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Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

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Quijote Brand Chorizo

Quijote Brand Chorizo ReviewThere are many varieties of chorizo sausage in the world.  I prefer the Spanish version, which is an ‘eating’ sausage, fermented, dried, smoked, ready for slicing.

It’s made from pork, fat, and a heavy dose of smoky paprika, along with a few other spices. It’s much milder than “Mexican chorizo” which incorporates chili peppers and is removed from the casing before frying in a skillet, being mashed, and taking on the appearance of finely ground beef.

I don’t see the Spanish variety in stores very often, so when I do, I pick it up. Driving across the Deep South last week, I stumbled onto a display of product in a grocery store, made by Elore Enterprises Inc., a Miami company located near MIA and five miles west of Biscayne Bay (pic below).

It’s very smoky and has the requisite firmness.  These particular sausages are about three inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.  “Fun size” my daughter would say.

If you want a change of pace in a nice, firm, slightly spicy, slicing “salami” – you should give this style a try.

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

 

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Miami Plant Location

 

 

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

 

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Suncrest Farms Ham Review

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Suncrest Farms Ham ReviewI’m crazy about “real” ham. Earthy, cured, smoked, taste and feels like it came from an actual animal. Meat should taste like it came from an animal.

Reality? I’ll eat almost any ham, but I like the real stuff the best and have been known to go on long drives in the Carolinas, Kentucky, Missouri and other places in search of small processors.

Or just stumbling into local groceries in those regions.

I found some good ones last week in North Carolina, “Suncrest Farms.” In addition to being top quality, it’s more ‘value priced’ than most competitor packets. Especially cool that they have “biscuit slices” in a one dollar package.

Just what you need to satisfy a quick craving. As it is both cured (salt, sugar) and smoked, it doesn’t require refrigeration bfeore it’s opened. You can haveSuncrest started in the mid 90s and has grown incrementally in revenue and facility size.  They now top 100,000 square feet of production and storage space in Wilkesboro, NC.  A pic of their factory is below.”Country ham” is a cure method involving primarily salt and time. “City hams” are cured with more sugar, and less smoke, a milder flavor.

Country ham is fairly salty.  Soak in water ahead of cooking (15-30 minutes) or simmer in water before pan-frying, that’s my method. Great for eating, sandwiches, seasoning in dishes.

Sadly, the company does not have an e-store on their site, or a locator.  Nor is it available on Amazon.  Too bad, cause it’s delicious. I’m going to have to plan a stock-up trip again soon!

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Slices after pan fry

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Close up. Note nice muscle grain.

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Suncrest Farms factory

 

 

 

 

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

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Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

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Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage ReviewThe full name of this product is “Johnsonville New Orleans Andouille Recipe Smoked Sausage.

In its original form, Andouille is a pure pork sausage that originated in France.  It is comprised of organ meat in a natural casing, with seasonings and wine, and then smoked. It is gray.

The first time I ordered it in Paris, I was quite surprised, the innards are quite rough cut and very identifiable. A bit shocking for a boy from a small town in Minnesota.

The French Acadians brought the sausage recipes to South Louisiana, where it kind of got jumbled up with the Creole cuisine influence already in the area. The recipe changed to a much finer grind, pure pork shoulder (no “bits”) with garlic, onion and wine for seasonings, stuffed into a natural casing and double smoked.

The Johnsonville product in no way resembles Louisiana Andouille, and the Cajuns (Acadians) never settled in New Orleans anyway.

So there we are.

Johnsonville is the largest sausage company in the US, measured in dollar volume, and their products are sold around the world.  They are based in Sheboygan Falls, WI and their giant plant (pictured below) is nearby and has the capacity to slaughter over 3,500 pigs daily.

Their “New Orleans” sausage if pork and beef, water, a mess of seasonings, all the usual preservatives and the dreaded corn syrup. You can taste the sweetness in the sausage. There is a tiny bit of “heat,” although true Cajun and Creole dishes are not known for that quality.

The meat slurry is stuffed into a collagen casing. Collagen is made from various animal parts, skin, tendons and such, and was designed to emulate the natural casings (hog and sheep intestines) used in many sausage.

I don’t know Johnsonville’s smoking process.  With that amount of production, I’m sure it’s massively efficient, which means, not a natural wood fire like smaller producers still use, but rather a liquid smoke “shower” within the smoking unit (oven).

It’s a good product for the mass market, of course, and that is what its designed for.

I do mine in  a cast iron skillet. Putting a little “char” on them further imitates a natural casing (to me). You can see one problem is collagen casings split open, so some flavor escapes.  Since they are smoked, you don’t have to “cook” them, just heat them anyway you prefer.

I hardly ever buy Johnsonville, rarely on sale and always 25-30% more than at least one competitor in any given week. Especially their fresh sausages.

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

 

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

Wisconsin Plant

 

 

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

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Pizza Sauces Compared – Home Cooking

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Pizza Sauces Compared

It literally took me decades to figure out how to make a great pizza at home. Now I prefer my own to nearly any pizzeria.

You have to pick and choose your ingredients, there are so many options in a standard pie, flour, sauce, cheese, meats, veggies.  I’m really picky about Italian sausage and pepperoni brands.

I started making crusts at home, it’s very easy, here’s the ingredients:

  • 2 t yeast (jars work better for me than packets)
  • 4 t sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 4 C flour (the best is designated as “00” which is used in Italy. Find it at good food stores. King Arthur sells a version, too) but almost any white flour will do.
  • 1 C + more, water water, warmer than your finger
  • 1/2 C EVOO

Eight minutes in the Kitchenaid, a  couple of rising periods, voila!  But you know what? Here’s a shortcut.  BUY THE DOUGH!  Most big groceries and WalMart have it for sale now, around a buck.

For quite a while, (when I don’t make my own from garden tomatos) I was using Contadina, which comes in a squeeze bottle, very convenient, and no waste, because it keeps.

I’ve previously tried Cento, which was satisfactory, pure, simple ingredients and it’s not annoyingly sweet (just a personal preference).  Pastorelli, a local Chicago brand, is outstanding. Also not “sweet” it’s a little thicker, heartier than most brands. I tried one from Italy, Mutti brand, that was very pure and very thick.

This week I was on to Dei Fratelli, made by the Herzel Family Farms in Northwest Ohio.  They’ve been in the biz since the 1920s.  Again, a thicker one, kinda of sweet.  Upside of both Pastorelli and Dei Fratelli is they offer a smaller size, perfect for one large pie. (Mine are rectangular, the size of a large cookie sheet).

Do I have a favorite? Well, I like to support hometown companies, and all things being equal, I’ll go with Pastorelli every time.

Pizza Sauces Compared

My pie

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Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

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Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Food Club Brand Spanish Olives ReviewIt’s hard to explain this company, you practically need to use Ancestry dot com to understand the hierarchy, but I’ll give it a shot.

Food Club is one of dozens of brands of a privately held Chicago company called Topco Associates LLC.

–Topco is a co-op. That is, it is owned by its “members.”

–It’s membership is comprised of grocery store companies and grocery distributing companies co-ops, which in turn, are owned by their member grocery store chains.

Topco started in 1944 as a way of establishing a reliable pipeline of grocery goods to stores, after the shortages left by the war. They have since grown to have hundreds of brand names, all across the grocery segment, fresh and frozen foods, jars and boxes, baby stuff, healthy stuff, with a brands you are familiar with including Food Club, Sure FIne, East, Buckley Farms, Papa Enzos, Cape Covelle. They also have a “Premium” line, a “health and wellness line” and a “Basics” line where the products mostly are labeled “Valu Time.”

Remember when “generics” first hit the grocery stores? White packaging, black block letters – “OAT CEREAL” and such.  Today “generics” (store brands, really) make up a huge percent of a store’s inventory and are very often made by the largest manufacturers in the country, the ones that make the brand names you trust.  ALDI stores is a master of this segment, having products made to their specifications by major processors, and putting a brand name label of their own on the product.  I’ve reviewed a ton of Aldi products on this site.

All these types of products are generally considerbly less money than the brand names, and are on the shelf right next to the majors so you can compare. Yeah, I don’t get why Oreos would want fake ones right next to them on the shelf, but it is what it is.

IN ANY CASE, today it’s about Food Club brands Spanish Olives with Diced Pimento and “Olive tree.” Now that last item is intriguing, you have to admit, it’s going to be the perfect coat rack companion to my pizza box “doll house tables.”

These are Manzanillo olives from Spain. Processors pick at different times in the season depending on the size they desire, these are early, the smallest.  I’m an olive snob.  I’m always eating them and once a year, I cure them myself at home, purchasing raw olives and going through the painstaking and lengthy process to cure them naturally (in a brine).

Large olive producers can afford to wait around, so the natural bitterness of the fruit is removed from the olive with a lye bath. Yes, lye.

As far the Food Club product? Whatever process they’ve used has caused the fruit to be too soft.  The brine is fine, and these would be ok to finely dice and use in whatever recipe you use diced olives in, but they aren’t fun to snack on.

The upside? They were only 99 cents.  Probably less than half the price of competitive brands.

So there you have it. Yes, I did dice them.  Put them on an Italian hoagie (sub, grinder, torpedo, hero, poorboy, poboy)  where they worked just fine.

 

 

 

 

Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Food Club Brand Spanish Olives Review

Topco Associates

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Dr Oetkers Chocolate Mousse Mix Review

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Dr Oetkers Chocolate Mousse Mix ReviewI don’t remember the first OR last time I had chocolate mousse. I dare say it’s more than a half century ago.

When we were kids, it was the ultimate luxury in dessert after a fancy meal out, which generally meant some holiday in a hotel dining room. As for the last time, had to have been on the cusp between teen and “adult” trying to impress some young thing out for a first dinner date.

Her name was Nancy and the (hotel) restaurant was called “The Black Bear.”

All I really remember about it was it was incredibly chocolately, incredibly sweet, with an “air-like” quality.

So wondering through the “foreign foods” aisle at one of the local grocers the other day, as I am apt to do, I spotted Dr. Oetker’s Chocolate Mousse Mix in a box, with the simplest of instructions, add a cup of milk, and stick your electric whippy dip on high speed in there for five minutes, spoon into ‘dessert cups.’

I could handle that.  I was familiar with the brand, which started as a baking ingredient company in Germany in the 1800s. Makers of yeast and such. Today they still crank out all manner of powdered baking aids, yeast, baking powder, icings, flavored sugars, and for some inexplicable reason, have expanded into frozen pizzas.

I recall trying one, but apparently it wasn’t memorable enough to write about.

Anyway, I decided this weekend to venture into the world of instant chocolate mousse.  Would it remind me of the childhood delight? Is it different than instant pudding?

Sadly, the answer to both questions is no.  It was easy to make.  It did taste chocolately (s in a pudding sort of way, a little thicker, denser perhaps, but nothing to serve your in laws and expect compliments.

It might be better as an ingredient in something.  Brownies? Cake?  Leave it to your imagination.  I think it was two bucks.

Dr Oetkers Chocolate Mousse Mix Review

Whip! Whip! Whip!

 

Dr Oetkers Chocolate Mousse Mix Review

Not my pic. My cups were a mess!

Dr Oetkers Chocolate Mousse Mix Review

Dr Oetkers Chocolate Mousse Mix Review

 

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Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

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Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review 

First time I ever recall seeing a “hot food bar” was in the corner delis and bodegas in New York City, must have been 30-40 years ago.

That made sense, people rushing home from work, late, wanted a hot, somewhat balanced meal that they didn’t have to fuss with it.

Along came the concept of “groceraunt” (but years before that term was coined) and grocery stores started adding full service hot deli counters, which then evolved into the “bar” – a dozen or more hot entrees along with mass appeal sides – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, stewed carrots and the like.

They accompanied fairly standard hot dishes, meatloaf, fried chicken in various forms, chicken and dumplings, stews, baked or fried fish and the like. I’m willing to be a lot of money that none of these foods are prepared in-house, but come in large tinfoil pans fully cooked, probably frozen, waiting for the “heat and eat” stage and to be dumped onto the food bar.

A giant version of TV dinners, if you will.  If it’s a large grocery, it’s likely there is an accompanying “salad bar” that also includes a half dozen soup offerings. Both the hot food and salad are priced by the pound, and it varies depending on the chain and the zip code.  I’ve seen them from $6- $9 per pound. (Expert tip – “liquid” has weight. Watch that you keep liquid accompanying your entree or side to a minimum.

There are only two or three massive grocery holding companies any more, they’ve gone out and bought all the regional chains up. Jewel-Osco, in the Upper Midwest, is part of Albertson’s, which is part of SuperValu.  Then there is Kroger Company, which owns a gaggle of brands, and of course WalMart and the member only clubs. Jewel Osco, was originally the grocery chain “Jewel T” and Osco was a drug store chain. They are co-located and co-named now, obviously.

If I’m ever in the mood for the hot bar concept, I limit my grazing to the upmarket groceries, Whole Foods or regional choices. Better quality, larger variety, but more expensive, of course. Whereas your regular grocery might have beef burger tomato goulash, the upmarket places are going to offer pad thai and that type of thing.

So passing by one of my local Jewel-Oscos (I purposely avoid them, they are spendy compared to competitors, and with no real right to be spendy, plus their big “sale” prices, especially the BOGOs are hilariously dishonest), I thought I’d graze the hot bar just for something to write about.

Friday is “wing day” apparently and they were offering maybe eight different styles of chicken wings, and a couple types of “boneless wings” which aren’t wings at all, are they?

So I retried some “Buffalo” boneless wings,  meatballs in marinara, and fried cod (hey, it is lent).  My feelings about the dishes are as follows:

Why do they call them “boneless wings?” I realize anything “nugget” related is associated with McD, but why not bits? Mini tenders?  Something. The buffalo flavoring wasn’t.  I think they mixed up the trays, and what I ended up having was boneless wings of General Tso variety. They were sweet, with a little heat, and deep fried.  Not a trace of buffalo seasoning flavor.  These weren’t billed as “all white meat” because they weren’t. There was some white, some grey, whatever that was.  Diced chicken parts rolled together in the batter.

Meatball.  Zero flavor, very dense.  Now it wasn’t billed as “Italian” but swimming in a red sauce, one might (like me) assume it would be Italian, but no garlic, oregano, basil, fennel. Just meat. Of an unknown origin.  I’m gonna go with pork, because of the color.  No noticeable bread crumbs or filler.

Fried cod. Like the chicken, these are bits of fish rolled into a batter and fried.  It was the best of the three things I tried, and I’m not a big cod fan, but on any Friday night in Chicagoland or Southern Wisconsin, you’ll see restaurant offering all you can eat cod, fried or baked, at a pretty low price. There must be a lot of cod left in the ocean, though Newfoundlanders would disagree with you.

That’s about it for the Jewel Osco hot food bar.  I won’t make it a regular thing.

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Meatball

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Meatball, Dissected

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Boneless “Wings”

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Inside a “Wing”

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Fried cod

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Deep inside a fish

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

 

 

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Detroit Kabob House Review – Niles, IL

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Detroit Kabob House ReviewI was feeling a might peckish, so I was walking through the streets of East Jerusalem one day, the restaurant in my “fabulous” hotel was closed for some reason.

I was in search of street food when I came across a cart selling what appeared to be, tubes of foil.  I inquired, ?? ??? ????? ??? ?????? ? . To which the affable vendor replied: ??????? ???????!

OK, neither of us spoke Arabic, I mean at that point in time.  He told me they were “Turkish Pizzas” and he unrolled the foil to reveal a six inch or so  round disk, covered from stem to stern with some meaty goodness.  I took two. Delicious. I’ve since had them in Amsterdam and Portland, Oregon, and on occasion, look for them wherever I happen to be.

This day I was on Milwaukee Avenue in Niles, Il, a NW suburb of Chicago. This stretch of Milwaukee is an “ethnic” grocer wonderland, not sure how it ended up this way, but there are serious Polish butchers, Asian Hypermarts, Iranian and Turkish eateries and food shops, a Greek or two, some Mexican for good measure.  I love going over there and hate it.  I never have a big enough budget (tho most everything is dirt cheap, or enough coolers if I have a drive in front of me.

I digress.  I had made my way through an Iranian food shop (oh my, what a selection of olives, and I had gone there specifically in search of the “Turkish Pizza.”  I was thinking frozen product, which I have also seen before, but he had some delivered fresh from some other local guy. They suggested if I wanted to eat one on the spot, to stop in next door at the Detroit Kabob House.

I know, I know, you’re thinking “what does ‘Detroit’ have to do with kabobs?  Well, if you don’t know, the Detroit metropolitan area has the single largest concentration of Arab residents in the US. Around 300,000. (And ooh baby, there are some good eats over there, too!).

Anyhow, I wandered into “Detroit” which is a combination of masterful baked goods as well as a cafe. (Menu below). Picked up some sweets, but also a few of the pizzas, some with meat (beef and spices he said) and some just herbs.  He popped them into the pizza oven for a quick jolt, and onto the counter on a paper plate.

Delish.  BTW?  I put “Turkish” in quotes because apparently the item is called by different names depending on where you’re standing at the time. That’s all.

I love the looks of the menu and will go back just for meal.

Meat pie pictured below.  Detroit is open 11-9 Monday thru Saturday and until 8PM Sunday.

Detroit Kabob House Review

“Turkish” Pizza

Detroit Kabob House Review

Menu 1, Click to Enlarge

Detroit Kabob House Review

Menu 2, Click to Enlarge

Detroit Kabob House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Detroit Kabob House Review
Detroit Kabob House Review

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K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

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K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages ReviewI am crazy for “little smokies” but it’s one of the few things I have remained a brand snob about.

A few years ago, I started with Hillshire Farms All Beef Little Smokies and pretty much haven’t looked back. Although they are spending (north of $4 a pack usually) they are occasionally in the $2.50 range at WalMart and I stock up.

I prefer their flavor and texture, and I’ve tried a shitload of brands, John Morrell, Eckrich, Klements,  and Aldi, to name a few.

So prowling an Asian hypermart last week, I spotted “K Chef” brand, which the package touted as “uncured cooked sausages,” and implied they were “Korean style.”

To me they looked like regular old “little smokies” but I liked the ingredient list (below) and was intrigued that they said they were in collagen casings, as most “smokies” type sausage, like skinless wieners, are formed in a casing mold which is stripped off after cooking at the plant.

Giant bonus. They were priced at $1.99. That may have been a mistake. If not, I’m taking the freezer truck back over this weekend!

The K Chef brand is a product of a New Jersey company, Premier Foods, which was started in 2012 only, and states as their mission: “we are developers, producers and distributors of unique and flavorful ready-to-eat, frozen, shelf-stable foods for you home and commercial use.”

Premier contracted with Family Food Products, Bensalem, PA, for the manufacture and packaging of these sausages, according to the USDA establishment number on the wrapper.

Bottom line.  I liked them. They have great flavor, a little smokier than most, and the casings add a texture dimension usually not found in smokies and their ilk.

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

Ingredient list

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

In the pan (char is intentional on my part)

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

Bensalem PA Factory

 

 

 

 

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

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Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review – A WalMart Product

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Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat ReviewI write a lot about ham, it seems.  Because I love it.

I love premium hams and have driven background all over the country in search of small processors, and been very successful in Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Missouri. I have quite a few reviews of very expensive ham, as well as very cheap “ham.”

Today we’re talking about the latter, Great Value (WalMart brand) Smoked Ham lunchmeat.  I’ve always called this type of meat “pressed, chopped, and formed,” but that’s really the wrong order. Earlier advertisements for this segment label it “chopped pressed and cooked” and that’s more apt, isn’t it?

Bits of pork, seasonings, a saline solution and artificial smoke are combined to make a “loaf” which is thin sliced and packaged.

This product is made for WalMart by an old Chicago area meat processor, Carl Buddig. I have pix of their factory below, and also of their own packaging for similar product, which you will surely recognize. Incidentally, Buddig makes some of the best hot dogs on the planet, in natural casings, the brand is “Old Wisconsin,” which are a pork and beef blend.  Buddig is privately held, and still run by the founder’s family members.

Bottom line, this type of “ham” really has no taste or texture to me. I’ve always thought the only differences in the contents of the Buddig packages below was color. I had a lot of that stuff for school lunches a million years ago. Take a bite, no clue what is was. Lift the bread? Brown, roast beef, pink, ham, white, turkey.

Here’s the thing. The Great Value is $2.50 for 9 ounces. That’s anywhere from $2-$4 less than big brand names for the same amount, and basically the same product, unless you’re getting into the high-end, slice at the deli counter kinda thing. And there aren’t many of those that are worth the additional cost. IMHO.

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Smoked ham slices

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Buddig Brand Packaging

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Old Time Buddig Package

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Buddig Factory, 25 miles south of downtown Chicago

 

 

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

Great Value Smoked Ham Lunchmeat Review

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