Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Jerk Store Called

On the eastern side of the state of California there are a set of beautiful mountains. Along that set of beautiful mountains is a two-lane rural highway. Along that two-lane rural highway is a little shack in a gopher hole of a town called Olancha, population: 192. In that gopher hole of a town along that two-lane rural highway beside a set of beautiful mountains is a shack known famously as Gus's Fresh Jerky, or as I call it...THE JERK STORE!!!

I had sex with your wife

So yeah, the 395 travels along virtually the entire eastern side of California where you see a bunch of gnarly small towns, old west attractions, and roadside stops such as Gus's. We had passed Gus's a few times before but opted to skip it last time because, well, the exterior looks like the kind of place Jared Fogle would lure young children into so we avoided it. But alas, this time we felt brave to venture inside and it actually has quite a lovely interior. In addition to a plethora of jerky products, it also has ample supplies of honey, pistachios/nuts, and salt water taffy. Prices are a little high, but that's to be expected. Service is nice and friendly and they provide free samples. 

They carry traditional types of jerky such as sweet and spicy, honey, teriyaki, etc. but are also known for carrying more exotic meats such as buffalo, elk, and venison. They happened to be out of elk and venison but wouldn't you know it, they had buffalo in stock so, naturally, it didn't take long to make my selection. That one bag costs $20 though so you would think it would be amazingly delicious, right? Ehhhhh. Not quite.

If a natural flavor is added then does that actually make it natural?

So, buffalo jerky. It's not much, it's stiff, it's got flavor, and it also contains more sodium than a Denny's double cheeseburger. The aroma from this package is so strong that you'll feel like you just snorted a line of salt. The taste is so strong that you'll need chap stick after a few bites to clear the salty residue on your lips. Is it bad? Depends on your taste. It was okay for me but $20 for this tiny bag and a flavor that's dominated by salt isn't really worth it, not to mention it contains sodium nitrate. 

That's another thing: why the nitrate? Why is a jerky that claims to be "really fresh" utilizing the services of a nitrate? "Well, Greg, you idiot; jerky by nature is filled with preservatives and that's what nitrates do." Yes, but nitrates also cause cancer and people are starting to avoid products that contain them as an ingredient. It's also important to point out that some of the best jerky products on the market DO NOT contain nitrates or nitrites. Perky Jerky, Sprouts brand, and Krave are just a few. Pair that with the fact that they have better ingredients, less sodium, and actually cost LESS than crap like Jack Link's and it makes you wonder how some of these nitrate-packed brands even stay in business.

I thought Gus's "really fresh" jerky would be just that: really fresh. But it's kinda sorta not. I get it, though: it's a roadside novelty so it's pricey, it's salty, and it's supposed to be delicious. That's the shtick and the appeal, but it just wasn't for me.

If you're on the 395 and want to try some out for yourself, there's signs about 50 miles in either direction advertising it so it's hard to miss. I would, however, be open to trying the elk or venison, as those are two proteins that Greg's Gourmet is yet to try. If you happen to give them a whirl then let me know how they are!