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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!

26Jul

Howdy there!

The focus of today’s Jerkyological assessment is a bag of Trader Joe’s Natural Original Beef Jerky, picked up at one of the Trader Joe’s in Silicon Valley.

Trader Joe's Natural Original Beef Jerky

Trader Joe’s Natural Original Beef Jerky

Trader Joe’s is known for its healthy choices and straightforward fare from meats to fresh product to a wide variety of snacks and side dishes, it’s a fun place to shop and explore.  That they have jerky is not surprising given how nutritious and wholesome jerky can be.  Still, given the broad focus of Trader Joe’s selection will their jerky prove a gem in the rough or something a bit less interesting?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (C+):  This is foremost a sweet and slightly tangy jerky.  The sugary flavor stands well above the soy sauce and apple cider vinegar flavors with a lingering bit of smokiness trailing off somewhere indistinct.  It’s a pleasant flavor, but not a particularly interesting one.  If you’re interested in a simple, straightforwardly sweet bit of jerky then you’ll probably be thrilled, otherwise it’ll likely land a bit on the forgettable side of the experience.

Texture (C+):  The jerky is slightly moist and pliable.  It’s cut across the grain and is easy to tear or bite.  While eating the jerky is easy and generally enjoyable, it is just a bit drier than it seems it should be.  As a result the meat seems to shred up unexpectedly as you chomp, with pieces staying connected at times when it seems like they should be separating.  Not unpleasant at all, but not particularly remarkable either.

Smell (C):  The scent of this jerky is all about the soy sauce, which smells nice… still, there’s very little else in the smell.  Again, nice but unremarkable.

Appearance (B):  This is a attractive jerky.  The pieces are cut to varying sizes, ranging from a small bites to a couple of inches to a side,and have generally straight cut edges paired with natural sides.  The jerky is cut a bit thick and has a dark brown color with a hint of red here and there.  It has a somewhat dry looking exterior and there’s a bit of marbling here and there.  They look appetizing and are one of the better aspects of this jerky.

Consistency (B):  This is a reasonably well-made jerky.  The taste, while not particularly remarkable, is true from bite to bite throughout the bag.  The moisture level of the meat is a bit variable, though not distracting at all.  The thickness of the jerky is very consistent throughout the bag and the jerky looks well made.

Overall Impression (C+):  You often wonder if the notion of ‘healthy’ food often suggests something less flavorful and there’s cause to wonder if that’s what has happened here.  The jerky is unremarkable in any way, but it is still tasty and enjoyable overall.  As an opportunistic purchase you’ll doubtlessly be pleased, but it isn’t something that you’d make a special trip for.  All told, it’s a nice and simple bit of meaty treatness that you’ll probably not think twice about after polishing off the bag.  If you find yourself opening up your own bag after your next trek to Trader Joe’s you’ll surely enjoy it, but you’ll probably not crave another any time soon.  Eat well!

21Jun

Howdy!

In celebration of Saturday (because any day you can eat Jerky is worth a bit of celebration) we’re training our taste on a bag of Oberto Applewood Smoked Bacon Jerky purchased while traveling in Toronto, Ontario.

Oberto Applewood Smoked Bacon Jerky

Oberto Applewood Smoked Bacon Jerky

This is the forth bacon jerky we’ve reviewed but, while the previous three were seemingly identical and likely produced by the same contract manufacturer, this jerky is Oberto’s very own recipe.  They’re proud that this jerky is all natural, made without artificial ingredients or preservatives.  This jerky, recently spotted with a completely new package design, is readily available in the US and Canada.  More importantly, it’s  BACON.  Yes, one of the greatest mouth-joys of life refined into a shelf-stable meaty treat.  So, is Oberto’s take on bacon jerky a joyful rendition of our favorite breakfast meat?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B+):  Yay, bacon!  This jerky tastes like slices of good ol’ bacon.   Really, how could that not be pretty awesome?  Your first impression is the applewood smoke flavor.  It’s simple and enjoyable.  The next thing you’d notice is the saltiness of the bacon.  It’s very salty, but not overly so, and does manage to pair nicely with the smokiness.   And… that’s about it.  It is salty smoked bacon in a bag.  Nice.

Texture (B-):  Tender and dry, this jerky tears easily and chews with only a minor effort.  The pieces are sliced relatively thin and are enjoyable to eat.

Smell (B+):  Behold the scent of smoked bacon!  This jerky smells just like it tastes and that’s a good thing.  The scent, mostly applewood smoke, is very appetizing and gives you a clear impression of the taste to follow.  The smell is strong, but not at all overbearing, and is really quite a pleasant introduction.

Appearance (B+):  This jerky looks like tasty bacon.  Again, nice.  This relatively lean bacon is sliced thinly and has an attractively marbled appearance ranging from light creamy brown to dark red.  The slices are packaged in half-strip lengths and vary in width.  Their natural bacon shape just further reinforces that you’re getting real bacon in the bag.

Consistency (B):   It’s a tricky thing trying to wrangle naturally inconsistent bacon into a consistent jerky, but the folks at Oberto have done an admirable job of it.  The slices are cut uniformly thin is predictably dry piece to piece.  The pieces come in two general sizes:  half-strips and bite-sized.  The flavor of the jerky, particularly the intensity of the smokiness and the salt, is remarkably solid throughout the bag.  Given that the lean/fat ratio of any given piece of bacon jerky can range pretty significantly, this shows a level of quality that is definitely worthy of kudos.

Overall Impression (B+):   This is a well done bacon jerky, and even slightly better than the others we’ve reviewed.  It’s a simple, straightforward bacon with a strong smoky flavor and a great eatable consistency.  It looks good, tastes good, and really… it’s bacon in a bag.  If you run across a bag of this tasty jerky feel confident in picking up some for yourself.  Eat and enjoy!

5Sep

Howdy!

Today we’re tearing into a bag of Texas Best Smokehouse Beef Stix purchased at their outstanding store in Italy, Texas.

Texas Best Smokehouse Beef Stix

Texas Best Smokehouse Beef Stix

No stranger to this veritable shrine to dried meats, the Beef Stix are just one of many tasty treats arrayed to tempt the visitor.  Unlike sausage-style sticks, these “Stix” are strips of regular beef so the temptation to see how they stack up to the veritable cornucopia of other meats offered at the smokehouse was simply too great to refuse.  Just how tasty are these narrow strip of beefy goodness?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (A):  Straight up, this jerky’s taste is fantastic!  Foremost you taste a solidly delivered black pepper kick.  It’s strong, and enjoyably so, and pairs up with the beef itself in an outstanding fashion.  There’s also a pronounced garlic flavor accompanied by a low-key brown sugar sweetness that seem to chime in with the pepper in a way that takes the whole well beyond the sum of the parts.  It’s an outstandingly tasty and yet deceptively simple flavor.

Texture (A):  While this natural-style jerky is only slightly moist it is quite pliable and easy to tear.  The bites start of slowly requiring a bit of effort to really dig into the beef, but it quickly softens up to really let the flavor out.  The pieces are cut along the grain and can be torn by hand easily enough.  The feel of this jerky in your mouth though is really something special.  It’s substantial and tough while also quickly soft and tender.  You get the whole gamut of feels from this jerky and it’s just really fun to eat.

Smell (B):  This jerky projects a relatively low-key scent, primarily conveying garlic and hints of black pepper.  It’s dry enough that there’s just not a lot of scent going on there, but what you do smell is still pretty pleasing, all told.

Appearance (A):  This jerky is natural-cut along the grain into long strips, or “Stix”.  These Stix are several inches long and generally around a half-inch wide.  Cut relatively thin, the meat has a dark reddish-brown hue and very, very slight sheen.  The meat itself looks to be of excellent quality and is really eye-candy in its own right.  Simply stated, the folks at Texas Best Smokehouse make a find looking jerky.

Consistency (A+):  These sticks are clearly the work of folks with deep expertise and zealous attention to detail.  The moisture of each piece was indistinguishable from one another, always maintaining that exceptional dry yet pliable feel.  The taste, similarly, was fantastically good from the first bite to the last with the pepper and garlicky sweetness steady throughout.   This jerky is simply outstandingly made and is a real testament to the skill of the folks at Texas Best Smokehouse.

Overall Impression (A):  This is an exceptionally good jerky.  The flavor is delicious, it feels like joy in your mouth, and you have real sense of the quality and care that went into making it with every bite.  This is the good stuff and if you’re a fan of peppery jerky this one will doubtless be a quick favorite.  If you make your way into the Texas Best Smokehouse you can rest assured that selecting their Beef Stix is a choice you’ll definitely feel good about on your way out of the store.  Swing on by Italy and grab yourself a bag of this awesome jerky and you’ll be in for quite a treat.  Eat well!

27Aug

Greetings!

Following a recent trip to Canada we’re enjoying a bag of West Coast Select Beef Jerky picked up at the airport duty free shop in Calgary, Alberta.

West Cost Select Beef Jerky

West Cost Select Beef Jerky

We’re all about exploring the local flavors so this little bag of jerky was a welcome find.  West Coast Select is the beef jerky brand of Sundance Seafood Ltd. in Surrey, British Columbia.  They offer an interesting range of salmon – smoked, canned, frozen, etc. – as well as a pair of beef jerky flavors. With their focus on fish, does their cow-based snack do the job?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B):  This is a really salty jerky.  It’s good and really brings out the flavor of the beef, but it is still quite potent.  There’s a complementary sweetness in the mix, too; some sugar and molasses that blend well and help to take a bit of the edge off of the saltiness.  A bit of smoke flavor rounds it all out and, in the end, it tastes pretty good!  It’s not a particularly complex flavor all told.  If you’re into salty you’ll really take to this one.

Texture (B+):  A dry but pliable jerky, the pieces are cut along the grain and tear easily either by hand or teeth.  It’s easy to chew and the meat has a quality feel to it.  Your mouth will like it.

Smell (B):  With a smoky scent that’s both simple and mild, this jerky smells nice.  That’s about it though.

Appearance (B+):  The pieces are generally small with straight-edge cuts and have a medium color with slight red highlights here and there.  They look every bit the quick and tempting snack bites they are.  This jerky looks nice and appetizing.

Consistency (A-):  Bite for bite this jerky is quite well made.  The moisture is consistent, and the salty and slightly smoky-sweet flavor holds true throughout the bag.  The pieces are uniformly thick and the meat is well trimmed.  The Sundance folks make a quality product with clear attention to ensuring that every bite is a good one.  Well done!

Overall Impression (B):  This is a solidly tasty jerky from our friends in BC.  The jerky is wildly salty in a delicious way and is made with the sort of attention to quality that really makes eating it quite a joy.  It’s nothing fancy, just a straightforwardly tasty treat.  So if you find yourself in the Great White North and run across a bag feel confident in picking up a bag and digging in.  It’s a good eat.  Enjoy!

19Aug

Howdy!

Today we’re openning up a bag of Pacific Gold Original Beef Jerky, picked up at the local Costco here in Frisco, Texas.

Pacific Gold Original Beef Jerky
One of the Oberto Sausage Company brands, Pacific Gold is a mainstay at Costco.  In keeping with the ‘big box’ model, the Costco packages are a half-pound each and sport a zipper closure so you don’t have to fret about polishing off the whole thing in one sitting.  The packing declares this to be a “Premium Jerky”, but is it really all that good?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B+):  This is a sweet jerky that first greets you with a nice, and slightly fruity, brown sugar flavor.  It’s a smooth sweetness complemented with a salty smoke flavor and a bit of garlic and pepper.  It’s very well-balanced and the sweetness and spiciness combine nicely to both enhance and accompany the flavor of the quality pieces of premium beef.  It’s genuinely tasty stuff!

Texture (A-):  These jerky pieces are naturally cut along the grain.  It’s tender, but not particularly moist, so pieces bite off easily and chew with an enjoyably substantial feel.

Smell (B):  The jerky smells smokier than you’d think, based upon the taste.  It has an almost sour note in its scent that’s definitely intriguing, but not especially enticing.  You can make out a bit of the fruity scents, too, but most of all it’s the smoke.  It smells good and is an inviting aspect of this treat.

Appearance (A-):  With large natural cut pieces sporting a dark brown color imbued with red in its depths, the jerky’s irregularly shaped pieces are real eye-candy.  It looks like small-batch jerky from days gone by and is truly easy on the eyes.

Consistency (A):  This is an excellently prepared jerky.  The pieces, despite their intentionally irregular size and shape, are expertly consistent in terms of their flavor, texture, and thickness.  The fine folks at Oberto have really shown their skill here delivering a jerky that is tasty and enjoyable from beginning to end.

Overall Impression (B+):  This is a very well made and genuinely tasty jerky.  You’ll love its complex sweetness and the fantastically well-match spices that complement it.  It eats well and is just a real treat waiting to be enjoyed.  On your next trek to your local Costco take a look to see if they have some of this delicious beef jerky and pick yourself up a few bags.  You’ll be glad you did.  Eat well!

17Jul

Howdy!

Today we’re opening up a bag of Simms Bacon Jerky from our local ALDI.

Simms Hickory Smoked Bacon Jerky

Simms Hickory Smoked Bacon Jerky

This is the third bacon jerky we’ve reviewed, the others being Trail’s Best Bacon Jerky and Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky.    After a few tasty, bacony bites, it was immediately clear that the taste, texture, and smell of this meaty treat was identical to those other bacon jerkies we’d previously reviewed.  Tada!  We’ve got another Monogram Meat Snacks, LLC bacon jerky!  It appears that this Simms Jerky, the store brand for ALDI meat snacks, is manufactured by Monogram.  It’s a tasty, smokey bacon jerky that makes a great snack.

So… the review hasn’t really changed.  Take a look at the Trail’s End Back Jerky review to read the detail of what you get with this one.

Overall Impression (B-):  This is real bacon, made into jerky, and if you’re a bacon lover you’ll enjoy this tasty treat.  Buy some.  Enjoy it!

15Jul

Howdy!

For today’s jerkyology adventure we’re digging into a bag of Wild Ride Cowboy Strips Hickory Beef Jerky purchased at the Southwest News Store while waiting to depart from Terminal D at DFW International Airport.

Wild Ride Cowboy Strips Hickory Beef Jerky

Wild Ride Cowboy Strips Hickory Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is a staple travel snack for the jerkyologist so sampling the local fare is always an adventure when strolling through airports near and far.  Previously unfamiliar with the Wild Ride jerky brand, and spying a few different flavors on the rack, it was a good opportunity to pick some up and see what they had to offer.  The folks at Wild Ride are focused on offering tender cuts of ‘premium’ beef using a proprietary tenderization process and without any artificial ingredients or preservatives.  It sounds good, but does it taste as good as it sounds?  Let’s see what you get with this one:

Taste (B-):   This jerky is true to its name – if you like hickory smoke then this is your meat.  The natural hickory smoke flavor is absolutely over the top.  Once your mouth acclimates to the smoke you start making out the rest of the jerky flavors.  There’s a good bit of pepper, some garlic, which pleasantly accompany a bit of salt and sweet flavors, too.  It’s a fun flavor, really, but the overwhelming nature of the hickory taste is a bit hard to handle for very long.

Texture (B):  This natural cut jerky is tender and cut against the grain.  Its easy to chew and is a fairly easy eat.  The meat’s thickness feels enjoyably substantial, too.  It’s pretty enjoyable.

Smell (B+):  If you like the savory scent of hickory smoke then this jerky is the one for you.  The hickory is like a parade in your nose… a very smoky parade.  It smells great for what it is and, while that’s all there really is to it, it’s nice enough.

Appearance (B+):  This jerky sports a dark brown color with a matte finish and subtle red highlights here and there.  The naturally cut meat is sized in strips, though some of the pieces are scarcely more than a half-inch in length.  There are the occasional bits of pepper and the like visible on the surface of some of the pieces as well.  All told, it looks pretty good.

Consistency (C):  This is the shortcoming of this otherwise quite enjoyable jerky.  First, the ‘premium cuts’ of beef were generally quite tender and tasty, but more than a few pieces were scarcely edible with some serious gristle woven throughout.  Secondly, while the smokiness of this jerky was dead-on consistent throughout the bag the rest of the seasonings seemed rather hit-or-miss.  Some pieces seemed very focused on the garlic, others sported some coarse ground pepper, and some both.  They were all tasty, but the variability leaves you wondering what the jerky was supposed to taste like all along.  Lastly, for a jerky labeled as ‘Cowboy Strips’ some of the pieces would not likely pass muster in the strip department.  Many of the pieces were, at best, small bite pieces, falling short of a ‘strip’ in any practical sense.  We rarely quibble over variation unless it distracts from the basis of the jerky’s intended appeal and with this bag there was enough variability to take away from enjoying the jerky outright.  Again, while none of it was bad per se, these things are the sort that generally distinguish good jerky from great jerky.

Overall Impression (C+):  This is good jerky.  The hickory smoke flavor really is delicious and the tenderness of the jerky was, for the most part, truly enjoyable.  It would take very little for the folks at Wild Ride to tighten up the quality control a bit and elevate this jerky to the B+ or better it would otherwise earn.  If you happen across a bag of this hickory smoked treat go ahead and indulge.  It’s certainly worth trying and you’ll doubtless enjoy its exceptionally well-done hickory goodness.  Enjoy!

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