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StoneRidge Natural Casing Wieners Review

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StoneRidge Wieners ReviewI love hot dogs. In natural casings, please. The “purer” the better, IMHO. And I love to make them as “coney island style” hot dogs, which have nothing to do with the place Coney Island. A Coney Island hot dog is strictly an upper midwestern thing, popular in Michigan, Ohio, pockets of Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. By all accounts,they were invented by a Greek immigrant in Detroit in the early 1900s. BY some peculiarity, many coney island hot dog shops were started by, or are owned by Greek immigrants or their descendants.

While the ingredient recipe varies a little, basically a coney island hot dog is a natural casing wiener in a bun, with yellow mustard, diced onions, and meat sauce. Not ever to be confused with a “chili dog” as coney sauce is not chili.

My own personal coney sauce recipe is a winner – it took me years to perfect. For me, nothing makes a perfect coney, or hot dog any way you choose to cook or dress it – than a quality natural casing frank. They are hard to find, as we natural casing lovers only make up about 5% of the national hot dog buying public!

StoneRidge’s version is perfect, an ideal combination of pork and beef, with no fillers,  and the right spices and length of smoking to give it perfect flavor and just the right amount of “snap” when you bite into it. In other words, you want a dog that when you bite IT, it bites right back!

No matter how you choose to cook a natural casing wiener – on the grill, in hot water, on a griddle, low and slow is the key, lest you split the casing open and all the delicious meaty juiciness spills out! You don’t want that.

You can purchase StoneRidge’s exceptional hot dogs online, and pick up some other points and recipes on their Pinterest page!  Anyone who purchases online from StoneRidge this month will be automatically entered to buy $50 worth of products! Winner will be notified by email on March 1.

StoneRidge Wieners Review

                 Place your StoneRidge dog on mustard                                                         lathered bun

StoneRidge Wieners Review

                        Ladle on the coney sauce

StoneRidge Wieners Review

          Add diced onion and another swirl of mustard

 

 

 

 

 

 

StoneRidge Natural Casing Wieners Review

(Ed. Note:  StoneRidge furnished products for me to try)

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StoneRidge Meats Chorizo Review

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StoneRidge Bratwurst ReviewChorizo is a type of sausage that originated in the Iberian peninsula (Spain/Portugal), made up of pork, spices, and smoked pimento peppers, which gives it a bright red color. It’s available in a smoked/cured version for eating or including in dishes, and raw, to be used as a cooking ingredient. There are variations of chorizo one finds as they travel the globe, in  Portugal it’s called chourico, in Mexico, the item is closer to the Spanish raw version, and is used in tacos and other Mexican treats.

The Portuguese version, which is also called linguica, is a popular item in Hawaii, and is even available in sliced medallions served with scrambled eggs and rice at McDonald’s!

If you’ve traveled to Louisiana, the Cajun and Creoles have their own version of Chorizo, called “Chaurice,” which is found in  local favorites like red beans and rice, and some gumbos.

StoneRidge has taken the wonderfully complex  global flavors of Chorizo, and packed them into a natural casing pork bratwurst style sausage, perfect for grilling or sauteed on the stove top. Enjoy them on a bun, as a dinner entree, or incorporated into your special recipes.

Personally, I like slightly spicy sausages for breakfast, and it’s my habit to par boil them, (tho this is not needed) before slicing and pan frying to serve along side of eggs,instead of the usual pork breakfast meats.

I LOVE this product. It’s undoubtedly one of the most flavorful sausages I have had in a long time. When it’s too cold to grill outside, I do my sausage in a cast iron skillet, put a little char on it. This morning I had it with cheese scamble with Cajun seasoning (pictured below). Yum.

Should you prefer to use StoneRidge’s Chorizo as an ingredient, to spice up a casserole, hot dish, scrambled eggs or stews, simply slice the casing open and saute the ground pork to your preference before adding to your recipe.

StoneRidge makes over 40 varieties of pork and  chicken bratwursts, as well as specialty cheeses and if you don’t see them at your grocery, order direct from the smokehouse in Central Wisconsin, where they are carefully crafted using old world recipes.

One other thing that impresses me about StoneRidge is their value proposition. You’re going to pay 20-30% less for StoneRidge than comparable product from the “big brands.”

If you want to carry some of the dozens of StoneRidge sausages or specialty cheeses in your market or deli, whether under their label or your own, or to purchase bulk quantities for your event, contact the StoneRidge wholesale department for pricing.  Check out some recipe ideas from StoneRidge by following them on Pinterest

Should you find yourself traveling in Central Wisconsin, stop in at the StoneRidge Market, open 7AM – 9 PM daily, at 975 E. Main St., Wautoma, WI 54982. Wautoma is just 30 minutes west of Oshkosh, if you’re visiting for the annual air show, less than an hour from the Dells, or about an hour and a half drive from either Madison or Milwaukee.

StoneRidge Bratwurst Review

      StoneRidge Chorizo with Cajun Seasoned Eggs

(Ed.Note – StoneRidge furnished sample products for us to try)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

StoneRidge Meats Chorizo Review

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StoneRidge Meat Snack Sticks Review

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StoneRidge Bratwurst ReviewAn affinity for all things butchered and old world sausage making brought together the principals that started StoneRidge Meat and Country Market, now known as StoneRidge Piggly Wiggly.

Located in mid-Wisconsin, thirty minutes west of the Fox River Valley, the market serves grocery shoppers and sausage aficionados from a wide radius. Why sausage lovers? StoneRidge has built a superb in-house meat department, specializing in a wide variety of cured, uncured, and flavored meats, and are particularly known for their dozens of bratwurst flavors.

StoneRidge produces a widely-enjoyed meat snack sticks, also made in flavors, including original, pepperjack, habanero, honey BBQ, teriyaki and more. I tried out their .Bacon and Cheddar variety.

I think that a Philadelphia entrepreneur, Adolph Levis, who had built a business selling specialty foods to bars and delis, is credited with ‘inventing’ the beef snack stick in the 1940s, though I believe it was probably inspired by the German snack “Landjager.” Levis thought America was in need of a portable, ready-to-eat version of sausage.

There are certainly companies much larger than StoneRidge that make beef sticks, but probably none that produce a product of this quality. The “big guys” tend to have “mechanically separated poultry” as a prime ingredient, but in the StoneRidge variety, you’ll find beef, pork, and flavor seasonings. Period.

What I liked about the StoneRidge product is the distinct flavoring, a coarser grind than most competitors, meaning there’s no doubt in your mind this is a real meat product.

There are a lot of other reasons to enjoy StoneRidge snack sticks:

  • They are extremely portable – take hiking, camping, tailgating,   have in your office drawer, or the kid’s school lunches.
  • They are a high protein, low carb snack.
  • They are gluten-free.
  • Ounce for ounce, they are one-third the price of beef jerky.

Great taste. Good value. Get yours at your local grocer, or browse the online catalog and order direct from StoneRidge.  While you’re waiting for your package of deliciousness to arrive, follow StoneRidge on Twitter and Facebook.

StoneRidge Bratwurst Review

        Bacon & Cheddar Meat Snack Sticks

 

 

 

 

 

StoneRidge Meat Snack Sticks Review

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Parkers Restaurant and Bar Review, LaGrange, IL

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Parkers Restaurant and Bar ReviewYour dilemma, searching for this restaurant online, is that it is known, for some peculiar reason, by different names. The name on the building is Parkers’ Restaurant and Bar.  The domain name for their website is “ParkersAmerican.”  On different sites around the web, you’ll see a reference to “Parker’s Ocean Grill.”

I’m confused and I haven’t even been seated. The restaurant boasts they are all about “fresh,” and maintain relationships with specially selected suppliers, growers and farmers for filling their larder. I have no reason to doubt that, with one exception. The “catch of the day” when I was there was “Tilapia brought from the Gulf,” which is probably incorrect, an awful lot of wild tilapia is inedible, and the tilapia served in US restaurants and available in groceries is farmed – pond raised. There are a few tilapia farms in the US, but the vast majority of farmed tilapia sold in the US comes from Latin America or Asia. Small matter.

Spoiler alert. Unless you’re planning a special evening, have a large group, or need to eat at a specific hour, hit the bar for their happy hour menu, these days and times:

Monday thru Friday – 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday – 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday – 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The bar menu is half-price and there are drink specials, of course. The bar menu includes some small plates, a number of wood-fired pizzas, and a couple sandwiches, including a traditional New England lobster roll. Here’s what’s cool about that. At the happy hour price, the lobster roll is less than you’d pay nearly anywhere from Massachusetts to Maine! Honest!

We went with tempura shrimp (3 to an order) and bruschetta, (Wood Grilled Garlic Crostini, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, Roasted Tomato Basil Salad). The bruschetta was heavy on the herbs, and the group universally panned it.

On to the dinner table, and the entree orders were preceded by a wedge salad to share, followed by sea scallops  with gnocchi, cedar plank roasted Lake Superior whitefish with mash, a tilapia sandwich with shoestrings, and me?  Why a burger, of course, “Certified Angus,”  Moody Blue cheese (Wisconsin), Lettuce, Tomato, on a toasted Challah.  The kitchen’s choice is to serve this with a chipotle mayo, which I passed on.  It’s a pretty fine burger, terrific Wisconsin blue cheese (but owned by the Swiss cheese giant Emmi which has been buying up small specialty cheesemakers in the US), the bun was buttered, toasted, and firm enough to hold the meat and any condiments one chose.

I have kind of a problem with “Certified Angus,” which is merely a service mark a group of ranchers dreamed up in the 70s.  They have various claims about their beef being “better,” I can’t say if it is or not, I know I’ve had lots of great burgers from very small producers.  My personal favorite is (no, not Pat Lafrieda, but Creekstone Farms).  In any case, the burgers was A-OK.  $14.00.  Reports from around the table – a rave for the whitefish, a “great” for the tilapia sandwich, and a “meh” for the scallops. She thought the texture was odd.  I can relate to that.

I’m not sure where I would place this type of restaurant – I guess you could call it “casual fine dining?”  It’s a nice room, tablecloths, a buncha flatware, kinda noisy, and people come in all sorts of apparel.  Entrees range from $14 – $50.  Dinner for four, with wine, was close to $300.  (Not on me, I never pay!)

You need three things to have a restaurant that’s great, not simply good, in no particular order:  1)nice ambience, 2) great  food, 3) fantastic service. Parkers hits two out of three.  It’s a nice room, pleasant, you don’t feel jammed in or that the next table is eavesdropping. There are some private rooms as well.  The food was largely “OK,” esthetically pleasing, and rather tasty, but nothing on the menu is going to make you go “wow.”

The service?  Here’s where this joint shined last night.  Jordan (like the river, she said), was knowledgeable, friendly, over the top attentive, checking in, but not too often, and immediately dealing with every request from the table. I didn’t ask what her career ambitions are, but if she’s staying in the hospitality industry, Parkers would be smart to keep her.  Too many people in the service industry today are just passing through, and haven’t bothered to even look up the definition of “hospitality.” Jordan nailed it.

Parkers’ is part of the Select Restaurant group based in Cleveland; they operated ten restaurants that stretch across America, and are mostly focused on entrees that swim.  You can make reservations online, and you probably should, because on a Saturday night, the place was jammed, and there were people waiting in the lobby.

Parkers' Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Parkers Restaurant and Bar  Review

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The One in Which I Bitch About “Resort Fees”

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Harrahs Gulf Coast ReviewIt was bound to happen, hotels had to find ways to nickle and dime you like when the airlines added baggage charges (which brings in millions and millions). Today’s gripe is about Harrah’s, which is owned by private equity groups, and naturally they are going to squeeze every single dollar out of the company that they can. That’s what private equity does – customers, suppliers, employees don’t matter – putting bucks in the group’s personal wallets is the number one priority.

So I checked in to Harrah’s on the Gulf Coast, and the room was quite reasonable, but there was an $11 per day “resort fee.”  I thought this might be optional but was informed otherwise.

Here’s what you got for your fee:

  1. Access to the swimming pool (it rained cats and dogs my entire stay)
  2. “Free” wifi in the room, which was as speedy as dial up, course you could upgrade for a fee
  3. Access to the workout room.  Yeah, right, I’m getting my exercise pulling slot levers.

In other words, I got precisely zip for my “resort fee.”  And one elevator out of four working.  And advertised 24 hour facilities that closed before midnight.

Come on folks, wouldn’t you rather I donate that $11 to the casino?  Isn’t that what you want me there for?

Knock it off.

 

 

 

Harrahs Gulf Coast Review

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Mio Amore Pizza Review – Metairie, LA

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Mio Amore ReviewMio Amore is a mall pizza joint that also delivers to the local area.  As it happens, they are on GrubHub, so I had them bring a pie to my New Orleans hotel last week.  It’s a pretty fair pizza, and “value priced,”  meaning more than the heavily discounted big chain offers, but less than most mom and pop shops.

The crust is thin but doughy and chewy. (Think “hand-tossed” at other places).  Toppings could be more plentiful.  But all in all, not a bad pie.

Here’s their menu.

Mio Amore Review Metairie

                                Sausage and Olive Pie

Mio Amore Pizzaria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Mio Amore Pizza Review

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Sasquatch Pizza Review

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Sasquatch Pizza ReviewSomebody lit a fire under the management of Milwaukee pizza manufacturer Parlermo; in addition to their classic Palermo label, over the past year, they’ve rolled out another four brands. P’Mos, Screamin’ Sicilian, Mission, and now, Sasquatch, a WalMart exclusive monster, weighing in a 3 pounds for under ten bucks.  That’s a lot of pizza. That’s a lot of crust.

Of all of them, as of yesterday, my favorite was the Screamin.’  I like the big hand-pulled chunks of sausage.

Today I’m trying out the Sasquatch, which seemed to be designed to resemble “Detroit style” pizza, thick, rectangular, made popular nationally by Little Caesars and Jet’s.

My WalMart freezer was full of only the pepperoni variety, tho they make four different kinds.  No matter to me, I love pepperoni, and this has different “types” and sized-pieces.

With this thickness, you’re gonna bake it longer than you’re used to – at least 20 minutes, but probably closer to 26.  The box sez “ten servings,”  but it’s more than that of course.

The finished product doesn’t wow.  It’s like a thick version of the really low end pies – Tonys. Roma. Like that.  The thick crust, neither crispy or doughy, has enough corn meal in it to spoil the texture. The sauce tastes generic, and there isn’t enough cheese or toppings.  As low an opinion as I have of Little Caesars, their “deep dish” is better and cheaper.

Sasquatch Pizzas are made at the Palermo factory in Milwaukee, pictured below.

2nd pic is Little Caesar’s “Deep Dish.”

Sasquatch Pizza Review

                                     Sasquatch Pizza

Sasquatch Pizza Review

                                 Little Caesar’s Deep Dish

sasquatch

                                Palermo Milwaukee Factory

Sasquatch Pizza Review

                                       Palermo Factory

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sasquatch Pizza Review

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Econo Lodge Review – Marion, IL

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Econo Lodge is one of the brands owned by Choice Hotels International of Maryland.  Starting with a few motels 75  years ago, through creation and acquisition of brands, Choice now has Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Hotel & Suites, Mainstay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay,  Rodeway Inn, and the Ascend Hotel Collection.  There are nearly 7,000 locations worldwide.

The Econo Lodge competes at the budget end of the accommodation segment, and most Choice locations are operated by franchisees.  At the end of 2015, there was 940 Econo Lodges with 56,000 rooms, according to the company’s website.

At the FranchiseMall.com, it states one needs $2 mil to open an Econo Lodge, with a $25,000 franchise fee and 8% annual royalties.

Owning a franchised motel requires some trust on both sides. The franchisor hopes the franchisee will keep the motel in accordance with their operating contract and up to date, and the motel operator hopes they get the correct support from the parent company.  I don’t know for sure, but one would assume the franchisor sends people around to check franchised operations every once and awhile.

All that to say, I can’t imagine that this motel lives up to the contract.  Although inexpensive, the rooms are dirty, there is updating needed throughout the motel, and the exterior entrances (and there are a number of them) are unlocked 24 hours.

On the plus side, they have the standard free breakfast offerings, and that room/operation seemed pretty clean. Waffles, breads, fruits, cereal, coffee, cocoa, oatmeal, and so on.

This motel is off the north frontage road of Highway 13, just off I-57. If you’re driving around in the dark, in a strange city or pouring rain, good luck locating it, as it is behind the auto parts store pictured below.  The motel in the foreground (right) is an “America’s Best Value” Inn, and those can be inconsistent too, from superb to disgusting.

If you’re blowing through Marion, and just a place to run in, sleep, shower and get out, Econo Lodge might be ideal for you. If you’re traveling with the family or staying an  extended length of time, probably not.

This location is also handy if you’re visiting the Marion Federal Prison, just a few miles south of town.  Marion was originally constructed as as maximum security prison to replace Alcatraz, but has since been downgraded to a medium security facility.  Past guests include John Gotti, Pete Rose, the bomber of the WTC the first time,  Other international and domestic terrorists are also housed there.

Econ o Lodge Review Marion IL

Econo Lodge Review Marion IL

                                Marion Federal Prison

 

 

 

 

 

Econo Lodge Review

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Waffle House Review

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waffleI wrote a piece years back, after hitting a Waffle House shortly after 9/11.   I recently dropped in on one on the Gulf Coast.  BTW, I counted on a map, and there are about 30 in a 40 mile stretch along the coasts of MS and LA.  Wow.

I sat at the counter, sipping my Joe, and indulged in some bacon and eggs, cooked as ordered, with a smattering of cheese on the hash browns.

If you haven’t been to a Waffle House, they are a chain across the South, with diminutive facilities, and a menu focused on breakfast, a few sandwiches, and a couple of entrees.  If you’re so inclined, you can even get a T-bone there for around $10.  Breakfasts run in the $3-$4 range. The chain is particularly proud of their hash browns, which you can ordered “smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped, or country.” The descriptions all refer to different add-on ingredients, and the taters are available in three different portion sizes.  They have not come up with a word (unless there is a secret menu) which would refer to ordering the hash browns with all of those additions.  They should.

My breakfast and coffee were just fine, they are big on consistency, and as such, a very dependable road stop. They have over 2000 locations in 25 states; they started in 1955 in Georgia.

The company hasn’t avoided controversy over the years, with a couple of religious and racial issues receiving some attention, but it seems behind them.

Find the one nearest you with their locator.

Waffle House Review

Waffle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Waffle House Review

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Namese Review, New Orleans

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namese review new orleansI lived in New Orleans for a long time, and while it has always had some of the greatest restaurants in the country, there was not a great deal of diversity in menus; translation –  very few ethnic places.  Except for the Vietnamese blocks in New Orleans, it was tough to enjoy these Southeast Asian delicacies, but I’m delighted to say, “fusion Louisiana/Vietnamese” has spread around the city.  Couple months ago, I was in one Mo Pho, which I really enjoyed.

This time around it was “namese”  (as in VIETnamese, get it?) at Tulane and Carrolton, just up the street from the giant new hospital complex.  A smallish restaurant, the food is reminiscent of street vendors and markets in the SE Asian country, with a lot of soup (Pho), small plates (rolls), and Banh Mi sandwiches (which in New Orleans, are commonly known as “Po Boys.”

I went with the latter, fried shrimp for innards, and spring rolls in a rice wrapper to start.  Both were excellent. New Orleans is blessed with some really great bakers of French bread (including Vietnamese French), and they surely do make a sandwich.  The main difference between a traditional po boy and banh mi is the vegetables, with the latter taking on a cool and refreshing air with the addition of cilantro and peppers.

The food is really superb, wait staff is strong. Give it a try.

Open Monday – Saturday, 11AM – 10PM

Full menu.  Order online for delivery.

Namese Review

Namese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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