Bacon Tasting Part VIII

Today I tried Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon.

I wasn't sure I would get to try this bacon as it is very pricey, between $19.00 and $22.00 per pound in some cases. I happened to be at AJ's fine foods and stumbled on it. It is $8.95 for a 12 oz. package, that's $11.94 a pound.

Here is the review from an MSNBC article:

"Despite the company’s claims of using particularly lean hogs, our tasters found this bacon “very fatty” with “hardly any meat,” and many complained of its “overwhelming smoke flavor,” which was akin to eating a “wood-burning stove,” or “ashtray.”"

When I opened the package I thought I would be disappointed. Usually bacon's with a smokey reputation smell like smoke as soon as you open them. This bacon did not. I cooked up 3 slices and within a few seconds of hitting the pan the bacon began giving up it's smokey goodness. This bacon is not as smokey as Newsom's. The tasters at MSNBC must have gotten a different batch, or are not used to heavily smoked meats. I would say this batch was a medium smokey bacon. Just the right amount of smoke for someone who may not be used to it. The bacon had a perfect amount of salt, just the right amount of sweetness, no overwhelming ham taste, and in my case almost a 50/50 meat to fat ratio. This bacon barely curled, but did have a little more water in it than I would like. The smokey after taste lingered for a good 30 minutes after eating it.

This is a gentleman's bacon.


Photography Road Trip II

Generally I would write up a long post about something we did, but since Chris & Mike did such a good job, I don't have much to write about. Check out their blogs by Clicking on their names. Here are some of the pics I took:
Chris & Mike having a snowball fight.

A Bigfoot Sighting!

Three Bro's

Some HDR Pics:

Are you a Photographer?

The most ridiculous collection of Bike's, motorcycles, snow mobiles, lawnmowers, and other crap you will ever see at "All Bikes" in Rye, Arizona.
On another note, someone forgot to load up my heavy coats so I was stuck wearing 2 light jackets. Here is my home surveillance video of the culprit loading the van. Note in the upper right hand corner of the screen that he puts my coats in the back of my truck, loads some of the stuff into the van then walks right by them.

Later I called Kathi and here she is taking them out from the back of my truck.


Poor Mans HDR

This technique is good for fixing up an image if you do not have software that can do single frame high dynamic range processing. As an example here is a picture I took outside of Payson, AZ:
I took this picture on a tripod with the flash set to rear sync. The picture is not particularly bad, the sunset is nice but a little bright. The background behind us is almost completely black.

Step one - in Photoshop press Control J to create a duplicate image.
Step two - on the menu bar select Image/adjustments/desaturate.
you should now have 2 layers, one that looks like the picture above and the other that looks like this:
Step three - with the desaturated layer selected on the menu bar select image/adjustments/invert.
Step four - with the second layer selected change the blending mode to soft light.
Your image will now look like this:
The image is "technically" perfectly exposed but doesn't look quite right.

Step five - with the second layer selected from the menu bar choose Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur. Move the slider all the way to the right. Click OK.

Your Second layer will look sorta like this:
Your completed picture would then look like this:
Notice that the Sunset has been slightly darkened and the dark background has been brought out. My wife and I have also been ever so slightly darkened as well.

You can now Merge the layers down, convert to 8 bit, and save as a jpeg if you want.

This technique works best on 8 bit jpeg's. It works ok on some 16 bit pictures.

To automate this process you can create an "Action" and assign it a function key, on my computer I have f2 set to do this. Consult your Photoshop help on how to create an Action.

Pure Gold

Let's see more of this!


Photography Road Trip

Yesterday Chris, Mike, and I went on a road trip early in the morning. We left at 06:00 in the general direction of US60 east. We went through Superior, and Stopped off the side of the road a couple of miles east of the Queen Creek Tunnel.
The temperature outside was 30 degrees. We took some pictures of the Brush and a fence covered in frost.
None of these pictures I took are sellable as they are not completely in focus. We froze our asses off, and went back to the tunnel to take some more pics. I tried to do some light trail pictures but it was too bright for that. I did take a picture of an old water generating plant near the tunnel.
We then drove on to globe, sight seeing along the way for anything worth taking a picture of. We found an old Diner by the side of the road and took some pics of it.
Some where between Claypool and Globe I took some pics of a train.
I had to remove the road name before I could upload them to Dreamstime. The road name was Toledo, Peoria, & Western.

While in Globe we found a restaurant called "Chalo's Casa De Reynoso".
We got there just as the doors were opened. The Chips were crispy but not tough. The Salsa was very flavorful, nice and spicy. The hot sauce strangely was as spicy as the salsa but had not much flavor. Chris and Mike ordered 3 cheese enchiladas and a cheese crisp each. I ordered a Cheese enchilada, Beef enchilada, and a Taco. The portions were large for the price we paid. The cheese enchilada was excellent. The cheese was completely melted and the enchilada sauce was very flavourful. The beef enchilada was filled with what I would call red chili burro filling. Good but little spice. The taco was excellent the tortilla was perfectly crisp and the filing was very finely shredded beef, with just the right amount of spice. The service was cheerful and friendly. The bill not including tip was $32.00 and change. While waiting to pay the bill another person in line told us that the owners had another restaurant at 3138 S. Mill, in Tempe. We will have to check that out later.

After that we headed back to town. We stopped at the Bullion Plaza Museum. Admission is free. There is a reason for this. It looked like a yard sale inside. We saw the entire museum in about 10 minutes. Before leaving Mike engaged the two older ladies in conversation and because of this it took us another 20 minutes to leave.

We did a little bit more site seeing and went home.


Hunting for Nothing

Today we went to the FMR again. When we arrived the sun had not yet risen, and there was no fog this time. The moon was full so I took some pics, only one turned out really good. I had to work some magic to get the moon to look correct and have the picture properly lit.
The previous 3 pictures I submitted 2 weeks ago were not accepted, for reasons I figured they wouldn't be. They were over processed. Oh well they look cool anyways.

We drove a bit further in to avoid any atv'ers, although there weren't many out this weekend. On the walk out I saw not one single cotton tail or jack rabbit. Chris shot a Quayle, Mike didn't see any rabbits either. I did come across the trailer we found out there before. I also found an unreadable sign on a pole more than half a mile from the nearest dirt road. Chris found a place where someone excavated a hole recently for some unknown reason. He also found a large plywood target that was setup on the side of a hill.
We hiked to a small mountain/large hill and hiked up to see what was on the side of it. From below it looked like someone had built a small platform or building out of flat rocks, but when we got up there we found it was just a volcanic outcrop of cracked rocks.

On the way back I stopped to drink some water. I put my rifle over my shoulder, took my water out of my fanny pack, and at that moment a large cottontail broke from cover. I never even got a chance to shoot at it. The same thing happened to Chris earlier in the day. About a quarter of the way back I stopped to take a breather, Chris was to the NNE of me and fired his shotgun at something. That caused a Jack Rabbit in the brush ahead of me to break. I shot at it several times but my rifle stove piped and it got away.

When we got back to the vehicle Chris and Mike took some pics, and we went home.

Each of us hiked about 4.2 to 4.3 miles.


Bacon Tasting Part VII


Another let down. The other day I tried "Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked Bacon". As reviewed by the Grateful palate, and other sites. This bacon was raved about.

Here is the The Grateful palates review:

"Ranger Danny's Tasting Notes: My favorite. Lovely appearance, exquisite balance, remarkable meat. All this needs is a fork and knife. 4 oinks. Ranger David's Tasting Notes: One of the best bacons ever! Taste and balance are tremendous. It all starts with with a great pig, man."

Here is the review from this article:

"Tasters raved that this bacon — which scored a distinct few notches higher than the rest of the lineup — has it all: “Nice balance of sweetness to salt, great deep complex ham flavor, very meaty,” with a “faint fruity taste, sweet and salty.” Extra-big slices and “genuine” smoke flavor were big hits with our tasters."

Now my review:

This a dry cured bacon. Rubbed with brown sugar, salt, pepper, etc., then smoked (so they say). I found this bacon to be almost completely devoid of smoke flavor/smell. The bacon was a bit on the salty side, the texture of the meat was close to that of tender beef jerky (a bit dry), and had a mild ham flavor. The fat had a sweet flavor to it, and there was a LOT of fat on the cuts I got. The fat was extremely tender and almost creamy (not chewy at all). This was the only bacon I have ordered (so far) to come in a retail package like store bought bacon. If it wasn't for this packaging I would have thought my bacon had been switch for some inferior store brand. This is awfully pricey stuff for .75 lbs of bacon, that's right, for about $14.00 you get 12 oz. of bacon. That makes this bacon $18.66 per pound. This is bacon for some poor little rich kid that "don't like strong flavors, or smells". Meh!

Need more proof check here.


Hunting in the Foggy Desert

Today we finally got to go hunting for the first time since the end of spring. As usual we went to the FMR. When we arrive there was a light fog over the desert. This is the third year in a row that we came out here in November and there was fog. The sun was rising from behind a mountain and the fog was thick enough you could look at the sun with out any protection. I took several pictures, one of which was good enough to submit to dreamstime.
There were a lot of ATV riders (fleas) camped out in the area, we found a place away from them and I took some more pics, 2 of which I submitted to dreamstime.
Chris went off to make a happy bush sad, at that time he flushed a Jackrabbit. The only one of us that had a firearm ready was me, I attempted to shoot it with my .357 pistol but it was too far away. We set out in a north westerly direction. I got a jackrabbit about 15 or 20 minutes into our walk. I saw another one about 15 or 20 minutes after that but it was too far away. we walked a total of about 2 miles each round trip. When we got back near the car we found this.
I'm curious how it might have got here as we were nowhere near the impact area. We took a break and then went in a south easterly direction. Mike got a cottontail just minutes into the walk, and I got one shortly after that. We got out about a half a mile but there were so many "fleas" we turned back. I walked about 3 miles, Chris about 3, Mike walked about 4.

Generally I don't like the desert, but in the winter and early spring it is one of my favorite places to go. When it is really foggy it can be a little spooky, since you sometimes can't see more than 50 yards in any direction, everything is totally quiet (except for the water dripping off the plants). When something does break and run it can be quite startling. It is also challenging as you have a very short time to react before the rabbit disappears in to the fog. It is an experience I will never forget.


Bacon Tasting Part VI

Ahhhhhh...... Bacon.

Today we try "North Country Smokehouse Applewood Smoked Bacon" Here is The Grateful Palates description:

Artisan: North Country Smokehouse
Tasting Notes: A bit more savory than the cob-smoked offering from this producer, but same thick cut. This is a precocious little bacon that will surprise you with its moxy and flair.

Like "Newsom's Old Mill Store Hickory Smoked Country Bacon" this bacon has a strong but pleasant smoky taste, and is not at all salty. It is very savory, with a bit of a tang to it. This bacon has more water in it than the other bacons, but not a lot. The package states that it is cured with maple syrup, and while it does taste slightly sweet, it does not taste like maple syrup. I detect a note of creosote (but in a good way). Ham flavors are prevalent but not overpowering. The fat on this bacon is where the flavor lies. This bacon tends to curl a bit while cooking. This is comfort bacon.


Bacon Tasting Part V

Once again I was let down, I misunderstood what the label on this last bacon "Nodine's Smokehouse Double Smoked Bacon" mean't.

Here is the Grateful Palates description:
Artisan: Nodine's Smokehouse
Tasting Notes: Our only double-smoked style. Intense smoky flavors. Delicious with omelettes, chilaquiles, and huevos rancheros.

I guess they got a different bacon than I did. This bacon gets it's double smoke name from the fact that it is smoked once with hickory, and then again with juniper berries. Whatever the case this bacon had little smoke flavor, and was not salty. Nothing to write home about.


Bacon Tasting Part IV

I admit I had high hopes for this next bacon, "Tripp Country Ham-Country Bacon Brown Sugar Cured" as it's description intrigued me:

Tasting Notes: Brown-sugar cured, with a mysterious secret recipe that includes red pepper and cinnamon. Thick cut. Meaty, complex flavors. Juicy. Great intensity with a slight spice. Fantastic!

This was a thick cut bacon, but for some reason it looks like the slab was cut in half as the pieces were shorter than the others. This bacon had much more fat than the other ones, as a result it curled the most out of all of the bacon's I have tried so far. This bacon is a bit on the salty side, and it has a taste I would describe as kind of sour. I could taste nothing of the red pepper and cinnamon. This could be because I eat some pretty spicy food and would not notice it. My wife however does not like spicy foods and did not report it as being spicy. As I said before this bacon had the most fat of any of the bacon's, in fact a couple of pieces were about 95% fat. This bacon had a light but pleasing amount of smokiness about it. The sour taste I mentioned above reminded me of "Farmer John Ends & Pieces", which this bacon taste almost exactly like. Once again there was very little if any sweet taste about this bacon. The bacon was definitely juicy. An OK bacon.


Bacon Tasting Part III

The verdict is in on "Dan Philips Special Brown Sugar Hickory Smoked Country Bacon" it is too salty and not hickory flavored enough.

Today I tried the "J. Samuel Whiting Bacon" here is The Grateful Palates" Description:

Sweet aroma, thin and crunchy. Perfect balance like a fine cut diamond. Sweet and powerful, almost fruity. Addictive, soft, lush, judicious use of fat and sublimely balanced. AWESOME and hedonistic. Very unique, sweet, yet savory bacon. Kids love all bacon, but they will especially love this bacon made by J. Samuel Whiting Meats in Pennsylvania.

I find this description interesting as it does not exactly describe this bacon. The Bacon I got was wide, and very thick. On the label it said it was cured with maple syrup and brown sugar, as well as hickory smoked. I found it had practically no hickory flavor or smell at all. I believe that when the bacon was being made a truck load of hickory wood drove by, but that was about the closest this comes to being hickory smoked. It is definitely sweet, but not too much. This bacon taste more like ham than any of the others. The bacon was tender and not at all salty. When they say that Kids will love this bacon they would be correct. This is not a bacon for the adult palate, unless your "milk toast". I could not detect any flavor reminiscent of maple syrup in this bacon. The bacon does have a sweet smell when cooking, there is a bit more fat on this bacon, and it did curl more than the others, but by "curl" I mean it barely curled. This bacon is on par with what is available in your local grocery store. Final verdict... Meh!


Bacon Tasting Part II

Sunday I cooked up a slice of the "Newsom's Old Mill Store Hickory Smoked Country Bacon" for Chris who promptly swooned under it's influence. He even went so far as to try and lock me in my shed so as to get the rest of the bacon. I served the rest as a desert after dinner to several members of my family. all who tried it liked it (yes some people refused to try it).

This morning I cooked up a batch of "Dan Philips Special Brown Sugar Hickory Smoked Country Bacon". My initial reaction was one of a let down. I may have over cooked it a little, and mixed with eggs and toast, didn't allow the full flavor to come through.. Kathi reported it wasn't her favorite, and tasted sour. I thought it was very salty. However just a few minutes ago I cooked up a small batch for tasting purposes.

Here is The grateful palates description:
Artisan: Gatton Farms
Tasting Notes: This is my own, secret, private cure. Only Charlie Gatton and I know the recipe. I set out to custom design the perfect bacon and I think this is it. It has an incredible balance between sweet, hammy pork flavors and salty, savory flavors. The flavors are intense and the meat is succulent. A bold new bacon that stands up and says 'Eat me!'

My review:
This bacon is not as heavily smoked as the previous review, but it is definitely more smoked than your run-o-the mill bacon. one thing I have noticed with these Bacon's (so far) is that when cooked they shrink but they do not curl. Thus making for even cooking. anyways... This bacon has a nice smoked flavor, the ham flavor is more apparent then the previous bacon. The bacon is sweeter than the previous but I would not be able to identify the sweetness as coming from brown sugar. The bacon is salty and the saltiness varies with the width of the bacon. The narrow sections of the bacon are very salty and the wider ends are more sweat. This bacon is slightly more chewy than the first one. Personally I would expect a bacon with the words "Brown Sugar" to have a prevalent brown sugar/molasses taste which it does not. At times the hickory flavor explodes from the bacon and other times it is not as strong. All in all a good bacon.


Bacon Tasting Part I

Having become disenchanted with the bacon I can buy from the store, and accidentally stumbling on the website www.gratefulpalate.com while checking out an article listed on www.fark.com, I decided to check out some of the bacon's listed in the article. The bacon I ordered were rather pricey, ranging from $10.00 to $15.00 per pound. I ordered the following bacon:

Dan Philips Special Brown Sugar Hickory Smoked Country Bacon
Newsom's Old Mill Store Hickory Smoked Country Bacon
Tripp Country Ham-Country Bacon Brown Sugar Cured
Nodine's Smokehouse Double Smoked Bacon
J. Samuel Whiting Bacon

I received the Bacon in 2 days, it came in a silver pouch made of padded bubble wrap and a single Ice pack. I was a little worried as it arrived at room temerature, a quick email to The grateful palate confirmed what I pretty much knew. Since the bacon is cured and smoked it would be fine.

The First bacon I tried was "Newsom's Old Mill Store Hickory Smoked Country Bacon".

The websites description is as follows...
"Tasting Notes: Sweet, salty, lovely, delicate powerful like an iron fist in a velvet glove, the kind of bacon to write odes and sonnets about. Silk, silk, silk. Like a virgin bacon eater, touched for the very first time. Life begins with Newsome's bacon."

At the time I tried this bacon I did not know which one it was (no label), I had to contact the The Grateful Palate to get a list of what I ordered.

Upon opening the package the smell of hickory smoke wafted over me, encircling me like an anaconda ready to constrict. I cooked the bacon as recommended, on low heat in a frying pan. The hickory smoke smell was absolutely intoxicating. I am a big fan of smoked meats and barbecue (I have a smoker), so I knew I would be in for a treat. The bacon wasn't as wide as most bacon and cut to about 1/8 inch thick. I noticed that unlike cheap bacon there was no buildup of water on the uncooked side of the bacon, as a result when the bacon was turned over it did not splatter and throw grease everywhere. The bacon cooked up golden brown. I took my first bite and was nearly overcome with a feeling of pure smoked bacon ecstasy (I think I saw God), each bite invoked an image of camping. The smoke flavor was very strong, the bacon was salty and tender, with just a hint of creosote (not always a bad thing). I detected only a slight hint of sweetness. The smoke flavor lingered for a long time after eating it. WOW, I can never go back to the cheap stuff again.

continued in part II


Kathi Carpe Cyprinus carpio

Back in October Kathi and I were going to take a weeks vacation at Woods Canyon Lake. Due to her Mothers illness, that didn't happen (I'm not bitter). In preparation for this, (among other things) Kathi bought a state fishing license, so she could try fishing, and help me catch some crayfish, (must have a state license for this) on the trip we didn't take (I'm not bitter).

Now that summer is FINALLY coming to an end. We have had a couple of weekends that were rather cool. The first weekend we went out Kathi (who hasn't fished in almost 20 years) in her excitement at getting a bite, either nearly ripped the fishes lips off, or (if she had hooked one) would have launched it across the park. So needless to say (though she got some bites) she did not succeed in her efforts to land a fish. On that Trip I caught 3 Carp. I do not remember if Chris caught anything.

The next trip was not much better, I think I caught one, and Kathi caught none. I think Chris caught one.

On this trip I caught a small Bass using a rattle trap (on my second cast) which I released.
Kathi insisted on taking my picture with it.

The real fun began when after about an hour of waiting, Kathi got a bite, I could tell right away it was a pretty good sized one. At first she started to panic because it was putting up quite a fight, I told her to set the hook and she did without hurling it's lips across the park. Then she said "aren't you going to help me?", no! (if you want credit for it you have to reel it in). Her drag wasn't set quite right so I reached over and modified it so the fish could get some slack without getting off the hook. The fight only lasted a few minutes with Kathi saying "I don't want it to be mad at me" (she feared it would come out of the water cussing and bite her). Once she got it close to shore, Chris was able to get it in a net. It weighed 7.5 pounds. In order to get a picture of it and her, I gave her some rubberized gloved and she went to pick it up, causing it to start flapping about, which caused Kathi to make a weird freakout noise. I took her picture,
and she released it (again making a weird scream). We stayed for about another hour, we would have stayed longer but it started getting hot. No one else caught anything.


Aspersing Asparagus

Some of you may or may not know that Kathi was recently diagnosed "Insulin resistant". She was told to eat healthier and exercise. So in an attempt at expanding our diet and to eat "healthier" we have been experimenting with Asparagus.

Mind you this was not something we were looking forward to as we both had experiences with this so called vegetable when we were younger and neither of us has really touched it since. In my case my mother made me eat it when I was very young and I nearly barfed. Several months ago while at Karen's house she served Asparagus, and taking a "no thank you" serving I tried it and pronounced it "edible" (this had nothing to do with Karen or her recipe).

To ease us into this I looked up some recipes that we might possibly be able to tolerate.

First up was Rachel Ray's Bacon Wrapped Asparagus (what can go wrong with a recipe that includes BACON).

This is pretty simple, coat several sprigs of asparagus with extra virgin olive oil and pepper, wrap with bacon and bake or grill.

First impression:
There was practically no flavor from the asparagus. The asparagus did not taste like bacon, and the bacon did not taste like asparagus. Asparagus taste like.... asparagus. The closest thing to it would be a mixture of grass and very, very, very...... very mild broccoli.

Next up Alton Browns asparagus and mushroom risotto.

I never had risotto before, it takes a rather long time to make.

First Impression:
Once again "is there asparagus in this?" The risotto was pretty good but next time I will leave out the white wine, asparagus, and lemon zest. The portobello mushrooms were extremely good.

and finally pasta salad with portobello mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and asparagus. This is a Paula Dean recipe.

First impression:
What's the point of putting asparagus in this? The recipe as written was pretty bland. I had to spice it up with some zesty Italian dressing and extra red wine vinegar. The salad otherwise was very good, next time I will add some red bell peppers, cucumber and feta cheese (leaving out the asparagus).


If asparagus is put in front of me in the future I will eat it, but I won't go out of my way to use it. It's relatively expensive and brings nothing to the recipes it is put in. Asparagus is boring and bland. How my mother made it taste terrible I will never know. Like zucchini recipes, asparagus recipes were invented to dispose of the offending item with out actually throwing it away.

It does have one interesting side effect....


Time to Photoshop

I'm bored....
So it's time to photoshop.
Today's Victim is Eric.
Eric's Shop of Horrors.
Hey... What do you want for 20 minutes of work.

Eric and the holy Grail!
Yeah... Yeah... Another 20 minutes.
American Pie anyone?

OK, I'll stop now.



Queue ominous music....

Last night here in Phoenix at about 21:30 a couple of huge storm rolled through the valley. Winds were measured at 85 to 90 miles per hour (officially) and at 100 mph (unofficially). The first storm passed just barely to the south of us and dropped 1/2 inch hail. It also knocked several branches off of our pine tree in the front yard.
Our power went out for about a half an hour. When power came back on I checked out the Weather channel and found that another storm was heading right for us. We went to bed and the second storm hit some time after I went to sleep. It knocked out power again at some point. I got up arround 00:00 and called SRP they were aware of the outage. I went back to bed. I had a 700 watt inverter connected to a truck battery to power a fan so I could sleep. At around 05:00 I woke up again and power was still out. I called SRP again and they said power would be out until about noon. I got up and deployed my 3000 watt Coleman generator (you do have one as well, right???). I used it to keep our Refrigerator and freezer working. I also broke out the new 1200 watt 2 stroke camping generator and used that to power our TV so I could see what was going on in the world.

I drove around to see some of the damage. I found trees down everywhere.
7th street between Oak and Camelback was hit the hardest with multiple poles down in the street.
Plus all the signs over the suicide lane were blown at a 45 degree angle.
Some time around 9:30 the power came back on.

Kill ominous music...



Nothing going on... Sorry.


SuperStars! (in HDR)

Last weekend was Karen's Birthday. She had her birthday up at Juniper Well Ranch near Prescott. Kathi and I went up Saturday morning and got there about 10:00. First thing we did was walk up and down the train tracks that run by the ranch.
We did not see any trains. It was very warm up there and for most of the day we did not do much. I went around and took some pictures of the horses.
Karen wanted me to take pictures of her and Alyssa, so I did, Here are some of the Cheesier ones:


Later that night Karen and her friend prepared a dinner of ribeye steaks, potatoes cooked with bell peppers, onions, and paprika, in butter, and kabobs. Some really expensive gasoline... I mean Tequila was served as well, of which I had about 4 shots.

The next morning I got up at 6am, The Tequila from the previous night was un-naturally devoid of hangover, so I went out and took some early morning pictures.

Kathi and I went into town and had breakfast, when we returned everyone had awoke from the dead. We fed carrots to the horses one last time, said goodbye to Karen and went home.