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Archive for the ‘Barbecue’ Category

Brazil Express Grill Review, Schaumburg, IL


Brazil Express Grill ReviewBrazil Express Grill is a locally owned churrascaria (Brazilian style steak house). What’s a Brazilian style steak house?

Traditionally, servers come to your table with a variety of grilled meats on a skewer, and after ascertaining your interest, slice you off a piece.

Most often the meats are quality  cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and sausage.

And this can go on for as long until you want, or until you  fall into a “meat coma” with a smile on your face.

This whole meat fest takes place after trips (as many as you like) to an upmarket salad bar, with a variety of salads, including build your own components, as well as cheese, deli meats, soups and more.

The star of the show, meat wise, is a favorite cut of Brazilians, but rarely touted in the US – a cut of sirloin called Picanha.

Other cuts include filet mignon, bacon wrapped chicken, Portuguese sausage (a personal favorite).

You may have heard about other restaurants like this, there are a couple of small chains in the US, but even as a stand-alone mom and pop
operation, Brazil Express puts the big guys to shame, for a couple of reasons: 1) my experience at the bigger places has been that it
was difficult to get your meat selections prepared to your preferred ‘doneness’ level.

Not so at Brazil Express, they explicity ask you what your preference is when seated, and the meat skewers that are presented to you by servers are done to your preference. 2) As much as I like being served food the way I prefer it, I also prefer a great value, and a guest check at Brazil Express is going to clock in at a good 33 – 40% less than the chains, depending upon the time of day and day of the week. SWEET.

Should you have a hankering for Brazil style roasted meats, but no time to dawdle, Brazil Express has a very reasonable “per pound” take out price.

The restaurant is located in a strip mall on Roselle Road in Schaumburg, near a Jewel/Osco, south of Schaumburg Road, and just north of Wise
Road, about a half mile north of IL Rte 390 Tollway.

If the idea of perfectly prepared quality beef in endless quantities appeals to you, be sure to check out Brazil Expres Grill in suburban Chicago.  You’ll never go wrong supporting a locally owned and operated business.  (These are not my photos, but from the restaurant’s website, an unusual move for me, but I was too busy EATING!)

Hours and Prices


Brazil Express Grill Review

Server with skewer of deliciousness!


Brazil Express Grill Review

A bountiful salad bar awaits!

Brazil Express Churrasco Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Brazil Express Grill Review


Sujuk Sausage Review


Sujuk Sausage ReviewCouple weeks ago, I wrote about my visit to the Bulgarian grocery in Chicago.  One of the items I picked up was “Sujuk” sausage, which wikipedia defines as “a Sujuk is a dry, spicy sausage which is eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East and Central Asia.”

It has slightly different spellings by country. This is a pork, beef, seasoning link in a natural casing, sold raw. The label suggests it’s perfect for the grill or breakfast.

I really enjoyed it.  It’s full of flavor which resembles the source muscle, with a firm and chewy texture.  Much like the Spanish dry chorizo, but without the heat.  The density makes me think it might not be so manageable on a bun, but it was sure delicious pan-fried and sliced.


Sujuk Sausage Review

Pan fried and sliced







Sujuk Sausage Review


Big Als BBQ Review, Big Spring, TX


Al & Son BBQ ReviewRolling down I-20 Eastbound the other day, I happened into BIG Spring, Texas, on or about lunch time.  (In all candor, it’s always mealtime for me).

Heading down Gregg Street from the Interstate, I perused my BIG choices – Burger KING, home of the WHOPPER, BIG John’s Feed Lot, GREAT Wall, and then I spotted it – BIG Al’s and Son Bar-B-Q.  

I was greeted by an amiable server, and told the “rules” for dining at BIG Al’s. Proceed to the counter/serving station, choose the lunch plate or the BIG platter, and depending on whether you choose the lunch plate or BIG platter, you have a choice of two or four meats, or any combination thereof.  Pulled pork, my personal favorite, is seldom on the menu in Texas Q restaurants, so the choices were sausage, brisket, chicken,ribs, and/or “bodacious” ham.  I eschewed the ribs and chicken and loaded up on the other three.  At $8.95 for the BIG platter, I got to choose three vegetables (green beans, collard greens and corn on the cob won out), received a thick slab of Texas toast (BIG), ample amounts of butter, a choice of peach, apple, or cherry cobbler, and a BIG drink.  Dave Thomas wudda been proud.

My amiable server continued to provide me with BIG service throughout the meal, refilling my iced tea without being asked, and continually reminding me to save room for a BIG serving of home-made ice cream, which they whip up every morning.  He also extolled the virtues of other things on offer, whAl & Son BBQ Reviewich he encouraged me to try next time.  Among which was a BIG serving of Steak Fingers, which, according to my server, were MUCH better than Dairy Queen’s!

The brisket, sausage and ham were superb.  That dry-rub slow smoking process that Texas Q is famous for.  While most Texas Q’s don’t offer sauce (and the meat doesn’t need it), BIG Al’s had a choice of several one could use as accompaniments.  I passed on them.  I like to taste the BIG flavor of the meat.

As my eyes started to glaze over, and the ice cream was starting to melt, I put a BIG bill on the table and motioned for the server to come over.

He said, “What, you want some change?”  And I said, “No, that’s for you.”  His reply was “I don’t need that much!”

I said, “You may not need it, you may not want it, but you did earn it, BIG time.”

BIG Al’s is open for lunch and dinner most days, if you find yourself in BIG Spring.  1810 South Gregg Street,  (915) 267-8921.If you find yourself there without a car, and call the restaurant, BIG Al’s will send somebody to pick you up, so you can enjoy the BIG platter, and BIG Texas hospitality.

Update: Big Al’s is formally  known as Al & Son’s BBQ

Big Als BBQ Review


Zen Oriental Restaurant, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


When I lived in China, particularly in Guangzhou, it was before the flood of western restaurants showed up.  But there was one place we could go for a burger or ‘cue, and that was the Hard Rock, which was in a hotel owned by Singaporeans.  And the Singaporeans, they love their western foods.  (By the way, the Hard Rock didn’t last there, but now nearly every American fast food and fast casual restaurant chain is represented in the hundreds or thousands in China).

And so it goes that there are a lot of places in the world where the Hard Rock dutifully doles out food that westerners are used to, so as to not startle them with the local cuisine (like in Guangzhou, where we ate water beetles, snake, and you don’t wanna know…..).

In Puerto Vallarta, at the Hard Rock Hotel, you’ll find the Zen Oriental restaurant, dishing up Asian cuisine, including Izakaya (casual Japanese version of bar food), teppanyaki and sushi from the extensive a la carte menu.

Without further ado, here’s a selection of their dishes today.

Zen Oriental Puerto Vallarta


Zen Oriental Puerto Vallarta

Zen Oriental Puerto Vallarta


Zen Oriental Puerto Vallarta

Zen Oriental Puerto Vallarta



Zen Oriental Restaurant



Schaumburg, IL – Pilot Petes Restaurant Review 10/2015 Update


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.   (Update, October 2015).  Had their “hundred dollar burger” and onion blossom.  I added Asiago and onion straws to the 10 oz medium rare patty. Excellent. Pics down below.

PIlot Pete's Review

Fall Salad


Pilot Pete's Review

Cuban Sandwich and Fries


Pilot Pete's Review

Aviation Decor


Pilot Pete's Review


Pilot Pete's Review











Pilot Pete's on Urbanspoon

Pilot Petes Restaurant Review


Microwave Magic Cookware – New Product


Microwave Magic Cookware ReviewKim Harvey may well be the woman of my dreams – inventor, entrepreneur, kitchen magician,  bakery brainiac, yard yoda – she has  all the bases covered.

Ms Harvey reached out and asked me if I’d like to try out her “Microwave Magic” cookware – patented technology to cook burgers (and other foods) in your microwave in minutes.

With proprietary technology, the unit steams, vents and browns ground beef with less mess and hassle than your usual cooking methods.

That’s right, no spattering grease or clean up from a skillet, no pre-heating your outdoor BBQ just to use for a couple of minutes.

As the internet’s acknowledged “burger expert” (LOL), I admit I was skeptical. If you’re a regular reader, you know that even if I have a product that CAN be microwaved, I usually opt for the conventional oven method.

So the trial began. I took a pound of 85/15 chuck and divided it into four portions and pre-seasoned  (Generally Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning). The utensil has three pieces – a collection tray, the burger tray, and cover. The burger tray has pinholes in the bottom of the wells to allow fat to drip through to the collection tray – and yes, that means a healthier burger, as well!

Since this is the first time I have used this tool, I experimented with time, and after six minutes in a 1000w microwave, I produced a perfect medium well burger. I was amazed, truly, starting to eat the burgers, that there was absolutely no taste or texture difference than if I had fried or grilled the burgers. In the pic, you’ll even notice the patty browning, generally associated with direct heat cooking!

Here’s the even better news. A minute in soapy water and the Microwave Magic cookware is clean and ready to go. No wiping the range top, no scraping the grill grates. Sweet.

Microwave Magic kitchen tools will soon be available at selected outlets everywhere including TV shopping channels; until then, get ’em here. Dishwasher safe, unbreakable, and made in the USA!  Highly recommended.

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

Ground Beef in the Tray

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

Cover on, ready for microwave

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

Perfect Burgers in Minutes!

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

So Much Healthier, Fat Runs Off!





Microwave Magic Cookware


National Hot Dog Month


July is National Hot Dog Month, and we’re knee deep into the middle of the “hot dog season” in America.  The 4th holiday is one of our peak dog days. So here’s the poop on America’s favorite (and most portable) food!

Top Hot Dog Consuming Cities 2014

  • Los Angeles Hot Dog Consumption Statistics
  • New York
  • Atlanta
  • Philadelphia
  • Chicago
  • Birmingham
  • Boston
  • Detroit
  • Pittsburgh
  • San Francisco

Los Angeles residents consume more hot dogs than any other city (more than 39 million), beating out New York and Atlanta.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport consumes SIX times more hot dogs, 725,000 more than Los Angeles International Airport and LaGuardia Airport combined.

On Independence Day, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times.

During peak hot dog season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs. That’s 818 hot dogs consumed every second during that period.

Los Angeles Dodger fans are expected to consume a record 3,077,537 in 2014. Across the major leagues, fans are expected to eat 21.4 million hot dogs in 2014.

At the Grocery Store

According to data for the year 2014, nearly 1 billion packages of hot dogs were sold at retail stores. That number represents more than $2.5 billion in retail sales.

Baseball Games

According to the National Hot Dog Council’s (yes, there is one)  2014 survey of hot dog and sausage consumption at major league ballparks in the United States, ballparks are expected to sell 21,357,361 hot dogs this season.

The Season

Hot dog producers estimate that an average of 38 percent or $614 million of the total number of hot dogs are sold during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Ten percent of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July,


McCormick Grill Mates Sausages Review


McCormick Grill Mates Sausage ReviewWith over 8,000 employees and $4 billion in revenue, McCormick & Company is one of the undisputed leaders in the production and sale of spices and herbs.

They have been on an acquisition and strategic partnership tear as of late,which really appears to have been jump started in 2003 with the purchase of New Orleans based Zatarains. The union also gave McCormick an entry into the prepared meals arena.

In addition to their core brands, McCormick also owns Old Bay, Adolphs, Lawrey’s and others.

They are now (apparently) looking at expansion through licensing the use of their spice formulations and associated names. I noticed this at the market with a new product of “Montreal Seasoning” smoked sausages, which carry the McCormick label, but the reverse of the package informs us the links are distributed by Mexican food monster Sigma Alimentos’s US division, Bar-S, based in Phoenix. Bar-S markets over 250 meat products under eight brands, manufactured at five of their own production plants, as well as contract manufacturers.

This particular product was made at USDA Est 32009, Salm Partners in Denmark, Wi (near GreenBay). We previously took a look at them during our review of Jack Link’s (new) sausage line.There is a video of their plant in that review. (Pictures of plant below).

I didn’t look at the fine print on the packaging; had I been thorough, I might not have picked them up, as it clearly states these sausages are a “pork and turkey”product. The ingredient list goes on to say they use “mechanically separated turkey,” usually a no-no for me, and corn syrup and corn starch, other ingredients I’m not crazy about.

The links were around $3.00 (WalMart sale price) for six, total of 14 ounces.

Out of the package, there is no distinctive flavor-related odor, other than a slight hint of smoke.  The presence of the spices is evident in the picture below.  I chose the “Montreal Steak” flavor, because I am an enthusiastic user of that blend on burgers. and the McCormick website lists the blend having the following ingredients:  Coarse Salt, Spices (Including Black Pepper And Red Pepper), Garlic, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavor, And Extractives Of Paprika. Not sure what the “natural flavor” component would be.

I pan fried the sausages at medium low in cast iron for about ten minutes, until they achieved a little char, which is my personal preference, as the char emulates the texture (sort of) of a natural casing on the link.

There is less of a distinctive flavor than I imagined their would be.  On the plus side, there is a little bit of ‘heat,’ and also, the presence of the corn syrup is not overpowering as it was in the Jack Links product.

I’d buy them again, if they are on sale, but otherwise, I don’t see any competitive advantage over most “Polish” or smoked sausage brands.


McCormick Grill Mates Sausage Review

Prior to heating

McCormick Grill Mates Sausage Review

After heating

McCormick Grill Mates Sausage

Salm Partners Factory

McCormick Grill Mates Sausage

Salm Partners Factory

McCormick Grill Mates Sausages Review


Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room…, Oven


Camerons Smoking Bag ReviewsI used to have a couple thousand dollars worth of barbecuing gear. Got disposed of when I wasn’t looking to fuel somebody’s addictions. Oh, well. So I’ve been looking at smokers again, and I spotted these “in oven smoking bags” made by Camerons.  They are a couple-three bucks, and come in a wide variety of woods: hickory, mesquite, apple, alder and others. They are widely available online, but I found them at Gander Mountain (locator).

The instructions are somewhat idiot proof. The bags contain wood chips, seasoning, and hardwood syrup. Open the bag, fill the bag with food, place in pre-heated oven, heat for appointed amount of time, remove bag from oven, remove food from bag. I thought I’d try pork chops and salmon.

(There is a caution on the bag to be aware of California Proposition 65. I’m too lazy or disinterested to look that up, however.

I will have to look up some “recipes” however, to see if I can figure an appropriate time and temp for these projects. There are some suggestions on the package, but not for what I have in mind. By the way, relevant to nothing? These bags are made in Finland. (The country, not the town in Minnesota).

The packaging is deceptive, the actual foil package is about 2-3x larger than the sleeve it comes in. I wasn’t expecting that. The bag is big enough for a small chicken or roast, for sure.

Very detailed instructions, and some recipes, are included. Basically, it calls for preheat to 475, put bag on lowest shelf, then reduce heat to 375 for balance of cooking time.

I put in four salmon filets, brushed with butter, and some fresh dill sprigs, for about 25 minutes total. This worked out well, and besides, no mess! Just toss the bag when you are done!  It’s not a really heavy smoke, but it’s present and flavorful.

Cameron Smoking Bag

Empty Bag


Cameron Smoking Bag

Salmon filets with dill

Smoked salmon w/dill, mustard greens with ham hocks

Smoked salmon w/dill, mustard greens with ham hocks




Oven smoking recipe


LA 23 BBQ Review, Belle Chase, LA


LA 23 BBQ ReviewSome poetic license shall be taken with the background of this establishment, as I didn’t ask, and picked up snippets during the experience.  Seems there are these two pals from Uptown New Orleans, making a living by taking tourists and assorted hangers-on deep into the Gulf on fishing expeditions.  Tiring a bit at the sight of fish and seafood, they tried trolling the warm waters off  Louisiana for bbq, but their nets came up empty. To add insult to injury, one of the jumping off spots to roll down the Mississippi to the Gulf, Belle Chase, Louisiana, was seemingly bereft of protein-laden meals that featured anything but fish, seafood, or the culinary heritages of Al Copeland and Ray Kroc.

Thus the boys, heretoafter known as Aaron and Bobby, created LA 23 BBQ, named after its highway location, and nothing more mysterious, feature a short menu, long on flavor, of ribs, brisket, pork, and chicken, accompanied by traditional sides. They begin selling Monday through Friday at 11 AM, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Period.

My pal Randy, acclaimed author of the just released  “A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation,” and  the best seller “The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir,” knew enough to call Aaron and Bobby ahead of time to hold some food, lest we be shut out upon arrival.

We dined on brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, with slaw and pickles on the side.   The pit masters shop carefully for their meat on a weekly basis, and change it up with suppliers to make sure they get the best.

In the world of BBQ, it’s damned tough to keep a brisket moist and flavorful, and LA 23 succeeds.  The pulled pork was superb, as well, and I’m a pulled pork snob.

The key to fine BBQ, as with many things in life, is low and slow.  Ask any experienced woman, and she’ll tell you the best man is one who knows the difference between a “slow simmer” and a “rolling boil.”   BBQ is much the same.   Find a pit master who has the energy and passion to stand in front of a fire for 6-18 hours at a stretch, and you’ll find some mighty tasty ‘cue.  Just like the meats at LA 23. Worth a hike from New Orleans, go early, or call first.

Serious ‘cue has been a scarcity in New Orleans in the past; no more.

LA 23 BBQ’s menu is right here (and below)

LA 23 BBQ Review

Menu Board

LA 23 BBQ Review

Beef brisket sandwich

LA 23 BBQ Review

Get there early or be damned

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