Welcome to the first round of the 2009 KFIT. The first round matchups will be scored in four categories: 1. Size – Simply how big is the kolache. We all know that size does matter... sometimes. The winner will not necessarily be an average of the four categories. Matchups will be added below (newest at the top) as they are completed. Check back often or follow The Ferm's twitter feed for updates. Click below to enlarge the current bracket. THE FIRST ROUND IS NOW COMPLETE!
2. Aesthetics – The physiological connection of the senses and taste are well documented. If you aren't into science... think food porn.
3. Namesake – Aside from the fruits, these kolaches all look like a ball of bread. This category will compare the name of the kolache with the actual contents of the filling. Does the kolache live up to the expectation of what was ordered?
4. Taste – When food molecules come in contact with the papilla on the tongue, they are recognized by taste receptor molecules... heh, just kidding. This category is subjective, but it will pit two kolaches in a head-to-head flavor throwdown.
(updated 7/29/09 3:50PM)
(check out the 1st round summary following the bracket)
2009 KFIT Round 1 Summary
Game 1: 1) Potato Egg & Cheese vs. 4) Sausage & Gravy
Recap - The starch-in-starch P-E-C uses hidden ingredients to beat the unorthodox Sausage & Gravy.
Game 2: 2) Bacon Egg & Cheese vs. 3) Ham & Cheese
Recap - B-E-C has the fairy dust of foods, but undersized H&C wins the duel. Bippity, Boppity, Bacon!
Game 3: 2) Italian Chicken vs. 3) BBQ Beef
Recap - What is Italian Chicken? Uhh, delicious.
Game 4: 2) Cream Cheese vs. 3) Lemon
Recap - An odd and underwhelming match produces a small upset.
Game 5: 1) Ranchero vs. 4) Jalapeno & Cheese
The hottest matchup occurs in the Border Regional and the cooler kolache prevails.
Game 6: 1) Sausage & Cheese vs. 4) Pepperoni & Mushroom
Epic battle has controversial call... Sausage & Cheese goes down in the 1st round!
Game 7: 2) Jalapeño Popper vs. 3) Philly Cheese Steak
July's Kolache of the Month survives to live another day, at least in the KFIT.
Game 8: 1) Cherry vs. 4) Apple
A delightfully cheery battle concludes with Warrant taking Jason Biggs.
The Matchup: 1) Cherry vs. 4) Apple
These are fruit kolaches, so they come in an almost-a-square shape with the goo visible from the top. Although Cherry actually measured a little bigger than Apple, I’m going to chalk up the differences as an anomaly.
1. Size – Simply how big is the kolache. We all know that size does matter... sometimes.
The winner will not necessarily be an average of the four categories.
Matchups will be added below (newest at the top) as they are completed. Check back often or follow The Ferm's twitter feed for updates. Click below to enlarge the current bracket.
THE FIRST ROUND IS NOW COMPLETE!
Both of the competitors are pretty good looking fruit kolaches. Apple has cinnamon bits in the goo along with real fruit chunks. Cherry is deep red and also has real fruit. Judging these kolaches on looks alone is tough, since their beauty is probably in the eye of the beholder. I chose to score these based on the images they conjure up in my mind as I tasted then gazed at them on the plate. When I see the Apple, I think apple pie, which makes me think about Jason Biggs. When I see the Cherry, I think about cherry pie, which makes me think about that Warrant video.
Apple and Cherry both have similar levels of goo and fruit pieces. I found myself wishing there were a few more pieces in each. While tasting Cherry, I had to be careful not to gobble up more than one fruit piece in any bite, because the kolache contained only about 3½ cherries. Overall, they both delivered on their name’s promise.
Apple tasted like apple pie. Cherry tasted like cherry pie… a very tart one. At first the tartness was a little shocking, but swapping bites between the two kolaches revealed that the tartness worked really well with the bread. In fact by the end, I was surprised by how bland Apple was *compared* to the Cherry. These were both good kolaches. It was interesting that the bread played a role in the outcome for the first time in the KFIT.
Since the Cream Cheese/Lemon matchup was rather underwhelming, this #1 vs. #4 matchup was a welcome surprise. In a time in America when the word "apple" makes you think iPod before you think pie, Apple came into the competition as a big underdog. There were some days where it could have pulled off the upset win, but today it fell short by the tiniest of margins.
The Matchup: 2) Jalapeño Popper vs. 3) Philly Cheese Steak
Both kolaches enter the contest in the slightly undersized kolache form. In my opinion, the Philly Cheese Steak looked a little larger than normal… I don’t want to say steroids, but it appeared a little beefier. However, performance in the other categories will be the key in this matchup, because neither kolache wins the size battle.
A peek underneath the jersey shows the Steak is a bit doughy and not as beefy as it looked in warm-ups. Let’s face it, Philadelphia is not necessarily known for its beauty, and the cheese steak, with its frizzled beef, is somewhat of a street food item. The Popper, on the other hand, is a sexy beast. The bacon pieces are huge and the ingredients are beautifully distributed. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve got the hots for the Popper.
EDGE: Jalapeño Popper
I don’t want to sound biased, but the Popper was (probably) created by kolache gods and sent to Earth’s Kolache Factory stores just for me. An actual “jalapeño popper” consists of a hollowed out jalapeño that is stuffed with cheese (usually cream cheese), wrapped in bacon, and grilled or baked. The Popper imitates this well by simply combining cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon and stuffing it in the kolache bread. As for the cheese steak, anyone who knows the story of Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks knows that the origin and contents of the cheese steak are not even agreed upon in Philadelphia itself. Geno’s maintains provolone or American cheese is authentic. Pat’s, who originally prepared the sandwich without cheese at all, uses Cheese Whiz. Houston, TX has its own “authentic” (and um, awesome) cheese steak joint, Jake’s Philly Steaks. I enjoy mine at Jake’s with provolone and whiz wit (cheese whiz and onions). Hungry for a cheese steak yet? At kolache factory, the only option is wit onions and some unknown white cheese. Authentic? I suppose. Tasty? You’ll find out next.
According to Wikipedia (so it has to be true), “the first cream cheese was made in New York in 1872 by an American dairyman William Lawrence. In 1880, ‘Philadelphia’ was adopted as the brand name, after the city that was considered at the time to be the home of top quality food.” Therefore despite being situated in the Border Region, this is at its core a Philly battle. The Philly Cheese Steak is a solid contender. The steak, cheese, and onions seem authentic. It is a classic flavor combination, although I found myself wishing it had the Whiz. The Popper is jam packed with each of its three ingredients. [Tasting note: the cream cheese used in the Popper does not appear to be the same as in the Cream Cheese kolache. If it is the same, then something went terribly wrong with that kolache.] The Philly Cheese Steak was tasty, but the Popper gets a team contribution from each of the ingredients. Quite frankly, bacon is better than frizzled beef.
EDGE: Jalapeño Popper
The Jalapeño Popper is the trendy pick in KFIT tourney, but the first round matchup was no walk in the park. It was a Philly vs. Philly battle, but the Philly steak was not good enough to beat the Philly cream cheese. Philly fans still have a contender to pull for in the tournament, but Philly purists will wake up tomorrow with a dose of reality: Bacon, cream cheese, and jalapeños are simply better inside of bread.
WINNER: Jalapeño Popper
The Matchup: 1) Sausage & Cheese vs. 4) Pepperoni & Mushroom
After each kolache spent 30 seconds in the microwave warming up, they hit the plate for pre-competition introductions. S&C stayed composed while P&M’s leakage suggested a bit of premature excitement. P&M may appear to have a slight edge with its round presentation. S&C assumes the traditional oblong shape of the mini-sausage.
The two stared each other down intensely. At the core of each were two robust spiced meat logs. S&C packs a 1-2 punch of cheese on the outside AND cheese in the weenie. P&M competes in the sliced form (medium thickness) with mozzarella, (canned?) mushrooms, and a little sauce to stay hydrated. P&M made good use of space inside the bread, while S&C seemed a little bread-heavy.
EDGE: Pepperoni & Mushroom
Both kolaches deliver on their promises, with S&C bringing both the sausage and the cheese and P&M bringing both pepperonis and mushrooms. P&M sneaks in a few extra ingredients that would suggest its name should be Pepperoni & Mushroom Pizza, which gives S&C a slight victory in this category.
EDGE: Sausage & Cheese
S&C performed as expected, involving the senses in a Montell Jordan-like “This Is How We Do It” kolache food-gasm. But the pizza inspired P&M knows how to get its teammates involved, running well crafted flavor plays on each bite. Pepperoni was the star in this battle, outmatching (with its teammates) the sausage link and ultimately winning the flavor battle.
EDGE: Pepperoni & Mushroom
If there was a matchup on the schedule that I immediately circled when the bracket was released, it was #1 S&C v. #4 P&M. This epic battle, containing probably the best known kolache in the biz, solidified its place in KFIT folklore. The performances were inspiring, and a matchup this fierce was destined to come down to the wire. There were too many lead changes to count, and an additional judge was brought in help determine the winner: Google. According to a Harris Public Opinion Poll, hamburgers were cited as the food most thought of as American (29%, followed by apple pie with 20%, and hot dogs with 13%). Pizza, however, is more often named as a favorite food. This matchup would be decided underneath the bread, and one kolache capitalized on the preferences of the typical American palate...
WINNER: Pepperoni & Mushroom
While the judges chose the dog, the kids had a clear preference for the Sausage & Cheese. Below is a collage of photos (a highlight retrospective, so to speak) taken after the matchup when I let them go at the plate of S&C kolaches.
The Matchup: 1) Ranchero vs. 4) Jalapeno & Cheese
The Ranchero, while competing in the Border Regional, is the spicy Mexican half brother of the egg kolaches. J&C is a bit of a runt, but packs a big punch. This one was no contest.
For two kolaches that have two common ingredients, their composition could not be more different. J&C employs the sliced jalapeños, which give it an incredibly intimidating appearance. It also sneaks in some onions and some secret red ingredient. Ranchero could be a part time model, with its sexy Latin flare... I bet it even has a cool accent.
The "Ranchero" style has many interpretations, but the Ranchero kolache tosses aside the subtleties of a tomato-chili sauce and goes straight for the heat of chopped jalapeños. What makes for a good tasting and easily constructable kolache often means taking a few liberties in the recipe. J&C, despite the few onion pieces I found and the mystery "red," is primarily jalapeños and cheese.
EDGE: Jalapeño & Cheese
J&C has a simple approach: Bring the heat and round out that tangy spiciness with the sharpness of cheese. Ranchero takes a more stylistic approach by imitating a classic Mexican breakfast, but with ham. Maybe it is my secret food affair, but I wished bacon would have replaced the ham (this is the same chopped ham that makes an appearance in the Ham & Cheese). While the J&C was all about the heat (and addictively delicious), Ranchero packed the heat (this puppy was hot too) in a piñata of flavors.
The hottest battle of the first round could have been in this Border Regional. Without a doubt, something was going to burning after the Ranchero v. Jalapeño & Cheese matchup. But in the end, J&C couldn't keep up with the #1 seeded Ranchero. I'll take two Titralac and the Mexican breakfast wrapped in bread please.
The Matchup: 2) Cream Cheese vs. 3) Lemon
The fruit kolaches are homogeneous with a the standard square-ish shape and your favorite flavor's goo in the middle. Cream Cheese is a bit of an ugly duckling. While not a meat either, it chooses to hang with the fruits... possibly to attempt to coast to the KFIT semi-finals.
Both kolaches are pretty boys that like to show off their fillings, if you know what I mean. Lemon had an unnatural amount of goo, that while tasty, gushed out after the first bite. Cream cheese had no problems keeping its composure during the tasting. However, a look underneath that smooth cream cheesy crust exterior revealed a relatively unsightly cottage cheese-like texture. This one was close.
EDGE: Cream Cheese
Unless the Kolache Factory is pulling one over on me, Cream Cheese contained... cream cheese. Lemon is a bit trickier. In the middle of Lemon you won't find an actual lemon, nor would I want to. However, some bits or something would have been able to score Lemon some points in the Namesake category, which is a category that I'm sure Lemon will just concede without protest.
EDGE: Cream Cheese
Cream Cheese was the favorite going into this matchup. Its soft creamy texture with pleasing sweet and slightly tangy flavor... Mmmm. But BAM, Lemon dunks one to open the competition and wakes me out of my foodie dream. The goo was strong, and the cheese lost points in the end for its odd un-creamy texture in the finished kolache.
Overall, Cream Cheese couldn't pull off a win on concept alone. Lemon was not as in-your-face as I thought it may be, but this served it well in the competition. However, as you'll see in the picture below, Lemon didn't hold back when finding out the results.
The Matchup: 2) Italian Chicken vs. 3) BBQ Beef
Both Kolaches showed up somewhere between a Sausage & Gravy and Blank Egg & Cheese in size, although I've had some tiny BBQ kolaches in the past. This category is a push.
Stripped down, choosing between these kolaches is like choosing your favorite porn star... it probably comes down to personal preference. I like cheesy Italians apparently.
EDGE: Italian Chicken
The term "Italian Chicken" does not really conjure up any particular type of food for me, although I think I'm programmed to equate "Italian" with "marinara." I won't appologize for that. BBQ Beef came in just as expected, if not a little on the sticky-sweet side. However, this condition worked perfectly for a kolache.
EDGE: BBQ Beef
It was a beef vs. chicken matchup. A bbq sauce vs. cheese matchup. A treat for the judges type of matchup. Let me tell you, the spit bucket was dry during this battle. BBQ and bread go together like a horse and a carriage... or something like that. But there is a new franchise in town, and it is Italian Chicken. The chicken pieces are large enough to be taken seriously and the kolache has the type of cheesiness that is frankly missing from the egg and cheese kolaches.
EDGE: Italian Chicken
Before the tourney started, the Meat Regional was branded as an unfairly difficult path to a championship. The regional is kind of like trying to make the College World Series from a regional west of the Mississippi River. Sure some fruit (or NCAA baseball team east of the Mississippi) may make it deep in the tourney, but they will most likely find themselves overmatched in the championship. On any given day, either BBQ Beef or Italian Chicken could have pulled out a victory. Someone had to lose today, and the win was decided in double OT with a half court shot in the final seconds.
WINNER: Italian Chicken
The Matchup: 2) Bacon Egg & Cheese vs. 3) Ham & Cheese
Size: These two kolaches have cheese and pig in common, but $0.80 extra will get you some baby chicken. The B-E-C next to the H&C is like a University of Texas offensive lineman next to a southwest technical state lineman.
EDGE: Bacon Egg & Cheese
Ham and cheese is a classic combination. However, inside the bread of the H&C you’ll find something that looks like chopped Spam with a translucent coating. B-E-C presents itself in a much more traditional and straightforward manner. Bacon is just sexier than ham, so this would have been an uphill battle for H&C regardless of how it was prepared.
EDGE: Bacon Egg & Cheese
Neither competitor sailed to a victory in this category. Both kolaches had cheesy issues with the judges. While H&C does in fact have both ham and cheese, Ham and Swiss might have been a better name. B-E-C could have been named Eggs with some bacon and probably cheese somewhere.
EDGE: Ham & Cheese
The keys to victory for a bi-ingredient kolache verses a larger multi-ingredient one is to find a flaw and exploit it. For H&C, the flaw was cheese. The cheese failed to show up for B-E-C. In fact, it was more like an egg kolache… a very good (bacon flavored) egg kolache, but an egg kolache none-the-less. Despite its weird mouthfeel, the chopped H&C overcame the appeal of the bacon.
EDGE: Ham & Cheese
B-E-C came in a very confident #2 seed in the Breakfast Region, and this attitude may have cost them a chance at a title. H&C, somewhat of a mismatch in the egg heavy region, made the most of this matchup and was a surprise unanimous decision for overall winner.
WINNER: Ham & Cheese
The Matchup: 1) Potato Egg & Cheese vs. 4) Sausage & Gravy
The P-E-C is a round mound of starch in starch. It's size is intimidating, especially compared to the undersized S&G. You will have to lay down an extra $0.70 for the size, but it is easy to see where the dough is going.
EDGE: Potato Egg & Cheese
The S&G doesn't really have a lot going on for it under the hood. The tiny sausage bits stay glued together by the congealed gravy. One hopes this is a "tastes better than it looks" kolache. The P-E-C on the other hand looks like a morning Mexican fiesta. Potato chunks are large and the kolache even has a few surprise ingredients: Green peppers and tomatoes.
EDGE: Potato Egg & Cheese
While the S&G does not resemble any sausage and gravy I've ever had (and I admit, my experience extends no further than a Holiday Inn Express breakfast buffet), it does in fact contain both sausage and something resembling gravy. The P-E-C would have been more aptly named the Potato Egg Tomato and Peppers, so by definition it loses points here. Even though I wish the sausage bits were much larger and the gravy more gravy-er, the S&G gets the nod.
EDGE: Sausage & Gravy
With a nearly flawless showing going in to the taste portion of the competition, P-E-C stayed composed and did not disappoint. S&G made an admirable showing, and proved that it definitely tasted better than it looked. In the end, the secret (controversial?) ingredients in the starch-in-starch competitor were too much for a bi-flavored kolache.
EDGE: Potato Egg & Cheese
S&G was simply outmatched by the well rounded P-E-C, who wore the wheat jersey for the first round of the competition. The strange mouthfeel and unorthodox filling preparation of the S&G worked against what was actually a respectable kolache.
WINNER: Potato Egg & Cheese