Monday, April 6, 2015

HoneyBaked

(HoneyBaked Ham)
6936 S. Lindbergh
St. Louis, Mo.
On the Web
Facebook

First, I wish to be very upfront and clear about this.
I was invited and paid, up front, to try this place out, by one of HoneyBaked's PR firms.
Things like this happen occasionally. Via this page's 'Email Me' button, which marks incoming emails as coming from there, I get invitations to try restaurants, bars, etc. Most of the places are too far away to be of any interest to me, others, I simply forget. And this is not the first time I've been offered free food. A couple of years back I posted a scathing review of Domino's Pizza and a few days later I got an email from their corporate headquarters apologizing for the poor service and  telling me there were a couple of coupons, essentially a reimbursement, waiting for me at the local store. I suppose they are still there, I wouldn't know.
Anyway Erin Peacock from Peacock Public Relations in Orange County, California, hit the button and offered a $50 gift card to ". . . add Honeybaked to your table."
She never said anything about me writing anything about it, but since she found me on Eat and Critique, the implication was pretty clear.
I mentioned it to Angel, she thought it sounded pretty good. So I responded to Ms. Peacock. Within moments I received a reply asking for my mailing address. I'd already checked out the firm, so I gave it to her. By the end of that week, UPS delivered.
The email said something about Easter and ham, but since we don't do Easter, I didn't feel especially rushed.
I do have journalistic integrity though. I will give an honest assessment. That integrity was drilled into me by my two years, one as Editor in Chief, for the 'Trigg Times' (High School Paper) and five more years of watching 'Lou Grant'.
Though Lou, Joe and Billie would never take money up front to write a story, I will, since I make my own journalistic rules here. I do promise to be honest though. Peacock never said anything about what they wanted me to say. If they don't like what I say, that's on them. Besides, $50 is well below my actual bribe rate.
The Place:
 South (St. Louis) County, in a very busy stretch of overt capitalistic endeavors, big box stores, auto dealers, a mall, shopping centers and adjacent to a traffic ticket fixing joint.
I'd not seen these before moving to the area. If you get a ticket you can pay them a certain amount to get the charge reduced and save your precious 'points'. I've only had one ticket since I moved here and have never bothered learning more about those businesses though.
I don't like this area, too busy, too many lanes, too many intersections, too many distracted drivers.
First I stopped at the mall, something I haven't done since 2006. I usually have no interest or need for malls and all those people there. That's why God created Amazon.com, so people like me don't have to go to crowded stores to pick through clothing, cell phones and sunglasses.
Angel and Adam were in Springfield celebrating her paternal grandmother's 100th birthday. We had discussed HoneyBaked before she left though, we had a plan.
I drove up there before noon on Saturday. I wanted to get it over with.
The parking was tight, a lot of people getting tickets fixed, I guessed. The store entry was a bit confusing, I ended up going in through the exit door by mistake. The lady at a little table giving away cheese samples looked at me funny, but said nothing.
It was a cattle line.
A literal maze, like at an amusement park, with ribbon suspended by move-able chrome poles guided people from the entry door, made two u-turns and fed out to the counter. It was manned by three or four cashiers. There were about eight people ahead of me so I tried to read the overhead menus. I need new glasses. I couldn't make out a thing until the last turn.
I had looked at products online ahead of time, but only generally, not specifically.
I did some calculations in my head and figured up an order. I stepped up as ' . . . next person in line, please.'  Steph stood confidently at her station, smiling. Not a big, ugly, fake smile like real estate people have, but a nice, genuine, relaxed smile.  I thought about asking her to marry me. She could do worse.
She obviously had more confidence than me. I was already rattled from the traffic and the uncertainty of my order. I wanted to spend at least the entire $50. I would even be willing to go over, since we're budgeted to eat out every weekend anyhow, as long as I got out of there with a wide sampling of HoneyBaked's offerings.
We could have blown the entire amount on a big ham or a whole turkey, but then we'd have to make something to go with it.
The Food.
They offer the big meats, it's what they are known for, but they also serve smaller 'sliced' one pound portions. The sides were the wild card.
I ended up ordering one pound each of smoked turkey and ham. I added potato salad, and asked about bacon. Yep, Steph assured me, they had that. I did some math in my head and realized I was short of the $50 minimum. I saw a poster for sides and saw mac and cheese, I added that and was still short. So I saw another poster and asked for cinnamon  rolls.
I still came up about a buck and a half short of the target, but made the decision that enough was enough.
She ran my gift cards, one of them seem to be problematic, but she persisted and apologized graciously for the problem. She couldn't know that it really didn't matter to me, I could afford to actually pay for the whole amount on my own. The cards just got me in the door.
She fetched the stuff, and even opened up the foil covered ham to show me that it was indeed ham, not asbestos or heroin, and offered to do the same for the turkey. "That's okay, I've actually seen turkey before." I assured her. Actually I trusted her, heck, we were practically engaged. If you can't trust your potential fiance to serve you the food you asked for, what good are they?
I fought the traffic and the intersections and the lanes and finally made it home. I was in charge of the dogs, so I put everything away and took care of them.
When everyone had been cycled I looked over the cinnamon rolls and the mac and cheese. Steph had gently pointed out that these items would need to be heated. "I have an oven and I'm prepared to use it." I had assured her. She seemed to be impressed that her future husband knew his way around a kitchen.
Not bad, thirty minutes so at 350. She hadn't said anything about cooking the bacon, but I'm not a complete idiot.
As dinnertime approached, I started the prep work. I decided to heat up only half the rolls, there were a dozen of them and I didn't think we could finish them all in the remaining weekend, even after they got back.
I followed the instructions, peeling back a corner of the plastic seal on the mac, and foil-tented the half dozen rolls. I let them finish completely before I started anything else.
One small skillet, one slice of bacon, halved. I find that bacon cooks better if you make it smaller.
Once the bacon was done to crispy, I tore off some turkey and ham and threw it in the same skillet for a couple of minutes, just to heat up. No need wasting good bacon grease.
This all only took about ten-fifteen minutes. I plated everything, opened a fresh bottle of Dasani and let Rudy watch me eat. He loves watching people eat. He really, really loves watching people eat, closely.
The bacon was crisp, thick and smoky, exactly like bacon should be, nothing more. The turkey and ham were also fresh and flavorful, not too much monkeying with herbs and spices. I decided the meats would make for a really tasty sandwich. I didn't make a sandwich myself since there were already a lot of starches being served up. Besides, I wanted to taste the product commando-style to get at the bare essence of the stuff.
If anything There weren't any real veggies in the meal. But that's on me. If you recall I hadn't really thought this through. Green beans, corn, maybe even lima beans or peas would have cut up the flavor profile a little. It was definitely a brown meal.
Except for the mac and cheese, of course. Speaking of which, I was quite pleased with the creaminess and cheesiness of it. As good as any I've had anywhere. The potato salad was of a style. If I were to chose some or make some, it would be stronger in the mustard department. I like canary-yellow potato salad. Interestingly the potato salad had shredded cheese in it. It wasn't bad, just a style, well executed, that I only like, not love. But that's a preference thing. I certainly didn't dislike it. In a buffet, family get-together, or catered event, I'd certainly have some.
The cinnamon rolls were thankfully small. Even though I'm a rural American, I don't like or need huge portions of things. Those calorie bombs that you find at bakeries and coffee shops are just too big for me.
I saved mine for after-dinner coffee. And it was pretty good that way. Small, simple, a basic and comfortable cinnamon roll.
The really nice thing about having turkey and ham in the fridge is the sheer versatility. Both meats are great in a breakfast scramble, a quick lunch sandwich, even on a salad. Sunday morning I did make that scramble, and instead of sprinkling the bacon, turkey, ham and eggs with shredded cheese, I added some of the HoneyBaked  mac and cheese.
After Angel and Adam got back, bringing some of Springfield's famous Chinese food with them, they each tried the HoneyBaked selections.
Both liked the meats, Adam preferred the turkey over the ham, and also thoroughly liked the mac and cheese. Angel really liked the potato salad, the mac and cheese, not as much. "Too noodly" I think she said, whatever that means.
Summary:
Quite good! Certainly better quality meat and sides that you find most places. I could very easily see HoneBaked as a top tier candidate for laying out a table for a medium to large gathering, family, coworkers, etc. There's no too-strong flavors, it's all good ol' American comfort food, well made and satisfying to a wide range of palates.
As for the store, well, had I been paying more attention to this Easter thing, I should have expected HBH to be really busy the day before. The line did move fairly quickly though.
The price, for you, not for me this time, is not unreasonable for quality product. Sure, you could get a less expensive deli tray at a discount big-box store or grocery, but HoneyBaked is about quality, consistency and freshness. Maybe your poker buddies wouldn't care, but more upscale events require something a bit better than off-the-rack, generic meats and sides.
I heard from a former HBH employee, my stepson Tyler. He said he had a genuinely positive experience running the ham spiraling machine* down in Springfield when he was younger. Happy employees, that's always a good sign .
As far as the staff for this visit, Steph was more than just a cashier, she actually engaged, paid attention and worked efficiently. All the time with that knowing, confident smile. Maybe we'll get our wedding reception catered by HoneyBaked.



*J. Hoenselaar, the founder of HBH in 1957, was also the inventor of the spiral slicing machine first used in his business.


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