Frozen Pizza Review – Green Mill

Green Mill Frozen Pizza ReviewSuzy Applebaum introduced me to the Green Mill;  we were both employed at KSTP in Minneapolis- St. Paul, and I had asked her to go to lunch.  She suggested the Green Mill.  At the time, it was a small bar on Hamline Avenue in St. Paul that specialized in deep dish pizza.  It had opened in the 30s as a soda fountain at the same location.

I had a monster crush on Suzy, who hailed from a local grocery store dynasty family;  if I knew then I was going to spend the rest of my life obsessed with food, well, I might have wised up and pursued Suzy with vigor, but I knew I was outclassed from the get-go.

The legend of the local bar with great pizza grew, and today, there are 27 locations across the Midwest, serving a full menu in addition to their pizza.

There was one other significant event in my life that took place at a Green Mill, the rehearsal dinner for my wedding.  It was at the Uptown location on South Hennepin in Minneapolis, and no, it wasn’t my  selfish love of pizza that made that event happen there, but was rather my mother’s choice.  My mother loved to go with me to places that were “on the wrong side of the tracks”, and it was “our thing” to explore someplace new every time she came to the Twin Cities when I was living there.

As with most successful pizzerias, Green Mill has launched a frozen pizza line, and they are being made and distributed by a Minnesota pizza manufacturer, Bernatellos.  Minnesota somehow became the frozen pizza capital of the US, with a gaggle of brands being made across the state:  Jeno’s, Totino’s, Roma, Red Baron, Freschetta, Tony’s, Giovannis, Kettle River….I’m sure I’m forgetting many, but you get the idea.

I purchased the “Thin and Crispy” style with three meats, sausage, pepperoni and bacon.  It’s a 15 ounce affair and was priced at 2 / $11 or .73 per ounce, and that’s steep for a frozen pie.

The three pix below represent the box, note the “authentic restaurant-style flavors”  (boy, that’s as vague as can be, isn’t it?);  the unbaked pie is kind of a misrepresentation, I pushed all the included pepperoni to one side of the pie.  The last picture represents the baked pie, 10 minutes at 425.

The picture of the cooked pizza kind of tells the whole story, when you note the “glistening” on the surface.  This is a fairly greasy pizza, and the ‘cupping’ and slight char on the pepperoni indicates a high fat content (which would explain some of the oil).  The pork sausage is realtively unseasoned.  It’s a crispy crust, pleasant enough, nice herb treatment, including fennel.  Tomato sauce on the sweet side.

The ingredients list doesn’t include a whole lot of preservatives, these are pretty pure ingredients.   The flavor is simply not to my taste, but it might be perfect for you!

 

green mill

 

 

Green Mill Frozen Pizza

Unbaked

 

Green Mill Frozen Pizza

Baked, 10 minutes at 425

 

 

 

 

Frozen Pizza Review

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Hummingbird Grill New Orleans

Hummingbird New Orleans(The Hummingbird closed several years ago)

These days, some universities have “Entrepreneurs in Residence”,whatever that means. This morning, like most mornings, the Hummingbird Grill has P.O.I.R. (police officers in residence).

Other denizens include a couple of street people, a girl just off the Greyhound, suitcase by her side, tattered romance paperback in her hand, trying to make herself as small as possible to avoid eye or any other contact with anybody or anything in the Hummingbird, and me, accompanied as usual, by the New York Times crossword puzzle, and two Uniball Deluxe Fine Tip pens.

I’ve become a regular, which I guess means only that the nite waitress,Rusty, has seen me often enough that she brings my coffee w/o asking, and knows enough to call me by my nickname, “Hon.” (How DID she know that?)

It was kinda dicey sliding in to the Hummingbird this morning. I had to dodge the city workers who were power washing the sidewalk in front of the cafe – and in their “spare time”, washing a car or two. They must not be well paid, for in addition to supplementing their income with car washing, they helped themselves to a bundle of newspapers when I slipped my 50 cents into the Times-Picayune machine. Maybe they sell the papers to co-workers. Maybe they just use them to dry the cars. Styx was playing on the Seeburg as Randy took my order. I usually go for the “Early Bird Special”, which is available 24 hours, so I’m not sure what the name means. It’s 3 eggs, choice of ham, bacon, sausage, and grits or potatoes, toast or biscuit. A bargain at 4.00. Coffee extra, no charge for water.

One of the regular “troublemakers” wandered in and sat at an unbussed table and started eating off the plates that had been left there. Randy has developed a sure-fire method (according to her) of dealing with these types of patrons, by proclaiming loudly “the person that was eating those pancakes has AIDS!” Seems to do the trick and helps clear the room without having to bother the P.O.I.R.

It appears to take five people to run the night shift at the Hummingbird. In addition to Rusty, there’s the cook, who does a marvelous job of juggling several cast iron pans on a 12”x12” gas grill. He never talks, you don’t talk to him. Even if you are sitting at the counter, Rusty takes your order and passes it on to him. Union rules, maybe lol? There’s a ‘mop boy’, a dishwasher in back, and a cashier. With your change, the cashier is fond of giving out financial advice. I think he’s going to be the subject of the next TV commercial for that E-stock broker that ran the ad about the two truck driver that owned an island. Heed the advice of the sign at the cashier: “No talking to invisible people.”

The low end of the menu is an order of grits for 1.35, Well, actually a side of gravy (brown) is only 1.05, but I haven’t seen anybody order that.The high end is an open-faced turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner salad and roll for 7.50. It’s available Sundays only. In between the high and low price range, you’ll find the usual greasy spoon fare, everything from fried egg sandwiches to 1/2 Fried Chicken dinner. Is that half-fried, or half a chicken?

Chile-cheese fries weigh in at 2.60 and off the Richter scale in fat and cholesterol. I can never figure out the difference between chile” and “chili”, beyond knowing that in this case, they really mean “chili.”

Most big-city greasy spoons have a certain element of “charm.” The Hummingbird seems to have been absent from school the day they passedcharm out. But I like it. It’s a good place to listen to people’s stories in the middle of the night, or imagine you’re playing a role in that Paul Simon song “laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces….we said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy…” The sun started to peak Hummingbird New Orleansthrough the smoke-stained window at the cafe as Carl Palmer and Steve Howe’s voices wafted from the jukebox their terrific harmonies in the 1982 hit “Heat of the Moment” from the group Asia. Not as interesting as the material from their days in ‘Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’ or ‘Yes’, respectively, but a nice ditty for a piece someone my age  would label as “new music.”

Most days I miss the past. At places like the Hummingbird, I get to relive it every night. Catch the crew of the Hummingbird nightly at 804 St. Charles, 24/7. Catch Asia on tour this winter if you find yourselves in cities like Lorsch, Germany.

If I were Don Henley, I’d find something romantic to write about the Hummingbird, the way he did about the “Sunset Grill” in LA. But even the Sunset Grill is not what it was, in LA they tear down anything that is more than 20 years old, and the Sunset Grill today is a gleaming new white stucco building, instead of the dilapidated old shack with stools on the sidewalk with all its old charm.

The Hummingbird is just old. Charm costs extra these days. Sometimes for me, just ‘old’ is charm enough.

 

Hummingbird Grill New Orleans

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Waffle House Review

waffleI wrote a piece years back, after hitting a Waffle House shortly after 9/11.   I recently dropped in on one on the Gulf Coast.  BTW, I counted on a map, and there are about 30 in a 40 mile stretch along the coasts of MS and LA.  Wow.

I sat at the counter, sipping my Joe, and indulged in some bacon and eggs, cooked as ordered, with a smattering of cheese on the hash browns.

If you haven’t been to a Waffle House, they are a chain across the South, with diminutive facilities, and a menu focused on breakfast, a few sandwiches, and a couple of entrees.  If you’re so inclined, you can even get a T-bone there for around $10.  Breakfasts run in the $3-$4 range. The chain is particularly proud of their hash browns, which you can ordered “smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped, or country.” The descriptions all refer to different add-on ingredients, and the taters are available in three different portion sizes.  They have not come up with a word (unless there is a secret menu) which would refer to ordering the hash browns with all of those additions.  They should.

My breakfast and coffee were just fine, they are big on consistency, and as such, a very dependable road stop. They have over 2000 locations in 25 states; they started in 1955 in Georgia.

The company hasn’t avoided controversy over the years, with a couple of religious and racial issues receiving some attention, but it seems behind them.

Find the one nearest you with their locator.

Waffle House Review

Waffle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Waffle House Review

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Lamberts Review – Sikeston, MO

Lamberts Cafe Review

Chicken Fried Steak

Always been curious about this place, which advertises heavily along the interstate. They also have another Missouri location and one in Foley, Alabama. They are known for “throwed rolls” – servers walk around the room with tins full of piping hot popovers, diners raise their hands, and a roll is pitched to them. (Note of caution, the servers are wearing GLOVES, cause the damned things are HOT).

This “country themed menu” restaurant also includes “pass arounds” with each meal; servers walk through the rooms with buckets/pans of fried okra, sorghum, black eyed peas, apple butter, fried potatos, and mac and tomatos. The night I was there, despite sitting right near the kitchen door, the “pass arounds” were seemingly in short supply. While the sorghum girl frequently passed, potato guy and okra person were nowhere to be seen for the entire meal.

Entrees (like catfish, fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chops and the like) come accompanied by your choice of two or three sides from an extensive list (beans, taters, slaw, cornbread, tater salad, greens, veggies and the like).

I went with chicken fried steak, which came with mashed potatoes, gravy, and I chose greens and white beans for my sides. Surprisingly, this is one of the better chicken fried steaks I have had, and if you are a regular reader, you know I have tried them in a lot of different places.

Food is delivered very quickly, seeming to indicate there is some pre-cooking done, as this is a massive place, but it didn’t seem to affect the quality or taste.

The only annoying thing (for me) is the constant honky tonk piano music.

Kids will love it. There is a lot of Americana decking the walls, and there is a kid’s menu, too. Full menu.  Hours/Locations.

Lambert's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lamberts Review

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Art & Almas Century Inn – The $100 Breakfast, Burlington, IL

Art * Alma's Century Inn

                      Exterior

The “$100 hamburger” is a concept, excuse, private pilots use for the equivalent of a leisurely Sunday drive; fuel up the private plane, fly someplace, eat a burger, dessert, or whatever. The $100 refers to the cost of operating the plane for that trip.

This weekend, I “discovered” a morning meal worthy of being called the “$100 Breakfast,” and whether you’re out for a Sunday drive or flight, Art & Alma’s Century Inn, in Burlington, IL, is worth your money, time and effort.

Burlington is roughly 50 miles west of Chicago’s loop, and 40 miles east of Rockford.  (There are actually a half dozen airports within five miles, if you’re actually contemplating a flight, map below).

The restaurant has been open in one form or another since 1908, and currently serves dinner six nights, and breakfast/brunch on Sundays.

This breakfast may well deserve the ‘subtitle’ of “the $35 breakfast,” as that’s about what you would pay for it at any fine hotel.  Start off your Sunday with one of the Inn’s 25 unique Bloody Mary recipes, before launching into perfectly cooked to order breakfasts, including a half dozen varieties of “Benedicts.”

I went with the “Country Boy,” which had diced sausage and bacon, a generous slab of ham, poached eggs with country gravy atop biscuits.  My pal opted for the “Mein Schatzi,” bacon, swiss, poached eggs, hollandaise and sour cream resting on potato pancakes.  There are ‘cakes, hash, french toast, and plenty of sides to choose from – later in the morning, they add sandwiches to the Sunday brunch menu.

The food was presently promptly, nice plating, cooked to perfection and the taste and flavors reflected quality ingredients. Two breakfasts, two coffees, less than $25.  Pleasant, historical ambiance, and great service, as well.

No question, hands down, my best meal of 2015, at any price.  Can’t wait to get back and try the dinner. Classic fish fry on Friday nights, and Prime Rib special, Wed, Fri, Saturday while it lasts.

Great job, Chef!

 

Art & Almas Century Inn

                        Country Boy Benedict

Art & Almas Century Inn

                               Hand Crafted Bar

Art & Almas Century Inn

                                Nearby Airstrips

Art & Alma's Century Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Art & Almas Century Inn

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Wendys Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger Review

Years ago, I was somewhat of a regular at Wendys; I was especially hot for them during the period they had the burger fixin’s bar along with salad, pasta, and tacos, I think.  The “Superbar” it was called, and I found a TV commercial for it.

In recent years, I’ve only stopped in when they’ve rolled out a new product or limited time offer, and usually that visit was spurred on by the fact that  their public relations firm, Ketchum, sent along gift cards to try the product.  They’ve quit that, so my enthusiasm has waned.

However, their current offerings peaked my interest, enough to spend my own money on them.  Had I known I would have to endure an ordering gauntlet, I would have passed. Allow me to explain.  At this location (store # 1165), most of the employees acted like deer in the headlights, either not sure what they should do or not able to do what they needed to do.  The lengthy line (at the dinner hour) to the one open register, was matched by a line from the opposite direction,  diners bringing back orders with errors – “this was supposed to be no mayo,” “I ordered a double,” “this was ketchup only.”   I don’t know how a fast food joint could screw up that high a percentage of orders (33 – 50 %, it appeared), but this location was managing to do it just fine.

So I went in to try the “Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger” ¼ lb. of 100%  beef topped with a creamy Garlic Aioli, Gouda Cheese and Swiss Gruyere Cheese Sauce, 3 strips of fresh-cooked, Applewood Smoked Bacon, red onions, tomato and fresh spring mix – all served on a Brioche Bun.  Below you’ll find the publicity picture followed by the picture of my sandwich.

It was OK.  Kinda spendy.  Wendys may well have changed their beef supplier, as the beef patty actually had some flavor, and in the past, that was not the case. This combination is alot of flavors going on at once, so some of them might be lost on most palates.  Pulling the burger apart, I could see the elements were there, and the garlic aioli was very light, but tasty.  The brioche bun was firm enough to hold all the ingredients and was pleasant tasting on its own.  It is the perfect product to use today’s phrase “a hot mess.”

I also went for the “Fondue Bacon Fries” hot, crispy natural-cut fries, with warm Swiss Gruyere Cheese Sauce and topped  off with fresh-cooked, Applewood Smoked Bacon pieces.  (Wendy’s bacon is excellent, for fast food).

In the past, I’ve said that when Wendys switched to fresh cut fries, they amped up their frie offering to one of the best in the industry.  My claims about that always had the caveat “if they come right out of the fryer,” because they don’t hold their crispness as they cool.  Another exception would be the fries I got tonight, which weren’t fully cooked, and, as pictured below (after the publicity photo), the toppings were uneven and pretty skimpy.  I liked the cheese sauce, it’s fairly strong flavor for the mass market, don’t know if it will play in Peoria.

Should you buy these?  Why not? They won’t be around long, Wendy’s rolls new products out quickly just to test them, and then they disappear or show up on the regular menu.

Wendys Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger Review

Publicity Photo

Wendys Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger Review

Actual Sandwich

Wendys Fondue Bacon Fries

Publicity Photo

Wendys Fondue Bacon Fries

Actual Product

 

Wendys Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger Review

Fondue Bacon Fries Review

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Appleton Farms Ham Review

Appleton Farms Ham ReviewI’ve written about Appleton Farms products before;  it’s the in-house brand that Aldi has.  This is about their “Butt Portion Bone In Ham Water Added.”  To me, it’s significant that “water added” is part of the main product description, and in the ingredients you’ll find a host of “salts.”  Salt + water = brine = increased product weight = deterioration of meat muscle and texture.

At least to me.  Anytime I run into a brine injected muscle meat, the texture puts me off.  I’m sure it’s fine for the masses, tender, soft, but to me, it’s lost all connection to the animal flesh it started out as.

This ham is smoked and otherwise, the flavor is good.  I was able to “save it” a pleasurable experience for me by pan frying slices of the ham, removing most of the water.  Aldi contracts with Gusto Packing, outside of Chicago, to produce this ham.  Gusto also makes boneless hams and bacon on a contract basis.  The Gusto plant is pictured below.

Gusto was purchased by Butterball a couple years back.  When searching for info on the company, I saw this story about one of Gusto’s  executives getting kidnapped a few years back. For ransom.  You don’t see that much anymore.

Appleton Farms Ham Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appleton Farms Ham Review

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Appleton Farms Fully Cooked Bacon Review

Appleton Farms Bacon ReviewAppleton Farms is one of the in-house brands for the Aldi grocery chain.  I’ve written a lot of posts about Aldi products, which I generally find to be of good quality and terrific value.  Their fully cooked bacon is no exception, a package of which sells generally for less than two bucks.  I’ve become a convert to pre-cooked, you can usually find one brand or another on sale for less than the raw product, plus you know exactly what you are getting, meaning, you don’t open a package and find pieces that are mostly fat, mostly broken and the like.  There is some really crappy bacon out there.

This was flavorful and the slices come staggered on wax paper, so they are easy to remove.  You can serve nice intact whole slices, or chop/cut as desired.

The contract manufacturer that Aldi uses for this product, is Shelby County Cookers, out of  Harlan, IA, about  70 miles west of Des Moines and 10 miles north of I-80.

Shelby because a subsidiary of Monogram Foods a couple years ago.  Monogram has its own brands and makes some licensed product, too. They are big in the meat snack business.

Picture of the Shelby plant below.  Yes, I’d buy this again.

Appleton Farms Bacon Review Aldi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appleton Farms Fully Cooked Bacon Review

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Supreme Lobster Appetizers

Supreme Lobster AppetizerHad an occasion to need appetizers this week, but didn’t have time to make them.  A local Chicago company, Supreme Lobster and Seafood, sells quality heat and eat appys to bail you out of just such a jam.

Picked up their bacon wrapped scallops and their lobster rangoon won tons. Both could be ready in less than 20 minutes in a conventional oven.

Sometimes with ‘bacon wrapped’ items, it seems like the bacon seldom gets to a satisfactory “done stage,” but such was not the case with the Supreme product.  Although these weren’t ‘bay scallops,’  they also weren’t full size sea scallops; they may have been the latter cut into manageable portions. In any case, the bites had a great flavor.

As did the lobster rangoon won tons, a dollop of lobster ‘salad’ (with cream cheese) inside a crispy won ton, and yes, the pastries do puff up and get nice and crispy.

For these type of appetizers in the frozen food section of your grocery, expect to pay in the range of $1 per appetizer, which is competitive with any brand.

Should you need massive quantities, try a company like AppetizersUSA, which has a very diverse offering and different quantities to get shipped directly to you.

(The  scallop products are manufactured  for Supreme Lobster by Golden Phoenix Foods of St Louis, a company specializing in Asian appetizers and nibbles).

The plant, pictured below, is about a mile south of downtown off I-55.

Supreme Lobster & Seafood has a retail outlet in suburban Chicago, should you be in need of all manner of fresh and frozen seafood and fish. Store details.

Supreme Lobster Appetizer Review

 

Supreme Lobster Appetizer Review

                                  Lobster Rangoon

Supreme Lobster Appetizer Review

                    Golden Phoenix St Louis Operation

 

 

 

 

 

Supreme Lobster Appetizers

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Pub 72 Review, Gilberts, IL

I’ve been on a mission to have weekend breakfasts at rural locations in Illinois, and today we hit the Pub 72 Bar & Grill in Gilberts, IL. The “72” is after the number of the highway, and if memory serves me, is a rather new name. Not sure if the change also represented a change in ownership.

The place has a menu with “something for everything” whether you’re in the mood for plate dinners, sandwiches, appetizers, pizza, or adult beverage drink specials.

They serve a VERY economical breakfast (beginning at $2.99) on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM.

This is one of those joints were seemingly every employee took a course in what being in the hospitality business truly means. You’re almost always greeted by the owner when you walk in, a guy who doesn’t think so much of himself that it would be beneath him to walk around, refill coffees, inquire to customers satisfaction, and be observant enough to notice patrons that need attention.  Superb. Rare qualities in most smaller places these days.

Serving help was equally affable, smiles all around, diligent order taking, great follow-up.  By 9:30, the place was pretty busy with Sunday morning diners.

I had ham steak and eggs, great piece of ham with a nice grill char on it, just the way I like it.  And a slice of Texas toast. As is the fashion at small diners in Illinois, a bowl of butter pats grazes each table.  Eggs cooked precisely as ordered.

Hash browns are above average too.

I’ll be back.  You should check them out if you live in the area, or are tooling down I-90 some day.

Directions

Pub 72 Bar & Grill review

              Ham, Eggs, Texas Toast

 

 

Pub 72 Review

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