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Archive for the ‘Ham & Bacon’ Category

All Grass Farms Review – Supplier of Sustainable Proteins

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All Grass Farms ReviewIf you’re even an occasional reader, you know how much I like great ham. Fresh from the farm type ham. Ham that tastes like a hog.

I’ve driven around the country in search of great suppliers, so I was delighted to be driving down a back road just outside of Chicago the other day, and spotting a hand painted sign with the inquiry “Got Pork?”

“Why no, I don’t,”  sez I to myself, so I turned in the driveway.

All Grass Farms is a small producer in Dundee, Illinois, who can take care of your beef, pork, poultry, eggs and raw milk needs 7 days a week, from a little shop they have on site.

These are grass fed animals, hormone free, and you’ll note the difference in taste and texture.  I picked up a slab ‘o ham, and it was spendy, but worth it. The carmelization you see is causing not by burning it (tho I like charred ham) but by the fact brown sugar is used in the cure. It’s also nicely smoked.

The muscle texture is superb, it hasn’t been pulverized to death by tenderizers or “brine injections.” I loathe meat like that. I’ll but this again, and may even venture into a quantity of pork. I’m certainly going to get some raw milk in the future, which you can’t find in main line grocers, but if you do have some you can make great cheese and butter at home, lickety-split. Or lemony snicket.

You can order online, but they don’t ship, you’ll still have to pick up. They’re open daily from 10-6. If you’re looking for something specific, you might want to inquire prior (847-852-7081) to making the trek – they do run out of popular items on occasion.  They can also set you up with bulk packages – say if you wanted half a hog or cow.

The meat is processed about 60 miles west by Eickman’s Processing Company, Seward, IL.  They also have a small retail shop on site, which is open until 5:30 Mon – Fri, and noon on Saturday.

It’s nice to know where your food comes from, especially these days when Washington is proposing eliminating many of the safe regs and inspections we’ve relied on in the past.

All Grass Farms Review

All Grass Farms Review

Store at the farm

All Grass Farms Review

Eickman’s Processing Co  – Storefront

All Grass Farms Review

Eickman’s Processing Co – Aerial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Broadbent Hams Review – Legendary Kentucky Producer

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Broadbent Ham ReviewI love ham. Good ham. Not that chopped, pressed and formed in a slurry, pushed thru a mold deli slices like at Subway or grocery deli counters.

No, honest to goodness hog muscle, carefully cured and aged. I’ve driven the backroads of Kentucky, Virginia and other states in search of small producers.

I’ve had the pleasure of consuming ‘melt in your mouth’ jamon serrano at the Museum of Ham in Madrid. Same with Italian prosciutto.

And now I’ve found an American producer I can really get behind, Kentucky’s Broadbent Foods.

They’ve had it figured out for over 100 years, so much so they are constantly winning state and national competitions.

Available in “country” or “city” styles (the latter being a milder cure), you can purchase Broadbent hams in nearly any type of configuration you choose: whole, half, sliced, cooked, bone-in, boneless, uncooked, steaks, biscuit slices, seasoning bits and ground.

They also produce some mighty fine bacon and smoked sausages.

I loved their country ham, purchased slices and steaks. The cure provides for a stronger hog taste (I personally think meat should taste like the animals it comes from, especially beef and pork), and great texture. The biscuit slices are uncooked, so you can saute them in a fry pan with a little water added if you’re going for red eye gravy.

And why not?

Purchase Broadbent products online.

Broadbent Hams Review

 

Broadbent Hams Review

 

 

Broadbent Hams Review

Broadbent Hams Review

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Carys Family Restaurant Review – Cary, IL

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Carys Family Restaurant Review“No, we’re out,” said Adele firmly. I protested, and she replied “we had five servings left and I sold them all this morning. Won’t be more until the delivery truck comes.”

“I’ll wait.”

OK, I didn’t say that, and noticing the disappointment on my face that I wasn’t going to get to have Chicken Fried Steak for breakfast, she recommended the ham, without even knowing that’s my go-to 2nd choice.

“It’s off the bone.”

I drooled. “OK, ham and eggs, two over easy, hash browns real crispy, rye toast. Some char on the ham, please.”

“Done,” sez she.

I was at  Cary’s Family Restaurant on US Highway 14, 48.7 miles from Willis (nee Sears) Tower in downtown Chicago. Cary is one of dozens of burgs lining Highway 14, one of the original US highways. Depending on what direction you’re heading, it either starts in Chicago and ends at the eastern entrance to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, or the reverse.

There are a buckets of restaurants along that highway, and it’s on my bucket list to hit all of them. In this neck of the woods, I’ve hit the Sugar Bowl in Des Plaines, the Big Foot Inn (in Big Foot), Mr. Beefy and Kojak’s (both Fox River Grove), to name a few, with obviously, many, many more to go!

Adele returned to the table bearing my plates, and it looked perfect, the kitchen had even cooked the ham the way I asked for it (I like a little char on ham, adds to the texture), and the rye toast was oversized. Eggs over easy, and I was ready to go. Lots of Chicago area restaurants have a bowl of butter pats on the table, and Cary’s Family is no exception, so I set about the task of buttering the rye toast before cutting the pieces in half and slamming a half into the egg yolk.

Growing up in my house, the act was called “mopping” and was strictly forbidden. No naturally, as an ‘adult’ the activity amplified to tease my mother while she did a slow burn on the other side of the kitchen.

Back to the task at ham (sic). The meat was delicious. Geez I love real ham. Not that chopped, pressed and formed stuff, but real muscle meat, the longer it has been cured, the better. I’ve driven the back roads of Virginia and Kentucky looking for exceptional ham. I’ve been to the Ham Museum in Madrid (seriously) (Spain, not Missouri).

Anyway, breakfast was good, Adele was a delight, I won’t bear a grudge that they were out of Chicken Fried Steak, and will give them another chance or six.

It’s a pleasure to run into servers who seem genuinely happy to be doing their job well. Remember to appreciate them.

Cary's Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Carys Family Restaurant Review

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Applewood Farms Bacon Review – Aldi In House Brand

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Applewood Farms Bacon ReviewI’ve been a little hotter than usual for bacon. For about a year, I’ve been buying whichever pre-cooked brand was on sale.

Seemed like a no muss, no fuss opportunity to me, and often a lot cheaper than raw bacon.

Lately, I’ve noticed that most all of the pre-cook brands the slices are nearly translucent, and I like my bacon a little thicker.

Of course, there’s a certain joy of having that aroma waft through the house; it was one of the few ways I could motivate my ex to get out of bed. (At home anyway).

Applewood Farms is the in-house brand for bacon, sausages and ham at Aldi stores, a global chain of discount grocers. Aldi is part of the same German company that owns US lux foods retailer, Trader Joes.

I’ve reviewed a lot of Aldi products, including  braunschweiger, smoked sausage, ham, pre-cooked bacon, summer sausage, pizza and many others.

This bacon was more than satisfactory. Thick enough, flavorful, nice smokey aroma. I cooked the whole package at once, I bake bacon  (350 for about 12 minutes) on cookie sheets (some people cover their sheets with foil for quicker clean up).  There’s no flipping, less shrinkage, and your slices stay perfectly flat.

So I was happy. I’ll buy it again, as long as it stays price competitive, and with Aldi, you never have to worry about that.

Aldi contracts with established manufacturers to make products to its own recipes and specifications.  This bacon is produced in the Elkhart, Indiana plant (pictured below) of Plumrose USA, the American division of the European food company of the same name. Plumrose USA was sold in the past few weeks to the giant South American meat processor JBS.

They paid $230 million and picked up five plants and two distribution centers in the deal.

What did I do with my bacon? Why made a monster BLT of course!

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

Cooked Aldi Bacon

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

Impressive BLT

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

Plumrose Indiana Plant

 

 

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

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Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

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Food Club Liquid Eggs ReviewI’ve never tried “liquid eggs” (industry term: breaker eggs), but I see them used quite a bit at charity breakfasts I attend. I do recall having powdered (dehydrated) eggs, which have been around for more than a hundred years.

My experience was on Scout trips – the eggs were pretty awful.  So I set out to do my home experience, and picked up a pint carton of Food Club (TopCo) brand “Great Egg0-Spectations.” The carton promises “contains 99% real egg product. (See full ingredient list at the end of this post).

I can see why they use these at the mass breakfasts, or in commercial bakeries and restaurants. Speed, little waste, consistent product. (As you know, “fresh” eggs can vary in taste and size).

So these were a buck. The carton contains the equivalent of eight eggs. 3 T equal 1 egg.  A reason for buying them would not be value, certainly at any store in any given week, you can find at least one brand at around 50 cents a dozen. Of course, you can pay up to $6 a dozen from the same display case, and obviously, people must buy them or they wouldn’t be there, but I sure don’t get the idea of $6 eggs.

I assumed I could use the product as I would fresh eggs, so I set out to make scrambled eggs, adding a dollop of milk to my mix, cooking them in a non-stick skilled at medium heat. They turned out just fine. Tasted like…………….spoiler alert……………scrambled eggs!

Food Club brand is part of Topco, which is based in suburban Chicago, and started as a co-op of producers in the 1940s. They sell thousands of different products (frozen, refrigerated and dry)  under their own brand names, to a wide variety of retailers. They also produce their products in three different value segments, from a economy type product to an added value kind.

My conclusion is that liquid eggs are tasty and convenient. Would I buy them again? Nah, like I said above, I really don’t “get it” for home use. Plus the carton instructs you to use in a week, and most people keep fresh eggs around for weeks without a care. If you’re really concerned with product longevity, powdered eggs can last 5-10 years, depending on the brand and storage method.

Do you use liquid eggs at home? How do you use them? Do you have a preferred brand?

INGREDIENTS

EGG WHITES (99%), LESS THAN 1%: NATURAL FLAVOR, COLOR (INCLUDES BETA CAROTENE), SPICES, SALT, ONION POWDER, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, VITAMINS AND MINERALS: CALCIUM SULFATE, IRON (FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE), VITAMIN E (ALPHA TOCOPHEROL ACETATE), ZINC SULFATE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, VITAMIN B12, VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN), VITAMIN B1 (THIAMINE MONONITRATE), VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE), FOLIC ACID, BIOTIN, VITAMIN D3.

Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

 

 

Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

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Sugar Bowl Review, Des Plaines, IL

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Sugar Bowl Review Des PlainesThe Sugar Bowl has been an integral part of downtown Des Plaines since 1921. It has, over the years, been a sweet shop, candy store, ice cream parlor and restaurant. Today it’s heavily into the restaurant biz.

Have seen this place many times when I’ve been zipping by on the train and had a hankering to try it, which I did early one Sunday morning.I went for ham and eggs, and I’ve been on a winning streak with breakfast ham in restaurants lately, like the Village Family Restaurant in Huntley, IL.

I have a penchant for “REAL HAM,” full muscle meat that’s been cut from a butt or loin, not that pressed, chopped, and formed stuff that so many restaurants serve. Please dear god, no.

The kind of ham I prefer, at least in Chicago area restaurants is called (some variation of) “Ham off the bone.” And it’s damned near porcine heaven to me. Especially heavily aged and smoked, and NOT cured or coated with any kind of sugar or substitute.

So, if you haven’t guessed, I’m sweet on the Sugar Bowl for breakfast. Great food, great service, good prices.  If you’re going to or thru Des Plaines, stop by. It’s also not far from the reconstructed first (Ray Kroc version) McDonalds, now a museum.

The Sugar Bowl serves breakfast and lunch menus, which you can peruse here.

Sugar Bowl Review Des Plaines

Eggs & Ham, Sam I Am!!

Sugar Bowl Sweet Shop & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

 

Sugar Bowl Review

Sugar Bowl Review

Sugar Bowl Review

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Lou Mitchells Review, on Route 66, Chicago

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Lou Mitchells Review

Exterior

Main Street of America, the Mother Road, Will Rogers Highway, all names for US Route 66,  established in 1926, and destined to become one of the most famous roads in America.

It ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean, at Santa Monica (Los Angeles), California. Towns and cities grew up along side it, merchants prospered as America’s love of the automobile grew. It was a major route for families escaping the dust bowl in the 30s.

A TV show, which began in 1960, romanticized the road.

Lou Mitchells, open early, and serving breakfast and lunch menus seven days, there are certain things patrons of Lou’s have come to expect: being greeted at the door with a hot donut hole, being expediently served by a professional and happy staff, complimentary Milk Duds on the table, an orange slice and a single prune as an “amuse,” and an offer of free ice cream upon the completion of your meal.

Not to overlook the obvious, expect quality ingredients, meticulous preparation, and large servings of the menu items.I went with fried eggs and ham, 3 (4?) eggs served in a skillet along with home-cut hash browns, four strips of perfect bacon, and two thick pieces of toast. Like many Chicago diners, Lou’s has a giant dish of butter on the table, so feel free to overindulge. I did.

Whether you’re beginning or ending traversing the Mother Road for a vacation, or just passing thru Chicago on business or pleasure, be sure to include Lou Mitchell’s on your “must” list.  Especially for those who pine for a time when things were “better” in America, Lou Mitchell’s will transport you there.

Lou Mitchells Review Route 66

Eggs Over with Bacon

Lou Mitchell's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Lou Mitchells Review

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Hardees Breakfast Biscuit Review – Nationwide

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Hardees Breakfast Biscuit ReviewI admit I’ve become fussy about fast food (and C-store) breakfasts.  Think I’ve covered them all, and some are pretty good, some are absolutely dreadful. Some could be made better with very little effort or expense.

I stopped in a Hardees/Carl’s Jr on a recent road trip, in search of a menu item I’ve had before, the “Monster Biscuit (review)” which is egg, cheese, bacon, sausage and ham together!

Hardee’s gets extra points off the top for making their biscuits fresh, in house daily. Not sure anywhere else does that. In any case, the Monster Biscuit was nowhere to be found, so I thought I would try the Ham Biscuit, figuring I’d be disappointed cause they would probably use the standard fast food “ham” (which isn’t, is it?).

Lo and behold, behold and lo, no the biscuit had REAL ham on it, much like one of my other favorites, the ham biscuit at Bojangles, a southern chain.

So, surprise!  I’m ok with Chik Filet’s breakfast biscuits (also because they have tots), and Einstein’s (because they cook them to order).  I found a bologna breakfast biscuit in a c-store in Tennessee last week.  That was different.

I enjoy Sonic’s “Toaster” breakfast sandwiches (review), but I wish the toast was crisp instead of limp.  Could be if they toasted it on the spot.  Starbucks has a pretty good offering, which I will write about later this week.  But it’s spendy.

Finally, something else I will cover this week, spoiler alert, Dunkin Donuts toasted breakfast sandwich.  Just plain dreadful.  If you go to the search bar above, and use gas station or c-store as a search term, you can discover other stops I’ve made along the breakfast highway!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hardees Breakfast Biscuit Review

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Schwartz Family Restaurant Review, Eckerty, IN

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I saw the billboard on I-64 which promised “Amish cooking” and “everything made from scratch.”  I don’t know what the first term is supposed to refer to, but I do understand the second, and the Schwartz’s fell flat on that account.  I stopped for breakfast, and it may well have been made from “scratch” in the kitchens of Sysco.  The ads also touted “family style serving.”

I admire anybody in the restaurant biz – it’s tough going.  And this seems to be the perfect watering hole for the local rural community – meaning I am doubtful they get many tourists, it’s five miles off the interstate on a road to nowhere.

In retrospect, as I got further down (west) on I-64, there were quite a few billboards for “Amish” restaurants.

Here’s what I got out of the experience.  I had stopped for breakfast, which they serve on weekends only.  Apparently the balance of meal service, every day, is “cafeteria style,” which to me is not the same as “family style,” which I take to mean platters of food brought to the table for all to share, like I had in Wisconsin Dells at the Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty.  (mmm, platters of breakfast pork meats!).

The breakfast menu was limited. Egg dishes, biscuits and gravy (which seemed to be a popular order),  pancakes.  I ordered the “breakfast casserole,” an unusual choice for me. Scrambled eggs, bread crumbs, bacon, sausage, cheese, with hash browns and toast.

There weren’t that many customers, and there was an abundance of server help, but the food was slow, and sorry, folks, but nothing special. Like I implied above, I really don’t think that much of it was “from scratch.” Servers (which may have been all family members) were not very knowledgeable about the dishes.

Anyway, it was OK.  I can’t recommend it, really, but I can’t say “don’t go,” either.

They are customers of Sysco, that was evident from the condiments and other table products. And as I don’t care about healthy eating, I’d prefer butter on the table to “whipped topping.”

But maybe that’s what the Amish are known for.  I strongly suspect the lunch and dinner offerings would be much better.

Schwartz Family Restaurant Review

Breakfast Casserole

 

 

 

 

 

Schwartz Restaurant Menu
Schwartz Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Schwartz Family Restaurant Review

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Gas Station Sandwich Primer

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Thorntons Gas Sandwiches

Stewart In-Fra-Red Oven

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.

Thornton’s sandwich vendor is Lipari Foods “Premo” division; Lipari is a Michigan based manufacturer and distributor of different products and Thorntons Gas Sandwich Reviewproduct lines.

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.

Thorntons Gas Sandwich Review

 

Gas Station Sandwich Primer

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