Archive for the ‘Food Business’ Category
I like jerky. I’m always in the hunt for new brands to find the ideal one for my personal taste. I like them beefy, smokey, slightly salty, and chewable. My favorite is one of the national snacks of South Africa, which I reviewed, and you can order online. I like that product as it is actual strips of beef muscle, instead of a processed product.
A few years ago, I made a trek to the factory outlet store for Jack Link‘s, in a small Wisconsin town near where I was brought up.And some top chefs in Chicago came up with their own brand which is very tasty.
Well, “West Coast” friends of mine have been crowing about Krave brand jerky for some time. “The best ever,” “unbelievable.” Krave was started by Jon Sebastiani, of the wine dynasty, who rapidly ramped it up to a $35 million annual company before flipping it quite early in its life to Hershey for $220 mil.
Legend has it (and the website) that Sebastiani and some athletic type friends that there was a hole in the market for this type of snack, and targeted to the work out crowd. (Not me, exercise for me is jogging my memory).
Krave touts their gourmet and natural ingredients. I chose the original variety ($3.99 at WalMart, same price as competitors), and the ingredients include: Beef, Cane Sugar, Gluten Free Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Alcohol), Honey, Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Sea Salt, Granulated Garlic, Onion Powder, Paprika, Spices.
Long and short. I didn’t care for it. Although well within its expiration date, it was hard as a rock. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but it doesn’t appeal to me. Secondly, it contains cane sugar (why?) which really boosts the carb count, which I guess is good for marathoners, but not for diabetics and weight watchers. Low carb meat snacks are standard fare for the latter in many cases.
Krave has different flavors, and you can order online for about twice the price that I saw in stores. This may be your dream jerky. As for me, it motivated me to have making jerky at home for this weekend. I used to get great home-made jerky from a dear friend, who eventually went crazy and quit making it.
I’ve got beef strips in marinade here at the burger house. In 24 hours, I’ll start drying it. I’m excited.
Krave Jerky is manufactured at a company in Kentucky called Louisville Processing & Cold Storage. Picture of that facility below.
Krave Jerky Review
(August 1, 2016) Most of the major frozen pizza manufacturers have been busy rolling out new variations of their products over the last couple years, apparently in an attempt to acquire more freezer frontage in the store, which hopefully translates into sales.
Tombstone, which started in Medford, WI, (map below) as a supplier of frozen pies to bars, grew into a substantial manufacturer before being sold off to Kraft, and then to Nestle.
One of their latest labels is the “Roadhouse” pizza, offering ‘double cheese,’ a crisp crust, and loads of toppings. I picked up the “Bring on the Meat” style, which is topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, and sausage.
This might be OK as an addition to the value priced end of the frozen pizza spectrum, but unfortunately, it falls into the upper mid range, running about seven bucks at my WalMart.
The salami is a pure pork/beef product, but they’ve mucked up the pepperoni by adding chicken, who knows why. The sausage is more like a plain crumbled pork, with little to no seasoning.
The larger shreds of cheese (see unbaked pic below) are a welcome addition. While they are very few frozen pies that have slices of cheese instead of shreds, the larger the pieces the better the tactile experience, in my opinion. The crust is ok, not ultra thin, but crispy enough for my taste, but the sauce borders on horrid, like most frozen pies, you can easily imagine it coming out of a 55 gallon drum labeled industrial strength pizza sauce.
It also is flavorless, with no indication is was originally birthed by tomatoes.
I had a couple pieces and then my guests heard me say something no one has ever heard me say in my entire life: “I’m throwing the rest of this out, ok?” No one objected. If you’re a regular reader, you know I try and find something positive in every post. Unfortunately, this pizza is dreadful.
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
Hillshire comes out with a version of “lunchables” for adult palates, and they are high quality and valued priced. I found them at Target at 2 / $5. The one(s) I picked up included dry salami, smoked gouda, and toast rounds. I was happy with all of it.
The “real” lunchables, the meat and cheese is such crap. Ick.
So I recommend these, and they are packed with protein, if you’re concerned about your daily intake.
These are packed for Hillshire by Sugar Creek Packing, in Washington Court House, Ohio.
Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review
Don’t bother trying to find anything out about this product online, I spent a bunch of time doing that and came up pretty short. I can’t even tell you exactly where I purchased it, other than a suburban Chicago grocery. So a lot of this should be prefaced with “apparently.”
This product is made in Harvard, IL, it seems by Jones Packing Company, which started in 1952. Harvard is the most distant NW suburb reached by commuter rail in the Chicago area. A pic of (apparently) Jones is below.
According to the USDA establishment number of the package, the product is actually produced at Roma Packing, Inc., in Chicago. (pic below).
This is a pure pork sausage, described on the package as “hot.” It comes in a clear vacuum pack, and contains the same types of herbs and spices one would find in traditional “hot” Italian sausage, i.e. fennel.
I split the package in two, and fried half of it until it was crumbles, and used it to top a home made pizza last night. The balance was made into patties for breakfast this morning.
In both cases, the product pleased me very much. It’s a very fine grind, so it is easily chewable. (Some pork sausages seem “tough”). The flavor is outstanding, and there is a little bit of heat, as advertised.
I’ll buy it again if I can find it. One story I read referred to Jones Packing having their own retail store, which I’ll go check out.
Gramma Pearls Sausage Review
Hit another ethno-centric market this weekend; Malincho promises a full selection of Bulgarian meats, cheese, canned and boxed groceries.
They didn’t disappoint, although the store was considerably smaller than I imagined it would be, having based my impression via their online presence.
They have a good selection, but if you don’t speak or read Bulgarian, be sure to take along the Google translate app. While most imported groceries I see have a ‘stick on label’ with English ingredients and nutrition, most items here didn’t.
The freezers are full of specialty meat products, primarily made by Tandem, a Bulgarian company that purchased a small processor in Schaumburg, IL (pictured below) to make and distribute Bulgarian specialty meats. There are a lot of great dried salamis and related products that I was happy to pick up. Also grabbed some imported cheeses, fruit juice, and olive pate.
I’d hit it again. It’s got a small sign in a strip mall off Mannheim, so keep your eyes peeled to the right if traveling north!
Open daily at 1475 Lee St, Des Plaines, IL 60018, and some items are available to purchase online. Prices in the store seem very reasonable.
Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review
Some weeks ago, I wrote about an Italian deli I stumbled on in suburban Chicago. Nottoli’s has a great selection of house-made sausages, pastas and an ample selection of imported Italian canned and box goods.
This week I hit Felicia’s, an Italian-centric meat market and deli in Schaumburg.
Felicia’s is smaller in size than Nottoli’s, but there’s no shortage of quality goodies.
The store has two narrow aisles as you walk in, on the right are freezer cases of pre-made frozen meals for two, as well as home-made soups. Lining the other side of the right hand aisle are canned tomatoes, sauces, and pasta.
As you round the bend at the back of the store, you’ll come to the deli case, well-staffed and able to take care of a crush of customers simultaneously. In addition to house-made meats, like Italian sausage, franks, and meatballs, they also carry Boar’s Head brand deli meats, a wide assortment of cheese and house-made salads, like buffalo/tomato and cold pastas.
I scored some hot Italian rope sausage and meatballs. The sausage is very flavorful and has a little heat. The meatballs are dense (the way I like them, not all crumbly) and only lightly seasoned. When I make them at home, I’ve been accused of using too much fennel. But hey, I’m at the stove, not you!
Felicia’s will make you sandwiches to go, on demand, and also do catering. Both menus are shown below.
Nice people, knowledgeable, helpful, quality goods. I like. Most everything I purchased I thought was a good value.
Felicia’s opens daily at 8AM, til 6PM Monday – Friday, 5 PM Satuday, and 2 PM Sunday. Map follows at the bottom of the post.
Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review
I have so much admiration for people who start a restaurant with just a concept in mind and build a business from the ground up. It’s a really tough, competitive segment – the best statistics available recently show 60% of new restaurants fail within the first three years. Any start-up is tough, I know, because I’ve been involved in dozens.
I have ten times the admiration for people who start a restaurant as an independent operation in a segment that is rapidly growing and has some tough competitors already in place.
Undaunted by that notion, the brothers Kwok created “Olive Theory Pizzeria” in the Chicago western suburb of Downers Grove. They had done their research, dined at a number of the established concept outlets and contemplated and investigated acquiring one of the franchise operations instead of going it alone.
In the end, they believed the restrictions of the franchisors would inhibit the Kwoks creating their vision of the restaurant – one where they could offer the highest quality ingredients, as well as menu items that wouldn’t be permitted under any of the franchise operating guidelines.
All that is fortunate for Chicago area diners in search of high quality “made on demand” wood fired pizza.
They call it “Olive Theory” as a reference to a tale from Greek mythology, wherein the olive tree, a most bountiful gift, was created in a contest to please the King. It’s the Kwok’s goal to offer bounty to the community, while maintaining an operation based on sustainability.
It’s quick and easy to order – grab a menu card (pictured below) at the counter and describe the pie you want or order one of the house specials. For a (low) flat price, you can have as many toppings as you like atop a cracker thin crust, cooked to order in minutes. One thing that differentiates Olive Theory from similar operations is the restaurants commitment to “fresh- prepared in store,” and the highest quality ingredients they can source locally. Outlets of chain operations aren’t allowed the flexibility to chase either of those ideals.
The dough for the crust is made in-house daily, allowed to rest and raise as proper dough requires. The classic tomato sauce is made from what many chefs consider the finest tomatoes in the world, San Marzanos from a particular region of Italy. If you’re in the mood for something other than red sauce, you have six other choices to contemplate. There are five cheeses available, a host of meat and vegetable toppings, as well as “finishing touches” like garlic or truffle oil.
Looking for something a little different, try Olive Theory’s version of a calzone, the “Pie-Sandwich,” your choice of pizza ingredients in a folded over version of their dough, and baked til golden brown. Salads and a daily soup are also on the menu.
The Kwok brothers had invited our party of four in for a tasting, and we had a diverse selection at the table, including the house special pies of “Buddha’s Karma,” “Titan’s Unleashed,” and “Goldbergs Big Five;” each of these pies have a special combination of ingredients that are nearly musical in the way they come together. Truly. I’m a fan of Italian sausage and pepperoni in nearly any form, but Olive Theory’s are spectacular to me.
In addition to being a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner, dining there or taking it home, it occurred to me that it’s a wonderful destination for families – the pricing is such that it provides a wonderful family outing at a really great value, and the kids will love the “build your own” concept, knowing they aren’t going to have to eat around whatever ingredients dad usually insists on.
Families concerned about the quality of what they eat and where it comes from can also take comfort in the offerings. I feel the ambience/atmosphere is also conducive to families and groups, with large tables, good lighting, and soft background music.
Olive Theory has a selection of beer, soft drinks, and iced tea to go with your meal, as well as some really great dessert offerings, including fresh baked cookies, hot from the oven.
I asked when and where location # 2 will show up, and they just smiled. They did say “no” to locating it my garage, even tho I thought that would be an outstanding site. You need to go to Olive Theory!
They are located in Downers Grove in a small strip mall on the north side of Butterfield Road, at 1400A, just east of I-355, and are open from 11AM -10PM every day. If you’re nearby and want to pick up, you can even order online. Phone is 630-519-5152. Catering services available. Click on menus to enlarge!
Olive Theory Pizzeria Review
Working on this site, there are two things I can consistently depend on Trader Joes and sister company ALDI for – and that’s a lack of information. Whenever I drop them a query about a particular product, to keep you informed, all I get is <crickets>.
One time I heard from one of the PR firms who dutifully didn’t answer a single question I had but sent me a puff piece on the company that actually had less information than there is on the company’s website. Sigh.
There’s some personal irony here, as once upon a time I was at a dinner party and seated next to one of the original founders for Trader Joes, and he was more than happy to answer any questions I posed.
Which brings us to today’s review:
Trader Joe’s Wood Fired Naples Style Uncured Pepperoni Pizza
I was motivated to try this because I have enjoyed a couple of other TJ’s pizzas in the past, which I wrote about here and here. Those I liked, because they were both imported, one from France, one from Italy, and I wondered aloud why US frozen pizzas couldn’t be as good? My second motivation was TJ’s ad for this pizza in its flyer, in which it states that they worked with their favorite Italian crust maker and had the crusts sent over to their favorite US toppings company for completion.
According to the USDA number on the package, the “toppings company” is Nation Pizza, a contract manufacturer in Schaumburg, IL, who also makes many of the frozen pies for ALDI. This only adds to my confusion as the actual product packaging doesn’t say anything about the crust being shipped over from Italy. Oh well.
It’s completely pre-baked, so it doesn’t take long in the oven, the 15 ouncer take about ten minutes at 450. The crust is thin, but not cracker thin, and “puffy” around the rim, with a nice flake for a period of time when consumed just after baking. Not so much on day 2. Good, ample cheese, and the sauce reflects a very pure tomato base.
I’ve never understood the appeal of “uncured” processed meats, except for people that think they are doing something healthy by skipping the usual preservatives. There is certainly no difference in the taste of TJs pepperoni and any other, you can trust me on this, I have probably consumed a couple of tons of pepperoni in my lifetime.
It’s a pretty good pie, but won’t be on my regular rotation list unless it is heavily discounted in the future.
Trader Joes Frozen Pizza Review
I keep searching for a frozen burger patty that meets with my personal tastes. They come in a few different forms, raw patties on their own, pre-cooked patties, or a complete pre-cooked hamburger sandwich.
I’ve previously tried Ball Park, Steak & Shake, Fatburger, White Castle, Advance Pierre, Trader Joe’s “Kobe Style,” some various store brands. None of them really moved me, except the TJ’s “Kobe,” was flavorful and lean. For a heat and eat, if you want to give your kids a burger in a minute, the Ball Park brand ones are pretty good. They have a bit of smoky flavor built in to emulate grilling.
The Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Angus Burger is what I picked up today, four to a package, four to a pound, packaged in twos, $4.99 on sale. So they are “spendy” as are all the ones I have previously mentioned.
Trader Joe’s sets their own product standards and doles out production to contract manufacturers all over the world. Most of the products I’ve purchased from TJs have been ultra-satisfactory, but priced a bit higher than equivalents.
First off, with this product, or any beef, it should not be perceived that the word “Angus” denotes any premium; most of the beef cattle in the US are “Angus” You’ll also occasionally see a label and logo that says “Certified Angus,” and this is merely a marketing term for a collective of growers who raise or purchase cattle that meets their own set of standards.
Should quality be a true concern, you should only look for beef with the USDA grades on them, which are select, choice, or prime. Each of these grades have subgrades. Most grocery beef comes from the choice category. To add to the confusion, the USDA grades are applied to whole carcasses, not to individual cuts.
But we’re talking about burgers, and you won’t see graded ground beef (usually) at the grocery. If you’re feeling finicky, grab graded steaks and have the butcher grind them for you. You’ll be happiest with a blend of 2-3 different cuts. Many people prefer a blend of chuck, brisket and and round. If you want your blend to be a little fattier, substitute short rib or navel cuts. Have them run it through the grinder twice for the right burger texture.
The Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Angus burgers are a product of New Zealand (country of origin of the beef) but processed by a small company in Brooklyn called Papa Pasquale’s (according to the USDA factory number) (pictured below). The patties are an 80/20 blend, and the content listing says “grass fed Angus beef.” Period.
I think you’ll have more favorable results if you thaw these patties. Most raw pre-formed frozen patties have the same instructions, cook on one side til blood comes thru the top side, flip and cook until there is no blood showing.
So I did. I also didn’t season the burger or add condiments. For my own personal taste, this is an excellent burger. Why? It tastes like BEEF. And when/why I say that about meat products, I’m talking about beef (or pork) you ate at somebody’s farm. Chefs call that quality “gaminess,” which has a somewhat undesirable meaning to most of the culture.
But it’s a good word. Beef (and pork) should taste like animals. Most product meat proteins don’t anymore.
But if that taste is your thing, too, you’ll like these burgers. Great flavor, great texture.
Trader Joes Angus Burger Review
I’ve written a lot about ‘gas station sandwiches,” a term I use to describe the cello wrapped sandwiches, fresh or heat and eat, one finds at c-stores, gas stations, and in vending machines.
The earliest ones I remember were from a Virginia company called “Stewart Sandwiches” who sold mostly to bars, concession stands, and schools and companies.
Their “heat and eat” versions used a patented device the company provided called an “In-Fra-Red” oven (pictured), which was kind of a predecessor of microwaves being widely used. The sandwiches were placed in the ovens, still in their cello, and they took 3-5 minutes to heat.
In addition to “subs” and burgers, their version of “chuck wagon” (breaded, fried hamburger) was very popular, as was their “pizza burger.” My college roommate and I used to buy quantities of these puppies and sell them in the dorm, til the school shut us down.
Stewart operated via a franchise model, with about a couple dozen distributors around the country that established their own customers/routes. At some point (which I can’t really seem to sort out through research), Stewart faded and some of their franchisees took up the mantel – the largest being the (now known as) “Deli Express” label, a suburban Minneapolis company, which cranks out a million sandwiches a week at their Minnesota factory.
Other than “Deli Express,” “Landshire,” and Ohio’s “AdvancePierre” (who recently acquired Landshire), the segment seems to be fairly regional, with a lot of smaller manufacturers like “Mom’s” in OK and Texas.
7-Eleven contracts some of their sandwiches out to a division of Lufthansa airlines.
Although many of these sandwiches are assembled by hand in the smaller companies, automation has created mass production efficiency as seen in this video.
In my opinion, for the most part, these sandwiches are largely “OK” but usually a little spendy. If you want something quick to go and relatively “fresh” they are a handy alternative to fast food. Some are considerably healthier than say, a Quarter Pounder and fries.
I’ve written a number of pieces lately on a gas station that recently moved into my neighborhood, a smallish chain in the Midwest called “Thorntons” and I’ve sampled a number of their heat and eat products, including a burger, Pizza, chicken sandwich, breakfast sandwich and tenders.
Today I tried their “fresh” sandwiches, an Italian Footlong sandwich (sic), at $4.99, on a long roll with ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone. It comes completely condiment free, but the gas station has an amply stocked condiment ‘bar.’ I’m ok with cello wrapped sandwiches being sold ‘naked,’ too often in these products if lettuce/tomato are included, they’ve seen better days, as of course the deli meats are full of preservatives and maintain their appearance much longer than the vegetables. As far as the spreadable condiments, every person has their individual tastes, some sandwiches come with packets of mustard/mayo included in the cello wrapping.
What did I think?
It’s ok, no better or worse than any other brand. The expiration date on this one is weeks in the future, but the bread is already pretty dry, and the only flavor that really ‘pops’ is the pepperoni, and that ingredient is the least in volume on the sandwich, with of course, the least expensive meat, the processed ham, being in attendance in the largest quantity.
I added mustard and dill pickles at home, but it didn’t really enhance or detract from the experience.
Since Thorntons has extensive roller grill offerings (hot dogs, sausages, those cylinder “Mexican” things, and a fresh condiment bar along side that, I probably would have been better off to open the sandwich at the gas station and load it up with junk there.
Live and learn.
Gas Station Sandwich Primer