Last week, I embarked upon The Great Bacon Odyssey, a personal quest to try as many bacon-related items as possible. I do this because it’s fun (of course), but also out of a deep and abiding sense of responsibility to GeekDad’s readership: I try them so you don’t have to. I also want to once and for all answer the burning question of our age: Does bacon really make everything better?
Before getting to this week’s reviews, I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who suggested bacon-related products to me after the first installment last week. Please keep them coming, anything and everything bacon-related. Most of them are food-related, of course, but they don’t all have to be: several people recommended trying bacon soap, for instance.
I’d also like to express my thanks to the folks at Torani for sending me both items I tried this week.
First up, BaconSalt (Peppered variety) by J & D’s. I’d heard about this, but hadn’t ever tried it before. It’s really quite remarkable to see an item with the word “bacon” on it in several places, with a drawing of bacon and a logo shaped like a pig, but that is certified Kosher. Somewhat … counterintuitive, one might say. So, how would a product meant to taste like bacon, but clearly with absolutely no real pork in it at all, actually taste?
Ingredients: Too many to list here. The last item on the ingredients list is ethyl alcohol, believe it or not. Of course, there’s a lot of sodium in it, but you’d expect that from salt, right? Most troubling of all, at least to me, it includes monosodium glutamate (MSG), which tends to give me a severe headache if I have too much of it. I thus enlisted my wife (who has no such sensitivity) to taste the BaconSalt as well.
Appearance: A remarkably bacon-y reddish-brown. If I hadn’t known it didn’t have bacon in it, I might have been at least temporarily fooled by this. Of course, Bac-Os look bacon-y, too, so that’s hardly enough to go on.
Smell: A blend of smoky and spicy, but no discernible bacon aroma. I know bacon is, at least in the U.S., usually smoked, so that explains why the manufacturers of this stuff think anything bacon-flavored needs to be smoky. I like to think, though, that the palate of the average American is acute enough to tell the difference between bacon-y and just plain old smoky. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with smoke flavor, please understand — I’m just saying it’s not enough: if I want pure smoke smell and flavor, I’ll buy Liquid Smoke.
Taste: My wife and I tried this on popcorn, and it really wasn’t bad. Again, not really very bacon-y, but that really didn’t surprise either of us. My wife said she could see eating a whole bowl of popcorn flavored with it; I could see eating a small bowl (if it didn’t have MSG in it, of course), but not a lot. There was no detectable aftertaste, which is refreshing from a spice mix containing so many chemicals.
Worth the Money?: $4.99 for a 2.5oz plastic jar isn’t bad for a decent spice mix, and that’s what this is: decent. It’s definitely something I’d get if I were vegetarian or kept Kosher, but as someone who has no problem eating real bacon, I can’t see spending my money on it.
Next up, Torani Bacon Syrup. I’d read about this a few weeks ago online when it debuted, and it intrigued me. Torani is known for making excellent flavoring syrups, of course, so maybe they’d be able to handle the tricky balance between sweet and savory.
Ingredients: Nice and short, just as it should be: the only potential eyebrow-raisers are the two preservatives, but that’s not a big deal. It does contain salt, to the tune of 110mg of sodium per fluid ounce, which isn’t much for most people.
Appearance: A pleasant amber color, resembling maple syrup. Since the ingredients list doesn’t include coloring agents, I’m forced to conclude that the color is a result of the “natural and artificial flavors,” which is pretty cool.
Smell: If you’ve ever had bacon with maple syrup on it, the smell will take you right back to the experience. It really does smell like bacon, not just like smoke.
Taste: Like sweet bacon. I started by trying a little by itself: just a few drops. I tasted bacon and sugar, just as I hoped I would. Of course, the syrup isn’t meant to be consumed on its own, so I made two drinks with it, based on recipes from Torani’s website: a bacon whiskey sour and a bacon caipirinha. I was less impressed by these: they were decent, drinkable cocktails, but after each sip I kept thinking that they’d be better without the bacon taste. Plus, there was a slight smoky aftertaste that really didn’t work well with the drinks’ flavors. I didn’t have the other ingredients necessary for a bloody mary, so once I try one I’ll report back if it’s better than the other cocktails.
Worth the Money?: It retails for $6.95 per 375ml bottle, which isn’t bad for something you only use a little of at a time. It tastes good enough on its own that I’m convinced it could be genuinely good in something; I’m just not sure in what, yet. Any suggestions?