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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef

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Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef ReviewI’ve written a whole lot about  the products from Cincinnati-based Advance Pierre, the premiere “heat and eat” and “gas station sandwich” maker in the U.S.  Often, besides in vending and C-stores, you’ll find their frozen products at dollar stores.

You know how much I love chicken fried steak?  I’ve tried it all over the country, both from restaurants and the heat and eat varieties.

This product was made in the plant pictured below, and is comprised of beef, mechanically separated turkey, and, not kidding, about 150 other ingredients.  Nuke of 90 seconds, stir “gravy,” nuke another 30, let sit for 30, and then “enjoy.”

Now ordinarily, I’d put this product in the category of “I tried so you don’t have to.”  But I didn’t really “try” it.  I had one bite and it was so awful, I couldn’t go on.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Frozen, pre microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

After microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Advance Pierre Plant, Amherst, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef

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Pepper Park Coffee Review – Barrington, IL

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Pepper Park Coffee Review BarringtonI admire anyone who starts a business from scratch; I’ve done it several times, and I know a whole lot about the pitfalls, anticipated and unanticipated, that can crop up.

I double dog admire anyone who starts a business in a crowded space like coffee, but the nice folks at Pepper Park Coffee were apparently undeterred, and opened up a great shop in one of Chicago’s fanciest suburbs, Barrington, about 55 minute NW of the Loop on the Metra commuter train.

Pepper Park has thought of it all.  Great coffee drinks, amazing pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, free wi fi, and ample space to spread out by yourself, as a couple or even as a group, as they have a community room that can seat 20.   Plenty o’ parking and a drive thru.  Nailed it.  May even be just the place for a secret rendezvous!

Online and in the store, they have a great infographic that shows you just how your coffee drink will be constructed.  You’ll be an expert instantly if you’re new to coffee, and it’s a good refresher for caffeine veterans.

Pepper Park is on Pepper Road, NW of town, just off Highway 14.  Convenient to the local medical complexes, hospital and many other businesses, but in any case, worth a trek just to avoid the big, boring chain coffee places.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chik-Fil-A Breakfast Review

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Chik-Fil-A Breakfast Review

One of the Original Locations

I haven’t been in a Chik-Fil-A for over a couple decades. This wasn’t a social protest because of their “problems,” but rather they are just not top of mind for me, and also not as visible as other fast foods. There are about 2000 of them in the US.

It’s certainly not a place I would think of for fast food breakfast, yet here I found myself at one today, and it was only because of “location, location, location” and all I was really looking for was a cup of coffee.

I was aware they had “chicken biscuits,”  but I wasn’t aware they offered a bacon and egg biscuit, which is my preferred fast food breakfast item, second only after Sonic Toasters.

So I thought I’d take one for a test drive, and throw in a Chicken Biscuit as well, since that is their claim to fame.  Oh, and tater tot medallions?  Why not?

It’s all cooked to order, and the coffee was just brewing, so the amiable counter person asked me if I wanted a glass of ice water while waiting for the coffee, which they would bring to the table with the food.

I swear, the personnel at this restaurant were so smiley and gleeful, you just wanted to pinch their cheeks.  Hospitable behavior in the hospitality business sure doesn’t hurt one bit.

The biscuits are baked in store, so sez the literature, and the chicken is hand breaded on site, as well.  I believe it.  The bacon was thick and smokey, and the egg almost seemed like it might have been cooked in house, too.  And of course, any place that has hash rounds or tots is high on my list.  The biscuits could have used a few more minutes in the oven, but other than that, no complaints.

I was both surprised and pleased.  The restaurant was busy, too, busier with in-house diners than other fast food outlets I stop in.

They still aren’t open on Sundays (company policy thing), but I’ll be frequenting Chik-Fil-A more often, I suspect.  Chik-Fil-A Locator. Chik-Fil-A-Menu.

Chik-Fil-A Breakfast Review

Bacon Egg Cheese Biscuit

 

Chik-Fil-A Breakfast Review

Chicken Biscuit

 

Chik-Fil-A Breakfast Review

Tater Tot Medallions

 

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Chi-Fil-A Breakfast Review

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Appleton Farms Ham Steak Review

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Aldi Ham ReviewI have written about a lot of Aldi products; Aldi is the global discount grocer owned by the same German family as Trader Joes.  At Aldi, you won’t find many big brand names, but rather Aldi concocted brand names that are manufactured under contract to Aldi’s specifications. (Also it will cost you a quarter to rent a cart, refunded when you return the cart to the line. Oh, and bag your own).

Where as my spawn professes to be a “ham hater,”  I am a genuine ham lover, and adore it all. Except honey glazed.  My domestic favorite is the slow salt cured beauties from the Carolinas;  internationally:  jamon serrano, prosciutto and the like.

Much of the ham in grocery stores isn’t very good, tho, and so it’s nice to run into one that isn’t full of fillers and other bits.  The Appleton Farms Ham Steak is ham, water, salt, seasonings, and that’s about it.

It’s made for Aldi by a packer called “Gusto” and they’ve been running a  ham and bacon operation west of Chicago for over forty years.  Gusto was purchased by Butterball in 2012, Butterball is owned by Seaboard, a diverse firm dating back to 1918 and a single flour mill in Kansas.

They run a 200,000 sq foot facility in Montgomery, IL, capable of grinding out 6 million pounds of product weekly. Wow.

Their Appleton Farms Ham Steak?  Superb.  Highly recommended for real ham taste and texture.

Aldi Ham Steak Review

Aldi Ham Steak Review

Gusto Packing Factory

Aldi Ham Steak Review

Gusto Packing Aerial

Appleton Farms Ham Steak Review

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Big Skillet Review – Elgin, IL

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frontageAnother suburban Chicago breakfast, this one in the town of Elgin, far west of the city straddling the Fox River.  The 8th largest city in Illinois, it was founded as a dairy center (there was a Borden factory) and home to the Elgin Watch Company, maker of timepieces big and small.  It was the largest manufacturer of fine watches in the US for many decades.  The town boasts some incredible Victorian homes.

I was just looking for eggs, and the Big Skillet is a typical Chicago style “coffee shop,” meaning a very long menu covering all meals of the day, and an extensive bakery selection.

I’ve kind of always eschewed “skillets” for breakfast, no particular reason, I mean it’s the same food, just piled up instead of spread out.  But I’ll always go for a breakfast plate that gives you all three meats, and the “Butcher Skillet” did just that. A mound of hash browns, smothered in melted cheese, with ham, bacon, and sausage, topped with three eggs. Side of toast? Yes please, with an ample set of bread choices, I went for rye.

As with most area ‘coffee shops’, an ample dish of butter or butter like substance graces the table.  The massive dish in front of me, I didn’t make much of a dent. I managed two eggs, some of the meat/cheese, and 1 piece of toast.

Excellent food, great value.  Downside?  I left my favorite hat behind.  Sniff.

Big Skillet Elgin Review

Mmmmmm butter stuff

Big Skillet Elgin Review

Butcher Skillet

 

 

 

 

 
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Big Skillet Review

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Sams Choice Original Smoked Sausages Review

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20150701_060836Right off the bat, even before trying them, I liked these better than the McCormick’s Grill Mates sausages I looked at this week (scroll down to next story). Reason?  First two ingredients are pork and beef, and not a mechanically separated poultry bit in sight. Also?  No “corn syrup solids.”  Sam’s Choice Original Smoked Sausages come in a 14 ounce package, four ‘larger’ size links, and retail for about three and a half bucks.

According to the USDA establishment number,  (4800), they are made for WalMart/Sams  by Eddy Packing, Inc., of Yoakum, TX.  Eddy has been around since the early 50s, and now operate a 300,000 square foot; the company is now in the hands of private equity investors, and cranks out processed proteins of beef, pork, turkey and chicken.  Eddy sells its own retail product under the “Eddy” and “Yoakum” brnads. (Pics of the plant below).  Yoakum is about 20 miles  south of I-10, about midway between Houston and San Antonio.

As these are “smoked,” they are fully cooked, and only require heating, if that’s how you prefer your sausages.  I lightly pan fried. This is a very mild sausage, suitable for a large bun sandwich, as an entree, or as a breakfast meat.  The flavor/aroma of smoke is slight. Consumers will find it more flavorful as bits of fat, which contributes to flavor, are evident in the mix. In short, I like it.

Sams Choice Smoked Sausage

In the skillet

Sams Choice Smoked Sausage

Cross section

Sams Choice Smoked Sausage

Eddy Packing, Yoakum, TX

Sams Choice Smoked Sausage

Eddy Packing, Yoakum, TX

 

 

 

Sams Choice Original Smoked Sausages Review

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White Castle Chicken Waffle Review

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White Castle Chicken Waffle ReviewWhite Castle has been trying on a lot of different dishes for size lately. Jalapeno and siracha everything, for example.  Tonight I went for the “Chicken & Waffle Slider,” a take off on the current chicken and waffle craze sweeping the country.  Used to be you could only get that dish in about three restaurants in the US, and traditionally it was a steaming hot, crisp waffle, a piece of fried chicken, and maple survey to splash.

White Castle has taken some liberties, used “Imported from Belgium” waffles, a fried chicken patty, a schmear of “country” gravy and some bacon bits. It had potential (at least in my head) but the execution (at least at this outlet) was awful.  The waffles had the limp consistency of sitting on a steam table, the dollop of gravy was undetectable and the bacon had (or waffle) had a heavy maple flavor that was kind of cloying.

I like most everything on White Castle’s menu and am more than an occasional customer, and no, I don’t drink.  But this one? Pass.  I did get a tasty order of o-rings, tho, second best in the fast food industry behind Arby’s terrific rings. So sez I.

White Castle Chicken Waffle Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Castle Chicken Waffle Review

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Klements Polish Sausage Review

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Klements Polish Sausage ReviewOne of Milwaukee’s largest and oldest sausage companies, Klement’s is often my ‘go-to’ purveyor when I’m looking for processed meats.  When I’m not in their distribution area, I even order care packages online.  The company has a wide variety of fresh and cooked sausages, as well as deli and sandwich meats.   I am fond of their summer sausage, corned beef, cocktail sausages,  and liver sausage.

Today I’m cooking up some of their Polish for breakfast. This is a natural casing sausage (YAY), and the company website lists the following ingredients: Pork, water, Beef, Salt, Contains less than 2% of Flavorings, Corn Syrup, Potassium Lactate, Isolated Oat Product, Dextrose,
Sodium Phosphate, Paprika, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Erythorbate, and Sodium Nitrite.

I’m not one of those consumers that gets all bent out of shape about certain ingredients, too late in my life cycle to worry about any of the alledged effects at this point in time.

Anyway, these are great, for  a breakfast side, or any meal,  on a bun, or on the grill.  I’d be careful on the grill to watch the direct heat, if the casings split, you’re gonna lose a lot of flavor.  My preferred method is to simmer in a cast-iron skillet until the water is gone, and then put a slight char on the sausages.

Perfection.

These beauties come out of the Klement’s plant at 207 E Lincoln Ave in Milwaukee, according to the USDA establishment number on the package.

Klements Polish Sausage Review

Klement’s Polish Sausage

 

Klements Polish Sausage Review

Factory – Aerial View

Klements Polish Sausage Review

Milwaukee Factory

 

 

Klements Polish Sausage Review

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Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Review – Wisconsin Dells, WI

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Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty ReviewHow I love breakfast buffets, let me count the ways: bacon, sausage, ham. You (I) get to eat literally pounds of breakfast meats (if I chose) and skip the other stuff.

This joint (and a sister location upstate in Minoqua) has been serving up “lumberjack style” meals for decades. That descriptor actually refers to being served “family style,” platters of the time-appropriate dishes, eat as much as you want, request more, no sweat.

In the morning hours, for less than a sawbuck (kids pay even less), you’re gonna be offered donuts, scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, hot cakes, and coffee, milk, or OJ. I did some damage on the pork products, for sure. Small nitpick. The website says the meat platter also includes kielbasa, but there was none around today.

Everyone probably understands that, as due to global warming, the kielbasa harvest last year was considerably down, and this year isn’t looking like they are going to be as high as an elephant’s eye by the fourth of July either! Oh well.

The food was really excellent – fresh and hot. I dug into the eggs, skipped the taters and cakes, but the kids went for everything (except they turned up their noses at biscuits and gravy, but what do they know?)

For lunch and dinner, there are one or two specials served in “the family way” and an ala carte menu as well.

Good stuff. Crazy, energetic waitresses. Fun times.  Bakery and gift shop also on location.  Authentic “lumberjack show” next door, a couple times a day or more. The restaurants are seasonal. Details.

Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Review

Hot fresh donuts! No Homer Price in sight!

Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Review

Biscuits & Gravy

Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Review

Breakfast meat, family style

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Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Review

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Uncle Johns Review – Belvidere, IL

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Since 1965, about the most important thing in Belvidere, Illinois, just east of Rockford on US Highway 20, has been the Chrysler assembly plant. In the past, they have manufactured the Omni, Neon, New Yorker, Imperial, and Fifth Avenue. More than 4,000 workers plied their trade at one time.

Today the plant cranks out Jeep Patriots, Compass’, and Dodge Darts, but with significant help from 780 robots in the body plant.

All not relevant to the fact that for a similar life span, Uncle John’s has been crnnking out copious quantities of home cooking at extremely fair pricing.

It’s one of those places that if you want to know anything that’s going on in town, or anything about anybody, there’ll be somebody that knows something at the eatery.

Like many upper Midwest diners, you’ll find a bowl o’ butter on the table.  I ordered two eggs with ham steak and rye toast. They also bump your egg order by one for “added value.’ Classic breakfast, deftly prepared at 65% of the prices most similar places charge. Two full breakfasts and coffees, and I was out the door for an even $13.

Uncle Johns Review Belvidere

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Uncle Johns Review

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