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Perfect Pasta Meat Ravioli Review

Perfect Pasta Ravioli ReviewAny time I pick up a product to purchase and the first two words on the ingredient list are not “mechanically separated,”  I figure I’m way ahead of the game.  It was the ingredient list that attracted me to the meat ravioli product of Perfect Pasta, a suburban Chicago manufacturer.

Note the ingredients: Durum wheat flour, beef, egg, whole milk ricotta, water, Romano, onions,celery, crarots, salt, bread crumbs,  fresh garlic, parsley, fresh sage, fresh rosemaqry, black pepper, granulated garlic.

Isn’t that perfect?  Sounds like some grandma’s recipe.

Perfect Pasta has been cranking out various noodle recipes of all ilks for consumers and commercial users for several decades.  They focus on one segment of the industry and do it well.

So many pre-made, frozen ravioli have no taste and worse texture, but this product is a gem.  Not only can you see the various ingredients (picture below), you can actually taste them!

Highly recommended.

If Google maps is correct (and it isn’t, on occasion), below you will a pic of Perfect Pasta’s plant, USDA inspected establishment # 19829.  Use the company’s locator to find an outlet near you.

Perfect Pasta Ravioli Review

 

Perfect Pasta Ravioli Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Pasta Meat Ravioli Review

Pastorelli Pizza Sauce Review

Pastorelli Pizza Sauce ReviewTried out a new pre-made pizza sauce last night, from Chicago pizza supplies and food supplier, Pastorelli, who have been around for a million years or so.  In addition to pizza sauce, they have a number of consumer products including tomato derivatives, olive oils, and pre-made crusts, which I tried previously. The past few years, I’ve been pretty satisfied with Contadina Pizza Sauce in a squeeze bottle, when I’m not in the mood to make sauce from scratch,  but they may have fallen from grace, or at least to second place, after sampling the Pastorelli.

Take a look at this ingredient list: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Canola Oil, Import Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Imported Pecorino Romano Cheese, Spices and Garlic.  You can’t get much more basic than that!   I like the flavor and texture, it leans to the thicker end of the sauce spectrum, and nicely covers a pie.  It’s not sickeningly sweet, and has a nice little zest.  It also comes in one serving pouches, if that’s your preference, though the small can works out perfectly too.  Buy online if you  can’t find it in your local grocery.

If you’re really hungry, take comfort in knowing that many of Pastorelli’s products are available in 55 gallon barrels, and 250 gallon totes.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, my recipe for homemade pizza dough is pretty straight forward, but does require some advance planning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastorelli Pizza Sauce Review

Worlds Oldest Sausage Restaurant – Nuremburg

Seventy years ago this month, the only Americans around Nuremberg were 10,000 feet over it, dropping bombs to break the industrial backbone of the Third Reich; 90% of the city was destroyed and 100,000 people killed.

You can’t tell.

The city has been rebuilt to look exactly as it did before the bombing. From photographs, paintings, and architectural plans, Nuremberg, like many cities in Europe, wanted to preserve its heritage.

The inner walled city is curiously reminiscent of the Old City of Jerusalem, with the wall running the perimeter of the central business district, guarded by a moat now used only as a pedestrian walkway.

Three large churches border the town square, which is daily the scene of a local vegetable, fruit, bread, and cheese market. Scattered through the marketplace are sausage stands and pretzel vendors.

To commemorate the awful events of seven decades ago, billboard sized posters of the destruction have been erected outside the restored buildings. The devastation, memorialized in black and white seems horrible.

This is probably a good time to be here; the city is quaint and surely throngs of tourists must crowd the streets in the summer. The natives are friendly and accommodating. At a restaurant last night, we were invited to sit with a local family (there were no empty tables), and they were anxious to hear about the US. They have a daughter who lives in Fresno, and wanted to know if I had ever been there, and what it was like.

The train travel reminded me of what I like about Europe, but also what I miss about the US.

Since 1419 (that’s right) Zum Gulden Stern has been serving Nuremburg’s special “Rostbratwurst.” They are available starting from a fresh or smoked version, and prepared on a grill. It’s the oldest sausage restaurant in the world. (Duh).

I seldom journey someplace without trying a local specialty or two, and here would be no exception. I wondered in the restaurant, which was “casually busy,” and found a table. I figured I’d try one or two of the sausages and be on my way, satisfied with my outing.

Frau Henrietta, a woman the size of a picnic table, rolled up to the table to inquire about my order. I noted on the menu that the little tubular delights were sold in denominations of six, and I knew they were small, so I uttered that I would take six, thinking that’s more than enough of a sample, and I’d be on my way.

She looked at me crossly I thought she was going to spit on me, but she only spit out her words: “Six is a child’s order!”

I reconsidered my order and said an even dozen it was then, but Henrietta would have none of it: “Twelve is a woman’s order!”

Can you guess what happened next? Yes, I ordered EIGHTEEN, and she beamed and said “That is a man’s order!”

Next up was the drink selection, and I hardly wanted to go through the inquisition again, so I told her to bring me an appropriate beverage, and she was back in a second with an over-sized pitcher of a local beer that is mixed with lemon. A seasonal thing. Back before there was a craft brewer on every block trying to make beer taste like chocolate or emeralds or whatever.

I managed to get thru a dozen sausages and two glasses of beer. Everything at the restaurant is very locally sourced, with ingredients coming together from nearby fields to make fresh horseradish, sauerkraut, and potato salad on a daily basis.

Incredible.

Take a virtual tour of the restaurant.

Zum Gulden Stern

Zum Gulden Stern Exterior

Zum Gulden Stern

Sausage Plate with Sides

Worlds Oldest Sausage Restaurant

Reggios Pizza Review

Reggios Microwave Pizza ReviewI’m reluctant to try almost any freezer pizza that says it can be microwaved.  Just never works out, in my opinion.  But Reggio’s is one of my favorite frozen brands, and the individual sized were on an endcap and on sale, so I thought I’d give one a whirl.   I’ve tried the size before, but in  a conventional oven, as I am likely to do, given the option.  The results were satisfactory.

Two things that food producers have so far failed to master, one is microwavable pizza, the other is “crispness” on deep fried products.  The Reggio’s pie includes one of those “specialized” baking surfaces (within the box)  which is supposed to amp up the crisp factor.  In the base of this product, you remove from the box and the cello, and slide the frozen pizza back into the box for its minute or so in the nuke-a-torium.

I wasn’t very happy with the result.  While the familiar taste of a Reggio’s pie was there, and the interior portion was adequate, the crust rim was rock hard, and part of the pie was left in the box.  It doesn’t appear there is any easy way to get the pie out of the ‘cooking chamber box’ intact.

As with most products that give you the option of conventional oven or microwave, despite the time needed and energy consumption, I always recommend using your oven.  In the case of this pizza, the upside results would have been two fold:  1) even crust baking, and  2) better appearance.

Reggios Microwave Pizza Review

Baked, and out of the box

 

Reggios Microwave Pizza Review

What Was Left in the Box

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissants

http://www.raileurope.com/europe-travel-guide/france/paris/train-station/est-train-station.htmlI haven’t been in a Trader Joe’s for awhile.  Not sure why, wasn’t an intentional thing unless you count the frustration of parking at many of them.   No, just circumstance.   Kinda odd actually, since I think they have some of the best frozen pizzas (imported from Italy and France) available, and something I had forgotten about, their frozen chocolate croissants.

Croissants came to me fairly late in life, when I was partners with an American woman living in Europe.  We had a place in Leysin, Switzerland, and after a few globe trotting years relocated to Paris, just off the Rue Saint Denis, in the 10th.  We were just a down the street from Gare de L’est,  one of the city’s train stations, and handy for popping around the rest of Europe.  In both Leysin and Paris, pain au chocolates (not really a croissant) were a big part of our morning routine, walking down to the patisserie or bistro or tabac to have one along with an espresso or six.

Trader Joes does an outstanding job of replicating that experience, although you’d never expect that when opening the box and pouring out the four little rock hard nuggets of dough; you have to let them thaw and rise on the counter overnight, so they are not really an impulse item (well, they are to buy, just not to eat).

After you let them thaw, pop them into a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, the box cautions you that if they are “light brown” they aren’t done  – bake until they are a deep rich brown in color.   They are amazing.   They also have almond ones (which  I like) and ham and cheese (which surprisingly, I haven’t tried.  note to self).

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissant Review

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissant Review

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissant Review

Leysin, Switzerland

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissant Review

Our Paris Apartment

 

 

 

 

 

Trader Joes Chocolate Croissants

 

 

Chicago, IL – Superdawg Drive In Review

For over sixty years, Superdawg has been serving up their special menu of hot dogs, burgers, fries and shakes in Northwest Chicago.  It’s still run by the family of the founder, and I always appreciate that type of business and try to patronize them more often than not.

In virtually any list of the top hot dogs in the city, Superdawg makes the cut.  They have their own pet names for the menu items, and claim proprietary ingredients and seasoning.  Each “sandwich” comes in a special box with a mound of fries, terrific pickle spear, and even more terrific, half of a pickled green tomato.

I went with the “Supercheesie,”  their freshly ground burger under melted American cheese. The burgers come fully dressed to your specifications, with a couple of different options being rye bread in lieu of a traditional bun, and “piccalilli” or at least Superdawg’s interpretation of it.  The traditional piccalilli originated in England as a take off on “Indian pickles” and is comprised of diced pickles, vegetables and seasonings.   Superdawg’s is more akin to a sweet relish, something I don’t usually order, but went with it and was delightfully surprised at the outcome.  I did like it.

“Superfries” are crinkle cut, crispy, and nicely salted.  Other menu choices include their hot dog, polish, chicken tenders, tamales, assorted fried vegetables, and fountain treats, including most likely the best chocolate malted I have ever had anywhere,   They start with an entire pint of premium and work their magic from there.

The iconic stand with its hot dog character statues remains an outpost of carhop service, and some families turn a visit into a tailgating even, bringing their own tables and chairs.  Superdawg only has one other full-size location.  I’m not sure why, as this business, with its short menu and long track record of success, would have been perfect for major expansion or franchising.  It’s most certainly a better product than many chains.

The full Superdawg menu is here:

I used to include maps on every post, quit for awhile, but you’ve asked me to stick ‘em in again.  So here’s how to get to Superdawg, accessible by Metra, off I-90 or I-94 (on the way to an from O’Hare, btw)

Superdawg Chicago Review

Family Tailgaters

 

Superdawg Chicago Review

Icon Rooftop Figures

 

 

Superdawg Chicago Review

Cheeseburger on Rye

Superdawg!

Superdawg!

Superdawg Drive-in on Urbanspoon
Superdawg Drive In Review

Schaumburg, IL – Pilot Petes Restaurant Review

I was flying home from FCO, stopped at ORD and taxied out to a suburban airport to hook up with a friend, and bum a ride on his plane back to Santa Barbara. He was held up with a ground stop at TEB, so I was gonna have a couple of hours to kill.  Luckily, there was a bar and restaurant at the airstrip.  I didn’t even know the airport was there, despite the fact I used to live nearby. Seems more like it’s for personal aircraft, I didn’t see many corporate-sized planes on the tie downs.  There’s a flight school and heliport, as well.

The restaurant overlooks the runway, and it’s called Pilot Pete’s.   It has an aviation theme (surprise!) with large scale model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, airline seats in the waiting area, and other general air knick-knacks as decorations.

I admire the owner/manager, this place has a very long menu, seemingly no pre-prepared dishes, as well as daily specials. It has to be a chore to keep everything running smoothly. The waitstaff is clad in shirts that say “Flight Crew,” and the couple I talked to said they’d worked there for years and wouldn’t work anyplace else.

Although this place is apparently known for its version of the hundred dollar hamburger, I was in the mood for something a little different, and surprise, I over ordered.  Started with an amazing “Fall Salad”, which crisp greens, blueberry, chicken and damn near a half pound of feta.  Salad came with soup, and I opted for French Onion, piping hot, flavorful, with the traditional baked cheese/crouton cap.

Launched into the restaurant’s version of a Cuban, which the menu says is an homage to the one prepared by Treasure Island in Tampa.  Pete’s strayed a little bit by adding mayo, tomato, and lettuce, which didn’t take away from the quality meats and cheese, which were amply packed between  pressed  halves of a garlic Cuban baguette.

The only downside to the meal were the accompanying fries, which were the extruded type, good flavoring and seasoning, just not a personal favorite. Overall, it was a terrific meal with portion sizes that could easily have served three.   Sandwich, soup, salad, cocktail, $40 including tip.

Here’s the menu.

PIlot Pete's Review

Fall Salad

 

Pilot Pete's Review

Cuban Sandwich and Fries

 

Pilot Pete's Review

Aviation Decor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilot Pete's on Urbanspoon

Pilot Petes Restaurant Review

Chicago’s Hot Dougs Final Hours

Add up all the major fast food joints and know that there are more hot dog stands in Chicago than the fast food numbers combined. Many of them are called “iconic” for one reason or another – longevity, special menu. One such icon, “Hot Dougs” closed last week after a mere 13 years in business. Owner Doug Sohm says it’s time “to do something else.”

Not just another “hot dog stand” Sohn was on a mission to bring gourmet food to the masses with value pricing, and did this by placing such ingredients inside natural casings and serving them on a bun.

The menu featured rotating items featuring different ingredients, in addition to the standard fare. Menu items were named after politicians and celebrities, ala the style of Pinks Hollywood.

Sohm got a lot of publicity during Chicago’s short lived ban on fois gras, when he kept serving the delicacy as a sausage ingredient. Eventually he was fined and thirty pounds of the delicious pate was removed from the restaurant.

Another eyebrow raising feature was on Friday and Saturday, you could get fries cooke in duck fat.

The last few years, there was almost always a line at opening hour at Hot Dougs, and the weeks preceding closing were no exception, with some staking out their positions at 1 AM. Enough people were in line those last few days that usually by 7:30 or 8:00 AM, people were told that beyond that point in the line would not be served prior to closing time.

A video on the closing hours is from CBS in Chicago is below, following that is a typical Hot Dougs menu..

hot menu

Meeskes / Haybeck’s, Chicago Butchers

Sometimes I wish there was an illustrated dictionary of food.  There would be a photo, a list of ingredients, and a description of how the product is supposed to taste and what the texture should be.  If there was, beside the entry for “Italian Sausage” would be the hand-stuffed sausages at Meeske’s and Haybeck’s butcher shops in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

Just compare this list of ingredients to any other sausage on the market.   Ready?

  • pork
  • water
  • salt
  • paprika
  • garlic
  • fennel

What?  No nitrates?  Celery juice?  BHT?  Corn syrup?  Artificial flavors?  “Natural” smoke flavor?  Vegetable protein?

Nope.

What does it taste like?  Pork.  Seasoned pork.  Period.  A hint of the paprika, garlic and fennel comes through, as it should, giving this sausage a little kick; it’s a perfect grind, not too coarse, not so fine that it resembles an emulsified product.

The shops have every type of meat/protein product you can imagine, in any quantity you desire.   Whether you want a single weenie , a whole roast pig, or a holiday meal to take home and heat up,  these are they guys in the NW burbs.  I’m unclear how the two shops are affiliated, and wasn’t able to find out online.  Doesn’t really matter tho, does it?

Meeske's Haybeck's

Fresh Sausage in Pack

 

Meeske's, Haybeck's

Fresh Italian Sausage

 

Meeske's  Haybeck's

Beautiful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeskes

Butterball Turkey Reviews

A registered trademark since 1940, “Butterball”  came into wide use in the 60s by Swift & Company and the brand was eventually spun to ConAgra.  Today the line of fresh and frozen turkeys and a host of turkey derived products is owned by Kansas based Seaboard Corporation, a diversified multinational, that also operates other food companies like Prairie Fresh pork products, heat and eat pork products featuring Sweet Baby Ray’s sauces, and Daily’s processed pork products, like bacon, hams, and sausage.  Vertically integrated in the pork business, Seaboard owns their own kill plants, processing 19,000 hogs daily at their Guymon, OK location.

Today Butterball, based in North Carolina, sells over a billion pounds of turkey annually, which includes the processed products, like hot dogs, sausage, cold cuts, bacon, and ground turkey.  (Do you realize that a billion pounds translates roughly into 66 million turkey legs?  Who knew there was enough Renaissance Fairs to handle all that product?)

One such product is a heat and eat meal, “Everyday Chef Selects” Turkey Breast and Gravy.  This 15 ounce package can be heated as a boiling bag or 5-6 minutes in the microwave, and seems pretty straightforward on the ingredient side.  According to the package, this product is put together at Smithfield’s  RMH Foods plant in Morton, IL, USDA establishment 17789B (pictured below).

The most important thing about the ingredient list is that it does NOT include the phrase “may contain a solution of XX %……To me, brine injected beef, pork, and poultry has the most horrible texture.  I just can’t stomach (or chew) it.

So I went with the boiling bag heating option, simmered for about seven minutes (after bringing the water to a boil).  I was pleased to open the bag and find actual ‘chunks’ of turkey muscle meat, and not “chopped, pressed, and formed” slices.  Whew.  This product is good, surprisingly good.  And for the single person or couple that can’t or doesn’t want to shell out $25  – $30 for a whole turkey,and go to the hassle of fixing a huge holiday meal, this is a good solution.   Product plated, pictured below (mashed potatoes not included in package).  I generally don’t enjoy reheated poultry of any kind, but this product doesn’t give you that tactile/taste sensation. I’d buy it again.  I might stock up if they can be frozen.  Time to make a call!

The only exception I take with the packaging is that it suggests it serves “three.”  Doubtful.

There’s probably not a person in the country that doesn’t know you can contact the Butterball Hotline (1-800-BUTTERBALL) (800-288-8372) during holiday periods, or check their website for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cooking a turkey.

 

RMH Foods Butterball Plant

RMH Foods, Morton, IL

 

Butterball Heat and Eat  Review

Consumer Packaging

Butterball Heat and Eat Review

Cooking Bag

 

Butterball Turkey Review

Plated

 

 

 

 

 

Butterball Turkey Reviews

 

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