Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature “Taste Tests.” Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long ago, in the Precambrian Era of The A.V. Club, back in 2007 when Josh Modell hadn’t finished evolving from a giant ground sloth and the comment boards were slate blocks upon which readers carved “First!” with sharpened trilobite shells, we launched this Taste Test feature as a blog entry about Vosges’ “Mo’s Bacon Bar,"a combination of “applewood smoked bacon, Alder wood smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate.” Some tasters liked it, some didn’t, but all were pretty intrigued by the then-novel combination of bacon and chocolate.
We now refer to this as The Before-Time.
Since then, bacon has become The Ingredient for novelty products and recipes, appearing in everything from gum to jelly beans to ice cream to cookies. We’ve taste-tested canned bacon, pre-cooked bacon, bacon-maple lollipops, bacon mints, Baconnaise, bacon-and-cheese spiced crickets, Bacon Pringles, and bacon-and-egg Combos, among other generally revolting things. We’re still waiting—not with enthusiasm, but with resignation—for someone to introduce a carbonated bacon soda. And yet, for better or for worse, this year has seen a series of newspaper, magazine, and blog articles officially declaring that “baconmania”—and, in fact, bacon itself—is “over.”
But we here at the A.V. Club Taste Test labs haven’t seen much sign of that. We’re still getting inundated with bacon-related taste-test requests from readers, and product pitches from manufacturers. Recently, we realized that we had the opportunity to do a double trifecta: not merely three more bacon products, but specifically, three more bacon products that duplicated products we’d already tasted in the past. The question was, would a subsequent brand of bacon-covered chocolate, bacon salt, or bacon vodka be better than the ones we’d already sampled?
Leading the charge: Genevieve personally contacted the business manager of Black Rock Spirits to ask for a bottle of Bakon, “a premium bacon flavored vodka” that hit shelves in Seattle a few weeks ago and will be more widely available starting in July. Supposedly she didn’t do this solely because she’s a big ol’ lush who likes being sent free booze; as the one who infused us up a batch of homemade bacon vodka back in October 2008, she was interested in how the pros do it, and whether they could match her distilling skills. If nothing else, they’ve got an edge on her on design: the Bakon logo, a stylized impression of bacon meat/fat stripes, is strangely visually appealing.
Similarly, Josh’s fans over at baconfreak.com (Motto: “Bacon is meat candy!”) let him know about two new products they’re putting on the market: their own Bacon Flavored Seasoning (J&D’s was first to the American market with its line of Bacon Salts, and we tried their version last September) and “Bacon Chocolate Seuyets,” which… well, here’s what the press release says about them. (All typos, mangled syntax and punctuation, and random capitalizations are theirs.)
Yes, the name is yet another clever twist of terms that www.baconfreak.com has come to be known for, as they voyage to the farthest corners or “culinary connoisseurism” to makes food fun again! Yes, “suey” is the word that farmers use to call all their little piggies to come eat. So if it’s premium gourmet bacon being decadently drenched in the most seductively sensuous Swiss Chocolate, then how else would Bacon Freak go about calling its “Baconista” the herd to the trough than by switching the word “sueyets” for sweets?
“The dream of bacon and chocolate merging together goes all the way back to our genetic origins!” explains Bacon Freak’s owner, Rocco “Boss Hog” Loosbrock, “We simply combined the primary function of men: seeking bacon with the primary function of women: seeking chocolate! Melding these genetically driven urges creates world of love, held together though the senses and the stomach!”
So is Bacon Flavored Seasoning better than Bacon Salt? Can Bacon Freak out-freak Vosges, or at least manage to lay more of a broadly obnoxious gender-stereotyping trip on an otherwise perfectly innocent confection? Which is better, something made in a professional distillery, or something Genevieve concocted by letting bacon sit in booze in her cellar? We considered it our duty to find out. Because bacon is not over, baby. Bacon will never die.
The taste: Bacon Freak’s Bacon Flavored Seasoning is a little saltier and has a little bit more heat to it than J&B’s; more paprika, maybe. It also tastes marginally less like actual bacon. For fans of actual bacon, they’re both kind of a wash; for fans of actual salt, Bacon Freak’s is stronger and also less chunky and coarse. On the downside, Bacon Flavored Seasoning tastes more noticeably artificial and chemical. While it doesn’t come with J&B’s on-the-label guarantee that it’s certified vegetarian and kosher, the ingredients on the nutrition label do not actually feature meat in any way; like J&B’s, it’s a blend of salt, onion, garlic, MSG, paprika, and other, less organic-sounding stuff.
Bacon Chocolate Sueyets, on the other hand, clearly contain actual bacon, in much larger quantities than the Vosges bacon bar. The Sueyets are irregular, clearly handmade discs of dark chocolate with significant chunks of simultaneously crispy/chewy bacon scattered within. The chocolate is rich and pungent, and so is the bacon, which actually, for a wonder, tastes more like bacon than like salt or liquid smoke. The tastes actually complement each other very well, and the blend of textures is appealing.
Bakon vodka smells something like Band-Aids dipped in watered-down rubbing alcohol, except sharper. The smell alone deterred at least some of the potential tasters. The taste is bitter and burning—it’s vodka, after all—but with a vaguely meaty, vaguely sour undertone that’s more Slim Jim than vodka. Eventually, maybe a minute after ingestion, it develops a faint bacony aftertaste. It doesn’t have the rotting-fat flavor of Genevieve’s homemade bacon vodka, nor the visible fat floaters, though she was quick to point out that it did have the exact same urine color. Appetizing! In the plus column, while we didn’t much like it straight, it came with a recipe book for mixed drinks that consistently sound interesting, if not necessarily delicious. For instance, the “Swine Flu Shot: 1 part Bakon Vodka, 1 part Jaeger, 1 part Goldschlager.” Or the “Orange Bakon Bomb”: a float of Bakon Vodka and Orange Curacao dropped in a pint glass of Red Bull. Naturally, the Bakon people recommend trying Bakon in a Bloody Mary, so since we don’t have a fully stocked bar here in the office (the higher-ups get confused enough just seeing us all standing around in the middle of the day swilling limoncello and hibiscus tequila), we bought some V8 and made a half-assed stab at Bloody Bakons.
Bacon Chocolate Sueyts
• “Smoky! The smokiness initially overpowers the chocolate.”
• “That’s the most puzzling thing I’ve ever eaten.”
• “I actually like this. [Grabs another.] I only taste chocolate, though. Maybe that’s why it’s good.”
• “It kind of tastes like the smell of a locker room.”
• “It’s got crispy bits!”
• “The texture of the chocolate is really soft for dark chocolate. It’s almost like a truffle.”
• “I don’t know if I approve of the bacon aftertaste. You don’t put candy in your mouth and expect a bacon aftertaste.”
• “Well, I totally approve. I’ll have another. I thought this was really good.”
• “I don’t like bacon, but I like these.”
• “It’s sweet and salty and crunchy all at the same time.”
• “It’s pretty intensely salty.”
• “It’s a lot like chocolate-covered pretzels, that same mixture of sweetness and salt.”
• “The bacon doesn’t entirely come through. If you hadn’t told me it was bacon, I would have thought it was chocolate-covered smoked almonds.”
• “That’s actually pretty good.”
• “And it’s actually good chocolate!”
• “Dark, smoky, a little bitter from the chocolate. Reminds me of chocolate-covered coffee beans minus the crunch.”
• “This might redefine unhealthy snacks. Sugar, salt, fat, nitrates. At least it's all natural.”
• “I'd eat it more for the chocolate than the bacon. It's good for a few bites though.”
• “This is way better than Vosges.” “Definitely. That was grainy and salty, and the bacon wasn’t as generous, and the chocolate wasn’t as good. I’d pick these any day of the week.”
Bacon Flavored Seasoning
• “Hey, it’s good! But you really don’t taste the bacon. It just tastes like paprika.”
• “The new stuff is a lot stronger. It must just have more MSG, because it’s got more of a kick.”
• “I don’t like it as much as Bacon Salt. Bacon Salt is much more bacony.”
• “It just tastes like smashed bacon bits. Boring!” “Yeah, weak!”
• “It tastes like Texas Chili Fritos.”
• “This is more of a spice mix. It's salty but doesn't really taste like bacon.”
• “It tastes like a spice rub for grilling, but nothing special.”
• “I need some more chocolate to get that taste out of my mouth.”
• “Bacon Salt did it first and did it better. This after-ran is merely jumping on the bacon bandwagon.”
• “I can’t get a sense of whether this is a good vodka. The sourness gets in the way.”
• “It smells like very, very serious.”
• “Smells kinda meaty.” “No, it smells like Band-Aids.” “I think it just smells like bacon grease.”
• [Upon actually tasting.] “OH GOD.”
• “It’s really sweet. Surprisingly sweet.” “No it isn’t. Are you high again?”
• “I have no idea what this tastes like besides pain.”
• “That is a really, really nasty aftertaste. I’m done now.”
• “It’s got that smoky taste that all our fake bacon products have, but with vodka bitterness. Really unpleasant all the way around.”
• “This is worse than Malört.” “There is no way it’s worse than Malört. You are all giant pussies.”
• “I didn’t find it super bacony. Maybe 30 seconds after drinking it I had a little bacon flavor, but that’s it.”
• “I don’t think it was remotely bacony at all.”
• “It burns your nose, it’s peppery, and it’s smoky, but I don’t taste actual bacon. And I don’t want another taste.”
• “It’s better than Genevieve’s, in that I don’t immediately want to barf it up. But I wouldn’t exactly call it good. Even straight cheap vodka tastes better than this.”
Bakon Bloody Mary
• “That’s actually pretty good!”
• “Yeah, that’s awesome. I like it a whole lot.”
• “I can’t imagine having Bakon with anything other than a Bloody Mary, though. I wouldn’t have it straight.”
• “The only good part of this drink is the burn of the vodka.”
• “Adding Bacon Flavoring to the rim really makes it better.”
• “Yeah, combo Bakon up with something, and it’s pretty damn good.”
Bonus round: We had a can of Purple Stuff—a “pro-relaxation and calming elixir” competitor to the “anti-energy drink” Drank—sitting around, so we tried mixing it with Bakon. The results were extremely, extremely nasty; somehow, the two fluids reacted with each other to produce something far fouler than either beverage on its own. Few people tried it, but those who did won’t soon forget it:
• “That smells like a toilet. That is straight-up nasty.”
• “I guess it’s no surprise that it makes it taste worse. Bacon vodka will make anything taste worse and smell terrible.”
• “It tastes exactly like kids’ medicine.” “If kids’ medicine was that rank, I would have refused it as a kid, and I would still be sick to this day.”
• “I guess the burning sensation is interesting, at least. Still, this is foul, and no one should get anywhere near it.”
Where to get them: Bakon just got a distribution deal via a New York company, and can now be ordered online. Sueyets have their own order page and now come in milk chocolate, too. Bacon Flavored Seasoning similarly can be found online.