Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fakin' Bacon

You may have an inkling about my bacon fascination from previous posts. The silky fat juxtaposed against crispy smoked pork is hard to equal, and even harder to beat. Some ridiculously hopeful souls are out there trying. After a friend hounded me to try Baconnaise, I succumbed and purchased it among other bacon alternatives found at the grocery store. While it was tempting to head to the vegan aisle to check out soy bacons, Meatpaper already covered the options in their seventh issue, and it wasn't pretty. My mission was to weigh the options of a non-meat eater when trying to flavor their dishes with the essence of smoked pork belly.

First up was Bacon Salt from J&D's Everything Should Taste Like Bacon company. That is their full name, and they began the company after winning some dough on America's Funniest Home Videos...not joking. From there, they launched Bacon Salt, which is now available in six staggering flavors (wait, I thought this was bacon flavored salt). I picked up the Hickory flavor because it was the only one on the shelf, and quickly learned that it's both kosher and vegetarian friendly. Which brings me to a pet peeve about vegatarian food always trying to mimic meat. The ironic message seems to be, we know meat tastes better, but we can't eat it. What if we grind up some bulghur wheat, blacks beans and wrap it in burlap? Now that's a burger! I like vegetables, and I eat them regularly. What's wrong with just eating a plate of bulghur wheat and beans, hold the burlap? Bacon Salt raw tastes like salt with a hint of liquid smoke. I actually think it smells more like bacon, and just really tastes like smoke. A very poor bacon substitute indeed.

Next up was Bac'n Pieces, or more commonly referred to as Baco's. These hard bits of salted textured soy flour had a slight aroma of cardboard with little payoff in each salty bite. The extreme crunchiness also took away any fake bacon points. Another dud.

Baconnaise comes from the same boys responsible for Bacon Salt. In addition to these fine products, they also offer bacon flavored ranch dressing mix, microwave popcorn, and envelopes; yes envelopes. These products were sadly unavailable in the stores that I frequent. Unfortunatley, Baconnaise is widely available. Though not made from bacon, they have somehow captured the mouthfeel of slightly congealed bacon grease with this product. The flavor has not a hint of baconny goodness, but instead tastes like an overly salted mayo made with bacon grease. It will surely hang around for a while as a novelty buy, but I won't be a repeat buyer.

The best option was the Tom's Bacon Cheddar Fries. They tasted like neither bacon or cheddar, but after the previous three products, it proved most edible.

It may have been admittedly unfair to try these items without accompaniment, so I went for ultimate test of bacon fakery. Would these products be able to quell the BLT cravings of a salivating Jewish vegetarian. Thick slices of tomato were covered in Bacon Salt, leaf lettuce was carefully added, and lightly toasted bread was topped with a generous schmear of Baconnaise. One bite and I was transported to a place that induced a gag reflex. I actually spit it out. The main culprit was the Bacconaise.

Not that the world needed proof, but there is no substitute yet for the beauty and flavor of bacon, but a little Bacon Salt on some extra tomoato slices wasn't half bad.

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.