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Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

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

Packaging

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…..here 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

Devanco Gyro Kit Review

Devanco Gyro KitThe gyro (however you choose to pronounce it, ”yero’, ‘jy-ro’, ‘geer-o’) is a sandwich of Greek origin consisting of vertically spit roasted meat, cucumber sauce, onion and tomato on a split or folded pita.  The name comes from the Greek word which means “turn” – a description of the meat roasting on the revolving vertical spit. The meat is thin sliced and placed into the folded pita  with the condiments. Documented history of the sandwich dates back to the 19th century.

Chicago’s Devanco Foods is one of several large suppliers of gyro sandwich fixings; they supply to both restaurants and package in retail for purchase by consumers at groceries.  The kits are “heat and eat” affairs, weighing in at about two and a half pounds, and priced in the $8-$9 range.  Contents include six pitas, 10 ounces of tzatziki (cucumber) sauce, and a pound of gyro meat, which is beef, lamb, breadcrumbs, flavoring and spices.  The kit is supposed to make six sandwiches, which comes out to about a buck and a half each, considerably less than restaurant pricing. Consumers may add tomatoes and onions to their sandwich, which they must supply from their home pantry.

The product is sold frozen (hard) and instructions recommend thawing the ingredients overnight in the refrigerator. Further instructions allow for heating the thawed product in the microwave or in a skillet on a stove top.  The box further directs consumers to place ‘about’ 5 slices of meat in each sandwich.

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I wasn’t aware of gyros until the advent of adulthood, and later, when work took me to the Middle East, the variations became a favorite. The sandwiches were also quite plentiful when I lived in Paris, in the 10th, as our neighbors were primarily Turkish and there were a lot of shawarma/gyro shops in the neighborhood.

In addition to gyro fixings, Devanco makes other Chicago favorites, including Ditka’s Italian Beef (review), various types of Giardiniera, a pickled vegetable mix Chicagoans enjoy on hot dogs and other sandwiches.

As always, I went with stove top prep, believing “slow and low” the key to success in the kitchen, most of the time.  I did add tomatoes and onions to my pita.

Will you notice much of a difference between these heat and eat versions and ones you’d purchase at a shop?  Not really.  One exception would be at a shop you can ask for ‘crispy’ bits of meat, and some shops add lettuce, which I eschew on any sandwich. Devanco’s meat is tasty, they include an ample amount of cucumber sauce, and their pitas are about as good as any anywhere. Funny, near my old  house in Portland there are some hummus shops, and the one that specializes in hummus has the worst pita and chips I’ve ever consumed anywhere.

Would I buy the kit again?  Absolutely!  Tasty food, great value.

Devanco Gyro Kit Review

Frozen components

Devanco Gyro Kit Review

Thawed meat

 

Devanco Gyro Kit Review

Assembled, ready to eat!

Devanco Gyro Kit Review

Packaging

 

Devanco Gyro Kit

 

Do You Know What It’s Like to Miss New Orleans?

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.

You don’t have to “know what it’s like to miss New Orleans” with CoolBrew, available at these retailers , or shipped directly to your house from CoolBrew’s site.

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 Coffee

 

 

(CoolBrew furnished samples for this taste test).

Cool Brew reviews

CoolBrew Coffee – 25th Anniversary Chocolate Almond Flavor

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.

CoolBrew Coffee

French Market circa 1900

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!

CoolBrew Coffee

 

 

(Editors note: CoolBrew furnished samples for this taste test).

CoolBrew Coffee

Duluth, MN – Restaurant 301 Gloria Ferrer Wine Pairing Dinner

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)

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Table Setting

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Chef Kevin

 

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Wine Merchant  - Pours and Educates

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Chicken Wing Confit

 

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Caramelized Halibut

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Full Tables Enjoying Dinner

Gloria Ferrer Wine Restaurant 301 Duluth

Dessert – Chocolate Almond Sponge Cake

 

Gloria Ferrer rep gives detail on the wine offerings

Gloria Ferrer rep gives detail on the wine offerings

 

Sweet and Savory Fried Chicken Recipe

As you can probably surmise, I’m always screwing around in the kitchen, looking for a different way to do prepare something.  Today I stumbled onto a method that I think is good enough to share.

Someone gave me a canister of “honey wheat” pretzels, which ordinarily I wouldn’t think of buying or consuming, I generally like my sweet and savory flavors to keep their distance from each other.  I sampled a couple, they weren’t that bad, nor that sweet, and I was getting ready to make some fried chicken when the proverbial light bulb went off – why not use the pretzels as fried chicken coating?  So I did, and the results were delightful.

Here’s the dope:

  • 1 C pulsed fine honey wheat pretzels
  • 1 T Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning
  • 1 C  plain flour
  • 2  eggs beaten
  • 2 C your preferred frying oil
  • Chicken parts of your choosing

Pour the plain flour onto a plate

Beat the eggs and pour onto a plate

Combine the pretzel flour and creole seasoning in a plastic bag

Dredge the chicken pieces in flour, dredge in the egg was, and toss into the bag that has the pretzel mix.  Shake vigorously.

Bring the oil to frying temp in a deep pan, and place the chicken pieces in to fry.  Turn frequently and cook to your preferred temp.

I cooked legs and wings about 12 minutes and boneless breasts about 18, which is a little longer than most recipes suggest, but the thick coating keeps the meat moist, even with these cooking times.

Remove from heat, let cool on a rack for ten minutes prior to consuming.

I really enjoyed this ‘mistake’,  the coating was not to thick, not to thin, there was a hint of sweetness from the honey pretzels, and a little salty kick from the Creole seasoning.  Give it a try!

Fried Chicken Recipe

Fried Chicken Recipe

Wadsworth, IL – Captain Porkys Seafood and BBQ Review

Within spitting distance of the Wisconsin border, on US 41 north of Chicago, Captain Porky’s is one of those delightful gems one hopes to discover but doesn’t run into all that often. A combination restaurant and seafood market, the three Kallianis siblings started the restaurant in 1984, having settled in the suburban Chicago area after immigrating from Greece.

The restaurant part (order at the counter, sit at large wood picnic tables inside) features cooked to order seafood, sandwiches, and bbq specialties, like ribs and chicken.

The market part offers a fresh seafood counter, order like at a butcher shop, by the pound, or in the case of some fish, they will slice off ‘sized to order’ steaks.  In a small deli counter are house-made fresh salads and a few Greek baked goods.  A variety of micro brews are available by the bottle for those dining in.

They serve their sandwiches New Orleans “po boy” style, on French rolls dressed with tomato, lettuce, and mayo.  They also offer a couple of New Orleans specialties like gumbo and jambalaya.  Note that for another day.

Sandwiches and meals are served ala carte or with a slight upgrade, with sides.  Steak fries are available, as are a host of other fried delicacies, like rings, okra, zucchini, hush puppies, eggplant, as well as several southern vegetables.

I went outside the norm, and had a walleye po boy.  Walleye is a tender flesh, mild fish indigenenous to the upper Midwest, Canada, and Alaska.  I asked for a little side of remoulade sauce, a very traditional New Orleans condiment that originated in France.  Call it tartar sauce with a kick, which can come from adding capers or curry powder.  If you feel inclined to make it at home, here’s Emeril’s recipe.

I knew the fish would be fresh from seeing it in the counter (pic below).  It was cooked perfectly, with a light breading, and was ample sized, a good value for the money.  Steak fries were great, as well, especially when I used the remoulade as a fry dipping sauce.

If you live in the Chicago area, particularly the NW burgs, or in SE Wisconsin, it’s worth a trip, if you haven’t been.  Excellent job, folks. Time to consider bringing your chow to the rest of the country!

The family owns an another restaurant next door, The Shanty, which features seafood, steaks, pasta as well as a Friday fish fry, and breakfast on Sundays.

Captain Porky's Seafood Review

Exterior

Captain Porky's Seafood Review

Fish and Seafood Counter

 

Captain Porky's Seafood review

Walleye Po Boy

 

Restaurant and catering menu.

Captain Porky's on Urbanspoon

Captain Porkys Seafood and BBQ Review

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