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Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Jersey Mikes Subs Review – Nationwide Chain

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Jersey Mikes Sub ReviewSo I saw this “pseudo-documentary” the other night, and one segment was on the founding of Jersey Mike’s Subs.

After reading a bit on Wikipedia, one or the other took a little poetic license. No matter. The shop started in Point Pleasant, NJ, a seaside down equidistant between Manhattan and Philly.

After 3 owners, long time employee Peter Cancro, around 18 purchased the shop in 1975, with financial assistance from a high school mate and a local banker/football coach (yeah, I don’t get that either).

They began franchising in 1987 and today there are over 1000 locations. Their “hook” is sub sandwiches made to order, slicing the meats and cheeses as needed.

They’ll ask your choice of bread (white, wheat, herb) and size (small, medium, and gigantic), and you can order by number from their menu, their recipes of hot or cold combinations, about a dozen of each, or of course, design your own.

They’ll ask you if you want it “Mike’s Way”, which involves sliced onions, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, oregano, salt (spices) and “The Juice” – a mixture of red wine vinegar and olive oil.

They don’t seem to have as many toppings as competitors, tho it was my first visit and maybe they just don’t have them on display.

I went with a #13 “The Original Italian” – Provolone, Ham, Prosciuttini, Cappacuolo, Salami and Pepperoni. I didn’t request cheese, should have.  The meat is ok, nothing distinguishable.

I elected for the white loaf, and it’s good bread, better than competitors.

I don’t get the point of “slicing as needed.” It’s just ordinary deli meat, and this just adds an employee to the payroll. When I say “ordinary deli meat” I am talking about the formed, seasoned ‘loafs’ we’re used to seeing in deli counters. Slicing on site does enable Jersey Mikes to have the meat be paper thin – nearly translucent, and that means profit, I imagine.

Don’t know how (most) deli meat is made? Here’s a video (Dietz & Watson, pretty high quality).

Having not been in before, I ordered the large. Shouldn’t have – it’ll end up being 2-3 meals for me. It also game with a large price tag, $15. If I added extra meat and cheese, it’d top $17. That’s a helluva lot for a sandwich that is not coming out of the Carnegie Deli.

Overall verdict? Better than the competitors, with the exception of our local guy, who actually roast meats on site. The standard add-ons of chips and cookies available. Order your “sandwich” as a wrap or salad if you like that kind of thing.

Caution tho, as with any vegetable laden sandwich, if you’re not going to consume immediately, the bread is going to get soggy over a fairly short period of time.

If you’re saving it for later, consider disassembling, at least the tomato, lettuce. Really. Postscript:  I forgot to say, the employees at this location were VERY happy and courteous.  The only other chain I have experienced this level of “hospitable” employees is Chick-Fil-A.  So whomever is motivating franchisee employees, good job!

Jersey Mikes Sub Review

Jersey Mikes Sub Review

Jersey Mikes Subs Review

Jersey Mikes Subs Review

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Marie Callenders Biscuit Mix Review

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Spoiler alert. I could give a shit about biscuits. One of my biggest fears is seeing them included with a menu item and the words “no substitutions” appear right beside that notation.

I’d rather have toast. Under any circumstances.

But you know, people come to be fed a lot around here and on occasion, they cry out for biscuits. I think I’ve made them once from scratch and they were a marked improvement over any package mixes I have tried.

Which brings me to today’s breakfast: Marie Callender’s Cheese Biscuit Mix along side “Sav-A-Lot” brand Sausage Gravy. I have no idea who either of these items found their way into my pantry. As I said, I wouldn’t normally purchase biscuit mix, and there isn’t a Sav-A-Lot anywhere near me.

Dollar store mystery, perhaps.

I’ve been in a Marie Callender’s once, and it was somewhere in Oregon, I was on a long drive and had to pee. Big endorsement, eh? I bought a pie tho, seems like it was close to some holiday and seems the chain was taking full advantage, cause as I recall, that pie was north of $25.

I got this at a dollar store or Big Lots, in either case it was a buck. Checked Amazon out of curiosity and they list the same package from $3.75 to $6.25. Wow.

Direction are to add ½ stick melted butter and a 1/3 cup of water, mix, and drop into FIVE pieces on a cookie sheet. FIVE? Who sells anything that makes a quantity of FIVE?

Baked them for the suggested time. Open oven, they are not “golden brown” after the suggested time, so I kept adding two minute periods. Quite a few of them.

Since I’ve never had these at the restaurant, I don’t know how the home version compares. Since I’ve already told you biscuits mean nothing to me, I’d put these at about #300 on my list. Pick them up and they crumble in your hand. I suppose some people like biscuits like that. Some people like them flaky. Some people prefer hockey puck style.

I guess they’d be OK to pour gravy over, which was originally my intent. The “cheese” flavor is barely noticeable. The predominant taste is flour, IMO.

No, I won’t buy them again. Can’t really suggest you buy them.

They’re made by ConAgra in Trenton, Missouri in a factory (pictured below) slated for closing this year. ConAgra is big in the fast growing heat and eat complete meal segment, as well as licensing restaurant brands. After a zillion years being headquartered in Omaha, ConAgra packed up their execs and moved HQ to Chicago this year. BTW? Trenton claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of vienna sausages. In case you were wondering what 20170514_052037town deserved that title.

I had a mind to make biscuits and gravy. Canned gravy from Sav-A-Lot, have no idea how that got in the pantry, there isn’t a store anywhere near me. It actually looked pretty good, as did the ingredients. Lots of sausage.

But the biscuits put me off the project.

No, I won’t buy them again. Can’t really suggest you buy them.

Biscuit Ingredients: Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Niacin, Iron, Thiamin, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Cheddar Cheese Bits [Corn Syrup, Flour (Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Corn Cereal, Cheese Powder (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% Annatto (Color). Lactic Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Cottonseed And/Or Soybean), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Salt, Turmeric And Annatto Extracts], Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Sea Salt, Natural Flavor.

Marie Callenders Biscuit Mix Review

Pre baking

Marie Callenders Biscuit Mix Review

After baking

Marie Callenders Biscuit Mix Review

ConAgra Plant, Trenton MO

 

 

Marie Callenders Biscuit Mix Review

Marie Callenders Biscuit Mix Review

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Anns Bakery & Deli Review, Ukrainian Village, Chicago

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 Anns Bakery & Deli ReviewThe 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.

Ann's Bakery & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Anns Bakery & Deli Review

Anns Bakery & Deli Review

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Krusteaz No Knead Bread Mix Review

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Krusteaz No Knead Bread Mix Review“No Knead Bread” was all the rage of the NY restaurant scene for awhile, and the NY Times subsequently offered a recipe for a home version.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krusteaz No Knead Bread Mix Review

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Schmeissers Sausage Review, Niles, IL

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Schmeissers Sausage ReviewOne 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 Review

Packaged Meal

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

Sauerbraten with spatzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schmeissers Sausage Review

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Hometown Bagels Review

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Hometown Bagels ReviewHaving 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

@Hometownbagel

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Greek Islands Review, Lombard, IL

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Greek Islands Review LombardGreeks began arriving in Chicago around the 1840s, mostly off ocean freighters where they worked as crew and captains.

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.

Menu.  Greektown (Chicago) businesses and event calendar.

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Saganaki

Greek Islands Review Lombard

The Night’s Fresh Seafood Offerings

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Greek Pork Sausage

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Feta and Olive Plate

Greek Islands Review Lombard

Downtown Exterior

Greek Islands Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Greek Islands Review

 



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Chicken Fried Steak Recipe – Weekend Breakfasts At My House

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Chicken Fried Steak Recipe

Breaded steaks, ready to fry

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!

Fare Buzz

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

Sunday breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Fried Steak Recipe

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O&H Bakery Racine, WI

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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.

 

O&H Bakery Review Kringles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O&H Bakery

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Pub 72 Review, Gilberts, IL

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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.

Directions

Pub 72 Bar & Grill review

              Ham, Eggs, Texas Toast

 

 

Pub 72 Review

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