Mantry Unboxing: Bourbon Breakfast + November Favorites

So I missed posting about my favorites from the October Mantry box, GQ: How to Entertain in Style, but looking back, I don’t think it was as much “I forgot” as it was “I wasn’t that impressed.” The salami was good, as most cured meats are, and the chocolate “salami” was as tasty as it was an interesting concept but nothing really hit right-on for me. Thankfully our November Mantry box, Leftovers, was different and I want to share some of the things I enjoyed most:

  • Good News Cashews and Coconut Granola by Hudson Henry Baking, Co.
    Just before starting on this blog post I ate about a handful and a half of this stuff. Something about granola makes me think it’s going to be a terrible snack but if you can look past how messy it can be if you eat it by itself, it’s really not. I paired it this morning with a bit of blueberry Yoplait Light yogurt. The bag it’s delivered in is sizable – probably one of the most impressively large items I’ve had delivered via Mantry, and the flavor it provides is not lacking in either the cashew or coconut categories it draws its name from. Fresh and crunchy, this is some A+ granola!
    Buy it Here

  • Maplewood Smoked Bacon by Broadbent’s
    This was the first thing I tore into upon receipt of the box. The bacon is thick-cut and fries up beautifully. I added nothing to it or the pan aside from some fresh-cracked black pepper and even it wasn’t necessary. Mine and Erin’s tastebuds were assaulted with the strong, salty flavor you’d expect from country ham with a texture that was much thicker and sort-of chewier than your average bacon. There’s very little grease when you fry it up, likely because of how it’s cured, so you feel like you’re getting a nice fatty protein without as much of the fatty part. I enjoyed this bacon so much I ordered some for my parents and for my sister and her husband for Christmas.
    Buy it Here

  • “Ragin’ Rooster” Sriracha Mustard by Green Mountain Mustard
    Last week I made up some hamburgers that were equal parts lean ground beef and breakfast sausage. With a side of hand-cut cheese fries, the burgers didn’t need anything extra to assist with flavor but the addition of this Sriracha Mustard was a wise one. The mustard was a nice flavor compliment to the spice in the sausage while the Sriracha aspect provided a spicier “kick” while also adding a hint of sweetness that you don’t normally find in your average hamburger. We were both big fans of this one!
    Buy it Here

  • Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles by Brooklyn Brine
    Also going on the aforementioned sausage burger, these Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles stood well against the strong flavors of the sausage and Sriracha mustard, allowing for an even fuller range of tastes that basically attacked the palate on every front. I’m not a huge pickle-eater but these pickles along with the tiny onions floating around with them brought forth a nice extra bit of spice (but not too much) and a sweetness to the table. Again, not a big pickle eater, but I think these would stand well even on their own, let alone a kick-ass burger.
    Buy it Here

I’m trying to keep up the practice of utilizing my newborn Pinterest account to maintain a list of the Mantry items I’ve reviewed. You can find that board here.

December’s Mantry crate’s theme is Bourbon Breakfast and aims to give us a legit reason to look forward to waking up in the morning, especially during these cold, dark winter mornings most folks are currently experiencing (I say most because it was 53 degrees on the way to the gym at 5:30am here in east Tennessee). So maybe it isn’t as cold here as it is other places and maybe I’m more of a morning person than most but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to enjoy some of these bourbon-infused and inspired breakfast delights in this month’s box! Let’s get going:

Going left to right:
Hazelnut Whiskey Cookies from Whimsy & Spice, Brooklyn, NY
Bacon Spread from Skillet Street Food, Seattle, WA
100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup from The Syrup Shop, Burlington, VT
Hazelnut Pancake Mix from Freddy Guy Hazelnut Farm, Monmouth, OR
Bourbon Blueberry Jam from Jam Stand, Brooklyn, NY
Spicy Borsellino from La Quercia, Norwalk, IA

Saying I’m excited to get down on some of these breakfast goodies is an understatement. I struck out when I made these Pumpkin Chocolate Chai Protein Shakes from PaleOMG this morning – a little too bitter for my taste and, according to Erin via text message, adding honey doesn’t do it any favors. I do intend to give these another shot on Wednesday, though, and will be adding some things I think will make them taste better (and still keep it Paleo-esque) since serving them in our Butterbeer cups we picked up in Diagon Alley back in October apparently didn’t do the trick on its own!

Fingers crossed for good results from everything and tasty breakfasts!

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On Office Lunches & Eating At Your Desk

Erin’s uncle got us a big-ass country ham as a Christmas gift last year. After presenting the receipt at the local deli, the ham was sliced for free into large 1/4″ slices that were at least 12″ wide. We received our sliced ham in two packages that we immediately froze. Some time later, we ate one of the packages (the smaller one) and earlier this week decided to bust out the other pack. On Tuesday night I fried up two slices – one for each of us – and served alongside some fluffy scrambled eggs and some biscuits. We chewed until we just couldn’t chew anymore – it was really a lot of ham.

I also fried an extra piece for us to split for breakfast the next day and another piece for us to split for lunch the next day. My intention was to use all of the ham, but I used a total of four slices, leaving 8 to go back into the freezer. After lunch the next day we both decided neither of us wanted ham for a long time – it really was a lot of fucking ham.

That was two days ago, hardly enough time for me to get over the porky ham hangover I had, yet something unexplainable happened at the office this afternoon when someone heated up what smelled an awful lot like ham in the nearby break room. The smell that erupted from the tiny little microwave in the break room barely big enough for two people to stand in together comfortably – but just barely – came an odor that can only be described as utterly breathtaking. It floated through the air like an angelic cloud of rainbows, puppies and your favorite pornography and hit the nostrils in a way that was both tender and obliterating. Yes, two days after eating more ham than I could stand, my keyboard laid beneath me covered in an uneven layer of slobber fresh from my hungry lips.

Why do we do this to our colleagues?

When I worked at the Baby Farm, eating at your desk was expressly forbidden (unless you were a grants manager, apparently) so if bagged lunches required re-heating, the smell started in the microwave and ended in the same break room. There’d be the occasional burnt popcorn smell that would inevitably fill the entire office, but for the most part, lunch smells – good or bad – remained in that cramped break room, shared by 12-15 people.

When I got my current job one of the things that really jumped out at me was the ability to eat at one’s desk. I don’t always have a lunch date and I do often feel silly sitting by myself in a break room eating leftovers while scouring my iPhone for the recent happenings on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – especially when there’s a perfectly good computer with two monitors sitting, unused, on my desk.

For the most part, leftovers I bring in – usually something like chicken & rice, a hamburger, bbq brisket or hash – are, while not odorless, not that noticeable that I can tell. The occasional leftover pizza or almost anything else strongly Italian, on the other hand, is a different story. I can easily imagine my coworkers nearby reacting to it in a way not unlike the way I reacted to today’s ham. When the ham smell wafted through my cube, my weekday thoughts of streaming Flash videos, adaptive bit rate videos for iOS devices, video scheduling & publishing, preroll creation and asset creation and ingest just went out the door and all I could think about was ham and how close to lunch time it was. I certainly don’t want to say I was nonproductive or useless but for the most part I was both.

And then there’s the infamous not-so-good smell that so often comes from that same microwave – the smells of burnt popcorn, Healthy Choice microwavable dinners and everyone’s least favorite: fish. These smells seem to overtake an entire office building much like the plague only more fast-spreading and even more deadly. I heated up some scallops for a salad once and felt like I owed the entire office an apology – even the people in the building next door – and I even microwaved it less than they required with hopes of the smell not fighting its way out.

Unfortunately, it seems as though until the day we’re all eating tasteless, scentless 3-D printed foods we’ll continue to deal with the aroma of watery beef stew, garlic-y leftover mushroom pizza from Marco’s, leftover broiled tilapia, burnt toast and the remaining butter drippings from the nearly-exploded popcorn bag…

…All for the sake of eating at our desks – a privilege I’ve wanted for a long time.

Fruity Pebbles & Rum – Free Writing

Malibu Passionfruit Rum, Diet Coke, large cup reading Vampire Romance. Today’s breakfast was pan-fried chorizo with scrambled eggs topped with Salsa Verde. Would’ve been better with tortilla strips crumbled on top underneath a mound of fresh avocado and a dollop of sour cream. It was an awesome breakfast but a little less awesome when you consider the only reason I made it was because we were out of milk. We’ve been on a Fruity Pebbles kick lately. Also: Peanut Butter Pop-Tarts.

To remedy the situation your humble narrator made a trip to Kroger – Diet Coke cases for family weekend, soda thirsts and of course, rum – milk – peanut butter pop-tarts and an extra box of Fruity Pebbles. Alone at the grocery is always an interesting experience. Old man in sweats studying the beer selection but not buying anything. Mexican woman holding crying baby while barely-walking toddler carries a grocery bag behind her, wondering aimlessly through the parking lot. Woman talking on her phone in her car beside me. It’s dark out. I took a lady’s grocery cart from her because she was going to leave it in the middle of the lobby anyway.

Fruity Pebbles and Pop-Tarts first and I run into Erin’s boss. “She’s got you shopping, eh?” she says which is funny because I’ve been doing the shopping lately anyway but I played along into the gender-role assumption and said I do what she tells me to do. After the brief interaction I thought about what she must’ve thought about Erin and us when she saw the Fruity Pebbles in my cart. Childish? Lazy?

Whatever – everyone loves Fruity Pebbles.

While checking out an older guy in front of me was raising hell – albeit politely – about the cost of the cantaloupe he was attempting to purchase. I didn’t catch the cost but more than once he remarked “That’s an awfully expensive cantaloupe” which, for some reason, made me laugh heartily on the inside. How much could this cantaloupe possibly be and did he even attempt to notice a price when he picked it up – it was the only item he was trying to purchase, after all…

He asked if it was alright if he refused to purchase it and offered to take it back, himself, which he did despite the cashier’s insistance that he not do so. The cashier was cute so I made a joke about it which she politely laughed about but I could tell she was happy to get me out of her line. Shame.

She probably thought less of me for purchasing Fruity Pebbles. Either that or she saw me quietly decide that $4.95 was awfully expensive for a half-gallon of eggnog (with today as an expiration date) and put it back myself. Busted.

I can’t wait for holiday eggnog.

And rum.


This is post 4 of my very first time participating in NaBloPoMo, a “Blog a Day” project for the month of November. I’ve posted this on day 5 because I was lazy last night and didn’t write a post. I hope the NaBloPoMo police do not come after me.

Follow me on Twitter @justintfirefly