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Steak Tartare with a Side of Adultery

tartar3I love steak tartare.  I like the ingredients and ritual of them gobbling it together table side for you.  Hard to find in the U.S. anymore, except at the occasional French bistro and I have scored it at the Pacific Northwest mini chain upmarket steakhouse, El Gaucho.  My favorite place in the world to get it is at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Hong Kong.  That might be partially due to the quality, but also to the mystique of the place, headquarters for journalists, spies, and various souls with nefarious intent.

My second favorite place is here in Paris, where it’s pretty easy to find.   I have mixed feelings when I come to Paris,  I lived here a couple decades ago, and it was a 50/50 proposition, half of my stay was glorious and half was hell, kind of like my time in Portland,  Oregon.  In Paris,  I was partnered with a woman who couldn’t keep her pants on, which was great when she was home, not so great (for me) when she left the house.  Some people have “gay-dar,”  I’m cursed with having “cheat-dar,”  I have a knack for picking women who are serial adulterers.  But I’d have to define “serial,” wouldn’t I?   Paris partner cheated three times in two years, Portland partner cheated on average, three times per week.  So I guess whatever term would be more severe than “serial” would apply to cheating partner #2.  Both still in their respective places, working their ways through the phone book.   But enough of the fun stuff.

Steak Tartare is raw ground steak, mixed with onions, caper, worcestershire, seasonings and egg yolk, served with little pieces of toast to schmear it on.  Incredible when prepared with great ingredients, I can imagine it could be terrible as well, tho I have never had a bad serving personally.

In Paris you can get a version called tartare aller-retour, which is mostly raw, but slightly seared on one side.  That’s good too.  “Cafe society” in  Paris is great.  Hardly anything, for me, is more enjoyable than sitting on the sidewalk at a bistro and whiling away the day with demi-tasses of espresso and chain smoking, reading the International Herald Tribune. (recently renamed as the “International New York Times.”  It’s just not the same).

One of my favorite such places is Le Petit fer à Cheval, in La Marais (video below), not far from where cheater # 1 and I lived.  And while it might not be the most “kosher” accompaniment, I do like some terrific pommes frites with my raw beef.

I have had a nice version, a coarser chop, at Fraiche, in Los Angeles, as well, but here’s a pic of today’s (above),  and it was lovely.   It was a glorious day for sidewalk dining in Paris – mid 70s, clear and sunny.

And by the way?  If you’re married or partnered with a serial adulterer, pack and run.  It’s symptomatic of much, much deeper problems that the individual most likely will never have a desire or courage to face.  In life, sometimes people decide it’s easier and less painful to stay messed up than to do the work to get well.

 

 

 

Athens, OH – O’Betty’s Red Hot Review

Dogs and Dames

By Oddzar Easeright Twitter 

O’Betty’s Red Hot

15 W. State St., Athens, OH 740-589-6111

Nothing goes together quite like hot dogs and burlesque dancers, don’t you think?

At O’Betty’s Red Hot in Athens, Ohio, owner Bob Satmary has combined his two passions into a one-of-a-kind melding of hot dogs and hot women … women, that is, who ply their wiles in the old-style tease-and-tantalize trade of burlesque dancing. Yes folks, O’Betty’s is a monument to both, housing Satmary’s personal collections of hot dog memorabilia, and burlesque theater art – including personally autographed promo photos from numerous dancers – all under one roof.

According to some, Bob Satmary named his place O’Betty’s because it sounded better than O’Bob’s. On the menu, burlesque dancers lend their names to the dressed-up dogs, with offerings like Blaze (smoked bacon and creamy coleslaw), Salome’ (sport peppers, sweet relish, diced tomato & onion, mustard),Tempest (habanero salsa, jalapenos, sharp cheddar and sour cream), and Mata Hari (chili sauce & creamy coleslaw).

The dogs are all-beef in natural casings, sourced from Five Star Brand Meats in Cleveland, and the traditional buns are sourced locally from Heiner’s Bakery. Order at the counter up front, then take a few minutes to browse the burlesque art and hot dog kitsch covering every inch of wall space, and all of the table tops.

And don’t forget to order the fries – hand cut daily, water-soaked and peanut-oil-fried to perfection. If you are daring or socially challenged, order the garlic version. No cheap garlic powder here, folks – these fries are adorned with minced garlic so fresh and plentiful, you’ll be scooping it out of the bottom of the basket. And what’s more, you will not be bothered by vampires for at least a week afterward.

O’Betty’s, well worth the trip to Athens. Wear your pastie tassels. If you can get them spinning in opposite directions, they just might give you a free basket of fries.

Full menu.

Hootchy-Kootchy (the “build-your-own” offering), Tempest, Salome’, and a large basket of garlic fries

Hootchy-Kootchy (the “build-your-own” offering), Tempest, Salome’, and a large basket of garlic fries

 

 

Store Front

Store Front

O'Betty's Red Hot Review

Kitsch Central

O'Betty's Red Hot on Urbanspoon

O’Betty’s Red Hot Review

Frozen Edwards Natural Pizza Review

Edwardo's Natural Frozen PizzaThe relative new kid on the block in Chicago pizzerias, Edwardos has been cooking up their special ‘stuffed’ pizzas since 1978 from multiple locations in the Chicago area. They are also available in the frozen food section at your grocery, or you can have them shipped.

Despite the massive publicity Chicago pizza received courtesy of Jon Stewart (video below), there remains some confusion among locals, not to mention tourists, as to what exactly Chicago pizza is.  Is it deep dish?  Pan?  Double crust? Stuffed? Thin Crust? The truth is, they are all Chicago pizzas.

 

Edwardo’s version is deep, AND stuffed.  With a thin layer of crust on the bottom, topped with cheese, or cheese and meat, or cheese and sauce, and then another thin layer of crust, with sauce on the TOP.  That’s right.  It’s a Chicago thing with the deeper pizzas, sauce on the top.

At the grocery, you’re going to pay $7 plus for the small, which will easily feed two or three.  At the restaurant, about $20.  By mail, $25 plus shipping.

I opted for the sausage kind.   There are some Chicago pizzerias that make a blanket of sausage on the pie, it covers from rim to rim.  Edwardos goes with chunks of flavorful Italian, on the cheese layer.

The crust is buttery, as many Chicago pizzas are. It has a nice flaky quality, too. The cheese is tremendous, ample quantity, great flavor, and great “pull.”   Sauce is ample and fairly mild, leaning more ‘sweet’ than ‘savory.’

The pie takes around 30 minutes in a 425 oven, and you should let it set for a few before slicing.

I’ve taken a look at most every frozen Chicago pizza, including  Connies, Reggios, Home Run Inn, Vito and Nicks, Ginos, and others.  While Vito and Nicks remains my favorite thin crust, having pushed past Home Run Inn this year, this one, Edwardo’s Natural, is the first ‘deep dish’ I’ve found that is worth buying and consuming.  I’ll do it again.  Going to one of the shops?  Here’s the menu.

Edwardo's Natural Frozen Pizza Review

Frozen, Prior to Baking

 

 

Edwardo's Natural Frozen Pizza Review

Hot Slice!

 

Edwards Natural Pizza

Cuban Pork Roast Recipe

I had this girlfriend from Barcelona  who had many charms and talents, not the least of which was in the kitchen.  On occasion, she would make me a traditional dish, which I have long forgotten the name of –  it was cubed chunks of porks heavily encrusted with herbs.   It was delicious, especially served with her family’s version of patatas bravas.

(Funny, I’ve traveled all over the world, and nearly the best Spanish food / tapas I have ever had was at a joint in Amsterdam.  At least I think so.  Too much “coffee” prior to dinner may have influenced my opinion.)  (Warning:  do not attempt to negotiate the stairs to the bathroom in that place if you aren’t 100% “right.”)

Now that you know all that, this recipe is nothing like hers, but it’s good, nonetheless, and turns a quite ordinary event into a culinary masterpieces.  Spoiler alert?  It does take some advance planning.

Cuban Braised Pork Shoulder

Total preparation time 42 hours!!!!!

Ingredients

Crock pot

Electricity

3 pound pork shoulder or butt

Marinade:

  • 1/2 C fresh oregano
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 1 ½ T sea salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste, is an option

Method:

Using a mortar and pestle (or mini Cuisineart), grind the ingredients above together into a thick paste:

Make a series of deep crosshatch -cuts into a 3 pound  pork roast (shoulder best, butt second choice) , and rub the paste well into the meat, covering as much of the surface as you can.

Cover, refrigerate for 24 hours.

Place in a crock pot with 2 more T of vinegar and cup of water.

Cook on low, for 18 hours. Turn ONE time during cooking, otherwise leave that F&*((&&  lid on!

Remove from pot, let rest on cutting board for 20 minutes. The roast will fall apart easily, into larger pieces or shredded, as you desire to serve.

Serve with roasted potatoes or black beans and rice.

Leftovers? “Cuban” pulled pork sandwiches!

What I thought was ultra-cool about this method, tho I was hesitant to leave anything in a crock pot for 18 hours, was that the liquid eventually evaporates and some of the bits of pork get crusty edges and tips (second photo below), much like if it had been done on a smoker or grill.   Come to think of it, if one desired, they might add a dash of liquid smoke.

 

Crock pot pork roast

Herb paste rub into roast

 

Crock pot pork roast

18 hour pork result

 

 

 

 

pork roast recipe slow cooker

Chicago’s Iconic Sandwich – The Italian Beef

Like most locally-specific foods around the US, whether it’s the first coney island style hot dog, or the first pizzeria in America, the origins of Chicago’s iconic sandwich – the Italian Beef – are difficult to sort out.  One story has it that Italian immigrant workers in Chicago’s stockyards brought home tougher cuts of meat, slow roasted them, and then slow marinated / simmered them in a broth chock-a-block full of herbs and spices.  The roast was then thin sliced and served on a durable Italian roll. According to one purveyor of the product,  Scala meats, the sandwich was originally introduced at weddings and festivals as a way of extending the food supply for larger crowds.

One early vendor, Al’s #1 Beef, opened its first Chicago stand in 1938.  While the sandwiches are widely available in Chicago, Northern Illinois and NW Indiana, relocated Chicagoans have started to open their own versions of Italian beef stands around the country, and some of the larger players, like Al’s, and Portillo’s, are expanding through adding corporate outlets or franchising.  Portillo’s has just been sold to a private equity group which  has national ambitions. Chicago’s Vienna Beef, supplier of hot dogs to the nation, also has a beef product for restaurants and consumers, which is available through its own distributors, Sysco, and shipped directly to consumers.

There are a number of ways to order your beef sandwich:

  • Dry – meat is pulled from the broth and allowed to drip prior to placing it on the roll.
  • Wet – meat is not allowed to drip the juices, and the bread has the meat with some broth soaking in the bread
  • Dipped – meat is placed on the sandwich and the entire roll is dipped in the broth

Sandwiches can be dressed with giardiniera (diced, pickled vegetables) or sport peppers; some outlets offer the “cheesy beef”, a sandwich prepared in one of the above manners with the addition of melted mozzarella or provolone.

Outside of Chicago, there’s a directory that can help you find an Italian beef near you.  One enthusiast has memorialized sandwiches at various locations around Chicagoland.

Here’s a slow cooker version of a Portillo’s style Italian beef recipe.

Here are pix of these delicious sandwiches that I have enjoyed.

Italian Beef Review

Cheesy Beef – Mr. Beefy, Fox River Grove, IL

Italian beef review

Michael’s – Portland, OR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Beef

 

Pizza Knot Recipe, Tailgating Favorite

PIZZA KNOTS FOR TAILGATING PARTIES

I got a crazy itch this past weekend to try and make garlic knots for the first time. But I didn’t really feel like spending all weekend at it – when I usually make scratch bread or pizza dough, it’s a two day process.

So I went with the old reliable frozen bread dough. Which isn’t all that impromptu either, as you need a day to thaw it.

Ingredients

1 loaf frozen bread dough or pizza crust

6 cloves garlic, diced

1 T fresh parsley diced

1 T basil

4 oz pepperoni diced

3 oz your preferred “Italian” cheese

2 T butter

2 T olive oil

Method

Frozen bread  loaf, thawed

Frozen bread loaf, thawed

Using a roller, or a 2 liter bottle of soda if you don’t have a rolling pin, make a couple of 8” circles of dough.

Slice lengthwise into ½ inch wide strips. Tie into a loose knot. Set aside.

Roll dough, slice

Roll dough, slice

Place the butter and oil in a cast iron skillet. Saute the garlic, herbs and pepperoni until it has a little crisp going on.

Saute meat and veggies

Saute meat and veggies

Spoon out the garlic, parsley and pepperoni, and leave as much oil/butter in the skillet as you can. Place in a bowl and toss knots in the mixture.

Toss knots with vegs, meats, oil and butter

Toss knots with vegs, meats, oil and butter

Put the knots in the skillet in a single layer, drizzle with more oil and cover tightly, allow to double in size. Probably 3-4 hours.

Knots in the pan

Knots in the pan

Preheat over to 425, put skillet in oven on center rack for 25-30 minutes. Brush with more olive oil when you remove from oven and dust with your Italian cheese. Serve immediately. Or “knot.”

Pizza Knot Recipe

Out of the Oven!

 

You can serve some marinara on the side for dipping if you like.

 

 

pizza knot recipe

Ethnic Gourmet Frozen Entrees Review

“Ironically” –  where I fell in love with Indian food was when I lived in China for six years.  It was available in abundance, and especially on the little island I lived on in the South China Sea.   We had a couple of Indian restaurants there, my regular stop was “Toochtka’s”, run by Malloy, hiding from his Philippine wife, and sidekick Bgosh, trying to save money for some schooling somewhere.

I was particularly fond of their garlic naan and a mess o chicken tikka, boneless pieces of chicken, marintaded in spices and yogurt, and cooked to a turn in an outdoor tandoor oven until it has a nice crispy char on the edges.  I also like saag paneer, the Indian version of creamed spinach with hunks of homemade Indian cheese (recipe).

Wash it down with a Kingfisher beer.

They’d always over serve me  because I was such an incredibly nice guy big tipper and I was a regular.  Except when I was irregular.   (I would sometimes travel for weeks at a time for work, living in hotels in China, across Southeast Asia, Turkey, South Africa.  But I’d always return to Toochtka’s when I’d return to the island).

I  knew I would have to enjoy it while I could, because there was a huge banyan tree growing in the middle of the restaurant that would take out the building at some time, and the Chinese would have thought it would bring terribly bad joss to chop down the tree.  So it would stay, the restaurant wouldn’t.

In any case, this post is about some heat and eat Indian food I saw at the market this week,  the chicken tikka, spinach, rice, and naan.  The packaging and colors were similar, so I thought it was all the same manufacturer, but it wasn’t, two were from the Hain-Celestiral tea people, a brand called Ethnic Gourmet, the other, Tandoor Chef, was from a New Jersey company called Deep Foods.

The only thing “wrong” with these products is there simply wasn’t ENOUGH!   I love this stuff!   I guess this was about $8, which is a little steep for a single meal, but not only will I buy it again, I may just stock the freezer.

Ethnic Gourmet Revue

ethnic gourmet frozen entrees

Ethnic Gourmet Frozen Entrees

Steak N Shake Frozen Burgers Review

Steak N Shake Frozen Burger ReviewSeems like every restaurant brand is trying to extend their reach by putting labeled products in the grocery aisles;  if my memory is correct, seems like Taco Bell was first.  Not there is hardly a fast casual brand that you don’t see in the grocery, whether it’s Boston Market, Fridays, Marie Callenders,  Fatburger, Burger King, Nathan’s.

I’ve reviewed a pretty good sampling of heat and eat burgers in the past, including  Fred Meyer Frozen Mini Cheeseburgers, Private Selection Angus Beef Patties, and Trader Joes Kobe Style, White Castle,  to the convenience store types like Big A Angus Charbroil, the 7-Eleven Cheeseburger, Fatburger, Walgreens,  AM/PM Mini Marts, and Ball Park, to mention a few.

Now I see Steak N Shake has entered the fray.  The Illinois founded company now has more than 400 outlets across the country, and I have generally been pretty pleased with their products.  They have a rep for fresh, cooked to order food.

So I wish they wouldn’t have entered this market segment.  I think it does more harm than good, as a frozen heat and eat burger can’t come close to the taste or texture of a burger prepared in the restaurant.

Stea N Shake chose Ohio-based AdvancedPierre as their contract manufacturer / distributor.  The company makes a lot of heat and eat foods for the convenience and vending market, including the “Big A” referenced above.

While this type of product is available throughout the entire price range, from a buck each up to $10 + for a bag of six or eight patties, the Steak N Shake variety was offered at $5 for (2) 5.3 ounce sandwiches.  The sandwich is comprised of two patties, one slice of cheese and bun.  No condiments are included, of course.

Instructions call for puncturing the wrapper (picture 1 below), heating for 75 seconds in the microwave, and letting sit for thirty seconds after that.  Of course it has the disclaimer that “microwaves and heating times may vary” and they were referring to mine, as at 75 seconds the middle of the patties was still frozen.

Removed from the microwave (picture 2 below), they look fairly appealing.

One ‘beef’ I have with all of these products that include buns, is that frequently the bun and meat require different heating times, so you’re going to probably be disappointed with one or the other.  My “cheat” is to disassemble them and heat them separately, works for me, but takes a little trial and error.   That process especially works great with frozen White Castles.

What’s my verdict?  They’re OK.  As I feared, nothing resembling the restaurant product, but most of these heat and eat burgers are pretty similar in my experience, and opinion, no matter the brand or the price point.

I suppose the “hook” is convenience.  Single people who don’t want to cook, harried mom needing a quick snack for the kids.  Burger snobs won’t give them a thought.

Moms might want to reconsider, now that I just read the nutrition info –  490 calories with over half of those from fat.  Probably not good.

Steak N Shake Frozen Burger Review

Steak N Shake Frozen Burger Review

 

 

 

 

Steak N Shake Frozen Burgers Review

Spoiler Alert: The World’s Worst “Steak”

If you’ve read my posts in the past, you know I seldom write a “bad” review.  While I may be dissatisfied with some aspect of a visit to a restaurant or with a product I try at home, I almost always try and find something redeeming about the experience.  Although many people would dispute what I am about to say, I do try and look for the positives in life.

I am generally not inclined to purchase food products that include on the label some form or fashion of the following words:  “may contain up to (or be enhanced with ) a XX % of ‘solution.’   The solution is usually a combination of brine (salt water) and flavorings, designed for two things: to increase the weight of a product at retail, and to act as a ‘marinade’ both for flavor and breaking down tough muscle meats.

You most frequently see it on processed (raw) chicken, and those ‘pork tenderloins’ that come in various flavors.  While I don’t object, largely, to flavor enhancement, I am not thrilled with what the brines do to the texture of the food.  In my opinion, the experience of chewing proteins that have been treated like this in no way resemble the texture of eating untreated beef, poultry, or pork.

One can easily see the appeal to food manufacturers and retailers , especially if 20 % of the weight you are paying for is salt water (at multiple dollars per pound).

It also allows manufacturers to take ‘grade b’ (my term) product and amp it up to resemble a premium product.  Clever.

The Great American Steak Company is a division of Green Bay based American Food Group, a marketing and distribution company that sells ‘fresh’ meat under a number of different labels.  It is part of Minnesota based Rosen’s Diversified, which claims to be the 5th largest beef processing company in the country, and is the Gopher State’s fifth largest privately held company, with revenues of $2.5 billion annually.  The company’s materials says that they process over four million pounds of beef daily and ship their product to over thirty countries.

Great American Steak Review As to the actual product.  The Great American Steak Company sells “bacon wrapped filet of beef” in single or double packaging (left);  you can find these around town for between $4 – $8, and occasionally some store will have them at $1.99 each.  (Considerably less than the price of hamburger, which should be a clue.)

It’s funny, I actually had these a few months ago and said largely favorable things.   I don’t think I was drunk, but the same package, purchased recently, cannot be the same product I had months ago.

This was inedible.  Period.  I cooked two, using different prep methods, and neither were satisfactory.  Not only are the lacking in any kind of ‘real’ beef taste,  the tactile experience is akin to chewing on a rubber ball.  Really.

These ‘steaks’ are made by a production subsidiary of Great American / Rosen, called Skylark Meats, in Omaha (pictured below).  On Skylark’s website, they claim to be “America’s largest producer of sliced liver.”  I’m not sure that’s much of a distinction, how many people even eat liver anymore (felines excepted).   Their puff piece goes on to say they furnish premium beef cuts to some of “America’s finest restaurants,” but hopefully these beef filets are not included and I haven’t fallen prey to paying restaurant prices for the “filets” in the past.

The content label lists the primary element as “Beef Chuck Tender” and the packaging further says “hand trimmed.”  “Up to a 20% solution” is also on the label, with an asterisk, but there is no further reference to the asterisk on the packaging.

Other ingredients include some of the MSG substitutes food companies are using these days, including “torula yeast.”  You probably don’t want to click on that link and read about that product.

In short, this product is absolutely awful.  I’m pretty confident that some future generations won’t ever get to eat “real food,”  and this kind of manufacturing is the harbinger of those times.

While one can’t be sure, it is implied from the packaging this is a single cut of muscle, as opposed to a pressed, chopped, and form piece of meat. (Have you seen those hundreds of identical steaks on restaurant buffets?  Wow. What technology.).

In searching the internet for news about Great American, Rosen, and Skylark, it appears that Skylark is also a manufacturer of the steaks one might purchase at a tent in a parking lot, or off a door to door truck.  Have you heard those pitches?  What a scream!  “Yes ma’am, I was supposed to deliver this to your neighbor, but they aren’t home, so I’m willing to sell you this 20 pound box of steaks for half price…” LOL.

You get what you pay for.  Even at $1.99 for 5 ounces of “beef,”  I feel like I overpaid.   I’ll be reluctant to try any other products from any of Rosen’s operating companies.

I fully realize that at four million pounds of production a day, this 5 ounce steak represents .0000001 % of  their  production, if my math is correct.  Nevertheless, I wish they’d try and make it more palatable in general.  Or ship it off to one of those 32 countries they export to.

 

Great American Steak Review

Skylark Meats Plant,  Omaha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

great american steak company

 

 

 

Cary, IL – Tracks Bar and Grill Review

Tracks Bar and Grill CarySorry for the delay on this one, misplaced the pix for a couple months.  I was heading out to Woodstock, IL (left) (where they shot “Groundhog Day”) to look at a couple of horses for sale.   A pal said, ‘since you’re headed that way, stop at the Tracks Bar and Grill in Cary, and try the burgers.

It doesn’t take much persuading when somebody I trust makes a suggestion like that.

Apparently, everybody in the world knows about this place, except me – it has been around for more than thirty years and year after year gets voted as the best burger in McHenry County.

Well deserved, I say.

I went with the Black and Blue, Cajun seasoning and AMPLE blue cheese chunks (see second pic below, after I lifted off the house-made onion straws to get a peek at the cheese).  These are monster burgers, ten ounces of CERTIFIED Angus beef (if you just see “we serve Angus beef” on a menu – complete bullshit, as 80% of the cows in America are Angus – but CERTIFIED Angus, that IS a big deal).

Anyway, the beef was great, impressive blue cheese, house-made onion straws and chips (the latter are damned hard to make, so kudos to Chef), and one of the finest pickles ever served anywhere. Truly.   I ordered my “Black and Blue” prepared “bleu” and it came as ordered. Perfection. (3rd pic below).

As with most places in the area, they have a Friday night fish fry which is highly touted, and nightly specials, too.

I lifted a menu so you can see it  —  no, not there, over here.

You could take a date, and split a burger, and not even look cheap, cause these suckers will easily feed two.  BTW?  No take outs.  House policy.

At the end of the post, there’s a little video that peeks into the kitchen and process.

Tracks Bar and Grill Cary

Tracks Bar and Grill Cary

Tracks Bar and Grill Cary
 

Tracks on Urbanspoon

Tracks Bar and Grill Review

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