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Archive for the ‘Barbecue’ Category

National Hot Dog Month

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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,

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McCormick Grill Mates Sausages Review

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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

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Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room…..er, Oven

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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

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LA 23 BBQ Review, Belle Chase, LA

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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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Blues BBQ and Grill Review – East Dundee, IL

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The Blues BBQ and Grill Review East Dundee

Table top BBQ sauces

So there were these guys, living in Maryland, disgusted with the state of ‘cue in the area, so they bought a truck and created their own.  From there, they have expanded to brick and mortars in  Virginia and East Dundee, IL.   The latter location seems like a stretch for managing, but hey, their working overtime leads to better meal opportunities for me.

I tried to get in here last time through town, but it was closed for a private party.  Not so tonight. “The Blues” peddles a variety of BBQ entrees and styles (KC, Memphis, Savannah).   I enjoy South Carolina / Georgia “yellow” BBQ, which was made famous, I suspect, by the late regional pitmaster Maurice Bessinger, and his regional chain of “Piggy Park” BBQs. In addition to the mustard based sauce, ‘cue in those parts are just as likely to use chopped ham as pulled pork.  It’s a tasty experience.

The full menu at Blues BBQ incorporates the ‘cue with a number of Southern staples and sides, like fried green tomatoes, collard greens and the like.

They make their sauces in-house, and the KC one leans toward the ‘sweet’ end of the taste spectrum, while the others are more the vinegar variety. They have a ‘secret’ kitchen seasoning they call “crack,” which they apply amply to many of the dishes.  If you’re sensitive to salt, as for your hand-cut, fresh fries unseasoned.

I’ve been blessed lately in the burger world, to have consumed some really outstanding beef patties, and tonight was no exception. Prepared as ordered to medium rare, the 8 oz slap o’ meat, dressed with lettuce and a crispy tomato was darned near burger perfection.  The toasted rolls are hearty, soft enough for your palate, but substantial enough to securely hold the patty.

As I previously opined, the menu is lengthy, and I’d stop again to try some of the other dishes – they also have a lot of appetizers that look interesting and some special craft cocktails if you’re into that.

Whether you find yourself in suburban Chicago, Roanoke, VA, or Frederick, MD, look up the Blues BBQ guys for some good grub.

Blues BBQ and Grill Review

Bacon Cheeseburger

Blues BBQ and Grill on Urbanspoon

 

Blues BBQ and Grill Review

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Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger

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220px-Coryphaena_hippurusMahi Mahi?  Isn’t that dolphin?  No, but you sure hear that from a lot of people.  The common name (Mahi Mahi is Hawaiian) is dolphinfish (one word), and like so many things in the English language, similar words cause confusion.  This fish is no relation to Flipper.  It is also known widely as Dorado.

The fish are found in warm off-shore waters, can live to be five years old, grow to twenty pound and can be very colorful. (Picture left).

Trader Joes sells a pack of four Mahi Mahi burgers in their frozen aisle, and they can be done on the grill, pan fried, or baked.  I opted for the skillet, 4-5 minutes each side say the instructions.

The ingredients are very straightforward, mostly the fish, with a little oil, spices, canola oil.

It’s attractive in appearance for a ‘fish-burger’, tho not right out of the box.

I dressed mine with White Castle tartar sauce and Vlasic Dill Pickle Chips, with a pinch of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (I put it on most things, in fact).  Delicious.

These are easy to fix, low in cals, fats, and carbs.  A good alternative to beef patties for your kids, let them decorate it the way they want.

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger Review

 

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger Review

Uncooked, from box

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger Review

Cooked in a skillet

 

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger

 

 

 

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Texan BBQ Algonquin Reviews

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Texan BBQ Algonquin ReviewI was in this place once 25 years or so ago;  they’ve been around for about 30+ years in this distant Chicago suburb.   It’s fairly standard barbecue fare (for the midwest) offering a full menu, including pork and beef ribs, turkey, sausage, chicken, brisket and additional, non-smoked fare like burgers, chicken fried steak and the like.  Standard sides are beans, slaw, and a choice of potato.  Food is available on plates, with one, two, or three meats, or as sandwiches.

Meats are cooked in house on a hickory fire.

Order and pay for your food at the counter when you walk in, have a seat and your meals will be brought to you.

The have a ‘sauce bar’, where you can fill ramekins of “mild,” “hot,” or “spicy” sauce, but they all tasted exactly the same to me.   We had the ribs/chicken combo, the chicken fried steak, and an order of rings.

The chicken fried steak was  a large serving, two pieces, with gravy and biscuits and the aforementioned sides.   The menu had stated each entree came with Texas toast and pickles, but no such luck today. Biscuits were the order of the day, instead.   If you’re a regular reader, you know how much I go for Texas toast!

Was it great?  Not really?  Worth a drive?  Not really.  A good value?  Not really.   It’s one of those times where as cliched as it sounds, “it was what it was.”  But to last over 30 years, he must be doing something right.  The Texan BBQ also caters.

Texan BBQ Algonquin Review

Chicken Fried Steak

 

Texan BBQ Algonquin Review

Ribs & Chicken Plate

 

Texan BBQ Algonquin Review

O Rings

 

Two entrees, plus tip, $35.

Texan Barbeque on Urbanspoon

 

Texan BBQ Algonquin Reviews

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How Is McDonalds Food Made?

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Some people are concerned about the ingredients in McDonalds food. So McDonalds Canada started doing videos ‘behind the scenes’ and this marketing effort has now come to the U.S. If you haven’t seen the videos, they are pretty interesting. Here are a few of them.

 

 

 

 

mcdonalds food made

 

mcdonalds food made

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Duluth East High School Student Cafe Venture

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When I was a sprout growing up in Sinclair Lewis’  Zenith City,  I went to junior high (7-9) at Ordean Junior High School, where nobody complained  about us having “Warriors”for a team name with a silhouette of an Indian for a logo.   Then it was on to Duluth East for (most of) grades 10-12.  Well, due to some weird population shift in the cosmos now Ordean is East (after a gajillion dollar remodeling job) and East is Ordean East Junior….er Middle…..  Or something.  Don’t even think about getting me started on my grade school.

The students at East have always been an enterprising lot, but now they’ve amped it up by starting a restaurant within the school that is open to the public.  It’s called “Food for Thought” and it not only helps train students interested in the culinary arts, but also in general business.   The menu is varied,  very ambitious, and everything served is made from scratch in house.

Specials change by the week and month, and compliment the regular menu items.  The Duluth Lunch Bunch hit the cafe today and reported an  excellent experience.  Every dish consumed was superb in preparation and presentation, and the enthusiasm of the student employees was reported to be  far and above the service received in most Duluth restaurants. The operation is overseen by Glenn D’Amour, Culinary Arts Instructor for the Duluth public school system and former corporate chef  at several highly regarded local eateries.

We have a gaggle of pix, so let’s get right to them.  The current offerings are in our menu section.  And p.s. Don’t tell anybody the prices are too cheap!!!!  (Cash only, BTW).

Cafe and food photos by and Copyright Duluth photographer Kawikamedia.com 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

Duluth East, Now Ordean – East

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

Remodeled Ordean, Which is Now Duluth East

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

Cafe Entrance. Which Apparently Can Get Slippery

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

The Uber Chef

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

Students Getting Ready to Dish Up the Goods

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

BBQ Rib Plate

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

Beautiful Plating for Local Favorite Walleye

 

Diners Dig Dining

Denture Set Takes Corn on the Cob Challenge

 

Food for Thought Cafe Review

Time for Dessert!

 

Duluth East High School

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Butterball Turkey Reviews

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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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