Red, White & BBQ Part 2

So I see you have come back to see what hell broke lose on the second day of the event.  I’m glad you take pleasure in reading about my painful experience.  Just kiddin’ 😉

I woke up around 7am from my 2 hour power nap and felt better than I had at 4am.  My team mate cooked up some bacon and I munched on some coffee cake while waiting to hear the plan for the day.  Our first turn-in was going to be chicken at noon.  We still had some time to kill but even so, it feels rushed.  The butterflies were starting to flutter in my stomach, the anticipation was starting to build.  Was our meat going to be cooked? Would our ribs have the right coloring? What catastrophe could happen today? Would it all just run smooth and I was just worrying?  I looked at the sky and saw the same thing I had the day before.  No sun, not one spec of blue showing through the clouds.  It didn’t look good.  Everyone had assured me the day was supposed to be beautiful.  I wasn’t buying it.  Even with bad weather the show must go on.  We had to stay focused on all of our meat categories.  Being sure that we were putting everything on at the right time, pulling them off at the right time, assuring the quality of what we were about to turn in.  The ribs seemed to be the ones that needed the most attention.  There’s so many steps from smoking, seasoning, wrapping and all have to be done at the perfect time.

Ribs with top coating

When chicken was ready to be put in the smoker people were starting to panic saying a storm was headed our way.  We had already dealt with a bunch of rain the night before so people weren’t entirely concerned about this.  We pulled our smokers under our tent in anticipation of this storm and continued on, business as usual.  We were nearing turn-in time.  It seemed about every 10 minutes we were getting updates from the people who worked for the competition saying where to evacuate to, bad storms were heading our way and we need to seek shelter.  This may be bad to admit, but not one person left their tent.  We were all determined to get to our turn ins.  Our main focus was on chicken! Nobody felt the need to leave their precious smokers.  11:55 hits – 5 minutes until turn-in time.  We get our boxed packed perfectly and ready to run to the judges tent.  Then we hear yelling “JUDGES ARE NOT ACCEPTING TURN INS – TURN INS ARE CANCELED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!”.  All we could really do was look at each other and blink in disbelief.  The storm hadn’t even started yet.  It was just a rumor, what does radar know anyway?!  What are we supposed to do with our chicken?!  This is a competition that is pretty much based off of perfect cooking times and ability to use a smoker.  Do we just stow this away and hope for the best? We had no choice.  We had to put them in a hot box and pray they didn’t dry out.  We didn’t even have a clue of when the judging would be back on, if ever.

Storms a brewin'

People starting packing up their tents and all equipment being unused.  We kept getting weather updates from the competition crew.  They all recommended abandoning our tents and just going to our cars.  We were expected to get hit in about ten minutes with 70 mph winds, hail, heavy rain, lighting and thunder.  We put away as much as we could.  We couldn’t bring ourselves to take down our tent.  What if they randomly announce its back on? We need to be prepared!  Then it came.  The storm hit quick and hard.  Sudden down pour, lighting, thunder and high winds flew in.  I guess they weren’t lying!  I didn’t want to go to my car, I wanted to be there and ready for any update!  I may not be bright, but i’m sure as hell determined!  A small pond started to form in my tent, and I was also having to hold an umbrella under my tent.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but I didn’t care.  I didn’t devote my time to this competition to just run to my car for some rain storm! I was here to compete with the big guys and show that I had it in me to be there.  About an hour later the storm started to let up a bit.  I was cold, wet, dreams crushed, i’m sure i appeared to be on the verge of killing someone.  A man walked by our tent and announced “TURN IN AT 2!”  Twenty minutes!! Were back on! I called my team mates (they abandoned me for the safety of their cars).  “Turn in 20 minutes! go go go!”

We quickly dried off our prep table, unpacked cutting boards and knives from the car, rescued our hot box full of food from the trailer next to us.  Luckily the people next to us were fellow co-workers (and far more experienced BBQ’ers) they had a nice big trailer and let us use their shelter to store our hot boxes.  I’m sure this gesture was only because we gave them space in our hot box, but either way – it was appreciated.  Luckily our chicken was still nice and warm for being stored in a hot box for two hours.  Cambro sure makes a great product!  We loaded our box and were ready for the 2pm turn in.

The turn ins continued as planned.  Ribs at 2:30, Pork shoulder at 3:00, Brisket at 3:30.  We were prepared and ready to go on time for each turn in.  Everything seemed to be falling back into place with no serious concerns.  Between turn ins we kept trading meats with our fellow co-workers at Sweet Baby Rays, critiquing and socializing and sharing our relief of the storm letting up and allowing this to continue as planned.

After final turn in, there was no clear indication of when awards would be.  It was originally scheduled for 5pm, but we were all sure that wouldn’t be the case any longer.  I decided to run to Target to finally get into some dry clothes. Between the rain, and having to wash dishes rapidly between turn-ins and getting sprayed with the hose from hell, I was soaked, cold, and tired.  I felt a nice warm pair of fresh clothes with put me into better spirits.  I got myself a new sweat suit, warm and dry once more! I also couldn’t resist a nice hot mocha from Starbucks.  I headed back to wait for awards.  I was surrounded by friends and family waiting patiently to see how we did.  I’m sure they regretted this when they arrived at 5pm and awards didn’t happen until 7pm.   I sure felt loved though!  The first award announced was for people’s choice chili – my contribution.  I totally felt I had this in the bag.  Unfortunately I only won 4th.  Which I was still happy with, for my first competition it was definitely something to be proud of.  Most people agreed that it was most likely due to weather, if we had a better turn out we would have had many more votes.  I was still very proud to have won something!

Sadly, award after award were read off with no other mention for our team.  We did try our best, we worked very hard, and had a lot of fun.  We need to learn from our mistakes and push forward and look to the next competition.  I would love to make  shout out to our co-workers and BBQ team Duce’s Wild.  They achieved quite a few awards and yet again did a fantastic job.  I hope to get to that point myself.  I plan on devoting my summer to learning all there is about smoking and BBQ.  I wanna blow them outta the water next year!  Even though this competition was the worst possible representation of what competition really is I felt it was a good thing to see for my first time.  I mean, how much worse can it possibly get?

 

 

 

 

Red, White & Bbq Part 1

What words come to mind when  you think of Red, White and BBQ.  I’m sure many of the ones you’re thinking are what I thought too – fun, tasty, patriotic, beers, pork, socializing.  This was only partial reality.  The more accurate words I can think of are mud, lightning, evacuation, and patience.  I am by no means complaining.  I looked at this competition as a test to see how devoted I am to BBQ.  This was God saying “If she doesn’t survive this, it wasn’t meant to be”.

I woke up bright and early Saturday morning.  I was absolutely thrilled that I was only hours away from experiencing my first BBQ competition.  I should say my first food related competition period.  Saturday was the day  of the competition I contributed to, the peoples choice chili contest.  I am new to smoking and BBQ and when I heard there was small little contest along with the big event I wanted to be a part of it.  I had a friend of mine share her solid recipe for chili, I created the vision for the presentation and bought fancy little do-dads to make it pretty.  I woke up early to fry up fresh tortilla chips and little tortilla crisps and assure that everything was ready to go for the prize winning chili.  I gathered all my snacks, bedding ,tent, air mattress (im not that tough yet), and I was ready to go.

I was slightly concerned on my way to Westmont because the entire sky was white and gray with angry looking clouds.  I compulsively checked the weather about every 15-30 minutes to see what was expected.  It kept assuring me that there may be a thunderstorm over night but morning and afternoon would be cloudy and 70º.  I pulled up to the competition grounds and was in awe of the spread of competitors smokers, trailers, and RV’s.  Here I am in my little 2 door Grand Am and a tent I bought from Wal-Mart.  I still unpacked my car with confidence, making it seem like I totally belong there with the big guys.  I set up my little tent and air mattress and then hung out with my team.  Right round 2pm Mother Nature threw a fit.  Complete down pour!  I hated all the people in their cute little RV’s with their little chair set ups underneath their metal canopies keeping them dry and content.  We had our little shanty tent.  The usual fold up tents with tarps for sides.  We sprung a few leaks and had a nice little water feature but overall we were okay.  My only concern was in just a few hours was people’s choice chili.  Rain tends to keep people from wanting to walk outside for a 4oz portion of chili.  I waited it out patiently, praying that my cooler full of chili will not go uneaten.

Luckily by 6pm the rain had died down to only a drizzle.  The people started to flood into the fair grounds, tasting spoon in hand.  I had my table set up beautifully.  Crock pot, nice linens down, my piggy platters I bought from World Market, a stack of black cups, bright red spoons – I was ready for them with total confidence.  People were ranting and raving over the chili.  I totally felt I had this contest!  I had some friends and family come visit and vote for me which gave me the chance to scope out the competition.  There were a few tasty chili’s but there were even more duds.  I passed my chili out to surrounding tents and got nothing but great reviews on it.  I was beaming with excitement that maybe we would go far with this one.  The contest ended at 9pm and I cleaned up my station and hoped for the best.

Around 10 it was time to get our meat out to rest before going on the smoker’s for the night.  We got our charcoals burning, our smoker’s up to temp, and got our meat on to our Weber Smokey Mountains.  The secret to us being able to get some shut eye for the night without having to feed our fire is the BBQ Guru which kept a blower on our coals burnin’ and kept our smoker’s at perfect temp.  I was finally able to get some sleep around midnight.  The plan was for me to wake up at 4am to season our chicken and get it back in our cooler to be ready for morning.  I slept terribly from midnight to 4, but I still had to be a team player and wake up to season our thighs.  I felt bad when I found out I over seasoned our chicken.  It was fixed, but I still had that bad feeling that it would hurt our chances.

 

Team Mate Bob Settin the Guru

7 am was when all the rush and magic begins.  And that will be tomorrow’s post.  Come back to see when all hell broke loose at Red, White & BBQ – Westmont Competition.

Iron Horse Hotel

My original plan for blogging today was to review the National Restaurant Show at McCormick Place in Chicago.  I guess after you’ve gone a few years in a row it sort of loses its appeal.  Don’t get me wrong, I still stuffed myself silly with every food sample available to man kind, but there wasn’t a “Wow!” factor.  I have decided to write about a fantastic restaurant experience I had in Milwaukee, WI a few weeks ago.

This is my food huntin' face

I went to Milwaukee with my boyfriend a few weeks ago to see Social Distortion @ The Rave.  He likes to randomly surprise me with unique foodie places and he had heard about Iron Horse Hotel from a friend.  The Iron Horse is a swanky boutique hotel with multiple restaurants.  The one we went to was called Branded.  It was a bar but it also had a limited menu of awesomeness.  The ambiance of the bar was very unique.  Sort of a retro, country, chic, artsy setting.  That may not make sense but it was the best way to describe it!  It was very cozy though and not so artsy that I felt I didn’t fit in.  However, I didn’t feel I fit in that day because it also happened to be the day of the Kentucky Derby and I was the only one not wearing  a fancy hat.  I must say, I love when the people gave me strange looks for having piercings and tattoos all over when they are wearing an over sized floppy hat with bows and ribbons and possibly whole game birds attached.   But I wasn’t here to check out fancy hats or worry about criticism on my style – I was here to eat amazing food.

Nutella Espress

My boyfriend was trying to get me to order a drink which I kept refusing.  But then I saw something magical.  It was called the “Nutella Espress”.  It was espresso, nutella, some sorta vanilla vodka, kahlua, and hazelnuts.  It was incredible, I could have easily had about 10 because it just tasted like chocolate milk with Nutella and hazelnut chunks.  If they were not around 8 bucks a pop I probably would have been sloshed before appetizers.    The appetizer was a hard pick.  They had unique items that are far from the usual bar snacks.  They had a Wisconsin Cheese samplers, Charcutrie Platter (looked super tasty), all sorts of spreads and sliders! It was hard to choose.  I ended up going with the Duck Confit Nachos.  I must say I was not upset with this decision at all.  They were crazy tasty!  I hate when you order an item where they end up skimping on the highlight of the d

Duck Confit Nachos

ish, but they definitely didn’t skimp on the duck confit!  It had loads of fresh nacho chips, chopped tomatoes, chopped tart cherries, some micro greens, tons of shredded duck, and a white creamy sauce that I am unsure of what it is, but for the sake of explanation I will call it Heaven Sauce.  I was trying not to load up on the appetizer too muc

 

h but I couldn’t help myself, I nearly finished the whole thing.  My boyfriend helped – but even if he wasn’t there I probably would have finished it off.  *shame*

I probably could have stopped here.  Unfortunately for my waistline – I did not.  The main entree was a difficult choice.  I was tempted to continue my trend of trying something new and going for a unique experience but my passion for sausage has clouded my judgment yet again.  I was in Wisconsin, I had to get a genuine Wisconsin beer brat!  This was definitely no ordinary brat though.  I know this might sound weird when I explain it, but stick with me here.  The brat was without a doubt super fresh – and this was good and awkward at the same time.  I don’t want to say good and bad – it wasn’t bad but my palette was so used to the store bought Johnsonville Brats.  Not to say those are bad either – Johnsonville is tasty too.  But you could definitely taste the freshness in these brats.  Almost as if you know that this brat was probably a living animal not too long before (Sorry P.E.T.A).  It wasn’t bad, it just had this almost gamey flavor.  It was also topped with crunchy fried onion straws, and a colorful tangy fresh slaw and served on a pretzel roll.  Normally I would love pretzel rolls…I was a bit upset that they seemed to of overly toasted my pretzel roll which made me a little sad.  I don’t like when I go to fold up my brat in it’s bun and the bun breaks in half.  In my mind this now becomes a brat sandwich.  Still tasty – but now its a whole new item!  Maybe im just trying to be nitpicky since I don’t have any other complaints about this place.

Overall, my opinion of the Iron Horse Hotel is great atmosphere, delicious food, amazing mixed beverages, friendly staff, and reasonable prices.  This will not break your bank!  If you are in downtown Milwaukee looking for something delicious I would definitely recommend this place!

 

Check out the Branded Menu Here:

http://www.theironhorsehotel.com/depository/allpropertymenu.pdf

Not your typical Dinner & a Movie

For about two weeks now my boyfriend has been telling me “I have a surprise for you Sunday…dress fancy & eat lunch”.  I drove myself crazy wondering which restaurant he would be taking me to.  I knew it was food – and I knew it wouldn’t be Applebees.  Correction – I was hoping it wasn’t Applebees.  Sunday finally arrived and the moment of truth was nearing.  We pulled into a fancy strip mall and my curiosity grew even bigger.  It was a fancy outdoor mall that I had passed all the time – what did I miss?  Tucked way in the back of the mall was this amazing gem – The Gold Class Cinema.  He had sent me a link a month ago to show me this fancy movie theater but I never imagined I would be going anytime soon.

Right when you enter there’s a huge lobby filled with fancy seating and fireplaces on both ends and a very colorful bar ahead.  We were greeted by very nicely dressed ‘cashiers’ (im sure they have a fancier name) who were NOT wearing bow ties and suit coats!  I have always felt bad for regular movie theater workers having to wear bow ties.  The usual movie theaters are not bow tie worthy! But this was – and they weren’t even wearing them.  I’m not complaining – I wouldn’t wish a bow tie on anybody I was just making an observation.  Anyway, back on topic here – we were an hour early so we sat down in the lobby and enjoyed some drinks and an appetizer.  I have a severe citrus fruit allergy so picking the appetizer wasn’t the easiest thing to do.  I had asked the waitress if someone had lemon – she went back to ask if it did.  She came back explaining that there was lemon juice in one of the three items that were a part of the appetizer.  I sighed but picked the next item.  I asked again if it had lemon – again she explained “ill go ask!”.  To my surprise she brought the Executive Chef out.  I felt a little guilty disrupting him – I just needed to know what items were lemon free! He was helpful and friendly though and it was nice that he took the extra time to answer my questions.  We decided on the Chinois Chicken Salad Wraps.  It was like a very large spring roll.  Chicken, lettuce, radicchio, combined with some sesame oil wrapped in rice paper.  They served a nice stack of chow mein noodles on the side.  It was very delicious and definitely not something I would have expected to be eating at a movie theater.

After our appetizer was ordered we were informed by our waitress (yes! we had our own little waitress to follow us around the theater!) that our theater was ready and we can go get cozy.  This was not like any other theater I have seen.  I was in awe of the large comfy recliners in front of the big screen.  Every two seats had its own dining table.  Along the sides of the theater it was two-seaters, down the middle there were four-seaters.  In all there were only about 36 seats.

Before the movie started we were able to order our main dishes and desserts.  For dinner I ordered a Farfalle Pasta.  It was farfalle pasta with broccoli and portabello mushrooms dressed in truffle oil topped with shaved Parmesan.  I had some trouble settling on dessert but I figured since i’ve been trying to watch my calories (ha!) I would order the Strawberry Angel Bowl – it was described as fresh strawberries on top of angel food cake topped with marscapone cream.  The pasta was very good but nothing to brag about. Now – this is where I may get out of hand here but stay with me on this one.  You know when people say that you don’t know true love until you hold your first child?  I don’t think I knew true love until I tasted this dessert.  I really wish I could have taken a picture of this marvelous creation.  It was dark so it was hard for me to even examine it.  The first thing that stood out were these very large triangular garnishes.  I bit into one and it was wafer-like and crispy and sweet.  I tried my hardest to examine what it could be.  It was so delicious I knew that I would have to re-create it at home.  I have come to the conclusion that it was numerous layers of phyllo dough brushed with honey and coated in sugar – it was TASTY!  Once I got beyond the garnish I came across something I had assumed was another garnish.  It appeared to be a crouton.  I bit into it and realized that it was the angel food cake!  They turned the angel food cake into a crouton, topped with strawberries and then covered in marscapone cream.  I don’t feel I can ever love a dessert as much as I loved this one.  It was pure genius and I would like another one please.

There aren’t very many Gold Class Cinemas out there, but I highly recommend that if you click the link and notice there it one near you – GO! It was a great experience and a fair price for what it is.  I had a great time and can’t wait to go back.  Oh yeah – I saw the movie Salt.  It wasn’t bad – the food was the real show.

Gone Campin’

I would like to apologize to all of my followers for not posting for a while!  I know there’s probably only a handful of you right now who read this, but I need to hold on to all…three…of you! haha.  Anyhoo, I had family in from Pennsylvania so I went on a mini vacation.  We took them to Navy Pier on Thursday then it was off to Lake Geneva, WI for 3 nights/4 days.   The place we stay is a little camp ground that my family has been going to since my mom was a baby.  It’s not tent and sleeping bags kind of camping but its little wooden cabins that has more screens than walls, does have electricity but does not have running water.  It’s just the right combination of camping and still being a part of civilization.

The cabins are not equipped with anything you can use for cooking.  Its just one open room with some bunkbeds, a table, and some plastic chairs.  This meant we were equipped with a grill (a nice rusty grill we found next to the cabin, that everytime we moved it the legs spread farther – I was pretty sure I would set the camp on fire with this one), a propane double burner, and an electric griddle (we didnt use this much since there were not outlets near the table).  We were excited to see one cabin we had did have a fridge – unfortunately the only thing it knew how to do was freeze things.   We had to shop smart since we were there for a few days and only had a cooler to keep our foods safe.  I did freak out a few people by keeping the eggs out.  Instinct told them “omg they MUST go in the fridge!”  I assured them it would be okay but they still seemed a bit skeptic.  Believe it or not…nobody died when they ate eggs for breakfast.

I liked to keep our meals simple – but still delicious.  We did do basics like brats, hot dogs burgers but I did make some yummy salads, kept cutting up fresh fruit and even had to accommodate a vegetarian diet.  For that I did grilled vegetable sandwiches with port mushrooms, peppers, onions, and mozzarella cheese on Italian rolls – Yum!  Breakfast was my favorite though.  My uncle has always made amazing sausage gravy.  We didn’t have biscuits but a slice of bread did just fine.  I could have just eaten it with a spoon to be honest.  I handled eggs, skillet potatos, bacon and fruit!  The first morning eggs were out though – out wonderful fridge frozen them.

I will confess I did slip and go get some Subway one day.   I had been out shopping and got too hungry to go back to camp, start a grill, wait 30 min, eat.  So I grabbed a sub.  But I did eat it in a cabin in the woods so it sort of counts as “roughin’ it” right?

Next week I will be having yet another camping trip.  This one is “for real” camping though! Tents, sleeping bags, a fire pit, and a stick!  Check back next week to see what I make this time!

That Chicago is mighty tasty!

Today I had the opportunity to go on a completely unplanned adventure to the Taste of Chicago.  I woke up wondering what the heck I was going to do with my day as I signed onto Facebook.  My friend Mel asked me if I was willing to go to the Taste and said our train left in an hour.  Even though I wasn’t feeling totally up to it since my last Taste experience was awful, I decided I needed to get out and figured this could be fun.  In the Taste’s defense – the last time I went to it I was about 7 or 8 years old and it was on the 3rd of July and it was complete madness.  I had no respect for food at that time and all I was concerned about was fireworks – which I never saw!

I did wake up for a hankering for a Chicago Style Hot Dog and when I shared this desire with my brother he told me I can’t possibly go to the Taste and just get a hot dog.  It was then that I decided I need to completely use this chance to try something strange and new to me.  I felt that lately I have remained in my safety zone and haven’t ventured far out of it.  I entered the Taste knowing that I had to use at least half of my tickets on new and unique food items.  I bought 36 tickets (Yes, for myself. Thanks!).  I then looked at the map and tried to set a game plan.  I was upset to see there was only one item that was truly unique to me – GOAT!  To give you a small side story, I have had a personal vendetta against goats for many years and there would be nothing else that would bring me great pleasure to eat a goat and show them who is boss.  So I did.

The goat was from an African restaurant called Vee-Vee’s.  To my surprise it wasn’t so bad.  I’m aware that all over the world people eat goat frequently but it hasn’t made it my way yet so to me this was very awkward.  I was just visiting goats at a petting zoo the other day I didn’t think I would be eating them in my near future.  I was expecting a very gamey and wild flavor to it.  It fell apart like beef-stew meat and tasted similar to it as well.  My only complaint would be that the flavor of the goat was lost in a pool of spicy sauce.  Since I now know that the taste of goat isn’t like chewing on the side of a barn I am willing to try it again when the flavor wont be so hidden.

Since I was able to check off “taste a unique food item”  I decided the next thing I had to find was something Irish.  I embrace my Irish heritage and it’s not something I get to eat often.  After a lot of walking and hunting we stumbled upon Abbey’s booth where I purchased Fish n Chips and an amazing “Irish Egg Roll”.   The fish and chips were  a little bit disappointing.  It tasted like it may have been sitting for a while.  Instead of having a tender flaky inside it had a tougher texture more like a chicken tender – awkward!  I will have to say that the Irish Egg Roll wins for the best thing I ate all day.  It was a very large freshly deep fried combination of corned beef, cabbage and oozey melted cheese.  I’m not quite sure what cheese it was but my guess is either brick or mozzarella.  I’m aware that the whole corned beef and cabbage thing isn’t genuinely Irish, but for today I decided to pretend it was totally authentic.

With only six tickets left I decided that after walking for hours with the sun beaming down full-force that I needed some Italian ice.  I remembered seeing the booth, but for the life of me couldn’t remember where.  I ditched my group so they didn’t have to fight through the crowds just for me to have Italian ice.  Of course with my luck it was one of the last booths on the complete opposite side of the park from where we were.  After fighting through the crowd and waiting in a long line (two lines to be exact – after I got through the first line I was told it was pizza only, oops!), I finally got my little cup of cherry Italian ice.  Reggie’s is very lucky they have amazing Italian ice or I may have lost my mind.  I had two tickets left after this adventure.  So what did I settle on?  A massive slice of watermelon.

So my trip to the taste was a success.  It is pretty expensive but I think for a once a year type of thing its worth it.  If you are into all things Chicago food – which I totally am, then its worth the fight and the money.  Here’s the breakdown of where my tickets went to:

Robinson’s Rib Tips (taste portion) – 4 tickets

Vee-Vee’s Goat (taste portion) – 0 tickets I mooched

Reggie’s Italian Ice – 4 tickets

Watermelon x 2 – 4 tickets

Pork/Banana Alcapurrias – 4 tickets

Steak Jibarito (taste portion) – 0 tickets I mooched again

Abbey’s Irish Egg Roll & Fish n Chips – 15 tickets

Pepsi – 5 tickets

You may think that after all that food that I would be done for the day.  But no…I still haven’t had my Chicago Hot Dog fix.  At the train station I decided to solve problem that at Gold Coast Hot Dogs for a train ride treat.

Last but not least – the highlight of my day was an email I recieved on my phone while walking to the train station.  I received an e-mail from the Casting department for the Food Network TV show CHOPPED!  I have qualified to move to the next round for my chance to be on the show!  I will be filming my casting video this Saturday.   Maybe you will see me on TV?!

Excuse me sir, there’s pork in my chocolate!

The first time I was asked to try bacon-chocolate I will admit I did raise an eyebrow.  I was completely willing to do it but I was also concerned if it would ruin my favorite food item after sausage, chocolate!  I have been known to eat chocolate alongside many food items that made people think I was nuts (i.e pizza, pasta, sandwiches, cheese etc), but I have never combined them into one item before.  I was excited to see that I’m not the only person that felt mixing chocolate and a savory item isn’t so bad but in fact it really is tasty!  I accepted the piece of bacon chocolate with an open mind and an eager palette.

I was not surprised to see that I really did enjoy it.  It is definitely not something I can sit and finish the whole bar in one sitting but for a small treat it is phenomenal.  Some people may say “sure it’s easy to finish a chocolate bar in one sitting!”.  Well yes, if you eat it like a savage it might be!  I noticed that when I shared my bacon-chocolate with other people they just popped it in their mouth whole and finished it like it was a single M&M.  To really get the whole effect of a unique item such as this you really need to learn to savor it!  I didn’t notice until days later that on the back of the bar I bought it even gives instructions on how to eat this bar.  Here are their tips on enjoying it to it’s fullest potential:

“Breathe…engage your 5 senses, close your eyes and inhale deeply.  Be in the present moment, notice the color of the chocolate, the glossy shine.  Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with the deep milk chocolate.  Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue.”

You may think this is crazy.  I’m sure you’re picturing someone having a slightly erotic moment with the chocolate but this process is something that I do without even noticing I do it.  You can’t just pop a specialty chocolate into your mouth and then go about your day willy-nilly!  Enjoy the chocolate! Only enjoy pieces at a time and get the full effect and notice each note it gives you.  At first bite, you only catch the flavor of chocolate.  As you keep chewing and running your tongue over the chocolate you start to get that salty note of the alderwood smoked salt.  The last flavor you get is . . . BACON!  The sweet, salty, savory, smokey flavor is incredible when it all comes together at the end.  If it just said “Sweet & Salty” would you give it a try without thinking? Then think of it as that, pretend there isn’t bacon, you will enjoy it I promise!

So who would think of such a crazy concept you may be wondering?  On the back of each bar is does explain where this mad creation started.  Here is a small blurb from that:

“I began experimenting with bacon + chocolate at the tender age of 6, while eating chocolate chip pancakes drenched in Aunt Jemima syrup, as children often do.  Beside my chocolate laden pancakes lay 3 strips of sizzlin’ bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup.  And then the magic–just a bite of the bacon was too salty and I yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate and syrup, so I combined the two.”

The brand of chocolate I purchased is Vosges Haut-Chocolate Mo’s Bacon Bar.  I found it at Whole Foods for $6.99 a bar.  It comes in milk chocolate and dark chocolate, which I of course had to try both.  I think both are amazing but i’m very fond of dark chocolate.  I feel both bars offer up two different experiences.  The milk chocolate would be your basic sweet & salty experience.  The dark chocolate bar also offers that  but also adds that bitter flavor note that I adore about dark chocolate.

The whole chocolate chip pancake mixed with bacon and maple syrup combination got me thinking about odd combinations we try as kids.  Could one of these crazy concoctions be a delicious culinary creation waiting for a patent?  The only creations that come to mind from my past are when I used to dip peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup or when I dipped my grilled cheese in apple sauce.  Unfortunately for me I don’t see a patent for either of those in my future.  What are some of your childhood memories of culinary experimenting?