Archive for the REVIEWS Category

Review: Lava Lake Lamb – Ground Lamb

Posted in Burgers, Organic Mail Order Meat with tags on May 15, 2009 by chomposaurus

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This month, Lava Lake Lamb, purveyors of fine organic baby sheep, were kind enough to not only kill and butcher some sweet little delicious sheep for me, they even agreed to send them to my house for free. I got a one pound packet of ground organic lamb, and did what any good American would do: I made me some burgers.

One of the best things about lamb is that it’s far more forgiving than beef for the amateur cook – it cooks more slowly and more evenly, and it does not lose nearly as much flavor between medium-rare and medium as a piece of steak will. That’s not to say you should burn it, of course. I cooked these burgers in the broiler – following Mark Bittman’s recipe for lamb burgers with cumin and onion. After 11 minutes they came out just right, pink in the middle but not red.

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The taste? Well that was divine. Lamb does indeed have a gamier flavor than beef, but it has a finer texture. This lamb was extremely juicy and it was enhanced by but not lost to the spices and onions. Generous portions of ketchup and mustard also aided the cause. But most remarkable is the sheer quantity of taste packed into each bite. With high quality meat, more flavor almost always means better flavor, and Lava Lake’s ground lamb is no exception. I suggest heading over to their site and ordering a pound or two today to try for yourself.

Next we’ll be attempting to roast one of their boneless legs of lamb. Wish us luck!

Review: Hong Kong Beef Jerky (?)

Posted in Aji Ichiban Candy Jerky, Jerky, REVIEWS on March 18, 2009 by chomposaurus

Aji Ichiban! It’s synonymous with snacks! At least in Hong Kong it is. In the U.S., it’s synonymous with, “I don’t know what anything in this store is, can we leave now?” Sparing me that experience, my friend K.N.L. purchased me a packet of candied beef jerky. She even told the cashier that “her friend would review it for his meat blog.” The cashier looked confused, smiled and said “you have a nice day, too.” Hooray for foreign relations.

I chose a picture that makes it look even shadier, so I would appear more brave for trying it.

I chose a picture that makes it look even shadier, so I would appear more brave for trying it.

So, what did it taste like? Beef Jerky marinated in grape jelly. Let me tell you, I wasn’t opposed. Sweet and salty have met with fabulous results in every culture since time immemorial. And whatever they did made the beef less chewy and more tender, something a lot of American brands lack. I didn’t eat the whole packet, though, and I washed it down with some Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon just to be safe.

If you want to chew your own, Aji Ichiban can be found in the shadier corners of New York City, Chicago, Richardson, TX, San Gabriel, CA and Rockville, Maryland. Next time I’m trying the dried crabs.

Review: Uncle Charley’s Spicy Sausage [unclecharleyssausage.com]

Posted in Gourmet Dogs & Sausage, REVIEWS, Uncle Charley's Sausage on December 23, 2008 by chomposaurus

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What better way to celebrate the holidays than by chomping down on some of Uncle Charley’s Gourmet Sausage? It almost feels like a holiday tradition. Uncle Charley himself was kind enough to send me a few packs of sausages, and I must say that I came away impressed… and pretty full. The spicy italian (with peppers and onions) grilled up perfectly, and went great with a hot marinade and mustard. The sausage itself was very rich and meaty, like a meatloaf in a tube. There was a mealy, almost earthy texture, and the flavor held hints of smoke amidst the pungent pork. I found the sweet italian sausage to be almost as good, but the lack of fire definitely made it less interesting. However, my more conservative friends liked it, so it’s really a matter of taste, not quality.

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So, if you’re looking for some sausage online, Uncle Charley is a good guy to know. In the new year, we’ll be reviewing his breakfast sausage and patented “sausage burgers.”

Review: Tofurky Roast and Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Posted in Fake Meat, REVIEWS, Tofurky Roast with tags on December 11, 2008 by chomposaurus

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This thanksgiving, before going home with the real thing, my girlfriend and I decided to have a mini-celebration. Since she is not of the meatiest persuasion, I decided to cook something I’d always wanted to try, even if it was just to say I had: The Tofurky Roast, aka a turkey substitute made of tofu, gluten, etc by Turtle Island Foods.

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I cooked it just like a turkey (following the directions), surrounding the loaf with onions and carrots and basting it with soy sauce and olive oil. After cooking for a good hour and fifteen while covered, I let it roast another 15 without the aluminum. I took it out and sliced it open. Inside is a cavity of stuffing, but the box recommends you carve it at an angle, like a real turkey. I think that’s because if you slice it like a loaf, the pieces are too thick and chewy.

So how did it taste? Smothered in vegan gravy, it was quite moist and mouth-watering. True, there was a definite tofu-like stickiness to the “meat,” but it tasted no worse than the type of processed, sliced turkey you’d find in a grocery. Add plenty of gravy and the well-made stuffing, and there’s nothing at all to complain about. You certainly feel like you’ve found a valid substitute for your Thanksgiving turkey.

The key word is “substitute,” not “replacement.” To go with a sports metaphor, the Tofurky Roast is like putting Lattrell Sprewell in the game for Michael Jordan. To go with a celebrity metaphor, it’s like replacing Britney Spears with Tara Reid. You’ll still be entertained, and you might learn something new, but the overall effect is simply not the same. The gravy, though, is superb, and I recommend it 100% as a healthy replacement for your normal meat-based concoction.

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Of course, the most important part of thanksgiving are the leftovers. And Tofurky passed the test there, too, when reheated in my office’s microwave. So fear not this vegan loaf. It’s just as fun – and not as scary – as it looks.

The Baconnaise Review

Posted in Baconnaise with tags , , on November 25, 2008 by chomposaurus

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AS SEEN ON THE DAILY SHOW!

Baconnaise. Where to begin? It’s bacon-flavored mayonnaise, made by J&D’s, the creators of Bacon Salt. Their motto, plain and simple, is “everything should taste like bacon.” So I grabbed myself a sample jar, determined to find out if they had reached their goal.

Now, here’s what will blow your mind about baconnaise: it contains no pork. Which means not only is it kosher, it’s also vegetarian. The bacon flavor emerges from a magical combination of salt, spices and natural flavors. Yes, that’s right, you could buy your rabbi a jar of baconnaise for the holidays (I imagine it’s delicious on a latke).

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I put my baconnaise to the test in my favorite bacon-delivery device: the BLT. Ingredients: Wonderbread, lettuce, tomato, baconnaise. Pure and simple. I hacked my way into that faux-meaty bush like an intrepid explorer, and I was rewarded handsomely for my carnivorous bravery.

The question on everyone’s mind is: does it taste like bacon? Yes, it does. Rich, smoked bacon with a lot of salt (but after all, isn’t that the main flavor of real bacon?) While it’s difficult to pinpoint the flavor mix exactly, the ingredients list indicates paprika is high up, and you can definitely taste it. But I also detected a healthy bit of nut flavor, what I can only discribe as “Planter’s Mixed Nuts in a Can.” Somehow this makes it bacon-y. The spread finishes with a bit of a tang, perhaps a hint of vinegar. Everything comes together well and somehow you’re left with the distinct impression that you just ate bacon, even if your sandwich, like mine, contained no meat. The texture is fine, the same as any other egg-based spread (mayo, miracle whip, etc).

Could you eat baconnaise every day, instead of mayonnaise? Probably. After a while the flavor gets a bit overwhelming. Think, for instance about eating grape-flavored starbursts instead of a bag of grapes and you kind of get the idea. However, there’s no doubt that baconnaise is delicious. It is not gross, weird or sketchy. It only seems like it would be, because we don’t realize how common the flavors of bacon are: salt, smoke and a hint of nuttiness.

Sure, it’s a novelty item. But it’s a brilliant and useful one. Let’s face it, practical or not, baconnaise is a miracle. Baconnaise rocks the knee-high socks off a Catholic school girl.

There’s a lot more about baconnaise on the official site, including reviews, recipes and a place to buy it online. And no, I did not try baconnaise lite, but I’m sure it makes a great salad dressing.

Review: Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs

Posted in Fake Meat, REVIEWS, TJ's Meatless Meatballs with tags on November 14, 2008 by chomposaurus

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For this meatless friday, we give you the best meatless meat deal on the planet: a bigass sack of TJ’s soyballs for under five bucks. Do they taste like real meatballs? Not quite. But they have the texture just right – chewy yet delicate – and they look damn good in the sauce. They come a bit underseasoned, so you can add whatever spices feel right. You might be looking for a more detailed review, but there isn’t one. If you like meatballs, but don’t want to eat meat, buy these. You won’t be disappointed.
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Review: Bell & Evans Coconut Chicken Tenders

Posted in Bell Evans Coconut Chicken Tenders, Frozen Meat, REVIEWS with tags , , on November 12, 2008 by chomposaurus

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A little coconut in the batter never hurt anyone. In fact, it’s helped a lot of people discover just how much more room we have for fried-food innovation (that doesn’t involve submerging peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in peanut oil). So that’s why I grabbed up Bell & Evans’ Frozen Coconut Breaded Chicken Fingers during my most recent trip to Whole Foods. What could possibly go wrong? And at $6.99 they legally had to be amazing.
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I was cooking for one so I wondered if I’d need the whole package. I opened the box and discovered… five medium sized fingers. At more than a dollar a piece, they better be damn good.
And let me tell you, they were. The coconut added to the flavor without overpowering the very tender, juicy chicken. You could have fooled me into thinking they were freshly fried. But do I need gourmet chicken fingers on a Tuesday night? That’s the question. $6.99 per person for the main entrée of a home cooked meal does not qualify as economical.
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Buying local and organic necessarily increases the price of food (until the supply chain adjusts, perhaps). And nothing is affected more than meat, which is the most expensive type of food to produce. Examples like simply show that good, healthy meat should be a smaller portion of your diet than you’ve come to expect. The market forces of supply and demand (affecting both your wallet and your health) make it so.