Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #107 - Mac 'n Cheese 'n Bacon 'n Red Onion 'n More Cheese 'n Chicken Egg

Sandwich: Homemade Mac 'n Cheese, Bacon, Red Onion, Extra Cheese
Date: 12/23/2017

The Sandwich Sciences don't take a break for Christmas weekend particularly when there is leftover mac 'n cheese in the fridge that you know needs to be tested in the lab.

And so I was back in the lab massaging flavors and taking notes even though the vast majority of you would prefer I go to Sally Jo's Pancake Emporium and review her Grit's 'n Griddle Grinder breakfast sandwich. If that restaurant and sandwich existed I too would be excited to eat and review it. Sadly, it does not.

Let's get right to this. I had leftover mac 'n cheese. I had eggs. I had bacon. I had English Muffins. I had to do it. There was no way not to to do it.
Just a bit askew but packed with jaunty flavors.

This is a lousy angle but you can see the layers and that little pool of yolk back there.
The Sandwich - You already know everything that is on this sandwich. The key was having leftover mac 'n cheese. (That isn't the recipe I used but it's close and you know Southern Living doesn't fuck around when it comes to things like mac 'n cheese.) For this batch I used provolone and a medium sharp cheddar but it wasn't particularly creamy so I added thin slices of sharp cheddar to the sandwich which also functioned to hold the onion slices in place. A slice of American cheese would have been perfect but it wasn't happening. I toasted the English Muffin with the mac 'n cheese on one half and red onion, bacon and the sharp cheddar on the other half. The chicken egg was puck-cooked (Is that a term? It is now.) with a Mason jar lid which is really the best way to have an egg on a English Muffin. I have to say this egg turned out perfect. The only thing left to mention is that I added a liberal dose of green Cholula hot sauce which mingles well with eggs and red onion.

The Result - I don't rate the products of the laboratory but this sandwich was a super tasty humdinger and it's probably worth your time to make some mac 'n cheese just so you can make one of these the next day. The pasta was a bonus texture and since the mac 'n cheese was somewhat mild the salty bacon and red onion didn't push it too far. I was glad I added the sharp cheddar just for a little extra bite and the green hot sauce was not too much either. This sandwich was a champ and if I had been served it in the restaurant it'd be a strong contender for best of the year. (I think? I'm just throwing that out there without looking back at the year. That will happen soon though.) I thought I might need a fork to get it all but it held together despite being used to mop up yolk and the few bits of macaroni that escaped were easily plucked up with fingers. If you do make one of these remember that it's not a low calorie breakfast so maybe wait for a day when you're going to have to go out and shovel some snow or tear down a barn or wrassle gators or something. You can't eat this and then just go do spreadsheet things.

This continues to not be a cooking blog, but you know what? There is a lot of Honeybaked Ham in my life right now and I still have some eggs so I'm going to have to find a fresh experiment that uses ham. Maybe a ham and baked beans sandwich? I will state this right here, right now - I will review one more sandwich from a local establishment before I do my end of year wrap up. It might be the McDonalds on Verona Road but I will have one more sandwich at a restaurant before we close out this year. I feel like I owe you people.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #106 - I'm Like A Lab Rat For Sandwiches

Sandwich: Summer Sausage, Medium Cheddar, Red Onion, Chicken Egg, Chipotle Cholula Sauce, English Muffin.
Date: 12/2/2017

I had no intention of going back into the lab so soon after the Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich Extravaganza of last week. Honestly, I didn't have any experimental sandwich combos gnawing away at my psyche that I needed to try. However, at some point during the late morning I was feeling a bit peckish and started poking pecking around in the fridge to see what I could gnaw on and the only viable option was a breakfast sandwich.

There were a few options for meat - summer sausage, hard salami and bacon. In the name of experimentation I dismissed the bacon. I had a quick taste test between the hard salami and the summer sausage and made my choice. You may recall that way back in December of 2015 (The Year of the Breakfast Sandwich TM) I had a delicious summer sausage sandwich at Graze. That's the last time I had a summer sausage breakfast sandwich as Graze appears to be the only place that offers one. It's that or you make your own, I guess. 

The rest of the sandwich ingredients were almost a given - the cheddar was my best cheese option and the English Muffin was a better choice than my bread. I only had egg of chicken as I have not secured an alternative egg source. 

The red onion was a bit of a curveball. Red onion really brings a lot to the party when you're constructing a sandwich. It blends well with many meats and cheeses and seems to pull more flavor out of it's sandwich neighbors. It has to be used sparingly though as it can take over and get a bit obnoxious. A few thinly sliced pieces are often all that is needed. You have to know your limits. I've probably said all of this before.

I've been using the Cholula Green Pepper sauce on eggs a lot lately but thought the smokiness of the Chipotle would compliment the sausage. (Narrators voice: It did). 
All the pieces fell into place.

OK, I went a bit long on the egg.
The Result - Well, hell, this sandwich was swell. It really was excellent and a pleasant change from the normal breakfast sandwich offerings. The onion, cheddar, chipotle hot sauce and sausage blended and danced together well. There were a couple of things that I could have improved on. The egg was cooked a bit too long but life comes at you fast in the frying pan and that's the way it goes sometimes. The English Muffin wasn't toasted as much as I would have liked as a result of putting the tray in the toaster oven to catch dripping cheese. It turns out the cheese didn't drip much and I would have been better off without the tray. Also, a little more cheese would have been ideal. Overall this was a winner and I recommend you make one for yourself, pronto.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #105 - Research In The Leftovers Lab

About a week ago I realized I would soon have plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers and that I should fashion a breakfast sandwich out of them. I thought if I could get my hands on a turkey egg that would be the final piece to a perfect Thanksgiving leftover breakfast sandwich. It was a good thought, but I had no idea where to get a turkey egg. I did email a local organic farm that raises turkeys but they weren't interested in playing my game. They're probably a bunch of damn hippies anyway.

If I had started my quest for turkey egg earlier, and contacted more than one farm, I probably could have gotten my hands on one. I'm not sure it would have been worth the effort but it really would have been a nice touch on this sandwich.

The only bread I had in house was Bay's Muti-Grain English Muffins. (Did you know that Bay's claim that the original Egg McMuffin was served on a Bay's English Muffin?) No problem there, that is the perfect base for a breakfast sandwich although it does inform the rest of the decisions in constructing the sandwich. You can't overload an English Muffin and you have to plan for a more vertical sandwich as you have a limited footprint.

Other than the English Muffin, here is a list of what I was working with:

Turkey meat - both white and dark meat
Sausage and Walnut Dressing
Chicken Eggs
1 piece of American cheese

As much as I wanted to include mashed potatoes on this sandwich I had eaten them all the night before. It would have been too much for the English Muffin anyway. I eliminated the cranberries figuring things would get too sloppy. I had other cheeses but had already decided to use the last piece of American cheese.

I prefer dark meat but went with the white meat for this sandwich simply because I could take one slice that was a little larger than the muffin and it would be solid for construction. I took that and a scoop of dressing and wrapped them in foil to heat in the toaster oven. When they were hot pulled them out of the toaster and "buttered" the muffin halves with gravy, and popped them into the toaster. While those toasted I cooked the chicken egg in a Mason jar lid so I'd have a nice egg puck to match the shape of the English Muffin. A turkey egg probably would have been too large for a jar lid but I would have found a way to make it work and I haven't come to peace with the idea that I should have gotten a turkey egg and I'll probably stew on it for a whole year but NEXT YEAR I will start inquiring earlier.

Construction - Thick muffin side for the base, turkey, dressing, slice of American cheese, egg, muffin top.
Fear not! The cheese melted more, this was taken immediately after construction.

Slicing the sandwich was a little rough but you can see that the cheese melted and the egg was perfectly runny. At this point I realized that leaving the cranberries off was a good choice. It would have been too messy. 
The Result - This was so tasty I wanted to punch a Pilgrim in the face. I don't rate my Lab Research Sandwiches but this was fantastic and you should make one right now if you still have leftovers. I'd like to try one with mashed potatoes but that will have to wait. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

(Not Really A) Breakfast Sandwich #104 - Stella Blu Cafe aka You Look Sexy In That Wrap Around Porch

Sandwich: Spicy Italian Sausage Panini
Location: Stella Blu Cafe
Date: November 18, 2017
Cost: $12.50 includes brunch potatoes, two eggs and mixed greens

I was predisposed to like the Stella Blu Cafe. First, it's in this funky little flat-roofed building with a wrap around porch that's tucked into a residential area. I've had my eye on this building for many years, it's the kind of building I would buy if I were the kind of guy who bought buildings. I'll admit it, I have had a crush on this building for about two decades. Second, I don't know where they got their name but I assume it's from the Grateful Dead song, which coincidentally is a favorite of mine. As it happened, when I walked into the cafe they were playing Grateful Dead in the open kitchen area so I guess that kind of confirms my suspicion on the name. The Dead transitioned into Lou Reed after a few songs but I was OK with that choice as well.

None of that has anything to do with sandwiches.

The brunch menu offers four panini sandwiches and when I first looked at the menu online I knew I would get the sausage version:

Spicy Italian Sausage, peperonata, provolone, pesto, garlic aioli

A bountiful array of flavor.
The Sandwich - The menu offers adding two eggs any style for $2.50. I wrongly assumed they meant that they add them to the sandwich. No, they put them on the side. In retrospect it makes sense - putting eggs onto the panini might get kind of sloppy with egg spilling out all over the place. Ultimately this wasn't really a breakfast sandwich but here we are so let's talk about it anyway. The house made focaccia was fantastic and grilled up perfectly with a crusty outside and buttery inside. The sausage link was spicy, but not overly so, and blended wonderfully with the grilled peppers. Provolone is a good cheese for this sandwich, mild, and not too messy when it melts. The pesto is what really brings this sandwich together. It compliments everything and adds a touch of zip. The chicken eggs were cooked over medium so they still had a runny yolk but they were not on the sandwich. I briefly considered trying to put them on the sandwich but I figured that would turn into an absolute mess. A brief mention of the other sides - often you are given the choice of greens or potatoes but having both was a nice option. Fresh greens with a tangy dressing and crispy potatoes should be paired up more often.

The Result - 4.61 Secret Building Crushes out of 5 Secret Building Crushes. The sandwich was fantastic but I'm really rating the entire plate here and I swear I'm not adding points for the building. But seriously, this was a fantastic meal and carried me through until dinner later that night. It literally became breakfast and lunch which I guess it's why they call it brunch. Go take a look at that building and tell me if it isn't just the cutest thing.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #103 - Norske Nook aka Open Your Pie Hole

Sandwich: Smothered Omelete Lefse Wrap
Location: Norske Nook (Deforest)
Date: October 25, 2017
Cost: I forgot to look. I guess I can't complain about the cost.

If you're talking about Norske Nook you're talking about pie and that's the way it should be. It turns out they have a full menu although that menu does not contain a breakfast sandwich. Maybe that's not how the Norwegians roll. Ingen frokost sandwich. They do have something called the Lefse-dilla which is probably exactly what we think it is but I didn't order it or actually see one.

An omelete lefse wrap is in no way a sandwich. I'm not even sure it's a thing - I think Norske Nook is just making shit up (see "lefse-dilla" if you doubt that)! Nobody is claiming it's a sandwich. That's OK, we're at sandwich #103 and at this point the rules were made to be broken. There have already been reviews of crepes and open-faced sandwiches. Maybe I'll review a breakfast hot dog soon and that sure as heck is not a sandwich.

Nobody cares. We should talking about pie.

I forgot to take a photo of the menu but I can tell you that my omelete lefse wrap included scrambled egg, hash browns, sausage, cheese and was topped with hollandaise sauce.

This is not a sandwich or a piece of pie and I'm not sure why we're even looking at it. Do you like your pie al a mode or a la hollandaise? That's just gross. 
The Sandwich - Smothered Omelete Lefse Wrap. Right off the bat I'm going to admit to not being a big fan of hollandaise. I have only had one previous sandwich with hollandaise and that was almost exactly two years ago to this date. That's the last time I had hollandaise sauce. Maybe it's better in its natural habitat as part of eggs benedict. It should probably be confined to that usage, a guy like me doesn't need to see it all over the place. I'm biased. Maybe you feel otherwise. Anyway, what about this non-sandwich wrap? I would have liked the hash browns crispier and the chicken eggs were scrambled which makes sense for this wrap but isn't how I like them. The sausage was unassuming which isn't what I'm looking for in a cased meat product. Then there is the hollandaise, which struck me as an afterthought but does add some needed viscosity to the whole affair. Without it I may have been tempted to do something dumb like put ketchup on this which doesn't really make sense but brings us back around full circle to the thought of "does this lefse wrap make sense?"

The Result - 3 Pie Holes out of 5 Pie Holes. I haven't even mentioned the pie yet which is really what I should have been talking about the entire time. Wait. This wrap was fine. It was just OK. It was not greater than the sum of its parts in fact it may have been lesser than the sum of its parts. I'm sounding harsher than I mean to. It does seem a bit unfair to be overly critical of a non-sandwich on a sandwich blog, and I honestly don't mean to be. This wrap lacked personality. Not even the jaunty hollandaise sauce could put a twinkle in it's eye but ultimately it was fine. 

The Pie - They aren't messin' around when comes to pie at Norske Nook. The placemat (photo not available) is the entire list of pies that might be available including "retired" pies. The retired pies are apparently not really retired but are not as available as they used to be. I think they're consultants at this point. Then there are all the other pies - cream pies, fruit pies, mixtures of cream and fruit and so forth. It's confusing and overwhelming. Some pies are seasonal. It's like some kind of game show. You just have to ask what they have that day and invariably your first choice is not available. I was prepared for this and it's exactly what happened. My second choice was also not available. I think it might be some kind of social experiment - no matter what you order they say they don't have it. In reality there is some pie-obsessed madman in back who has baked every damn kind of pie on earth and he just wants to see your reaction when you are denied. Children cry, old people get angry and the pie guy laughs his fool head off. I want his job

I ended up ordering a slice of classic blueberry pie (photo not available) and I was fine with that. Here is the best part - when you order your pie they ask "would you like that warm and with ice cream?" This is where the madman redeems himself. Once you get your warm pie with two adorable scoops of ice cream you forgive him for making a mockery of your pie plight. His gales of derision are forgotten with each bite and when your plate is clean you think "he wasn't so crazy after all".

I think I have the makings of a Norwegian style fairy tale going here - "Gal Kake Mann"

Monday, October 9, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #102 - Bob Evans aka Rubber Biscuit

Sandwich: Sausage Egg & Cheese
Location: Bob Evans
Date: October 1, 2017
Cost: $2.29

I wasn't even planning on having a breakfast sandwich this day. I was at the grocery store looking for my favorite flatbread but they had rearranged the bakery/bread section so I was jabbing around deep in the back corner of the store. I found the flat bread next to a refrigerated deli case that I generally pay no mind. That's when I saw individually wrapped Bob Evans Breakfast Sandwiches. Sometimes the sandwich finds you.

We don't have Bob Evans restaurants here, the store locator on the web site says there isn't one within 100 miles of me. Because of that, I have never been to a Bob Evans restaurant and I'm OK with that.
It's kind of cute.

I think I microwaved it a little too long The cheese was beyond melty.

That sausage patty looks as grey and gristly as Donald Trumps soul. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg and Cheese. The instructions said microwave for 60 to 75 seconds. I went with 75 as my microwave is old and on the weaker side. That was probably a bit too long, the cheese liquefied, but the sandwich was plenty hot. There isn't much positive I can relate about this sandwich. The sausage tasted OK but the big takeaway was that the whole thing was just too chewy. It actually had a rubbery texture. The entire sandwich. It think each component was rubbery, with the exception of the now liquefied cheese. Rubber Biscuit, indeed. The muffin looks toasted but did not have the texture of toasted bread. I'm not going to waste any more time talking about this. I didn't enjoy it.

The Result - 1.83 Rubber Biscuits out of 5 Rubber Biscuits. I've had worse sandwiches but this one is down there at the bottom. Maybe if it was warmed in a toaster oven it would have taken on a different tone, but that wasn't an option listed for heating it. The only instructions were for microwave.  I can't believe I've made it to sandwich #102 and this is the first time "Rubber Biscuit" popped into my head. It was probably milling around my subconscious waiting for an opportunity and then it sprung at just the right moment. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #101 - Dobhan aka Hamaste

Sandwich: Dobhan Egg Sandwich
Location: Dobhan
Date: September 17, 2017
Cost: $9, with greens

Everything I've had at Dobhan has been delicious and yet I've only gone there a few times. I did have breakfast there several years ago, long before this sandwich quest began, and I did not have a breakfast sandwich. This is an amazing story so far, right? It's a real page turner (mouse scroller?).

I looked at the menu prior to going and I was hoping there would be some kind of Lamb & Egg Dosa special that I could pretend was a sandwich. I've reviewed crepes before and a dosa is about the same thing so that was my hope for the morning. That's right, I went into this planning to skirt the rules. Well, it didn't happen that way so I have no need to justify eating a dosa.
There was dosa, to be sure, just not the dosa I hoped for. 

Very pretty indeed.

Hamaste? That's really a stretch. Listen, I'm phoning this one in, OK?
The Sandwich - Dobhan Egg Sandwich. No options are offered. There were a couple of mysteries with this sandwich. The biggest is the ham - other items on the menu offer Nueske's ham, the sandwich only lists "ham", which was a single slice of what appeared to be standard deli ham. It could have ben Nueske ham but I really don't know. The other mystery is that the sandwich had cheese on it, which was not listed on the menu. I'm certainly not opposed to adding cheese to a sandwich, or pretty much anything other than say, toothpaste. In this case I think it was a swiss cheese. The chicken egg was hard scrambled, the tomato was juicy and in season, and the avocado was perfectly ripe. The lightly toasted sourdough bread buttressed everything handily and was a welcome choice. I can't remember the last time I had a breakfast sandwich on sourdough but I think it's an excellent vehicle for eggs and their friends. Oh yes, the greens. I always like greens with my breakfast sandwich and these were particularly fresh and sprightly.

The Result - 3.965 mystery hams out of 5 mystery hams. This was a good sandwich but I was slightly confused about the ham and the cheese. The ham was essentially lost among the other flavors with the sourdough, egg, tomato and avocado stepping to the forefront. And that was OK, it was tasty, but there was still a whiff of confusion. 

I don't know, maybe I really just wanted a lamb and egg dosa and I'm taking out my frustrations on the ham.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #100 - Players Sports Bar aka Divine Non-Intervention

Sandwich: Buzzy with Bacon
Location: Players Sports Bar & Grill
Date: September 16, 2017
Cost: $7.50, with cheesy hash browns

Whoa. 100 sandwiches is a lot of sandwiches to review so excuse me while I pat myself on the back and dab my eyes with a slightly greasy napkin. Just give me a minute to pull myself together. I couldn't have done it without all of you and those amazing people who get up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to make sandwiches for all of us. With apologies to Kevin Durant, they are the real MVP. Actually, I could have done it without you, but I appreciate you reading these things anyway. I'm not sure they serve a purpose or fulfill a greater good but here we are. We have sifted and winnowed and fought and cried and I think we are better people for it. Truly.

I thought my 100th review should be special. I wasn't sure what that would be, but I started thinking about it sometime around sandwich #95. I ruled out going to McDonald's for the 6th time.

And then an opportunity presented itself. Through casual conversation I learned that The Buzzy Sandwich at Players is named after a person named Buzzy. The person that told me this also knows Mr. Buzzy and the Buzzy family. You might recall that this endeavor began with a Buzzy Sandwich back on New Years Day, 2015 and I reviewed The Buzzy again 20 months later just to see how things were holding up. A discussion was started about how I might have a Buzzy with Mr. Buzzy. I'm not one to believe in invisible forces that somehow interject themselves into our daily lives but this was a pretty strong signal from the Sandwich Gods, or whoever. This would be how sandwich #100 goes down. Unless it isn't.

I may not believe in divine intervention but I firmly believe that timing plays a crucial role in our lives. Everything is about timing. Meeting the right person at the right time in your life can lead to blissful love, a new career or playing harmonica with Yo-Yo Ma. Whatever. But the timing has to be right. If the timing is off, you got nothing. So, while I say I don't believe in divine intervention I do believe in divine non-intervention, or something like that. 

All of this is leading up to me saying that I did not have a Buzzy with Mr. Buzzy. So it goes. I did, however, have a Buzzy sandwich.

Jaunty triangles
Tantalizing purity
The Buzzy sandwich

"You sure do look purdy".
The Sandwich - The Buzzy with bacon. Important note!! I did not take a photo of the menu but The Buzzy is no longer offered with sausage but it is now available with a hamburger patty. That sounds pretty damn tasty but it did get me to thinking about how it would all hold together. The Texas toast is substantial and would probably be up to the task but there is no substitute for testing your theories in the field. Your other option is ham. As with my previous Buzzy sandwiches, I selected bacon. For my 100th sandwich (pause for applause) I thought I should pay tribute to my original sandwich and get back to my roots. Sometimes when you're on a long journey it's good to pause and reflect on where you started. Hence, the bacon. No regrets. There isn't much to say about this sandwich that I haven't already said. The chicken eggs were cooked a little more than I prefer but there was plenty of cheese to offset that (note the photo - there is a cheese slice top AND bottom. That is advanced level sandwiching.) The bacon, egg and cheese ratios blend perfectly and the Texas toast is the proper vehicle to get this crammed into your maw. If I have any complaint is that it's a touch too salty. I think maybe it's the toast that pushes the sodium level in to the red line.

The Result - 4.5 Divine Non-Interventions out of 5 Divine Non-Interventions. This was an excellent sandwich. They are very consistent with The Buzzy and that is important. It was only the saltiness that kept this rating at 4.5 which is still an amazing ranking. There may or may not have been a single salty tear that ran down down my cheek and onto my sandwich, the result of not meeting Mr. Buzzy. You can't argue with timing though, and when the time is right, I believe I will meet Mr. Buzzy.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #99 - Starbucks aka Maybe You've Heard Of It

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg and Cheddar
Location: Starbucks (East Washington Ave.)
Date: September 12, 2017
Cost: $3.45

I think Starbucks is the last national chain for me to visit in the Madison area. I hope so, at least. I need to be free of these chains. There are a few local places I've been meaning to get to but time has not allowed and Starbucks was an easy stop before work. I needed to put this notch in my sandwich belt so I could move on to actual cafes and restaurants. Please God - do not allow Arby's to start selling breakfast sandwiches in the Madison area.

So, there I was at Starbucks. The line for the drive thru was predictably long at 8:15 am but I was planning on going inside anyway. I didn't want to lose whatever freshness the sandwich might have had by waiting until I got to work to eat it.

They have several choices of breakfast sandwich. I had no idea. I guess I don't go to Starbucks very often. I was in the mood for sausage so I didn't think about it too much. (Also, I've been making bacon-based sandwiches at home lately but not writing about them as they aren't really lab experiments. I haven't been pushing the sandwich envelope, just making simple, tasty sandwiches. Pro tip - if you're going to cook your chicken egg inside a Mason jar lid to get that "perfect puck" egg, use plenty of non-stick spray or your egg will stick to the lid and it tears the edges apart and it looks like it's been nibbled by vermin.)

Kinda sad looking.

I didn't have a knife so this was cut with my incisors. It was not nibbled by vermin. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg and Cheddar. These sandwiches come out of sealed plastic bag so while you have several choices you don't have any options once you have made your selection. Starbucks isn't really a food place - everything comes out of bag from a kitchen factory somewhere. For all I know this sandwich was assembled by robots. The chicken egg was exactly what you expect for a pre-packaged sandwich (if you're new to this blog that isn't a good thing.) The microwave setting melted the cheese perfectly - kudos to the Starbucks lab technicians who tested that down to the microsecond. The sandwich was nice and hot. The sausage was actually pretty good. It hit the spot I was hoping it would. Despite being microwaved the English Muffin held up fairly well and wasn't soggy. This is by no means a messy sandwich so it really didn't have it's mettle tested, but it worked.

The Result - 2.75 Breaking The Chains out of 5 Breaking The Chains. This sandwich was fine. It was OK. It was actually tasty in some ways. I can see how it would tide you over until lunch if you're on your way to work. But, it's a $2.75 sandwich masquerading as a $3.45 sandwich. That's not cutting it for this reporter. I swipe left. (I'm going to assume there is a sandwich blog out there where the reviewer either "swipes left" or "swipes right" on a sandwich and that is the review. I'm not going to Google it. You go ahead though. If that doesn't exist it seems like a perfectly good idea for some snarky millennial to pursue.)

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #98 - Ian's Pizza aka Nobody Thinks Pizza Is Sandwich

Sandwich: Breakfast Pizza - Denver Omelet, Meat Lovers.
Location: Ian's Pizza (State Street)
Date: July 29, 2017
Cost: $4

Pizza isn't sandwich. Nobody thinks it is. There is no reason to discuss this further.

A better topic might be to discuss the validity of "breakfast pizza". Breakfast pizza has been around for awhile (I know that is vague but I'm simply not going to do any research on this) and it's popular enough to warrant several options in the freezer section at your local grocer, but I feel it is a relatively new offering at local pizzarias. I believe it is new to Ian's, but it's also available at Glass Nickel, and there is a pie at Salvatore's called "Carbonara" that has soft cooked eggs on it. I've heard Echo Tap has one as well but it's not shown on their menu. There are probably others, but again, I just don't care to do the research. You should though. Please do, and report back with your findings. You have an assignment now. This is fun. I have faith in you.

Straight out of the gate I have to reveal my bias. I think all pizza is breakfast pizza and am firmly in the camp that believes cold pizza is a good breakfast. I've always felt this way and have proudly and happily munched on cold pizza for breakfast hundreds of times. This will never change.

I can't remember when I first heard about breakfast pizza, it was likely many years ago, and honestly, I can't recall what my thoughts were at the time. My opinion now, as I sit here as a respected (not true) and renowned (also not true) reviewer of breakfast sandwiches, is that it's somewhat gimmicky. It strikes me as an attempt to mix two different foods to create a new Superfood that is somehow better than the sum of it's parts, e.g. Taco Pizza. (Note - I have had tasty Taco Pizza but ultimately I want either tacos, or pizza, in their traditional form.) I suppose this says more about me than anything else and I am not categorically against blending of foods if that's what you're into*. If you want a Turkey Club Pizza I think you should have it. That's wonderful. There will be no pizza or sandwich shaming for that. I reserve sandwich shaming for terrible sandwiches, which are sadly all too plentiful.

With that in mind I biked up to the Farmer's Market on an absolutely perfect Saturday morning with the sole goal of trying some breakfast pizza. I wanted to make the trip worth my time so I ordered two slices.
Denver Omelette.

Meat Lovers.
The Slices - Denver Omelette and Meat Lovers. This was a tough decision. There were four slices I was considering. I knew I wanted to try two but three sounded like way too much. I passed on the Biscuits & Gravy option although I was tempted by the bulbous outcroppings of presumably flaky biscuit. The other temptation was the Mediterranean Delight with those salty kalamata olives. At no point did I consider the Huevos Rancheros pizza.

Denver Omelette - Tator Tots, Bell Peppers, Onions, Pepper, Ham, Eggs, & Cheddar Cheese. Those little tater tot bites pretty much sealed the deal on this one. Anything that reminds me of Potato Ole's is going to make a strong case for itself although the taste of the tots kind of got lost in everything here. I expected this to be salty due to the ham and tots, and while it was, it also had a slightly sweet flavor. Maybe that was the crust? The peppers had a nice crunch to them and the peppers and onion are the predominant flavors. The egg is supposed to take the place of the tomato sauce but it just doesn't work for me. Maybe it's a mental block on my part - expecting the regular saucy flavor and texture and not getting it. It's not an omelette and it's not pizza. Omelezza?

Meat Lovers - Breakfast Sausage, Bacon, Wisconsin Maple Syrup, & Eggs. The dude told me this slice also has a light layer of mozzarella on it although they don't list that on the menu. This one almost lost out to the Biscuits & Gravy but the inclusion of sausage AND bacon was what finally made me choose this. If you're a regular reader you know I often speak of the choice between sausage and bacon so when offered both at the same time I had to try it. It turned out to be a better slice in concept than in execution. The sausage was dry and the maple syrup flavor dominated in a way that I didn't appreciate. As with the other slice I missed the tomato sauce (although this could very well be a Pavlovian response to having a slice of pizza in my hand).

The Results - 3.18 (Denver Omelette) and 2.79 (Meat Lovers) That Ain't No Sandwiches out of 5 That Ain't No Sandwiches. I am willing to concede that these ratings are affected by my personal biases and preconceptions. I can't help that. I just didn't enjoy either slice all that much. I may dabble in breakfast pizza again but it's far more likely I'll be eating a leftover slice of cold pepperoni and onion while making a sandwich to take to work.

Note - I believe each slice was $4. That is the cost of a specialty slice, but I don't remember what my total was that day.

*Speaking of blending foods, have you tried the Mac 'n Cheese Brats from Jim's Meat Market? They're new this year (I think) and are not listed on the web site but they seem to have them all the time. They are excellent. I haven't eaten a whole one on a bun, they function perfectly as a sliced up little snack while you grill other items.

Happy National Sandwich Month, everybody. Let's make it a memorable one.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #97 - McDonald's aka Again? Are You McFucking Kidding Me?

Sandwich: Egg McMuffin
Location: McDonald's (East Washington Ave.)
Date: July 22, 2017
Cost: $3.39

At this point you probably think I'm a corporate shill, bought and paid for by Big Sandwich to lobby for their interests on Capitol Hill or in some tiny, fetid backwater of the internet. I understand why you could think that. I reviewed McDonald's just over a month ago and if you're keeping track you know this is my FIFTH trip to a McDonald's, which is embarrassing.

Just read on and keep an open mind. McPlease. I'm just a McRegular guy reviewing McSandwiches of my own accord I would never let outside forces or McSponsorships stain my McIntegrity. I hope by now you would understand this. This has been a long journey and some of of you have been along for the entire ride so you know where I'm coming from.

What's important is to understand why I went back to McDonald's. The reasons are three-fold and they are intertwined and they are as follows.

#A) Convenience. That's right, McDonald's entire business model is built on convenience and that hooked me on this Saturday morning. I was out running errands and I wanted a fancy and delicious breakfast sandwich but didn't want to expend the time and effort to get such a thing. A quick and easy sandwich would sate my hunger and provide an opportunity for a review. See #B.

#B) A sense of obligation. If you think I take the readership here for granted, you are wrong. Any publisher will tell that it's important to provide regular content. You people are like sponges in the condiment aisle. You're sopping up the glorpy knowledge I'm throwing down. If I don't provide it, you'll go elsewhere. There are thousands of sandwich blogs you could be reading instead of this one.

#C) Completism. If you read review #95 you know I was shocked and disappointed that I had somehow neglected to review the all-time classic breakfast sandwich, the Egg McMuffin. This oversight had to be corrected before I hit sandwich #100. It was chasm in my research that called out to be filled.

Slightly defective muffin.

Not, you know, sexy looking.
The Sandwich - Egg McMuffin. At this point it's ubiquitous. It's the trunk of the breakfast sandwich family tree. All other breakfast sandwiches are indebted to the Egg McMuffin in some way.

After all this buildup I have to admit I was mostly disappointed with this sandwich. The overall texture was rubbery (not in a good way) and while it had less of a salty flavor than I thought it would, it didn't have much flavor at all. The muffin was toasty and had a light crunch and the cheese was melty, but those factors were not nearly enough to bring this sandwich into a positive light. 

There isn't much else to say about this sandwich. It was unimpressive and forgettable. 

The Result - 1.43 McFuck Its out of 5 McFuck Its. This sandwich moved from my Bucket List to my McFuck It List in the blink of an eye. It's hard out there for a sandwich, even a classic like the Egg McMuffin. The Egg McMuffin is surrounded by sandwich competition from within the golden arches, AND all the other fast food chains, AND all the coffee and donut shops, AND all these boutique sandwich joints sprouting up in every city. Somehow it has hung around all these years so it must have it's fans and supporters. Not this reporter.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #96 - Tavernakaya aka Nice Buns!

Sandwich: Egg & Cheese Brunch Buns
Location: Tavernakaya
Date: July 2, 2017
Cost: $12

I had never been to Tavernakaya. I hadn't even considered it as a possible location for a breakfast sandwich or bun, as it were. A mantou bun is not technically a sandwich, it depends on if you consider steamed buns to be bread. If you define bread as requiring baking then these buns aren't going to qualify. I don't know and don't much care. I'm getting fast and loose with the rules around here since I passed the benchmark of 52 sandwiches long ago and there have already been reviews of crepes and open-faced sandwiches. One day a review of a breakfast burrito will appear here and all manner of outrage will be flung in my general direction and it still won't matter a lick. So what.

When I sat down at Tavernakaya it felt like it had been months since I had had a breakfast sandwich at a proper restaurant. If you don't count the bullshit sandwich I had at Panera (I don't) you have to go back to May 28 to find a decent sandwich arepa. That isn't very long ago, but it felt like an eternity. That's what happens when you eat a breakfast sandwich while standing in a parking lot (#94) or sitting in a car (#95).

If I hadn't snapped this photo I'd be hard pressed to remember what was in these.

Three little pigs - chorizo, ham, bacon. Also, sometimes you order a greyhound and you're expecting white grapefruit juice but it comes with pink and if it weren't for your delicious sandwiches you'd probably be sad. 

The real reason I took this is to bring back the memory of the tactile sensation that is the squeezing of the bun. 
The Sandwiches (Buns) - This would have been a hell of a lot easier if I had ordered three of the same but that wasn't going to happen. First, let's be clear that I did NOT order the House-Smoked Tofu option. I'm sure it's delicious but that isn't how we do things around here. You know this.

I could, and may, go on at length about the mantou buns 馒头 alone. You've had them. You know how wonderful they feel in your fingers. These had the perfect amount of taut-squishiness that feels oh so right in your hands. A gentle squeeze yields to the pressure, and when you release a light imprint is left for just a split second and then the bun snaps back to it's original form. I could squeeze these buns all day. I may take some into work and have them at my desk instead of one of those stress relieving balls that nobody actually uses.

The eggs are scrambled on all of these. A runny egg wouldn't really work here and I'm not even going to hold that against them.

OK, let's get down to business.

House-Made Chorizo. The only previous chorizo based breakfast sandwich I reviewed was back in February of 2015. Is that possible? Maybe I missed one. This chorizo was excellent for this situation. Not too greasy or cinnamony, it was suited for these buns. At a taqueria I could see wanting a greasier version, but for these, it was perfect. The avocado crema gave this bun a cool viscosity and blended well with the eggs. Cilantro was a crucial touch on this one. I give it a 4.55 overall.

Nueske's Ham. You've heard me praise Nueske's Ham at length so I won't do it again here. It's always fantastic. Here is where my skills as a reviewer are exposed for the fraud that they are. At the time I thought they had mistakingly put the spicy mayo from the bacon bun on this bun, instead of the togarashi maple. They look the same in the photo above. When I tasted a pepper spice I thought that was what happened but now I'm sitting here with a search engine and I find that togarashi 唐辛子 is chili pepper. I think I got hung up on the spiciness and didn't take into account the subtle maple. At this point I can't be sure. What I can say is that this bun had a richness and heavenly salty flavor that was delightful and made this my favorite. I give it a solid 4.85 even though I didn't know the word for chili pepper in Mandarin or even Cantonese.

Bacon. This one had bacon on it, hence it's clever name. This was a solid bun but I feel it is included simply because they have to have a bacon version on the menu. People think of brunch, they think of bacon, here is that bacon. There was nothing wrong with this bun, the spicy mayo and scallions gave it that extra touch. Although it was my least favorite (one of them had to be) it's still a good 4.31 on the sandwich scale.

If I had to do this all over again and I were me I would order two of the Nueske's Ham and one of the Chorizo and I think I'd be happy as a pig in...a bun.

Finally, I feel compelled to comment on the house salad. It was very lightly dressed mixed greens and if you're up to speed on my reviews you know I appreciate these as a side during breakfast. I find them to be refreshing alternative to potatoes.

The Result(s) - 4.57 Bun Averages out of 5 Bun Averages. I did the math and that seems like a good rating. These buns were excellent. Nice buns! $12 might seem a touch expensive for these but you aren't going to get this level of quality for much less than that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

America Number One Fast Food Chain Restaurant Sandwich Roundup U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Tomorrow we celebrate the Independence of the United States of America and there is nothing more American than the fast-food restaurant. Chain restaurants are also something our nation can be proud of. After that it goes downhill quickly. What do we have besides incredible National Parks and National Football Leagues? I can't think of anything else. (Did you see that we have Citizenship Ceremonies in National Parks? I didn't know that. The cynic in me says that it won't last for long but for now I think it's pretty great.)

Do fast-food and chain restaurants represent our shared culture and uniquely American ideals, freedom and vision, or are they symbols of our laziness, homogeny and dwindling intellect? All of those things, probably.

To celebrate our nation's birthday I have compiled a roundup of all the sandwiches I have reviewed that are available from sea to shining sea. As our nation increasingly slides into a languid mental torpor I offer the following as the perfect reading material for letting your frontal lobe morph into xanthan gum.

These are listed by review number, location, sandwich type and finally, the rating I gave the sandwich. They are ranked highest rating to lowest.

#25. Taco Bell AM Crunchwrap with Sausage - 3.75
#66. McDonald's Sausage, Egg Biscuit - 3.5
#68. Chik-fil-A Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel - 3.5
#71. Panera Sausage, Egg & Cheese - 3.5
#55. Taco Bell Breakfast Quesalupa with Sausage - 3.4
#95. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McMuffin - 3.09
#42. Subway Bacon, Egg and Cheese - 2.98
#37. Einstein Bagels Bacon & Cheddar on Green Chile Bagel - 2.95
#17. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McMuffin - 2.29
#27. Hardee's Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich w/Sausage - 2.19
#83. McDonald's Sausage, Egg McGriddle - 2.06
#93. Panera Sausage Egg & Cheese - 2.0
#14. Cracker Barrel Egg Sandwich + Sausage Biscuit - 1.99
#30. Burger King Bacon, Sausage, Egg & Cheese - 1.974
#12. Sonic Breakfast Toaster with Bacon - 1.56
#63. Denny's Two Moons Over My Hammy - 1.56
#21. Dunkin' Donuts Bacon, Egg & Cheese on Bagel - 1.27

I skimmed the reviews as I compiled them and my general impression is that the top rated sandwiches are rated a little too high. Also, #83 and #30 are two of the better reviews. I'm not sure my opinion is valid but I'm sharing it anyway.

Review #30 is by far the most read review of those listed and is the second most read review of all time. That stat is a bit misleading as it was shared on Reddit which pushed its numbers up dramatically. #17 is a distant second in terms of fast-food readership. I don't know why that one is more widely read than some of the others.

I had no idea I'd eaten so many mass produced sandwiches and I don't know if it makes me feel dirty or like an All-American Hero. I do know that tomorrow I'm going to eat some bratwurst.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #95 - McDonald's aka McQuartet

Sandwich: Sausage Egg McMuffin
Location: McDonald's, Little Chute, WI
Date: June 18, 2017
Cost: $3.09

Nobody wants to read about another McMuffin. I know this. It still counts as research.  It's research I can totally phone in though, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

This sandwich came into my life as part of the same road trip that brought you Sandwich #94. There I was at a Mobil/McDonald's in Little Chute, Wisconsin on Sunday morning and I was facing down the digital menu boards. I knew I had reviewed the McGriddle as Sandwich #83 (in what I think is one of my finest reviews. It's a fucking masterpiece, OK?) and there was a sausage sandwich of some sort (Sandwich #66) and there was the another McMuffin way back in the early days (Sandwich #17) but I wasn't sure which one it was. I knew I wasn't going to get the Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. This may be a safe space for unencumbered research but in my head there is a venn diagram that consists of "Steak" and "Things To Order at McDonald's" and you could sail an aircraft carrier between those circles (I think that means it isn't really a Venn diagram but we don't get into math here). It did not occur to me until just now that this would be my fourth review of a McDonald's product. This is embarrassing.

I didn't want to think about it anymore so I ordered the Sausage, Egg McMuffin knowing it was likely that I had already reviewed it.
The color of this is all weird from the tint of the car windows. It was on my lap and I didn't grab a plastic knife and wouldn't have been able to cut it half very well anyway. You know what a McMuffin looks like, right?
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg McMuffin. I could have/should have ordered the classic Egg McMuffin with Canadian Bacon. It turns out I have not reviewed that, which is a major oversight on my part. Crap. The McMuffin isn't a bad sandwich. It's set the bar for grab and go breakfast sandwiches in the psyche of America simply due to it's longevity and ubiquity.

The muffin could have used a bit more toasting but the cheese was melty and the sausage had more flavor than my sandwich the day before. The egg was a perfect egg puck and was cooked through as is the practice at these types of places. 

The Result - 3.09 Accidental Quartet of Reviews out of 5 Accidental Quartet of Reviews. This sandwich hit the spot on this day but I was hungry and in a car. It wasn't great but I enjoyed it. It cost $3.09 so that's the rating I'm giving it even if that seems a little high. Chances are you've had one of these and you already know what they taste like. I don't have anything else to say about it. 

Epilogue - Now That I've completed this review let's compare past ratings of McDonald's items. This will be a lot of fun.

#17. March 29, 2015. Sausage, Egg McMuffin. 2.29
#66. September 16, 2016. Sausage, Egg Biscuit. 3.50
#83. February 2, 2017. Sausage, Egg McGriddle. 2.60
#95. June 18, 2017. Sausage, Egg McMuffin. 3.09

I don't know what it is that causes me to order sausage at McDonald's, I'm normally more of a bacon guy. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #94 - Kwik Trip aka You Be Trippin'

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant
Location: Kwik Trip, somewhere in the Fox River Valley
Date: June 17, 2017
Cost: $2.69

I'm not a fan of Kwik Trip for reasons unrelated to breakfast sandwiches and I wasn't even aware they had them. I probably could have surmised as much but I never go there and simply never consider them for anything. That's not entirely true, I used the free air hose at a location a few months ago.

As a passenger on a road trip we stopped for gas and whatnot at a Kwik Trip somewhere in the Fox River Valley and there I learned they have a plethora of breakfast sandwich options. I probably should have taken a photo of the entire hot case, which was teeming with sandwiches and possibly breakfast burritos, since the Kwik Trip web site sucks and doesn't list the menu options in a convenient manner.

The hot case has informative signs with all the info you need to make your sandwich decision. Their web site may be shit but their POP signage game is strong. 

You may be accustomed to my crappy photos but you'll have to accept a further drop off in quality here. This was taken standing outside the store near the propane tanks which is why there is not the normal "cross section" photo showing the sandwich innards. 
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant. Of the many variations of sandwich offered I went with a classic with a twist. I've been on a sausage kick lately but you may recall I have lamented the use of croissants for sandwiches in past reviews. I don't think they make for a proper vessel and they often are too squishy to maintain integrity. For a grab & go style sandwich a croissant is a risky choice as it may not prove to be road worthy. We're all about risks here, clearly, so I went with this one. The real choice I made, the actual hardest decision, was to only buy one sandwich. I was fully aware that I may not ever come back and I thought I might try two varieties so as to conduct maximum research. Ultimately I made the selfish decision to stick to a single sandwich as I had a full day ahead of me and didn't want to feel like a rat trapped in a grease trap.

So, anyway. The croissant was shaped almost in a square which makes for a better sandwich than a normal, elongated croissant. I suspect they bio-engineer them this way for sandwich purposes and I have to give them credit for that. The sausage was more bland than I expected. For any fast food restaurant or gas station I assume the sausage will be salty and grisly but this was on the bland side, which I guess is better than grisly. The cheese was American and was melty from being in the hot case. The egg was the typical non-yolky-we-dont-take-any-chances variety you get from all these kinds of places that don't like to have any fun and make their employees wear stupid polo shirts

The Result - 2.69 I Probably Wasn't Going To Come Back Regardlesses out of 5 I Probably Wasn't Going To Come Back Regardlesses. This sandwich cost $2.69 and was worth every penny, exactly. My overall impressions of the sandwich were "bland" and "squishy". I kind of enjoyed the squishiness. I think it helped the whole thing sorta melt in my mouth and slide down my gullet, which may not sound good to you but it worked on this morning while standing in the parking lot. The blandness was less impressive as blandness is in any type of food or endeavor. It was an OK sandwich, and for the price, perfectly acceptable if you're in a hurry and have low expectations. A guy like me, I have higher expectations.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #93 - Panera aka Fool Me Twice, Won't Get Fooled Again

Sandwich: Sausage, Egg & Cheese
Location: Panera Bread
Date: June 10, 2017
Cost: $4.29

I had an early appointment on the east side with plans to go out for breakfast immediately after. When I learned that my destination of choice would not open for another hour I had to come up with a new angle. The only place on the far east side that I could think of that I haven't reviewed is IHOP, and that didn't strike me as a particularly good option. Still, I pulled up their menu on my phone to see what their breakfast sandwich offerings are. Things weren't looking so good. The only breakfast sandwich listed is the Ham & Egg Melt and that gave me flashbacks to the awful Moons Over My Hammy sandwich from Denny's. That was enough to steer me away from IHOP.

Potbelly's has recently relocated and I know that they offer breakfast sandwiches at some of their locations, but this one was closed. It turns out none of the Madison locations offer breakfast. Then I saw Panera. I had already reviewed Panera in 2016 but figured I would order something different and there could still be sandwich enlightenment.

Sometimes if the top part is a little crooked it looks jaunty and cheeky but this time it just looks like somebody doesn't give a fuck about their work.

<sad trombone sound>
The Sandwich - Sausage, Egg and Cheese. Generally I will order the bacon sandwich if a menu has options. I didn't look up my previous Panera review and assumed I would have ordered bacon, so I went with sausage this time. As I write this I am learning that I ordered sausage on my previous trip as well, so we have consistent data here for comparison. Or, we're just wasting our time. I have pulled up the link to the previous review but have not read it so as not to color my opinions today.

They don't offer choice of cheese or bread, which is odd considering "bread" is part of their name. They also don't offer additional toppings although they have them on hand. When you order a Sausage, Egg and Cheese sandwich that's exactly what you get. According to my receipt the cheese is a white cheddar. The bread is ciabatta.

The bread was nicely toasted and had an outer crunch I liked but things went downhill fast after that. The cheese was melted and gooey and was the overwhelming flavor here. The sausage may be the blandest sausage I've ever had. If you had told me later than it was a vegan-tempeh-fauxsage I would have believed you. There isn't much to say about the egg. Like all chain restaurants, it was cooked so as to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, which is to say there was no runny yolk. 

The Result - 2 Mistaken Repeat Reviews out of 5 Mistaken Repeat Reviews. I'm giving a point for the bread and a point for the cheese. This wasn't a terrible sandwich but it didn't have much going for it, it was mostly just bland. Everything about this visit was bland. The idea to go there was bland. All the people eating there were bland (SHIT! I was one of those people!) Next time I'll look at my old reviews so I don't wander down the same bland path. It's my own damn fault, hell, my previous review was named "I Think I'm Done With Chain Restaurants". If I had looked that up I might have just gone home instead of getting fooled again. Shame on me

Epilogue - Now that I have finished this review I went back to read about my first Panera experience. In both cases I used the word "sad" in a photo caption. Although this sandwich was assembled better I gave it a much lower rating. Reading the previous review the score of 3.5 seems way too generous. In the previous review I said the sausage wasn't too salty or grisly but didn't complain of the absence of flavor. In both cases I grumbled about the egg being overcooked for my tastes - nothing new about that, is there?