Can Cherry give Italian Chicken the boot? Will Jalapeño Popper say buenos noches to Potato Egg and Cheese? It is Round 3 of the Inaugural Kolache Factory Invitational Tournament time!

In spite of unfavorable weather conditions (better known as any unconditioned space in the middle of the summer in Houston), Round 3 of the 2009 Kolache Factory Invitational Tournament went down last Thursday evening.

In case you missed Round 1 and Round 2, below is a rundown of the kolaches in the semifinals:

Meat Regional Winner: (2) Italian Chicken
This undersized poultry concoction narrowly edged BBQ Beef in the opener and cruised past a Pepperoni & Mushroom that still had a hangover from its grand upset of Sausage & Cheese.

Fruit Regional Winner: (1) Cherry
The announcement of Cherry as a #1 seed in the Fruit Region was not without controversy. I reported that the fruit was overrated, but Cherry proved me wrong by thwarting a strong effort by Apple and handling the sweet goo attack of Lemon.

Breakfast Regional Winner: (1) Potato Egg & Cheese
The mammoth starch-in-starch breakfast beast sent Sausage & Gravy packing and held off the unorthodox Ham & Cheese to claim the Breakfast Region title. Some have contended that it benefited from not having to face a kolache that packed bacon in its arsenal, but I can assure you the P-E-C is the real deal potato peel.

Border Regional Winner: (2) Jalapeño Popper
It was a pre-tourney Cinderella pick. It was the inspiration of this tournament. It isn’t even on the menu anymore. With all that hype, would Jalapeño Popper show up for the tournament against the best Kolache Factory has to offer? Just ask Philly Cheesesteak and Ranchero. These are two tough competitors. But when they met the Popper… boom goes the dynamite.

As with the previous rounds, new predetermined judging criteria will be introduced for this round. Once again, the round will be scored, and the highest scoring kolache in the matchup will advance. The scoring categories are detailed below.

  1. Speed Eating (a.k.a. how fast can one be eaten) – In case you missed the breaking news on’s Twitter feed, I was selected to compete in the International Federation of Competitive Eating’s Kolache Factory World Kolache Eating Championship. The event will be held in Houston, TX at Minute Maid Park after the September 4th Astros v. Phillies game. This criterion was actually selected for the semifinals before I knew I would be competing. While I will no doubt practice a few times before September 4th, dipping and cramming was not allowed in this round of the KFIT... needless to say, this is a tournament that celebrates the looks, textures, and flavors of the kolache. Joey Chestnut is a competitive eating living legend, but I'm guessing he wasn't enjoying the flavor complexities of the 56 Sausage & Cheese kolaches he downed in the previous Kolache Eating Championship.

    Total available points = [ Sum Eating Time (3 judges) / Minimum of the Summed Eating Times (3 judges) ] x 10 = 10 pts max (scores rounded down to the nearest whole number)

  2. Taste – No fancy math or rules here… each kolache will be scored based on overall flavor.

    Total available points = 5 pts x 3 judges = 15 pts max
The Saint Arnold Brewery unknowingly played host to the KFIT Semifinals (well, Brock did stop by to ask what the heck we were doing with all those kolaches). The rather conspicuous Speed Eating portion was performed first.

Since this round is a time trial and not a head-to-head battle, we drew individual eating slots from a hat before the competition. Obviously the 3rd and 4th kolaches had a distinct disadvantage in this portion of the competition, but that is the luck of the draw, so to speak. The lineup was drawn as follows:
  1. Cherry
  2. Jalapeño Popper
  3. Potato Egg & Cheese
  4. Italian Chicken

I brought my Flip Mino HD along and we documented the event. Enjoy our video presentation of the Speed Eating portion of the competition.

Video Link

The Matchup: 2) Italian Chicken vs. 1) Cherry

Speed Eating:
Cherry acquired the top eating slot through the draw, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Clearly the judges, having not eaten since lunch, were hungry and ready to go all “dessert first” on this kolache. However, being inexperienced speed eaters, overzealous bites and the sticky goo slowed the disposal of the Cherry filled kolache. A surprise hidden pit in my kolache also caused a temporary pause in my consumption. Italian Chicken drew the last spot eating spot. I’ll be honest, none of the judges were enthusiastic about taking down a 4th kolache, making it’s matchup against a kolache in the one hole even more unlucky. As a petite as less sticky kolache, Italian Chicken could have maybe taken the top score. Given the circumstances, it still performed quite well.

Italian Chicken, 293 seconds, 10/(293/229) = 7.8 = 7
Cherry, 229 seconds, 10/(229/229) = 10

When people think of Cherry, they think cherry pie. The cherry filling used by Kolache Factory is quite tasty and is very reminiscent of pie filling. However, I also think you have to go into this not thinking you are getting a cherry filled donut. Kolaches are breadier… or is it more breadiest. The judges liked the filling, but Cherry took a little score hit for overall kolache flavor. Italian Chicken is a small kolache with an inconspicuous filling (not colorful at all). But don’t turn your back on the Chicken. This little guy is bursting with cheesy, chicken’y, herb’y flavors. "Outstanding," noted one of the judges. "Fugetaboudit," responded Italian Chicken.

Italian Chicken, 11
Cherry, 7

Cherry had speed on its side Thursday night. But speed was not quite enough to overcome Italian Chicken’s mysterious tasty goodness.

Italian Chicken, 18
Cherry, 17

The Matchup: 1) Potato Egg & Cheese vs. 2) Jalapeño Popper

Speed Eating:
The Popper drew a fortunate eating spot. The 2 spot catches the eaters with a little more experience and while they are still a little hungry. The judges found The Popper to be a little sticky in the mouth with all that cream cheese. The bacon pieces couldn’t be chewed, so they just had to ride down the hatch with the bread of cheese filling. Just a post eating note, none of the judges noticed any spiciness from the jalapeños... until several minutes after the kolache was gone. P-E-C is like an offensive lineman competing in a 200m dash. Conquering the beast, er P-E-C, was a challenge. I used the break up and attack method, while the other judges used a conservative biting method. All the judges passed the 2 minute mark eating this one. Ugh.

Potato Egg & Cheese, 430 seconds, 10/(430/229) = 5.3 = 5
Jalapeño Popper, 253 seconds, 10/(253/229) = 9.05 = 9

On the surface, Potato Egg & Cheese is a simple breakfast concoction. However, a peek inside reveals south of the border influences. Jalapeño Popper once again finds itself in another border battle, but it is a battle tested kolache. Judges noted its near perfect blend of flavor and spiciness. The Popper’s use of bacon tops any other bacon combination at Kolache Factory. Potato Egg & Cheese delivered in the favor category as well. Judges lauded the overall taste, noting the uncredited ingredients really contribute favorably to the kolache. But was this the border clash it was billed to be? "I didn’t see this as a border inspired food issue," The Popper insisted. "P-E-C may have wanted to stir up some emotion, but we just do our thing. We let our bacon hypnotize you while the jalapeños score on you at will." When asked if the P-E-C’s southwestern influences created any confusion, The Popper responded "I grew up with eggs, potatoes, cheese, tomatoes, onions… all of them. Heck, I had potatoes and ranchero eggs for breakfast!"

Potato Egg & Cheese, 13
Jalapeño Popper, 13

Someone was bound to catch Potato Egg & Cheese. It won the Breakfast Regional on a coin toss and tied the taste portion of this Semifinals. Unfortunately the reason why I often pick the P-E-C up for breakfast ended up being the reason why it lost in the tournament: size.

Potato Egg & Cheese, 18
Jalapeño Popper, 22

The results mark the second numerical upset, with both #1 seeds falling to #2 seeds in this semifinal round.

The 2009 Kolache Factory Invitational Tournament Finals

Both Italian Chicken and Jalapeño Popper will travel to (what someday may be) a kolache’s most hallowed grounds. On September 5th, 2009, the KFIT finalists will head to Austin, TX to battle during a tailgate for the beginning of the college football season at The University of Texas. The competition will once again involve taste and will include a Saint Arnold beer pairing category.

"This is great exposure for our kind," noted Jalapeño Popper. "We feel right at home with tailgates and beer. Maybe this will put us on the map… or menu."

"We certainly have a lot of respect for this tournament and our competitor," Italian Chicken added. "Our pals Vito and Big Poultry are already heading to Austin to learn a thing or two about a thing or two regarding the finals venue. I’m not saying we have this in the bag, but I’m just saying."

To kick off Round 2, I decided to do a Google search to see what other mock-serious brackets could be found on the interwebs. I found meat brackets, fruit brackets, and even sports uniform brackets… just to name a few. But a kolache tourney? Folks, I think we are breaking new ground here at The Ferm. Maybe this will land us in that "Final Four of Everything" book... or an honorary spot in the upcoming I.F.O.C. Kolache Factory World Kolache Eating Championship (how hard can it be to beat Smackoff Champ Sean Pendergast's seven kolaches?)… or maybe just a free kolache. A guy can dream...

Round 1 featured judging criteria analogous to a qualification round... kind of like the NFL compound (link to Round 1). The kolaches were graded based on performance, but looks were very important. To avoid being repetitive in my analysis and the monotonous write-up that would follow, I will be mixing in new judging categories for each round. Unlike the previous categories, Round 2 will be scored numerically and will be based on the following categories:

  1. Eatability – No, not exactly the same as that campaign for the pale fizzy stuff The Man tried to sell you by convincing you his product was in fact, drinkable. One of the things that make kolaches great is that you can eat them on the go. This category will measure the neatness of the kolache while it is eaten. A score of 0-3 will be assigned.
    Total available points = 3 pts x 2 judges = 6 pts max
  2. Taste – Each kolache will be scored based on overall flavor… pretty straightforward.
    Total available points = 5 pts x 2 judges = 10 pts max
  3. Value – Let's face it, in this economy, value matters. The value category will be determined by taking the total score in the Taste category and dividing it by the price of the kolache. The kolache with the higher Taste Points per Dollar in the matchup will get 2 points. (after you've read the matchups below, check out a graph of the results... yo, I said after)

For each matchup, the highest scoring kolache will move on the KFIT Semifinals.

Welcome to the Regional Finals! Which kolache will reign supreme?

As in Round 1, the matchups will be recapped below as they are completed, with the newest appearing at the top. Check back often or follow The Ferm's twitter feed for updates. Click below to enlarge the current bracket.
(updated 8/2/09 11:16 PM)

Before we get started, I'd like to give some shout outs. Thanks to Mr. Smokeypants' brother-in-law for the Eatability category suggestion. Thanks to J. R. Ewing for unknowingly inspiring the Value judging category with his under appreciated Minute Maid Shenanigans posts on the inexplicable value discrepancies in beer prices throughout the ball park. Huge props to Marco at the 10455 Briar Forest store, who politely took my big list of kolaches last Friday and filled it without a question or cross look... despite it being 6:15 in the morning. And finally, thanks to the Kolache Factory Twitter dude, who is aware of this project and hasn't shut it down yet.

Meat Regional Final: 2) Italian Chicken vs. 4) Pepperoni & Mushroom

How They Got Here:
Italian Chicken edged BBQ Beef in the equivalent of a double OT win. But Italian Chicken’s win pales in comparison to Pepperoni & Mushroom’s shocking defeat of #1 overall seed Sausage & Cheese.

Eatability (0-6 pts):
Italian Chicken has enough cheese to hold the chicken together. Pepperoni & Mushroom, seemingly still riding the high from its improbable defeat of Sausage & Cheese, showed up for this matchup with almost no filling. On the positive side, the lack of filling increased its score for Eatability. However, a single spill from the Pepperoni & Mushroom would mean grease stain city, my friends.

Italian Chicken, 4
Pepperoni & Mushroom, 4

Taste (0-10 pts):
In what could only be described as coming out flat after the emotional high of a tough victory, both kolaches under-performed in this matchup. In my opinion, the Italian Chicken and the Pepperoni & Mushroom that showed up today would have lost in the 1st round in this form. But in a single elimination tournament, only the current game matters. Italian Chicken was still relatively strong and only a little drier than previously. Pepperoni & Mushroom left the judges wondering where the pizza was today (see Round 1 photo).


Italian Chicken, 7
Pepperoni & Mushroom, 5

Value (2pts to winner):
Italian Chicken, 7 / $1.65 = 4.24 taste pts/$ (+2 bonus pts)
Pepperoni & Mushroom, 5 / $1.55 = 3.23 taste pts/$

Italian Chicken 13
Pepperoni & Mushroom 9

Fruit Regional Final: 1) Cherry vs. 3) Lemon

How They Got Here:
Its #1 seeding in the Fruit Regional was controversial, but Cherry backed up the pre-tourney grade with a win over the formidable Apple. Lemon advanced by out goo-ing the competition
in somewhat of an apathetic battle with Cream Cheese.

Eatability (0-6 pts):
Each kolache was easy to hold, but the bite that breaks the goo-containment wall was the most telling. Cherry’s goo was a little less viscous than that of Lemon’s (Judge's note: goo viscosity assessed after 30 seconds in microwave).

Cherry, 4
Lemon, 3

Taste (0-10 pts):
Cherry brought its A-game for the Fruit Regional Finals. It was tart and packed with cherries, unlike the 3 ½ fruit pieces for the Apple matchup. Lemon was good, but it was surprisingly less tart than Cherry… something the judges weren’t too sweet on.


Cherry, 8
Lemon, 5

Value (2pts to winner):
The bonus points are gimmes in this matchup. All the fruit kolaches are the same price.
Cherry, 8 / $0.99 = 8.08 taste pts/$ (+2 bonus pts)
Lemon, 5 / $0.99 = 5.05 taste pts/$

Cherry 14
Lemon 8

Breakfast Regional Final: 1) Potato Egg & Cheese vs. 3) Ham & Cheese

How They Got Here:
P-E-C cruised to the Regional Finals by outmatching Sausage & Gravy, which is like the Morehead State of Kolaches. Not that there is anything wrong with Kentucky universities, but P-E-C is no mid-major. Ham & Cheese pulled off somewhat of an upset by defeating an egg kolache in the Breakfast Regional... and one with bacon!

Eatability (0-6 pts):
One of my favorite things about P-E-C is its biggest disadvantage in the Eatability category: it is huge and stuffed with ingredients. Being big makes P-E-C great for hungry kolache customers and also those with giant hands. If only I had giant hands I may be playing professional ball right now instead of blogging about kolaches (being 5’7” is a bit of a hindrance as well). H&C is like the Spud Webb of kolaches. This kolache is heavy on the ham bits and light on the cheese, so the ham does have the ability to free itself from the confines of the bread. (WARNING: If a tiny ham bit ever jumps out of the kolache and happens to fall inside your shirt, have someone film the ensuing dance. It’ll start a new craze… or at least be a popular YouTube video.)

Potato Egg & Cheese, 3
Ham & Cheese, 3

Taste (0-10 pts):
The tasting notes on these kolaches are similar to that of the 1st round. I’m not sure why P-E-C has peppers and tomatoes in it, but I like it. This is a tasty kolache that is somewhat “border” inspired. As for H&C, the use of a white cheese (Swiss?) is not what I would expect, but it tastes good. I only wish there was a little more cheesiness in the H&C.


Potato Egg & Cheese, 9
Ham & Cheese, 7

Value (2pts to winner):
P-E-C get the Meal-in-One pricing, while H&C is kind of a bargain priced meat kolache.
Potato Egg & Cheese, 9 / $2.09 = 4.31 taste pts/$
Ham & Cheese, 7 / $1.29 = 5.43 taste pts/$ (+2 bonus pts)

Potato Egg & Cheese 12
Ham & Cheese 12

Crap! I did not have a backup plan for a tie, so in the spirit of competition, I chose the most powerful resolution criteria ever invented. Nope... not Rock/Paper/Scissors... a coin toss.
P-E-C, being the higher seed, was assigned heads. And the winner is...

P-E-C takes its place on the stand.

Border Regional Final: 1) Ranchero vs. 2) Jalapeño Popper

How They Got Here:
Ranchero ran through the first round by taming the not-for-the-sensitive-stomached Jalapeño & Cheese. July’s Kolache of the Month, Jalapeño Popper, frazzled the frizzled steak of Philly Cheese Steak to start its magical run to the championship.

Eatability (0-6 pts):
Egg kolaches have an inherent disadvantage in the eatability category, and the Ranchero is no different. The scrambled eggs don’t seem to be cooked with the other ingredients, so everything tends to want to follow the Newton’s laws of gravity. Inside the Popper, the bacon and jalapeños use teammate cream cheese to bond.

Hey, it's a kolache tourney, not a photography contest

Ranchero, 4
Jalapeño Popper, 6

Taste (0-10 pts):
The Ranchero is like a Mexican breakfast in your mouth… but with like, ham. The Jalapeño Popper is like heaven in your mouth. Bacon and cream cheese just go together like the sun and the sea or like bees and honey. Mix in some jalapeño and it’s like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. I’m not sure what the addition of bacon would do to Ranchero, but in its current form, the ham just doesn’t do it for the judges.


Ranchero, 6
Jalapeño Popper, 9

Value (2pts to winner):
The Popper is a “Kolache of the Month,” so I don’t know if that status comes with special pricing, but the rules are the rules.
Ranchero, 6 / $2.09 = 2.87 taste pts/$
Jalapeño Popper, 9 / $1.69 = 5.33 taste pts/$ (+2 bonus pts)

Ranchero 10
Jalapeño Popper 17

Today I will be brewing a Kolsch style beer, in fact, it'll be the same recipe as one of my wedding beers. I'm going to try and have this ready for Addison! Oktoberfest, my in-laws will most likely be in town and my mother-in-law really likes Kolsch beers. Aren't I so nice? And just like Sirron's brewday, today will be filled with awesome weather (scattered rain and Houston humid-ish). Perhaps after I brew and clean up we'll go to the Ginger Man and have some beer and beer food. Even though it's hot, more than likely it won't be filled with the Chris-Chris, douche bag tools who drive their low end BMWs due to no Dallas Mavericks game tonight.

9:47am - Crap, I can't find my stir bar for my
yeast starter, off to Homebrew Headquarters, my
local homebrew shop (LHS), with my morning Dunn Brothers C

11:06am - Alright, got the yeast starter boiling, I need to keep an eye on this sucker as it likes to boil over almost every time, little bastard. I usually try to make the starter the night before but due to no stir bar, it's this morning it is.

12:05pm - Mash has started, 90 minutes from now I'll begin to recirculate then sparge the mash. Aren't you mesmerized by my super awesome ghetto mash tun? If not, you should be, it is truly greatness, how could Jimmy Buffett and a Texas A&M blankey not be cool?

12:29 - Beer time, better start with something light, and the winner is, Saint Arnold Summer Pils. This has to be my favorite summer varietal, if you don't know, you better axe somebody.....or just go get a six pack......or case......whatever you're into. Just try it and you'll see what all my fuss in about.

1:00pm - My buddy from work, Greg, just got here with his kid, quality parenting showing up to a house where drinking and making beer are favorite past times. Good job homes! I guess I'll go ahead and eat some lunch that my wonderful wife made for me.

1:30pm - It's spaaaarging, it's spaaaarging time. I use a gravity system for this, second drinking beer is another Saint Arnold Summer Pils. Just checked outside, temperature reads about 86F, humidity is quite strong though, how unfortunate.

3:29pm - Alrighty now the boil is going, this is going to be a 90 minute boil. I do that to reduce DMS precursors, DMS can leave a canned corn type of aroma and taste in the finished beer and one way to reduce those precursors is a longer boil. Since the Kolsch style is a German type beer, 95% of the grist (grain) is pilsner malt. Pilsner malt is one of the lighter types of base malts and since it is not kilned as hot or as long as other base grains, the DMS precursors remain in the malt. It's hot out there, only 91F though, Sirron must be jealous, oh yeah, no rain right now and the humidity has gone done considerably.

3:57pm - Bittering hops are in, a blend of Hallertauer and Tettanger, I'm trying to clean out my hop supply and both are appropriate so, why not? Oh yeah, I switched to water for the moment, the sweat factor is high.

4:26pm - Crap, rain looks like it's rolling in, lemme check crap, it really looks like it's going to rain on me. CRAP!!

5:05pm - Well, here's a quick shot of the prepared wort, after boiling with the hops, going into the fermenter. Nothing fancy, just pumping from one vessel to another via a heat enchanger cooled by the garden hose water.

5:14pm - Now that the wort has been cooled down I'll start to aerate it. I just use an aquarium pump and a stainless steel stone thing. It works ok I guess, an Oxygen tank with a rate controled regulator would be better though.

6:21pm - Everything is put away and the wort is chilling, it's not technically beer until the yeast gets pitched (ie. yeast + wort = beer). And after all the concern, it didn't rain, sweet. I'll take care of pitching the yeast tomorrow, for now it's Spicy Chicken Pad Thai from a box and homebrewed American IPA, yummy.