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Bremer Lasagna Review

We can probably file this one under my heading of “things I’ve tried so you don’t have to.”   I have written about products from Aldi before, the large German based grocery corporation that also owns Trader Joes.  Aldi sell most their own label of foods, manufactured for them by the “big guys” but heavily discounted.  Shop only at Aldi and you can probably save 25-30% off your grocery bill.  Supplement your Aldi trips with getting your staples at dollar stores, and you’ll save even more.

I’m not much for frozen or canned pasta “meals”, but somebody dropped by an Aldi brand lasagna, which is branded “Bremers,” but according to the USDA plant number on the package, is made by Chicago’s “On-Cor.”  I shouldn’t be surprised, the packaging is very similar and the contents and dietary label are identical.

As always, I went with the oven style prep instead of microwaving, which took about 45 minutes.  Below are pix of the package, the frozen product, and the plated product (with added Parmesan) and the street in Chicago where the product was born.

How was it?  Surprisingly meatier than I expected, yet for some reason, I find all pre-prepared Italian and Mexican foods (especially Hormel Tamales) to have a slight “burn” to the tomato sauce which I personally find unappealing.  I can’t really identify the source of that discomfort for me, just has always been that way.

In any regards, would I buy it again?  Well, yes, over big name brands like Stouffers, it’s just a much better value.

But nobody, but nobody makes lasagna better than Mrs. BurgerDogBoy, unless she tries to slip in turkey Italian sausage.

Bremer Lasagna Review


Bremer Lasagna Review

(Added Parmesan)







bremer lasagna review

Chef Movie Review

I seldom write about movies, but every once and awhile, (“Big Night”, “Hyde Park on the Husdon“) there’s one with significant food content or a subject that resonates with me on some level, so I utter a few words about it. In the case of the movie “Chef”, I suspect this missive might be lengthy, as there were a number of elements in the story line that meant something to me.

The film, described in the trades as a “small indie”, was written, directed and stars Jon Favreau, who cut his acting chops in similar small indies, before moving behind the camera and directing blockbusters like “Iron Man” 1 and II, and some other big hits, as well as some not so hits (“Cowboys and Aliens”).

Chef tells the story of Los Angeles chef Carl Casper, stymied in his career while heading a semi-posh L.A. eatery owned by autocrat  “Riva: played by Dustin Hoffman. Previously lauded by critics for his kitchen creativity, Caspar is now locked in an artistic battle with Hoffman’s character, who insists on keeping the menu as it always has been, and not allowing Caspar the artistic kitchen freedom he was offered when hired.

After Rivas’s menu and Caspar’s prep get a scathing review from food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), Caspar discovers he has the ability to rebut the review via social media, a tool previously unknown  to Caspar. He gets pointers from his eleven year old son, from whom he is somewhat estranged.

The result is Caspar “got quit” from the restaurant, and his ex wife suggests he get back to his passion, cooking food he loves, and go the food truck route. Pooh poohing the suggestion at first, Caspar eventually warms up to the idea, flies to Miami to meet with his ex’s first ex (Robert Downey, Jr) who finances the food truck operation, the cuisine of which focuses on Caspar’s Miami roots, as well as those of his Cuban ex-wife.

I won’t go any further into the plot other than to say Caspar gets the truck rolling, and heads across the country with his former sous chef (John Leguizamo), and Caspar’s son, and along the journey makes the all important discovery of “what’s important in life.”

It’s a funny, sometimes poignant movie, worth seeing, especially for restaurant workers and self-proclaimed foodies.

Caspar’s food truck offering is a Cuban Sandwich, on my top three list of favorite things between bread. Here’s a typical recipe.

Chef Movie Review

Cuban Sandwich @ Versailles

Featured in the flick is the Versaille  restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana, but they could have used  one of the locations of a small chain  of the same name in Los Angeles, Versailles, who have a garlic chicken and roasted pork in garlic sauce that are so good they will make you cry.  I’ve had many great meals at the L.A. Versailles, and two of the worst social occasions of my life.

Among my favorite bits in the movie are a stop in New Orleans,  one of the places I hang my hat these days, and a pop into Austin’s red hot Aaron Franklin’s  BBQ shop, which is open Tues – Sun for lunch only, from 11 AM until they are sold out.  Spectacular ‘cue.

Side note:  A few weeks ago, on a different site, I said I was completely over movie and tv shows that showed Twitter messages or IMs on the screen as plot devices or dialogue.  That gimmick is featured prominently in “Chef”, but it’s necessary to the plot line, and they made it ‘cute’ by including an animation of the Twitter bird.

Here’s the movie trailer.






Chef Movie Review

Chef Movie Review

Opaa Gyros Kit Review

Opaa Brand Gyros ReviewA few weeks ago, I reviewed the home gyros package from Chicago manufacturer Devanco; today I checked out a competing brand, Opaa! from another Chicago company called Grecian Delight.

Opaa is priced about 30 % less than Devanco, but the contents reflect that as well.  Both kits have claims on the box of the contents making six sandwiches.   The difference is Opaa contains a third less meat, fifty percent less sauce and pitas (3 split instead of 6 whole).

I don’t recall looking at the meat content on the Devanco box;  usually this stuff is beef and lamb with seasonings, and while the Opaa box states those ingredients, the lamb is waaaaaaaaaaaaay down the list, so – maybe – less than two percent by weight.

But what matters is taste, right?  I called the Devanco “just like you get in a gyro shop,” and I stick to that claim.

The Opaa?  I like it.  Good value.  Meat might be a little spicier than Devanco, but the sauce is tamer.  It’s all gonna come down to you deciding do you want a full size folded over gyro, or a half size split?

If the latter, then the Devanco kit will make 12, and becomes a better value.

Oh, where are they made?  According to the USDA stamp, in Elk Grove Village, IL, about a mile west of the O’hare runway (pic below).

At the bottom of the page is a YouTube video I found of a couple of guys demonstrating assembly of this product.


Opaa Brand Gyros Review

Frozen Contents


Opaa Brand Gyros Review

Made Up Sandwiches (add tomatoes and onion)


Opaa Brand Gyros Review

Gyro Factory


Opaa Gyros Kit Review

Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Mrs. Burgerdogboy asked me to take a whack at fried chicken; usually we’d head to that chain the late New Orleanian Al Copeland created – Popeye’s, but it was one of those (one?) gloomy Portland days and we were resolved to (mostly) not leave the bedroom.

So here’s my concocted recipe, which turned out real well, by all accounts.


  • 8  Chicken pieces of  your choice with bones-in, skin removed (if that’s your preference)
  • 1/2 C half and half creamer
  • 1 C Zatarain’s Spicy Fish Fri
  • 1 C Panko
  • 2 T Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 T Garlic powder
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 1 T paprika
  • Peanut oil or lard


Combine dry ingredients in plastic bag. Wash chicken thorough, pat dry and dip in half and half, let excess liquid run off.  Toss the chicken vigorously in the plastic bag with the dry ingredients.

Fry, bone side down, in a cast iron skillet for 15 minutes.  Flip chicken once and fry for another 15 minutes.  Remove chicken from fry pan, place on baking sheet, and finish in oven at 350 for 20 minutes.

Crispy outside, juicy, flavorful meat inside.   “Louisiana fast!”

Fried chicken recipe










Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Iowa Machine Shed Review“Dedicated to the American Farmer” – was the slogan of a restaurant we used to pop into in Davenport Iowa.  The “Iowa Machine Shed”, just outside of town, served wholesome American food in large quantities.   We had moved to Davenport to build the first radio station I owned.  Back in Marconi days.   Today there are a half dozen Machine Shed restaurants in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The restaurant cooks from scratch and uses top notch suppliers.  Some people might compare it to Cracker Barrel, and I guess there is a similarity, but Machine Shed is better, in my opinion.

These places seat a big mess o people, so remember that when setting out to visit.  They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with slightly different menus at each meal.

After your drink orders are taken, the server will bring the table complimentary “fixins”, which is comprised of an ample bread basket with super soft large dinner rolls, a family sized bowl of slaw and one of cottage cheese.  I love cottage cheese, and this has to be some of the best I have had, ever, anywhere.  High milk fat content, small curd.

This trip, I ordered the country fried chicken, which was nice and crisp on the outside and juicy inside.  Dinners come with a vegetable and your choice of a large variety of spud preparations.  I got fries and some nice gravy to go with it.

If you’re in for breakfast, or need a little sweet thing (besides Mrs. Burgerdogboy), they have these massive breakfast rolls in a couple of different varieties, and I swear, they must weigh two pounds.

Next time I zip through the Upper Midwest, I’ll angle to hit a Machine Shed at breakfast, as they have a platter which covers all the breakfast pork options.  Nice.  And BTW?  There is no better place to be during summers in America than the farm belt.  County fairs, small town festivals, block parties.  The best.

Typical dinner menu.

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Complimentary “fixins”


Iowa Machine Shed Review

Country Fried Chicken


The Machine Shed on Urbanspoon


Iowa Machine Shed Review

Timballo Recipe

Timpano (Timballo) Recipe

In one of the best “foodie” movies ever made, The Big Night, Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub (“Monk”) try to save their failing restaurant by putting on the feast of all feasts to impress Louis Prima, who they have heard is coming to visit. One good word from him, they figure, and all will be right with the world.

One of the dishes they create is the “timpano”, a traditional holiday feast in Italy, featuring pasta, meat, cheese and sauce baked in a pastry shell.

Here’s my version:


  • 1 ball pizza dough
  • 3 Italian sausages (cooked), thin sliced on a bias
  • 36 meatballs (cooked) sliced in half
  • 32 oz shredded Italian cheeses
  • 1 c tomato sauce (toss the cooked pasta in it)
  • 1 package of salami or prosciutto
  • 10” glass or steel pan, preferably domed
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ½ package dry ziti
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook the pasta and drain while you are waiting for the oven to preheat.

Roll out pizza dough, large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, reserving enough to make a cap. Butter the dish and the outside of the dough.

Now you are going to layer the ingredients as if you were making a parfait, beginning and ending with the pasta. Pasta, meat, sauce, cheese. Repeat, ending with a layer of pasta. Place the dough cap on the timpano, cover, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 45 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Let cool another ten minutes before slicing like pieces of cake. Drizzle additional tomato sauce and decorate slice with basil leaves.

Variants: Some recipes use a layer of quartered hard boiled eggs; others use layers of peas or other vegetables.

Shortcuts: I made everything from scratch here (except the pasta) but you don’t have to. You could purchase pre-cooked meatballs. You might also try the pre-cooked lasagna noodles in criss-crossed strips in the pan in lieu of the pizza dough for an interesting effect.



Timpano Recipe

Ball of pizza dough




Timpano recipe pictures

Dough stretched out in deep baking dish


Timpano recipe pictures

First row of ziti down

Timpano recipe pictures

2nd layer of pasta over meat and cheese

Timpano recipe pictures

Dough cap in place, ready for oven


Timpano recipe pictures

Out of the oven, ready to slice!


Timpano recipe pictures

Dig in!


Timpano recipe

Great American Steak Company – Beef Filet Review

If you’ve been to one of America’s premier steakhouse chains like Ruth’s Chris, Mortons, Smith & Wollensky, or an upmarket independent operator in your local market, like me, it’s likely you have paid $30 – $50 for a premium beef filet, usually around 6 ounces. Add a couple sides and drinks and you’re easily at the hundred dollar market for dinner.

Frequently you’ll see ‘filets’ on sale at grocery stores, personally sized portions, usually about four ounces, for anywhere between $4.99 – $9.99.

Imagine my surprise when I found a bunch from “Great American Steak Company” for $1.99 each.

Great American is a retail brand of  the American Foods Group, part of the Rosen’s Group, a diversified operator founded in 1946 in Fairmont, Minnesota, about 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

Among their other brands are the Sheboygan Sausage Company and Big City Reds Hot Dogs.  According to the USDA plant number on the packaging, this beef was processed at another Rosen subsidiary, Skylark Packing in Omaha.

At the price, I was ‘afraid’ the product would be not real muscle meat, but instead a rolled or ‘pressed chopped and formed’ piece of beef.  I was wrong.

The steak was a moist, flavorful single cut of beef, wrapped in bacon.  Wish I had bought a hundred.

Great American Steak Review


Great American Steak Review

Filet cooked medium, cut in half


Great American Steak Company Reviews

Duluth, MN – Canal Park Brewing Review

A year old, operating kinks worked out, Canal Park Brewing has  great beer, updated menu adds spot on poutine. Menu.

Canal Park Brewing Review






Canal Park Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Canal Park Brewing Review

New Orleans, LA – Bourbon House Reviews

Bourbon HouseIf there’s a “first family” or royalty of the restaurant biz in the US, one surely has to consider members of the Brennan family in New Orleans at the top of the list. Various family members own a dozen or more restaurants in the Crescent City and elsewhere, including the always highly touted Commander’s Palace.

A trained chef and third generation member of the family, Dickie Brennan has made his own mark on New Orleans dining, with four marks to his name, including the fine dining establishment called “Bourbon House“, at the corner of Bourbon and Iberville, at the western gateway to the French Quarter.

There are three elements of a good restaurant experience:  food, service, and ambiance. Sometimes it only takes one of them to carry the night, two can make it a great event, and all three create an over the top outing.

At Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, I had the extreme pleasure of a trifecta: great food, pleasant atmosphere, and over the top service.

A large but tastefully decorated room, with white linen adorned tables and appropriate place settings with ample cutlery made for a nice set up for the environment.

Starters included the seafood gratin, a mixture of shrimp and crabmeat in a rich bechamel, with artichokes and leeks, served with toast points from local legendary bread baker Leidenheimers. The dish was chock-a-block packed with the seafood, and the vegetables added a nice zest to the creamy staple of French cuisine, a white sauce made with a light roux, milk, and seasonings.

I opted for a very traditional New Orleans entree, barbecued shrimp, which has nothing to do with either barbecued or grilled cooking, but is rather whole shrimp simmered in a butter and herb sauce.  This is a dish offered at a number of different restaurants in the New Orleans area, including one that purportedly created it in 1913.

Having consumed this dish around the Crescent City, other places around the country, and made it at home, you should know, in my opinion, if you’re traveling to New Orleans, you can chose to eat it at the restaurant that claims it as its own (and relies on a decades old reputation), or you can have the best in the city, like I did, at Bourbon House.  Bourbon House’s recipe is buttery, herby, and zesty. Perfect. Mop up the left over broth with more Leidenheimers.

The third element of the perfect restaurant evening – service – was over the top. Each table is taken care of  by a team, and ours was seen to by a lead server named Kat ,who was charming, affable, knowledgeable about the menu offerings, local lore, and provided exactly the right amount of attention and timing to make the trifecta complete.


Bourbon House

Barbecued Shrimp


Bourbon House

Main Room


Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Bourbon House on Urbanspoon

Bourbon House Reviews

Recipe – Sweet and Tangy Fingerling Potatoes

Mrs. Burgerdogboy is strictly a meat and potatoes man, and I’m often “accused’ of not being creative enough in prep of that kind of cuisine. For a long time, my “go to” side was a roasted potato dish, seasoned with rosemary infused olive oil, and dashed with sprigs of fresh rosemary. We had a rosemary bush beside the house which was out of control at about six feet tall, so I was pushed to find as many uses as possible for the fragrant herb.

Couple years ago, on one of my trips through the back roads of America, I stopped and talked to a potato farmer in Idaho, who had changed up his crop to fingerlings only a couple seasons ago. Fingerlings are small, narrow, stubby potatoes, which can be bred from any member of the stem tuber family. Popular fingerlings include the yellow skinned Russian and the orange skinned French.  There’s a purple one, too.

Fingerlings were starting to have a wider availability in stores, due to a higher price point than ‘regular’ potatoes can achieve.

I asked the farmer if he enjoyed eating them, and he confessed he did, and said he had a secret family recipe, which he would pass on if I promised not to share it.  He did, and oh well… it is.

(8 servings)

  • Two pounds fingerling or baby Yukons
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • Chives, or diced green stems of onions
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Wash potatoes, pat dry.  Combine EVOO, honey, mustard, chives in a bowl, toss potatoes until thoroughly coated. Drop into a roasting pan, and cook at 425 for 40 minutes or until spuds can be easily pierced by a pork. Put into serving bowl, salt and pepper to taste, garnish with more chives.

Your family or guests will love these and demand the recipe.  But don’t pass it on, it’s a secret!

Fingerling Potato Recipe


fingerling potato recipe

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