Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category
The first time I was in Russia it was before “the change.” It was not unusual to see dozens or hundreds of people in line at food stores, even though they knew that probably there would be no inventory.
Outside of each subway station there were long lines of people selling ‘silly’ things: one shoe, two inches of vodka in a bottle, a couple of pencils.
People were hungry and would overlook conventional norms for food safety and ingredients.
And such was the feeling I got at Ann’s Bakery and Deli in Ukraine Village in Chicago.If you don’t speak Russian, I wouldn’t recommend stopping in, you’ll be treated like a 2nd class citizen by both the help and the other customers. The Russian shoppers are just plain rude, the help, not only rude, but unhelpful to non-Russian speakers.
Why I felt the resemblance between the bakery goods and pre-change Russia? A lot of the food on the shelves is past the expiration date, but it doesn’t stop the locals from grabbing it up like the just got the deal of the century on caviar.
Bakery goods are mismarked for prices and the shelf order is nothing short of chaos – with different goods all mixed up so you wouldn’t be able to tell the price in any case.
As many other customers have opined, I got home to find 1) not only were many of the baked goods stale (odd, as it was the day before Easter and one would expect a bakery to be chock-a-block full of fresh goods), and 2) the hustle of the cash register and treatment by both customers and help alike, made me miss the fact I was drastically overcharged for some items.
If you regularly read my reviews, you know that I endeavor to find something redeeming out of every visit. Not so here.
Pass on Ann’s Bakery, even for the curiousity factor. But I don’t want to discourage anybody from visiting Ukrainian Village; the cathedrals are magnificent and there are authentic Russian restaurants and culture to absorb. As well as a place distinctly NOT Russian, Fatso’s Last Stand, a superb example of a Chicago hot dog stand.
Anns Bakery & Deli Review
It required no real ability for the home baker, other than patience, as it requires nearly 24 hours of rising/resting. After that, follow the instructions, and you (most times) a perfect round, crusty loaf, reminiscent (to me) of the French boule.
But the problem with baking from scratch is there are no guarantees. You can follow the instructions of a recipe to a ‘tee’ and still have an abysmal failure. As they say “your results may vary.” Could be dead yeast. Could be your oven temp is off.
But thanks to the fine folks at Krusteaz, now you can bake to impress with ease. They have a newish line of “No Knead” bread mixes, which require only for you to mix in a bowl, let rise and rest a couple hours and bake for around 20 minutes at high heat.
You can a marvelous crusty loaf that will impress your family, date or inlaws. “Oh did you make this?” Yep!
It’s delicious, it’s easy, it’s a terrific value, price wise. Krusteaz makes a big line of mixes, including other breads, bars, cookies, You can check out their website which has a “where to buy” feature.
(The loaf is dusted with flour before baking and has a slit or two in it to let steam escape during it’s hot time – which adds to the ‘crustiness.’
Krusteaz No Knead Bread Mix Review
One of the thing that delights me about living in a larger city is having a wide variety of ethnic grocers, and Chicago has some great ones. We have Asian grocers, Indian, Eastern European, Greek, Polish, Italian, and I love them all.
Chicago is big on Polish restaurants and markets as the population of Poles here is nearly 200,000, and Polish is the 3rd most spoken language in the city.
There’s a particular stretch of one road, both in and out of the city, that has attracted a proliferation of Polish-centric businesses, and that’s Milwaukee Avenue. Chicago often claims to be the largest Polish city outside of Poland, with the number of persons of Polish descent topping a million.
Along the ‘suburban’ stretch, mostly in Niles, IL, there are a multitude of markets and restaurants; one restaurant I have enjoyed in the past up that way is the White Eagle. You can order meals family style, copious quantities, inexpensive and fun.
But this day, I was in search of sausage, and my first of several stops was at Schmeissers Sausage at 7649 N. Milwaukee Ave. They take great pride in the number of products they make in house, and the quality and care with which they are made is readily apparent. There is also a small selection of grocery items, including other products made on site, like noodles and spaetzel.
Schmeissers Sausage has a freezer full of heat and eat meals made on site, and they average about $5 a pound, which is very fair, in my opinion. I’m impressed they’d go to the effort for a seemingly small scale.
I picked up the sauerbraten (“sour roast”) along with a package of dried spaetzle (egg noodles). Sauerbraten is really a national dish of Germany (which abuts Poland, or course), and is beef that is marinaded in a mixture of vinegar or wine, water, herbs, spices, and seasonings for a number of days prior to roasting. The recipes for the marinade and even the type of meat used can vary by region.
The roast is usually served with boiled potatoes, cabbage, or noodles. The package is hard frozen and calls for 9 minutes or so in the microwave, but I generally pop these kind of things in the oven and do them low and slow. Which is what I did here. Noodles are boiled in salted water for about 20 minutes, depending on your preference of ‘doneness.’
The result of the marinade is a very flavorful and juicy roast, the process might have originally been developed to use less expensive (tougher) pieces of meat. Many cultures have similar preparations, albeit with different flavors.
End result. This was great. As good as I have had in any local German restaurant. I’d buy it again and try some of their other heat and eats. Later in the week I’ll write about some of the other stops this trip.
Schmeissers Sausage Review
Having been a bagel muncher for many decades, I was suprised to note in a store the other day a package of “Chicago style” bagels. Who knew? Whereas most consumers of bagels (and pizza for that matter) are familiar with “New York Style” bagels (and pizza), afficianados insists “it’s the water” that makes those products different.
Around the country, various enterprises have popped up claiming to be able to duplicate “the water” to provide an authentic New York bagel experience. There’s even a small chain,mostly in Florida, but with an outlet in Beverly Hills, as well.
So anyway, turns out there are “Montreal style,” “Toronto style,” “New York Style,” “Chicago style” and a gaggle of other “styles.” There are even “Los Angeles style,” and the big company outthere is Western Bagel, a wholesaler and retailer. I used to like going to their factory store in the valley in the middle of the night, where you could buy ’em ‘fresh.’ They also sell online.
The primary difference between New York and Chicago? New York bagels are boiled, then baked. Chicago are ‘baked with steam.”
Now you know. As to I. These “Chicago Style” bagels are made by a company called “HometownBagel” in Alsip, IL (which really isn’t Chicago). Maybe they should change the name to “Chicago Area Style Bagels?”
So I ate one. Tasted like a bagel. BTW, my favorite flavors of all bagels made anywhere? Salt, followed by everything, followed by pumpernickel. That’s it.
Hometown Bagels Review
Many originally settled in an area of the West Loop, and took up jobs operating food carts, until they saved or pooled their dough to open small cafes in the area now known as “Greektown.”
Around about 1971, the “Greek Islands” opened their Greektown location, and many credit the restaurant with introducing Saganaki (which at the time, my toddler called “cheese on fire”) and gyros to American diners.
The immense popularity of the Greek Islands (they import many of their ingredients from Greece) led them to open a second location, in the Western Suburb of Lombard, IL.
We hit it up the other night, were very well fed, very well taken care of by the waitstaff, and it was a great value – four dinners with many appetizers and drinks for less than two C notes.
The restaurant has a lengthy appetizers menu, so I went all tapas for my dinner, and ordered a number of small plates (NOT TO SHARE, JUST FOR ME! LOL).
They were all great. House made hummus, saganaki, the Greek pork sausage Loukaniko (which is made with a hint of citrus peel) and a plate of feta and olives. Accompanied by house baked fresh bread and/or pita. Swell. Other entrees at the table included the whole sea bass imported from Greece (server filets at the table), and the Mahi Mahi kabob. Both were superb. Sides that come with the entrees could be improved a bit. The menu also gives you the option of “building your own combo” with two or more mains, which is nice.
When I was growing up, it was etched in stone that the family had a big Saturday breakfast together; often my dad cooked the elaborate set-up, which might have been steak and eggs, pancakes or waffles, fruit turnovers, sausage or bacon.
It got so that friends of me and my siblings wanted to do sleepovers on Friday nites just for the morning repast. Kids were placed in charge of beating batter, folding and stuffing turnovers, and most certainly, setting, clearing and washing.
I carried this on, when I had families. It was flexible tho, depending on people’s schedules, and would be either Saturday or Sunday. It is reportedly a fond memory of my daughters.
Even now, on my own, I continue the practice, but again, it’s not locked into a day.
Today I went with trying to perfect my chicken fried steak recipe, along with eggs and a home version of poutine.
For the steak, I used the flour/eggdip/crumb method, fried until the edges start to look a bit crispy – doesn’t take long!
My crumb mixture today was a combo of panko and crushed pretzels. I’ve tried all sorts of other combos – potato chips, saltines, corn chips. Most are probably too salty for most people.
For today’s poutine, I went with tator tots, brown gravy and feta. It was over the top satisfactory.
A couple poached eggs, and an everthing bagel. Ok, the bagel was a goof-up, cause I baked bread yesterday which I intended to use, and forgot I had put it in the icebox.
It was a good breakfast, large enough for two diners. Tried to share with the cat, but he would have nothing to do with it.
Chicken Fried Steak Recipe
My mother loved Kringles. What are they? A Scandinavian confectionary pastry, multiple layers of thin, flaky baked dough, in a horseshoe shape, with layers separated by a wide variety of your choice of fillings/toppings like berry, almond, chocolate and the like. More on the origin. My mother, or parents, really, took delight in having certain things brought in that were either rare in our city, or banned outright. For years, margarine was illegal in Minnesota, a supposed challenge to the dairy industry, so someone would run to Michigan and get a car load. Our maple syrup came in massive quantities of one gallon cans, annually, direct from a producer in the Northeast.
And once a year, a Greek fisherman from Florida would come by and sell natural sponges.
And such was the case with “Kringles,” as everyone in the Upper Midwest believe the best ones come from O&H, a bakery in Racine, WI. They make large variety of flavors year round, supplemented by seasonal favorites. My mother thought these were “Christmas-y” and someone a number of them were transported to our house in time for the holiday season from a bakery 400 miles away. My mother preferred almond ones, my father, berry flavor.
Stopped by O&H’s newest outlet the other day, they are dealing with quite a crowd this time of year, and have plenty of goods, freshly baked, and read to go. It’s a full service bakery, they also have nearly every kind of sweet roll, cookie, and loaf bread you can imagine, and all excellent.
If you’re inclined, order your own Kringles directly from them, online. They even have a “Kringle of the Month” club. You’ll also find the Kringles available at many Upper Midwest groceries.
I’ve been on a mission to have weekend breakfasts at rural locations in Illinois, and today we hit the Pub 72 Bar & Grill in Gilberts, IL. The “72” is after the number of the highway, and if memory serves me, is a rather new name. Not sure if the change also represented a change in ownership.
The place has a menu with “something for everything” whether you’re in the mood for plate dinners, sandwiches, appetizers, pizza, or adult beverage drink specials.
They serve a VERY economical breakfast (beginning at $2.99) on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM.
This is one of those joints were seemingly every employee took a course in what being in the hospitality business truly means. You’re almost always greeted by the owner when you walk in, a guy who doesn’t think so much of himself that it would be beneath him to walk around, refill coffees, inquire to customers satisfaction, and be observant enough to notice patrons that need attention. Superb. Rare qualities in most smaller places these days.
Serving help was equally affable, smiles all around, diligent order taking, great follow-up. By 9:30, the place was pretty busy with Sunday morning diners.
I had ham steak and eggs, great piece of ham with a nice grill char on it, just the way I like it. And a slice of Texas toast. As is the fashion at small diners in Illinois, a bowl of butter pats grazes each table. Eggs cooked precisely as ordered.
Hash browns are above average too.
I’ll be back. You should check them out if you live in the area, or are tooling down I-90 some day.
Pub 72 Review
Seems like lately I’ve been hitting “out of the way” pizza places like this one, on US Highway 12, 6.5 miles north of Elkhorn, WI and the junction of 12 and I-43. It’s about a 15 minute drive from the popular Lake Geneva recreation area in Southern Wisconsin.
I’ve driven by this place many times, when I’ve been out on my ‘touring America’ expeditions. My mistake for not stopping earlier.
US 12 is one of my favorite drives, running from the Pacific Ocean to Detroit. Starting in the West, you’ll leave the coast from Aberdeen, where I’ve had a great Salvadorean meal, and plenty of Washington oysters nearby.
You’ll wing your way through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota before rolling into Western Wisconsin. When you finally arrive at Elkhorn, you’d do well to time your drive to hit opening hours (from 5PM, Mon, Wed, and Thurs, and 4PM Fri, Sat, and Sun). Closed on Tuesdays.
Then menu (pictured below) features Italian appetizers and entrees, pizza, pasta, salads and more. The paper thin crust pizzas are fired in a wood/coal oven, and emerge quickly with a nice char on the crust.
Specialty pies lean towards ‘gourmet’, with ultra fresh ingredients and combinations; we went for one with arugula, prosciutto, and shaved parmesan. We also shared the “Holi Cannoli” which features a rich topping for four cheeses.
Started the meal with the very generous antipasto plate, featuring Italian meats, cheese, olives, peppers, and salad. Complimentary flat bread, foccacia and warm marinara grace every table.
You know I like thin crust, and this one is the epitome of thin. Almost like matzoh. It provides for a very nice crispness, and the ultra fresh toppings make each pie seem light and refreshing, instead of feeling like an anvil in your tummy. Lettuce isn’t something I would usually consider on a pie, but I’m sure glad I tried this one. I’ll be back.
The restaurant was nearly empty when we filed in at 5 PM on a Friday, but within 30 minutes, it was SRO. Despite the crowd, service was fast and professional, and the proprietors stopped by each table once or twice during the meal. Nice touch. They seemed willing and happy to accommodate most any request. Pizzas are one size only and will feed several comfortably. I wish they had a personal sized pie, and I’d be inclined to ‘over-order’ and try the pastas, salads, and such.
If you’re motoring across Wisconsin, or are out for a drive from Madison, Milwaukee, or Chicago, hit Holi Cannoli, at least once! Beer, wine and full bar available.
Holi Cannoli Review
Panera was founded in St. Louis, MO, where it operated (and still does in that area) at St. Louis Bread Company. The 1800 store chain is now owned by Au Bon Pain, which no longer operates Au Bon Pain (I liked those, for sure).
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Panera before, thought I’ve had some of their sandwiches brought to me, and beyond the bread, they weren’t very impressive (not high quality ingredients or quantities of same).
Today I was looking for a new quick breakfast option, and did happen into Panera, where I ordered an Asiago Bacon Egg Cheese “pannini-ized” bagel sandwich, and a large coffee, which set me back the devilish amount of $6.66. No kidding.
The sandwich was prepared while I waited (except I don’t think the eggs were), it was hot, filling, and tasty. Except for the cost, I might be a regular breakfast customer when I am out and about.
I found the store layout a mite confusing, there were four registers and two pick-up stations, I got sent from one to another, although there is no signage, some must be dedicated to one use or another; they give you one of those vibrating hockey pucks to tell you when your order is ready.
Panera Breakfast Sandwich Review