Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category
I’ve written about White Castle several times; I never imagined I’d be reviewing a seafood offering from the purveyors of America’s favorite sliders.
Many restaurants offer seafood specials during the season of Lent; the practice has extended to many fast food outlets as well. The tradition stems from an ancient Christian practice, a variation of fasting, which started as a traditional fast at first, but was modified over time to mean forgoing meat dishes. Fish / seafood became a natural substitute, as they were both plentiful and available easily to all economic groups.
While the tradition is carried on “religiously” in some parts of society, for many it’s not as important as a conviction, but rather a quest for variety.
White Castle’s bow to the tradition is with a triad of offerings, a fish sandwich, fish bite-size nibblers, and shrimp nibblers. All are lightly breaded and fried to order. Both the fish and shrimp are available in small, medium, and sack size portions. Fish nibblers and sliders are made with Alaskan Pollock, a species of the cod family.
If you’re like me, it’s tough to imagine entering a White Castle without scarfing a few sliders, and fortunately, even during Lent, the ‘Castle has made it easier for folks like us, with the combo offering of 3 sliders, a small shrimp nibbler and a soda. That’s what I opted for.
I loved both, and wish I would have ordered a larger size on the shrimp, as I was surprised at their taste and size. I was expecting tiny little salad or bay shrimp, or even little shrimp ‘bits’, like one fast food company used to do o-rings, but these would qualify as “mediums” by any grocer’s label. The breading was light and crispy, and you had a choice of dipping sauces, traditional cocktail, tartar, or a zesty ranch.
I believe the fish sandwich is around all the time, not sure about fish nibblers, and fairly confident the shrimp is a Lent LTO. Which just means I’ll have to stop back a few times before Easter. Sack size, next time, for sure!
Happy Mardi Gras and let the good times roll!
New Orleans is a magical place for many different reasons, whether your fascination lies in the incredible culinary offerings, the historical buildings of the French Quarter or the stately manses of the Garden District. Jazz? Blues? Street performers? Cultural attractions? The mighty Mississippi? The “Crescent City” has something for everyone.
Summoning up a memory of walking in front of the nearly 300 year old St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, as the fog rolls in on a sultry night and the tops of the buildings, trees and lampposts disappear from site, one gets the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket of sensual pleasure.
You made your way to one of the ubiquitous coffee shops and enjoyed the only beverage that seemed appropriate for the location and weather, a cafe au lait on ice.
Months later, having returned from your vacation, you hear Billie Holiday on the radio crooning her version of “Do You Know What It’s Like to Miss New Orleans?” and suddenly you do. You attempt to recapture the feeling of that night by struggling to make a New Orleans style coffee at home. You fail miserably. Your glass contains a bitter brew, not the deep flavorful smooth inky coffee of New Orleans.
Fortunately, now there’s a solution, thanks to the late inventor Philip McCrory, who in 1989 perfected a large quantity method of duplicating the ‘trick’ so many New Orleans coffee shops use in very small batches to get that special taste – cool brewing. Brewing freshly-roasted batches of beans without heat for a smooth and non-acidic coffee, served hot or cold.
The result is CoolBrew, a coffee concentrate that lets you make the perfect cup or pot every time. Arriving in a unique bottle that inhibits air contact with the brew, simply squeeze an ounce of CoolBrew into your cup and top with cold or hot water. Add your favorite sweetener or dairy product if you like.
If you enjoy flavored coffees, CoolBrew has a something for you, as well, including Mocha, Vanilla, Hazelnut, and, to celebrate their 25th anniversary, new Chocolate Almond. And yes, there’s a Decaf too.
Invite me over and I’ll say “I bet I can tell you where you got dat coffee!”
Here’s a few idea starters for other ways to use CoolBrew.
(CoolBrew furnished samples for this taste test).
Cool Brew reviews
200 years before Starbucks was a twinkle in the founder’s eyes, New Orleans had its own coffee culture.
The port of choice for Latin American coffee bean growers for most of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Crescent City has been home to coffee brands, roasters, and distributors for decades. The beginning of the ubiquitous New Orleans coffee shop can be traced to the early 19th century, when Rose Nicaud set up the first portable coffee stand near New Orleans’s iconic French Market.
One of the secrets to the great coffee served in NOLA has always been a cold-dripped process; the method uses no heat to extract the most flavorful brews from freshly-roasted coffee beans, and produces a very rich concentrated coffee.
The methodology had always been completed in very small batches, until 1989, when the late pharmacist and innovator Phillip McCrory invented an innovative cold filtration process that could be implemented on a much larger scale than previous attempts. Freshly roasted coffee beans are brewed very slowly using only cold water, and acids generally found in hot-brewed coffee are removed organically in the process.
The process perfected, McCrory began a quest for unique packaging, that would be both a brand identifier and the most efficient way to store and serve his unique brew.
Finalizing the design of a unique, double-necked bottled, to preserve freshness by limited air contact with the coffee, the New Orleans Coffee Company launched CoolBrew in 1989 with local gourmet grocery Dorignac’s as the first retail outlet. Shortly after the launch, the original Whole Foods Market, which was also located in New Orleans, took on the brew, along with other local markets.
Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, and still family owned and operated in New Orleans, CoolBrew not only prides itself on being an iconic Louisiana brand, but also is a huge promoter of sustainability in its business operation.
Their plastic bottles are recyclable, and coffee grounds are donated to local landscaping companies to make rich compost.
Available in a variety of flavors, to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary, they have launched a special, limited time flavor of Chocolate Almond, with a deep essence of rich chocolate combined with the full-flavored nuttiness of almonds.
To make a fresh cup of hot coffee, or a tall glass of iced coffee, open the bottle, squeeze an ounce into 9 ounces of hot or cold water, add milk and or sugar if you like, and enjoy.
I’m loving the Chocolate Almond, and I’ve always been a fan of CoolBrew’s French Roast, especially as an iced Cafe au Lait style beverage.
CoolBrew is so rich and flavorful, you can enjoy it as an ingredient in your favorite recipes as well as a beverage. Some idea recipes for specialty beverages, desserts and sauces can be found on the CoolBrew website.
To find a CoolBrew retailer near you, use the company’s online locator tool; to get it sent to your home, directly, order online. If you’re heading to Mardi Gras this weekend, of course you can tote home a suitcase full!
(Editors note: CoolBrew furnished samples for this taste test).
It’s always difficult to find the true origin of a local favorite; I don’t think anybody has ever established where the first Coney Island style hot dog was created….or the first pizza place in the U.S……who created the Jucy Lucy in Minneapolis, the Italian Beef in Chicago, or the muffaletta in New Orleans. Lots of places claim to be first in each of these categories.
The same goes for “Montreal Smoked Meat,” a favorite in the Quebec city, similar to pastrami, but slightly different. Montreal Smoked Beef is prepared by salting and curing beef brisket with spices for a week, then hot smoking it before steaming it just before serving. The brisket is thin-sliced and usually served on rye bread with yellow mustard. There are many different claims as to who originated the dish which was first offered up North around 1910.
Less than three hours from the Canadian border, the Twin Ports of Duluth-Superior (MN/WI) have been a hot destination for the neighbors from the north for decades and decades, who visit for vacations, shopping, and healthcare. Yet there has never been a local restaurant that serves Canadian specialties; it’s kinda hard to even find Canadian beer. Until now.
Located in Superior, WI, Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat recently opened to offer the Twin Ports Montreal specialties and other U.S. and Canadian favorites, including poutine, nearly the national snack dish of Canada. Poutine is a bowl of fries, dotted with quality cheese curds, and smothered with brown gravy.
With all new construction and equipment, including 16 drink stations, the owners have made a big investment in the North end of Tower, and a commitment to “doing it right.”
“Montreal style” pizza is a slightly thicker crust and New York cut, something Northern Minnesotans aren’t used to. Big hunks of fennel sausage decorated the pie, which was also ordered with pepperoni and onions.
The Montreal smoked meat sandwich was moist and full of flavor, as was the caraway rye it rested on. Sandwiches are served with a pickle spear and slaw.
No complaints on the poutine, either,with ample-sized curds and house-made gravy.
On the beverage side, Shorty’s offers craft, domestic, and imported beers. Including a Canadian one or two. Cocktails are available, and Jaeger mixes are featured.
Shorty’s is located on Tower Avenue in downtown Superior, and is open at 11 AM daily, with menu specials and a soup of the day Monday through Friday.
Photos copyright 2014 Kawikamedia.com. Used with permission.
Shortys Pizza and Smoked Meat Review
Like all cities, Duluth has its share of restaurants that put on special meals for couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Most were multi-course prix fixe affairs, and some of the menus are posted here.
Schneider’s, at 46th Avenue West and Grand, offered a four course dinner featuring sirloin steaks, colossal shrimp, roasted asparagus, a house salad and dessert.
At the other end of town, Executive Chef Kevin Ilenda started lovers off with a beef carpaccio amuse, followed by a red beet risotto starter with French onion gratinee, which featured a vegetable beef oven reduction.
Mache greens with pomagranets and goat cheese made up the salad, with one of the entrees offered a pepper steak with potatos and red wine demi glace; other diners choose the grilled steelhead from Oregon, with cucumber and dill greek yogurt.
Dessert was a mini chocolate enrobed cheesecake.
Valentine’s Day and other special occasions are fun for chefs, they get to show off their skills and creativity. But both of these restaurants represent the best of Duluth, and their regular menus are apt to please even the most discriminating diner.
All photos by kawikamedia.com, @2014, used with permission.
Valentine Day Specials
I mostly prefer to make my own “lunch meats.” By that, I’m generally referring to cooking a beef roast, ham, or corned beef round and putting it through the slicer. When confronted with the selections at a service deli counter, I’m apt to opt for imported products, and of course I like the variety of selections.
But I’m leery of deli counter meats that I feel fall into the category of “pressed chopped and formed”, bits of meat bound together into a ‘roast’ or loaf’ producing identically shaped pieces with an identical look. Pre-package that in sealed cello, and I’m even more nervous, especially when faced with the phrase “contains xx% solution of…”.
There are actually three types of deli meats or processes that result in the meat you will find in your deli counter or packaged meat section: 1) whole cuts of meat, like a beef loin, ham or turkey breast, seasoned, cooked and ready to slice; 2) the heretofore mentioned sectioned and formed meat products, prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and are bonded together with non-meat additives to form a single piece; and 3) processed meats, like sausages and various types of lunch meats and loaves, beef, pork, or combinations, chopped, seasoned, made into an emulsification or slurry, and put into casings, natural or artificial, and generally smoked, and then sliced in chubs or individual piece packages.
If I’m in a rush, or I arrive at the store after the closing of the service deli, I’m faced with choosing from the pre-packaged meats, as happened last night. Dietz & Watson is a family owned, 75 year old enterprise based in Philadelphia that manufactures and distributes several hundred types of deli meat and cheeses nationwide. I’m a fan of their natural casing frankfurters, but I’m not sure I have ever had their prepared, packaged cold cuts. Last nite, I picked up a package of their “Premium Homestyle Roast Beef”, at $4.99 for 7 ounces. The subheading states “coated with seasonings, caramel color. Other labeling states it contains sea salt, is gluten free, and has no msg added. Ingredients list includes beef, water, and “less than 1.5%” of a whole host of the usual suspects, various types of sodium, , beef stock, onion and garlic powder, spices and lemon oil.”
No carbs, of course, low fat, but sodium content (12% for two ounces) is kinda high, if you’re watching that kind of thing. Further information from the label shows this product is made at USDA plant # 9574, which is one of Dietz & Watson’s facilities in Philadelphia.
So how is it? Fine, I guess. The package says “Tenderness Guaranteed”, and there’s no arguing that. Whatever process is used, as with any pre-packaged meats (in my opinion) takes all the ‘muscle’ texture out of the protein. As for taste, it’s probably just me, but it’s gotten so with this type of product, I can’t tell the difference between roast beef, corned beef, or ham, if it weren’t for the color and whatever seasoning is added.
So in conclusion, it’s fine for what it is, but a little pricey, not particularly a good value. Would I buy it again? Under similar circumstances, yes. Although it’s not a fair comparison, the other day I reviewed Mike Ditka’s Italian Beef, which is a much more “real’ sliced beef product.
If you’re curious about how some other types of deli meats are made, I found this video on YouTube, which happens to feature Dietz & Watson products. Below it is a pic of the discussed product, removed from the package.
dietz & watson roast beef
With a name that is synonymous with Chicago’s “Little Italy” neighborhood, the seven location Taylor Street Pizza in Chicago’s NW suburbs has a rep to live up to.
Primarily a delivery and carry-out operation (with dine in available at the Elgin location), Taylor Street offers thin, double dough, and deep dish pies, as well as standard Chicago fare like calzones, Italian beef, hot dogs, ribs, fried chicken, and a host of appetizers/sides.
I was motivated to try it today as I had a $10 coupon from Restaurant.com, and I’m usually ready to try a new pie purveyor, especially when I am passing through Chicago, a city that has so many great pizza places.
My usual order is a thin crust, Italian sausage, green olive, and extra cheese, which was the choice today, as well. A 16″ pie with the three toppings came to $12.30 after the coupon. Spoiler alert: Taylor Street carries Pepsi products.
It took less than 25 minutes to be ready, and came out of the oven piping hot just as I arrived. Aesthetically, it was a work of art. Taste wise, for my pizza palate, it was perfect. Flavorful sausage, mild sauce, a sprinkling of herbs (such a small thing always makes a pizza special to me). The crust was crispy on the outside, and chewy as you worked your way in, as it should be. Excellent “pull” on the cheese, and best of all, cheese, toppings, sauce all adhered to the crust nicely.
Taylor Street will be one of my “go-to” places when I’m in Chicagoland, for sure.
Taylor Street Pizza Review
Executive Chef Kevin Ilenda at Restaurant 301 in Duluth, Minnesota, continues to wow and educate local diners with his special wine pairing dinners. The most recent event featured wines from the vineyard of Sonoma Valley’s Gloria Ferrer. The area of Sonoma that Gloria Ferrer has under vine is called Los Carneros, and boasts a climate suitable for Pinot and Chardonnay; much of the grow from this area is destined to become sparkling wine.
The Ferrer family’s heritage as a grower and vintner dates back more than one hundred years, and working with local restaurants and distributors around the country (in Duluth, Ferrer wines are distributed by Wine Merchants), the winery is on the road sharing its special vintages.
Ilenda put on his creative thinking toque for the five course repast at the Gloria Ferrer event at Restaurant 301.
The evening started with an amuse-bouche of a stuffed mussel, paired with Ferrer’s Brut. Ilenda spread his own wings with a dazzling first that featured the flavors of East and West Asia and the Subcontinent, a chicken wing confit with greens, a plum/cardamon chutney, pickled fennel and a Daikon radish. Pairing was a medium body Pinot-based sparkling Blanc de Noirs.
A 2010 Chardonnay led the 2nd, a crab onion bouillabaisse, topped with sweet rye croutons and highlighted with a mint avocado meringue.
The substantial third course featured a serving of caramelized halibut, with a celery root puree, and a variety of lightly seasoned vegetables. The course was accented with Ferrer’s 2010 Pinot.
While few diners at the sold out event had room for dessert, Chef’s creation was persuasive on the plate and the palate. Ilenda had dreamed up a chocolate and almond sponge cake, with a creme glace of coffee and Grand Marnier.
Restaurant 301 is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Call (218) 336-2705 for reservations or information. In Duluth, you can find Gloria Ferrer wines at fine retailers like the Mount Royal and Lake Aire Bottle Shops.
(photos copyright 2014 Kawikamedia.com)
Just a couple years ago, Fulton Beer was a gleam in the eyes of some young Minneapolis entrepreneurs, playing with home brew in their garage; today, they are in the midst of a major expansion, building their second brewery in Minneapolis while successfully operating their first brewhouse and tap room in downtown.
Fulton is on the road these days, conducting tasting pairings around the state, and stopped in Duluth recently to take over the taps at Grandma’s in Canal Park.
Photos courtesy of kawikamedia.com.
Fulton Beer Minneapolis
A few years back, a newly built luxe hotel went up in Duluth, a mid-rise Sheraton at the eastern end of downtown. It’s across 3rd Avenue from the former Hotel Duluth, which opened with 500 rooms in 1925. The lobby and dining rooms were very ornate, heavily decorated in a Moorish style. While Duluth has many nice inns that fall into the “tourist motel” category, and some spiffy B&Bs in the city’s finer old homes, the city really needed a hotel of this nature, and a dining experience to match, which it has in the first floor eatery Restaurant 301, named after the street address of the hotel.
The dining room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has an attached lounge. The cuisine is locavore-American with a continental touch, courtesy of Executive Chef Kevin Ilenda. In addition to the standard offerings, Ilenda frequently treats Duluthians and visitors to special theme meals with wine pairings. He has culinary skills and creativity not often witnessed in the Zenith City.
The Minnesota Burger Posse made 301 their weekly Friday eating adventure, and smiles were around the table. The table shared an appetizer of Warm Blue Cheese with Pear and Walnut Glazed with Honey in a Fresh Baked Tartlet. The burger is ground in-house daily, mixed with pork, topped with cured bacon, baby Swiss, and house-made barbecue sauce; like other sandwiches, it is served on focaccia. Chicken sandwiches, with house-made chips were described as moist and flavorful, as was the turkey club.
They finished their repast with an off the menu dessert that Ilenda proferred, a take-off on s’mores, prepared table side.
Dark wood paneled walls, with a crackling fireplace make for a comfortable experience during the day, and the potential for a romantic tryst in the evenings. Dining available 6:30A – 1oP, the attached lounge serves from 11A-11P. Reservations: 218-336-2705. The Sheraton is located at the corner of 3rd Avenue East and Superior Street, less than 200 steps from Duluth’s scenic Lakewalk.
Restaurant 301 Review