Geez, I just get finished with my “deli roast beef” smackdown, and I run into Certified Angus Brand on sale, which I previously had skipped over. Certified is a brand that was created by a group of Angus ranchers in the late 70s, who wanted to produce a higher quality product, held to higher standards.
This is a good one, deserving to be in the top 5, if not top 3; clearly “whole muscle” meat, and by the taste and texture, lacking the dreaded “injected solution.”
I like it. I’ll be back. Here’s where to find Certified Angus Brand products, at stores and restaurants.
Certfied Angus Brand Deli Corned Beef
I love, love, love, beef sticks and jerky. They are tasty, relatively harmless health wise, and an inexpensive ‘pick-me-up.’ Better for you than a Red Bull, I imagine, and certainly better for you than a Snickers.
I’ve even journeyed to outlet stores in search of quantity stock-up deals to satisfy the late Mrs. BurgerDogBoy’s jerky appetite; there’s one for Jack Links in Minong, Wisconsin, a couple in the Pacific Northwest for Oberto, (Seattle and Albany, OR), and Tillamook Country Smoker has one next to their plant in the Oregon town of the same name. (While in the town, go tour the cheese / ice cream factory!) (free samples!).
Today we had 7-Eleven’s house brand, 7-Select, both beef and pepperoni varieties. I’ve been a fan of these for some time, they have a diminutive size that used to be 4 / $1 that I was quite fond of (still am, but price has been jacked.
In the past couple decades, 7-Eleven has made a move away from being your mega chips and soda provider to having ‘healthier’ options, even some fresh packed salads and sandwiches, with manufacturing contracted out to top regional suppliers. In the Northwest, for example, a number of the 7-Eleven sandwiches are made by Lufthansa’s catering division. House brands for the c-store chain has been a brilliant move, enabling them to offer priced competitive products with in-house quality control.
The 7-Eleven version of beef snack sticks are made from beef and mechanically separated chicken, smoke flavor and a smattering of spices. The large ones are less than an ounce of meat, at around $1.50, making that snack stick clock out in the $24 per pound range, about the same as most beef jerky products.
The taste and texture is fairly indistinguishable from competitors; beef sticks are an ‘extruded’ product, meaning, the ingredients are made into a slurry and then forced through a mold prior to smoking.
The snacks are manufactured for 7-Eleven by Monogram Foods, which was created in 2004 when some investors bought some “orphan brands’ off Sara Lee. Monogram has a number of its own brands, Wild Bill’s, Hannah’s, Trail’s Best, O’Brien’s, King Cotton, Circle B Brand, Enjoy and Hickory Best, and some licensed product as well, Bass Pro Shops®, Butterball®, Glory Foods®, Johnsonville®, Realtree®. Monogram has just made a major move into the frozen appetizer business with the acquisition of the (reported) $100 million revenue Golden County Foods out of Wisconsin.
Monogram has a half dozen plants around the country; their website lists that their snack meat plant is in Chandler, MN (pictured below), but the USDA establishment number on the product points to a facility in Martinsville, VA.
7-Eleven Meat Snack Review
It may not be delivery, it’s “Digiorno,” but for me, another “d” word motivates me to buy this brand: “desperation.”
Translation? I’m in the mood for a frozen pie and happen to be someplace where this is the only thing available. In the case of last night, at a 7-Eleven, where the self-rising pepperoni was priced at $6.99.
Opening the box, right away I don’t like it, there’s a weird “chemical” smell from the box, which isn’t from the vacuum sealed pizza, but rather ingredients or ink in the cardboard? In any regards, it’s unappealing to me.
Pie-wise, I’m not a fan of thicker crusts. I prefer more cheese and toppings make up the calorie count, rather than bread.
Digiorno is owned by Nestle, along with Jack’s, Tombstone, and some other brands, it was part of a 2010 $3.7 billion acquisition from Kraft, who needed to raise money for other acquisitions. Regardless of what I personally think, apparently Digiorno is the number one frozen brand in the U.S. There’s a reason, I’m sure and it’s not to do with ‘value pricing,” though I did see a woman earlier in the day at a grocery picking up a half dozen, as they were on sale for less than $4 a pop.
It’s a very “non offensive,” pizza, mild toppings, mild sauce, fairly adequate cheese, and it’s probably very filling for a family meal, due to the calories in the bread.
In all fairness, before this pizza hits by pie hole, it has been seriously altered at home, with more toppings, spices, and herbs. So it’s not a very unbiased ‘review.’
The pies are made at a massive factory in Little Chute, Wisconsin, at USDA establishment M5754. Little Chute is parked along the Fox River adjacent to the Appleton-Neenah area. (pix below).
The pies have a whole raft of ingredients, including the dreaded mechanically separated chicken, something I try and avoid.
INGREDIENTS: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, LOW-MOISTURE PART-SKIM MOZZARELLA CHEESE (PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), PEPPERONI MADE WITH PORK, CHICKEN AND BEEF (PORK, MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, BEEF, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SPICES, DEXTROSE, PORK STOCK, LACTIC ACID STARTER CULTURE, OLEORESIN OF PAPRIKA, FLAVORING, SODIUM NITRITE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, PAPRIKA, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVOR, BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID), TOMATO PASTE, SUGAR, 2% OR LESS OF WHEAT GLUTEN, VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN OIL AND/OR CORN OIL), DEGERMINATED WHITE CORN MEAL,YEAST, SALT, DEGERMINATED YELLOW CORN MEAL, SEASONING BLEND (SALT, SPICE, DRIED GARLIC), BAKING POWDER (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE), DATEM, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, ASCORBIC ACID (DOUGH CONDITIONER)
CONTAINS: MILK, WHEAT.
Digiorno Self Rising Pizza Review
I’ve written a whole lot about the products from Cincinnati-based Advance Pierre, the premiere “heat and eat” and “gas station sandwich” maker in the U.S. Often, besides in vending and C-stores, you’ll find their frozen products at dollar stores.
You know how much I love chicken fried steak? I’ve tried it all over the country, both from restaurants and the heat and eat varieties.
This product was made in the plant pictured below, and is comprised of beef, mechanically separated turkey, and, not kidding, about 150 other ingredients. Nuke of 90 seconds, stir “gravy,” nuke another 30, let sit for 30, and then “enjoy.”
Now ordinarily, I’d put this product in the category of “I tried so you don’t have to.” But I didn’t really “try” it. I had one bite and it was so awful, I couldn’t go on.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef
One of hundreds (thousands) of independent “hot dog” (for lack of a better description) stands, Kojaks, in the Chicago NW suburb of Cary, serves satisfying Chicago staples, cooked to order, at value pricing. Dogs, sausage, burgers, gyros with the proper side dishes, and an expanded menu that includes items beyond what most of its competitors offer.
Located right across the street from the Cary Metra station, Kojaks is apparently a big supported of local youth sports, too, which is a good thing. Kojaks is similar to Mr. Beefy’s, just down the street, but I think Kojak’s has a leg up (or two) on them.
Open Monday through Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM, closed on Sundays.
July 23 each year is designated as “National Hot Dog Day,” (July is National Hot Dog Month!) and why not? Each summer, during the “hot dog season” Americans consume 7 billion (yes, with a “B”) hot dogs between Memorial and Labor Day.
Meatheads, a fast growing burger chain in the Chicago area, serves their hot dogs “New England Style” which means the bun is more like a piece of toast in the shape of a bun, but not as crunchy, of course.
While many places had special hot dog deals for the “holiday,” I chose Meatheads because they serve the top quality dogs from Chicago’s Vienna Beef company.
I had mine with mustard and kraut, and a side of Meathead’s most excellent fries.
National Hot Dog Day
But major league baseball lost its appeal some years ago, and now I limit my attendance to minor league games, the A, AA, and AAA affiliates of the ‘bigs,” and even more than that, I enjoy going to minor league professional games that are made up of independent teams – those leagues not affiliated with an majors.
For one reason, and one reason only. These guys, mostly “kids,” play almost solely for “the love of the game.” An infinitesimal amount of them ever get noticed by the majors, and most get paid about $600 a month. The particular league I am following the salary cap FOR THE ENTIRE TEAM is $75,000 a year. Wow.
There are guys in the majors that make that, and more, per GAME.
Also in this league, the players can be no older than 26, 1/3 of the roster is permitted to have 2 or more years of experience, 1/3 of the roster can have 1 year experience, and 1/3 of the roster has to be rookies. Most players come from the ranks of undrafted college players, or guys that did get a major league call and didn’t last a season.
In other words, these guys are playing their hearts out, not for money, not for fame, but for love of the game. None that I have observed have ever been too busy to high five a kid in the stands, or autograph a ball or program.
The team owners, on the other hand, are there to make a profit, and try every conceivable method to bring in money, whether it’s the advertising on the outfield walls, video monitor, sponsorships on uniforms, renting out the stadium for other events. I’m pretty sure no one is getting rich owning these teams, whereas in the leagues affiliated with the majors, you’ll find very profitable enterprises, as the affiliated major league team pays most of the operating expenses of the minor league affiliates – travel, salaries, equipment and so on.
Since I generally write about food, I will here as well, and at most parks, you’ll find food and beverage prices to rival the majors, but with a more limited selection. Whereas the majors, the past few years, are all about dazzling culinary choices, at these small independent teams, you’ll find dogs, burgers, beer, peanuts, popcorn and the like.
At the ballpark I just attended, the burgers were from Glenmark, a Chicago manufacturer of IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) burger patties, so they weren’t very satisfactory. Add a couple of bucks to the price and you can have a ‘deluxe’ with fresh cut vegetables, which probably would have amped up the whole experience. I didn’t. The condiment table was kind of lacking, as well, and the mustard pump, didn’t.
Beer was around $7, a bottle of water $3.75.
It was “fake Jimmy Buffet” nite, so they had his music playing throughout the game and margaritas on sale.
Parking was free, and the most expensive game ticket (a couple rows up, first base line, was $10. The last time I priced a major league game, tickets were from $40 – $250. How do you take your young son at those prices?
But with the minors, you can go weekly, or more, if you’re so inclined.
Because you’re going “for the love of the game.”
The home team lost last night, but the real action came at the top of the 2nd, when the visitor’s coach had a fit and got ejected. That was exciting.
Minor League Baseball
As sweet and intense as the recollection of my first kiss is my memory of the first (and second) time I ever tasted Key Lime Pie.
I was attending a broadcaster’s convention at the fabulous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. I was wasting a little time between sessions and stopped for a cup of coffee, and observed the table next to me being served a slice of green pie.
I inquired of the waitress.
“Key Lime, sir, our specialty.”
“I better try a slice.”
It came. I took a forkful, let it hang around my taste buds for a few moments. I swooned. I was in love.
Key Lime pie is a baked “custard like” confection, with a graham cracker crust, sugar, eggs, sour cream, condensed milk, and the zest and juice of Key limes.
(The Key lime is a citrus hybrid, smaller than traditional limes, with a thinner rind, native to Southeast Asia, but the name comes from its association with cuisine of the Florida Keys. It is aromatic, juicy, and much more flavorful than conventional similar citrus fruits).
I liked the pie so much that while journeying home, having a layover at Chicago’s O’Hara airport, I again found myself with time to waste, and wandered over to the airport’s Hilton, and lo and behold, there on the menu in the coffee shop, was my adored pie. I indulged.
I’m not much of a baker, and although Key lime pies are available commercially, they are just not very satisfying.
Then along comes inventor/entrepreneur Kim Harvey. Kim’s kitchen dream was to attempt to replicate one of her grandmother’s confectionery specialties, the “Mexican Wedding Cake” cookie. A small round sweet baked cookie, dusted in powdered sugar. People of German descent make a variation of this cookie that is anise, nutmeg, and cinnamon flavored, called “Pfeffernusse.”
Kim’s desire to make the best cookie available provided her with the inspiration to make her cookies have a “Key Lime” flavor, and genius was born. Kim’s cookies, in a 7.75 attractive tin (which can be personalized for use as corporate or affinity gifts) are packed full of tart/sweet Key lime flavor, and are available at a number of retailers, as well as online. They are available in the dusted powder sugar recipe, or dipped in white chocolate. Buy them by the tin or in bulk.
It’s refreshing to find a confection like this, just the right amount of sweet, right size portion, where each bite gives you a burst of delicious yet cleansing citrus flavor.
Kim’s Key Lime Gourmet Cookies Review
Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, a melange of fermented vegetables, primarily cabbage, seasoned with garlic, cilantro, scallions and radish. It has been around since ancient times.
The original “aioli” is like mayonnaise, an emulsion of egg yolk, oil, and garlic. It is thought to have originated in Provence, France. There are many variations on the recipe in different cultures and regions across Europe.
Tulkoff Foods of Baltimore is seizing on the trend of introducing exciting flavors to American consumers, and has rolled out Spicy KimChi Aioli. It can be used as a mayonnaise replacement on sandwiches, burgers, as a dressing or dip. It has an orange tint, and pieces of cilantro, garlic and cabbage are very evident. Hving lived in Asia for a number of years, I’ve become aware of some of the subtle nuances of regional foods, and am happy Tulkoff, for one, is introducing these flavors to the US market.
This is an exciting new addition to my condiment choices, and I usually have a raft of them, many sampled to be never used again. Not this. My first pass was on a chicken sandwich, and it took my lunch to an entirely new level. Added to a hamburger the next day, with “non-conventional” vegetables, such as raw cukes and radishes, it was an entirely new taste and texture sensation, transforming anold favorite into an all new favorite!
Tulkoff’s Spicy Kimchi Aioli comes in a partially clear 18 ounce squeeze bottle, with a hinge squeeze cap and sealed for safety on store shelves. It’s Orthodox Union certified Kosher.
Now in its third generation of family ownership, Tulkoff dates back to the early 1930s, when Harry and Lena Tulkoff started a small concern to sell produce. As their business grew, costumers took a special shine to the Tulkoff’s prepared horseradish, and the family opted to focus on that segment.
From that humble beginning, Tulkoff has grown into a national manufacturer and wholesaler of dressings, horseradish products, sauces, dips, and garlic products, in fact, over 400 products!
They are also well respected as a co-packer; a co-packer is a company that is contracted by other brands (or stores) to make products to the brand’s specifications.
The company has some very creative recipes on their website, worth checking out.
You can find Tulkoff products at many fine supermarket chains nationwide, check out this list for a chain near you! We’ll be reporting on more of Tulkoff’s offerings in the future, I am sure.
(Eds. Note) Product was furnished by the manufacturer for this review.
Tulkoff Spicy Kimchi Aioli
Kookers has served the posh Chicago suburb of Barrington for at least thirty years, that I am aware of, perched on US Highway 14. It was previously in a smaller facility on the north side of the road, and within the past few years, moved to a larger facility across the street. It was for sale for awhile before the move, not sure if it changed hands or not, but based on visits years ago, I would guess it has different owners.
They serve a typical “Chicago” menu of fast food, burgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, gyros, fried sides, plus some extended offerings in different day parts. Menu.
I so wanted to come away from my latest visit bubbling over with enthusiasm, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
I popped in mid afternoon and was the only customer, except for a man engaged in conversation with the counter person, apparently a conversation so engaging that it was more important than waiting on me. Strike one.
I place my order, for a cheeseburger (they have many cheeses to choose from, I went with blue) and walked into the bathroom. Wasn’t antiseptically clean and parts of it seemed to be held together with scotch tape and wire. The entrance to the men’s room is through a hallway which was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of various restaurant supplies. Strike 2. I don’t want to see that. I fear that standards of (lack of) organization or ‘cleanliness’ extends throughout an establishment.
It didn’t take long for the burger to be ready, but it really wasn’t anything special, a machine-formed patty and put together with a not very aesthetically pleasing appearance. Strike 2.5?
I gathered up some sections of newspaper that were laying around, perused them while eating my burger, which I finished in short order. Got up to leave (still the only customer) without any acknowledgement from the employee (“thanks!” “come back soon”).
My recollection of the previous long-time owner was people supported him for a couple reasons; one, he made a point to ‘know’ every customer and be hospitable, and two, he prided himself on quality ingredients.
Neither appears to be the case at the “new” Kookers, sadly.