Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category
When I was younger, I used to make my restaurant selection by noting whether or not five words emblazoned their front door: “Most major credit cards accepted.” These days my criteria tends more to noting their longevity in business, and I am especially happy to sample most restaurants that have been around fifty years or more. If their cuisine is focused on some old world cultural favorites, all the better. Like Kramarczuk’s in Minneapolis, Huber’s in Portland, and more recently the White Eagle in Niles, IL, today’s outing to the Czech Plaza, in Berwyn, IL met all of the criteria.
“Serving the best Bohemian” food for nearly fifty years, I doubt the family owned restaurant has changed their menu or decor must over that period. Simple, traditional dishes, value priced, is what rules the day, and I couldn’t find anything on the menu that wasn’t a price replica of any plate I’ve previously had in the Czech Republic region of Europe.
The restaurant offers a multi-course meal at a very low price, making it an outstanding value. I went with the “Farmer’s Market Plate”, which is a four meat sampler: sausage, meatloaf, smoked butt, and roasted pork. It’s not like I had a chance to polish them all off while at the table, as the lead-up dishes were ample and filling. After you are seated, your are presented with a basket of mild rye and gobs of butter. Your choice of beverages can come from a full bar, including legendary Czech beers like Budvar, the original “Budweiser”.
If you’ve ordered a meal, after the bread basket comes soup (I had the goulash, a rich beef and potato-based spicy puree), followed by your entree, which is accompanied by at least two sides, like sauerkraut, sweet and sour cabbage, boiled or mashed potatoes, or light as a feather dumplings, and a huge bowl of brown gravy. Not had enough? An included choice of desserts includes regional specialties, like kolaches or streudel, both of which were excellent.
The meats on my plate were lightly seasoned, heavily smoked. The meatloaf was dense and flavorful, as was the sausage, happily clad in its natural casing. The smoked butt was melt in your mouth tender. I loved the dumplings, a recipe not often authentically recreated in the US, in my experience.
Service was great, with a wait staff imported from Europe.
I love “discovering” places like this. You should, too. As the “Americanization” of international cuisine continues to evolve where entire generations think Olive Garden is Italian, and P.F. Chang’s is Chinese, well, places like Czech Plaza remind us of our grandma’s Sunday feasts.
The restaurant has a party room that can seat up to 100, and has a banquet menu with prices that are hard to beat.
“Czech out” their menu in our menu section.
Preliminary visit in advance of Todd Eckart show this Friday nite. The Rendezvous has a new chef, new menu, and might be the perfect night out for out-of-towners hitting Spirit Mountain, or visiting Duluth for the Beargrease Sled Dog race.
Sampled the Vous Dous wings, (their hottest!), excellent, with house-made blue cheese dipping sauce. Lots of sports on TV, breakfast, lunch, and dinner served from menu. They even whip up some sausage gravy SOS!
The Rendezvous is located in Scanlon, MN (Cloquet), 15 minutes west of Spirit on I-35.
Rendezvous Bar Review
The other day, I wrote about how one can contribute to good service by pleasant interactions with the wait staff; last night, I observed how an outstanding server can be responsible for the entire evening experience being a good one.
Having driven most every Interstate and their predecessors, the US Highways in this country, I’m always impressed with the number of bars and eateries dotting the landscape of the Upper Midwestern states, particularly Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. You can find some real gems out in the middle of nowhere, and while you wonder where the population is to support these establishments away from city centers, somehow they survive and thrive, some for generations.
Nestled up in the “lake area” of the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, Upper Crust Pizza and bar is parked on County Road H, halfway between Genoa City, the first town over the Wisconsin state line, and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin’s playground for locals and wandering Chicagoans.
With enough seating for a horde, this is a great place to take the family or the fishing expedition, opening at 11 A daily, except closed Monday and Tuesday. Starting in Chicago over 50 years ago, the business relocated to Wisconsin in 1974, and occupies a modern roadside facility, where your children can be kept occupied for hours examining the collection of memoriabilia of all ilks that decorate the walls and ceilings. Pick one item and have your little shavers count how many of that type of item they find on the ceilings.
Upper Crust serves a variety of specialty thin crust pizza, some pastas, Italian beef sandwiches, and wings. The pizza is “Chicago-style” thin (yes, thin crust IS popular in Chicago!), with a crust that starts crispy around the rim and works into chewy towards the center. Red sauce is mild with a slight influence of herbs, and the toppings are fresh and ample. Sausage is hand pulled chunks of flavorful pork. The “genuine Wisconsin cheese” is very generous, and has a nice “pull” to it as your bite progresses through each (square cut) slice.
But the main selling point is Heather, mom by day, server by night, with a personality and service ethic to make your experience truly enjoyable. Doting, without being overbearing, Heather is a great example of a person who understands the primary premise of the hospitality industry.
Thanks, Heather, for ensuring my first stop at the Upper Crust won’t be my last. And I was kidding about the black olives.
You won’t find much about this joint online, and some references point to a website of a similar named shop in Boston. I tried to correct that by posting to all the usual review sites, and here is their menu, as well.
I’m so old, “Little Smokies” weren’t around when I was a little smokie. Yet Hormel ‘full size” smokies were a regular part of my family’s weekend breakfast. Saturday breakfast was a big event at our house, my dad often cooking, and it was such a spread that kids often slept over on Friday nite to gorge on the feast which may have included any or many of the following: scrambled eggs, pancakes, waffles, toast, smokies, ham, steak, turnovers.
Oscar Mayer has brought back the ‘large size’ smokies, 8 to a pack, all natural, no artificial ingredients, a skinless sausage of beef and pork with seasonings, and hardwood smoked.
They are about the same size of hot dogs, larger than I remember them from back in the day, a coarser grind than hot dogs, with a bit more distinctive seasoning.
Verdict? They are OK, but not something I would pick up regularly. I have been spoiled by Hillshire Farms Beef Lil Smokies over the years.
The good news at the moment is Hormel has introduced a raft of new products, and they are all highly discounted.
BTW, some Hormel products are distributed on a regional basis, and I’ve found they have an ecommerce website for items that might not be available in your area. Cool.
Sherman? Set the wayback machine for the early 1960s, north central Wisconsin, the town of Medford, the Tombstone Tap bar. That’s where brothers Joseph and Ronald Simek created what would become a giant in the frozen pizza industry. Much of the credit goes to brother Joseph (“Pep”) who devised the recipe to satisfy hungry bar patrons while he was laid up with a broken leg. Word spread, and other bars asked the boys if they could sell the pizzas, too, and that’s how it was originally done, Tombstone delivered frozen pies to bars and taverns, and furnished them with a shelf-top oven to bake the pies.
That was my first introduction to the concept, in a Minnesota bar, at about age 15; the pies were inexpensive, as I recall, $2 – $3.
The boys expanded, and eventually sold out to Kraft, maker of many other frozen pizzas; Kraft, in turn, decided to sell the division to Nestle one day, and there it sits today.
Apparently at some point, the (I imagine) non-compete ran out, and brother Pep started a new pizza company, branded with his own name. I have tried one of those.
As for Tombstone? Your basic frozen pie, with a rather distinctive sauce, slightly thicker than what I would define as thin crust, ultimately no better nor worse than most frozen pies. Not crazy that their pepperoni is a blend product which includes poultry. Best consumed when thoroughly intoxicated.
Often in Chicago, I have a preference for the local brands, there, and have done comparisons in the past. The front runner for me at current is Vito and Nick’s II, which is the closest I have experienced to actual pizza shop taste/texture. It’s goooooooooooooood.
Tombstone Pizza Review
Andouille, the Americanized version, originated on the German coast of Louisiana as a smoked coarse ground pork sausage, mixed with spices, garlic, and wine, in a natural (hog) casing. German immigrants and Acadian exiles collaborated on it at first, and today, you’ll find literally hundreds of small manufacturers in the state, and nearly as many recipes.
The French version, which I had on occasion when I lived in Paris, is an even coarser grind, and made up of offal, rather than ground butts or shoulders. My first experience with it was rather startling.
The version that is manufactured for the masses in the US is sometimes labeled as “Hot Links”; Johnsonville’s is labeled as “New Orleans Brand Andouille Style Smoked Sausage.” Like most US sausages, the grind is fairly fine, and Johnsonville’s is packed in a collagen casing. Collagen casings are produced from the hides of hogs and cattle, bones, and tendons, and provide a more consistent appearance and production process than using natural casings.
Johnsonville started in Wisconsin in 1945 and today is one of the largest sausage manufacturers in the US. They sell their bratwursts seasonally in some McDonalds, and their sausages can be found in many 7-11s and NFL stadiums.
One odd thing – branding a food that is Cajun in origin as “New Orleans”, as the Cajuns didn’t live in New Orleans. A common error.
I picked these up today because they were on sale, $3.49 for a 14 ounce package, six sausages. That’s a good deal.
I prefer a natural casing, which is certainly de rigueur in Louisiana, but collagen aren’t so bad. They give you the requisite “snap,” in any case. One thing I really appreciate about Johnsonville is that there package is resealable.
My presentation would shock Cajuns and Louisianans alike, I’m eating these puppies on a bun with kraut! The sausages? A-OK. Very mild, without distinct flavoring beyond the smoked flavor. Not “hot”, and even milder than your typical Polish.
But a quality sausage, and a good value. The full line of Johnsonville products listed here.
Johnsonville Andouille Sausage Review
Oktoberfest, the original, in Munich, Germany, is reportedly the world’s longest running annual festival. Started in 1810, it draws visitors from all over the world to imbibe in local beers, and food like pork loin, sausages, and pretzels.
If you can’t get to Germany the first two weeks of October, chances are, there is an Octoberfest-type celebration near you, as variations on a theme are held in most every country these days.
Duluth, MN is no exception, with two main restaurants, Grandma’s Saloon, and the Pickwick, battling is out for customers in early October. Arguably, with its German heritage, the Pickwick should have the upper hand, and it appears that it might have prevailed, judging on the opinion of the dishes on offer.
Pickwick rolled out some very innovative takes on traditional German cuisine, including a sausage flatbread, chicken schnitzel, Reuben chowder, and several pork dishes, sauerbraten, and a pork stack sandwich. Sides included spaetzel dumplings, mashed potatoes, sweet and sour cabbage, and apple influenced gravy.
Minnesota bureau chief started with the pretzel breadsticks, with two dipping sauces, and then went with the chicken schnitzel, and reported they were both ”more than fine.” (Pics Copyright 2013 Kawikamedia.com. More later.)
Here’s a vid of the music at Grandma’s- put you in the mood to look at these fantastic food pix!
Here’s an order of Sauerbraten from the Pickwick, marinated slow roasted chuck, with sweet and sour cabbage, spaetzel dumplings, and a gingersnap thickened gravy.
The Pickwick is also offering “Reuben Chowder”, a creamy, chunky potato based puree with diced corned beef.
On to Grandma’s Saloon and Grill, where the feature was roast pork loin, again with spaetzel dumplings. Must have been a sale at restaurant supply.
It’s been over a year since I have ordered from Papa John’s; the last one I had was before I was 86ed from Portland, it was one of my ‘go-to’ delivery choices, though I discovered late in my tenure there that my fave local pizza was from an obscure corner market called Uncle John’s. (No relation to Papa). That was a massive New York, fold-able style pie.
Papa John’s, based in Louisville, is the 4th largest pizza chain, with over 4000 locations worldwide. In addition to pizza, they offer some variations on pizza, like cheese bread, and pizza-shaped cookies. Chicken wings and boneless chicken are also available. They feature Pepsi beverages.
I decided to try Papa John’s today because they have an early week special which is cheap, and I wanted to try their “Chkn Poppers”, white meat tenders, lightly breaded, oven-baked, says the website description. Sometimes I worry about food that has a somewhat funky spelling, but maybe vowels were extra. (FYI – “Chicken” is spelled out on the packaging).
Papa John’s online ordering is easy to navigate and gives you a wide variety of choices for customization. I’m also a sucker for those little tubs of garlic sauce that they peddle, and loaded up on them with this order.
I went for the all meat thin crust, and delivery arrived after about a hour. I figured it would take awhile, the shop is about 5 miles away, kind of surprised they even drive that far. Natch, the food wasn’t that hot.
The Chkn Poppers are little smaller and similar in texture to McNuggets. They are not seasoned, but you receive a choice of dipping sauces with the order. I like “buffalo” sauce, though I can’t recall the first time I had it, because I’m not a wing nut (in either way). So I probably didn’t experience it until restaurants started using it on other types of food. I do enjoy it with blue dress dressing on a burger on occasion.
Having shot my sauce sides wad on the garlic sauce, I pulled some buffalo and blue cheese out of the frig. I like Frank’s Original for Buffalo, and Litehouse for blue dress dressing. The entire line of Litehouse foods, from Idaho, are top notch. (And they often have coupons on their site).
The chicken is ok. Like any oven-baked breaded product, the breading isn’t crispy. I’m often puzzled as to why the food industry hasn’t figured out how to get a crisp crust without frying.
The pie? OK, also. Far down the list of local choices, being as the Chicago area is pizza heaven, but Papa John’s is far ahead of Pizza Hut and Domino’s for my personal taste.
I have a minor beef with the relatively new practice of delivery places charging for delivery, but saying in their disclaimers that it’s not a “tip”. I think the delivery fee should go to the driver.
Papa Johns Review
Friday evenings were “movie night” at the BurgerDogBoy household in Iowa, back in the day. Me, Burgerdogdaughter, and her mother would congregate in the basement of our house, in front of my silly extravagance of a 72″ Sony, pop in a rented VHS, welcome our friends Barry, Maureen, and baby boy, who was the same age as our daughter, watch a flick and have some pizza.
Generally, the pizza was from Little Caesars, which, at the time, was in serious growth mode and promoting their “Pizza! Pizza” concept, of two pizzas for the price of the competitor’s single, and packaged in an extra long box that accommodated both pies.
Burgerdogdaughter is now creeping up on 30, and it’s been almost that long since I imbibed in a Little Caesar’s pizza. The chain has had their ups and downs, since being started in 1959 Detroit by husband and wife team Mike and Marian Ilitch. Fortunes have mostly been on the upside, as the parent company Ilitch Enterprises, owns, in addition to the pizza company, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, a casino and a host of other businesses.
The pizza outfit has kept evolving, and based on a special limited time offer five years ago, of having a single topping pizza “hot and ready” all the time, for five bucks, has made that the cornerstone of their business these days. Any hour of the day, you can walk in and get a large pepperoni for a fin, on the spot. At some locations, they offer other choices, as well, and at some locations, they have a relatively new offering, the one I tried, a two-fer double deep dish pepperoni for $8.
The pies are square, and cut in such a manner that every piece is an edge. Apparently people like that in pizzas as well as brownies.
How’s the pie? It’s ok, and a good value at $8. Better tasting, to my palate, that similarly priced products from national chains. It’s a lot of bread, this crust, which usually I don’t care for, but this was passable for me. The “all edge” concept produces some crispy crusts, which is graced with a buttery flavor. The sauce is slightly sweet, cheese is adequate, pepperoni is flavorful.
Would I buy it again? It’s a good ‘road-trip’ or picnic pizza, comforting to know you can grab something like this to go. Of course you can still order a custom-built pie at Little Caesar’s by calling in (no online ordering). These also offer oven baked wings with a variety of dipping sauces, and cheese bread. Pepsi products are on hand.
A locator is on their website.
Little Caesars Deep Dish Review
At the Duluth arena yesterday, thousands of people came to sample a wide variety of chili submitted by 35 teams. The annual chili cook off is sponsored by United Way of Duluth, proceeds benefit more than 50 organizations and programs.
Winners were picked by the sampler’s votes, and here’s the run down:
People’s Choice: Minnesota Power
Professional: Essentia Health-Lake Winds Café, first; Essentia Health-Northern Lites Café, second; Green Mill and Zeitgeist Arts Café, tied for third.
Amateur: Duluth Fire Department, first; Minnesota Power, second; Courage Kenny Northland, third.
Special awards: DRCC, Hottest-Yet-Edible; Girl Scouts, Vegetarian; Essentia Health-Lake Winds Café, Most Unique; Whole Foods Co-op, Spicy Spirit.
(Photos and video copyright 2013 by kawikamedia.com, used with permission).