For over a decade, Side Project Jerky has sought out the ultimate flavor journey through jerky. Partnering with talented chefs in test kitchens since 2012, founder Marcos Espinoza is driven to craft flavors inspired by a sense of place. It dates back to their first collaboration with Chef Sean Magee, whose idea to perfectly encapsulate the joy of eating a delicious bowl of pho was brought to life through a recipe featuring a signature blend of herbs and spices.
During their collaboration with Chef Jen Carroll, she opened their eyes to the magic of the Berbere spice blend. Endlessly versatile and delicious, her Ethiopian-inspired creation packs sweet heat and citrus. Combining Rival Bros Whistle & Cuss blend with ingredients such as smoked paprika and balsamic vinegar, Chef Jonathan Adams replicates the sweet, smoky flavor of burnt ends.
They take great pride in preserving the magic of what Side Project Jerky discovered in the test kitchen and bringing it to the available products on shelves nationwide. Most of all, they aim to expand people’s palates beyond your standard jerky offerings. Bringing that consideration and creativity to beef jerky allows them to create the best representation of a place in portable snack form.
With a mission to honor cuisines from around the world, Marcos has had the pleasure of collaborating with Chef Jen Carroll, Chef Jonathan Adams, and Chef Sean Magee, some of Philadelphia’s most passionate and talented arbiters of food. Each of their core flavors was born out of a constant curiosity to understand and honor other cultures from places near and far, starting with a blank canvas of beef. Side Project Jerky has served as their collective creative outlet and culinary muse. This Side Project Jerky brand is distributed under the name of Side Project Jerky, LLC, and it is located in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.
The next review on Side Project Jerky will focus on a 2 ounce/56 gram bag of Berbere flavored beef jerky. This flavor is described as packing a citrusy sweet heat made exclusively by beloved Ethiopian-owned Workinesh Spice Blends. The bag was purchased at a Wegmans store in Niagara Falls, New York.
The beef used is not guaranteed to be free of growth hormones or additional antibiotics. Also, the beef is not guaranteed to have at least partial free range access to graze on grass. As a result, the highest ingredient rating that can be awarded is a Good (8/10) rating.
The sugar level is acceptable at 8 grams of sugar per 57 grams of jerky for a sweet based flavor, as we have here. The salt level is high at 1310mg of salt per 57 grams of jerky to lose a rating. Our preference is 700mg or less of salt per 57 grams of jerky.
SIDE PROJECT JERKY – BERBERE BEEF JERKY
Written by guest jerky reviewer Paul Rekker
When I open the bag I smell something very sweet. I think I am smelling sugar. The pieces are medium in both size and thickness. The jerky is rigid, and it is challenging to bite a piece off of a bigger piece. It is dry and chewy, leaving no oily residue on your fingers.
The first flavors I encounter are salt, pepper, both at very tasty levels, along with (surprisingly) light sweet, with what I was smelling when I opened the bag, I thought the sugar would be too intense, but it is not. I also taste garlic, onion, and natural beef. I also taste juice, though I can’t put my finger on what juice it is. Is this part of the “berbere” mentioned in the flavor of the jerky? Because if it is, I like it.
Now, I just googled the word “Berbere”, and it is a spice mixture consisting of a myriad of different elements, including chili pepper, coriander, garlic, ginger, and many other ingredients, too much to mention, and many of which I’ve never heard of before. I believe that is the mystery flavor(s) I am encountering, and they are quite delicious.
This jerky is duly impressing me, which I did not expect, but I am grateful that it tastes so good. I am now a new disciple of “Berbere”, and look forward to trying it again. I am thoroughly enjoying this flavor and have zero complaints, so a well-deserved 10/10 is my conclusion. Gentlemen?
Written by guest jerky reviewer Stéphane Leclerc
Side Project Jerky – Berbere Beef Jerky has a decent flavor. I’ve noticed some significant discrepancies between the strips. The flavor varied between sweet and fruity to completely savory. There may be cilantro, as I detected what seems to taste like it. I am not a fan of cilantro, and although I am including this in my comments, it is intended as a FYI. It is not intended as a critique, nor does it have any bearing on my final rating.
The Side Project Jerky – Berbere Beef Jerky has potential and would likely please many people. The texture and aroma are pleasant. The flavor is not spicy or overly salty, and I can taste some exotic flavors. I would rate this jerky between an 8-9/10 Taste Rating.
Here is what Mark had to say about this Berbere beef jerky flavor from Side Project Jerky: “Thanks Paul and Stéphane for the candid taste reviews. I lean more towards Paul here. Before this review, I had never heard of the flavor Berbere, let alone tried it. The flavor is described as packing a citrusy, sweet heat on the back of the bag. Searching yielded similar basic descriptions.”
“While Paul and Stéphane detected a citrus flavor, Paul stating a juice, but I could not detect the citrus flavor. Nor would any of the ingredients listed suggest a citrus flavor. Certain soy sauces, especially gluten-free, at a certain quantity, can taste similar to pineapple juice, but I cannot say this was the case for me.”
“I had no problems chewing this jerky with the well-defined grain, unlike Paul. I did not detect cilantro, as Stéphane stated, but I could be mistaken. Some foreign flavors were present, of which I cannot put my finger on either, but it was not entirely unique tasting.”
“The taste profile works out well, with no single flavor dominating. Berbere was an interesting Ethiopian flavor, which I was grateful to try and enjoy. With Stéphane at an 8.5, Paul at a 10, and myself at a 9, a Very Good (9/10) taste rating will be awarded.”
This stylish, resealable plastic bag has everything imprinted on the bag, both on the front and back. There is an illustration of what seems to be a water buffalo on the front wearing a top hat. Pat of the background is interestingly a schematic. On the back is a picture of Chef Jen Carroll, the creator of this Berbere jerky flavor.
A slogan printed on this bag is “Live Well. Eat Jerky.” Some facts printed on this bag are “Gluten-Free” and “4g Sugar”.
Some missing bag categories are a transparent window to view the jerky and the jerky weight not displayed as grams. A good blurb about this flavor is printed on the back. Handles are provided for Side Project Jerky’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram social media accounts.