Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category
What am I doing reviewing a chain of movie theaters? Just letting you know how impressed I was with this operation. For first run movies, value pricing, clean facilities, enthusiastic employees, reasonable concessions, this family owned chain of theaters in suburban Chicago is just the ticket for your night out. Classic Cinemas 13 theaters are strategically located across Chicagoland, and the company has been around since starting with one theater in 1978.
A first run movie will cost your $5 all day Tuesday,any day matinees, if you’re a kid or over 60. Most other times it’s just a couple bucks more. Here’s the rub. Ready? Wait for it. Free refills on popcorn and soda. Wow.
I’ve been out to a movie in other cities and the evening has cost me over $50, each. Today, first run movie, soda, corn, less than $20. The movie? Bill Murray in St. Vincent. Superb.
(From our archives) I’ve intentionally shied away from the Café Degas, because it’s one of those places that many natives find absolutely thrilling. That’s usually my first clue to avoid it like the plague.
I frequently find that my view of “outstanding” varies widely from my native friends, but that’s largely due to the fact I’ve been exposed to restaurants outside of the area, and have a base of comparison. When my native buddies talk about a local restaurant as “outstanding,” I realize it is because they are comparing it to the Tiffin Inn.
Desperate to find something nice to say about the Café Degas, I come up empty. It is tied with my visit to the Café Adelaide a few weeks ago, for worst overall dining experience in New Orleans.
We could start with parking, but there is none. At that corner of Esplanade, with Whole Foods and a few other shops, parking is non-existent. The Café could well use a valet service, but service doesn’t seem part of their vocabulary.
I had made a reservation and arrived promptly on time. One enters the Café thru the bar, and walking into that space, four employees were busy talking about everything under the sun, but none asked if they could help me. I wandered into the dining room alone, where a single waiter was waiting on the one couple that had arrived before me. The waiter DID ask if he could help me, but it was more the kind of “are you lost” type of inquiry. I told him I had a reservation, and he told me to go back up front and see the hostess. She was nowhere to be found, so I returned to the dining room, and the waiter did show me to a table.
The place did fill up over the course of the next few hours, and “fill up” is an understatement, as they have crammed far too many tables into the small space, claiming an “authentic French bistro” ambiance. The owners and I must have visited different bistros during our journeys to France. Certainly the French buy more comfortable chairs, anyway, so that if space is at a premium, at least your personal space is enjoyable. Dega’s chairs are patio furniture.
The menu (“French with a Creole accent”) (geez, why does EVERYTHING have to have a “Creole accent?” – why can’t one get simple classical French cuisine in this town?) is short, with a few nightly specials.
As restaurants, like everyone else, struggle with increased energy and supply costs, they look to cut costs, and Café Degas has done it on two fronts – wait staff and ingredients.
In short, the service was lousy, the food worse.
The house salad with Dijon vinaigrette was bad enough (btw, add gorgonzola for a buck extra); I ordered “parmesan encrusted veal with caper lemon butter” for an entrée, and the first bite cried out “chicken fried steak!”
Some portions of the meat were inedible.
Service was nearly non-existent, again, probably due to cut backs, the room is noisy and crowded, and a peculiarity with the air conditioning causes the vents to drip water on diners. A woman at the table next to me, having had enough to the drips alternating hitting her plate or her shoulder, asked the waiter to do something about it. He asked her to stand up, whereupon he stood on her chair and wiped the grill above her with a towel.
Let’s not talk about what color the towel was after a single wipe.
Or the look in her eyes as she glanced at the chair that she was supposed to sit back down on.
Café Degas is a disaster. Another in a series.
The good thing about the evening? I got to leave at the end.
Cafe Degas Review
We can’t be everywhere, obviously, but we’re sure interested in everywhere. We welcome your contributions, reviews, raves, pans, and pix. Send us a pic of your food, the place, the menu if you can, along with your pithy comments about your experience. Tell us whether you want to publish it with your real name or alias (and tell us what that would be). While the focus has been hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza, you’ll note that many different types of cuisines have been discussed here, and will continue to be. Join us! Here’s where to send your dope.
This restaurant has announced it will close in November of 2014 as a result of selling their property
Follow up visit at Pak’s Green Corner in Duluth, MN, to make sure appearing on Triple D didn’t go to their heads. Didn’t. Still excellent. Had the Korean beef taco, poutine, and red curry chicken. Very enjoyable. With Canada being literally on Duluth’s doorstep, and poutine being the national dish of Canada, it’s about time someone offered it in the Twin Ports! (Pak’s will be on Triple D 11/1, 11/2, and 11/7 on Food Network. Check your local listings for times. )
Paks Green Corner
Local Toledo hot dog legend Tony Packo’s has been around for 70-80 years, and is the birthplace of the “Hungarian Style Hot Dog.” Now with five locations, the business received a lot of publicity as the home town favorite of the TV character “Max Klinger” on the long-run sitcom “MASH.”
Toledo is about halfway between two distinct “coney island hot dog” territories. And all three are distinctly different in flavor and texture. To the north, you find the Detroit style like American Coney, heavy on meat and a beefy taste – in Ohio you have the dueling chains of Skyline and GoldStar, and both of their coney sauces have a ‘sweet’ element in them. Some fans say chocolate, some say cinnamon. They are both good, and you can purchase complete Detroit kits or Skyline ingredients online. And you should. Often.
So Packo’s sells their sauce in little 8 ounce cans (pictured), less than a buck and a half, if I recall, and the promotional material says it is enough for five hot dogs. I think that’s conservative, you could probably schmear the sauce on 8-10 I’ll betcha.
Ingredients include: beef, water, chili spice, textured vegetable protein, sugar, salt, corn starch, and garlic. The distinctive characteristics of Packo’s are 1) the presence of the chili pepper is very evident, as is the sugar. The sauce is sweeter and hotter than the Detroit or Ohio styles.
There is a layer of flavor deep in there that reminds me of say, Hormel Chili. Which isn’t a turn off, just ‘different’ for a coney type sauce. In my experience. Your mileage may vary. Below are pix of the sauce in the can, out of the can, and after heating. Shop online if you can’t find at your grocery. In addition to hot dog sauce, Packo’s sells pickles, noodles, peppers, chili, barbecue sauce, relish and ketchup. And yes, I’d buy this again. Might even stock up.
Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce Review
The relative new kid on the block in Chicago pizzerias, Edwardos has been cooking up their special ‘stuffed’ pizzas since 1978 from multiple locations in the Chicago area. They are also available in the frozen food section at your grocery, or you can have them shipped.
Despite the massive publicity Chicago pizza received courtesy of Jon Stewart (video below), there remains some confusion among locals, not to mention tourists, as to what exactly Chicago pizza is. Is it deep dish? Pan? Double crust? Stuffed? Thin Crust? The truth is, they are all Chicago pizzas.
Edwardo’s version is deep, AND stuffed. With a thin layer of crust on the bottom, topped with cheese, or cheese and meat, or cheese and sauce, and then another thin layer of crust, with sauce on the TOP. That’s right. It’s a Chicago thing with the deeper pizzas, sauce on the top.
At the grocery, you’re going to pay $7 plus for the small, which will easily feed two or three. At the restaurant, about $20. By mail, $25 plus shipping.
I opted for the sausage kind. There are some Chicago pizzerias that make a blanket of sausage on the pie, it covers from rim to rim. Edwardos goes with chunks of flavorful Italian, on the cheese layer.
The crust is buttery, as many Chicago pizzas are. It has a nice flaky quality, too. The cheese is tremendous, ample quantity, great flavor, and great “pull.” Sauce is ample and fairly mild, leaning more ‘sweet’ than ‘savory.’
The pie takes around 30 minutes in a 425 oven, and you should let it set for a few before slicing.
I’ve taken a look at most every frozen Chicago pizza, including Connies, Reggios, Home Run Inn, Vito and Nicks, Ginos, and others. While Vito and Nicks remains my favorite thin crust, having pushed past Home Run Inn this year, this one, Edwardo’s Natural, is the first ‘deep dish’ I’ve found that is worth buying and consuming. I’ll do it again. Going to one of the shops? Here’s the menu.
Edwardos Natural Pizza
Picked this frozen packet up on a whim. Now part of the food giant ConAgra, which was started in Nebraska in 1919 by four farmers who merged a few small town grain elevators. Today ConAgra does $14 billion a year, with oh so familiar brands: Hebrew National, Hunts, PAM, Jiffy Pop, Peter Pan, Banquet, Bertolli, Parkay, Wesson, Libby’s, Marie Callenders, Slim Jims….. and Odom’s Tennessee Pride.
This frozen packed can be heated in the microwave in seconds, ready to use a side or ladle over your momma’s home made biscuit recipe.
Ingredients include water, flour, spices, corn syrup, milk, MSG, pork. sugar and more stuff.
Hard to find the bits of sausage in this gravy, and it could use more pepper for my taste. It’s rather gelatinous in texture and kind of a funky color. I guess it serves a purpose, fast and cheap if that’s what you’re looking for. Fast and cheap doesn’t suit me for gravy. Wives, yes. Gravy, no. I’d rather take the time to make it.
Pick some of this up if you’re desperate. (I added the black pepper here).
Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy Review
I’ve previously puked out a lot of words on the Jack Link company, which went from a teeny tiny country butcher shop in a teeny tiny Wisconsin town to a global powerhouse manufacturers and distributor of meat snacks. I even stopped by their outlet store, near their original factory in Minong, Wisconsin last year. It’s about 30 miles south of Duluth-Superior on U.S. 53.
The company has prospered and prospered, and grown despite all the odds against them, their small town origin and the usual family in-fighting and lawsuits that often occur in a closely held company.
Jack Link’s has come out with a line of smoked sausages in different flavors. They’re pretty good-sized, four to a 12 ounce package and sell for around $4.00. So they are about a buck apiece, which is also about what I pay for my favorite natural casing wieners.
I picked up the ‘regular flavor’ rolled a couple in the cast iron to heat them up. (Smoked products are generally full cooked, as are these).
I have an opinion or two about the sausages. They are made for Jack Link by a contract manufacturer near Green Bay called Salm Partners; the company was started by four brothers and a co-hort in 2004, to take advantage of ultra-new technology in the sausage and wiener business, including ‘spray out’ collagen casings and cooking in the package technology. In a video on their website, Salm says these processes make a product preferred by customers and that have a longer shelf life. The factory is located at 70 Woodrow Street, Denmark, WI .
Sidebar: the package makes a couple of claims: “no fillers” and “hardwood smoke.” These are some of the undoubtedly unregulated terms in the food industry,
To me, some of the stated ingredients (corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed corn protein) ARE fillers. Hydrolyzed corn protein is a kind of MSG, but to my understanding is rarely used in foods, due to its strong fermented flavor. As for “hardwood smoked?” The manufacturer’s video clearly shows the ‘smoking process’ at their plant is a shower of liquid smoke, which to me, isn’t “hardwood smoked.” There are plenty of manufacturers out there still smoking with wood.
It’s the same problem I have with restaurants who have “Kobe Hamburgers” on their menu, or that call California sparkling wines “Champagne.” Bullshit.
The collagen casing on this sausage is very light, not much snap, which is why I prefer natural casings. The flavor? Kinda weird, to me. In my opinion, smoked sausages should be ‘smokier’ and have a distinctive flavor from spices. The biggest flavor I get out of this sausage comes from the soy sauce powder ingredient. Just doesn’t fit.
There are dozens of choices for smoked sausage buyers; this one (nor Guy Fieri’s) shouldn’t show up on your shopping list.
Jack Links Smoked Sausage Review
A Chicago fireman taught me this, he used to make it for his station mates when it was his turn to cook. There’s really nothing “Mexican” about it, it’s just what he called it. It’s fast, filling, and covers the food groups.
- 2 tubes Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (don’t try generic, trust me)
- 2 Cups cooked chicken, chopped in bite-sized pieces
- 1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup (do not dilute)
- 1/2 C sliced jalapenos
- 2 C your choice cheese (if you use ‘taco-seasoned’ cheese, it is “kinda” Mexican).
- Pre heat oven to 350
- Spray non-stick in a 13X9 baking pan
- Unroll the crescent rolls, place flat on work surface.
- On each piece of roll, put a dollop of soup, some jalapenos, chicken and cheese
- Roll them up and place them symmetrically in the baking pan
- Drop teaspoons of the soup between the crescent rolls
- Cover with cheese and decorate with more jalapeno slices
- Sprinkle paprika on cheese for browning if desired
- 45 minutes in the oven will do
- Place under broiler last couple minutes if you are so inclined
Will make 6-8 servings. Easy peasy!
Mexican Casserole Recipe
When I was in Boy Scouts, we had two fund raising events per year; in the summer we went door to door and sold packs of light bulbs, in winter we sold Christmas wreaths. I have no idea if we raised any significant amount of money, but if we did, it was supposed to support the troop and summer camping programs.
The last few years, pretty much everywhere I see scouts hocking goodies on the sidewalk, it’s been tubs of popcorn. (unpopped). I remember the brand as being “Trail’s End” and I see that’s a division or subsidiary of Pop Weaver Popcorn, out of Indiana.
I think Scouting is a good thing, and I try and buy the popcorn when I see it available. Besides, I like Pop Weaver corn. They have it at Wal-Mart, and the microwave one is a bargain compared to say, Pop Secret.
Today I saw Scouts selling jerky and pepperoni snack sticks, loaded up on a few, glanced at the package and see they are made in Ocala, FL by a company called Country Meats, who appears to only be in the fundraising segment, offering many different flavors of snack sticks.
The pepperoni ones have an impressive list of ingredient: pork, salt, spices, and natural smoke flavoring. That’s substantially it. And they are damned tasty. I like Slim Jim’s and Jack Links, but they are mostly beef sticks, so to have a pepperoni pork one suits me fine. The snack has great flavor and a nice grind, the collagen casing gives a nice snap reminiscent of a natural casing.
Apparently, you can do business with Country Meats if you want to have a fundraising deal for your organization. A case contains 144 snack sticks and is yours for $89, with a suggestion you sell them for a buck apiece. You can order online. Country Meats operates a USDA inspected facility at 7650 SW 75th Avenue, Ocala FL. They even have a YouTube video to show you how they are made (below). I like transparency, especially in the food industry.