Food and Drink

Lock-N-Load Java A Pureed Review


If you get a variety of sample packets (a great and cost-effective way to explore without having to buy whole bags) of Lock-N-Load Java, and the measure for the coffee maker you are using is more than half but less than all, what do you get?  For me, it was a chance to play coffee blender on my own. 

I will start with my favorite, which was about 90 percent New Guinea and 10 percent Ethiopian.  My hosts favorite was (I think) a blend of Double Barrel and Smooth Operator, though we both very much enjoyed a blend of Double Tap and Charlie Don't Surf

Me, Monday I am placing an order, and just waiting to see how large an order I place.  Good coffee from good people, and the troops benefit.  Not bad. 


Lock-N-Load Java A Blended Review


Life can never be all bad when there is good coffee to be had.  And, thanks to the fine folks at Lock-N-Load Java there has been good coffee in my life.  My hosts and I just have hated having to sample so much good coffee, and I fear we are getting a bit spoiled. 

This week's review is of a sampler pack of their blended coffees (you can read the review of single-source coffees here).  Coffee has gone the way of whisky and whiskey, in that blends get a very bad shake.  As with a good blend of whiskey/whisky, the goal is to create the best of several worlds, bringing together flavors so that a rich and complext taste is obtained without negatives.  In terms of coffee, the flavor should be rich and complex without excessive bitterness, acid, and other things that would detract.  As with whisky/whiskey, there are indeed some bad blends out there, that are not pure product and/or are not quality product. 

Such is not the case here.  The blends they have are pure and high quality, and show it.

First up was the Warrior Select medium roast. The body is nice, and it has a good flavor.  There was enough richness to be satisfying, and the finish was smooth and pleasant. 

Second, we tried the Double Barrel Black dark roast.  I really liked the full body and solid flavors a lot. Good body, great balance, slight bit of bite on a solid finish. For those who like it dark, a good choice. 

Finally, we tried the Smooth Operator light roast.  To be honest (and polite), I'm not usually a fan of light roast coffee.  This, however, was full of flavor and showed some nice complexity with fruit and nut notes. To be very honest, I am impressed with it and I'm going to have to rethink some of my coffee snobbery about light roast. 

As before, I want to mention that the company is veteran owned, has an option for you to ship coffee to the troops, and does other good work.  There is more coming on some of those good works.  Stay tuned. 

Now, to see if the troll (competitor?) shows up to misquote prices and disparage things again...


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A Special Tasting

The Bourbon Bar

Monday night, a friend and I had the delightful treat of a bourbon tasting at The Bourbon Bar/Southern Art Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead.  It was a reunion of sorts for me, because the tasting -- put on by the Metro Atlanta Scotch Club -- was done by Hunter Chavenne of Willett Distilleries.

Continue reading "A Special Tasting" »

Lock-N-Load Java A Single Source Review

Working at Blackfive does have benefits.  Right after getting to meet good and interesting people, the best benefit is finding good things.  Those who have met me know I like good food and drink, possibly a little more than I should.  Good coffee is something I appreciate, and I know others do too -- particularly out in the field.  I made friends on embed by bringing good coffee with me.


I wish that I could have had Lock-N-Load Java with me for those embeds.  The kind folks at Lock-N-Load have sent me some of their products to try, and I (and my hosts) are very much enjoying the opportunity.This isn't a company that just does your standard blend and roast, but one that is dedicated to providing the finest coffees for all range of uses. 

This week's review is of the sampler pack of their Task Force Zulu premium single origin coffees. As a coffee snob appreciator, I like single-origin coffee.  In fact, I had a favorite for making in a french press on those days that called for a really good start to the day.  Any of these coffees will give you that.

Our tour started with the amazing Papua New Guinea.  Amazing is not too strong a word, as this medium roast coffee has a good body, wonderful flavor(s), clean finish, and absolutely no bitterness.  The write-up talks about dried fruits and other notes, and they are indeed there.  If you like complex coffees that are balanced and with no bitterness, this is a great coffee to try.  My host likes cold coffee, as in iced, and not every coffee holds up to that -- and this one did with even more notes and flavors coming out. 

Next up was the light roast Rwandan.  As I noted on Facebook, it has a good body and flavor, with hints of plum and fruit.  The body is a bit lighter, but not weak.  The finish was good, and the overall flavor truly is unique.  If you like a lighter roast and coffee, without loss of flavor or complexity, you should try this one.

Then we tried their Ethiopian coffee.  Let me preface this by saying that a particular Ethiopian coffee is my favorite mentioned above, and I benchmark other coffees against it.  Despite not being made in a french press, and being a medium light roast instead of a darker roast, the Lock-N-Load Java Ethiopian more than held its own.  This is a solid coffee with rich complex flavor, hints of fruit and herbs (to me), and a clean finish.  I really want to try this in a french press and compare to what I normally get/got. 

Finally, we tried the Costa Rican.  I put it off because my host has not had good luck with Costa Rican coffees before, but this one may have changed that for him.  It has a solid body, with the hints of sweetness for which Costa Rican coffee is known.  A light roast, it is flavorful and presents the best qualities of Costa Rican coffees. 

Now, I know I've talked about a french press a few times here, and for more than one reason.  To me, it is about the best way to make coffee there is.  Sadly, my glass french press is not able to travel with me because, well, it's glass.  For those in the field, that is a drawback.  Well, not anymore as thanks to Lock-N-Load Java you can get a stainless steel french press to go into the field with you.  And, yes, this is now on my Amazon Wish List. 

Oh, did I forget to mention that the company is veteran owned, has an option for you to ship coffee to the troops, and does other good work?  Well, here you go and more is coming on some of those good works.  Stay tuned. 

It's also not just me that likes them.  Check out this review at TAH


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A Visit To Willett

There are special behind-the-scene tours, and then there are very special behind-the-scene tours.  Last week, I was graced to get a very special tour of Willett Distillery at Bardstown, Kentucky.  This family-owned and run distillery has a unique history, and the former distinction of being the only distillery that didn't distill -- at least on site.  Now, however, after extensive renovations the family is once again distilling using a column still and a beautiful copper pot still. 

The distillery house

When I arrived, I was told that a group was coming in for a tour, and asked if I would mind waiting for them.  I agreed, and it was one of the best decisions I've made.  The group coming in was from Longman & Eagle, a most interesting bar/restaurant/more in Chicago that takes great pride in not just selection, but a knowledgeable staff.  They had arranged the very special tour, and I got to go along. This is going to be a bit long, with lots of photos, so more is below the fold.

Master Distiller Drew Kulsveen talks grain and process

Continue reading "A Visit To Willett" »

Battle Mug!

Joe Lundberg and his Battle Mug

Suppose one day you and some friends (most/all veterans) were sitting around talking, and trying to figure out what you were going to do with a number of spare M4 carry handles.  What would you do? 

The Original, The Polymer, The Battle Shot

Would you think of making what has to be the most bad-ass mug of them all, and using the handles on them?  Would you think of using it to make a point (or three?)?  Would you take it to the next step and using the idea to save/create jobs here in the U.S.?  And, take that a step beyond?  Well, that's what Joe Lundberg, the founder of Battle Mug did, but let's hear it from him. 


I really do need to introduce Joe to the Ranger Up folks, and want to thank him again for an amazing time.  If you live within two to three hours of Monteagle, TN, you want to go check out Dave's Modern Tavern. Food from scratch, and the bar fare beats some more "upscale" I've had to pieces. 


Oink-Moo Burger: hamburger topped with Gorgonzola and home-made pulled pork

Oh, and so you know:  each mug has a serial number.  It starts life as a 14-pound chunk of aluminum that is machined down, and includes three rails.  This is then hard anodized, and is ready to ship.  You have to provide your own handle, and other gear with which you deck it out.  It is not inexpensive (or cheap).  Nor is the polymer version that is now out.  Like the original, it too is made in America.  So are their shirts and hats.  The products are all a statement, about craftsmanship, pride, self-reliance, exceptionalism. 

Battle Mug:  It's not for everyone.  Do you measure up? 


As always, thanks to my sponsors: and B.N. Shape Clothing! You can catch me on Facebook, Twitter, and at LaughingWolf.

A Visit With Elijah

A welcome sign of things to come

It may come as a shock to you to find that members of Blackfive (and the armed services) drink, and have an appreciation of the distiller's art.  (cough, cough).  I recently found myself at Heaven (Hill that is) and wanted to share a bit about the Bourbon Heritage Center and Heaven Hill Distilleries.  I plan on returning to Bardstown, Kentucky, and to the Center and recommend that you visit as well.  In fact, if you are active duty, bring your ID and you will get a discount.  What that is I'm not saying, but you will want to take advantage of it.
A few of Heaven Hill's offerings

While Evan Williams is perhaps this family-owned and operated company's best known brand, my bourbon of choice to have on hand for regular use is Elijah Craig 12-year-old.  This product drew me to visit when I had the chance, as I wanted to know more about the product and my favorite preacher.

Continue reading "A Visit With Elijah" »

Getting Carded

One of the things I will miss about the Lafayette (IN) area when I'm on embed will be the people.  There are a lot of good people in the area, and a high number of veterans.  One special family belongs to "Top" who is a retired USMC master guns.  Top has looked after me for a while now, after we met courtesy of Mark Dolfini and Standing for the Fallen (who he also looks after), and I've been adopted into the family. 

The other night was a birthday celebration for his daughter, and she chose to go to Scotty's Brewhouse, a small chain in Indiana.  It's not a brew pub (no brewing on site), but the food I had was good and they do indeed have a good brew selection that features a number of microbreweries. 

When the check came, Top (of course) asked if they had a military/veteran's discount.  The young lady who did such a good job looking after us said that yes, they did, it wasn't much but could she see his ID?  Yep, she carded him to be sure he really was military -- and told us why. 

Scotty's does more than a discount on Veteran's Day, and among the real vets who came into this location were a group of younger people, one of whom demanded the freebies and presented ID to get them.  Unfortunately for him, while the waitress herself had not served, close family and friends have and do, and she knew what a real ID looked like.  She refused to give him/them the freebies.  He created a scene, demanded the manager, etc.  She didn't back down.  They paid the bill, left no tip, and stormed out.  She apparently did catch a little flack for how she handled the situation, but nothing serious.  I doubt she will take my direction to drop kick any fake's balls up between their ears, but I can hope.

Because she cared enough to card, and because Scotty's does do a good bit for troops and Vets (and not just on Veteran's Day), they've earned some repeat business from me.  If you are in Indiana, I will commend them to you to try. 

If you care to thank them for support, and having staff that cares enough to card, you might drop them a line (see earlier link).  I not only would like to see them thanked, I would love to see carding become policy, along with calling the police on obvious fakes who are committing fraud/theft-by-deception. 

Meantime, if things work out, I will go back to Scotty's at least one more time before I leave.  For caring enough to card, and for the way things were handled, it is the least I can do. 


Noble Bar

There is a lot to be said for eating fresh.  There is a lot to be said for eating food that is processed as little as possible.  I even support eating fresh local food for a lot of reasons, though I think the "localvore" movement (eating only what is available local seasonally) is pretty f'ing stupid.  I've long been on record as pointing out that one reason organic produce can and does taste better is that those products are often heirloom products from when we grew for taste rather than shelf life. 

The thing is, there is room for debate on a lot of this.  The one thing I think that most of us here can agree on is that the politics behind much of the organic/localvore/fad-of-the-week or healthy/nutritious tend to be more than a touch, er,  progressive.  And loudly proud of it.


So, imagine my surprise at being contacted by the people behind Noble Bar.  Not only is it a veteran-owned small business, they proudly based their products on the foods of the Romans, Koreans, and the Vikings because of their valor and victories.  The nutrition behind the bars seems solid, and they do give a good energy boost. 

Yes, I have tried all three:  Centurion Fig, Kobukson Asian Pear, and Viking Cherry.  All three were/are good, and having a thing for cherries (shut up Jimbo), I honestly expected that the Viking Cherry would be my favorite.  The Kobukson Asian Pear, however, truly surprised me with how good it tasted and the balance of the flavors, and edged out the Vikings.  Sorry distant ancestors. 

You really do want to read their story, learn about their logo, and check out their products.  Nutritious, tasty, and no patchouli. 


Howlin Good Times

A couple of years ago, several readers joined me for the first ever Walk for Wolves at Wolf Park.  It was a great time, and I can attest that LL can go from 0-60 in about one second if you say "look at that snake!" 

Well, there are two things coming up that might appeal to some of you. 

First, there is the upcoming "Brew on the Bridge" on Thursday 26 July from 7-10.  There will indeed be brew (including XXX root beer) and good food, and a chance to see some of the wolves. 

Second, it is time to start putting together teams for Walk with WolvesCooking with the Troops is working with the park on a possible surprise, so come down to walk with the wolves, have fun, and more. 

Also, if you are a business and would like some NYC-based national exposure, drop me a line.  We have a very special opportunity coming up that can literally have your name up in lights.