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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Jones Canadian Bacon Review

Jones Dairy Canadian BaconGrowing up within spitting distance of Canada, I never gave much thought to “Canadian Bacon” as a kid;  we had it quite frequently, I just figured my parents smuggled it in from Ontario like they used to have to buy bootleg margarine in Michigan. I rarely buy it for home use, I generally find it is pretty flavorless, and not a great value.  Maybe,  McDonald’s product, which is about as unbacony as a product can be has also put me off a bit.

As I progressed through the years, I came to understand what we call “Canadian Bacon” in the US is not Canadian at all, but rather a product similar in taste and texture to ham.  And here’s where it gets really confusing:  ham comes from the butt of a hog, bacon from the belly, and Canadian Bacon from a pork loin.  Whew.  Canadian bacon is usually leaner than ham, and lacks the sweeteners ham is sometimes cured with.

“Real” “Canadian Bacon” is called ‘back bacon’ up thataways, and “streaky bacon” in Canada’s motherland of jolly old England and other points in the crumbling empire.

And that product is generally more flavorful, with better texture, than most anything sold in the US, save for premium brands, no matter what ‘country’ label it has on it.  In fact, hasn’t most processed pork in the US become a real disappointment?  Whether you buy chops a tenderloin or roast, most mass market pork in the US tastes like nothing. At least to me.  If I want real pork flavor, I’ll buy fresh from a farmer;  some Carolina and Virginia hams are spectacular as well.

Anyway, back to the subject.   Jones Dairy Farms is a meat producer located in Ft. Akinson, Wisconsin.  They’v been selling processed pork products to the masses for over a hundred years.  I’m not sure how wide-spread their distribution is, but they have a product locator on their website.  I punched in zip codes at both ends of the country and found outlets.

(By the way, if you’re ever in Ft. Akinson on a Friday nite, (118 miles from the Sears Tower, 25 miles from Madison), there’s an exceptional fish fry at the Fireside).

Anyway, a package of Jones Dairy Canadian Bacon headed up in my fridge as a result of it being in the ‘scratch and dent’ bin at my local grocery.  It was a buck and a half as opposed to a regular price in the range of $4.50 – $5.00, the equivalent of around $12 a pound.

How was it?  As expected.  Reminiscent of mild ham.  Slightly sweet.   The ingredient list, if you’re interested: Cured with Water, Potassium Lactate,Salt, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite.

I’d be interested in trying their Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked Whole Ham.

 

Jones Dairy Canadian Bacon

Bacon, from package, prior to heating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jones Canadian Bacon Review

Crystal Lake, IL – Andys Family Restaurant Review

Andy's Crystal LakeLanding at O’Hare after an overnight flight from Honolulu, I was starving.  Why didn’t I eat on the plane?  Conked out on the new lie flat seat/beds in first class, very comfy, a little too comfy.

Was heading from Chicago to Madison, so I thought I’d stop en route and get a tasty breakfast on the back roads, and my back road of choice to Madison is US 14, so I hit Andy’s Family Restaurant in Crystal Lake, IL.

Over ordered, not a surprise, went with the Chicken Fried Steak and eggs, the place was jammed, but service was prompt and friendly, they have had lots of practice, this place has been around for years.

Played “butter Jenga” while I was waiting, scarfed the meal and hit the road.  Great place.

Andy's Crystal Lake

Andy's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Andys Family Restaurant Review

Perfect Brunch Recipe Reuben Strata

You may have made a strata before, it’s sorta like quiche, but because of its construction, opens up other flavor possibilities.  One of my favorites is to make a “Reuben” strata, which is a perfect alternative brunch recipe.  Here’s the dope.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices hearty rye bread, crusts removed
  • 2 cups milk or half and half
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 6 slices swiss cheese
  • ½ pound corned beef
  • ½ cup sauerkraut, thoroughly squeeze to remove moisture
  • 1 t powdered mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Spray 8X12 baking dish with quick release

Place bread in bottom of baking dish, cut to fit dish

Beat eggs with milk and dry mustard

Place layer of corned beef, topped with swiss cheese on top of bread

Pour milk / egg mixture in baking dish

Let sit in refrigerator over night

Pre heat oven to 375

Cover dish with foil, bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Serve hot, with side of mixed fruit.

Possible variations:  substitute Italian sausage, salami, or pepperoni and mozzarella.  Bacon or ham and cheddar.  Country sausage crumbles, american cheese and drizzled with county gravy.

Brunch recipe

Bacon & Cheese Strata

 

Steak N Shake Shooters Review

Steak N Shake Shooter Review Started in Normal, IL, in 1934 by  ex marine Gus Belt, Steak N Shake is so named for its focus on ‘steakburgers’ and milk shakes. The marketing slogan “in sight it must be right” referred to the fact that originally, the beef was ground in plain sight of the customers, and originally was a grind of T-bone, sirloin, and round.  Gus passed in 1954, and the chain went through a number of ownership changes. It’s currently  held by the diversified holding company of Biglari Holdings, based in San Antonio.

Today, more than 400 restaurants dot the Midwest, Southern, and Southwestern United States, and the company seems in growth mode.  Open 24/7, the Steak N Shake menu not only includes steakburgers, fries and shakes, but has been enlarged to include breakfast items, other sandwiches, salads, and different variations of chili on spaghetti noodles, the way one might find in Ohio chili chains.

I’ve long been a fan, and stop at one when I pass through a city that has some of the outposts.  I’ve written about other menu items in the past.

The occasion for my recent stop was to check out some of their new menu items.  As Steak N Shake’s competitors are on a tear with menu additions, newly remodeled stores, and spin-off concepts, the company seems to be putting its new focus on increased menu items as well as value-pricing with a substantial number of “$4 dollar meals.”

I tried out their “shooters”, the Steak N Shake version of sliders, mini hamburgers with different flavors available singly or in multiples.

The “Three shooters plus fries” plate came in at the $4 price point, and I opted for the flavor choices of garlic, “Frisco,” and buffalo.

Each came with a ‘slather’ of the designated sauce, buffalo ala Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, Frisco, which was described to me by the waitperson as “exactly like thousand island dressing”, and a garlic butter.   The buns receive a light brush of butter, and otherwise, the burgers are devoid of condiments and cheese, unless you request same (slight charge for cheese).

I liked them all, even though I usually passionately avoid anything with thousand island.

Steak N Shake’s fries are always properly fried shoestrings, with the right amount of salt.  On each table is a bottle of their “Fry Seasoning” if you want to amp up the fries or burger.  It’s kinda like Season Salt, but in my opinion, much tastier.  And no MSG if you care about that kind of thing.

One “secret menu” item at S n S is the 7X7, seven burger patties, seven slices of cheese.  I’ll get to that someday.

Anyway – the shooter platter is a great way to try out their new flavors, or feed the kids on a very economical basis.  Find a Steak N Shake near you.

Steak N Shake Shooter Review

Three Shooters and Fries

Steak N Shake Shooter Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steak N Shake Shooters Review

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Iowa Machine Shed Review“Dedicated to the American Farmer” – was the slogan of a restaurant we used to pop into in Davenport Iowa.  The “Iowa Machine Shed”, just outside of town, served wholesome American food in large quantities.   We had moved to Davenport to build the first radio station I owned.  Back in Marconi days.   Today there are a half dozen Machine Shed restaurants in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The restaurant cooks from scratch and uses top notch suppliers.  Some people might compare it to Cracker Barrel, and I guess there is a similarity, but Machine Shed is better, in my opinion.

These places seat a big mess o people, so remember that when setting out to visit.  They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with slightly different menus at each meal.

After your drink orders are taken, the server will bring the table complimentary “fixins”, which is comprised of an ample bread basket with super soft large dinner rolls, a family sized bowl of slaw and one of cottage cheese.  I love cottage cheese, and this has to be some of the best I have had, ever, anywhere.  High milk fat content, small curd.

This trip, I ordered the country fried chicken, which was nice and crisp on the outside and juicy inside.  Dinners come with a vegetable and your choice of a large variety of spud preparations.  I got fries and some nice gravy to go with it.

If you’re in for breakfast, or need a little sweet thing (besides Mrs. Burgerdogboy), they have these massive breakfast rolls in a couple of different varieties, and I swear, they must weigh two pounds.

Next time I zip through the Upper Midwest, I’ll angle to hit a Machine Shed at breakfast, as they have a platter which covers all the breakfast pork options.  Nice.  And BTW?  There is no better place to be during summers in America than the farm belt.  County fairs, small town festivals, block parties.  The best.

Typical dinner menu.

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Complimentary “fixins”

 

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Country Fried Chicken

 

The Machine Shed on Urbanspoon

 

Iowa Machine Shed Review

New Orleans – St. Charles Tavern Review

For as crazy as New Orleans can get, as long as I lived there, it was never a late night dining town.  Having exhausted all your energy in the Quarter, and not in the mood for an overpriced slice of pizza, one was left with few choices for satisfying cuisine.  I love diners, and my favorite at the time was called the Hummingbird, had been there forever, closed to make room for a project that never happened.

One around the clock outpost is the St. Charles Tavern, just up St. Charles Avenue from the Central Business District, not a terribly long cab ride from the Quarter.

The St. Charles serves cajun and creole specialties along with American diner food anytime of day or night you’re in the mood.  I used to frequent it quite often on my late night prowls of the Big Easy.

Stopped in during the daylight this trip, and grabbed half a muffaletta, which was excellent.  Guess they were closed for awhile, a little remodeling, maybe new owners.  Looking at their website, I see they feature Charmaine Neville Wednesday nights (she’s a Neville sister) and if you’ve never seen here on your trips to the Crescent City, you should try and take in a show.

St. Charles Tavern Menu (pdf)

 St Charles Tavern Review

 

 

 

 
St. Charles Tavern on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

st charles tavern reviews

Eckrich Lil Smokies Review

Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies” – give me a mess of good quality, fine tasting ones, and I’ll pass on the rest of breakfast.  You never see them on a restaurant menus, not really sure why.

Like all pork (and meat in general) products, they have gotten really spendy lately, pushing over $6 a pound. While I have some very specific favorite brands, determined by taste and texture, I am a sucker for sale priced ones, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Eckrich “Li’l Smokies” yesterday.  They were half the price of the other brands.

Eckrich is part of John Morrell now, and according to the USDA plant number on the package, these babies were made at the Morrell plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

How were they?  OK, especially at the price.  A pork and chicken product (I prefer all beef), they aren’t as flavorful as some brands I prefer, tasting more like cocktail franks, which should be an entirely different recipe than smokies.  I’d buy them again tho, at the sale price.

Why the ‘char?’  I prefer sausages with natural casings, and you’ll never see little smokies in a casing. Too expensive, troublesome for mass production I imagine.  For me, putting a little char on the baby weenies gives them a texture more again to a casing product. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 Eckrich Lil Smokies

 John Morrell Cincinnati

 

 

Lil Smokies Review

New Orleans, LA – Morning Call Restaurant Review

Morning Call New OrleansThe “official state donut” of the State of Louisiana, the beignet (ben-yaa) has become synonymous with the stereotypical tourist stop in New Orleans at a joint in the French Quarter called “Cafe du Monde.”  The pastries, developed by French bakers, use a type of dough that rises due to its own steam, rather than from yeast.  This type of baking is called “choux” pastries.

French settlers brought the tradition during their immigration to Eastern Canada, and their later forced migration to Louisiana.

The fried delicacies are generally sold in an order of three, accompanied by a shaker of powdered sugar and a steaming cup of cafe au lait or other local beverage.

While most visitors experience the pastry at the aforementioned stop, the sweet delights are widely available.  An alternate choice is an old-timey stand in Metarie, ‘Morning Call”, which is open 24/7 and is the local gathering place for die-hard denizens, particularly judges and lawyers.

Morning Call now has a location in City Park, easily accessible to tourists via the Carrolton street car which you can catch on Canal. City Park is one of the nation’s most impressive green spaces, and is home to a number of diversions including the New Orleans Museum of Art.

At  the “casino”, which isn’t one, you’ll find Morning Call, which you can enjoy your beignets and a few other local specialties in the splendor of the park.Morning Call New Orleans

 

Morning call restaurant review

Morning Call on Urbanspoon

Springfield, IL – Charlie Parkers Diner Review

Charlie Parkers HorseshoeThree things Springfield, Illinois is known for, not in order of any particular importance: possibly the birthplace of the corn dog; home of the locally famous horseshoe sandwich; and some dead president with a big hat.

My reason for stopping was to grab a breakfast horseshoe, Texas toast on a plate, with your choice of breakfast meat, eggs, gravy or cheese sauce or both, and topped with taters.  Lunch versions add different protein choices, like a burger, fish, or fried chicken, with an option of swapping out tots for hash browns or American fries.

Housed in a vintage WW2 quonset hut, Charlie Parker’s is one of several choices you have for popping your horseshoe cherry, and a choice I’m glad I made.  Once again, better than my expectations for a “local legend”, my only disappointment was not with the food service of ambiance, but rather my own lack of capacity, wishing I could try more than one version at a setting.

The regular ‘shoe” comes with two pieces of toast and double meat servings;  a lesser size, for us mere mortals, is called a “pony shoe” and is more of a single serving.

May well be the best breakfast potatoes I have had anywhere, bar none.  Service was cheery and helpful, despite a jammed room and long wait.

Charlie Parker’s may well be a must stop for every visitor to the dead president city or traversing America’s most famous highway, Route 66. Menu.

 

Charlie Parkers Horseshoe

Breakfast Shoe

Charlie Parkers Diner Review

Charlie Parker's Diner on Urbanspoon

Eckrich Lil Smokes Review

Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies’ as a breakfast meat.  Give me enough of them of good quality, and I’ll skip the eggs, toast, and potatoes. You never see them on restaurant menus, though I don’t know why.

My personal preference is for the all beef variety, though I am motivated by price point too, and that’s why I grabbed a package of Eckrich’s yesterday, which were on sale for half the price of the other brands. Like all pork products, the price of smokies has skyrocketed lately, and they easily tip the $ scales at $6 a pound, plus.

Cooked them up this morning and they were ok, especially considering the price.  They aren’t as flavorful as some of the other brands, and taste more like “cocktail franks”, which should, and usually are, a totally different product than little smokies.

Why the ‘burnt’ appearance?  I am predisposed to prefer sausages with a natural casing, and as far as I know, there are no little smokies with casings. Too difficult and expensive for mass production, I imagine.  So the ‘char’, presents a texture that more closely resembles a natural casing sausage.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I’d buy them again at the same price, but at the same price point as other brands, I’d opt for my usual favorites. According to the USDA plant number, these babies are manufactured at John Morrell’s plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

 Eckrich Lil Smokies

 

 John Morrell Cincinnati

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eckrich Lil Smokes Review

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