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Archive for the ‘Hot off the Grill’ Category

Restaurant Lent Specials and LTOs

Lent Restaurant SpecialsMost restaurants and fast food chains that offer Lent specials annually start them 40 days or more before Easter, and run them through the holiday weekend; some may end up being permanent menu adds.   Here are the ones we  have noticed so far, clicking on the link will take you to a description of the offering or the restaurant’s locator tool.

Boston Market – Wild caught baked Cod on Fridays

Burger King – Adds spicy version of fish sandwich

Carls Jr / Hardees - $1 off fish sandwich combo

Cheeseburger in Paradise – Salmon, Talapia and Shrimp specials

Church’s – Butterfly shrimp special

Del Taco – More shrimp and fish dishes

Fuddruckers – Beer battered fish and chips

Golden Corral – Seafood Buffet

Krystal – Fish sandwiches and hushpuppies

McDonalds – none

Old Country Buffet – Seafood Buffet

Popeyes – Butterfly Shrimp Special

Quiznos – Lobster and seafood sandwiches and salads

Red Lobster – Lobsterfest is back

Red Robin – Arctic cod basket or sandwiches

Shoneys – Safood menu specials weekdays, seafood buffet weekends

Wendys – Pacific Cod Fish Sandwich

White Castle – Shrimp and Fish Nibblers

Additionally, many locally owned restaurant near you may offer specials, especially on Fridays. Some restaurants that aren’t adding fish or seafood will still put an emphasis on, and discount their non-meat items.

 

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restaurant lent specials

 

P’Mos Pizza Review

 

P'Mos Pizza Review

Packaging

The pizza makin’ elves at Milwaukee’s Palermo Pizza are at it again.  Fresh on the success in recent years of their Screamin’ Sicilian brand, here comes their take on a “pub style” pizza, under the name of P’mos.  In addition to writing about “Screamin,” I’ve also written about Palermo’s history and their “classic” brand.

I will be the first to admit I’m not really sure what “pub style” pizza is supposed to be like, unless they are referring to pizzas found in bars –  many of the frozen pizza lines hatched out of Wisconsin and Minnesota got their start being sold only in bars.  The pizza manufacturer would supply the drinking establishment with a small counter top oven, and sell them frozen pies to bake on demand for their customers.  Luckily the interwebs knows all, the it appears that one might define “pub pizza” as “born on Chicago’s south side as an alternative to Chicago’s traditional deep dish, with a cracker thin crust, sweeter sauce, a little more salt, and cut into squares instead of triangular slices.”  Alrighty then.  Palermo’s marketing pitch for the line is “Palermo’s took Pub Style pizza to a new level starting with a crispy thin crust made to highlight the hand selected toppings. Each of the P’MOs varieties is over loaded with fresh ingredients and smothered in
rich Mozzarella cheese.”

This is certainly the era of new “styles” of pizza, what with Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Little Caesar’s leading the way with myriad new crust options.  Yesterday, Little Caesars announced a “bacon wrapped” crust.  Pizza Hut has come up with all sorts of disgusting flavor combinations for its crust, like “honey-siracha” or some such.   If the chains were making one for me, I think I’d have to go for “bacon wrapped cheese stuffed pretzel crust.”  That’d be over the top.

I picked up the sausage variety of P’Mos, my local grocery had stocked four varieties:  cheese, pepperoni, sausage and supreme.  Not present was the “Combination,” which is topped with both sausage and pepperoni.  My recollection is the price point was $7 or north of that, making it a competitor in the range of their own Screamin’ Sicilian, and other “premium” frozen pies.  This is in contrast to the classic Palermo pies, which I have purchased for as little as 6 for $10, incredibly cheap.

Removing the wrapper, I am impressed with the appearance of the ‘shaved’ cheese, instead of sprinkled, has the possibility of providing a nice melt.  I am hopeful that the sausage will be as good as the large chunks found on the “Screamin” line, although they are smaller.  Cheese is listed as the first ingredient on the label, which is encouraging.  A typo on the ingredient list (a missing ‘paren’ mark) makes it difficult to tell you all of the ingredients in the sausage, but they start out with an all pork and herb/spice mix.  There is none of the dreaded “mechanically separated poultry” in the meat.  Whew.

While I usually tell you where the pizza was made, according to the USDA legend on the package,  this inspection sticker bears no plant number, and the reverse label says “distributed by Palermo,” which could well mean manufacturing is contracted out to a plant not owned by the company.

Baking instructions are middle shelf, 400, 14-18 minutes.

I popped mine out at 17.  The pizza lives up to the internet definition stated above, with a thin ‘cracker like’ crust, sweeter sauce.  Lots of cheese for a frozen pie, real cheese with nice “pull.”  The sausage is extremely mild.  I personally like my Italian sausage heavy with fennel flavor.   In the end, this is a good frozen pie.  Top 5, in any case.  This one goes into my regular rotation when I am buying frozen pies.

But Palermo, suggestion?   Your ‘cracker crust’ is more like matzo than saltines, IMHO.  So how about a line of kosher certified pizzas?  There’s a segment for you.  You can call it “Lotza Mozza Matzo!!”

If you’ve a hankering for Chicago pizza, pub or deep dish, you can have it delivered right to your home, shop here.

 

P'Mos Pizza Review

Packaging

PMo's frozen pizza review

400 for 17 Minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P’Mos Pizza Review

Hello Fresh Review, Part 2

The other day I wrote about popping my cherry with home meal delivery service, HelloFresh.  I had received a pack of three meals (for two persons), a salmon meal, which I reviewed, chicken with orange glob, and peppercorn steak.  I made the chicken but won’t bother to review it, despite following the recipe to the ‘t’, the orange flavor wasn’t really present, and the chicken was kind of rubbery.  I didn’t spend enough time with the packaging, but it sure had the texture of being one of those “may contain a solution…” products.  Those proteins are beyond my palate.  The raw fennel/lettuce/orange salad (with white wine vinegar and EVOO) was good, but I have made that many times in the past.

The peppercorn steak?  A piece of beef, a sauce made from shallots, stock, water, pepper and sour cream, roasted potatoes,  and creamed spinach, also with sour cream. Spinach was great, sauce was easy, but I personally think a whole shallot in less than a half cup of sauce is going to be a rather strong flavor hit for most people.

Potatoes are fine, but oven roasted potatoes are something else I frequently make at home.  I added some diced garlic prior to baking, as that’s the way I like them.

The recipe called for pan frying the steak for four minutes a side, which I did, and produced a steak in the rare category.  This is a very lean piece of meat, and those who insist that beef flavor comes from fat may be disappointed.  I was disappointed that there were a couple of streaks of gristle.

The steak is a step up from say, Omaha Steaks or Schwans, and a step down from your local (the real kind, not the grocery one) butcher.  Overall, it is a pretty well-balanced meal, and my favorite of the three I received.

I won’t be joining their plan, at about $11.50 a plate, I think I can do better at the grocery, and since with these “kits” one has to prepare and cook the ingredients, there is really no benefit for me.

Also?  I think it would be better if the recipe cards were larger, with each step illustrated by photos, and a larger font.  That’s all.

Hello Fresh Review

Beef before cooking

Hello Fresh Review

Sauteed Spinach with Sour Cream

Hello Fresh Review

Plated Meal

Hello Fresh Review
Hello Fresh Review

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger

220px-Coryphaena_hippurusMahi Mahi?  Isn’t that dolphin?  No, but you sure hear that from a lot of people.  The common name (Mahi Mahi is Hawaiian) is dolphinfish (one word), and like so many things in the English language, similar words cause confusion.  This fish is no relation to Flipper.  It is also known widely as Dorado.

The fish are found in warm off-shore waters, can live to be five years old, grow to twenty pound and can be very colorful. (Picture left).

Trader Joes sells a pack of four Mahi Mahi burgers in their frozen aisle, and they can be done on the grill, pan fried, or baked.  I opted for the skillet, 4-5 minutes each side say the instructions.

The ingredients are very straightforward, mostly the fish, with a little oil, spices, canola oil.

It’s attractive in appearance for a ‘fish-burger’, tho not right out of the box.

I dressed mine with White Castle tartar sauce and Vlasic Dill Pickle Chips, with a pinch of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (I put it on most things, in fact).  Delicious.

These are easy to fix, low in cals, fats, and carbs.  A good alternative to beef patties for your kids, let them decorate it the way they want.

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger Review

 

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger Review

Uncooked, from box

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger Review

Cooked in a skillet

 

Trader Joes Mahi Mahi Burger

 

 

 

Wendys Premium Cod

Wendy Fish ReviewWendy’s used to send gift cards to food bloggers, particularly to sample a new or LTO product.  They stopped, not sure why.  Couldn’t have been that significant of an expense as a line item in their advertising budget.  Now they email press releases in hopes that people like me will write about something.  If one asks a question of the sender (some minion at Ketchum) one (at least me) never gets a reply.  Seems like in the five years I have been doing this thing, there have been at least 5-6 people in that press release sending position.

I often get free meals and food in the mail.  It never affects my post about it.  I do admit to trying to find something redeeming in every food experience I have, but even if I really don’t like something, I often say “but you might, so go ahead and try it.”  Different strokes, you know.

Fast food fish is an homage to a centuries old tradition of fasting during Lent, the forty days prior to Easter.  While the practice of fasting in Christianity dates back to 300 AD, it has evolved and been diluted over the years to become “meatless Friday,” and fish was deemed to be “not meat” by the Vatican.  As  a result, many Catholic churches have fish frys during lent, they are especially plentiful in New Orleans. One church there has even put in a drive thru!

You won’t find any mention of religion in fast food marketing, of course, but the tradition is why they roll out the finned creatures this time of year.

White Castle has Shrimp Nibblers, which I really like.  They are prepared on the spot,  hot, crispy, and decent size shrimp.  You all know about McDonald’s fish sandwich, which is available year round.  Not really a favorite of mine, as I think it’s more like a “tartar sauce” sandwich with a hint of fish flavored protein.  Popeye’s has good catfish year around, but they substitute a bland whitefish above the Mason Dixon line.  Don’t know why.  The fish is (I think) available year round, and they have a shrimp LTO from time to time.  (Not as good as White Castle, IMO).

Happened to have Burger King’s a few weeks ago, wasn’t that bad, and I’ve even tried one from the a dollar store, and that was on a par with McDonalds. at least.

When Wendy’s first rolled out their “premium north Pacific cod, hand cut, panko breaded sandwich”, I tried it, noted it, and pretty much liked it.   It was made better with the new fries Wendy’s rolled out at the time, natural cut taters with sea salt, which I probably called the best fast food fries around.  At least they were when they were piping hot.

Finding myself near a Wendy’s recently, I gave the panko fish another shot. It didn’t strike me as much as the first time, though it is still good. First off, I don’t think fish filets that are “hand-cut” would all end up as a perfect rectangle.  Second, you can’t really tell it’s panko, as the bread crumbs have been reduced to microscopic size.  Panko bits are usually bigger (and crisper).

Much as I  wanted to love this sandwich, if for no other reason than the actress who plays Wendys in the TV spots is cute as a button, I just didn’t.  I deem it still be better than the other fast food fish sandwiches, but not as good as the one I had two years ago.  Perhaps they reformulated. Perhaps they switched suppliers.  Bun was a little dry as well, cracked upon picking up. Lettuce was a little past its prime.

They slipped on the fries, as well.  Thin as shoe strings, not a hint of potato peel revealed, and over salted (a statement you will rarely hear from me), perhaps they ran out of natural cut and ran next door to McDonalds to get these.  They were fine for fast food fries, but did not have the ample body and (a)peel of the fries I usually get at Wendys. Another change?

Would I eat it again?  Yes.  Should you try it?  Yes, if you’re into meatless Fridays, Mondays, or just like fast food fish.  Catch it soon, it’ll slip off the menu in the next month or so.

Photos depict the same sandwich from two years ago and today.

Wendys FIsh Sandwich

From February 2013

Wendys Fish Review

February 2015

 

 

 

Wendys Premium Cod

Cincinnati, OH – Senate Pub Review

Senate Cincinnati Review

Bar Tables

(Dateline: Cincinnati, Byline: Mike Clark, Texas Bureau Chief)

This is a story about Cincinnati, Ohio, but there are hot dogs in it. Good ones.

Way back in the 19th Century, downtown Cincinnati was bisected east-to-west by the Miami and Erie Canal. Thousands of immigrant Germans took up residence north of the canal, prompting everyone else in the city to nickname the canal after that majestic German river, the Rhine. And the neighborhood where all the Germans lived was called “Over the Rhine.” Today, the locals shorten that to “OTR.”

The canal is long gone, filled in and paved over with eight lanes of concrete known as the Central Expressway. OTR itself, full of Italianate architecture, a classic example of a 19th Century urban neighborhood, gradually fell into decay. Actually, “decay” is being polite.

Fast forward to the late 20th Century, when OTR is declared a national historic landmark, and forward again to the 21st Century, when significant resources are marshaled to renovate the blight and recover the neighborhood. As little as five years ago, OTR was a place where genteel folk would not dare set foot; but today, it is Cincinnati’s vibrant new district for the arts, entertainment, recreation, and food.

One of the gentrification pioneers in the food category is Senate Pub, self-described as “lo-fi pushers of beer, wine & gourmet street food.” Senate took up residence on Vine Street just a block and a half north of the Rhine. Roughly one-third of the menu at Senate is taken up with hot dogs – or to be more clear, quarter-pound all-beef dogs with eclectic gourmet dressings. Witness:

The Trailer Park — bacon wrapped, american cheese, coleslaw, crushed grippos (local, flavored tater chips);

The Chicago — tomato, mustard, onion, neon relish, sport peppers, pickle & celery salt; and,

The Lindsay Lohan — goat cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula, balsamic & tons of drama…

to name a few. If for some reason you’re dogged out, the other two thirds of the menu at Senate are just as eclectic, including their version of the Canadian staple Poutine, and some to-die-for Pretzel Dough Beignets served warm in a brown paper bag (the better to shake the sugar coating), accompanied by a caramel mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) spread so rich it should be illegal. All this combines to make Senate one very popular place.

You’ll see from Senate’s web site that their success has generated a little ego baggage – Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) showed up with his camera crew last year, and if you’re willing to shell out $39.99 plus tax, you can have your very own Senate Cookbook – but a little hard-earned ego does not diminish the quality of the eats even one bit.

Senate occupies a single storefront, so seating is limited to the bar, a single row of tables opposite, and a few more in the back. The wait for a table can sometimes exceed an hour. Go early or go late, or if the place is full, get your name on the list and then go browse some of the boutique shops that continue to spring up in the ancient storefronts Over the Rhine. Senate will call your cell when your table is ready.

And while you’re in OTR, listen for the ghosts of 19th Century Germans. They wail mournfully for Senate to start serving Bratwurst & Kraut.

Senate Cincinnati

Clockwise from left: The Lindsay Lohan, Truffle Fries, Duck Fat Fries, The Mexico City, The Trailer Park:

 

Senate Cincinnati

Pretzel Beignets w/Caramel Marscapone:

Senate on Urbanspoon

 

Senate Pub Review

HelloFresh Reviews – Home Meal Delivery

Hellofresh review

Packaging

A few years ago, I was offered a job running a home meal delivery company; it was an interesting concept, but there were bound to be some chemistry problems with the founders, so I passed. But I have noted the growth of the segment over the years, and how many different niches the industry has broadened into. You can get fully prepared, heat and eat, or cook yourself  meals sent to your home monthly, school lunches for kids, special diets for diabetics, gluten free, low carb, whatever.

HelloFresh.com delivers fresh meal ingredients and recipes to your home weekly – in packs of meals for two, four, or more. The cost is about $11.00 per plate. Each box contains ingredients for three meals. The company claims the meal ingredients are fresh, wholesome, and healthier than purchasing ingredients elsewhere.

The price is pretty spendy compared to many other programs. To compare equally however, be advised that HelloFresh includes all ingredients needed, while some other programs require you to supplement with fresh vegetables and fruit that you purchase locally.

I can’t tell you much about the company, there isn’t an “About” section on their website, nor does their contact info reveal their physical location. I don’t really like doing business with e-companies who don’t list a physical location – that’s just a personal quirk with me.

I was able to ascertain through other resources that the company was originally a German start-up, and has raised hundreds of millions to expand globally. It has a number of competitors in the segment. (Plated, Blue Apron).

Someone thought I should try this service out, so I received one week’s shipment ($69 value), three meals for two:

  • Chicken a l’Orange with couscous
  • Peppercorn Steak with spinach and new baby red potatoes
  • Roasted Salmon with cherry tomatoes and green beans

Below are pics of the entire package, how the meals are packaged, and a spread of the Chicken a l’Orange meal ingredients and recipe card.

If you’re interested in these kind of programs, do a little search online, and you’ll find heavily discounted introductory offers, enabling you to try them out at a more reasonable cost before committing to a long term delivery program.

Hellofresh review

Ingredients

I don’t understand why all of the companies offer only three meals per week, but I am sure their research bore that out – maybe people eat out the rest of the time, or dive into leftovers?

The “meals” are not packaged with the ingredients together – instead there is a “protein portion” in the box, and a produce/fruit/starch portion of the box. Especially if you are trying to reach people who are not very proficient in the kitchen, but want to be, I’d package ingredients together and dumb down the recipes. Just my opinion.

Ingredients are furnished by boutique suppliers, the beef comes from USDA Estb. M5221-P5221 Home Food Services of PA, Bristol, PA 19007 (pictured below). They are also in the home meal delivery service, looks like the are similar to Schwans.The Chicken  is from P18414 MB Consultants LTD, South Fallsburg, NY 12779. No indication on the salmon.

As I started to say above, cooking, assembly is easy enough for an accomplished cook, but not so much for beginners.  While the ingredients are “quality,”  portions are small, and at $11 per plate, you could obtain much better value elsewhere, or even buying ‘heat and eat’ products at WalMart or your preferred local grocer.

The recipe cards list 7-8 steps, although that is kind of deceptive, as each “step” may require 3-4 steps.  I don’t think the instructions are simplified enough for beginning cooks, as a phrase like “cook until fragrant” will mean nothing to most people.  “Trim the green beans” might also be misunderstood.  Also, beginning or inexperienced cooks might take the instructions as “absolute” and there is no such thing in cooking, as burgers and ovens are often operating at temperature variances, and gradations (low, medium) will vary from unit to unit as well.

The ingredients produce an attractive plate, and probably an ample serving,  but for the time involved, and cost per serving, in my opinion, it’s not worth the trouble.

Hellofresh review

Protein Ingredients

Hello Fresh Review

Included Produce Ingredients

Hello Fresh Review

Salmon, Ready to Bake

Hello Fresh Review

Beans and tomatoes in skillet

Hello Fresh Review

Plated Dinner

Hello Fresh Review

Recipe Card

 

Hellofresh Review

Home Food Services of PA

 

 

Hellofresh reviews

Olive Soup Recipe

Olive Soup Recipe

Traveling in Eastern Europe, I became quite a fan of hearty soups, especially in Poland, where my one of my favorites became “Dill Pickle Soup.” I was thinking about it the other day, and thought, “hey, why not, olive soup?” So I gave it a try and it’s wonderful.

Ingredients

  • 1 T Penna Crema Verde Olive Spread
  • 2 T Penna Crema Negra Olive Spread
  • 6 T EVOO
  • 1 C pitted, unstuffed, diced,  chopped olives (I used home brine cured fresh Penna greens)
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Qt chicken stock
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 6 T flour
  • Seasonings to taste, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

 

Olive Soup Recipe

Sweating veggies

Make a roux with 6 T flour and 3 T oil, cooked and stirred until it’s a dark paste.

Soak your diced olives in water for an hour to remove some of the salt, if desired.

Add 3 T oil, garlic, onion, and 2/3rds of the olives to a skillet, saute while stirring until the onions are sweated.

Take the skillet contents, along with 1 C of stock and puree in your food processor.

Place mix with balance of stock in sauce pan, simmer for 15 minutes, add cream. 

Olive Soup Recipe

Starting a Roux

Continue to simmer while adding the roux, stirring constantly until the soup thickens.

Add seasoning to taste, and garnish with remaining chopped olives.

(OK, garnishing with chopped olives didn’t work – they sunk!)  This is a delicious soup on its own, but it might also be great if you use it as a base, adding rough chopped vegetables or salad shrimp!

Dig in!

Olive Soup Recipe

Soup!

White Castle Veggie Slider

White Castle Veggie Slider ReviewWhy, some of my best friends are vegetarian.  OK, not many.  I was in a relationship with a vegetarian for two years.  We managed, despite having to fix two versions of every meal at home.

I have to admit I was surprised when White Castle announced they were going to offer a veggie slider, because the market for vegetarian food is so small – less than 7 % of the US describe themselves as vegetarians.

The Castle chose to partner with a successful vegetarian food firm, Dr. Praeger’s from New Jersey (pic of factory below).  Praeger started in 1994 as an offshoot of a kosher food company that Dr Praeger, a cardio surgeon, and a colleague acquired.  They figured they could make a healthy line of food.

White Castle describes their burger as “chock full of vegetables like carrots, zucchini, peas, spinach, broccoli and more – lightly seasoned, then grilled to perfection and placed on the signature Slider bun. Customers will have their choice of three tasty sauces: Honey Mustard, Ranch or Sweet Thai.”

I ordered mine “plain” to see what the actual patty tasted like, and after the first bite, I had a feeling why Castle offers the ‘tasty sauces;”  the basic burger doesn’t really taste like anything.

And can a not meat (specifically beef) patty really be called a “burger?”  I think not.

If you’re of vegetarian bent, you may well like this.  Dedicated slider eaters should pass.  Generally “meat things” with green spots give me the willies. LOL  The good news?  During this same visit, I picked up an order of Castle’s LTO Shrimp Nibblers (their bow to Lent traditions), which I really like.

White Castle Veggie Slider Review

 

 

 

White Castle Veggie Slider

Red Apple Pancake House Palatine Review

Red Apple Pancakes Palatine ReviewBack in the Chicago burbs to see a client, usually disagreeable in January (the weather, not the client), but it’s 45 today. I wanted breakfast and headed for one of my usual haunts, the Palatine Inn, but drove by Red Apple Pancakes and decided to give that a whirl. Glad I did.

Deceptively small from the outside, the parking lot was full to overflowing, but there were still tables available.  Paulo showed me to one and brought coffee.  The breakfast menu is extensive and there is a separate sheet of specials.  The restaurant also serves lunch and closes up shop for the day at 3 PM.

There are quite a few people in my universe who would insist you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but to prove them wrong, I DID NOT order chicken fried steak and eggs (which I have written a lot about), I ordered chicken fried chicken and eggs, so there, pffffffft!

Everything on the plate was done perfectly, and despite the crowd, I noticed food was coming out of the kitchen quickly.  The ‘steak’ was crispy, the gravy creamy, the taters extra crispy as I ordered, as were the eggs,  and the rye toast done perfectly.  Add to the plus column a bowl of butter on the table, quite a Chicago area thing it seems, and I am so happy it is!

There is another Red Apple Pancakes a couple of suburbs over, in Carol Stream, IL, no idea if there is a connection or not.

Red Apple Pancakes Palatine Review
Red Apple Pancake House on Urbanspoon
red apple pancake house palatine

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