Friday, December 2, 2016

Foundation Brewing, New England Distilling, and Bunker Brewing Expansions

OK, that's enough wallowing—I decided I'm not going to let the President Elect and the depressing implications about a quarter of the American public keep me from something I, it's not like Donald Trump cares whether I'm updating my food blog or not. 

Let's focus instead on the positive efforts of our community and continue to support our local food producers, and in this case, those that make booze! We could all use a drink right about now. 

Recently on a Saturday, my friend and I decided to go out to Industrial Way in Portland to check out the rearrangement of the breweries out there. We started at Foundation Brewing, which has expanded into some space left vacant when Bissell Brothers relocated to Thompson's Point

Foundation not only expanded their space, but reoriented their tasting room bar, allowing for more seating and a better flow within the brewery. Entering through the large garage door (open on the day we visited—in late November!) leads you right to the counter where you can order pours of draft beer, buy cans and fill growlers. 

The rest of the bay is full of seating, but we took our samples out to a barrel to enjoy and sample some food from Mami food truck.  

With the six or so draft beers available, we could pick four to make a flight of 4 oz. samples. I chose three brews I hadn't tried before and Epiphany IPA. The Zuurzing sour farmhouse was a standout for me, and I found I might even like Venture IPA more than Epiphany. 

After we enjoyed our beers at Foundation, we headed next door to New England Distilling's new tasting room. It's opened right next to Foundation in an effort to capitalize on the crowds that visit the breweries of Industrial Way. Not as many people make it over to visit the distillery on Evergreen Drive. 

Inside, we found a tiny bar room with incredibly friendly bartenders who were serving up four drinks that day. We chose from the Gunpowder Cosmonaut (rye whiskey, jam, bitters), Eight Bells Allspice Daquiri (rum, dram, lime), Ingenium Old Fashioned (gin, cherry syrup, bitters) and the Gunpowder Whiskey Sour (rye, syrup, citrus). 

I ordered the rum daiquiri, a delicious tart and spicy cocktail, and when we asked the bartender to tell us about the allspice dram, she went so far as to write down the recipe for her homemade version. The juices were fresh squeezed, the bitters were all local, and the cordials and syrups were housemade—which I was so impressed to find in this tiny bar in an industrial park! 

That New England Distilling's commitment to quality extends from their spirit production to their sample cocktails is no surprise though. 

Continuing the theme of new breweries/bars, I suggested we hit the highway and head over to Bunker Brewing Co.'s new Libbytown location. The brewery has moved from a tiny brick bunker to a huge, warehouse of a production space, allowing them to make a lot more beer, which was reflected on the tap list's eight or so selections that day. 

The new space has the Maine brewery tasting room vibe down on lock—exposed industrial features, check. Repurposed materials for the bar, tables, and walls—check. Even unique hardware on the bathroom stall doors! 

One of the brewery walls is covered in a mural designed by Tessa Greene O'Brien and painted by her friends—yours truly filled in some of the yellow and blue squiggles on the right. The mural is the design of the Salad Daze can, Bunker's American Pale Lager (which is Tessa's design). 

The newly expanded Bunker is a great place, as are most Maine brewing tasting room's, for families and couples to hang out for an afternoon. The space is a little hard to find, located off Western Congress St. through a dirt parking lot on the backside of a warehouse. Good luck!

If you think you're an old hand at the businesses of Industrial Way, it's time to revisit, as expansions and new businesses have changed the landscape. We also visited Austin Street Brewing and coming soon is Battery Steele Brewing. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts

Obviously, from my last post, you can probably gather that I did not see the election of Donald Trump as our next president coming. That Dave Chappelle/Chris Rock SNL skit was a little too on the nose for me. 

So it's been nearly two weeks of feelings and frankly, blithely writing about the last meal I enjoyed feels fake right now. I'm struggling to find my voice in these turbulent times. In the meantime, while I mull some things (slash everything) over, please enjoy this view of The Bubbles from Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Obscure Election Cocktail Tasting, Vol. 8

This year, my friends' annual obscure holiday cocktail party met a little earlier in the season, so it took on a election theme. We first got together eight years ago as a group of food bloggers, making obscure holiday cocktails, which then morphed into our own original cocktails. This year, the drinks had cheeky presidential campaign-themed names and were all very strong, which is probably the most effective thing to get you through the remainder of this election. 

My drink was called the Bitter Pill, a minty, citrusy, sweet blend of rum, Fernet, simple syrup and lime juice, topped with an egg white foam. 

Bitter Pill

1-1/2 oz. aged rum
1/2 oz. Fernet Branca
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. demerara simple syrup
1/2 oz. egg white

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Add ice, shake, and strain into a glass. Garnish with a lime twist. 

Ross made the Trump Tan, a mix of tequila and orange liqueur, which he described as "aged with brash orange overones."

Trump Tan
3 oz. Tequila Anejo
1 oz. orange liqueur 
1 oz. dry vermouth 
🍊 twist

From Erica, the Landslide, an extremely drinkable bourbon lemonade: 

The Landslide

3 oz. Bourbon
3 oz. honey simple syrup 
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Shake and strain into a rocks glasses full of cubed ice. 5-6 mint leaves (per glass) ... give the mint a good smack in the palm of your hands to awaken the aromatics and add to the center of each glass.

A. and R. made You're the Puppet, a tart cocktail of equal parts Russian vodka, Campari, and OJ.

Dawn made the Commander in Chief, which naturally involved her favorite Scotch, Laphroig. It was smoky on the nose with a rich and sweet flavor. 

The Commander and Chief

4 oz. Rye
2 oz. Cherry Herring
2 oz. Carpano Antica Vermouth
Spritz glasses with Laphroaig 15 YR Scotch
Top with a charred orange peel

And finally, Prof. A. made the #NastyWoman, a mix of Maderia and vodka. Strong and straight up, just like the first female president! 


2-1/4 oz. Rare Wine Co. Madeira (2:1 ration of Verdehlo and Malmsy)
3/4 oz. Split Rock Distilling Vodka
3 dashes Reception Bitters from the San Francisco Bitters Co.

We even wrote a joint election poem from our most memorable lines from the campaign:

He stands behind her lusting for his foe.
She was bleeding from her...wherever.
Trump is all bluster
but he's not a disrupter.
We're gonna build a wall!
When they go low, we go high
Believe me, I know more about ISIS than, than, than—
than the generals.
You like big words? I went to the best school.
I know big words. I have the best big words.
I mean, they are huge!
Such a nasty woman...
The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!
In Nate Silver we trust.

"That guy is so mean!" - 3-year-old B.W. on Donald Trump

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dinner in the Kennebunks

Kennebunkport and neighboring Kennebunk are my favorite Maine towns outside of Portland. My partner's family lives there and so we visit frequently in the summer, spending time at their beach house. I have many happy memories of my time there, and I love exploring the restaurant scene—a mix of Maine beach town classics and chic new places. I even designed a map for Eater Maine of my favorite places to eat and drink in town (and received my first hate e-mail over said map!). 

So I was thrilled when the Kennebunk Chamber of Commerce invited me to a progressive dinner to explore two new restaurants and one classic that are all run by female chefs. I joined a few lifestyle/travel bloggers from out of town and some other Maine media guests to explore restaurants that I might not have otherwise visited, but now can confidently recommend to you. 

We started at Spat Oyster Cellar, the newest restaurant in the Kennebunks, with Chef Rebecca Charles at the helm. Chef Charles also opened and ran the popular Pearl Oyster Bar in New York, bringing the food she experienced summering and working in Maine to the urban masses. 

Spat Oyster Cellar is a casual basement raw bar, with a small bar and a few tables in a cozy room. Upstairs, renovations continue on the former Abbondante space where Pearl Kennebunk Beach will open sometime in the spring (apparently the renovations are taking much longer than anticipated). 

We started our dinner with some oysters from Maine and New Hampshire on the half shell. Chef Charles gave us her thoughts on the differences between Maine and New York (namely that Maine oysters are more expensive) which is one of my favorite games. 

We also enjoyed fried oysters presented perched on a shell full of tartar sauce and some fried shell-on shrimp. Other dishes at Spat include steamers, clam chowder, mussels, and naturally, their signature lobster roll. 

From Spat, we headed down the street to Toroso, the new project from chef Shannon Bard. Bard also own the upscale Mexican restaurant Zapoteca in Portland. Toroso has a Spanish theme, which means, you guessed it, tapas! 

Chef Bard proceeded to send out a veritable avalanche of food to our table—starting with a beautiful charcuterie and cheese plate. The meats are cured in-house and paired with a rotating selection of Spanish cheeses. 

We also enjoyed the croquetas with serrano ham and manchego, the almond-crusted tuna with a ginger apple salad (both pictured below), the oxtail stuffed pimento peppers, crispy eggplant rounds drizzled with honey, lamb meatballs, and a delightful bacalao (Portuguese seafood stew) with saffron, clams, spinach, chickpeas, and brandade. Erica Archer of Wine Wise provided some wine pairings, picking out a Spanish white and red for us to enjoy. 

As an aside, I even returned three nights later for a light dinner before seeing some live music in Arundel. I had to have those peppers and bacalao again! We were there for happy hour, where the menu features pinxtos or bite-size happy hour plates for $5. 

Next, we headed into downtown Kennebunk for dessert at Academe, the Kennebunk Inn's restaurant run by Brian and Shanna O'Hea. We were first treated to a telling of the history of the inn by a historical reenactor and then dazzled with plates of three desserts. 

We were served a pumpkin white chocolate cheesecake ice cream sandwich, a square of cranberry apple upside-down cake, and a puff of cotton candy dusted with cider spices. I have to admit that I'd previously thought that the rather ho-hum appearance of the inn meant that nothing too exciting was happening in the kitchen. But the desserts were so good—creative and fun, not cloyingly sweet—that I'll certainly consider the rest of the kitchen's menu when looking for a place to dine in Kennebunk. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Split Rock Distillery, Newcastle

I gave a book talk to a nice group at the Old Bristol Historical Society in the Midcoast last month, and they asked me to speak about the distillery that had recently opened nearby. So I left for my drive up the coast a little early to stop into Split Rock Distillery and learn about one of the state's newest distilleries and its only certified organic one.  

Split Rock is located at the crest of a hill on Route One in Newcastle, with a big red flag declaring them "OPEN" (if you pass by between 12 and 6 p.m., that is). Keep an eye out for it as you speed up the hill, since you stand to fly right by it. 

The distillery opened in July and is owned and operated by Topher Mallory (who is also the CEO of Mexicali Blues) and his business partner Matt Page. The old barn was rennovated into the distillery space and a tasting room, with a beautiful live-edge wooden bar. 

They makes several kinds of vodka and whiskey at the distillery: all organic and made from human-grade ingredients (versus feed-quality*). The most popular, judging by how often it sells out, is the horseradish vodka. When I sampled the line of spirits, Matt made sure to stress that these vodkas are infused with organic ingredients, not flavored with extracts. So the horseradish vodka is made by steeping grated horseradish in it for a few days; same with the blueberry (only blueberries, not horseradish, obvi). 

*Split Rock has planted their flag in the "highest quality" corner of the market; you'll have to decide for yourself whether organic and human-grade grain makes a difference to you. 

I tried two vodkas and two whiskeys on my visit, which you can see above: vodka, blueberry vodka, white whiskey, and bourbon. The vodka was smooth with lots of flavor and no harsh alcohol flavors. The blueberry didn't do much for me because I don't care for blueberry flavors (secret shame of the Blueberry Files!!) but a blueberry lover would flip for it. It was delicious when I enjoyed it with some sparkling lemonade this summer while out on an island (but I mean, duh). 

The white whiskey was also nice and smooth, with lots of sweet grain character. The bourbon was my favorite—while this batch was only aged a few months, Matt argues that the high-quality ingredients mean that it doesn't need to spend as much time in the barrel to age off the harsh alcohol characteristics. 

The distillery is visible through a glass-topped half wall from the tasting room. The column stills are used to make all the spirits, just more of the refining column is used when they're making vodka as compared to whiskey. Gin, rum, and more whiskey are in the works. Stop in to visit Split Rock Distillery if you're in the area, or find their products at your local high-end liquor store. 

And since no visit to the Midcoast is complete without a scenic lighthouse, here's a shot of the light out at Pemaquid Point, where I gave my book talk: 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Preserving Tomatoes: Salsa, Crushed, and Pureed

I feel like it's customary to start out a post about a large preserving project with something like: "I'm crazy," "OMG, what was I thinking?" or something similar. And I must admit, after processing 40 pounds of tomatoes, I was definitely sick of the endeavor. But it wasn't painful, (too) tedious, or otherwise traumatizing, because this year I used a great shortcutting tool. 

The ears of any home canner who has processed a large quantity tomatoes before are surely perked. Peeling tomatoes is one of my least favorite canning activities (peeling peaches is second), and I much prefer freezing tomatoes to canning them, since you can skip the peeling step. 

But with my new KitchenAid food grinder attachment, preparing tomatoes is so much easier. I processed 20 pounds in about 45 minutes and listened to a podcast while doing so. It's simple, mindless work that saves you hours. 

Now, before you go order one yourself, know that it produces a thin, smooth sauce and that might not be what you're after. If you want whole tomatoes or chunky sauce, you're going to have to work on your tomatoes the old fashioned way

But for those looking for a seedless, skinless, smooth sauce this attachment is the way to go. It simply attaches to the PTO of your mixer and pushes tomato quarters through a sieve, in the process separating the seeds, skins, and cores from the flesh. It's like a glorified hands-free food mill. 

I also canned some tomatoes whole in water, so I have the option of adding chunks of tomatoes to a dish down the road. But most of my tomato usage is for sauce and soups, so I'm fine with a smooth puree. I ended up with 25 pints of tomato sauce and 2 quarts and 5 pints of whole tomatoes in water. 

I made a batch of my favorite canned salsa, which yielded 15 pints, and I used yet another shortcut: a food processor. It made chopping onions and peppers a snap. I was a little skeptical, but it really works, as long as you pulse your food processor. Any extended processing is going to turn your vegetables into mush. 

I'm nearing the end of my canning agenda for 2016—aside for some applesauce for the freezer and maybe some pressure canned beets, I'm ready to pack in the canner. The shelves are groaning with cases of jars and the freezer is full of frozen fruit. Many years I feel regret that I didn't manage to do more canning, but not this one. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Harvest Dinner at Maine Huts & Trails

Fall is my camping season, the time of year when boating season is ending/winding down and there's some time before the dreaded s-word flies. I haven't done much (any?) backpacking in Maine—my camping adventures have lately become more of the car camping and day hiking variety. 

But I've found the perfect compromise between experiencing secluded wilderness spots and the comfort of staying at a campground: the Maine Huts & Trails system. I spent the weekend mountain biking in Western Maine, relaxing in a beautiful lodge, admiring vistas of the Bigelow Preserve, and stuffing myself with a gourmet meal complete with wine pairings. 

Maine Huts & Trails is a system of 4 eco-huts connected by over 80 miles of multiuse trails. That means you can hike, bike, snowshoe, or ski into the woods and there will be beer, a shower, and a heated bunkroom waiting for you. Pretty awesome.

And before you dismiss this experience based on the word "eco-hut," just know that the level of comfort provided while creating a low environmental footprint is impressive. The only indicator that you're "eco"-ing at all is the composting toilets, which fortunately are like regular toilets that flush with special foamy soap instead of water. No smell, no ick factor. There's running water, electricity, and even heat. At Maine Huts & Trails, you can have your hiking and your creature comforts too. 

A. and I spent the night at Stratton Brook hut, the newest hut in the MH&T family. All of the huts are within a few miles of each other in Western Maine, near Sugarloaf ski resort. Stratton Brook is best for mountain bikers and hikers (you can see the hut overview and best activities from each hut in the hut overview). 

Stratton Brook hut is a 3 to 4 mile ride in, depending on which trailhead you leave from, and there are several trails great for mountain biking that are accessible from the hut. A. and I rode in on the Maine Hut Trail, which wasn't the best trail to come in on, apparently, as it's a long, gradual ascent to the hut. It would have been a pleasant hike. The better option would have been to take the Gauge Trail, which parallels a river (thus flatter) and then take a steeper trail with lots of switchbacks up to the hut. 

We arrived at the top of the knoll on which Stratton Brook hut is located mid-afternoon, gasping and sweaty. We sort of staggered into the hut in a post-exertion haze. The staff was very friendly while they checked us in, told us where everything was located, and encouraged us to relax and enjoy ourselves before dinner that evening. We were there for a special event, Harvest at the Hut, an annual celebration of local food prepared by hut staff and guest chefs. 

Above, you can see the lodge on the left, with a dining room, armchairs and a wood stove, the kitchen, and the bathrooms. The huts are on the right, 10 bunkrooms in total, some shared and some private. They consist of platform bunk beds (ours had a double bed on the bottom and a twin up top), with dorm-style mattresses and pillows. The floors are heated and the room is lit with a single overhead light. It's spartan, but certainly all you need for a good night's sleep after a day of biking or hiking. 

When we arrived, there were some guests who had spent the night before and several people stopping by on a hike or a bike. Lunch is served at the huts and some people were making a pit stop on a day trip. 

We spent the afternoon settling in: we took showers, strolled up to the overlook nearby with a spectacular view of the entire Bigelow Preserve, and then read and rested in our room until dinner time. 

Dinner was served in the lodge at 5:30 PM, so we rousted ourselves from our cozy nook and prepared to dive into the more extroverted experience of dinner with 50 people. We ordered a beer from the kitchen to help ease the transition. 

We found available seats at a table with some very nice folks—a couple who comes to the Harvest every year and 4 men from around the country who went to grad school together and now make an annual men's trip in the fall. 

We started to get to know our tablemates while enjoying appetizers like the fall harvest samosas, filled with butternut squash and cranberries, and topped with a blueberry chutney, and lobster nori rolls, served with local horseradish. 

Our menu for the evening had an international flare, but made with Maine ingredients. Our appetizers were even paired with a local wine, the junmai sake from Blue Current Brewery in Kittery. 

Next came a shared board of with rye toast, bread and butter pickles, Crooked Face creamery cheeses, smoked salmon, sliced apples, housemade tater tots, and beet and chevre raviolis. We passed the boards family-style, and enjoyed our next pouring of wine: the Winterport Winery Taxi Cab. 

Courses two and three were a wild-foraged Maine take on pho—Vietnamese noodle soup. The vegetables may not have been traditional (but local instead!) and the broth was what you would expect, rich with anise spice notes. 

The "wild woman" salad was spicy greens with local tomatoes, pickled red onions, and ricotta. We enjoyed a Nuda Pinot Grigio with this course, and I was feeling pretty good about my ability to pace myself—no overstuffed feelings yet. 

My resolve weakened with the entree, a Korean barbecue-inspired beef in lettuce wraps with peppers, onions, and ssamjang. The wheat berry salad and a tangy slaw were great accompaniments. Beef with salad veggies is one of my favorite things, so it was no surprise I loved this course. 

Dessert also wowed with an apple tatin, surrounded by a pool of creme anglaise and served with two slices of Cabot cheddar. The richness of the dessert was cut by the sharp cheese and lightened by the Winterport Winery apple wine topped with Prosecco. 

Everyone was full and a little tipsy by this point, so after a few enthusiastic rounds of applause for the chefs and the staff, we made our way to tuck ourselves into our cabin. I read a bit from a book borrowed from the communal bookshelves and drifted into a dreamless sleep. Others stayed up and enjoyed a fire in the campfire ring. When I woke a few hours later, the trip to the bathroom was far less fear-inducing than the much-dreaded one while camping in the woods! 

The next morning, we woke early to pack our bags to have them ready for the gear shuttle (much recommended when mountain biking) and to enjoy breakfast. The fresh eggs with herbs and tomatoes, blueberry pecan muffins, sausages, and copious cups of coffee fueled us up for another day of biking. 

Because were were up and out so early, we spent the day exploring a longer trail through the Bigelow Preserve, with a great connecting trial built specifically for biking. We then biked over to a beautiful (if not sparse due to the drought) waterfall very close to the Poplar Hut, which has an easier hike in than the Stratton Brook hut. 

Maine Huts & Trails are open year round, and a one-night stay includes dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch the following day. Check the website for special events like the Harvest at the Hut or Brews & Views, a dinner with craft beer pairings, held in August.

Based on what I experienced, the food at the hut will be delicious, especially after a day of hiking or snowshoeing, and craft beer and wine are always available for purchase. Add a stay at Maine Huts & Trails to your Maine bucket list—I know I'll be back.

Disclosure: I received tickets to this event free of charge, but the opinions and words expressed in this post are my own. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Preserving Peaches: Jam, Canned in Juice, and Frozen

Peaches are easily one of my favorite fruits and certainly symbolic of summer: something that you have to get a lot of while it's available and have a certain amount of anxiety about its end (NOT THAT THAT'S HAPPENING). Ahem. 

I'd heard the peach season was going to be bad in New England—late frost? drought? something—and I didn't want to take any chances of missing my annual preserving haul. So I stocked up on Virginia peaches on my way back from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (I meant to get Carolina peaches, but we have the hardest time stopping right after we've hit the road for a day's worth of driving, so we missed the large produce stands just north of the Outer Banks). 

To start, I quartered and peeled all of my peaches, using the method details in this post by Marisa McClellan at Food in Jars. It involves boiling water and pouring it over quartered peaches, letting them sit for a while, then peeling the skins off. It worked relatively well and was a lot less hassle than the blanching method. Ultimately, I think the biggest key to peeling peaches easily is ensuring that they've fully ripened before you begin. 

I started with low-sugar peach jam using SureJell pectin. I used to exclusively use Pomona's Pectin, but I've come to dislike the hard sets of the jam that often results. SureJell always gives me a nice texture, and if we're being honest, I like the sugary sweetness of it (it's still much less than a full-sugar jam). This recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar for 4-1/2 cups of peaches and yields 5 half-pints of jam. 

Four and a half cups of peaches didn't even dent the amount I had, so I sliced up the rest for freezing, but then realized I could just as easily can a few pints. Again, I consulted Food in Jars about canning using apple juice, since in the past, I've used a light syrup. (Note: syrup or juice is recommended over water when canning fruit to help preserve the sweetness of the fruit). 

I diluted the juice as recommended on the package, in a 3:1 of juice to water. Then I filled some pints and processed them for 20 minutes. One didn't seal (frown), so I used it in a blueberry peach crisp the next day—not all bad. 

I filled six quart freezer bags with the remaining peach slices and juice. I should say I filled the bags about halfway, since I wanted to have small portions of peaches to thaw. I couldn't really see a way to freeze peaches individually, so you can use only a few at a time, rather than thawing the whole bag. 

Peaches: check! Now on to tomatoes...*rolls up sleeves*

Friday, August 26, 2016

Map of Maine Distilleries

Craft distilling is expanding in Maine, spurred by the farm-to-table and craft cocktail movements. Our state now boasts 14 craft distilleries, which, while the state does not have an official "craft" designation, it does distinguish a small distillery, which is defined by production volume, making less than 50,000 gallons a year. 

This map will help you keep track of local distilleries, noting its products, whether tours and tastings are offered at the distillery, and if so, what its hours are. Note: there are, at times, multiple locations listed, creating more than 14 map points. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Vegan Bacun (Yes, Really)

Just like my Blue Apron experience, I did something else seemingly out of character last month: I made vegan bacon. It started when I read a review of a restaurant in which someone was complaining of a lack of vegetarian options at a breakfast café, something like, "and there weren't even any vegan pancakes or bacon on the menu!" The oxymoron within that statement at first attracted my ridicule: vegan bacon, psssh. And then I was like, wait, what is vegan bacon? And thus down the rabbit hole I went. 

sliced bacun

The first hit on Google for "vegan bacon" (OK, the second, but I'm not visiting the PETA site) was "The Vegan Bacon Meat-Loving Foodies Can't Get Enough Of," which like, the author must know their SEO, because I was instantly curious. The post is an ode to a particular chef's vegan bacon, claiming that many former flesh-lovers find this bacon "virtually indistinguishable" from the meat version. Excuse me, the hipster death-flesh-fetish du jour (and you wonder why vegans receive a lot of ridicule?). 

Anyway, the bottom line is, I've been known to enjoy a good soy-based meat substitute, like Boca burgers, Quorn Chik'n, and Trader Joe's meatless breakfast patties. These products taste different than their meat counterparts, of course, but I enjoy that taste and feel good about reducing the amount of meat in my diet (animal rights politics aside, I think it's pretty universally accepted that raising animals for meat is terrible for the planet). So this vegan bacon recipe piqued my curiosity. Was this version (virtually) indistinguishable from meat? 

Spoiler alert: of course not. But at least it was easy to make, despite the lengthy list of ingredients and some questionable dough texture. I doubt I'll make it again though, since it's currently languishing in my fridge, my dreams of crunchy, salty bacon bits or filling for BLTs left unfulfilled. Once my friend identified its flavor as reminiscent of barbecue chips, the jig was up. 

bacun ingredients on counter
I initially was skeptical of the ingredient list, thinking vegan bacon was surely made up of tons of artificial and processed substances. But aside from the vital wheat gluten (aka seitan) and garbanzo bean flour, I was able to source all the other ingredients easily. I had many of them already too. It's basically every umami ingredient in your pantry mushed together. 

The assembly requires you to make two different doughs, one dark and one light, then layering them together to create the marbled look of pork fat. 

bacun dough ingredients in bowls
On the left is the ingredients for a larger batch of dark dough, made from vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, onion powder, smoked paprika, ground white pepper, water, maple syrup, Bragg's liquid aminos, liquid smoke, miso paste, Worcestershire sauce (I used regular, not vegan, so actually this is not even vegan bacon, gahhhhh), and olive oil. 

The lighter colored dough is made from vital wheat gluten, garbanzo bean flour, garlic powder, water, salt, and olive oil. 

2 bacun doughs
Stir together the ingredients, then lay the two doughs out on a large piece of aluminum foil. Separate the dark dough into three equal size pieces and the light dough into two. 

Do your best to roll the first layer of dark dough into a rectangular shape, then roll out a piece of light dough and lay it on top. The instructions say to roll the light dough out on top of the dark dough, but I found that impossible. The dough isn't sticky, but oddly springy, so it doesn't stick to the foil too much. You can roll out the light dough and lay it on top of the first layer. Repeat with remaining pieces, alternating dark and light doughs. 

two layers of bacun dough

layering bacun dough

When you've finished layering the dough, shape the dough into a rectangle again, and wrap the foil up around the sides. Fold the ends under, creating a neat, sealed package. The seitan will expand to fill the size of the foil, so don't worry too much about the shape. Imperfections will only add to your ruse.

Bake the facun for 90 minutes in a 325*F oven. Let it cool completely and unwrap.

aluminum foil wrapped bacun

finished bacun

Tada! Meatloaf! Excuse me...meat substitute loaf! 

Now, I attempted to slice the bacun thinly, because I was promised crispy facun. Even with my recently sharpened knives, I wasn't able to cut it much thinner than a 1/4-inch. In the world of bacon (fake or otherwise), that's a thick slice. 

I'd advise partially freezing your facun loaf before slicing in order to aid with creating thin slices. I think the crispiness would really aid in fooling your senses. 

sliced bacun on cutting board

So while it was pretty, my facon didn't crisp up and still kept its springy seitan texture. The texture is the most disappointing part. You can see above the holes in the strips that indicate how spongy the stuff is. But writing this post has made me want to try the facun in more applications, like BLTs and bacun bits. I wanted so much to like it! 

Ultimately, I must conclude that vegetarians and vegans are fooling themselves. If you haven't had pork bacon in years, these savory, spongy strips may very well scratch that itch. I'll continue to enjoy my meat substitutes, but this one doesn't make the cut. 

slice of bacun frying in a pan