Showing posts with label product reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label product reviews. Show all posts

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wooly Pigs Bacon

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Last week Heath Putnam, the only breeder of Mangalitsa pigs on my side of the prime meridian, sent me three samples of smoked bacon to evaluate. I think he was also testing the ordering and delivery protocol for Foods in Season, a new eCommerce site that is set up to sell Mangalitsa pork and other products.

Before I weigh in on what I thought of these wonderful smoked bacon variants, I must tell you that my experience with Mangalitsa pork is so new that if I had my druthers I would only eat it minimally seasoned until I felt I truly understood what it is. I love smoked foods as much as anyone, but smoke -even as lightly applied as it was on this bacon- is a blanket that dampens subtler elements of taste and aroma that I want to know all about when I am learning the organoleptic qualities of a new food. (Wow! Does that ever sound effete! :-) So, since my previous experience of Mangalitsa pork was limited to a jowl I bought from Mosefund farm and turned into guanciale, I don't exactly bring a comprehensive understanding of this rare specimen of porcine pulchritudinousness to the tasting table.

That said, all three samples were delicious. The fat was exceptionally good. I've never tasted pork fat from any other pig that was anything like the fat I've had from Mangalitsa hogs.

I'm sure that much of the difference in taste and texture has to do with the way Heath feeds his stock, but I also think that breed has something to do with it. Most modern hogs have been bred to produce lots of muscle and relatively little extra and intramuscular fat (marbling). But Mangalitsa hogs are lard not meat hogs and loaded with fat or, put another way, the ratio of fat to muscle and connective tissue is very high. The lopsided fat to connective tissue ratio is apparent in the extramuscular fat that lays on top of, for example, the loin.

No matter what kind of hog is invoked, there is very little connective tissue running through the fat that sits on top of the loin. So fatback, as this fat is called, is always relatively tender. However, the fatback on the Mangalitsa loin meat that Heath used for this loin bacon has so much fat relative to connective tissue that raw, it is so tender that it is "buttery" and in most was similar to the texture of foie gras. In fact it is so luxurious, that I'm thinking about trimming off the fat from what's left of the loin bacon, whipping it up and serving it raw at a dinner party that I am hosting latter this week.

Cooked, the loin bacon is great, but eats more like conventional bacon from other breeds. Of course, if I sound slightly less than ecstatic, keep in mind that my criteria for judgment is pretty idiosyncratic and that when I cooked up this bacon for my friends at the farm they went gaga over the flavor of the fat. (Hmm. Gaga over loin fat? Is that a metaphor?)

As you can see from the above photo, the jowl bacon is curling up quite a bit as it cooks indicating the presence of a good deal more connective tissue. Same goes for the belly bacon, slightly more connective tissue (although not as much as the jowl) more curling as the fat liquefies and the connective tissue contracts.

At about $0.90 an ounce, this bacon is not going to be showing up next to a deuce over easy with whole wheat at the Mikonos Ultra- Aegean Diner any time soon. However, this bacon will sell very well to those who don't mind spending a few bucks to be intrigued by something from the outer edges of the gastrovelope.

Alright, then. Enough blogging for now. I'm going back to the kitchen to roast a couple of beef tenderloins for a holiday dinner. Ciao!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Consumer Advisory Warning

The Worst Pizza I've Ever Tried to Eat

Last night I had pizza that was so bad that I could not believe how bad it was. There was nothing redeeming about, nothing. The sauce was sweet and thin, the cheese was typical pizza shop quality mozzarella (tasteless and rubbery) but the kicker was the crust.

One has to be clever to construct pizza crust that is mushy on the inside, crispy outside, under baked, absent of yeast flavor and salt, pale and ugly. But whoever designed this recipe shows himself to be an evil genius of pizza couture in the way he managed to make the pizza smell like a CINNAMON DONUT!

Yes, you read that correctly, the crust has something in it that makes it smell like cinnamon. And no, it wasn't an accident, I searched (googled) for posts about PEACE O PIZZA (apparently it's a franchise operation) and found others who made the same comment.

Peace O Pizza makes the frozen stuff in the supermarket and public school cafeteria pizza look like high art.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Coffee roasting made dope or fly

If you have a hard time believing that there is anything fly or dope, about roasting coffee this promotional video for Doma Cofee Roasting Company, might just change your mind. Doma Coffee Roasting Company is owned and operated by Terry Patano, who, even though I've never met him, I regard as something of a homeboy or "homie" in the street parlance of my particular hood.

Seriously now, I first tried Terry's coffee last year when he graciously sent some samples to my crib. Then I tried it again when he sent more and now that he sells the stuff online my wife, who gets goofy when she drinks the stuff, orders it about once a month. It's certainly the best coffee I've ever been able to buy on a regular basis. No Starbuck's style blast furnace treatment here. Every bean is roasted just enough to acheived a complex and robust nose, and no more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

3 cents on the Kuma dollar

by Mike Pardus

I'm not even going to try to recall the avalanche of plates that consumed us on Saturday night. Suffice it to say that King has his chops DOWN. All of the basics are solid - braised things are meltingly tender, fried things hot and crisp, reductions unctuous and powerfully flavored, dressings and dips balanced and suited to their accompaniments. I think the highlights for me were the steamed edamame ( so simple, but perfectly cooked and dressed with such a light touch of Lime/thai basil oil that there was debate at our end of the table as to weather it was there at all, or just in our imaginations) and the braised-then-grilled baby octopus - a difficult protein to do properly. Tender but chewy, soft interior-crisp outside, briny and spicy...yum.

I have some photos of various plates to upload later. One warning - when you go looking for Kuma Inn don't be put off by its exterior. The Blade Runner chic entrance is just the way it should be and says, in effect,

No "Tourists" Allowed

Friday, September 14, 2007

World's Strangest Culinary Tools V.1

Musical Cake Server

Meat Sniffer that tells you whether or not it is fresh by sensing bacterial aroma (Wonder if it works in the bathroom too? Or armpits...hmmm.)

The Spinmallow Marshmallow Cooker cooks hot dogs too!

And, of course, the motorized pasta fork, Oy Vey.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

This is Not a Joke

So why can't I stop laughing?

Smirnoff Source™, the new premium malt beverage offering from Diageo North America that combines pure spring water [emphasis mine] with alcohol is now on beer retailers' shelves and high-end bars throughout the Northeast. LINK

These people are so shameless in the way they spin their cheesy products. What possible value can there be to using spring water in a drink that, like lite beer, is obviously designed to be over- consumed? Besides, any spring that produces enough water for commercial application such as this, is going to indistinguishable from a well -and filtered to boot. But would any marketer in his or her right mind use the term "filtered well water" in a brand statement, or am I missing something here?

It is entirely possible that the spring water used in this product is from a prolific and pure natural spring that has been found in the lost continent of Atlantis. Moreover, it may be water that scientists have proven contains heretofore unknown elements that stop the process of aging. But why, if this is the case, is it only being offered in high-end bars? Shouldn't such a healthful product be available to everyone including the low-income denizens of low-end bars?

Thanks to The Foodist, who posted on this at his blog, for sending me the link to this story.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Eclat Chocolate

Hi, my name is Bob and I am not a chocoholic. But this morning I got an email from Tags (who lives somewhere nearby) telling me that some guy in my town makes some of the best chocolate around. So I decided to stop by Eclat and check it out.

Now the truth is that I've walked by this store at least a dozen times since I moved to West Chester, Pa two years ago. I even walked by with my wife and two kids all yanking on my coat and oohing and ahing over the rows of truffles, bombes and eggs that for all appearences looked first rate. But still I didn't go in because more often than not I have been disappointed to discover that the small artisanal shop I thought I was looking at, was really just an outlet store for overpriced mass produced waxy gloop.

Well duh, was I ever wrong about this place. Chris Curtin, the owner, is a Certified Master Pastry Chef (Germany) and makes all the chocolate in house. He has the couverture blended to spec by several chocolate manufacturers and has plans in the works to roast his own pods and conch and refine his own blends. He's serious and it shows in the work. I bought a box of a dozen truffles and -I'm not sure what to call them- squares? Coins? Some of them were not to my taste, but they were all superbly rendered with no obvious grit in the couverture or ganache, just barely melting to skin temperature (ca. 93 degrees F) and rapidly melting on the tongue
( ca. 96 degrees F). One of them was a standout that made me wish I'd bought more: a dark milk chocolate couverture wrapped around viscous caramel and napped with a bit of sea salt.

Damn it was good.

>Eclat Chocolate<

Friday, June 22, 2007

DOMA COFFEE breaks the Bean's Spell

Up until the moment that I received a box of freshly roasted coffee beans from Terry and Rebecca Patano of Doma Coffee Roasting Company in Coeur d'Alene Idaho, I thought that the best thing about blogging was reading and mulling over the comments made by my readers. But now I'm not so sure. I'm joshing, of course, but I'm not sure I've ever had any coffee that was any better than this.

Terry sent me four types to try, Guatemala Trapichtos, Papua New Guinea Organic, El Salavador Altimira and Carmela's Espresso and with the exception of the espresso they are all, alas, gone. As a matter of fact these coffees were so good that my wife and I used them up while letting a previously opened bag of another brand of bean go stale.

I am what might be called an avocational coffee drinker, and do not have a nuanced vocabulary up to the task of describing the various veins of aromatic information that differentiate these coffees from each other. But it is pretty obvious to me that the Patano's have a serious talent for choosing and blending beans. And Terry, DOMA's rotisseur, really knows how to coax those beans to reveal their essential nature.

Guys like Terry and their work always remind me of a sonnet by Michelangelo Buonarotti (yes The Michelangelo) wherein he describes how art comes to be. Big M wrote (in Italian, he did not know english)

The artist hath no thought to show what the stone in it's superfluous shell doth not include; to break the marble spell is all the hand that serves the brain can do

Now I'm not trying to stir up the pot or embarrass Terry by calling coffee-roasting art. (Not today anyway.) But it seems to me that people like Terry do something very similar to what a sculptor does when he chooses a section of outcrop, quarries out the stone then cuts it to become what he thinks it should be.

I'm still not sure why the Patanos sent this coffee to me. They did not ask me to write about it, did not ask for feedback or any business contact information. They didn't ask for anything really, so I'm humbled by this gift and the opportunity it gave me to experience the work of a fine craftsman. Gotta love it!