The Panel: Suzanne Podhaizer, Alice Levitt, Dan Bolles, Elizabeth Rossano, Joanna May
The Products: Vermont Smoke and Cure
We wanted to know how Smoke and Cure's smoky meat stick stacked up against another brand, but no other Vermont company (that we could find) makes an honest to goodness pepperoni. So, we purchased one from Bridgford. Made in Chicago by a company big enough to have a separate "meat snack division," the 7 oz. sausage cost $4.19 to Smoke & Cure's $5.39...but how good would it taste?
Dan Bolles -
Bridgford: If it's 1 a.m. and I find this pepperoni on a slice of pizza I'm about to cram in my face, awesome. Thumbs sideways.
Smoke and Cure: Unlike brand X, I would eat this regardless of my BAC level. Lovely smoke flavor. Thumbs up.
Elizabeth Rossano -
Bridgford: The national brand had an artificial smell and a permeating grease which made it less comfortable to handle. The tangy grease coated my tongue and felt like fire in my throat, making it impossible to taste anything else but for the loose texture. I certainly wouldn't buy this product, but if it was the only thing to eat at a party and I'd missed dinner I would eat it. Thumbs sideways.
Smoke and Cure: The local pepperoni was much less greasy and less spicy, making the subtle tastes distinguishable. The smoky aftertaste was very nice, making me want to eat more, rather than just put something else in my mouth to calm it down. Thumbs up.
Bridgford: Food ought to look good and smell good, and the Bridgford pepperoni underwhelmed me. It was quite greasy, and had a chemical-y aroma. The flavor was nice and spicy, but didn't have much else to recommend it. I would never purchase this again, so thumbs down.
Smoke and Cure: Right off the bat, the sweet and smoky aroma promised good things to come. I appreciated the classic salami sourness in combination with the smoke. And there was a hint of heat that hit me in the back of my throat, but wasn't so strong as to dull the other flavors. I could eat this stuff all day. Thumbs way up.
Bridgford: Slicing this sausage coated my whole hand in a viscous layer of oil. Not a great start. It also had a telltale chemical odor. The oil was pleasant going down my throat, but served as a strong reminder just how lethal this thing must be. Thumbs sideways.
Smoke and Cure: Now this tastes like real meat! With a rough-ground texture and smoky flavor that remains pleasantly on the palate, pepperoni doesn't get much better than this. Though I feel like I'm talking about non-comedogenic skin cream, I have to say that I really enjoyed the non-greasy finish. The best part? Just the right amount of acid. I don't generally keep pepperoni in my home, but if I ever need some, this will be the one I purchase, no question. Thumbs up.
Joanna May -
Bridgford: The Chicago pepperoni smelled and tasted like what you do to meat when you're in a hurry to cover the flavor of rotting pork. Thumbs sideways.
Smoke and Cure: Pepperoni from VT Smoke and Cure was all about smoky and spicy meat. I didn't love the papery casing, but that's my only complaint.