Don’t bother trying to find anything out about this product online, I spent a bunch of time doing that and came up pretty short. I can’t even tell you exactly where I purchased it, other than a suburban Chicago grocery. So a lot of this should be prefaced with “apparently.”
This product is made in Harvard, IL, it seems by Jones Packing Company, which started in 1952. Harvard is the most distant NW suburb reached by commuter rail in the Chicago area. A pic of (apparently) Jones is below.
According to the USDA establishment number of the package, the product is actually produced at Roma Packing, Inc., in Chicago. (pic below).
This is a pure pork sausage, described on the package as “hot.” It comes in a clear vacuum pack, and contains the same types of herbs and spices one would find in traditional “hot” Italian sausage, i.e. fennel.
I split the package in two, and fried half of it until it was crumbles, and used it to top a home made pizza last night. The balance was made into patties for breakfast this morning.
In both cases, the product pleased me very much. It’s a very fine grind, so it is easily chewable. (Some pork sausages seem “tough”). The flavor is outstanding, and there is a little bit of heat, as advertised.
I’ll buy it again if I can find it. One story I read referred to Jones Packing having their own retail store, which I’ll go check out.
Gramma Pearls Sausage Review
Couple weeks ago, I wrote about my visit to the Bulgarian grocery in Chicago. One of the items I picked up was “Sujuk” sausage, which wikipedia defines as “a Sujuk is a dry, spicy sausage which is eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East and Central Asia.”
It has slightly different spellings by country. This is a pork, beef, seasoning link in a natural casing, sold raw. The label suggests it’s perfect for the grill or breakfast.
I really enjoyed it. It’s full of flavor which resembles the source muscle, with a firm and chewy texture. Much like the Spanish dry chorizo, but without the heat. The density makes me think it might not be so manageable on a bun, but it was sure delicious pan-fried and sliced.
Sujuk Sausage Review
This isn’t the sort of place I’d usually stop or write about. First because I’m the last person you’d ever expect to find in a campground, and secondly because in advance of eating there, pretty sure I’d expect to be disappointed. Boy, was I wrong in thinking that here!
Plymouth Rock Campground is a sizable campground for RVs, trailers, and tent campers, with hundreds of spots for rent – you can get maximum facilities or minimum.
There are clean public bathrooms, showers, three swimming pools, a very well stocked store, and planned activities. It also happens to be across the highway from RoadAmerica, a professional race track that stages Indy, Nascar and other races. This is a monster facility that can accommodate up to 150,000 spectators. I didn’t attend.
Near the swimming pool in the NE corner of the campground, is the restaurant, which serves from breakfast until 9PM, a typical “snack bar” menu, but very long on choices. (Menu follows below).
You’ve probably been to a hundred to these types of places, whether at your local golf course, high school game, street fair, and they are all pretty much the same, pre-made, frozen items reheated on the spot. Even the burgers on Amtrak are like that (and very expensive).
Not so with the Plymouth Rock folks. I could tell looking over the ordering window that they had a full kitchen and were actually cooking to order. A flattop grill next to a fryer for burgers, fries, rings, tenders, fish sandwiches and the like. A Baker’s Pride counter top pizza oven. Bakers Pride ovens are standard gear for most of the pizzerias in America. Broaster Chicken oven. Equipment like that, you know these people are serious.
I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a side of fries, expecting to receive what I described above. Wrong. The burger was hot, freshly made, topped with hand-cut veggies I requested, on a substantial bakery roll – stiff enough to hold a burger, but soft to bite into. Likewise, the fries were hot, crisp, and lightly salted. REAL POTATOES. It’s a pet peeve of mine these days to order fries and get those ones made by extruded presses, they basically take a mashed potato slurry and shove it through a fry shaped mold. Yecchh. No flavor, wrong texture. But not these.
I had to say something, so I finished eating (hey, priorities!) and went back to the counter and said “That was really great, it really exceeded my expectations.”
They thanked me. Nice young couple. How many people thank a cook at a place like this. (I do, a lot, if I’m impressed). Running a restaurant is hard, thankless work.
I was also very surprised at the value pricing. This kind of situation, only outlet for hundreds and hundreds of people, captive audience, usually prices the menu by the “flinch method.”
Not these nice folks. They could easily get another half buck to a buck for any item on the menu and I’m sure no one would bat an eye.
This is a seasonal operation as is the campground. Not sure of precise dates, but sometime from April to October. They mentioned they owned another restaurant, but I didn’t think to get the details.
Click the menus for larger views.
Plymouth Rock Campground Restaurant Review
Hit another ethno-centric market this weekend; Malincho promises a full selection of Bulgarian meats, cheese, canned and boxed groceries.
They didn’t disappoint, although the store was considerably smaller than I imagined it would be, having based my impression via their online presence.
They have a good selection, but if you don’t speak or read Bulgarian, be sure to take along the Google translate app. While most imported groceries I see have a ‘stick on label’ with English ingredients and nutrition, most items here didn’t.
The freezers are full of specialty meat products, primarily made by Tandem, a Bulgarian company that purchased a small processor in Schaumburg, IL (pictured below) to make and distribute Bulgarian specialty meats. There are a lot of great dried salamis and related products that I was happy to pick up. Also grabbed some imported cheeses, fruit juice, and olive pate.
I’d hit it again. It’s got a small sign in a strip mall off Mannheim, so keep your eyes peeled to the right if traveling north!
Open daily at 1475 Lee St, Des Plaines, IL 60018, and some items are available to purchase online. Prices in the store seem very reasonable.
Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review
Some weeks ago, I wrote about an Italian deli I stumbled on in suburban Chicago. Nottoli’s has a great selection of house-made sausages, pastas and an ample selection of imported Italian canned and box goods.
This week I hit Felicia’s, an Italian-centric meat market and deli in Schaumburg.
Felicia’s is smaller in size than Nottoli’s, but there’s no shortage of quality goodies.
The store has two narrow aisles as you walk in, on the right are freezer cases of pre-made frozen meals for two, as well as home-made soups. Lining the other side of the right hand aisle are canned tomatoes, sauces, and pasta.
As you round the bend at the back of the store, you’ll come to the deli case, well-staffed and able to take care of a crush of customers simultaneously. In addition to house-made meats, like Italian sausage, franks, and meatballs, they also carry Boar’s Head brand deli meats, a wide assortment of cheese and house-made salads, like buffalo/tomato and cold pastas.
I scored some hot Italian rope sausage and meatballs. The sausage is very flavorful and has a little heat. The meatballs are dense (the way I like them, not all crumbly) and only lightly seasoned. When I make them at home, I’ve been accused of using too much fennel. But hey, I’m at the stove, not you!
Felicia’s will make you sandwiches to go, on demand, and also do catering. Both menus are shown below.
Nice people, knowledgeable, helpful, quality goods. I like. Most everything I purchased I thought was a good value.
Felicia’s opens daily at 8AM, til 6PM Monday – Friday, 5 PM Satuday, and 2 PM Sunday. Map follows at the bottom of the post.
Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review
I have so much admiration for people who start a restaurant with just a concept in mind and build a business from the ground up. It’s a really tough, competitive segment – the best statistics available recently show 60% of new restaurants fail within the first three years. Any start-up is tough, I know, because I’ve been involved in dozens.
I have ten times the admiration for people who start a restaurant as an independent operation in a segment that is rapidly growing and has some tough competitors already in place.
Undaunted by that notion, the brothers Kwok created “Olive Theory Pizzeria” in the Chicago western suburb of Downers Grove. They had done their research, dined at a number of the established concept outlets and contemplated and investigated acquiring one of the franchise operations instead of going it alone.
In the end, they believed the restrictions of the franchisors would inhibit the Kwoks creating their vision of the restaurant – one where they could offer the highest quality ingredients, as well as menu items that wouldn’t be permitted under any of the franchise operating guidelines.
All that is fortunate for Chicago area diners in search of high quality “made on demand” wood fired pizza.
They call it “Olive Theory” as a reference to a tale from Greek mythology, wherein the olive tree, a most bountiful gift, was created in a contest to please the King. It’s the Kwok’s goal to offer bounty to the community, while maintaining an operation based on sustainability.
It’s quick and easy to order – grab a menu card (pictured below) at the counter and describe the pie you want or order one of the house specials. For a (low) flat price, you can have as many toppings as you like atop a cracker thin crust, cooked to order in minutes. One thing that differentiates Olive Theory from similar operations is the restaurants commitment to “fresh- prepared in store,” and the highest quality ingredients they can source locally. Outlets of chain operations aren’t allowed the flexibility to chase either of those ideals.
The dough for the crust is made in-house daily, allowed to rest and raise as proper dough requires. The classic tomato sauce is made from what many chefs consider the finest tomatoes in the world, San Marzanos from a particular region of Italy. If you’re in the mood for something other than red sauce, you have six other choices to contemplate. There are five cheeses available, a host of meat and vegetable toppings, as well as “finishing touches” like garlic or truffle oil.
Looking for something a little different, try Olive Theory’s version of a calzone, the “Pie-Sandwich,” your choice of pizza ingredients in a folded over version of their dough, and baked til golden brown. Salads and a daily soup are also on the menu.
The Kwok brothers had invited our party of four in for a tasting, and we had a diverse selection at the table, including the house special pies of “Buddha’s Karma,” “Titan’s Unleashed,” and “Goldbergs Big Five;” each of these pies have a special combination of ingredients that are nearly musical in the way they come together. Truly. I’m a fan of Italian sausage and pepperoni in nearly any form, but Olive Theory’s are spectacular to me.
In addition to being a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner, dining there or taking it home, it occurred to me that it’s a wonderful destination for families – the pricing is such that it provides a wonderful family outing at a really great value, and the kids will love the “build your own” concept, knowing they aren’t going to have to eat around whatever ingredients dad usually insists on.
Families concerned about the quality of what they eat and where it comes from can also take comfort in the offerings. I feel the ambience/atmosphere is also conducive to families and groups, with large tables, good lighting, and soft background music.
Olive Theory has a selection of beer, soft drinks, and iced tea to go with your meal, as well as some really great dessert offerings, including fresh baked cookies, hot from the oven.
I asked when and where location # 2 will show up, and they just smiled. They did say “no” to locating it my garage, even tho I thought that would be an outstanding site. You need to go to Olive Theory!
They are located in Downers Grove in a small strip mall on the north side of Butterfield Road, at 1400A, just east of I-355, and are open from 11AM -10PM every day. If you’re nearby and want to pick up, you can even order online. Phone is 630-519-5152. Catering services available. Click on menus to enlarge!
Olive Theory Pizzeria Review
When I was growing up, it was etched in stone that the family had a big Saturday breakfast together; often my dad cooked the elaborate set-up, which might have been steak and eggs, pancakes or waffles, fruit turnovers, sausage or bacon.
It got so that friends of me and my siblings wanted to do sleepovers on Friday nites just for the morning repast. Kids were placed in charge of beating batter, folding and stuffing turnovers, and most certainly, setting, clearing and washing.
I carried this on, when I had families. It was flexible tho, depending on people’s schedules, and would be either Saturday or Sunday. It is reportedly a fond memory of my daughters.
Even now, on my own, I continue the practice, but again, it’s not locked into a day.
Today I went with trying to perfect my chicken fried steak recipe, along with eggs and a home version of poutine.
For the steak, I used the flour/eggdip/crumb method, fried until the edges start to look a bit crispy – doesn’t take long!
My crumb mixture today was a combo of panko and crushed pretzels. I’ve tried all sorts of other combos – potato chips, saltines, corn chips. Most are probably too salty for most people.
For today’s poutine, I went with tator tots, brown gravy and feta. It was over the top satisfactory.
A couple poached eggs, and an everthing bagel. Ok, the bagel was a goof-up, cause I baked bread yesterday which I intended to use, and forgot I had put it in the icebox.
It was a good breakfast, large enough for two diners. Tried to share with the cat, but he would have nothing to do with it.
Chicken Fried Steak Recipe
Now I’m gonna stop right there for a sec and say personally, I don’t think Chicago pizzas should be called “deep dish,” as that term has been hijacked by pizza makers all over the country and almost always describes a pie with a very thick crust – lots of bread under the usual toppings.
“Chicago-style pizzas”(which you shall refer to them from this day forward) are DEEP, yes, but not because of a thick bready crust. They are DEEP because they are cooked in a deep pan, and have a HIGH but THIN crust. The depth hides all the deliciousness stuffed in, in the “Chicago order,” crust cheese, meat, tomato sauce. That’s right, sauce on TOP. Are we clear?
There’s more than a couple guys who say they invented this concept. I go with the Ike Sewell version, who cooked up the first one at Pizzeria Uno in
downtown Chicago in the early 1940s. Let’s leave it at that. Ike’s pies were so popular that soon he created a sister restaurant (Pizzeria Due, natch) and started franchising, with the license for the first four going to a group of businessmen in Boston.
When Sewell died, the Boston group bought out the original restaurants, name and recipes, and set off a go-go growing a chain of restaurants that bore a limited resemblance to the originals; the chain is called Uno Pizzeria and Grill.
They stuck with the original pizza offering, but have a very extensive menu in addition, like nearly any fast casual restaurant these days. They are in about 20 states, find one here.
Although a bit spendy, the Uno frozen pizza is about as good as it gets in this segment. It bakes up well (about 40 minutes), has a nice crisp outer crust, fresh chopped tomatoes in the thick sauce, ample cheese and flavorful sausage. (I had the sausage variety, there are others).
I have one beef…er pork…about the pie. The sausage bits in pretty small, and other “Chicago style” pies feature a slab of sausage covering the entire pie, crust to crust. As a sausage lover, I like that.
So the sausage bits on an Uno aren’t a deal killer for me.
The Uno frozen division also makes a more traditional round thinner crust. Their USDA inspected factory in Brockton MA is pictured below.
UNO Deep Dish Pizza Review
What can be better than finding a mom and pop place out in the middle of nowhere? Not much, in my opinion, and apparently lots of people agree, because when I stopped at this seasonal drive-in, it was jammed.
They specialize in “broasted chicken,” burgers, and frozen dairy treats. “Broasting” is a combination of deep-frying and pressure cooking that was invented in Wisconsin in the 1950s.
They license their cooking method and sell marinaded chicken and other items for “broasting” to over 5000 restaurants in over fifty countries. Not a traditional franchise, but the company offers the method and equipment for a licensing fee without the payment of ongoing royalties. I first became acquainted with “Broaster Chicken” at my hometown pizza joint, decades ago.
You can dine outside or in a small attached dining room.
I went with the chicken strips and fries, which was five strips and a good amount of fries (which you can also order by the pound!). The food was VERY HOT, cooked to order, and tasted ‘fresh’ meaning (to me) not a hint of stale oil. The chicken coating was crisp, seasoned, and the chicken moist and flavorful.
The order comes with a ramekin of BBQ sauce, and other dipping sauces are available. I’ve driven by this place lots of times and never stopped. My loss. It won’t happen again!
Chick N Dip is located just south of I-90, about 25 miles east of Rockford, IL and 45 minutes west of Chicago. (Map below).
Up in the front of WalMart, near the deli counter is a supply of ‘fresh’ (not frozen) take and bake pizzas. WalMart has been expanding the choices in these pies, and all of them are a great value compared to most frozen pies and nearly any pizzeria. They now have a “flatbread” with pepperoni slices and chunks, as well as mini-balls of real mozzarella. As it’s not frozen, it doesn’t take long in the oven, 10-12 minutes.
Instructions call for putting it on a baking sheet, which works to the detriment of creating a crisp crust, but it’s an awkward size and shape, so I understand why they suggest this method.
I liked it, except for a not crisp crust which could be rectified. The “fresh” mozzarella is great and I think the manufacturer (Chicago area “Great Kitchens“) (subsidiary of a Swiss company) uses a different grade and type of pepperoni, it’s extremely flavorful.
It’s less than $4.
Also, up near the take and bakes, you’ll find these packs of pizza dough (below) for a buck, if you want to make one at home. Or you can throw the ball into a bread pan, let it rise a couple hours, bake 35 minutes at 350 and voila, fresh loaf. Easy. Nice. If you want to have a fun kids party, get several of the balls, divide into thirds each, let the kids pound out their own crusts and have bowls of healthy toppings for them to slap on their own pies!
WalMart Flatbread Review