Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category
I don’t bake much anymore, too much trouble for one person; oh, i’ll make a loaf of bread or pizza crust for company, but I kind of got fried on baking when I lived in Paris, and thought it was required to be able to make great croissants and other pastries. I’d rise at 4 AM or so, and while my girlfriend lingered in dreamland, I’d destroy the kitchen working on recipes. Kinda nailed it, and that was satisfaction enough.
So the concept of me making a pie is out of the question, even tho I love pie. But I spotted canned fillings on the grocery shelf the other day, made by Musselmans, so I grabbed the Banana Cream, and Key Lime. I love Key Lime pie, I can remember the first time I had it even, at the Fontainbleu hotel in Miami. Good times. Good pie.
Armed with these two cans and two frozen pie shells, i made two pies I will never eat. Bake the shells, plop in the filling, top with whipped cream, or not, voila. You are in pie heaven.
I think the toppings were adequate, despite being heavy on corn syrup as an ingredient. They were cheaper than trying to make it from scratch, for sure.
Musselmans started in Pennsylvania in 1907 and is “grower owned.” In addition to pie fillings, they make canned fruit, juices, and fruit vinegar. Each can of pie filling makes one standard size pie and costs around $3.00.
This is good enough for most company. Even your mother in law. (I never met my last one, which was perfect on so many levels. She may have even been a figment of my ex’s imagination).
Add chunks of real fruit if you must.
Musselmans Pie Filling
Before there was “siracha” and “chipotle” everything, there was Vidalia Onion everything. Vidalia onions are sweet, and grown in certain areas of the U.S. state of Georgia, only. It has been Georgia’s official state vegetable for 25 years. Who knew states had official vegetables? Not many do, here’s as complete a list as we have found.
While the onions can only be grown in a small geographical area, products with their flavoring can be made anywhere, by anybody, as long as they meet certain content requirements. One can order the onions or said products online, of course.
There are any number of co-packers or contract manufacturers willing to slap your store or establishment name on their Vidalia onion product, and one that I picked up was from an Illinois farm product store, “Vidalia Onion Cucumber Dill” Salad Dressing.
Ingredients include: Soybean oil, Cucumbers, Water, Vidalia Onions, Cane Sugar, Vinegar, Egg Yolk, spices and preservatives, and comes in a 12 oz bottle.
The onion flavor is pronounced, and the dill subtle. For my taste, reversing those would be better. It’s very creamy tho, and will certainly please many. Vidalia Onion products are here to stay, not sure we can say the same for siracha and chipotle. One hopes not.
I eat fair amount of salad, especially with garden grown ingredients, and no matter how many different flavors are rolled out, my favorite dressing is still Litehouse Chunky Blue Cheese.
For the unwashed, the Varsity is the world’s largest hot dog stand. Covering two acres in downtown , with parking for 600 cars, and seating for 800, the Varsity has been dishing up dogs, burgers, fries, rings, and their famous “Frosted Orange” beverage since 1928 under the watchful eye of Frank Gordy and his descendants.
Initially operating under the name “The Yellow Jacket” Gordy served hot dogs and bottled Coca-Cola (what else in ?) to Georgia Tech students. Not wishing to limit his clientele to one particular school, the name change came shortly thereafter, along with the move to the present location.
When you sidle up to the counter, and hear the famous cry from the clerks: “What’ll ya have, what’ll ya have?” it helps to know the proper retort. There’s much more, but this will get you past the basics of ordering:
- Hot Dog: Hot dog with chili and mustard
- Heavy weight: Same as hot dog but with extra chili
- Naked Dog: Plain hot dog in a bun
- MK Dog: Hot dog with mustard and ketchup
- Regular C Dog: Hot dog with chili, mustard and ketchup
- Red Dog: Ketchup only
- Yellow Dog: Mustard only
- Yankee Dog: Same as a yellow dog
- Walk a Dog (or Steak): Hot dog to go
- Steak: Hamburger with mustard, ketchup, and pickle
- Chili Steak: Hamburger with Varsity chili
- Glorified Steak: Hamburger with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato
There are 5 locations these days . But the original is the place for the complete Varsity experience. Bring the kids, but not much money. A meal at the Varsity is well under five bucks. Unless you order like I do.
varsity atlanta reviews
(Originally published July 2013) Second visit in a few months. You’re unlikely to just wander by here, Huntley is kind of out of the way from everything.
I love “country breakfasts” in the Upper Midwest. My definition of that phrase is – from a rural mom and pop type establishment that serves ample quantities of good food, for low prices. Especially those places with ‘farm-fresh’ eggs, bright yellow yolks, instead of the pale yolks one experiences from the giant egg farms. There’s a place in Illinois that is so proud of its eggs, they give you a dozen on the way out the door, free with every meal.
Huntley used to be a very rural town in Northern Illinois, rolling horse pastures, bucolic countryside, small businesses. It’s on its way to becoming a suburb of Chicago, even tho it would be at least a 90 minute drive into the city under the best of conditions.
Illinois 47 is a major north-south artery that runs through the heart of Huntley, and on the way out of town towards the north sits Papa G’s, a typical country diner.
Many diners in the Chicago area seemed to be owned by Greeks, and Papa G’s, though I don’t know for sure, would seem to fit that description as well, as they have numerous Greek specialties on the menu.
While the restaurant does a brisk business for weekend breakfast, with every table full, if there’s a wait, it’s only a matter of minutes usually. Compare this to Portland, Oregon, where going to brunch is a “thing” and at some places you can expect a two hour wait. And people do it.
This morning, at Papa G’s, I went with the egg breakfast with ham. Three eggs on a plate are standard here, and the massive ham steak was touted as “off the bone.” Hashbrowns and in-house baked breads for toast were included. They bake a variety of breads, and cut it thick for toast. It’s great. I love ham in any form or fashion, and this is a nice piece. It’s slightly sweet, just FYI.
I suspect it won’t be my last visit. Maybe next time I can meet Papa.
Papa G review
( 5th and Oak St., downtown Portland, OR)
I’ve been blessed to have lived in some of the great food cities of the world; and there’s always at least one local favorite I miss when I have moved away from those burgs – Italian beef from Chicago, po-boys from New Orleans to mention two.
Heating roast beef correctly in au jus is an art form, if the temp is just a 1/10th of a degree too hot (it seems to me) it’s easy for your beef to end up curled and chewy. Many in Portland have tried to master the art of the basic dip sandwich, purportedly invented in Los Angeles at either Cole’s or Philippes, both of whom claim bragging rights.
In both Chicago and New Orleans, who has the best beef dip (respectively, “Italian Beef” or “Roast Beef Po-Boy”) can lead to heated arguments, if not downright brawls.
In Portland, there can seem to be no question, the title goes to “Wagsy’s Hot Beef Sandwiches”, a cart at SW Fifth and Oak. I’ve tried the rest, and now I’ve found the best.
These guys have created a menu based around different variations of beef dip, and after the first bite of the “Chi-Town”, I was hooked. An ample quantity of quality, thin-sliced roast beef, on very fresh bread, served “wet”, and in beef dip terms, that means the loaf is dipped in the au jus slightly for a taste and texture sensation.
The home town version in Chicago is highly flavored with garlic and herbs, but Wagsy’s have toned this down, I suspect, for a wider audience, and for my palate, it’s just perfect.
For five bucks, it’s a very filling sandwich, and it comes with a small ramekin of a vegetable medley (giardiniera) which you may dress the sandwich with if that’s your preference.
A nice finishing touch is provided with a wet nap and toothpick taped to the sandwich box.
Wagsy’s offers some other interpretations of the dip, a Philly style, and a BBQ one, as well as a veggie choice.
Good job guys. You’ve a winning combination. I can easily see a leap to multiple city brick and mortars in your future. Find Wagsy’s on Facebook, too.
Wagsys Hot Beef
It’s as “thick as pea soup”, an old adage goes. Well, just how thick IS pea soup supposed to be? And what WAS as “thick as pea soup?”
To the latter, it was a reference to the fogs that use to settle in on the United Kingdom, back in the days when factories and homes burned coal for fuel. If one used yellow peas, instead of green, it was referred to as “London Particular”, after that yellow hued smog of coal-burning days. To the former? As thick as your personal taste requires!
In literature, pea soup is often referred to as food for the poor. Cheap and easy to fix. The recipe doesn’t vary much around the world, but the significance it plays in cuisines varies. It’s an “important “dish in Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. In the US, it is simply one of a variety of the hundreds of soups we have available to us in restaurants or supermarkets.
So what’s the hubbub?
Somewhere recently, I came across a couple of cans of “Andersen’s Creamy Split Pea” soup. Now in the US, usually “split pea” would refer to there being bits of peas in the soap, whereas “regular pea soup”. would be a puree. Such is the case with Andersen’s, manufactured by Advanced Food Products of Visalia, CA.
But where does the “Andersens” come from? One would assume it to be a relatively easy question for residents or tourists to the West Coast of America. They are used to seeing outdoor posters along the highways for “Pea Soup Andersen’s” – with the cartoon characters of “Hap-pea“ and “Pea-Wee” adorning the boards, and usually a visual of the trademark “windmill” that adorned the Buellton location.
In trying to research this….I became nothing but confused. The reason I started the quest was because of the canned soup, which was pretty good. And I assumed since it was called “Andersens”, it more than likely was a licensed product of the restaurant in Buellton. But there is no reference to that on the soup website.
Nor is there a reference to the soup on the restaurant website. Nor is there a reference to the restaurant on the website of Pea Soup Andersen’s Motel. Nor is there a reference anywhere to the San Diego restaurant of the same name.
What happened here? Family disagreement? Partnership dissolution? Intellectual property mayhem? I don’t know.
I do know I like the canned variety of Andersen’s Pea Soup, and the restaurant variety as well. They are both adequate subsitutes when Mrs. Burgerdogboy hasn’t whipped up a pot of her home-made pea soup, which is da bomb! That’s all.
Pea Soup Andersens
Bada bing! Mort’s has been around so long, I am sure they catered to Moses at some point.
Tucked in a strip mall, at the back of a grocery store parking lot, Mort’s is a full-service traditional delicatessen (restaurant and meat counter) with an attached bakery.
This used to be a regular haunt of mine when I lived in the ‘hood, and I don’t get back there often enough, tho this trip, I managed to squeeze out two visits, once for a sandwich, and another time to load up on hard salami and ham to tote home.
A plain, lean, over-stuffed corned beef sandwich is an item that is (surprisingly) difficult to find (prepared, that is) in my town, so I welcomed the chance to grab one to go at Mort’s.
It didn’t disappoint.
Mort’s menu is online. When traveling the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, check out Mort’s sometime. On the other coast, in New York, be sure grab a sammich from the Carnegie Deli - they also distribute their beef rounds to selected groceries.
(From our travel archives) Every time I go to Cincinnati, I just want to hit the chili dog stands. There are hundreds of them, and I’ve written about them before in this space. This trip, we skipped the hot dogs in favor of the hottest new places in town – Jean Robert at Pigall’s.
This essay could be subtitled, “the case of the chef that skipped,” for Jean Robert Cavel was formerly the chef at the five star Maisonette, one of the most well known eateries in Cincy. Classy but unpretentious, Jean Robert has the city talking – and eating. The restaurant offers creative, but not outlandish preparations of classic French cuisine, and seafood choices dominate.
Diners have two choices of prix fixe menus – a three course selection at $75 each, which does not include beverages, or a five course experience at $140 per person, which includes wine with each course.
The restaurant is comfortably appointed with woods, chandeliers, and neutral tones. The room gives an airy, not crowded feeling. Service is attentive but not overbearing.
I opted for the three course plate, as our host had specific wines that he wanted us to try. I started with an interesting twist on my old favorite of escargot, which was served in a slightly sweet “savory” sauce, much akin to Emeril’s version of barbecued shrimp. From there, I moved to veal medallions, which the server suggested be served at medium rare, and it was some of the best veal I have ever tasted.
While my fellow diners opted for desserts on the sweet, but heavenly side, I opted for Jean Robert’s cheese plate, which presented six contrasting cheeses splayed out in order of sharpness.
Jean-Robert at Pigall’s was named one of the top 75 new restaurants in the world by Conde-Nast, just six months after opening. That was two years ago. I’m sure a repeat visit by the judges would find it the same. A wonderful experience.
Dinner, Tues-Sat. Jean Robert at Pigall’s is located at 127 W. Fourth St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-721-1345 . Proper attire required.
jean robert cincinnati
The name literally is a contradiction, “Veritable” means ‘something of certainty”, and “Quandary” means ‘difficult to predict, or uncertainty,’ and the restaurant of the same name near Portland’s waterfront, is anything but.
VQ, as locals refer to it, was created in 1971 and for decades has consistently hammered out some of the most innovative takes on America’s regional fares while utilizing local ingredients.
The menu varies from time to time, and can be found online.
I was meeting some pals for a quick lunch, and VQ was geographically desirable to their office location(s).
One of my friends said in advance he had been jonesing for the seafood stew, a rich broth full of fish, mollusks, and shellfish. From the smile on his face and the interruption in the conversation, I can only surmise it was delicious and I have made a note to try it next time.
And me? Why, I went with the highly-acclaimed VQ burger, Cascade Range beef on a ciabatta that leaned towards the softer side, accompanied by some pickled vegetables, and house-cut fries.
It was cooked to my medium rare preference, and plated beautifully.
One of my companions said it was one of the best burgers in Portland, and opined he thought they put some sausage or sausage-like seasonings in the meat. I wouldn’t disagree on his judgement, but I don’t believe the burger had any sausage (pork) in it, or the menu or waiter would have stated so. Wait-service was great, by the way.
The beef was seasoned, and the flavor reminded me of burgers I have had in the Caribbean, tho I cannot pinpoint the flavor for you. It’s not strong or unplesanant at all; I may guess that the seasoning is onion-related.
The ample meat patty was crowned with a slab of medium white cheddar, and the entire experience was on the high end of the scale.
Definitely now one of my top 5 burgers in Portland. I shall return. A nice hot lunch for another dreary, rainy December day in Portland.
It’s said the VQ has a great weekend brunch, and it’s within an easy hike of most downtown hotels, as well. Brunch offerings vary, and are surprising, like this month’s blackened catfish, or pumpkin and brie quiche!
I like “greasy spoons”, and more especially, those American diner type restaurants that have some kind of connection to the Greek culture. Such is the case with the Overlook, which I would pop in every day if I lived in the neighborhood. Instead, it’s only my second time in four years.
It’s your standard diner fare, with daily specials, and a full bar to boot.
They don’t call me “Burgerdogboy” for nothing, so breakfast for me, when it’s offered, is a hamburger patty with eggs, hash browns, and toast. If I am in a “devil-may-care” attitude, I’ll order an additional side of some other meat, and yes please, extra butter on the side.
I wasn’t ordering extra today, but the ample weight of the burger patty made extra meat not required.
The breakfast, in its entirety, was served precisely as ordered: meat medium, potatoes extra crispy, eggs over easy.
I lingered……and enjoyed the meal, two crosswords, and lotsa joe. A welcome respite from hotel dining, for sure.
Overlook Family Restaurant Review