taking this shot and said "How's everything looking?" which I think was his way of saying I'm a dickhead for taking photos of my food. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'm a professional and he probably spends more time on his hair than I've spent on this review but I still tipped him well even though I had to give him "the look" to get another beer which should never happen in a proper Wisconsin tavern. 

I used up all my caption material on the previous photo. #yolkpuddle

The Sandwich - The Old Fashioned House Burger:

No. 30
The Old Fashioned House Burger-grilled over a live fire and topped with fried onions, Bavaria’s hickory-smoked bacon, aged Cheddar, garlic sauce and a soft-cooked egg on a buttered and toasted roll…..$9.95

No options are offered. It's grilled over a "live fire" which only makes me think of Live Wire - a video that features live fire but no grilling. I ordered it medium-rare and it was a touch more done than that although that may have been for the better. This is a gooey burger. It's every bit as sloppy as I remember it but everything blends well and the most prominent flavor is the hickory-smoked bacon. The garlic sauce and cheddar cheese move to the background although they certainly contribute to the overall taste explosion. Everything combines so well I can't really deconstruct the individual components. It's just a fantastic hamburger sandwich. Every time. I ordered it with the greens on the side which I've said many times is my preferred side to a breakfast sandwich. These were no exception - zippy and tangy, just how I like them. 

The Result - 4.6 Hamburger Sandwiches out of 5 Hamburger Sandwiches. I docked it a tiny bit cause it doesn't really feel like a breakfast sandwich. Is that fair? Probably not. I don't care, I've already thrown the rules out with the bath water. I like my metaphors like I like my drinks - mixed. I'm just making things up now, a clear sign I need to wrap this up. It was a fantastic sandwich, I think that is obvious. 

Side note - I went to the Willy Street Fair after this and it was too hot and I tried to find a tie-dyed bandana to wipe sweat off my head and I couldn't find one!! What has happened to the east side? Is this what gentrification looks like? May as well pack it up and move to Middleton. 

Recap - The Whole Damn Year End Lists aka It Depends On What Your Definition of "Best" Is

I'd like to address a recurring situation - I meet somebody and the subject of this blog comes up, generally because I always wear a t-shirt that says "Ask Me About My Breakfast Sandwich Blog" or they see my bumper sticker that reads "Honk If You Like It Over Easy". This happens often. The inevitable first question is "Who has the best breakfast sandwich in Madison?" The correct answer to this is "It depends...", followed by a litany of scenarios and inquiries about their expectations. Nobody wants to hear that nonsense. They want to hear a passionate description of the sandwich I had at "Freddy's Sandwich Hut" so they can make a mental note and move on. That makes sense but that isn't what happens. What they generally get is me stammering and sputtering about while trying to recall some of the top ranking sandwiches which for some reason I cannot do when put on the spot. There is a reason for this though. There is a lot of grey area in noting the pleasures of a sandwich and as I've often said, the key to the reviews is in the descriptions and not necessarily the numbered ranking. The ranking is not intended to be like the final score of a base-ball game and yet I know I have to put a number on it so casual readers and those with a short attention span can get back to shrieking about the headlines of the day. Everybody's busy. Nobody has time to read. Did you know that they teach "Emoji" as a credited second language in California high schools? It's totally true, or will be soon. There's a reason the "Year End Lists" get the most clicks around these parts. The list for 2015 is by far the most popular, which makes sense - I ate the most sandwiches that year and this was all fresh and new. It was the Year of The Breakfast Sandwich. The world had never before seen a breakfast sandwich blog and everybody stopped by to check it out and pay their respects. Many clicks, some of which I'm told were Guy Fieri's assistants reading it to him. The list for 2016 isn't nearly as popular but has respectable numbers. There isn't much to be said about the response to the list for 2017 but "tepid" will suffice. This isn't fresh and new anymore and most people have gone back to their favorite porn sites.

But this was never about the clicks. It's about finding out if a sandwich can shape your perspective on the day and therefore set you up to achieve your goals. This has been answered unequivocally but the research continues because flavor and joy and sustenance matter.

So, to get back to my initial point, the oft-asked question "Who has the best breakfast sandwich in Madison?". I don't have your answer but I hope to guide you. Only you can walk the path of your day, the long and winding yellow brick road to your local sandwichery.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Breakfast Sandwich #123 - Not A Sandwich. Not A Sandwich. You're The Sandwich!

Sandwich: Grilled Bacon-Wrapped All Beef Kosher Hot Dog Breakfast Sandwich
Date: August 29, 2018

Sometimes you have to see an idea through to it's natural conclusion just to get it out of your head. That was the case here and it all started when I bought a package of Hebrew National Beef Franks and a carton of eggs on the same day. I looked into my shopping basket and saw them sitting side by side and it occurred to me that they should become intimate with each other, on a bun, and that I was the perfect person to facilitate that.

By the time I executed the plan I had decided to wrap the hot dogs in bacon to make them more breakfasty. The absurdity of wrapping kosher franks in bacon didn't strike me until I was in the act and while there were no rabbi's present I am an ordained minister and I decided that I needed to absolve these franks of their sins. Therefore, I gave them a penance of trial of fire, a temporal punishment of sorts, and sentenced them to purgatory, which in this case was my belly.

And so the lab moved outside for this experiment - at least partly. Never barbecue indoors. It says it right on the bag of Kingsford Charcoal. (Did you know you can review Kingsford briquets on their web site and give them a 1-5 star ranking? "Angelgrillin" gave them one star - "Have to constantly relight. Have to run out multiple times. Keep pering out window". You know how she gets when she has to keep pering out the window? She doesn't like it but she's an angel for Christ's sake so she'll just leave a one star review on the internet and move on.)

Once I decided the dogs were going to be bacon wrapped it really came down to what else was going to be added.
This photo should be on the United States Citizenship test - "Write a 3 paragraph story or poem describing how this makes you feel. 200 word minimum. Attach additional sheets of paper as needed."

The Sandwich - Grilled Bacon-Wrapped All Beef Kosher Hot Dog Breakfast Sandwich. So you've wrapped the dogs in bacon and grilled them. Now what? You have to have cheese and I had slices of American cheese which seemed perfect for this project. Grated sharp cheddar would have worked as well. I should have toasted the buns a bit but I got caught up in making sure I had time to cook the chicken eggs before the dogs got cold.

Speaking of eggs, there is no way these would have worked with a runny yolk. Of course not. Hilarious? Probably. I opted for the practicality of scrambled eggs. When I started contemplating toppings I considered chopped onions but I thought that might get overpowering. Relish? Hell no. I was leaning towards simplicity but had to consider condiments. Mustard didn't seem right with eggs and ketchup struck me as even more preposterous if not downright blasphemous. Hot sauce was the only choice and I selected a homemade blend given to me by a friend. 
I admit that just looks like a stupid mess. 
The Result - Mistakes were made but this was a success never the less. Even if its a sandwich I never revisit these were some mighty tasty dogs. Honestly, the eggs kind of got in the way and tried to fall out with every bite. I also overcooked them a bit - I like my scrambled eggs on the soft side but I went too far. The buns should have been toasted and I thought maybe if the dogs nestled into the buns straight off the grill they would melt the cheese a bit but that didn't happen. None of this detracted from the smokey deliciousness that popped from every bite but I knew I could have done better. It's not easy being a visionary. You think Alexander Graham Bell just woke up one morning and built a HD television? That's not how it works.

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. 

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.