Friday, August 27, 2010

Gourmet Beef Jerky, America's Favorite Snack Food!

Every now and then I get a box of something in the mail to review that makes me happy to be a food blogger. I can tell you without a doubt that beef jerky is one of those “somethings” that makes me happy! It really helps that Jeff’s Gourmet Jerky is a particularly high quality product and definitely in my top three favorite brands.

In my packet there were four flavors to review and wanting to give this product the time to properly appreciate the nuances a good jerky can present, I thought I might taste it a little at a time so I packed the golden pouches into my briefcase and off I went.  As a result this jerky has been doing a bit of traveling with me. We have had wonderful journey together but alas today it must end.

Old Fashioned Original:
Original to me means this is where it all started, so naturally this is where we will start. Upon opening the packet you will notice the distinct beefy aroma. It reminds me of the smell of a steak being seared in a hot cast iron pan. Then the Worcestershire sauce and smoke come out, it’s like being next to the grill while someone is cooking the steaks for dinner and they just brushed on some steak sauce.

Beef, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, chili sauce, spice, natural smoke flavoring.

Visually this jerky looks very nice, thick slices of meat, cut against the grain with just a little marbling. There is no visible silver skin or gristle and much to my eating enjoyment I did not find any hidden while chewing. The meat is moist and has a nice chewy texture that holds together. It never crumbles or gets mushy in your mouth. It also breaks down nicely while you’re eating it so you do not develop giant body builder cheek muscles as you try to chomp it down.

The flavor is very steak like, especially when you hit the tiny bits of fat that appear on some pieces. It’s very beefy up front with a sweet forward tone and a tangy saucy finish. The chili flavor does not come in until you have finished the piece in your mouth. If you can wait before you jam the next piece in you will notice the slight warm glow on the back and sides of your tongue. If you can’t wait to get the next piece in your mouth you might just have to wait until the bag is empty to experience this sensation.

Black Pepper & Sea Salt:

To the cracked black pepper fan, this is a visually exciting bag of jerky. The thick slices of beef are crusted with course black pepper and small fleck of red chile. I don’t see any sea salt on the pieces but there is definitely a salty element to the jerky. The aroma is very similar to that of the Original flavor and surprisingly the pepper does not come out, in the old sniff test.

Beef, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, chili sauce, natural smoke flavoring, sea salt, spice, pepper, vinegar.

Like the Original flavor, the Black Pepper & Sea Salt variety is quite tender. In fact I think the slices in this flavor are even more moist than the Original and have a sticky feel to the outside of them.

The marinade seems to come through more, hiding some of the beefy, steak, flavors. The black pepper is very noticeable visually and in texture, but the marinade holds the peppery flavor back until you finish the slice that you are working on. As you work through the bag the black pepper flavor builds up on your tongue and floods your mouth as your lips develop a slight peppery warmth.

Sweet Teriyaki:
The Sweet Teriyaki flavor had the most dense slices of the four flavors we sampled. The teriyaki flavor was certainly sweet as promised, and this was sure to make it a favorite of the kids who were certain to avoid the Black Pepper flavor. The slices were dark and the sweetness gave the meat a richer mouth feel than the other flavors. While I personally prefer a more vibrant variety of teriyaki flavor, I am not really a big teriyaki fan and the others gladly devoured the remainder of the bag in minutes.

Beef, soy sauce, sugar, pineapple juice, chili sauce, vinegar, spices, sesame oil.

The Teriyaki strips seemed to have more chewiness and I can’t be sure if that is result of the process, the marinade or if it was just the luck of the cut. In any event the tougher chew was not a bad thing, just different than the others we sampled.

The marinade was tangy and sweet and the ginger and soy flavors were present in the finish. The sesame oil in the ingredient list did not come out while eating, but a hint of sesame was left lingering. While this was an enjoyable jerky, the bag says intense flavor and I’m not sure that was achieved here.

Jalapeno Carne Asada – Hot & Spicy

This pouch had me intrigued. It came in a smaller packet, no label, no ingredients, and the flavor was written in sharpie! I’m thinking pre production sample or perhaps a short run test flavor. Just the kind of stuff I love!

I tear open the top and shove my nose in the bag and inhale… Chiles! Jalapeno pepper to be exact. Oh how I love that smell. This flavor has a drier appearance and is coated in a powdery spice.  I can only assume carne asada seasoning, since I have no ingredient list for this flavor. When I bite into the slice, the spices become a bit sticky and the meat takes on an odd texture. It is however my second favorite flavor after the Original. The spiciness is at that addicting level where you have to keep eating it, and the jalapeno keeps me wanting more. I’m a bit of a chile-head so I’m not sure I would consider this Hot and spicy, but you will be happy to know my associate found it too hot for her taste and returned the half eaten piece to me. So it’s safe to assume it is spicy at the least.

Overall, Jeff’s Gourmet Jerky is a great choice for your snacking enjoyment. It sells on their site for $13.95 for two 3oz bags. Jeff's Gourmet uses premium cuts of beef in original fusion marinades that are slow cooked. Jeff’s mission is to make you the highest quality, most intense flavor and simply the best beef jerky available anywhere.  Get a couple of bag of Jeff’s Gourmet Jerky and check them out for yourself!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Robert Rothschild Farm Southwest Chipotle Salsa

Thanks to our good friends at Robert Rothschild Farm, and their generous sample pack that arrived at The Last Bite/The Smoky Chipotle headquarters, we had the opportunity to test drive a jar of their Southwest Chipotle Salsa.

When it comes to salsa there are a few things that make me very happy; first of all the presence of chipotle peppers is always a pleaser. Next I love a salsa that is rich and thick, a real chip breaker, if you get my drift! Finally, black beans and corn always add a flavor and textural element that I truly enjoy.
Well I got to tell you, this little jar is packed full of all that and more! My only complaint is that the jar is not big enough, especially if you’re sharing, and just try to open a jar of this salsa and keep it to yourself!

There is a sweetness to the tomatoes that is unlike most other salsas in this class. A quick review of the ingredients panel verifies that there is no added sugar, something I found surprising. I can only assume that the roasted corn and red peppers are helping to accent the sweetness of this tasty dip!

The chipotle is definitely a star in this jar! The fiery heat is balanced by all the sweetness of the fruit; remember tomatoes are a fruit, and the smokiness of the chipotles tantalizes both your nose and your palette. I’m telling you if you open this jar and other people are home the potential for a feeding frenzy is high!

So now the bad news, at $8.99 for a 10.5 oz jar, this will most likely not be your daily munch. With two kids in the house this jar, once opened, lasted just under 10 minutes, and while they were an oh so joyous 10 minutes, the sound of the spoon hitting the empty glass walls of the jar brought a sudden sadness to us all. If only it could have lasted just a few minutes longer. On the bright side there is a jar of Raspberry Chipotle Salsa in the box as well. That however is a review for another day!