Ever wonder about a mix you've seen in the store? Is it any good? Could it replace something you'd otherwise make from scratch? Welcome to Mixed Review, where the whole point is putting mixes to the test! —The Mgmt.

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[Photos: Lucy Baker]

Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow believe that "everything should taste like bacon." To that end, they have developed a successful line of bacon flavored products that includes microwave popcorn, mayonnaise, seasoned salts, lip balm, and even baby formula. But here's the thing: none of them contain any actual bacon.

In fact, all their products are kosher certified. How bacony could bacon-less food really be? I prepared J & D's Bacon Ranch Dressing & Dip Mix ($2.99) to find out.

So if there isn't any bacon, what exactly is in the mix? It's a combination of seasonings including salt, vinegar powder, garlic, chives, sugar, onion, paprika, and smoke flavor, and preservatives like maltodextrin (which is a common ingredient in dried soup mixes).

The package includes instructions for preparing the mix as a creamy salad dressing or as a thicker dip for chips and crudité. I opted for the salad dressing, so I whisked the contents of the packet together with 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and 3/4 cup of buttermilk. Once prepared, the dressing was almost as thick as a dip anyway, and could certainly be used as one.

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Did it taste like bacon? The answer is both yes and no. If it's possible for something to taste like bacon without being meaty or porky, this dressing achieved it. The sweet, salty, and smoky flavors were definitely reminiscent of bacon. But if you drink a glass of tomato juice you might be reminded of a bloody mary, even though there is no horseradish, lemon, or vodka. That is to say, the two are similar but by no means the same.

I don't mean to disparage this mix. On the contrary--I actually thought it was quite tasty, and I don't usually care for ranch dressing. Creamy, tangy, and flavored with lots of paprika, garlic, and chives, it would go very well with a green salad as part of fried chicken or BBQ dinner. It would also make a delicious sandwich spread. I might use my leftovers in place of mayo on (what else?) a BLT.

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