The last 30 days for Team Garmin-Chipotle has been a media extravaganza. It’s indisputably newsworthy that the very core of the Slipstream business model has been validated: Clean cycling is indeed good business. It’s been proven by the big bucks put up by Garmin to sponsor their team. It’s probably no coincidence that the two other vocal self-policing teams of the professional peloton -- CSC and High Road -- also both recently picked up new big-dollar sponsors in Saxo Bank and Columbia. And the individual performances of Will Frischkorn and Christian Vandevelde so far during le Tour are no less newsworthy.
For all of the attention being given to what’s not being put into the bodies of Team Garmin-Chipotle riders, we must confess that we’ve taken an even greater interest in the high-profile articles remarking about what they are consuming. To wit: Both the New York Times and the UK’s Sunday Times have made mention of Allen Lim’s Sushi Rice Bars.
Previous to these articles, the only connection we ever made between Garmin-Chipotle and thoughtful cuisine is the passing resemblance between Jonathan Vaughters and Food TV’s Iron Chef color commentator Alton Brown. But thanks to Allen’s hours toiling in the kitchen, we found ourselves fingers-to-face with possible deliverance from the expense, the tedium, and the general ickiness of processed gels and bars. What EPO and refrigerated plasma was to Liberty Seguros, is Calrose sushi rice and Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s to Garmin-Chipotle? We ventured into the Competitive Cyclist corporate kitchen to find out.
In order to make Allen’s Sushi Rice Bars, your shopping list is blissfully short:
If you can’t find Calrose, you can use other sushi rice. It’s essential, though, to use sushi rice because stickiness is key to this recipe. The whole idea is that this is mid-ride food, i.e. you carry it in your jersey pocket. It’s the stickness of the rice that glues the bars together. Make sure to follow the rice directions carefully, especially the part about letting the rice sit to cool once you’re done cooking it. We found that this adds to its stickiness.
If you’re using bacon instead of prosciutto, cook it as the rice simmers. Then scramble the 6 eggs with a healthy drizzling of the Bragg’s. (We found Bragg’s in the ‘organic’ section of a decent local grocery store. If you can’t find any, Soy Sauce is an adequate substitute). Break up the bacon into very small pieces and mix it with the eggs, then mix this with the cooked rice. As you’re mixing it up, drizzle on more Bragg’s and salt to taste.
Once the rice, eggs, and pork are all uniformly mixed, spoon it all into a 6’x 6′ baking dish or Tupperware. The latter is preferable since the bars are less prone to sticking to the Tupperware. Once everything is spooned in, smooth it out then mash it downward with superhuman pressure using a silicone (not metal!) spatula. This oomph is the key to getting the bars to stick together. Mash it like a man! Use a silicone spatula so the rice won’t stick to it. Once you’re done, drizzle on a liberal amount of balsamic vinegar.
Let it sit for 20 minutes, then carefully cut them into small bars. One pan should yield 18-24 bars. According to the NYT, Allen wraps them in foil for the team -- we can see how saran wrap would be too sticky.
While we fully recognize that the big-picture nutritional requirements of a rider in the Tour de France are vastly different from a Cat 3 prepping for summertime crits, we nevertheless gave the bars a shot both in the lunchroom, and out on the bike --
From a lunch standpoint, the sushi bars were excellent. Between the dense texture of the sushi rice and the soy flavor of the Bragg’s, it was a lesson in how much of the pleasure we take from sushi is, in fact, derived from the rice and the soy. The fluffiness of the eggs nicely disrupted the constancy of the rice texture. Combined with the salty bacon and the exquisite balsamic vinegar, it was delicious. Making this for breakfast or lunch -- bike ride be damned -- is something we’ll do in the future.
What about eating them on the bike? For starters, this is where making sure you mash the daylights of out them during the prep process is key. If the consistency is too loose, you’ll lose half a bar in bits and pieces as you ride down the road. And while big-ringing it down a country highway isn’t necessarily the best way to savor homemade food, we found the saltiness of the Bragg’s and the bacon to be especially nice in comparison to our usual fare. It was a treat. The only downside, in fact, is that they were so yummy we ate too many at once. We wouldn’t call these bars ‘heavy’ to stomach, but we’d advise you to dose them out much like you would a gel -- maybe have one every 45min or hour on a long ride. Inhaling 2 or 3 at once is a surefire way to feel over-stuffed -- not a great sensation as you ready for the next big climb on that day’s parcours.
One final note on these bars: While we’re in the business of selling gels and the like and would love to have you buy more of them from us, the cost savings inherent to making these bars in comparison to buying a box of gels is pretty ridiculous. And it’s not just a matter of how much food you get per dollar by making them. The superior nutrition and culinary variety are both sure to benefit your body and your spirit.