I was visiting a friend, and her command cooking request was for me to whip up a pot of gumbo, eat some now, freeze some individual servings, and I’m always delighted when people ask me to cook for them. Validation. I remember the first time recognition really happened, we were hosting a dinner party in Paris, and a stranger walked up to me and asked “did you make the mayonnaise?” Be still….
Anyway, my pal doesn’t live in an area with easy access to true Louisiana ingredients, so the closest we could come to traditional Andouille was Aidell’s “Cajun Style” Andouille.
Aidell’s has been around for about thirty years, started by a chef, primarily chicken sausages at the time, but a full line now, under the ownership of Hillshire, which recently was purchased by Tyson.
The ingredients list is straightforward: PORK, WATER, SALT, SPICES (INCLUDING RED,WHITE AND BLACK PEPPER), GARLIC, SUGAR, PAPRIKA, CELERY POWDER AND DEHYDRATED ONION.
“Celery powder” (or juice) is being used by manufacturers for flavoring and preserving, as a substitute for MSG. It has a little bit of naturally occuring nitrate in it.
These sausages are smoked, and thus pre-cooked. You can heat and eat in whichever method your prefer. I like charring them a bit in a cast iron skillet, adds to the illusion of having a natural casing. (Tho these do have a nice snap).
The ‘heat factor’ is minimum, you can taste the smoke and the celery. It’s a slightly coarse grind (pictured) much more appealing than andouille in France. Trust me on that one and never order it. You can find Aidells near you with their locator, or order online from their site.
Aidells andouille Sausage Review
As in any major metropolitan area, one has a multitude of breakfast choices in Chicago and its environs. An awful lot of the eateries are owned, or were started by Greeks, so it’s not unusual to see a co-mingling of Greek and American cuisines, regardless of the time of day. To wit: “scrambled eggs with gyro meat.” I’ve been to my fare share.
I hadn’t tried the Olympic, and locals talk about it, so off I went, and it was Sunday morning, and it was either suffer in silence a lengthy wait for a table or booth, or be seated immediately at the counter, which I don’t mind, there are always interesting things to observe.
Chicken Fried Steak was on special, and I’ve reviewed the dish in a lot of different locations, so I plunged in here, adding two over easy, rye toast, and crispy hash browns. I don’t know why I bother getting potatoes, I never eat them. But since they are included in most breakfast plates, they might as well put them in front of me for presentation sake.
At the Olympic, an ample amount of sausage gravy (quite peppery) covered the “steak,” which tasted like any mass production CFS anywhere. Eggs and taters were done to order, toast could have used more butter. Yes, I could have asked.
Service was quick and thorough. Two breakfasts, two coffees, $21 plus gratuity.
Will I go back? Probably.
Cafe Olympic Review
I love homemade condiments of any kind; I make killer mustard and mayos, and sauerkraut when I dig up some patience. Traditionally, kraut in my house was simple but time consuming. Spread layers of thinly sliced cabbage and kosher salt in non-reactive container, let sit for six weeks. It’s always worked, so I was doubtful when a friend told me a shortcut. Oh, excuse me, they are all “life hacks” now, aren’t they?
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon crushed toasted caraway seeds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Mix in non-reactive bowl, cover, microwave five minutes, let set 15 minutes and you’re good to go. Will keep covered in frig for a week or more. My first batch I skipped the caraway.
You may also skip the apple cider without harming the resulting product.
Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
Lou Malnati, and his father Rudy, managed Pizzeria Uno, one of the first outlets for “Chicago Deep Dish” pizza. Although Uno (now Uno Chicago Grill) claims to have invented the pie, local food historians give the credit to Rudy.
Lou and his wife Jean opened the first Lou Malnati’s in 1971, in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood. The rest is history, and the company now boasts 40 shops in the Chicago area and ships frozen pizzas nationwide.
The main difference between “Chicago deep dish” and similar pies in other parts of the country, is that in Chicago, the tomato sauce goes on top; many restaurants that offer a deep dish sausage pack the bottom of the crust with a blanket of cheese, then the sausage (or whatever you choose) and then the sauce.
I reviewed Gino’s frozen a couple years ago, and another Chicago deep dish, Edwardos, so a follow up with Malnati’s seems like a good idea. Baking instructions call for 425 and 35-40 minutes for the sausage pie. There’s a slight variance in the directions than you (we) are probably use to: “remove pizza from pan, wipe off any condensation that has formed, lightly oil pan (I used spray) and return pie to pan prior to placing in oven.”
After 40 minutes, I took this beauty out. In appearance, it closely resembles its restaurant cousin. It’s about 1 1/2″ deep, 9″ across, and weighs 24 ounces. I paid $12.99, ( @ .54 ounce) which is probably more that you will see it most groceries, I was in an “up market” store. At a Malnati’s restaurant, the same pie will set you back about the same amount. A large sausage goes for $20.25 at the time of this posting.
I’m really pleased with the end result; this is one of the more flavorful frozen pizzas I have encountered. Many people don’t understand that a “Chicago deep dish” is a THIN crust pizza, and is deep due to the ingredients. The crust was appropriately crispy, the cheese has really nice “pull,” the pie is wall to wall with the sausage, and the (chunky) tomato ‘sauce’ just pops with flavor.
When you look at the ingredient list, there aren’t any of those words you can’t pronounce or have no idea what they are. Example, the sausage is pork, salt, and spices. I’d do it again.
According to the packaging, these pies are made at USDA factory number 18498, at 3054 S. Kildare Ave., Chicago, which is apparently owned and operated by Home Run Inn pizza for their frozen pie operation. (factory pics below) HRI makes one of my favorite frozen thin crust pizzas.
If you’re rolling into Chicagoland, and want to hit a Malnati’s restaurant, you’ll find them here (note, some locations are carryout/delivery only).
Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review
You know I’ve written a lot about “gas station chicken,” or “fry delis” as they are called in the deep south. Counters inside of gas stations, c-stores, or truck stops, these enterprises sell freshly fried chicken, and sometimes sausage, fish, shrimp, eggrolls and the like.
The Calument gas station (formerly Spur) at the food of the Blatnik Bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, is home to Franks Fast N Fresh Deli, serving plate meals and individual pieces of chicken and other goodies early til late. They also have fries, corn dogs, cheese sticks and some sides.
The chicken is reportedly some of the finest to be found in Duluth-Superior. But then, what gas station chicken isn’t?
Locals “in the know” fondly call the gas station “Chicken Spur.” It’s on Hammond and N. Fifth Street, across from the Hammond Steak House in the map below. Lest out of towners get further confused, Superior is sometimes referred to as “Soup Town.”
Franks Fast N Fresh Deli
One of the earliest internet start-ups, Peapod came into being in the Chicago area in 1989 as a grocery delivery service. It has survived challenges from much better financed competitors (see WebVan debacle), and is presently held by the Dutch grocery company Royal Ahold. They are active in about a dozen cities and deliver groceries from their owned stores as well as warehouse operations. A more recent innovation is the company does the shopping only for you, and customers pick up their order at neighborhood centers.
Delivery fees max out at about $10, are less depending on the size of the order. The company has a very deep inventory of brands, including a house brand, and sell everything a modern brick and mortar grocery does, including meat, fish, produce, boxed goods, deli, pet food, beverages (including alcohol), and prepared meals. A separate category includes some hardware, household and office supplies.
Prices are close enough to regular stores so as to not hurt, and like your weekly grocery shopping, if you actually “shop” the Peapod website, you can save some money when you need to.
If there’s a drawback to the current service, it is that the minimum order is $60; one of the great services in the space was Pink Dot, in Los Angeles, from which you could order something as small as a single bag of chips, and they were working 24/7. Pink Dot has survived, but not grown.
The Peapod website is easy to navigate, and like most web enterprises these days, it’s intuitive, learns your preferences quickly, and has features like saved shopping lists.
You can receive delivery very quickly (at worst, by noon the next day), and there are delivery windows which offer discounts on the fee. You can specify whether or not you will be home for the delivery, and in that instance, the company packs perishables into cooler type containers.
I’ve used services like this in the past, Safeway had one on the West Coast for quite awhile, and I never had an error with them.
You’ll receive a text prior to arrival, you can pick a two hour window. If you’re on hand for delivery, the driver unpacks bags (separated by department) from sturdy cardboard boxes, and perishables from foam coolers within boxes. The driver doesn’t put your groceries away, but he does carry them inside if you wish. Deli meats are available in 1/2 pound increments, sliced to your specifications, and delivered in zip-locs.
My first order was about 30 items; there were no errors. Thumbs up.
So now it’s time to make a pastrami sandwich!
Peapod Grocery Delivery Review
I had read a number of reviews prior to stopping by, and I agree with some of both the pluses and minuses.
The beef burger itself was fine, tho small and rather flavorless for the price. The toppings I asked for (that usually go along with the lamb burger) made for an exciting sandwich, and included feta, tomato, cucumber, tzatziki sauce, and olive “tapenade.” The latter turned out to be a few (very few) diced Greek-style olives. The feta was very creamy and the sandwich was served on an ultra soft bakery style roll, which, although toasted, was not substantial enough to hold the burger and fixings without collapsing early on. I used to have a Greek deli in Portland make a burger dressed like this from time to time. You guys could be more generous with the olives and have a heartier bun for this one.
Started with three deviled eggs for $2, which were absolutely church-picnic bland. They need some jazzing up. Small order of truffle/parmesan fries at $4.50 had exceptional flavor that wasn’t overpowered by garlic mayo dipping sauce.
Just looking at the beef (star of the show), which you point out is “grass fed and organic,” eh. I like when joints these days identify their source/suppliers, and I found the patty at Epic Burger (from Creekstone Farms) to be more flavorful on its own.
A patty melt came around to the table, and it was properly cooked and prepared. Ice teas to drink, quite ordinary as well. So, one appetizer, two burgers, one small fries, two iced teas, $40. Pretty spendy.
Other people have pointed out a few things that I agree with – this place is really loud, the tables are too close together, service is so-so, and the restaurant is kind of in indentity crisis mode. Is it a spectacular burger bar? House of many microbrews? Ice creamery? I suggest picking one and doing it really well.
Some other diners have suggested this is a good place to bring kids, but I disagree, why spend $10-$15 on a kid’s burger or mac and cheese (there is no children’s menu). Plus you’re not going to be able to talk to your kids, because of the noise volume.
Other diners complained about not being able to make substitutions, but my server gave me no problem on that. She did say all burgers are cooked to medium after I requested medium rare, but if you judge from the picture, I think I got my way. These are thin smashed patties, and it’s awfully tough to control doneness in the to a level other than “done.”
Here’s the full menu for DMK.
DMK Burger ReviewDMK Burger Review
Maid Rite is the brand name for a franchised group of restaurants that sell what is generically referred to as “loose meat sandwiches.” Created by a butcher in Muscatine, Iowa, there are plus/minus a hundred outlets in the Upper Midwest selling Maid Rite type sandwiches, whether they are paying to use the name, or not.
If you are not from, or have traveled through the Upper Midwest, you still may have heard to this specialty via telecoms: Roseanne used to refer to them, and her and (then ) husband started a restaurant to sell them in his home town of Ottuma, Iowa, which was also the fictional home town of Cpl Radar O’Reilly on MASH.
So what the heck are they? Crumbled ground beef, cooked on a steam table with a bit of mustard and finely diced onions stirred on. A scoop is placed on a lightly steamed hamburger bun, and there you are. Ketchup and mustard on the tables.
I stopped into one of the first ones, in Springfield, IL, on the old Route 66; the Springfield outlet is also credited with having the first fast food drive through in America. It’s on the National Historic Register, in fact.
Their menu is simple: Maid rites, Cheese maid rites, hot dogs, fries, soft drinks including a house-brew root beer. Lunch is gonna cost you about $7.00. I actually think it’s kinda spendy for what it is. BTW? Be sure you pay attention to the “rules,” when dining in house (below).
Maid Rite Review
At some point in time, ancient history, a New Orleans restaurant, most likely Port of Call, decided giant loaded baked potatoes were the perfect accompaniment to burgers. Not so, sez I. But it was a thing, and the thing has spread, and become a trend, so you can find the combo around down, including at Yo Mama’s, a raucous dive bar just off Bourbon Street in the Quarter.
Yo makes giant burgers, with giant toppings, and giant baked potatoes, or you can substitute a petite side salad for your spud. Which I actually did. No, I am not lying. Except they really aren’t petite, either, so I guess that’s a little lie. It’s an ample salad.
I went with the bacon burger, probably 4-6 ounces of cooked, crumbled delicious pork strips atop the burger. There are a lot of choices for toppings, as you can note on the menu below.
If there’s a downside to Yo’s, it’s that the background music isn’t – it’s very loud —– but the upside is, it’s the soundtrack to the 60s and 70s, so get ready for a giant serving of Stairway to Heaven or Layla with your giant burger and tater.
The joint opens at 11 AM on weekdays, 10 AM on weekends, and stays open til …… you know, places that say “til” on their hours. That could mean, they never close (as so many places in the French Quarter don’t, or that could mean, “fuck it, let’s close, there’s nobody here.”
Either way, it’s a burger to behold.
Yo Mamas Review
Apparently, this product was around before, I wasn’t aware of it. It’s back for an LTO in another attempt from McDonalds to win back old customers or win new ones. The Chicken Select Tenders are described by the company as “Our juicy Chicken Select Tenders are made of 100% chicken tenderloin and are seasoned to perfection. Try them with your choice of flavorful dipping sauces.” Sauce choices include ranch, buffalo, honey, sweet and sour, honey mustard, bbq, or habanero. I passed on sauces in order to get the full benefit of tasting the product.
They come three to an order for $2.99 plus tax, so a buck a piece. The first thing I noticed was the tenders are notably smaller than the ones appear to be in the television advertising. They are certainly much smaller than some competitors.
On my “tenders smackdown” tour of the south last year, I developed some strong leanings towards favorites, for sure. Had McDonalds been offering the Selects at the time, I would have included them, but they wouldn’t have made my top five.
I guess they are one of those products that you just sigh and say “it is what it is.” In other words, they qualify as “OK.” I don’t think they are a very good value, and “seasoned to perfection” is up for debate, and they seem to be devoid of seasoning, except for a little black pepper in the breading.
LTO means “Limited time offer” and that they won’t be around forever. And that’s fine with me.
McDonalds Chicken Select Tenders Review