Baconfest!

Sorry, you missed baconfest. But I went for you, so your cholesterol count is safe.

baconfest piggyZeppelin Hall, a Jersey City biergarten with tons of space for outdoor dining, added a one-night baconated menu to their usual spiel of currywurst, spaetzle, pretzels, and blau speck burgers:

Candied Applewood Smoked Bacon with Pecans.
Bacon skewers with caramelized onion & bourbon dipping sauce.
Steakhouse bacon, a grilled slab of pork belly.
Bacon-wrapped shrimp. Bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
Bacon Mac & Cheese. Bacon Meatloaf. BLTs.
The Elvis Presley Bacon sandwich, peanut butter, bananas and bacon!
The Bacon-Bacon Cheeseburger!
Bacon French Fries! (Okay, they had Bacon Salt on them)
and… Chocolate Covered Bacon!

baconfest burgers

Now pair this with a beer hall serving 144 taps (albeit maybe two dozen or so beers on those taps) and you have a night to remember. It was my friend Mike Dross’s pre-birthday, and the only thing he loves more than bacon is bacon. So we baconed him up.

With a beer mug the size of an artillery shell in hand, we sailed the seas of bacon and enjoyed killing our hearts and livers at the same time. My favorites? The chocolate covered bacon and the BLT, which was appropriately overladen with delicious, crisp bacon.

bacon being saucy!
bacon being saucy!

The chocolate bacon was twirled around a skewer and then coated, with a cherry on top. They did a good job. Zeppelin Hall is no gastropub- they serve down-home German specialties like wienerschnitzel and authentic currywurst well, if a tad pricey, but they also serve the biggest beer in the region. They aren’t my #1 choice, but in Jersey City, they are a great choice for beer lovers, who want space to breathe and enjoy good food. They also have plenty of parking, something rare in the JC area. And they made a damn decent burger, a memorable one with a good sear and beefy flavor, solid bun, properly cooked to order.

The Bacon-Bacon burger was good, if not quite the amazing Baconeator Burger served at Morris Tap & Grill. I could’ve eaten the bacon skewers all evening, but the Elvis was a sad sandwich, thin, with only a few strips of bacon that seemed like the thin, microwave variety, and barely a spread of peanut butter. I ordered it late, so maybe they’d run out of the great bacon I had on the skewers.

So is there such a thing as too much bacon? Maybe there is. But there’s never too much beer. They serve Oktoberfest brews all year round from Hofbrau and Hacker-Pschorr, and I really enjoyed the Commodore Perry IPA from Great Lakes brewing as well. Great Lakes is becoming one of my favorite breweries.

Krug’s Tavern – still the best

Open since 1938, once owned by Raging Bull boxer Jake “The Bronx Bull” LaMotta and still owned by his family, Krug’s Tavern in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood is housed in an unassuming and dilapidated building that could be mistaken for a run of the gin mill bar full of cranky old men drinking piss-yellow beer out of tiny glasses. Inside, it has that kind of feel. A few high top tables, a long mahogany bar with patched red vinyl stools. A poster of LaMotta behind the bar, amidst the bottles of Tullamore Dew.

But if you venture in the flimsy storm door and linger, you’ll find an energetic blue collar crowd stuffing the place at lunch hour, from electrical workers and hard hats in uniform, the boys from the docks in their tracksuits, and cop brass stretching their conservatively cut sport coats. The kind of place where crook and law alike will belly up to the bar. Behind which sits a glass case brimming with meatballs the size of grapefruit, which will soon become a legendary burger for those with king size appetites. Order one and they’ll flatten out that softball of fat speckled chuck on the griddle and sizzle it low and slow so it remains juicy even if you order it well done.

When I was a kid, there was a diner car named Nunzio’s, run by an eponymous, mustachioed fellow who could’ve jumped in a pair of overalls and white gloves to play Super Mario. He served a juicy burger on a Kaiser roll that remains the paragon of burgers to me. He wouldn’t serve me one on Friday during Lent, either. I had to get peppers and eggs on a roll. Krug’s burger hits that nostalgic memory in the bullseye. They serve theirs on a large sesame seed bun that is just barely up to the task. It stays together, but you eat your burger wondering if you’ll have to finish with a knife and fork, especially if you’re generous with the ketchup.

Places that manage a juicy griddle burger are uncommon these days. Ann’s Snack Bar in Atlanta makes an even bigger patty than Krug’s, their infamous Ghetto Burger- a full pound of well-seasoned beef topped with chili and cheese, the size of the paper plate it’s served on- and Jimmy’s in Harlem steams theirs under a steel ice cream cup. Both are worth visiting, but if you’re in New Jersey, only Krug’s will do. Oh, I love the burgers at the Cloverleaf Tavern. If you get them medium rare, those perfect chewy rolls handle any number of toppings, from their Cajun Crunch burger topped with house-made spicy potato chips, to the Fatburger with Monterey Jack cheese sticks and Taylor Ham pork roll. But Krug’s is all about the beef.

I’ve had bacon cheese burgers at Krug’s, and most recently, a Taylor Ham & cheese (pictured above). It is that rare burger that is not overwhelmed by a crisp and smoky slice of bacon, or two slices of fat and spicy pork roll. All you taste is good, juicy, ground beef. What a burger should be. They pack 3/4 of a pound into that bun for $6.50. Bacon or Taylor is a buck extra. Fries and battered onion rings- both excellent, crispy and always fried in fresh, tasteless oil- are extra. And enormous. Their mozzarella sticks are house made, never frozen, fried to bursting, crisp and gooey as they are meant to be. They have a good selection on tap, with Harpoon and Sam Adams available as well as the American trinity of Bud-Miller-Coors. They serve Cokes in the can, and your meal begins with a fresh sour pickle and two hot cherry vinegar peppers arranged in vulgar fashion.

I’ve written about Krug’s before for Serious Eats, and it is always a memorable experience. They are consistent, and I’ve never had a bad burger. Doing it since 1938 must help. The place ain’t pretty, but it’s got character. There’s a biscuit shaped elbow of pipe jutting through the tiles in the men’s room. A ’58 Thunderbird rusts on flat tires in the parking lot. Loud men lunch here, venting out the day’s woes. But it’s an original, and without pretense. My kind of place. Next, I’ll give you the rundown on my favorite seafood joint- not Legal Seafood, despite their excellent food- but a little hole in the wall in Garfield where a bowl of fried clams and a beer won’t set you back more than six bucks.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

All the Bacon and Eggs You Have


My new favorite person.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

the three little pigs learn their ABC’s

Pennsylvania memorialized the bloodiest battle of the Civil War with a stunning white monument listing all its citizens who fought in the conflict. I decided to ponder their sacrifice by eating a pork chop and bacon sandwich at Appalachian Brewing Company, a brewpub in spitting distance of the battlefield.
Behold its excess. Three slabs of thinly sliced grilled pork topped with bacon. If only they put ham or pulled pork on it, the piggy trifecta would have been perfected. It looks better than it tastes, sadly- it lacks any spice and the pork was rather dry. I should have slathered it with BBQ sauce or something.

The restaurant is not far from here, where I stand on Little Top, a strategic observation post overlooking one of the bloodiest sites of the War, the Devil’s Den. We stopped to eat at ABC, where they sell the sandwich, decent burgers, and some good local beer. I liked the Jolly Scottish Ale. The Marzen-style beer and a Hefewiezen we tried were good, but not remarkable. The scotch ale stood out.
Milky had a Fire Jumper Burger, which turned out to be very mild. What do you want, it’s Pennsylvania! The further you go into the Midwest and the word spicy loses all value. He still enjoyed it, and it looks pretty good, don’t it?
However, in Gettysburg I’d head to Garryowen’s Irish Pub. We had a nice burger there and a fantastic corned beef Reuben. They have Guinness and Smithwick’s on tap, but not the local microbrews. I was glad I stopped at ABC if only to try their beer. I wish it hadn’t been 85+ degrees, or I’d have brought some Scottish Ale home.

hot dogs wrapped in bacon

At AFS, where I train in the deadly arts of Bando to use my mighty belly as a hammer to crush my foes, a fellow maniac said my blog made him hungry all the time, and asked: “Are you a chef?” My response? “No, I’m just a fatass!”
But I can cook well. Hot dogs wrapped in bacon isn’t the toughest thing to do, so for the cooking impaired I’ll show you how to make ’em. I made some for Milky and I when we watched Crank, and two filled us to the gills with delicious. First, wrap your hot dogs in bacon. I considered holding them with toothpicks but the cooking oil would burn them, but if you have small metal skewers they might help hold the bacon on.
Put some canola or grapeseed oil in a deep skillet or pan. I only used 1/2 an inch of oil, and turned the dogs over with tongs. If you have a deep fryer it would be easier, but with patience this will work. Heat the oil on high until it shimmers and a little piece of bacon fat starts to fry in it. Then lower the heat to med-low and CAREFULLY put your hot dogs in. Tongs will help here. A metal spatula will work.

Remember the first rule of cookery: Don’t cook bacon when you’re naked!! It splatters oil all over the place. Like on your balls. Or even your ovaries. It will take a few minutes per side to crisp up the bacon. There’s a lot of moisture in bacon and it will splatter a lot. I have a fryer guard screen to cover the pan.
While your dogs are frying, toast your buns in the toaster and then put cheese on first. It’s much less messy that way, and the bun will melt it some. I use Land O’ Lakes White American cheese, because they put crack in it. That enhances the flavors. Lay out your condiments ahead of time. We had dill relish, crushed pineapple, Zatarain’s Creole mustard, Sriracha Hot Sauce (also known as “the Cock”), Habanero chile sauce, chopped roasted green chiles, Vlasic Stacker sliced pickles, Hormel Chili, Mango Salsa, Tabasco Reserve, Sour Cream, Diced jalapenos, Banana pepper rings, and ketchup. What, no sauerkraut? Nope. I don’t like it with bacon. It gets things all soggy. If you like it, squeeze it out in some paper towels.
To flip the dogs, I used dogs- about 3-4 minutes after they went in, and only the very top of the bacon wasn’t cooked. So it only took another minute or two to crisp up. Deliver them right to the buns, and make your own wacky combinations.
My favorite was diced jalapenos, banana pepper rings, sour cream, mango salsa, crushed pineapple, roasted green chiles, and creole mustard. A bit spicy, but the sour cream & pineapple cools it off. I made a chili-cheese dog with Hormel canned chili, and will never use that again. It’s tasteless and gave me the poops something fierce. There are other canned chilis out there, or make your own. We also regretted the lack of Nathan’s Hot Dog Onions, which A&P did not have. For shame, A&P! Milky called his the Hot Pepper Rollercoaster. We called them all delicious.
For the record, I used Boar’s Head natural casing hot dogs and bacon, gifted from my pal Brian the Meat Man. Fine products that I will use again. The dogs had some good flavor and snap, and the bacon had good smoky flavor. We used Martin’s Potato Hot Dog Buns, soft with a bit of sweet. They toast very well.
We had them with Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, my favorite of the autumn seasonal pumpkin beers. It balances the firm full flavor of a brown ale with real pumpkin pie flavor. I’ve had pumpkinier beers, like Southern Tier, but Punkin Ale is more drinkable, and doesn’t overpower other foods. I also had a Southhampton Alt Bier, which is a decent example of the variety. A little too malty, but the only bottled Alt I’ve had. When Abita Select was an Altbier, it was my favorite, but they aren’t making it any more.

The Burger Shoppe – Bar Room Burger

A few weeks ago I braved the cold and snow for a burger during lunch downtown in the financial district. The Burger Shoppe is where bankers go for a bargain bite on Stone Street, when they want something tastier than the Subway next door. I reviewed their Recession Special– 2 burgers, fries and a drink for $15- here in November, but I wanted to try their more decadent Bar Room Burger, which comes with braised pork belly, aged gruyere, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and both fries and onion rings. It’s $18, and even more filling than the Special. So if you have a few more bucks to spare, you might want to give it a shot.

First of all, the patty is heftier and beefy; while it doesn’t compare to 5 Napkin or Bourdain, it is up there. The bun is a bit plain sesame seed deal when a ciabatta or sourdough with some flavor would improve things greatly. The toppings really save this though- the braised pork belly, while a bit scarce, is incredibly tasty. It’s essentially an uncured rasher of thick bacon, loaded with flavor (aka pork fat). The gruyere is sharp and isn’t drowned out, the mushrooms tasted like black trumpet and cremini, but could just be well-caramelized caps. The fries are excellent as usual, and the rings are thin and crisp, not over battered. You also get a tasty salad of greens and grape tomatoes to help your intestinal tract move this right along. Overall, it’s a very tasty meal, and one of the city’s better burgers if not the best.

I still don’t have the scratch to try their $175 Richard Nouveau burger with shaved black truffles, aged gruyere, and foie gras atop a Kobe beef patty. I’m not sure I ever will, either. If I ever want to blow the cash on it, you’ll read about it here.

Best BLT in New York?

I don’t normally return to a restaurant so quickly, but Dinosaur Bar-B-Que intrigued me with their offering of a BLT with house-cured bacon, fried green tomatoes, and their tangy remoulade in place of mayo. I had to try it. So Tommy Salami’s li’l posse of Beast, Milky and Firecracker converged at Dino’s instead of our usual brunch haunt- Blockhead’s at 107th and Amsterdam. We were not disappointed.

Once again, reservations are a must. At noon on a Saturday we waited 40 minutes for a table, and the bar was full. It was after noon, which is beer o’clock round these parts so I tried a tasty Brooklyn Brewery Winter Ale, which was rich and chocolatey. The Brooklyn Brewery gang has done it again. My other favorite here if you prefer a lighter beer is the Hook & Ladder Ale, which has a fruity aroma and a crisp refreshing taste. They also make kick-ass Bloody Marys, better than the Brooklyn Ale House’s mix in my opinion (and they are one of NYC’s best). It was tangy, spicy and smooth, but not at all watery, garnished with a green olive. I would have liked one of their drunken boiled shrimp on a skewer, but you can’t always get what you want. But it never hurts to ask- I will next time.

Once we got a table the service was at a good clip. My crew got their usual pulled pork sandwiches, which are excellent, and tried out all the sauces. Our consensus is that the Wango Tango smoky habanero sauce is the best. It’s not as hot as their hottest Devil’s Duel sauce, and still has plenty of flavor while also providing good bite. It never drowns out the meat either, so slather it on. But you wanted to hear about bacon, didn’t ya? Their BLT comes in two flavors, regular and “ultimate.” the Ultimate has their appetizer fried green tomatoes in the “T” slot, and they slather it with a generous helping of their tangy remoulade. It is quite a sandwich.

They cure their bacon in-house, and you get thick chewy slices. I prefer my bacon crisp, but I enjoyed this anyway. It was much more filling with a few slabs of thicker bacon. And the fried green tomatoes- crisp and crunchy, never mushy- were the perfect accompaniment. As you can see, they get a bed of shredded lettuce- I’d prefer green leaf or butter lettuce- and a solid sesame seed bun. You get two sides- I chose the mac ‘n cheese because it’s excellent, and the BBQ beans to try ’em out. They’re smoky sweet and delcious, a little thin but with plenty of pork bits in there for flavor. If you don’t want their best side- the salted ‘taters- try the beans, you won’t be disappointed.

To conclude, this is one of the best BLT’s I’ve ever had. It is definitely on the rich side, and it makes for a great hangover cure. With 2 sides it is quite the satisfying meal, and the melange of smoky chewy bacon, crisp tomato and the sauce’s rich tangy topping makes for a memorable BLT experience. Now we all know NYC restaurants love to sling pork belly, foie gras, truffles and “Kobe” beef like it’s going out of style, especially now that Wall Street fucknuts have all that bailout bonus money to spend- so I ask you, who makes the best BLT in NYC?

I like simplicity, so give meripe heirloom tomatoes, crisp salty bacon without extra flavors, fresh green lettuce and maybe fresh-made mayo on crunchy wheat or tangy sourdough bread and it’s perfection. Maybe a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper on the tomato, or Niman Ranch bacon. But I wouldn’t mind trying something ridiculously decadent, as you can easily assume. So let’s hear it, who can top the Ultimate BLT at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que?

For a review of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s ribs, pulled pork, sausage, brisket, appies, beers and sides, check out my earlier review here.