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Trader Joes Angus Burger Review

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Trader Joes Angus Burger ReviewI keep searching for a frozen burger patty that meets with my personal tastes. They come in a few different forms, raw patties on their own, pre-cooked patties, or a complete pre-cooked hamburger sandwich.

I’ve previously tried Ball Park, Steak & Shake, Fatburger, White Castle, Advance Pierre, Trader Joe’s “Kobe Style,” some various store brands. None of them really moved me, except the TJ’s “Kobe,” was flavorful and lean. For a heat and eat, if you want to give your kids a burger in a minute, the Ball Park brand ones are pretty good. They have a bit of smoky flavor built in to emulate grilling.

The Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Angus Burger is what I picked up today, four to a package, four to a pound, packaged in twos, $4.99 on sale. So they are “spendy” as are all the ones I have previously mentioned.

Trader Joe’s sets their own product standards and doles out production to contract manufacturers all over the world. Most of the products I’ve purchased from TJs have been ultra-satisfactory, but priced a bit higher than equivalents.

First off, with this product, or any beef, it should not be perceived that the word “Angus” denotes any premium; most of the beef cattle in the US are “Angus” You’ll also occasionally see a label and logo that says “Certified Angus,” and this is merely a marketing term for a collective of growers who raise or purchase cattle that meets their own set of standards.

Should quality be a true concern, you should only look for beef with the USDA grades on them, which are select, choice, or prime. Each of these grades have subgrades. Most grocery beef comes from the choice category. To add to the confusion, the USDA grades are applied to whole carcasses, not to individual cuts.

But we’re talking about burgers, and you won’t see graded ground beef (usually) at the grocery. If you’re feeling finicky, grab graded steaks and have the butcher grind them for you. You’ll be happiest with a blend of 2-3 different cuts. Many people prefer a blend of chuck, brisket and and round. If you want your blend to be a little fattier, substitute short rib or navel cuts.  Have them run it through the grinder twice for the right burger texture.

The Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Angus burgers are a product of New Zealand (country of origin of the beef) but processed by a small company in Brooklyn called Papa Pasquale’s  (according to the USDA factory number) (pictured below). The patties  are an 80/20 blend, and the content listing says “grass fed Angus beef.” Period.

I think you’ll have more favorable results if you thaw these patties. Most raw pre-formed frozen patties have the same instructions, cook on one side til blood comes thru the top side, flip and cook until there is no blood showing.

So I did. I also didn’t season the burger or add condiments. For my own personal taste, this is an excellent burger. Why? It tastes like BEEF. And when/why I say that about meat products, I’m talking about beef (or pork) you ate at somebody’s farm. Chefs call that quality “gaminess,” which has a somewhat undesirable meaning to most of the culture.

But it’s a good word. Beef (and pork) should taste like animals. Most product meat proteins don’t anymore.

But if that taste is your thing, too, you’ll like these burgers.  Great flavor, great texture.

Trader Joes Angus Burger Review

Frozen Patty

Trader Joes Angus Burger Review

Pan Fried

Trader Joes Angus Burger Review

Papa Pasquales Brooklyn

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Trader Joes Angus Burger Review

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Thorntons Gas Food Menu

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Thorntons Gas Food Menu

Thorntons Gas Food Menu

Thorntons Gas Food Menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thorntons Gas Food Menu

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HomeBeck Burgermaster Review

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BurgerMaster ReviewI’m a big burger eater, and I’ve developed my own fairly elaborate system of buying burger and getting them ready for cooking on demand.

It’s rather time and labor intensive – I buy bulk ground beef, shape, shape it into patties of a uniform size and weight, but them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then, when they are frozen (generally over night), I cut the parchment holding the patties into individual sizes, put them in freezer bags, and take one out at a time when I crave one.

The genius folks at HomeBeck have eliminated most of my work with their new “Burger Master,” a silicone mold that shapes, portions and freezes the burgers all in one operation. Boy, does it save me a lot of work!

I just put the ground beef in the mold, close the cover, freeze, and the burger patties are ready to go on demand!

The silicone Burger Master is BPA free, 100% food grade, and dishwasher safe, though a quick soapy wash in the sink cleans it easily, too.

Not in the mood for burgers? You can use the tool to make individual servings of soup, chili, hashbrowns or other foods, which is perfect for one of my personal favorite dishes, a unique concoction they dreamed up in Springfield, IL, the “Horseshoe.”

The Horseshoe is a piece of toast, topped with burger, hashbrowns and smothered in gravy or cheese sauce, and I can have servings ready to cook with the Burger Master – with a meat patty, molded hashbrowns and gravy portion ready to toss in the skillet in an instant! Just add toast! (Pictured).

If you’re so inclined, you can even make your patties different shapes to fit the molds. This is also perfect for seasoned patties or home made Juicy Lucys or other stuffed burgers!  Just by using this with plain ground beef, you’ll save a lot of money over purchasing frozen or fresh pre-formed patties.

HomeBeck supplied me with the product to try out, and I have to say, I’m pretty pleased, and will find many uses for it. Get yours on Amazon.

HomeBeck Burgermaster Review

 

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Cruisin Review, Gilberts, IL

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Cruisin Review, Gilberts, ILI have no clue how the ‘tradition’ started, but Friday nights in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin are “fish fry” nights, with many restaurants and bars offering some variation of this meal, either at a value price or on an all you can eat basis.

Cruisin’, a distant Chicago suburb bar with a second location east of Rockford, offers different specials every night of the week, with the Friday fish fry providing diners with a choice of walleye, cod, lake perch, shrimp, catfish or haddock – baked or fried, with a choice of two sides from a lengthy selection.

The restaurant has a very complete menu, with steaks, chicken, seafood, sandwiches, ribs, burgers and salads.

The fish fry isn’t “all you can eat,” but it is certainly “all you care to eat,” as the serving size is very generous especially for the price.  I went with the battered Alaskan walleye, as I am from Minnesota, and you can’t be from Minnesota if walleye ain’t your favorite eatin’ fish.

It was delicious. The joint is very busy on Fridays, as one might expect, but service was prompt and courteous.  The fish was light and flaky, the batter crispy and not overwhelming, and the shoestring fries, crispy and lightly seasoned. Superb.

Cruisin’ opens at 11AM daily, sports a car-themed decor and the Gilberts location has regular classic car shows on the lot. Check website for dates.

Cruisin Review, Gilberts IL

Alaskan Walleye and Fries

Cruisin' Review, Gilberts, IL

Map to Cruisin’

Cruisin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Cruisin Review

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Burger Aptos Review, Aptos, CA

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A mere 8.5 miles SE of the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, there’s a joint that’s serving up a fully-disclosed menu which provides for no mystery at all, ‘cepting how food can be so damned delicious!

Bay Area burger reporter GL and her burger posse stopped in at Burger to sample the wares on a recent Friday nite.  This is a second location for these guys, the original is a tad north in Santa Cruz.

Burger  is all about being locavore whenever possible, with a solid commitment to sustainability as well.

The sustainability extends to providing one of  the highest quality and widest varieties of burgers in the Santa Cruz area.

All burgers are served medium well. and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and  special house sauce.  choice of Humboldt grass-fed beef, Diestel turkey patty or our House Made veggie patty. Burgers are served with a sampling of shoestring fries, or slaw.

Taking a cue from various other venues, Burger has a menu which attaches celebrity names to certain combinations, like the “Hank Williams Sr” (onion, rings, bacon, cheddar cheese, bbq sauce) or the “Marilyn Monroe” (  topped with artichoke hearts and aioli).

I know I’d like the “Jake Blues”, topped with blue cheese, bacon, and aioli.

GL and the gang opted for the “Kobe” sliders, 3 patties on sweet buns on a bed of tots for $11.  No, I’m not going into my entire Kobe rant at this time, you can read that in plenty of other posts on this site!

GL could only polish off two of the sliders, because although she has a large appetite for life, she eats (and sings)  like a bird.

Beer and food menu are online.

Burger, Aptos Califronia

Burger. on Urbanspoon

Burger Aptos Review

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Otto and Anitas Bavarian Review, Portland, OR

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I’ve lived a lot of places in my life, but nowhere til now where you could imbibe in multiple versions of a schnitzelwich! And despite my world travels, I don’t think I ever recall seeing “dill pickle soup” anywhere – where has this been all my life?!?!?

Otto and Anita’s, a smallish place (but the sign says they can host parties, meetings, receptions of up to 40!), in Portland ‘s Multnomah Village, caters to person craving modest German/continental fare – from schnitzels to sausages to Dover sole.

Pleasantly decorated thematically, the affable servers meticulously explain the menu choices, describe the daily specials, and serve your food in a pleasant and efficient manner. The traditional cuisine has not been “Americanized” per se, and is very reminiscent of similar dishes I have enjoyed in Germany and Austria.

For no particular reason other than enjoying my wife’s company, I took Mrs. BDB to lunch at Otto and Anita’s, and we whiled away an hour or so with a midweek noon sojourn.

She started with the dill pickle soup, which I happily finished (I love this stuff, quick, somebody find me the recipe!), and had the lightly sauteed Dover Sole Almandine, and I went straight for the schnitzelwich, on a very nice crusty French, with kraut, cheese, mustard, but sans sauteed onions, as I wasn’t in an onion mood. My plate had a mound of traditional German potato salad, which was sweet and tangy at the same time. Next visit, I will enjoy plowing through one or more of the spaetzle offerings as a side.

Mrs. BDB’s plate was too much for her to finish, and I had a few bites, the sole was flaky, lemony, with a light batter, pan-fried. Very nice.

My sandwich was good too, with the pork cutlet also lightly fried, a tangy mustard, and the bread was wonderful, I couldn’t finish the bread, but didn’t leave a single morsel of the cutlet behind.

Offering something for everyone, in addition to the traditional German fare, Otto and Anita’s has a few steaks, some salmon dishes, a bevy of salads, a kids menu, and a host of appetizers and small dishes. A lot of menu for a small place.

I’ll be happy to go back, I have my eye on their burger (of course), french dip, and traditional desserts.

Otto and Anita’s is open for lunch Tues- Fri, and dinner Tues-Sat, at 3025 SW Canby, just off Capitol Hwy in Multnomah Village.

Otto and Anita’s menu is online.


View Larger Map

Otto and Anita’s Bavarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Otto and Anitas Bavarian Review

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Basils Pizza Review, an Homage to Joe Szabo (Northfield, MN)

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40 years ago, it was called “Bill’s,” and it was in the same location.  Hasn’t changed much, same counter, same booths, now fairly worn, the faux leather brittle with age.  The home-spun murals of scenes of Italy on the walls are fading.

But would the pizza hold up?   Did we love it because it was great?  Or because at the time, it was the only show in town?

My sophomore roommate was a guy from Chicago named Joe Szabo.   Nice guy.  Talented artist.  Wanted to grow up to be a famous talented artist.  Hope he made it.

Most college roommates experience the “either / or” phenomena, meaning that it’s pretty normal that one roommate has some money, and the other doesn’t.  The cycle reverses on a regular basis.

In our dorm room, whoever had the money had the power to dictate toppings:  Joe always got ground beef and diced onion; for me it was Italian sausage and sliced green olives.    Neither of us minded the other’s selection.

There were a couple of great things about rooming with Joe.   He had a car.   And a very tasty morsel of a girlfriend.   In a college dorm room, it’s hard not to become somewhat “familiar” with everything that goes on and Sara was, well (swoon).

One night Joe let me use his car (unheard of) so he and Sara could have a special “moment”.  He flipped me a sawbuck, too, and said “go have a ‘za’, and take your time.

I started off down College Avenue, it was winter, there were patches of ice, I was very careful with Joe’s pride, a green Beetle.   I stopped at the RR crossing for a slow moving freight, minding my own business, anticipating the ‘za, when WHAM!  I got re-ended.   As you probably know, the Beetle has the engine in the back, so a whack can cause serious damage.

No one was hurt, someone summoned the police, who informed me the drunk driver who just plowed into my roommate’s car was “so and so’s son”, and there was never, ever anything going to come of it.

And nothing did.   I got a pizza all by myself, Joe and Sara had their special moment, and if Joe was ever pissed about the accident, he never let on.

So nearly 40 years later, I show up at Basil’s, order a medium of (my) sausage and green olive, and (Joe’s) ground beef and onion, to compare and contrast as it were, to see if this is great pizza, or just a glorified memory.

I did notice a couple things while the dude is making the pie, things that (for me) are critical for a good pie: 1) sliced cheese, not shredded, and 2) bulk sausage, pinched by hand, in nice sized pieces.

The old Baker’s Pride ovens had lost some oomph, it would take a full 15 minutes to bake, with the requisite occasional door opening, and paddle spin.

I took my hot pies back to my motel room.   I tried one, then the other.  Then the first, then the other.  They were superb. Great melted cheese that clings to the crust, a cracker like crust, a big of tang to the sauce, and quality toppings.

Could I eat two mediums all by myself?  Nah. But 40 years ago I could.

Basil's Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

Basils Pizza Review

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Mandia Ciboitaliano Frozen Pizza Review

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Mandia Ciboitaliano Frozen PizzaI’ve wondered aloud many times why US frozen pizza manufacturers can’t make a really great pie. I’ve had a few really good ones from smaller Chicago manufacturers, such as Vito & Nicks II, and Home Run Inn, but the big guys? Totinos? Red Baron? Tombstone?

Yechh.  Fortunately, several years ago, I “discovered” the frozen pizzas at Trader Joes, all of which are imported from France or Italy and are f***ing great. There’s the Olympiad, with feta and olives, and the margherita that I’ve tried and been happy with.

Lo and behold, the other day I was in a “Fresh Thyme” market, and they have a pizza from Italy called Mandia Ciboitaliano, from a contract, private label manufacturer F.I.A.D. SRL.  Not much information is available online about the manufacturer.  This version is a margherita, with tomatos and cheese. Pretty hard actually to find a purer ingredient list: Wheat flour, water, tomatoots, mozzarella, grana padano cheese, egg whites, salt, EVOO, yeast. Wow.

It bakes up fast at 475, the box provides instructions for frozen or thawed, it just take a few moments if thawed, and less than ten if frozen.   Doughy crust, REAL cheese, and sauce that tastes like……………….wait for it…………………TOMATOES! 

AND IT’S A GREAT PIE.

I’ll do it again. Often.  Don’t know if they make other varieties, but I’m find with this basic cheese version, and I can pile on processed pork pizza toppings if I am so inclined.

If you see these in your store, stock up. They may be available at Whole Foods, I’ve seen a reference to that, but cannot personally attest to the fact.

Mandia Ciboitaliano Frozen Pizza

Unbaked

Mandia Ciboitaliano Frozen Pizza

8 Minutes, 475

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mandia Ciboitaliano Frozen Pizza Review

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Gas Station Sandwich Primer

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Thorntons Gas Sandwiches

Stewart In-Fra-Red Oven

I’ve written a lot about ‘gas station sandwiches,” a term I use to describe the cello wrapped sandwiches, fresh or heat and eat, one finds at c-stores, gas stations, and in vending machines.

The earliest ones I remember were from a Virginia company called “Stewart Sandwiches” who sold mostly to bars, concession stands, and schools and companies.

Their “heat and eat” versions used a patented device the company provided called an “In-Fra-Red” oven (pictured), which was kind of a predecessor of microwaves being widely used. The sandwiches were placed in the ovens, still in their cello, and they took 3-5 minutes to heat.

In addition to “subs” and burgers, their version of “chuck wagon” (breaded, fried hamburger) was very popular, as was their “pizza burger.” My college roommate and I used to buy quantities of these puppies and sell them in the dorm, til the school shut us down.

Stewart operated via a franchise model, with about a couple dozen distributors around the country that established their own customers/routes. At some point (which I can’t really seem to sort out through research), Stewart faded and some of their franchisees took up the mantel – the largest being the (now known as) “Deli Express” label, a suburban Minneapolis company, which cranks out a million sandwiches a week at their Minnesota factory.

Other than “Deli Express,” “Landshire,” and Ohio’s “AdvancePierre” (who recently acquired Landshire), the segment seems to be fairly regional, with a lot of smaller manufacturers like “Mom’s” in OK and Texas.

7-Eleven contracts some of their sandwiches out to a division of Lufthansa airlines.

Although many of these sandwiches are assembled by hand in the smaller companies, automation has created mass production efficiency as seen in this video.

In my opinion, for the most part, these sandwiches are largely “OK” but usually a little spendy. If you want something quick to go and relatively “fresh” they are a handy alternative to fast food. Some are considerably healthier than say, a Quarter Pounder and fries.

I’ve written a number of pieces lately on a gas station that recently moved into my neighborhood, a smallish chain in the Midwest called “Thorntons” and I’ve sampled a number of their heat and eat products, including a burger, Pizza, chicken sandwich, breakfast sandwich and tenders.

Today I tried their “fresh” sandwiches, an Italian Footlong sandwich (sic), at $4.99, on a long roll with ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone. It comes completely condiment free, but the gas station has an amply stocked condiment ‘bar.’ I’m ok with cello wrapped sandwiches being sold ‘naked,’ too often in these products if lettuce/tomato are included, they’ve seen better days, as of course the deli meats are full of preservatives and maintain their appearance much longer than the vegetables. As far as the spreadable condiments, every person has their individual tastes, some sandwiches come with packets of mustard/mayo included in the cello wrapping.

Thornton’s sandwich vendor is Lipari Foods “Premo” division; Lipari is a Michigan based manufacturer and distributor of different products and Thorntons Gas Sandwich Reviewproduct lines.

What did I think?

It’s ok, no better or worse than any other brand. The expiration date on this one is weeks in the future, but the bread is already pretty dry, and the only flavor that really ‘pops’ is the pepperoni, and that ingredient is the least in volume on the sandwich, with of course, the least expensive meat, the processed ham, being in attendance in the largest quantity.

I added mustard and dill pickles at home, but it didn’t really enhance or detract from the experience.

Since Thorntons has extensive roller grill offerings (hot dogs, sausages, those cylinder “Mexican” things, and a fresh condiment bar along side that, I probably would have been better off to open the sandwich at the gas station and load it up with junk there.

Live and learn.

Thorntons Gas Sandwich Review

 

Gas Station Sandwich Primer

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Fresh Thyme Market Review – Grocery Chain

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Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets ReviewFresh Thyme Farmers Market” is a relatively new chain of grocery stores in the Upper Midwest.  I’ve heard it described as “Trader Joe’s meets Whole Foods.”  I guess that means the focus is on “natural” and “organic” mixed with some interesting items (imports) like Trader Joe’s stocks.

The chain is the brainstorm of the former CEO of  Phoenix based Sunflower Farmers Markets, which was founded by the originator of the Wild Oats chain, which was sold to Whole Foods.  The start-up is being financed by the giant Meijer grocery, out of Michigan, and has a goal of having 60 stores by 2020.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (not sure what happened to the apostrophe) stores are larger than Trader Joe’s, but smaller than most Whole Foods. They have a very large selection of fresh produce, and the one I was in had a hot foods counter (pizza, sandwiches) and a deli counter. This location the deli meats were exclusively from Boar’s Head, which is a respectable company, but in my own personal opinion, not the best in the segment.

To me, the store appears to have better value pricing than either TJs or WFs, and the day I was in, weekly specials included a pound of Thai (pond raised) shrimp for $3.79, and house made sausages in many flavors at $2.99.

I go to these kind of specialty stores for a few reasons:  looking for unknown (to me) ingredients to try out, house-made specialties, and unusual imports.  So I bought the shrimp, sausage, some produce, and a frozen pizza imported from Italy, which I hope is as good as the imported pizzas at Trader Joe’s.  I’ll let you know.  My opinion, the frozen pizzas at TJs from Italy and France are far superior to almost all American brands.

The stores are immaculate, open early and late, and the personnel are courteous and informed.  I’ll stop back from time to time, for sure.

Store locator.  (Photos from the company’s website and copyright their respective owners).

Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Thyme Market Review

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