Parkview is Aldi’s house brand for many of their meat products. Their ” Parkview Hot Italian Sausage,” is a smoked sausage, whereas most companies (and grocers) sell their Italian sausage as “fresh” (uncooked). Smoked sausages like hot dogs, are fully cooked, so they only require a quick heat and eat, if that’s your preference. This product is made for Aldi by Salm Partners in Denmark, WI. They specialize in ‘cooked in the package’ meat products.
This is a “skinless” product meaning it’s not in a natural casing. The casing is made from collagen and is very thin, so that tactile experience that usually comes with biting into a sausage is not there. It’s also truly “hot,” meaning it’s a lot spicier than most of the big name offerings.
Parkview Hot Italian Sausage Review
Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review – on old Route 66, Chicago
Based on my personal consumption, I’m thinking their slogan should be “come for the biscuits, stay for the chicken.”
One of the original highways across America, Route 66 ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, CA, a total of nearly 2500 miles.
It’s also been referred to as “America’s Main Street,” and the “Mother Road.” The highway was instrumental in boosting America’s migration to the west by automobile, and was full of interesting tourist stops, eateries and motels with creative architecture. I’ve written about some of the eateries in the past, including the Maid Rite and Cozy Dog in Springfield, IL, the onion burger establishments in El Reno, OK, Country Cup diner in Countryside, IL, and the Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, to name a few.
I love driving Route 66, the trip evokes memories of a simpler time. I think it’s officially my own personal “happy place.”
The Chicken Basket grew out of a gas station lunch counter in the 30s or 40s, and opened in its present form in 1946. They are famous for – what else – chicken – and they offer it in a bunch of different forms, including a weekend lunch AYCE buffet.
The servers are very friendly and chatty, and the knotty pine room is adorned with Route 66 memorabilia. A basket of fresh baked biscuits is presented when you’re seated, and they were delicious, reminiscent to me of “Boy Scout dutch oven Bisquick drop biscuits” except these were perfect, not burned or half baked balls of dough that we used to have in scouts.
I started with an order of onion rings, large slices of sweet Vidalia’s in a crispy corn meal coating. It’s a large serving, adequate to share between two or more people.
We ordered a couple of meals, the chicken fried chicken, a boneless breast, which comes with fries, gravy, and corn “pudding.”
The menu cautions that it’s up to a 30 minute wait for the chicken, as it is all fried to order. The chicken breast was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, with the breading having some nice crunch. In the chicken dinner, the coating was considerably different, much lighter and less substantial, and I’m going to venture an uneducated guess that while the boneless breast was actually deep fried, it seemed like the chicken dinner was prepared more like ‘broasting,” a distinctly Midwestern thing, a deep-fry with less oil that also involves a pressure cooker. Maybe, maybe not.
In any case, unlike many legendary eateries, the Chicken basket exceeds its hype, the food is really great. Two dinners, one appetizer, two beverages and tip, $47.00.
Full menu is online if you want to ponder your choices prior to arrival.
If you’ve never driven Route 66, put it on your bucket list, even if you have the time only to do segments in one or two states. In addition to Illinois, the road crossed Missouri, a smidgen of Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and into California. It’s a very popular trip with foreign tourists, as well, and there are even “Route 66 Associations” across the globe.
I’ve been in a Pizza Hut maybe three times in the past ten years, once in a small town in Western Kansas, the place was filthy, the pizza worse. I liked Pizza Huts in China, tho, it was before the Chinese became amenable to liking “cheese” and the menus said the pies had “melted topping.” Selections were ample and the salad bar (which the Chinese adored) was always well stocked.
Went into a Godfather’s Pizza Buffet a few years ago, and that was dreadful. Pizza Ranch, a fast growing chain based out of Iowa, has so-so pizza, but drop dead fried chicken and a lot of other choices. And it’s a good value.
Round Table, based in California, has a pretty fair buffet.
But Pizza Hut? At least this one? Ugh.
They had six pizzas out, nothing exotic, either standard thin or thick crust. I went in because I thought it would give me the opportunity to sample some of the innovations they have been bragging about lately – stuffed crusts, added flavors, blah blah. But this operator was interested in minimizing costs and maximizing revenue, so choices were pretty basis. There was a single bin of plain spiral pasta and plain red sauce to accompany it. One bin of “dessert bread sticks.” No salad. No chicken. I expected wings, since Pizza Hut has that whole “Wing Street” thing going. Buffet price, without drink $6.99 plus tax and gratuity.
I had a slice of sausage, a slice of pepperoni, one with pork pellets, one with ‘everything’ and one with cheese. The plain cheese was the best, despite being drastically under-cooked. To me, Pizza Hut just doesn’t taste like much. It will always be in a three-way tie for pizza of last resort with Dominos and Caesar’s.
The joint was clean. The help was friendly. They seem to have some ‘regulars,’ at least based on overheard conversations.
It is next door to a KFC which was empty at high noon. No buffet there. KFC buffets are kind of hard to find, but they can be a real treat!
The basic menu is below, I notice they have “rebranded” their specialty pies as “Flavor recipes,” and I also see they no longer offer salads or other alternatives at all. But speaking of rebranding, remember about 5 years ago or so, they made a big hubbub about how they were going to become just “The Hut?” Whatever happened to that? It was about the same time Radio Shack announced they were going to start calling the stores just “The Shack,” but that ultimately changed into “The location permanently closed.”
LEMS Backwoods Seasoning Jerky Mix Review
I like jerky. And as I have the diabetes, if I can find one without added sugar, it’s a great low-carb snack. Friends of mine had been bragging about this fancy brand out of the Napa area, Krave, and I finally got around to trying it and wasn’t impressed. I won’t finish the package even. I wrote about it the other day.
So I decided to make a batch on my own, and had this package of seasoning sitting around, from LEM Products, a company I do business with when I make sausage. They have everything you’d need for making sausage or other processed meats at home, like stuffers, casings, seasonings.
The mix (Salt, Worcestershire Powder (Dextrose, Caramel Color [Sulfites 140ppm], Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic Salt, Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Chili Pepper, Spices, Mustard, Malic Acid, Natural Flavorings [Spice Extractives], Onion, Less Than 2% Silicone Dioxide Added To Prevent Caking), Paprika, Granulated Garlic, Monosodium Glutamate, Red Pepper, Dextrose, Spices And With Less Than 2% Tricalcium Phosphate Added To Prevent Caking) goes in a non-reactive bowl with 2 pints of water, and you slice your choice of protein (I used bottom round beef) as large/small, thick/thin as you like and marinade it for at least eight hours. I went 18 hours and added a half teaspoon of liquid smoke to the brew, too, as I’m making my jerky in the oven, not a smoker.
Place the protein on a wire rack, on top of a sheet pan to catch drippings, turn on your oven to its lowest setting, and place your pan in the oven with the door cracked open.
I also put in some mesquite chips, not sure if that will add anything other than to smoke up the house. (In the ramekins at the left of pic, smoking supplies are available at your nearest Gander Mountain).
Keep checking hourly it til it reaches the consistency and dryness that suits you. It’ll take hours. At two hours, the pieces are fairly dry, and I flipped them. Three hours, pretty good, a little crispy, still a little chewy (btw, the oven is at 175) . I finally pulled mine at four hours (pictured). I’m very happy with the results. Chewy, but not hard. I guess I will store in baggies to retard the potential for mold.
If you were going to make a goodly amount for your own use or gifts, I would suggest five pounds of meat, and a good knife will cut the beef thin enough for most people – if you want ultra thin, use a slicer!
LEMS Backwoods Seasoning Jerky Mix Review
I like jerky. I’m always in the hunt for new brands to find the ideal one for my personal taste. I like them beefy, smokey, slightly salty, and chewable. My favorite is one of the national snacks of South Africa, which I reviewed, and you can order online. I like that product as it is actual strips of beef muscle, instead of a processed product.
A few years ago, I made a trek to the factory outlet store for Jack Link‘s, in a small Wisconsin town near where I was brought up.And some top chefs in Chicago came up with their own brand which is very tasty.
Well, “West Coast” friends of mine have been crowing about Krave brand jerky for some time. “The best ever,” “unbelievable.” Krave was started by Jon Sebastiani, of the wine dynasty, who rapidly ramped it up to a $35 million annual company before flipping it quite early in its life to Hershey for $220 mil.
Legend has it (and the website) that Sebastiani and some athletic type friends that there was a hole in the market for this type of snack, and targeted to the work out crowd. (Not me, exercise for me is jogging my memory).
Krave touts their gourmet and natural ingredients. I chose the original variety ($3.99 at WalMart, same price as competitors), and the ingredients include: Beef, Cane Sugar, Gluten Free Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Alcohol), Honey, Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Sea Salt, Granulated Garlic, Onion Powder, Paprika, Spices.
Long and short. I didn’t care for it. Although well within its expiration date, it was hard as a rock. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but it doesn’t appeal to me. Secondly, it contains cane sugar (why?) which really boosts the carb count, which I guess is good for marathoners, but not for diabetics and weight watchers. Low carb meat snacks are standard fare for the latter in many cases.
Krave has different flavors, and you can order online for about twice the price that I saw in stores. This may be your dream jerky. As for me, it motivated me to have making jerky at home for this weekend. I used to get great home-made jerky from a dear friend, who eventually went crazy and quit making it.
I’ve got beef strips in marinade here at the burger house. In 24 hours, I’ll start drying it. I’m excited.
Krave Jerky is manufactured at a company in Kentucky called Louisville Processing & Cold Storage. Picture of that facility below.
Krave Jerky Review
Feeling a might peckish, I was scoping out restaurants by how much I liked their exterior vintage neons, and opted for the Olympic, right downtown, a couple blocks from the lake.
It’s an old-timey coffee shop format, serving all three meals, with booths and tables. It’s also crowded, not with people, but with ‘stuff,’ and you’ll have to negotiate a path to the washrooms, for instance.
They have a HUGE menu, with enough variety to easily please any diner, and simultaneously overwhelm any kitchen. In other words, the menu is so long that most places are going to have to look for short cuts, and in the case of my selection, the “Meat Lovers Burger,” it meant going with food service ingredients instead of fresh, prepared, in-house grub.
Yeah, I know, it’s a coffee shop. The burger came with fries (which were OK), and was around $10.50, adding cheese would slap on a buck.
Didn’t eat much of it, didn’t take it to go, either. Service was “OK,” there was one young woman for the entire dining room when I arrived, and she seemed a little harried. Ambiance is a-ok. Bathrooms are fairly clean.
Maybe I made a bad choice, maybe the kitchen was having an off day, but they weren’t very busy. There are sooooooooooooooo many options in Lake Geneva, for dining at all ends of the price spectrum. This is probably one you can skip.
I rarely read other reviews, but I checked a few as I was writing this, and some make reference to it’s an excellent place to eat when you’re drunk. I’ll keep that in mind.
Olympic Restaurant Review
Olympic Restaurant Review
(August 1, 2016) Most of the major frozen pizza manufacturers have been busy rolling out new variations of their products over the last couple years, apparently in an attempt to acquire more freezer frontage in the store, which hopefully translates into sales.
Tombstone, which started in Medford, WI, (map below) as a supplier of frozen pies to bars, grew into a substantial manufacturer before being sold off to Kraft, and then to Nestle.
One of their latest labels is the “Roadhouse” pizza, offering ‘double cheese,’ a crisp crust, and loads of toppings. I picked up the “Bring on the Meat” style, which is topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, and sausage.
This might be OK as an addition to the value priced end of the frozen pizza spectrum, but unfortunately, it falls into the upper mid range, running about seven bucks at my WalMart.
The salami is a pure pork/beef product, but they’ve mucked up the pepperoni by adding chicken, who knows why. The sausage is more like a plain crumbled pork, with little to no seasoning.
The larger shreds of cheese (see unbaked pic below) are a welcome addition. While they are very few frozen pies that have slices of cheese instead of shreds, the larger the pieces the better the tactile experience, in my opinion. The crust is ok, not ultra thin, but crispy enough for my taste, but the sauce borders on horrid, like most frozen pies, you can easily imagine it coming out of a 55 gallon drum labeled industrial strength pizza sauce.
It also is flavorless, with no indication is was originally birthed by tomatoes.
I had a couple pieces and then my guests heard me say something no one has ever heard me say in my entire life: “I’m throwing the rest of this out, ok?” No one objected. If you’re a regular reader, you know I try and find something positive in every post. Unfortunately, this pizza is dreadful.
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
It was late in life before I “took to” mushrooms, probably because there really wasn’t that much exposure to them when I was growing up, though my mother was fond of using cream of mushroom soup for too many things.
Not the same with olives, however, even though they were another scarcity in my home – reserved for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. No idea why. I started to get excited about mushrooms after talking to ‘shroom people at farmer’s markets and experimenting with them. Then I moved into truffles and it was like a gift from heaven.
I have avoided olive shortages by curing my own at home, buying raw (fresh) ones from Penna, a California grower. They are available to purchase every September or so, and the process is time consuming, but not terribly difficult.
While I generally try and avoid tourist destinations, I found myself in one, Lake Geneva (the Wisconsin one, not the good one) the other day and walked by an olive oil store. You see these springing up in most cities, and while I wouldn’t have thought they had staying power, the Olive Oil Store in Lake Geneva proprietoress told me she opened in 2008. That’s pretty good longevity for any specialty retailer.
Olive oil stores have (generally) dozens of flavored olive oils, in large urns, and you can purchase your selection by the pint, quarter or 55 gallon drum probably. You’re also able to have samples. Other items in the store include oil olive goods like soap and spreads, though curiously, few actual olives.
A truffle pate made by Stonewall Kitchen of Maine caught my eye. No idea (or clue) where the truffles are from, the best ones in the world come from Italy and France, but they have started to grow some in the US, Oregon has got it going in that regard, as to the Carolinas and some other states.
If you’re interested in the truffle biz, there’s a lighthearted novel about it by Peter Mayle, Anything Goes. Mayle is a British expat that has written a series of novels about living in France. Pretty funny stuff.
The truffle pate? Excellent. Very earthy. Natural ingredients. At less than $10, a bargain compared to pure imported stuff. Think I’ve paid about $40 for a 2 oz tube of black truffle paste before!
Nice store, nice selection, nice people. Go. Buy. (None of these photos are mine, credit to owners).
Olive Oil Stores Review
Many originally settled in an area of the West Loop, and took up jobs operating food carts, until they saved or pooled their dough to open small cafes in the area now known as “Greektown.”
Around about 1971, the “Greek Islands” opened their Greektown location, and many credit the restaurant with introducing Saganaki (which at the time, my toddler called “cheese on fire”) and gyros to American diners.
The immense popularity of the Greek Islands (they import many of their ingredients from Greece) led them to open a second location, in the Western Suburb of Lombard, IL.
We hit it up the other night, were very well fed, very well taken care of by the waitstaff, and it was a great value – four dinners with many appetizers and drinks for less than two C notes.
The restaurant has a lengthy appetizers menu, so I went all tapas for my dinner, and ordered a number of small plates (NOT TO SHARE, JUST FOR ME! LOL).
They were all great. House made hummus, saganaki, the Greek pork sausage Loukaniko (which is made with a hint of citrus peel) and a plate of feta and olives. Accompanied by house baked fresh bread and/or pita. Swell. Other entrees at the table included the whole sea bass imported from Greece (server filets at the table), and the Mahi Mahi kabob. Both were superb. Sides that come with the entrees could be improved a bit. The menu also gives you the option of “building your own combo” with two or more mains, which is nice.
Hillshire comes out with a version of “lunchables” for adult palates, and they are high quality and valued priced. I found them at Target at 2 / $5. The one(s) I picked up included dry salami, smoked gouda, and toast rounds. I was happy with all of it.
The “real” lunchables, the meat and cheese is such crap. Ick.
So I recommend these, and they are packed with protein, if you’re concerned about your daily intake.
These are packed for Hillshire by Sugar Creek Packing, in Washington Court House, Ohio.
Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review