Sunday, July 19, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #162 - Data From Top Secret Northwoods Laboratory

Lab Sandwich #162 - Sesame Seed Bagel, Bacon, Sharp Cheddar, Shoestring Potatoes, Red Salsa, Chicken Egg
Date: June 27, 2020

Like all good research conglomerates we have backup laboratories so data can continue to be collected if conditions deteriorate in any given location. It also helps keep our data secure from hackers backed by Big Sandwich. They're out there, and they're ruthless.

We just want you to know that nothing is more important to us than the safety of your flavor satisfaction.

The situation as it was, we moved to our Northwoods lab to research the use of shoestring potatoes on a sandwich. Specifically, Pik-Nik shoestring potatoes. They seem to be the industry leader in shoestring potatoes, although Utz might have something to say about that. I can't say I've dug into the underbelly of the shoestring potato business but the number one rule seems to be that you have to spell things wrong. See, Utz Potato Stix.

Speaking of underbelly, Pik-Nik headquarters is in the China Airlines building in Burlingame, California, which seems odd. Surely they aren't frying 'taters in an office building.

We don't have time to get into that right now.

Let's get on with talking about sandwiches.

This sandwich was prepped and wrapped in foil to toast in the oven for reasons of flavor steeping and meltiness.

Simply glorious.
The Sandwich - The only wildcard here was the shoestring potatoes. I was worried that they might be too crunchy but they're actually a bit wimpy especially after heating in the oven with everything else. They added a whiff of crunch, less than expected, and a saltiness that wasn't needed but also wasn't overdone. I've been on a bit of a sharp cheddar kick lately even though it doesn't melt as well as other cheeses. I can accept that as a trade-off for the flavor, especially when paired with bacon. I don't often construct on bagels but it does give you the confidence to really load up your sandwich knowing that the bagel will hold up. That's reassuring during these uncertain times.

The Result - Overall this was a great sandwich and worth a try if you happen to have some shoestring potatoes. They do make a reduced sodium version and that may be better depending on what else you're putting on your sandwich.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #159 - Almost Forgotten Salami Sandwich

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - English Muffin, chicken egg, hard salami, white cheddar, avocado, mild pepper rings, red onion
Date: May 11, 2020

Somehow I forgot about Sandwich #159 and went right to #160 so things are a little out of order but I couldn't just leave #159 off of the list so I'm backtracking a bit. It's going to be OK.

Hard salami and other non-breakfast sausages are underutilized on breakfast sandwiches. They have the desired salty and fatty components and in proper hands can make for an exceptional sandwich. It can also be wasted when handled by amateurs but we can't really blame the sausage in these specific instances. It will not surprise you that we have messed around with alternative breakfast sausages in the lab, sometimes with success and sometimes to a somewhat shameful conclusion. That's fine. We have to take some risks here, nobody wants to hear about bacon all the time. 

It's pretty even though the top looks much bigger than the bottom.

The Sandwich - If I recall properly this sandwich was the result of me being awake very early on a Monday and desiring a breakfast sandwich. I then took stock of what I had on hand, got a little creative, and here we are.

The Result - I made and ate this sandwich almost 7 weeks ago. I'm not going to sit here and breakdown the flavors and textures of this sandwich at this point, but I know it was delicious. I know the egg was cooked nicely and it was a gooey mess. I know I have yet to regret adding red onion or avocado to a sandwich. And I know that hard salami is a great meat for a breakfast sandwich.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #160 & #161 - Lab Reports, Of Course

Lab Sandwich #160 - Sourdough English Muffin, Bacon, Egg, Morel & Leek Jack Cheese, Chipotle Mayonaisse.
Date: April 10, 2020

Lab Sandwich #161 - Sourdough English Muffin, Bacon, Gouda, Egg, Avocado, Red Onion, Spicy Chili Crisp
Date: April 11, 2020

First, some confessional house cleaning. I skipped Sandwich #159. It doesn't exist. Sandwiches #160 and #161 have already been posted to the Instagram page so in the name of consistency I'm posting here with the same numbering and my next sandwich will be #159. I know you don't care but sandwich historians will appreciate this information. We're all about historical accuracy here during the age of pandemic.

Let's get right into it.

What's not to like? As far as my photos go, this one is pretty decent.

It doesn't look quite as pretty here. It looks kind of normal. So much hidden beneath the surface.
The Sandwich - Sourdough English Muffin, Bacon, Egg, Morel & Leek Jack Cheese, Chipotle Mayonaisse. This was a quick lunchtime breakfast sandwich. I was working from home and had all the goods with a special cheesy twist - a Morel & Leek Jack cheese from Laack Brothers Cheese Company. I also had a new jar of Chipotle Mayonnaise from Sir Kensington's. Not making a breakfast sandwich would have been foolish. The morel & leek cheese had a subtle, earthy flavor and that matched nicely with the smokiness of the chipotle mayo and bacon and the gooey yolk. This was a quick and easy winner, no doubt about it.

Don't ever skimp on the avocado.

It looks kind of skewed and crazy but also packed with enough flavor for at least two sandwiches.

What you're looking at here is more or less a blueprint for a flavor bomb. It sprayed my taste buds with shrapnel and the collateral damage is every breakfast sandwich that comes in its wake. Note that I overcooked the egg a bit so there wasn't any runny yolk and it DIDN'T EVEN MATTER. I think we're all learning a lot during this pandemic.
The Sandwich - Sourdough English Muffin, Bacon, Gouda, Egg, Avocado, Red Onion, Spicy Chili Crisp. I think the caption above sums it up nicely and there isn't much to add to it. The Spicy Chili Crisp put it over the top. My first breakfast sandwich experience with Spicy Chili Crisp really opened my third eye, as they sorta say in Sandwich Hinduism, but they call it the third slice, like that middle slice of bread on a club sandwich. This is a real thing and you should look into it. I can't explain it, I can only point you in the right direction.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #158 - Lab Report: Happy Hour Sandwich aka Don't Try This At Home

Sandwich: Lab Sandwich - Summer Sausage and Port Wine Cheese Spread
Date: March 25, 2020

I warned you that there may be a rash of Lab Reports coming your way and here we are but this is still not a cooking blog. I am going to try to keep this mercifully short but we'll see how that goes.

These items were leftover from a little Happy Hour event at my Mom's - cheese spread, sausage and crackers were a staple during cocktail hour at her place. I thought perhaps that might make for an interesting breakfast sandwich, minus the crackers.

Summer Sausage on a breakfast sandwich is not without precedence - it's been used previously in the lab and also appears on the menu at Graze. We've also experimented with cheese spread before.

I didn't mean to leave the Merkts out for a photobomb but it looks good back there. Also, note Merkts melty cheese spread oozing out of the sandwich.
The Sandwich - Merkts Port Wine Cheese Spread, Johnsonville Summer Sausage, chicken eggs, wheat bread. This required a little planning ahead as I wanted the cheese spread on the bread before toasting it. If you're familiar with cheese spread you know it needs to be out of the refrigerator for a bit before it's ready to spread onto a cracker or other carb vessel. I planned ahead for this scenario. I also did well with the eggs and the yolks remained in their yolky state.

The Result - A somewhat unsatisfying mess. It wasn't a bad sandwich but was a bit too gloppy and the flavors just weren't right. Regular cheese spread may have tasted better than the port wine variety, but I was working with what I had. The cheese spread didn't hold up to toasting, it shifted into a bit of a jam-like consistency, but it was really the flavor that didn't sit well with me. Not bad, but certainly not worth repeating. On that level, this was a failure. Summer sausage can be used effectively on a breakfast sandwich but it wasn't the proper protein here.

We did learn that happy hour foods are perhaps best reserved for cocktail hour. I tried to turn the tables on that thought process and envisioned breakfast sandwich items at a cocktail party. Picture a waiter with a tray of hors d'oeuvres at a gala-type event, perhaps offering a thin water biscuit cracker topped with a tiny fried quail egg and a little crisp of pork belly and an even tinier dollop of spicy aioli. That sounds like a winner and somebody needs to make that. Not this reporter.

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Breakfast Sandwich #157 - Full Mile Beer Company & Kitchen aka Sausage Talk & The Good Ol' Days

Sandwich: Buttermilk Biscuit Sando
Location: Full Mile Beer Company & Kitchen
Date: March 8, 2020
Cost: $11, with mixed greens

A coworker tipped me off to the Full Mile Breakfast Sando (sic). I'd been there previously, but not for brunch. I'm not sure if I knew they had brunch. 

The thing that grabbed my attention when she sent me a photo of the menu was "house-made breakfast sausage". When I first started this project I was often faced with the choice of bacon or sausage, and I usually asked if the sausage was made in house. The answer was always "no", or a long pause and puzzled look on the face of the sever, which is also "no". I've got a good nose for knowing no's. I quickly learned that if a place doesn't clearly tout its homemade sausage, it's not making sausage. I was disappointed to find out how rare it was for places to make their own sausage but rather than ask follow up questions about where the sausage came from I defaulted to bacon. You don't really want to know how the sausage is made, everybody knows that. 

Looking back through my old reviews there aren't very many sausage sandwiches and most of them are McDonald's or some variation of mass-produced foodstuffs. There's a turkey sausage and a lamb sausage and a couple of regular sausage sandwiches but I'm not sure which had house-made sausage, if any. The lamb sausage was probably made in house.

I don't know why I got all hung up on house-made sausage, nobody talks about their house-made bacon and I order that without hesitation. Actually, I know why - it's because you can tweak your sausage with more fennel or whatever so you have a signature blend. It signals "I've gone to great lengths to make my pig fat taste different", which is worthy of investigation. I am aware that a handful of places make their own bacon but I've frittered away enough of your time so let's not go down that path today.

Which brings us to the present day (or at least March 8). Let it be known that March 8 was the last time I was able to go out for a breakfast sandwich before we started hunkering down in our cacoon-bunkers and making pillows out of disinfectant wipes or whatever people are doing these days.

Technically the Breakfast Burger is also a breakfast sandwich but it never really feels like it. Anyway, I didn't drive to Sun Prairie to NOT order the house-made sausage.

Sometimes there is a lot of natural light and I accidentally take an OK photo.

Everybody knows that when you cut a biscuit in half it's going to start falling apart.

The Sandwich - Buttermilk Biscuit Sando. I need to say that I don't like the word "Sando". That's all. There are no choices offered on this sandwich, the name tells you everything you need to know about the bread you're getting and the menu description fills in the rest. 

I was worried about the scrambled egg = no runny yolk. I'm pretty much always worried about that but when I saw the ample dollop of harissa mayo sneaking out from under the biscuit my fears were assuaged. 

Yes, the harissa mayo added a healthy amount of viscosity and a little heat and flavor. This sandwich had balance - the biscuit was flaky and a bit crumbly, but held together. The sausage had an individualistic flavor to it that I couldn't pinpoint and maybe I was fooling myself because I knew it was house-made but it matched well with the tomato and arugula. 

Let me be honest here for a minute. I don't think there is any need for me to jabber on about this sandwich. It was a DAMN. FINE. SANDWICH. It was a refreshing twist on a classic breakfast sandwich and I think we need that from time to time. 

The Bloody Mary and Awesome Sound sidecar (that's one of their beers) were also fantastic.

The Result - 4.75 Less Virus More Sandwiches out of 5 Less Virus More Sandwiches. I think I already said enough about the sandwich, right? I forgot to talk about the cheese though. And the side of greens. Good, that adds an air of mystery to the whole thing.

We can't go out for sandwiches right now. I guess you can pick them up from some places and take them home to your safe place, but it's not the same. Maybe you can get takeout from Full Mile, I don't know.

This is a warning that perhaps the next 10 reviews will be Lab Reports which will likely be poorly received because I hope you're all at home making your own sandwiches and why would you need to hear about mine? Who knows what will happen? If shit really goes off the rails I'll be making possum sausage and reporting on that. I've seen that fat fucker lurking around by my shed and if he/she thinks I won't eat it, they are wrong! I haven't yet figured out which people in my neighborhood would be best to cannibalize, but it's probably the children, right? I'd be doing everybody a favor. 

Oh, relax, my neighbors don't read this junk.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's so cute.

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

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

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

I remember it fondly.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

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

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

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

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

It was a solid plan. 

A rare photo of the entire menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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