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. 

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.