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Prima Della Pastrami Review (Wal Mart’s House Brand)

Prima Della Pastrami ReviewI’ve looked at several pastrami (and corned beef) brands recently, including the grocery store version of NYC’s  Carnegie Deli, Vienna Beef, from Chicago, and Dietz & Watson.

Today I picked up a pound of “Prima Della,” ($9.99) which is the Wal Mart deli counter’s in-house brand.

According to the USDA plant number on the package, the pastrami is manufactured by Best Provision, LLC, out of Newark, New Jersey.  According to their website, Best is a family owned and operated concern, more than six decades old, and they focus on private label manufacturing of cooked beef products.  For most of their products, they offer a choice of three different grades, “Certified Angus,” “USDA choice,”  and “ungraded.”

No idea which ilk of meat Wal Mart chooses for their selections.

Wal Mart deli meats are priced at 15-25% less than the ‘national brands,” and for some deli counter products, this might be OK.

While the Prima Della pastrami looks and smells like a quality product,  it’s one of those prepared meat products which really falls down on texture or “chewability.”  So many deli meats (and roasts, chickens, and pork roasts) today have that same texture, and it’s really started to bug me.  I have no idea what happens in the manufacturing process to cause this malady, but I suspect it has to do with that phrase one often sees emblazoned on packages (“injected with a XX% solution of XXXX”), which I generally believe is used to soften (and/or flavor) meat muscle and is most like a salt-derivative product, but it’s also a way for manufacturers to add 10% or more weight to their product at little or no cost.

I don’t like it.  In an effort to please the masses, food manufacturers are making products as  ‘palatable’  (and tender) as possible.  Hence, these products no longer taste or chew like animal flesh.  Think of brine injected meats as the Fox News of the meat manufacturing world.

For my money, I’ll keep spending the extra 20% or so to get whole muscle, no additive, deli meats.  While they are still being made.

Best Provisions LLC is located on Avon Avenue, right behind Millie’s Restaurant, which offers Spanish cuisine from 6 AM seven days a week, and free delivery, if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Prima Della Pastrami Review

Best Provision Factory

Prima Della Pastrami Review

Aerial, Best Provision Factory

Prima Della Pastrami Review

Broadway Pizza Review, Minneapolis

Broadway-bar-original-1953His name was John Spallaci, and he moved to Minneapolis from Italy, bringing his special family pizza recipe with him. In 1953, he opened Spallaci’s Pizza (pictured left) in North Minneapolis, and in 1961, sold the business and recipe to Eddie and Mamie Peck. Cranking out quality pies was a high priority for the new owners, so they ground their own sausage and mixed their own sauce in house, as well as making fresh dough daily.  Those processes won them a lot of loyal customers, so when the new Interstate 94 came plowing through the neighborhood in the early 70s, Eddie and Mamie stayed on the north side of the city and  set up their new operation overlooking the Mississippi, in the heart of the old railroad yards, and the customers followed in droves.

In an homage to the history of the neighborhood, the Peck’s new restaurant took on a railroad theme, including seating in box cars.

In the early 70s, the first time I lived in the Twin Cities, the original location of Broadway was one of my ‘go-to’ places.  Today they have more than a dozen locations, are opening more corporate stores and franchising.

In addition to pizza, they have wings, sandwiches and plate dinners, and they still make the sausage, sauce and dough in house.  Our Minnesota reporter Kawika stopped in the Champlain, Minnesota location, for a sausage/pepperoni, half olive/half mushroom recently, and said it was (to his delight) one of the thinnest cracker crusts he’d ever encountered, and Minnesota is bereft with thin crust choices.

He took a feigned exception to the advertised special of an Hawaiian pizza, having lived in the 50th state for years; apparently to the authentically inclined, the ‘real’ Hawaiian has to have peanut butter as one of the toppings, and certainly not “jalapeno bacon.”  No damage done, hower.

The bar portion of the restaurant was hopping at 11 P on a Saturday nite, and most locations serve food til late.



Broadway Pizza Review Minneapolis


Broadway Pizza Review Minneapolis





Broadway Pizza Review

Landshire Double Charbroil Review

Landshire Burger ReviewAnd the quest for the perfect gas station sandwich goes on;  as you know, I’ve tried a lot of these over the years, as a search of the site will reveal. There have been profiles of industry giant AdvancePierre, (who also makes the frozen Steak N Shake burgers), and regional companies like “Mom’s” out of Fort Worth.   I’ve had ’em from the Dollar Store, AM/PM, Walgreens, various gas stations, grocery stores,  you name it.  Done that, been there.

If you have the slightest curiousity about how sandwiches are made “em masse,” I found this video a year ago.

Today’s victim is from Landshire, a fifty year old firm outside of St. Louis, recently acquired by the aforementioned AdvancePierre.  Landshire cranks out over 50,000,000 sandwiches a year, both the ready to eat and heat and eat variety, which end up on the shelves of C stores, gas stations, groceries, and in vending machines across the country.

In the case of the “Double Charbroil with Cheese,” it as on the shelf at WalMart.  Instructions call for heating it for less than a minute, in the wrapper with one end cracked.

The sandwich weighs 6 ounces and is comprised of two beef patties (beef, textured vegetable protein and a gaggle of other ingredients), American and “mild white” cheese, and a “fresh baked sesame seed bun.”  The package is boldly emblazoned with “New Look!”

The taste and texture is OK, better than most of these types of products.  It has a little hint of “grill flavor” (smoke) on it, and it’s kind of salty it seems. The bun survived the microwave well. Sometimes you can get very unsatisfactory results with microwave buns (hard as a rock or mushy) or at least I have.  The bottom bun is a little ‘damp’ from the steam created during the cooking stage, but that dissipates if you let the sandwich sit a minute before consuming. (You were gonna pile on the condiments, anyway, weren’t you)?

Nutritional make-up is not on the package, nor on the website even though there is a page for it. Depending on those figures, these are probably good to keep on hand for quick kid meals.

I’d buy it again if I had the quick burger urge. A lot better value than comparably sized fast food offerings.

Landshire Burger Review

In package, prior to nuking

Landshire Burger Review

Out of the microwave


Landshire Burger Review

Landshire Factory





Landshire Double Charbroil Review


Big Daddys Review, Duluth, MN

Stopped in here before, yakked about it then.  May be one of Duluth’s best.  Kawika, head of the Minnesota burger posse was back today for the third pound, American cheese, medium rare, and a gajillion fresh cut fries.  Most excellent.  Full menu online.  Find ’em at the top of Piedmont Avenue. Fresh ground daily, hand made patties.

Big Daddys Duluth Review




Big Daddys Review

Rooftop Garden McCormick Place, Chicago

Urban Rooftop Farm ChicagoI first learned about urban/rooftop gardens from my friend Sara Pool, Portland, Oregon’s leading garden and foraging expert. .  She is a big advocate of this kind of thing, and Portland has been an early adapter of the concept.

Attending the National Restaurant Show this past week, I was interested to learn about the garden atop the convention center, McCormick Place. Depending on who is measuring and what criteria is being used, McCormick Place may well be the largest convention center in the world, at over 2.5 million square feet.  It opened  in 1960 at a cost in today’s dollars of nearly a cool billion.

Savor, the consulting group responsible for the food service at the center, partnered with the Chicago Botanic Garden to set up a usable urban farm on the roof of the center.

The garden covers two and a half acres and supplies thousands of pounds of beets, kale, carrots, lettuce, peppers, beans and herbs to Savor’s own outlets in the center, as well as to local restaurants.  Savor’s use takes “farm to fork” to an entirely new level of definition.  20,000 honey bees and 2,000 earthworms hang around to do their part in garden production.

Another benefit of the garden is the Chicago Botanic folks use it as part of their internship program, so young volunteers are able to learn all about where their food comes from and how it gets to their kitchens.

Urban Rooftop Farm Chicago



Fuddruckers Review

Fuddruckers ReviewSpoiler alert.  I really enjoyed this visit.   Can’t remember when the last time was that I stopped in a Fuddruckers, but it was certainly prior to their menu expansion, including “exotic” burgers, like elk, boar, turkey, kobe, and others (depending on location).

I went with the elk ($9.99) and it was cooked to order, got a side of rings ($2.70) and an iced tea ($1.75).

The “fixins” bar, (mustard, mayo, molten cheese,  ketchup, garlicy dill chips, onion, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato and more) was well stocked and immaculate.

This location had the Coke Freestyle fountain machines, that pack 100 + varieties of soda and other Coke products into a single vend operation.

The fries had seasoned salt on them, I can take that or leave it, but it was a pretty light dusting.  The onion rings are cut thin and have a light crispy breading.

There are a lot of other menu choices, both for mains, and sides.

One kind of “oh oh” for me is both the fries and rings came from a warming tray, so they could have been fresher, and I’d also like to see mini trays or plates at the fixings bar.

Other than that?  When I want a fast-casual burger, Fuddruckers is my new go-to place!

Fuddruckers Review

Elk Burger on Wheat Bun

Fuddruckers Review

Fuddruckers on Urbanspoon
Fuddruckers Review

Big Chef Review – Schaumburg, IL

Big Chef Review SchaumburgClassically trained chefs open burger restaurants.  As sign of the times, one suspects, and capitalizing on an “American craze” the past few years.  I don’t know what started the current infatuation with burgers, tho I thought personally it was a reflection of the economic downturn – people still wanted to go out for beef, but steaks had become a little dear on menus.

In any regard, chef Crisitano Bassani, of the classic Italian Bapi Restaurant in suburban Chicago, got bit by the burger bug and opened “Big Chef” in Schaumburg.  It’s kind of tough to spot, set back in a strip mall, but if you’re heading east on Alqonquin and you hit Meachem, you’ve just missed it.

I was on my way somewhere else and the sign caught the corner of my eye, I made a quick uey into the parking lot and walked in.  Mid afternoon, Sunday, and the (perhaps) 60 seat eatery had one other table of four occupied, and a table of about ten young men who were just finishing up.

Unlike most new fangled burger restaurants these days, Big Chef has table service and linens.  A server brought a large bottle of water, a tall glass of ice, and the menu (how did they know about me and the water thing?).

The menu offers a number of interesting combination burgers (around $12 with one side), brick oven pizzas, and huge salads.  There is a full bar, with about ten stools in front of it, and an open kitchen design with a bar and stools facing it, as well.

Every day there is a special deal for extended hours, whereas any burger, salad, or pizza is $8.99.

I went with the bacon burger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and a well-melted spicy cheddar (don’t you hate it when there’s a slice of cold, unmelted cheese slapped on a burger – I sure do!).  You have  choice of buns from white, pretzel, onion, or wheat. Patties are a half pound of fresh ground hormone free angus.  Side choices are fries, sweet potato fries, house made chips, rings,  mashed or slaw.

The meat came as ordered (medium rare) accompanied by massive onion rings, with a light “panko-like/herb) coating, very crispy.  I opted for the pretzel roll, which is almost always my favorite, but the results can be good or bad, depending on the recipe.  Some pretzel roll doughs are laden with molasses, and it’s too sweet a bun for a savory burger, in my opinion.

The patty itself was very flavorful, and the vegetables fresh and crisp.  I didn’t feel the need to salt either the meat or rings, which is unusual for me.

I recommend your try Big Chef.  Desserts and ice cream concoctions also available. Full menu.

Big Chef Review Schaumburg

Bacon Burger w/ Rings


Big Chef Review SchaumburgBig Chef Review Schaumburg



Big Chef Burgers on Urbanspoon

Lobster Sliders Review


Lobster Slider ReviewI was so “kitchen bored” today, thought I would try out the “Lobster Sliders” I grabbed at dollar store a couple weeks ago.

Made by the “Pride and Joy” brand, part of Indian Ridge Shrimp Company out of Cauvin, LA, the (total weight) 3.5 ounce patties are made from lobster meat, bread crumbs, egg, spices, and a zillion other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

You can pan fry them (I did) or bake them, and the instructions cautions that they ‘burn’ easily, and I found that out.

They taste ‘vaguely’ like lobster, but more like a fast food fishwich without a crunchy coating. Worth a dollar? Sure. Worth buying again? Not for me.

Buns are not included. I dressed it with Cajun seasoning, mayo and diced dills.

Lobster Slider Review

Frozen, out of box

Lobster Slider Review

5 Min/Side, Fry Pan



Lobster Sliders Review

Zeitgeist Arts Cafe Update – Duluth, MN

Reviewed this is the past, here’s some updated photos from the latest menu; they sure didn’t have this kind of fancy-pants food in Duluth when I was growing up. Nope, exotic back then was …………maybe………..Egg Foo Yung.

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

Zeitgeist Arts Cafe

Bacon Wrapped Gouda Stuffed Dates

Zeitgeist Arts Cafe

Prosciutto Club



Zeitgeist Arts Cafe


Pizza Consumption & Order Methology Infographic

Get a Bigger Piece of the Pie [infographic]
Get a Bigger Piece of the Pie [infographic]
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