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.
We were so close. So close to almost kind of maybe being ready to think about being done with bacon-flavored foods. After the horror of bacon-infused vodka and the long line of bacon products that preceded it, from bacon chocolate to bacon mints to bacon Combos, we were all eyeing those bacon-flavored jelly beans on Josh's desk with weary apathy. Surely we didn't need any more bacon.
But then J&D;'s, the geniuses behind Bacon Salt, announced that they were about to release Baconnaise: bacon-infused mayo. And we knew, for your sakes, that we couldn't pass up the question of what some of the fattiest foods in the world taste like together. It was as if someone had found a way to cross fried chicken with heavy whipping cream. How could we pass it up? Josh enthusiastically contacted J&D;'s, and our contact there promised to hook us up.
What he hooked us up with was actually the Ultimate Bacon Lover's Gift Pack, a handy case that included a jar of Baconnaise, five new Bacon Salt flavors (Applewood, Cheddar, Mesquite, Jalapeno, and Maple), and a tube of bacon lip balm. Several of us who have no use for this thing called "hygiene" shared the lip balm around; it's Chapstick-like in texture, but basically gives off the aromatic equivalent of bacon grease smeared on the lips, or a good-sized chunk of bacon tucked neatly into the philtrum. After about 30 seconds of wearing it, we were all craving bacon. After about 30 more seconds, we were all craving bacon-free nasal passages, and we wiped it off.
While we made the Bacon Salt flavors available to the office as a whole, we didn't do a formal taste test, since we feel like we've already gone down that road, and since our previous scientific study shows that a) taste-testing a whole bunch of flavors of salt gets complicated fast, since whether the flavor works really depends what you put it on, and b) getting coherent reactions out of a mob of people on five different flavors of something is just about impossible. Instead, we went straight for the mayo.
For tasting purposes, we realized pretty quickly that almost no one would want to just eat a bunch of mayonnaise straight. Even Dave Chang balked, though when we told him his devoted fan base demanded it, he did his best to please them:
With that in mind, we engaged in a few basic uses of mayonnaise to see how Baconnaise mixed with other flavors. I made up a batch of devilled eggs, which came out Baconnaise-colored: slightly salmony rather than the traditional yellow.
Josh bought a turkey sandwich from our local deli and slathered on the Baconnaise to such a degree that even mayo fans recoiled, while mayo non-fans like Kyle (who gagged his way through photographing this entire taste test) wailed in horror:
And Genevieve, our only real tuna-salad fan, was prevailed upon to mix up an impromptu batch of tuna salad, which also came out disconcertingly orange:
She also complained that eating Baconnaise devilled eggs and mixing tuna and Baconnaise left her hands smelling "like I just raped a prostitute with a slice of bacon, then ate an egg afterward."
That heartening image aside Baconnaise does have a pretty pungent smell, like fatty bacon. It isn't bad, but it's really strong, and mixes with the sulfurous scent of fresh hard-boiled eggs in not-always-pleasant ways. A lot of people complained about how our break room smelled before and after. As with Bacon Salt, Baconnaise is a not-exactly-perfect replica of bacon: Like Bacon Salt, it's vegetarian and kosher, produced with spices rather than actual meat, and it smells accordingly artificial. Ah, but how does it actually taste?
Taste: After the general bitching about how Bacon Salt tasted more like Bacos than bacon, we expected Baconnaise to taste like Bacos in mayo, but Baconnaise is actually much richer and more bacony by far than Bacon Salt. It's so rich and meaty that it's actually a bit overwhelming both in smell and flavor. It should probably be used more moderately than we used it, and maybe cut with regular or light mayonnaise for recipe purposes. Tasters still felt it came across as artificial, but it's much closer to actual meat, like cramming mayo-slathered cured bacon into your mouth by the fistful. It also doesn't have that nasty sour-liquid-smoke flavor of so many artificial bacon products. Tasters were generally pleased with the way it integrated into our recipes, and with the way it worked on the sandwich and in the eggs:
There was a general complaint that Baconnaise is too salty, but what do you expect from mayonnaise?
The tuna salad was less of a success, with tasters suggesting that the tuna actually overwhelmed even the bacon:
But overall, the A.V. Club Taste Test Labs were happy with Baconnaise. Chang in particular approved of something that tastes like food instead of the stuff we normally make him eat:
Scott Tobias came through toward the end and delivered an entire polemic on the concept of Baconnaise: "The fun of bacon is that it's crispy and it has a texture. You put bacon and mayo together, and you have a winning combination. But bacon needs to exist as something to chew on, not something that lingers in your mouth as some horrible it shouldn't be a chemical aftertaste. It's real food. I want bacon, not a bacon aftertaste."
And you know what? We agree with him. But we still think Baconnaise is a pretty genius idea, and it won about the closest thing to A.V. Club taste-test approval we've seen from something that wasn't entirely made out of sugar.
— "Ugh, the smell. I'm going to have to breathe through my mouth the whole time."
— [Tentative first taste.] "It's good!" "It IS good!"
— "It's really salty, though."
— "Not bad at all."
— "The eggs are tasty. They're really good."
— "The sandwich is delightful."
— "Good texture, good bacon. It smells like real bacon. It's got a really hearty taste, though maybe that's just the egg. And a bacon aftertaste."
— "Baconnaise is a much greater success than Bacon Salt."
— "This is probably the best taste test ever."
— "I can't even tell the difference in the tuna."
— "It's almost like smoked tuna salad."
— "You could almost serve the tuna salad at a fancy restaurant and claim it's smoked tuna salad." "You'd want to claim it was bacon aioli, though."
— "It doesn't taste like bacon, just like smoke. But it's good."
— "No one really hated it. It's pretty good."
— "I think the tuna salad is tasty. I'd eat this on purpose." "Yeah, I'd eat it on purpose." [General robotic agreement that everyone "would eat this on purpose."]
— [Chang.] "I'd eat the shit out of this."
— "It tasted great, but I cannot get the taste out of my mouth at all. Time for some coffee." "It's like that with regular mayo, too." "Yeah, but this is so salty that it sucks all the moisture out of your mouth and just leaves the taste of bacon." "In what world is that a bad thing?"
— "Ultimately, it's just too much flavor. It's just too strong."
— "I'd argue Baconnaise tastes better than regular mayonnaise. Mayo is more of a texture than a flavor, and this kicks things up a bit more. It isn't exactly bacon-y, but it certainly is saltier and more flavorful than regular mayo."
— "I'd eat this on purpose in a non-laboratory setting. It's that good."
— "I've gotten wary of the endless infusions of bacon with other foods, but I love the name. Anyone who's never heard of it can easily figure out what it is. Hooray, synergy!"
— "I'd say this is an unmitigated success. I can't think of anything I would put bacon on that I wouldn't substitute this in for. Makes the turkey sandwich taste like smoked turkey. A very tasty spread."
— "The deviled eggs are a real winner. Your guests will be scratching their heads about how you injected bacon essence in these little gems."
— "Imagine this in potato salad or coleslaw or as a base for an awesome tartar sauce. I can see myself putting bacon in places I never dreamed of before!"
— "A real step up from regular mayonnaise. If the saturated fats don't kill you, maybe the nitrates and salt will!"
Where to get it: Online at baconsalt.com; the site has a store, but also a store-finder for those looking to buy J&D;'s products in their own neighborhoods.