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Dutch Farms Frozen Cheeseburger Review

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box3I’ve tried a lot of these ‘heat and eat’ burgers, some full cooked, some raw that you have to cook. It’s a long list of these sandwiches that I have slogged through, 7-Eleven, Trader Joes, Fatburger, SteaknShake, Ball Park, Biz Az, of course White Castle, and so many others.

Today’s entry is from Dutch Farms, a frozen food manufacturer in Chicago, mostly focused on dairy and bakery goods, but they also make heat and eat meals.  Funny that I don’t ever recall seeing the brand before, but maybe they are huge in the private label business.

The frozen burger comes complete with cheese and bun, wrapped in cello, the instructions tell you to open one end of the cello, heat 90 seconds and then let rest a minute before consuming.

I did. Added mustard and pickle.  Flavor was ok, it has some ‘smoke’ flavor added to emulate a grill, texture was ok, my complaint about this (and nearly all of them) are that the buns and meat don’t require the same attention in the microwave, so invariably, one or the other is overcooked or undercooked.

In this case, the bread is just nuked to a pulp (not literally) but it is way too soft to hold a substantial amount of toppings, if that’s they way you choose to dress your burger.

On the plus side, this was a little more than a buck at WalMart.  A lot of carbs and fat, but if you’re ok with that, buy a bunch to keep in the freezer for after school.

Which ones do I like the best?  Uncooked, the Trader Joes.  Cooked?  Ball Park. (they aren’t complete, the bag only contains the beef patties).

Dutch Farms Frozen Burger Review

Out of package

Dutch Farms Frozen Burger Review

90 seconds in microwave

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Farms Frozen Cheeseburger Review

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Emils Frozen Pizza Review

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Emils Frozen Pizza Review“Exceeds Expectations,” the package of Emil’s Pizza boasts.  And you know what?  It did, for me.  And I was surprised that it did.  Making “Real Good Pizza Since 1961,”  Emil’s is based in Watertown, WI, and must be another one of those Upper Midwest pizzas that got its launch as a local mom and pop  selling frozen pies to bars. (I’m guessing).

I picked up the traditional thin crust sausage pie, which weighs in at 21.6 oz (Now 20% larger!).  It was $6.99 at one of my local grocers, which puts it in the “medium value” range for frozen pizzas.

After taking it out of the package, I was immediately leery of the diced approach to the cheese, figuring it would not be adequate to cover the pie. I also noted that there was an ample quantity of sausage, but the pieces were relatively small.

Well, surprise!  It did exceed my expectations, and I’d buy it again.  It’s a good crisp version of the thin crust, the Wisconsin cheese melted and covered nicely, the sauce did not have an intrusive flavor and the sausage was fine.

Good job, Emil’s!

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

Unbaked

 

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

Fully baked (I added the olives)

 

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

Watertown, WI Factory

 

 

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

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Parkview Hot Italian Sausage Review (Aldi’s Brand)

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Parkview Aldi Sausage ReviewParkview is Aldi’s house brand for many of their meat products. Their ” Parkview Hot Italian Sausage,” is a smoked sausage, whereas most companies (and grocers) sell their Italian sausage as “fresh” (uncooked).  Smoked sausages like hot dogs, are fully cooked, so they only require a quick heat and eat, if that’s your preference.  This product is made for Aldi by Salm Partners in Denmark, WI.  They specialize in ‘cooked in the package’ meat products.

This is a “skinless” product meaning it’s not in a natural casing. The casing is made from collagen and is very thin, so that tactile experience that usually comes with biting into a sausage is not there.  It’s also truly “hot,” meaning it’s a lot spicier than most of the big name offerings.

I’ve reviewed other Parkview products in the past, including Hot and Spicy Smoked Sausage, Cocktail Links, and Beef Wieners. Aldi markets consistently reliable products at value prices.

Parkview Aldi Sausage Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parkview Hot Italian Sausage Review

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Krave Jerky Review

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Krave Jerky ReviewI 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

Krave Jerky Review

Kentucky Manufacturing Facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krave Jerky Review

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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza 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 varieties.

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Unbaked

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

400 degrees, 18 minutes

 

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Tombstone Factory, Medford, WI

 

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Medford, WI Location

 

 

 

 



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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

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Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review

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Hillshire Small Plates Snack ReviewHillshire 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review

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Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

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Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

Home made sausage pizza

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

Jones Packing, Harvard, IL

 

Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

Roma Packing, Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma Pearls Sausage Review

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Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review, Des Plaines, IL

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Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review

“Home style” Dry Salami

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

Tandem Meat Processors, Schaumburg, IL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review

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Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review, Schaumburg, IL

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Felicias Meat Market and Deli ReviewSome 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

Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review

Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review

Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review

 

 
Felicia's Meat Market Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
 

 

Felicias Meat Market and Deli Review

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Olive Theory Pizzeria Review, Downers Grove, IL

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Olive Theory Pizzeria ReviewI 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.

Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

Sausage, pepperoni, olive pie

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.

Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

“Buddha’s Karma”

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

Menu 1

 

Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

Menu 2

 

 

 

 

 

Olive Theory Pizzeria Review

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