Having spent his life in New York City working with some of the country's best chefs and restauranteurs, Dave took his expertise out west to Napa, CA to focus on his two snacking passions, beef jerky and peanuts. His jerky is smoked in a real smokehouse, using natural ingredients, and is gluten-free.
Because his jerky is still not available for sale, I'm withholding formal ratings. The review below is based on pre-production samples sent to me by Dave.
Cinnamon Jerk JerkIngredients: Beef, brown sugar, pineapple juice, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, yeast, garlic, onion, allspice, crushed red chilis, cinnamon, celery juice powder, lactic acid culture.
The first flavor to hit my palate is a sweetness with bits of onion and garlic. There's a considerable oily flavor and feel that comes on right away. The chewing brings on some of the cinnamon and brown sugar, while a very light bit of heat is noticeable.
For being labeled, "Cinnamon Jerk Jerk", this does have a light cinnamon flavor, and when combined with the brown sugar, takes on a flavor that reminds me of kids cereal, or even somewhat like a maple glazed donut. But the "Jerk Jerk" part of the name is also there in faint amounts, with a touch of chile pepper heat, and a touch of the allspice.
Otherwise, the flavors that seem to define this jerky most of all is the cinnamon & brown sugar flavor with a garlic & onion seasoning. There's just a touch of heat, still light enough to be considered "mild" on my personal heat scale, and touches of the allspice.
As for being smoked in a real smokehouse, I don't really pick up much real wood smokiness.
The meat consistency looks great in that I don't see any fat or other connective tissues. I don't feel any stringiness either. It starts out chewing stiff, almost tough, yet seems to easily chew down. By the time it's chewed down soft, it feels quite like real steak, cooked medium-well.
Verdict: This Cinnamon Jerk Jerk generates a nice snackability through it's garlic & onion seasoning and touches of allspice and chile pepper. The combination of cinnamon and sugar seems quite a contrast that it was like mixing chunks of grilled steak with my Cinnamon Jacks cereal. I didn't get much of the natural meat flavor, nor much real wood smokiness. Otherwise, it offers a great jerky chewiness with a steak-like feel.
Root Beer Habanero
Ingredients: Beef, brown sugar, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, black pepper, garlic, onion, fermented soy sauce powder, crushed red pepper, root beer extract, cayenne, jalapeno pepper, habanero pepper, ginger, dried maple syrup, celery powder, lactic acid culture.
The first flavor that hits my mouth is a heavy sweet, slightly root beer like flavor. The flavor of chile peppers comes on right away. The chewing brings on much of the seasonings, namely a garlic & onion, and cayenne. The maple syrup flavor comes on strong towards the latter part of chewing.
For being named, "Root Beer Habanero", this jerky holds up well. I definitely taste the root beer flavor, and I get a lot of the sweetness that one expects from drinking root beer. But I also get good taste of chile pepper flavor. It's a little more difficult to discern the habanero chile from the jalapeno and cayenne, but it's clearly a chile pepper flavor.
Otherwise, the flavors that define this jerky more than anything is the thick sweetness. The root beer flavor is noticeable mostly in the initial chewing, and mostly with the very first piece I try. After that, the root beer tends to become lost in the other flavors. The chile pepper is also definitive component, as is the maple syrup towards the end.
As for the heat, it's not really that hot. I'd rate this as "medium" on my personal heat scale (level 3 out of 5), and in fact I had entertained a lower heat rating (level 2), but it seemed to be right on the line.
The chewing is far different than the company's Cinnamon Jerk Jerk. This one is much more soft, more moist. This is practically kippered beef as opposed to jerky. It's still very meaty, offering little fat, no connective tissues, and no stringiness. It chews down very easily. It has less of a steak-like chewing, and more of a mushy meat texture.
Verdict: This Root Beer Habanero is quite good. It's actually quite addicting. I found it a little more salty than the Cinnamon Jerk Jerk, but I think the thick sweet mixes really well with the chile peppers to create a snackable sweet & hot variety. The root beer flavor seems to blend into the maple syrup, and by the latter part of chewing, the root beer has completely dissolved into the maple.
Smoked Beef Jerky with Ghost Pepper
Ingredients: Beef, brown sugar, salt, contains 2% of less of the following: garlic, onion, fermented soy sauce powder, ghost pepper, dried maple syrup, spices, celery powder, lactic acid culture
The first thing I taste right away is a heavy sweetness and the unmistakable flavor of ghost peppers. The heat builds up strong and fast. The chewing brings on a lighter garlic and onion seasoning, along with a light maple flavor towards the end.
For being advertised as "Smoked Beef Jerky with Ghost Pepper", it holds up somewhat. I do get a lot of the ghost pepper, both in the flavor and heat. On my personal heat scale, this is "hot" (level 5 out of 5). But I don't pick up much of the smoke, maybe just a wee bit.
Otherwise, the flavors that define this jerky is largely a combination of ghost pepper chiles and sweetness. The garlic & onion seasoning is also noticeable mostly as a savory background, and then the light maple finish.
The meat consistency is more like a balance between the Cinnamon Jerk Jerk and the Root Beer Habanero. It's tender and moist, but retains some chewiness. It's mostly all meat, little fat, no stringiness, and chews down to feel like real steak.
Verdict: This Smoked Beef Jerky with Ghost Pepper does a great job of bringing out the natural flavor of Ghost Pepper Chile along with the intense burn. But I just didn't get much of the real wood smokiness. I put a lot of weight on a jerky's ability to live up to its advertised flavor, so I hope when Dave's Meat & Nuts goes into full production, they'll be able to spruce up the smoke flavor. Otherwise, it's one of the better Ghost Pepper jerky brands I've tasted, especially with the thick sweet balance, the touch of maple, and the light garlic & onion seasoning. It's also the better chewing between the three varieties that Dave sent me, with a nice balance between a meaty texture, and a soft, tender chew.
Between the Cinnamon Jerk Jerk, the Root Beer Habanero, and the Smoked Beef Jerky with Ghost Pepper, I'm tied between the latter two. I really like the flavor balance and complexity of the Root Beer Habanero, but I really like the rich Ghost Pepper Chile experience with the Smoked Beef Jerky with Ghost Pepper. I think the last one needs more real wood smoke flavor to send it over the top.
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