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20May

Howdy there!  Today we’re reviewing an accidental adventure, the Artisanal Jerky Plate at The Greenhouse Tavern at The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, OH.

The Greenhouse Tavern's Artisanal Jerky Plate

The Greenhouse Tavern’s Artisanal Jerky Plate

This place is a hip and happenin’ downtown restaurant with an innovative menu, a clear focus on quality ingredients and inventive flavors, and simply fantastic service and atmosphere.  When we saw there jerky offering on the appetizer menu, an item prepared daily, we were so enthused we ordered TWO.  You know, for science.  And it was all the more exciting when the plates arrived with TWO different meaty treats to explore – meat sticks and jerky strips!  While all this makes for a fantastic dining experience, what does it mean for Jerkyology?  Can an ‘artisanal’ jerky appetizer deliver the goods?  Lets’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B+):  This assortment of jerky offers an array of terrific flavors.  With the meat sticks you first get a wave of garlic and pepper, soon there’s a bit of clove, and after a bit maybe a hint of chili.  It bares a truly enjoyable sweetness and a just touch of heat with a slightly sour hint in there to boot.  The jerky strips are a quintessential dried beef – a simple beef flavor, with little added flavorings, delivering a quality clean beef taste.

Texture (A):  The meat sticks are soft and moist.  They have a firm bite and are easy to chew.  The jerky strips are also moist, but with a tougher bite.  The meat chews easily enough, though requiring a bit of effort, offering a really great tactile experience.

Smell (B+):  The sticks’ scent follow right along with their taste consisting mostly of a mild but flavorful garlic and a rich but well balanced smokiness.  There’s a hint of spice, maybe clove, too.  It’s smells really nice.  For the jerky strips it’s an exercise in simplicity.  You smell the delicious dried beef and nothing else.  It’s clean and genuinely appetizing.

Appearance (A+):  The sticks are light slightly redish-brown with an appetizing casing with texturing along its surface.  The strips are cut along grain and are a darkish brown with a slight bit of red inside.  The surface of the strips are have a slight sheen and the pieces look every bit the small-batch jerky they are.  Again, nice.

Consistency (A):  For both the sticks and strips the moisture level of the meats were exceptionally consistent throughout each piece, and from piece to piece.  Clearly there was great attention to ensuring their quality here.  The flavor too was predictably good from bite to bite and every bit of this plate’s offerings were as good as the others.  The level of control exhibited here was just fantastic.

Overall (A-):  The fine folks at the Greenhouse Tavern sure do serve up some tasty jerky!  The combination of the bold and complex flavors in the meat sticks is so fantastically complementary to the clean, essential flavor of the jerky strips.  Both excellent examples in their own right, together they deliver a wonderful range of tastiness.  Also, it’s important to note that the sweet brown sugar sauce drizzled on the plate added terrific dimension to the plate, too.  All in, this jerky plate was an experiential feast for the senses and is definitely worth checking out if you’re in their next of the woods.  Eat and enjoy!

11Nov

Greetings!

For this round of Jerkyological evaluation we’re tearing into a bag of Golden Island All-Natural Chili Lime Beef Jerky procured from the Costco jerky assortment.

Golden Island All-Natural Chili Lime Beef Jerky

Golden Island All-Natural Chili Lime Beef Jerky

This, the third of three Golden Island “Epicurean Flavors”, is the last of the batch to receive a thorough Jerkyology review.  The previous two flavors – Kung Pao and Five Spice were definitely tasty, but the later had some issues with the edibility of the meat.  They’re all truly adventurous flavors that show a real love of jerky and do their part to add to the breadth of jerky experiences.  Chili Lime is a not-uncommon flavor, particularly in areas with strong Mexican food traditions, but doesn’t often turn out particularly well.  With the demonstrated skill we’ve seen from the fine folks at Golden Island in the past, does this jerky deliver on the promise of an exceptional treat?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (A):  First:  wow, they totally nailed it!  This is what Chili Lime is all about.  The lime flavor leads the charge and it is both deep and powerful.  This isn’t a ‘lime flavor’ added to the jerky but rather a real-deal full-on lime taste that leaves you looking for the peels.  The sweetness quickly follows, a clean and simple sugary goodness that wraps itself around the lime and makes it even more enjoyable.  Once your mouth takes all that in you get to the chili flavor.  Here again is excellence in execution.  The chili taste seems a bit additive at first, almost like a tag-along hanging around the edge of this mouth-party, but after a few moments the dance begins and it joins into the mix and delivers just the right bit of lingering heat that brings everything together.  It’s just fantastic and is possibly the best chili lime flavor we’ve ever seen in a jerky.  Ever.
Texture (A-):   This is a tender, moist jerky that bends and tears easily and is easy to chew.  The pieces is cut along the grain and has an almost tattered seeming surface.  It feels really nice.  Good stuff.
Smell (B+):  This jerky’s scent is all about the citrus.  The citrus smells – there are lemon and lime  at work – are balanced in a truly expert way.  The lemon scent stands out a bit above the lime, but together they offer up a wider range of nose notes.  After enjoying the citrus scents for a bit the sweetness starts to come through and, at times, evokes memories of Girl Scout cookies and other childhood joys.  It is an excellent complement to the flavor of this jerky and definitely does its part in the jerky experience.

Appearance (B+):  This jerky looks a bit rough at first, but once you have a few pieces and understand what you have you start seeing it for what it is and it looks pretty good.  The pieces are general pretty good sized, cut slightly thickly, with some nibble-sized bits mashed in the mix here and there.  They’re a darkish brown color with a red hue throughout and the surface has a ragged sort of texture.  There are tiny bits of chili and peppers scattered across the surface as well, adding visual interest.  All-in-all, it looks good.

Consistency (A-):    The flavor of this jerky is spot-on throughout the bag; the balance of the flavors and their overall intensity is expertly delivered.  The moisture, too, is delightfully consistent from bite to bite.  Importantly, given the tough time we had with the Five Spice flavor, the meat in this bag is cut with a nicely uniform thickness and there were only a few bits of gristle to be found.  This is an expertly made jerky.

Overall Impression (A-):  We have a winner!  This Chili Lime jerky is an absolute joy and a welcome departure from the usual assortment of jerky flavors.  The flavor is just fantastic, with depth and balance that point to genuine skill, and the pieces feel every bit like the quality beef they are.  Not everyone is going to go for the chili lime flavor itself, but if you’re at all a fan (or you just have the curiosity to give it a whirl) you’re going to love this stuff.  Grab a bag… grab several… and dig in.  Eat well!

4Nov

Howdy!

Today’s object of interest is a big ol’ bag of Golden Island All-Natural Five Spice Beef Jerky from the jerky selection at the local Costco.

Golden Island All-Natural Five Spice Beef Jerky

Golden Island All-Natural Five Spice Beef Jerky

This is the second of three “Epicurean Flavors” from Golden Island to receive our Jerkyology attention, picked up at the local Costco.  While the variety of any type of item at Costco is, by design, pretty limited, their reputation for quality is well-known.  Golden Island makes a number of jerkies, generally tasty and of good quality, and this special selection of flavors appears to be available only online and through Costco.  For the curious, a typical “Asian Five Spice” is a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, and cennel seeds, though recipes may contain a variety of alternative ingredients like tumaric and ginger.  The important thing though is just how good this Five Spice jerky is.  Challenge accepted.  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B+):  This is a tasty jerky.  The flavor is predominantly a sweet one with a nice “Asian” flair.  You’ll notice a well-balance saltiness and the familiar notes of soy sauce that add breadth to this jerky’s taste.  There’s a tiny bit of spice in there too, though difficult to make out on its own, that adds some character overall without drawing any real attention to itself.  The mix is, taken all together, a great one.  Piece to piece it is pleasant and appetizing.
Texture (B):  In general, this jerky is a moderately tender and slightly moist jerky.  The meat is cut along the grain, at a bit of an angle, and has a ragged and tattered surface.  It tears easily and is nicely chewable… if you take a bite without any gristle.

Smell (C+):  The scent of this jerky is okay, but not particularly remarkable.  It has a surprisingly weak aroma considering the strength of its flavor and making out anything specific from what you can smell is a challenge.  This isn’t bad by any stretch, but it doesn’t add much to the overall experience.  So while the generally nondescript scent doesn’t offer anything of note it doesn’t offend in any way.

Appearance (B+):  This jerky looks pretty good once you get used to it.  The pieces are medium to largish in size, though there are a fun number of crumbs to be found.  They are a dark brown color with a ragged surface that looks at first like a coating of seasonings but with some scrutiny turns out to be tattered bits of the meat itself.  It’s a very distinctive look.

Consistency (C-):  While it is clear that a great deal of attention went into crafting an enjoyable and high-quality treat, this particular jerky has some consistency challenges.  First, there is an exceptional amount of gristle in the bag.  More than just bits of fat here and there – something you’d generally expect, particularly in higher quality jerkies made with minimal processing – this jerky had dozens of pieces that you just couldn’t eat.  After the fist few unsuccessful bites you end up eyeing the next piece with suspicion and end up trying to visual week out the disagreeable bits by hand.  It’s more than a bit distracting.  The pieces themselves are cut thickly and are generally substantial, but again not reliably so.  A sizable portion of the bag has pieces 2-3 times as thick as the norm and their moisture content varies from dry-but-tender to nearly-desiccated and ‘old’ feeling.  The flavoring too suffers from lackluster execution.  While the majority of the bag delivers the sweet and tasty five spice flavor well, it’s a slight majority.  Easily a third of the jerky in the bag had either a very weak flavor or a flavor that seemed out of balance with the norm.  Overall this inconsistency of the meat itself, its thickness and moisture, and flavor really take a toll on the appeal of this jerky.

Overall Impression (C+):  This is so nearly a great jerky.  The flavor is good and the meat enjoyable, but with the significant inconsistencies in the jerky itself the quality suffers greatly and it really diminishes its appeal.  The folks at Golden Island have the makings of something great, but for now at least it’s merely “okay”.  If you’re willing to wade though the tough bits and can overlook the variability of execution from piece to piece, it really is a tasty jerky and there’s still something there to enjoy.  Be brave and try a bag – maybe you’ll have better luck than we did.  Eat well!

22Oct

Hello!

Today we’re tearing into of a bag of Golden Island All-Natural Kung Pao Beef Jerky procured at the local Costco.

Golden Island All-Natural Kung Pao Beef Jerky

Golden Island All-Natural Kung Pao Beef Jerky

Costco’s jerky selection is usually pretty limited, often only carrying one or two ‘interesting’ flavors at any given time.  Still, while the variety isn’t great the quality of the jerky they stock is usually pretty good.  If there’s any adventure to be had from Costco’s selection it is usually from Golden Island.  On a recent trek we picked up THREE previously unfamiliar Golden Island flavors and, given the “triple crown of HOT” description, this is clearly the one that had to be tried first.  So is this jerky a tasty treat?  Let’s see what you get with this one:
Taste (B+):  Hot is subjective, but this one will probably tick the box for most folks.  There’s a flavor race when you take your first bite with a rush of sweetness flanked on all sides but a tongue-flailing spicy kick.  The baseline taste seems more that of a traditional “Asian” flavoring through the pairing of a simple sugary soy sauce combination with some additional savory spices through in to great effect.  Riding atop that flavor is a double-punch of hotness.  They used chili sauce, chili powder, a bit of turmeric and some paprika to give this jerky a decided kick, and it does the job nicely.  It’s a really enjoyable burn.  Not overwhelming by any means, but definitely something that grabs your attention and lingers for a while on your palate.  Still, these two flavor profiles don’t really play together – the effect is like eating two different jerkys at the same time.  The complement each other well enough but they are persistently distinct from beginning to end.

Texture (A):  This jerky is tender and moist and tears easily.  While cut along the grain, the pieces’ have a slightly rough, almost ragged looking surface that feels a bit fluffy, for lack of a better word, as you take your bite.  It is, initially, a bit unfamiliar but the effect is a pleasant one and you quickly acclimate to it.  In practice it almost seems a clever way to up the surface area of the jerky so it can accommodate more flavor.

Smell (B+):  The first thing you smell is a sweet and soy scent that is really quite appetizing.  With a few more whiffs you start to make out a bit of the tang from the chili flakes / pepper / powder.  It’s a distinctly Asian-style scent that nicely foretells of the great flavor that follows.

Appearance (A):  The pieces are generally medium to largish in size, easily providing a few or more healthy bites each, and are a dark brown color with inviting red hues throughout.  It also sports a substantial coating of visible red pepper and other spicy bits, a warning sign of the heat it brings to your mouth.  All together it has a distinct appearance that is both attention-getting and appetizing.

Consistency (B+):  This jerky has been made with a clear attention to the execution of flavor.  Each bite, big or small, brings the same sweet and savory flavor with an escalating heat.  The moisture level, too, is consistent throughout, demonstrating great control in the jerky making process.  The one area where this jerky falls a bit short is in the meat itself.  While the meat definitely seems to be of good quality, there were too many pieces with inedible bits of gristle.  While it would generally not be that noteworthy to have one or two bites with these unappetizing inclusions in a bag of this size, there were numerous pieces compromised in this way.  Some of the gristle was small and easily discarded while other pieces were large and invasive enough to abandon the bite or the large piece altogether.  This is by no means enough of a distraction to dull the joy of this jerky but it does diminish its otherwise excellent execution.

Overall Impression (B+):  This is a great jerky!  It’s tasty, fun, and delivers a really compelling kick in the tongue with a spicy heat that’s full on flavor rather than gratuitous pain.  The Golden Island folks truly do make great jerky and their Kung Pao Beef Jerky is a great example of their skill.  If you enjoy sweet and savory heat then this jerky will likely find a happy place in your world.  Pick up a bag and give it a whirl, but don’t forget to keep that beverage handy.  Eat well!

13Jun

Howdy!

Today’s tasty testing is being conducted on a big ol’ bag of Krave Black Cherry Barbecue Pork Jerky procured at the local Costco.

Krave Black Cherry Barbecue Pork Jerky

Krave Black Cherry Barbecue Pork Jerky

KRAVE has been crafting a unique, nontraditional assortment jerky for several years.  They pride themselves on providing all-natural jerky that’s minimally processed sporting one-of-a kind taste experiences.  We reviewed their Smoky Grilled Teriyaki Gourmet Pork Jerky and Pineapple Orange Gourmet Beef Jerky about a year ago – tasty stuff – and jumped at the opportunity to try this their newest flavor.  Is it as good as its predecessors?  Here’s what you get with this one:

Taste (A):  From your first bite you taste delicious pork that starts with a mild, almost timid sweetness.  There’s sugar, honey, and molasses in there but it takes a little time for them to be distinct.  The cherry flavor comes next, riding the wave of the sweets.  It’s a carefully balanced fruitiness that adds to the taste all on its own.  The savory flavors that follow, a bit of red wine and the garlic and onion, quickly capture your attention without detracting from that delightful fruity sweetness.  There’s a bit of a spiciness that tops it all off, after a spell, culminating in a terrifically complex yet subtle taste that’s nothing less than masterful.  Still, in every bite, you taste that delicious lean pork, its flavor elevated through this impressive display of skill and execution.

Texture (A):  This pork is exceptionally tender, cut along the grain, and tears easily in strips.  It is particularly easy to bite and chew and has a substantial feel to it.   It provides a really enjoyable bit of eating.

Smell (B+): You can detect a good bit of the flavors of this jerky in its scent.  The garlic and onion are prominent along with that red wine and black cherry.  It’s very appetizing and easily preps you to take that first bite.

Appearance (A):  This jerky looks great.  The generally large strips of pork are natural cut and sliced moderately thin.  The meat itself is lean and sports a rich reddish-brown color overall with lightly colored edges here and there.  The larger pieces are accompanied by a variety of smaller jerky bits – thin strips, tiny nuggets, etc. – adding to the artisan feel of the meat.

Consistency (B+): The cuts of meat exhibit a good bit of variety in size and shape, though most are larger strips.  Every piece in the bag is sliced to a uniform thickness throughout, even the tiny bits, and the moisture content is just perfect down the last bite.  The flavor is almost as consistent.  The overall flavor throughout the bag was really, really good, but the balance of flavors did vary somewhat from piece to piece.  In some pieces the sweetness and the black cherry flavors seemed notably more pronounced while in others they were more subdued relative to the spicy and savory flavors present.  While the aggregate intensity seemed to be pretty much the same this variation was notable.  To be clear, it didn’t detract from the jerky in any meaningful way but it didn’t seem intentional, either.  It’s a minor blemish in an otherwise masterfully made meat.

Overall Impression (A):  Its always great to find a unique jerky flavor that delivers on the prommise of being something special, and this jerky is definitely something special.  The novelty of the black cherry flavor alone would make this a noteworthy treat, but made with such a delicately balanced flavor while honoring and preserving the innately delicious pork itself…  wow!  Nicely done, Krave!  If you have the opportunity you should definitely pick up some of this exceptional pork jerky.  Great snacking awaits you… eat well!

19Jun

Howdy folks!

Today we’re having a go at a bag of Krave Smoky Grilled Teriyaki Gourmet Pork Jerky procured in the specialty food section of the always-interesting Spec’s.

Krave Smoky Grilled Teriyaki Gourmet Pork Jerky

Krave Smoky Grilled Teriyaki Gourmet Pork Jerky

Another of Krave’s innovative jerkies, it is made with minimal processing and without artificial ingredients and promises a wholesome, satisfying snack.  We first heard of Krave a few years back on wine.woot.com when we picked up a sample pack of their unfamiliar and intriguingly flavored jerkies.  They amused.  Should you rush out and pick up a bag for yourself?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B-):  This is definitely not your run-of-the-mill teriyaki.  The flavor is unusually savory for a teriyaki jerky, with a definite sweetness but one that is not at all dominant in the flavor.  It’s a very unusual balance, and a bit disconcerting at first, but it grows on you.  After a few bites you get a better sense of the soy sauce and wine flavors mingling with the sugar and spices and somehow the pork manages to carry through, too.  It demands a bit more attention than typical teriyaki jerky to really appreciate what’s going on, but it’s definitely worth it.

Texture (A-):  What a pleasantly supple jerky this is.  This along-the-grain cut jerky is almost too moist and tender, taking the innately accommodating pork to the very edge of its goodness.  It tears easily, chews almost effortlessly, but all the while feels substantial.  This is some well done pork-work!

Smell (B+):  The teriyaki scents are nicely interwoven with a more subtle smoky smell that rolls around nicely in your nose.  It’s not a particularly potent aroma, but delivers a clear and inviting preview of the jerky itself.  You can particularly make out the soy and rice wine but they don’t really stand out, as such.  It all hold together in excellent balance and smells pretty darn good.

Appearance (A-):  With a dark reddish-brown color and a glossy hue this jerky is pork on parade.  The pieces are cut along the grain and the lean, tender pieces of pork will appeals to your eyes as much as your mouth.  The Krave folks have clearly taken care to craft a high-quality food and have attended to the detail of their wares.

Consistency (A-):  Again, the fine folks at Krave have demonstrated their skill and attention to quality in making this jerky.  The thickness, flavor, and moisture of this jerky is uniform throughout and even pieces of substantially different size delivered the same unique flavor and texture.  It’s a sign of skill that they maintain this level of control.

Overall Impression (B+):  Jerky like this makes Jerkyology fun.  This pork jerky doesn’t try to take the ordinary teriyaki experience and do one better, it takes the idea of teriyaki and does something all its own.  It’s a really enjoyable departure from the norm but still something that takes a bit of acclimation to really appreciate.  It’s a good, well-made jerky that will definitely deliver an out-of-the-ordinary jerky experience.  Grab a bag if you can and partake of its tasty goodness.  Enjoy!

19Jun

Howdy!

We’re knawing on a bag of Krave Pineapple Orange Gourmet Beef Jerky picked up in the specialty food section of the local Spec’s.

Krave Pineapple Orange Gourmet Beef Jerky

Krave Pineapple Orange Gourmet Beef Jerky

Krave offers an exciting assortment of jerkies, each sporting unique flavors and made with minimal processing and without artificial ingredients.  Their packaging conveys their love of the meat with whimsical iconography and saying.  These folks clearly love this stuff!  Is it as good as it looks?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B):  The flavor of this jerky is great, but you might, at first, shy away from your first taste.  With such bold packaging you’d be forgiven for expecting a bold flavorful punch but you won’t find anything that clumsy here.  What you get instead is a mildly intense and only moderately sweet jerky with a deceptive complexity that takes a little time to come through.   The first thing you taste is the citrus flavors, mostly pineapple with a supporting bit of orange.  It’s a nice flavor with the fruitiness nicely enhanced with a bit of good ol’ sugar. After that already subdued flavor begins to fade you start to notice the supporting tastes so carefully woven in.  You quickly detect the soy and wine flavors and they add a truly enjoyable depth to this meaty treat.  If there’s room for improvement here it would be that the taste is a bit too subtle and leaves you wanting something a bit stronger.  Still, it tastes good and is definitely worth the time it takes to take it all in.

Texture (B+):  With a soft, almost flaky consistency, this natural-style jerky is cut across the grain and is remarkably tender.  It is exceptionally easy to eat and feels great in your mouth.

Smell (B-):  This jerky smells sweet with the pineapple scent being the most pronounced.  It smells nice, if not particularly interesting, and does an adequate job of conveying the low-key nature of this jerky.

Appearance (A-):  This jerky has a dark brown color with light yellow highlights.  The pieces are natural-cut in varying sizes and provides a nice variety to your eyes.  The surface of the jerky is moist yet has an almost dusty look to it, no doubt from its sugary glaze, that looks quite appetizing.  It’s a handsome jerky.

Consistency (A-):  The Krave folks show their stuff in the fantastic consistency of their jerky.  The thickness of each piece is uniformly thin and the moisture and texture of the jerky holds true throughout.  The taste, too, is expertly uniform and delivers the same great jerky experience from beginning to end.

Overall Impression (B):  This jerky does a lot of things right.  It’s clearly made with great skill and is a truly enjoyable treat.  Still, while the flavor is genuinely pleasant, it seems a bit too understated and you may find wishing it had a bit more to offer.  That said, it’s a really good jerky that offers a novel taste and a lot of character.  If you spy a bag of this great jerky in your favorite fine food isle pick up a bag and give it a whirl.  You’ll definitely enjoy this tasty treat.  Enjoy!

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