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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Paks Green Corner Update

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. )

 

Pak's Geen Corner Duluth

Poutine

 

Pak's Geen Corner Duluth

Korean Tacos

 

Pak's Geen Corner Duluth

Red Chicken Curry

Paks Green Corner

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Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce Review

Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce ReviewLocal 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

In the Can

 

Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce Review

Out of the Can

 

Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce Review

Gently and Lovingly Heated

 

 

 

Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce Review

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Frozen Edwardos Natural Pizza Review

Edwardo's Natural Frozen PizzaThe 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.

Edwardo's Natural Frozen Pizza Review

Frozen, Prior to Baking

 

 

Edwardo's Natural Frozen Pizza Review

Hot Slice!

 

Edwardos Natural Pizza

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Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy

Odom's Sausage Gravy ReviewPicked 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).

Odom's Sausage Gravy Review

 

 

 

Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy Review

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Jack Links Smoked Sausage 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 Link Sausage Review

Jack Link Sausage Review

 

Jack Links Smoked Sausage Review

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Chicago Fire Mexican Casserole Recipe

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.

Ingredients

  • 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).

Prep

  • 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

“Mexican” Chicken Casserole Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Casserole Recipe

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“Boy Scout” Pepperoni Snack Stick Review

Country Meats Snack SticksWhen 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.

Snack Stick Review

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Orv’s Pizza Review

Orv's Frozen Pizza ReviewOrv’s Pizza was originally from Kaukauna, WI, and may still be produced there, but it’s now under the ownership of Minneapolis pizza company Bernatellos, that also makes and sells  Roma and Brew Pub  brands.

I wonder if Kaukauna Cheese is still made in Kaukauna?   Hold on.  OK, seems like its still made nearby, but now owned by a cheese brand collecting company from Chicago.  (BTW, cheese company, I see you also hold Merkt’s, which I prefer, especially for burgers.

Wow, talk about careening wildly off track!

This Orv’s “Tasty Toppings”  Sausage & Pepperoni Think Crust weighs in at a hair over one pound, and they were on sale today at 2 $8.00.  That’s about the right price-point for the weight.   I’m having a hard time seeing any quantity of  sausage, and they may have missed a few spots with the “Real Cheese,” (as is noted on the front of the package.

BTW, before I tell you what I thought of the experience, I give the company props for the ‘real’ ingredients.   Sausage is pork and seasonings, pepperoni is pork, beef, and seasonings, and tomato sauce is just….tomato sauce.  So they got that going for them.

The pepperoni slice was paper thin.  Say have you seen Jack Link’s is making thick “crinkle cut” pepperoni?  Ain’t that interesting?  Saw it at that store that John Boy and Mary Ellen started….you know, the Waltons?  Right.

So how is Orv’s pizza?  The thin crust is crispy, the tomato sauces leans towards being more sweet than savory and I think they shouldn’t be so stingy with the cheese.   I’d say this pizza belongs at the top end of the budget lines like Totino’s, Jeno’s, and no-name brands, but even at this sale price, is pretty spendy for that category.   I tried the parent company’s premium pie, Bellatoria Ultra Thin Sausage Italia, about six months ago, and it was pretty ok. 

425 at 10-12 minutes brought the result shown below.

Orv's Frozen Pizza Review

“Tasty Toppings”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernatellos, Bellatoria, Roma, Brew Pub

 

Orv’s Pizza Review

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Friendly Farms Cottage Cheese Review

Friendly Farms Cottage CheeseI love cottage cheese – not that lowfat crap, but delicious creamy max fat small curd. I use it as a dip for ruffled potato chips and tell myself I’m eating healthy. I usually sprinkle a little Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning on the top.

Friendly Farms cottage cheese is another in-house product from Aldi, the German discount food chain scattered across the US.  I’ve reviewed some of their stuff before.  Generally for “staples,”  you can’t beat Aldi in price, except at the Dollar Store, which has become my new “go-to” place for tomato juice, chicken and beef broth.  They’re a buck. :-)

You can check where your dairy products originate (you’ll probably want the producer to be as close to you  as possible) by deciphering the numeric production code on the carton or bottle.  It is usually near the expiration date in the format of XX-XXX or similar.

Then you trot over to this website and enter the code. Voila!  So I find out this cottage cheese is packaged for Aldi by a company called PET O’Fallon, outside of St. Louis and seemingly a part of Dean Foods, one of the nation’s largest food producers, and a company with a pretty boring website.

I’m picky about cottage cheese, and I like this one.  Since it is from Aldi, it’s a great value too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

friendly farms cottage cheese

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Schaumburg, IL – To Pho Review

I used to work for a company that was owned by a reclusive jillionaire. My office was in Europe, but I maintained a household in the Chicago area that I would escape to on occasion.  On one of those occasions, I got a call from a couple of my superiors at the company, direct connections to the recluse, and they asked me to meet them.  I did.  When I inquired why, they said the man owned Woodfield Shopping Center and had never seen it, so they were gonna go kick the tires and report back.  At the time, Woodfield was the largest and finest mall in the country, and the centerpiece of Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb about ten miles west of O’Hare.  Schaumburg exists primarily to house corporate headquarters, shopping and dining outlets.  I’ve never actually met someone FROM there.

I digress.  I was in Schaumburg, and feelin’ my combo urges of Asian and French, we headed for To Pho to satisfy my craving for a Bahn Mi, and Mrs Burgerdogboy’s favorite  – pho.  (Still don’t know how to pronounce that?  it’s basically said “FAH.”)

It’s  a small place in Schaumburg, where fancy pants restaurants lean towards places like Mortons and Ruths, and casual places are more along the lines of Hooters  or Buffalo Wild Wings.

It was immaculate, and we were seated and waited on promptly.  I opted for the special pork  Bahn Mi, with pork roll, ham, and pork belly, dressed as per tradition with mayo, shredded carrot, cilantro, cucumber and daikon (Asian radish). The baguette used was spot on perfect, could have been from a street bakery in Paris.  Flaky soft exterior, soft as butter in July inside.

Mrs. Burgerdogboy must have not been feeling rightly, as her usual tact is to cram as many calories into a meal as possible, so usually she would have gone with the pho that had beef and pork, and she would have ordered a double side of extra fat back.  But she had the chicken.  The broth is served with traditional accompaniments, including  lime, sprouts, basil, and cilantro.  In the broth with the rice noodles and chicken were green onions.  She be a soup fiend!  I have seen her take an entire week’s worth of groceries and make them into a single bowl.  Truly a magic act (except for trying to figure out dinner for the balance of the week).

We had the spring rolls as a starter, shrimp and pork mixed with rice noodles  and sprouts with a side of peanut sauce.  The  rice paper wrappers were clear and tightly wound.

This place is great. Ultra fresh, great value for the money.   Plus if you buy four sammiches, you get one free!  The restaurant is in a strip mall at 823  E. Algonquin Road in Schaumburg.  Neighbors in the mall include a Chinese restaurant, liquor store, tarot reader and a Subway.

Here’s the full menu.  And now, back to the new farm.  I’ll start a new site / blog about that soon. I’m definitely old, and definitely not “McDonald.”

To Pho Bahn Mi Review

Special Pork Bahn Mi

 

To Pho Review

Chicken Pho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Pho Review

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