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Archive for the ‘Hot off the Grill’ Category

New China Restaurant Review – Fox River Grove, IL

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New China Restaurant ReviewIt’s been around for twenty-five years, so it must be “good” right?  Well, at least passable. Confession. I lived in China for six years, so it’s almost always a let down for me to go to a Chinese restaurant in the U.S.  Once and a great while, in a larger city Chinatown, I can be a happy camper.

But here we’re talking the Chicago burbs, a good hour drive from the center of the city.  But twenty-five years, right?

The New China was recently remodeled, I was told, and the ambiance is pleasant enough.  Subdued tones and lighting, no blaring sports TVs (except in the bar). Service was more than satisfactory. He even pointed out by “rearranging” our order, we’d save some money. That was kind.

As you certainly know, there is no standardization in names or spelling of Americanized Chinese dishes, and the New China seems to have invented some names unique to their menu. So unless you ask, you might be surprised at what you order/receive.

I had shrimp and vegetables in a sauce.  It was more than adequate. It came with steamed rice, (plain) fried rice, soup and an eggroll.  Soup was good, eggroll was crispy and cabbage packed. Fried rice was quite a bit beyond the fried stage as you can see in the picture.  There wasn’t any meat or egg.

I’d go again, at least for takeout.  But I’d probably try some different items next time.  And it’s a little spendy for Chinese.  If you read online reviews, you’ll find people’s reactions are pretty mixed.  I don’t really have anything negative to say.

Menu is online. Carryout orders welcome. Online ordering. Not sure if they are hooked up with any of the delivery services.

New China Restaurant Review

 

 

 
New China Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
New China Restaurant Review

New China Restaurant Review

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Maders Restaurant Review – Milwaukee, WI

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Maders Restaurant Review There’s a gaggle of old-timey German restaurants in Milwaukee.  Last trip, I went to the Kegel Inn, which was excellent in every way.

This trip is was Mader’s, I daresay Milwaukee’s oldest, dating back to 1902. Very traditional menu with minor updates to woo the millenials, one would guess.

I started with the pretzel and weisswurst appetizer.  This wurst is a traditional Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon. It is usually flavored with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom, but there are regional variations. In any case, it was perfect for me, flavorful, nice casing, nice grind, good texture.

Then I moved into their version of “schnitzel on a bun.” I’ll order schnitzel nearly anytime or anywhere I see it, even if some places it’s called chicken fried steak!  It was on a pretzel roll, with tomato “jam” (removed by me – too strong I thought) and accompanied by (my choice) house-made chips, which are just excellent, and accompanied by a caramelized onion and bacon dipping sauce, which is so tasty you might want to chug it.  Well,  I would, but people were watching.  The sandwich was excellent, quality meat, crispy seasoned breading, the roll substantial enough to hold anything you’d choose to load atop the patty.

Tablemate had a Reuben, to which I opined, why is that German?  She wove her own tale of its Bavarian origin, which I had to shoot down by letting her know it was invented in OMAHA.

Who cares?  Two lunches, two beverages, $33 plus tip. Free valet parking, too.

Attentive, but not overbearing service from Thomas.  Catering and event rooms on hand.

I’d go again.  I will go again.  BTW? If you’re hungry for a little more sausage, iconic local sausage maker Usingers is across the street and have a small retail operation on site.

Maders Restaurant Review

Pretzel/wurst appetizer

 

Maders Restaurant Review

Schnitzelwich and chips

 

 

 

 

Full menu online.

Mader's German Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Maders Restaurant Review Maders Restaurant Review

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Gloriosos Italian Market Review – Milwaukee, WI

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Gloriosos Italian Market ReviewSeventy-year-old Glorioso’s in Milwaukee is one of several fine Italian deli/groceries the city has to offer.

If it’s even remotely Italian, Glorioso’s has it on the shelf, in the counter or in the cooler. It’s a wonderland for foodies and cooks alike.  Naturally, I stocked up.  Sausages. Cheese. A muffaletta sandwich. So let’s talk about that.  Purportely invented a zillion years ago by immigrants in New Orleans, the “muff” is traditionally a nine inch round loaf, bedazzled with sesame seeds, with two or three types of Italian cold cuts, cheese, and topped with “olive salad” – which is finely diced vegetables and olives in oil.

The result is a messy wonderland – most people can’t eat a whole one, and happily, Glorioso’s has “halves” in their counter.

I put away more than my share, living in New Orleans, and have written about several of them. Tourists like to go to the store that is supposedly the birthplace. I prefer a dive bar uptown.

Glorioso’s could easily pass in New Orleans.  I enjoyed it. If I knew how much I was going to like it, I’d have stocked up. Only “complaint?”  A little light on the olive salad.   (I bought a jar of their mix to bring home, as well).

Scored a fantastic dry salami, “Licini Cacciatore.”  I love when processed meats actually taste like the animal they came from, and this is soGloriosos Italian Market Reviewme great pork.  BTW, the name means (Cacciatore) “hunter”  and (Lincini) Bent or pointing upwards.  It’s a very hard salami, with a robust flavor.

Their beef/pork meatballs have a great flavor, run about a buck apiece, I brought home four to try. They have an awful lot of ingredients compared to the ones I make at home, which are just beef, pork, milk, bread, fennel, parsley, garlic and basil.  Glorioso’s balls are a very fine grind, good for the mass appeal market. My own balls have a rougher texture, chewier. My preference only.

Salads, olives, meats, cheese, entrees, they are all in the counter. You can order a sandwich or a plate, pasta, panini or pizza. (They have take and bakes also).  Their full menu is below.

Staff is personable and knowledgeable about the products.

Really worth a stop if you are passing through.  Really worth being on your regular shopping route if you live there. I will be back. Often.  (I had planned on writing more, but doing this made me hungry, have to go see what I have left from my trip!)

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Half a Muffaletta Sandwich

 Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Glorioso Menu – Click to enlarge

Gloriosos Italian Market ReviewGloriosos Italian Market ReviewGloriosos Italian Market Review
Glorioso's Italian Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Gloriosos Italian Market Review

Gloriosos Italian Market Review

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All About Cheese Curds

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All About Cheese CurdsIf you’re not from the Upper Midwest of the US or Eastern Canada, it’s possible you’ve never heard of “cheese curds.”

What are they? In short, bits of fresh, unaged, cheese, snatched from the cheese making at the earliest stage possible. They are eaten fresh, fried, atop the national Canadian snack “poutine,” and in the Indian dishes, it is known as paneer.

Fresh and fried are the way you’ll see them most often in the Midwest. I think the fresh ones are pretty much the same in taste and texture, unless they are “flavored” as some companies are busy doing (dill, red pepper, garlic, etc). Some people refer to fresh curds as “squeaky cheese” as the bits make a slight noise when you’re chewing them.

At retail, they’re sold in bags larger than you need, usually around a pound.  It’s unusual to run into smaller containers, but you may, on occasion.

When you get into the business of deep frying them, with a breading, that’s where quality, taste and texture can vary widely. Some end up like those awful fried cheese appetizers in bars, with that fake bright yellow nacho cheese crap inside.

The good ones, the really good ones, like at Milwaukee Burger Company, are offered to you with your choice of cheese, and a light yet crispy breading that may well be rice flour. They are breaded and cooked to order and are fantastic.

I picked up a mini pack of fresh, made by Jim’s Cheeses of Waterloo, WI.  Bought them at the world’s largest purveyor of Wisconsin cheeses (so they say), Wisconsin Cheese Mart in downtown Milwaukee.

White Cheddar with Peppers.  Tell you the truth, didn’t notice the word “Peppers” or would have looked for something else.  These were $3.50, so that comes out to $16 + per pound. Spendy.  But tasty.

All About Cheese Curds

Curds. Curds. Curds.

 

 

 

 

All About Cheese Curds

All About Cheese Curds

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The Cottage Review – Crystal Lake, IL

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The Cottage ReviewThe Cottage is one of those places most people would describe as a “neighborhood bar” and it fills that role nicely, perched on the edge of downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, within walking distance of a number of residential neighborhoods.

Although a “bar,” it serves as a full restaurant as well, with a very lengthy menu and nightly specials. The specials are value priced.

What brought me in is the fact that any night of the week in this area, you can find a hamburger special, and it’s Wednesdays at the Cottage. Burger and a side, $5.  You pay a little bit more for add-ons like bacon and fancy cheeses, but it’s still a deal.

The sandwich is advertised as a half-pound, hand-pattied, char-grilled burger, and it lives up to the promo.  It’s very flavorful meat, on a bakery roll that is soft enough to be enjoyable but substantial enough to hold any toppings you desire.  Unusual for me, I ate the burger absolutely plain, I enjoyed the beef and bun so much.

I upgraded to rings for the side, and they don’t do justice as a side equal to the entree. They are a beer battered ring, which I doubt are made in-house. With so many interesting food items on the menu, the Cottage could easily do better on the rings.

Complimentary peanuts in the shell (yes, toss ’em on the floor) and tasty popcorn for every table.  Don’t see peanuts much anymore, of course. I was personally delighted.

Large outdoor seating area can be covered during inclement weather.  The Cottage is also known for having some large music events on-site, generally with rather proficient tribute bans.  Check their site for dates.

Server Ravan was spectacular.

The Cottage Review

Burger and rings

The Cottage Review

You’ll love their free nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 Full menu online. Catering menu too.
The Cottage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Cottage Review

The Cottage Review

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7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review – Nationwide

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7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

A few years back, 7-Eleven made some rather dramatic decisions – to go into the hot, ready to eat food business and to replace many of the standard shelf offerings with house brand merchandise ( 7-Select).

Both moves appear to have been very successful.

With a history that dates back to the 1920s, and originally named the “Tote ‘m Stores,” the company which had started as an ice retailer, added items and stores until changing their name to 7-Eleven in 1946. Continued growth through the next few decades showed success but also added huge amounts of debt to the company, and in 1990, entered a pre-packaged bankruptcy during which 70% of the company was spun off to Japanese retail giant Ito-Yokado.

Today there are 64,000 stores in 18 countries.  Think there are a lot of them in your town?  Tokyo has 2,600!

The addition of the hot food came around 10 years ago (not including roller grill foods, which debuted earlier),  and it was a store-elective, as in order

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

Grab and go food counter

to be competitive, outlets were required to purchase Turbo Chef ovens (retail between $7-$10,000) which can cook a frozen pizza in 90 seconds. Pizza was followed by baked snack offerings like wings and tenders.

Pizzas are sold by the slice or whole and with promotional prices as low as $5 for an entire pie.

The pies are also available in the frozen foods cooler, competing with national brands. There are (that I have seen) three varieties, Supreme, Pepperoni, and Cheese.  These retail for between $5-6.

They are a “medium” thick crust pizza and are reminiscent of brands like Tony’s, and Red Baron, which shouldn’t be surprising, as the frozen pizzas are manufactured for 7-Eleven at a Schwan’s plant.  The plant (pictured below) is in Sydney, OH, about 60 miles NW of Columbus.

It’s a mass appeal product, nothing too extreme in flavors,  but if you’re paying around  $5, it’s a good value.

I’ve only had them a couple of times, in both incidences, I distinctly remember occurring because I was too lazy to go into a big grocery.  I guess that is one thing 7-Eleven is counting on.

Aoubt 15 minutes at 425 and they are ready to go.  Other house brand products I’ve tried in the past, include the meat snacks (their version of a Slim Jim), heat and eat burgers, and fresh sandwiches (which at least in the Pacific NW are made by Lufthansa’s catering division in Seattle).

If you’re outside of the U.S. in one of those 18 countries that 7-Eleven has stores, take a peek in one, they have some fun stuff. Particularly in Asia!  The Japanese parent has some marvelous department stores across Asia as well, operating under the names of Seibu and Sogo. (The Sogo in Hong Kong has an amazing food court/grocery on the lower level).

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

Packaging

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

Out of box

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

After baking (and re-arranging toppings!)

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

Sydney, Ohio Factory

 

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

7-Eleven Frozen Pizza Review

 

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Impossible Burger Review

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Impossible Burger ReviewSo there’s this Stanford professor, Patrick Brown, B.S., M.D., PHD, who decides in 2009 to take an 18-month sabbatical in 2009 to study “eliminating industrial animal agriculture” (fancy words that basically mean big time animal raising for food).

He is of the school that believes the industry is doing major damage to the planet. He hosts a few seminars on his findings, the world kind of doesn’t take notice, but convinced he’s onto something with the idea of replacing animal protein with that derived from plants, he starts “Impossible Foods” in 2011 at the age of 57, apparently aiming to be the Colonel Sanders of the industry segment.

Armed with $400 million in venture capital (seriously!) he sets out to create first of all, a “burger” that duplicates the appearance, texture, and taste of a ground beef hamburger, but using entirely plant-based components.

A restaurant or two pick it up and the product meets with moderate success, initially. Here’s what struck me about its “overnight success.”  These guys found the best PR/Marketing company in the world, apparently, cause try as you might, it’s pretty damned difficult to find a BAD review of the burger.  “Tastes just like hamburger.” “It even bleeds.” Blah blah blah.  They launched a campaign equal to the one some years back for the much ado about nothing “Umami Burger.”

Full-scale production, widespread distribution, buckets of venture money, it looks like the Impossible Burger is here to stay.  So far the pitch has been you’re gonna help save the planet, rather than get healthier.  Maybe that message is somewhere and I just haven’t seen it.

The company had a victory this week in having the product certified as Kosher.  Also this week at the National Restaurant Show, they debuted a line of breakfast sausages.

They chose White Castle as the outlet for one of their first mass production deals. Curious since it’s not a national chain, isn’t really known for launching new products, and already has their own vegetarian patty on the menu, which I tried a couple years ago.

The White Castle product is “slider size” and is marketed as being topped with smokey cheddar cheese, pickles and onions. For some reason, at my White Castle, they didn’t think I deserved the topping or were hell-bent on saving a nickel that day, so mine was plain. Actually, that’s alright, it gives one a better sense of the product on a stand-alone basis. (Adding junk on top of a burger can make just about any meat patty ‘better.’ just look at the success of In N Out).

My take?  I don’t think it’s a mass market product.  Not that many people are willing to change their habits (obviously) to save the planet.  It probably appeals to devout vegetarians who think they miss the taste of beef or just want some variety (a complaint I hear a lot from vegetarians), but I don’t think it is going to get that many beef-a-holics to change their eating habits.

It looks like ground beef. It has an aroma and taste that will REMIND you of ground beef. (To me it tastes like inexpensive ground beef blend, a fatty 77/23 or so).  The texture they are going to have to work on, as well as a binder. Fat holds ground beef together, and the Impossible Burger crumbles, at least in the White Castle version.

I wish them success.  Great to see an old geezer (as I am) like Brown do a big-time start-up, and get that kind of financing, especially since it’s an industry he doesn’t have experience in.

I don’t know whether they are selling the product in bulk yet, like at groceries. Someone told me it’s at Whole Foods, but I haven’t verified it.  It is in a lot of restaurants tho, and the company provides a locator so you can track down an Impossible Burger near you.  I’m sure chefs are being creative with ingredients and presentation.

Impossible Burger Review

Two Impossible Burger Sliders Dissected.

 

 

 

 

 

Impossible Burger Review
Impossible Burger Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider ReviewHardees, actually it’s predecessor, Sandys, was the first fast food in my hometown, years before McDonalds or BK landed.

Second was probably Henry’s, another defunct chain.  So, anyway, I’ve always had an affinity for Hardees, and while it has ebbed and flowed over the years parallel to their own ups and downs, the last few years I’m good with them.

I think they have the best breakfast sandwiches in the industry, and they have actual, real, bonafide ham in the breakfast hours, as well. Some years ago, they decided their target customer was going to be young men, who aren’t shy about eating hardy, and then went after that market, and while I don’t know the numbers, I’ll bet they made a solid dent in it.

They focus on larger burger patties, 1/3 pound minimum, heavily loaded  — like the Monster Thickburger, two 1/3 pound patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of American cheese, mayo on a bakery bun.

In order to tell their target customer about their new focus – they employed a number of attractive female celebrities, portrayed as seductively eating the new burgers.  This went on for a few years, then somebody moaned about it and they stopped.

I thought it was brilliant.  PC aside, the company had a demographic specific product and designed marketing to capture that audience. It worked.

Here’s one of the commercials.

Feeling a might pecking a few weeks ago, somewhere unidentifiable in the Carolinas, I pulled off to grab a snack and happened into Hardees for the only reason is it was the easiest to get in and out of off the street.

They were advertising a double cheeseburger slider for a buck, which would be all I’d need at the moment. (BUT….the only TRUE sliders, IMHO, come from White Castle and Krystal).

I was the only customer inside. There were no drive-thru customers.  Yet for some reason, it took a full fifteen minutes to put this sandwich together, and apparently they couldn’t spare another 15 seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese.

No matter. Tasted OK.  Mission accomplished.  Hey it was a buck!  Better meat and bun than lots of fast food burgers at $2-4.

I don’t see it on the menu on their website, must have been a limited time thing.

So here’s a pic of the slider.

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

 

 

 

 

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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The Sand Bar Review – Twin Lakes, WI

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Sand Bar ReviewStop me if you’ve heard this.  So a few weeks ago I was on one of my food tours, back down to the Southeastern U.S., Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and one thing I was looking forward to was a lot of seafood and fish, of course.

One particular item I was hot for was grouper fish, a quite common offering in Florida, I ate it a lot living there, and it’s also popular in Southeast Asia, so I had my share living there, as well.

So after having my fill at all you can eat catfish buffets, I started a search for grouper. Two places had it on the menu, both were “sorry, we’re out.”  Pretty much gave up after that.

So I spot it on the menu at this boater’s bar on the Illinois/Wisconsin border (literally). WTH?  They bill themselves as a “Tropical Oasis in the Least Likely of Places.”  Apparently the owner spent quite a bit of time on FLA’s west coast, and wanted to transfer a bit of the culture and cuisine to Illinois. I mean Wisconsin.

It’s cutely decorated on a marine theme, with nets and decorative fish and crustaceans, as well as theme “signage,” and a list of exotic sounding tropical drinks.

But I came for the grouper, fingers crossed, please don’t be “out.”  They weren’t.  And chef delivered.

Perfectly grilled, a dusting of blackened The Sand Bar Reviewseasoning (not actually “blackened” as the menu states, and that’s just fine, it’s a delicate fish. It’s plated as a sandwich on a toasted bun (firm enough to cradle the contents, pretzel bun available as upgrade), with a lemon zest mayo, which is an interesting addition.

Lettuce, tomato and red onion slivers.  Fries or slaw are standard accompaniments. I upgraded to get rings.

Rings have medium thickness of breading with a beer based batter. Done correctly.  Nice crisp.  Nice sized onion.

Lots more interesting things on the menu, worth a return visit.  I’m sure curious where they source the grouper around here.

Sandwich is a little spendy at $15.95 plus $1.98 upcharge for the rings, but this place is probably jammed jammed jammed in season and they have a captive audience.  If they can do, they should.  Oh, full bar including large selection of “tropical” cocktails.

Modest amount of indoor seating, outdoor patio for more temperate weather.  Server Cate did a fine job, checking in as necessary, but not too often.

Co-located facility has water toy rentals available by hour or day.  Boat launching facilities and dock.  Saw a sign for live bait, as well.

Finally, a note to women. I am told that the women’s facility is small and narrow.  To the point that the only place to put one’s purse is in the sink basin. Unfortunately, it’s an auto-on sink.  So if you don’t want a complimentary purse wash, have a different solution.  Might be good if a couple hooks were placed somewhere on a wall?  That’s all.

Highly recommended.  Menu is online and also below.

 

 

The Sand Bar Review

Grilled Grouper with Rings

The Sand Bar Review

Sand Bar Food Menu – Click to enlarge

Sandbar Bar & Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sand Bar & Island Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Sand Bar Review

The Sand Bar Review

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Burger Burger Review – Biloxi, MS

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Burger Burger Review So the story goes, the original “Burger Burger” was developed in nearby New Orleans and made its way east to Biloxi sometime after 1947.

The sandwich was sold in a local restaurant for years until one day, the perfect home of its own became available and the Burger Burger restaurant opened up, selling their proprietary sandwich, along with daily specials – their version of traditional southern dishes. Also on the menu,  traditional gumbo, salads, seafood baskets and breakfast.

Here I’ve buried the lead, haven’t I? The “Burger Burger” is like a hamburger poboy – on toasted French bread with mustard, diced onion, and special sauce, which they also call “gravy.” Somebody described it like “Swiss steak” on a bun, and maybe that’s apt, it’s sure different than a hamburger poboy in New Orleans which can be incredibly plain and dull.

They have other “specialty” burgers as well, in a form you might be more used to seeing.

Being as this is primarily a hamburger website, and I write about burgers a lot, naturally I took one look at the menu and went right for the……….catfish.

That’s right. I couldn’t seem to get enough fried catfish this trip, so it pretty much showed up in front of me once a day.

And was I ever glad.  Burger Burger makes perfect fried catfish, accompanied by fries, slaw, lemon and tartar if you wish. It was a lighter, slightly seasoned batter, perfectly crispy, the fish resting inside done to perfection, moist, not a hint of grease.

Dandy.

Service is frenetic and friendly at the same time.  Like they took classes in “Southern hospitality.”  Quite sure they mentioned everything was made in-house.

The restaurant is located in an old residence and the walls are chock-a-block with vintage photos and nostalgic memorabilia.

I’d like to go back.

Website has the specials but not full menu.  Menu is on Zomato.

Burger Burger Review

Catfish basket with fries

Burger Burger Review

Interior

 

Burger Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Burger Burger Review
Burger Burger Review

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