Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category
Many originally settled in an area of the West Loop, and took up jobs operating food carts, until they saved or pooled their dough to open small cafes in the area now known as “Greektown.”
Around about 1971, the “Greek Islands” opened their Greektown location, and many credit the restaurant with introducing Saganaki (which at the time, my toddler called “cheese on fire”) and gyros to American diners.
The immense popularity of the Greek Islands (they import many of their ingredients from Greece) led them to open a second location, in the Western Suburb of Lombard, IL.
We hit it up the other night, were very well fed, very well taken care of by the waitstaff, and it was a great value – four dinners with many appetizers and drinks for less than two C notes.
The restaurant has a lengthy appetizers menu, so I went all tapas for my dinner, and ordered a number of small plates (NOT TO SHARE, JUST FOR ME! LOL).
They were all great. House made hummus, saganaki, the Greek pork sausage Loukaniko (which is made with a hint of citrus peel) and a plate of feta and olives. Accompanied by house baked fresh bread and/or pita. Swell. Other entrees at the table included the whole sea bass imported from Greece (server filets at the table), and the Mahi Mahi kabob. Both were superb. Sides that come with the entrees could be improved a bit. The menu also gives you the option of “building your own combo” with two or more mains, which is nice.
Hillshire comes out with a version of “lunchables” for adult palates, and they are high quality and valued priced. I found them at Target at 2 / $5. The one(s) I picked up included dry salami, smoked gouda, and toast rounds. I was happy with all of it.
The “real” lunchables, the meat and cheese is such crap. Ick.
So I recommend these, and they are packed with protein, if you’re concerned about your daily intake.
These are packed for Hillshire by Sugar Creek Packing, in Washington Court House, Ohio.
Hillshire Small Plates Snack Review
My best bud in college was from Rockford, Illinois, and we’d go down there on occasion; I returned with him a little later in life for his first (of 4) wedding, and when he relocated from Rockford to San Jose. He invited several of us to help with that move, unfortunately, he bought several cases of beer PRIOR to us helping, so you know how that went. Then he and I headed across country in his 240-Z testing its upper limits of MPH, and that tale has a number of anecdotes that don’t belong on a G-Rated website.
Back then, Rockford was really a blue collar, manufacturing town, producing heavy machinery, furniture, and even bombs for awhile. These days the largest cmployers are hospitals and government, tho twenty miles east, in Belvidere, IL there has been a huge Chrysler plant for a number of decades. Currently they are puking out some Jeep models.
During our visits, we used to hit a favorite dive bar of his, and I went in search of it during a recent drive through town. It’s still there, but no longer qualifies as a ‘dive,’ the menu is all chi-chi now and they even take reservations.
So I zipped around in search of a new dive bar, and found one on the south side of the city, “Opsahl’s Tavern.” It’s on the southern edge of the city, just a bit off US 20. I think it fits all the requisite definitions for a dive bar, no fancy interior, a crowd of regulars early in the morning, in a constant state of remodeling, bits and pieces to be installed sitting around.
But they have a very pretty menu (below) and are “famous for their burgers and pizza.” So I ordered a pizza. My usual, sausage, green olives, double cheese, thin crust. Double cheese was a mistake as they are very generous with the cheese in the first place. This is a pie with a lot of sauce, and it’s flavorful. Sausage chunks were a nice size, and the sliced olives were the “Sicilian style” (marinated and herb-y) that pizzeria supply houses sell, and I like a lot.
My pic of the pie is not as pretty as it was in real life — as I had a pizza catastrophe going out to the car – I dropped the box. Which tended to shift some of the toppings – drastically. I didn’t actually cry, but I could have. Anyway, it’s a great pizza. The local radio station apparently did a review, he wasn’t as enthused as I was, course I’m the expert, aren’t I? Check out Opsahl’s if you get to Rockford. Two locations now.
Opsahls Pizza Review
Don’t bother trying to find anything out about this product online, I spent a bunch of time doing that and came up pretty short. I can’t even tell you exactly where I purchased it, other than a suburban Chicago grocery. So a lot of this should be prefaced with “apparently.”
This product is made in Harvard, IL, it seems by Jones Packing Company, which started in 1952. Harvard is the most distant NW suburb reached by commuter rail in the Chicago area. A pic of (apparently) Jones is below.
According to the USDA establishment number of the package, the product is actually produced at Roma Packing, Inc., in Chicago. (pic below).
This is a pure pork sausage, described on the package as “hot.” It comes in a clear vacuum pack, and contains the same types of herbs and spices one would find in traditional “hot” Italian sausage, i.e. fennel.
I split the package in two, and fried half of it until it was crumbles, and used it to top a home made pizza last night. The balance was made into patties for breakfast this morning.
In both cases, the product pleased me very much. It’s a very fine grind, so it is easily chewable. (Some pork sausages seem “tough”). The flavor is outstanding, and there is a little bit of heat, as advertised.
I’ll buy it again if I can find it. One story I read referred to Jones Packing having their own retail store, which I’ll go check out.
Gramma Pearls Sausage Review
Couple weeks ago, I wrote about my visit to the Bulgarian grocery in Chicago. One of the items I picked up was “Sujuk” sausage, which wikipedia defines as “a Sujuk is a dry, spicy sausage which is eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East and Central Asia.”
It has slightly different spellings by country. This is a pork, beef, seasoning link in a natural casing, sold raw. The label suggests it’s perfect for the grill or breakfast.
I really enjoyed it. It’s full of flavor which resembles the source muscle, with a firm and chewy texture. Much like the Spanish dry chorizo, but without the heat. The density makes me think it might not be so manageable on a bun, but it was sure delicious pan-fried and sliced.
Sujuk Sausage Review
Hit another ethno-centric market this weekend; Malincho promises a full selection of Bulgarian meats, cheese, canned and boxed groceries.
They didn’t disappoint, although the store was considerably smaller than I imagined it would be, having based my impression via their online presence.
They have a good selection, but if you don’t speak or read Bulgarian, be sure to take along the Google translate app. While most imported groceries I see have a ‘stick on label’ with English ingredients and nutrition, most items here didn’t.
The freezers are full of specialty meat products, primarily made by Tandem, a Bulgarian company that purchased a small processor in Schaumburg, IL (pictured below) to make and distribute Bulgarian specialty meats. There are a lot of great dried salamis and related products that I was happy to pick up. Also grabbed some imported cheeses, fruit juice, and olive pate.
I’d hit it again. It’s got a small sign in a strip mall off Mannheim, so keep your eyes peeled to the right if traveling north!
Open daily at 1475 Lee St, Des Plaines, IL 60018, and some items are available to purchase online. Prices in the store seem very reasonable.
Malincho Euro Market & Deli Review
Now I’m gonna stop right there for a sec and say personally, I don’t think Chicago pizzas should be called “deep dish,” as that term has been hijacked by pizza makers all over the country and almost always describes a pie with a very thick crust – lots of bread under the usual toppings.
“Chicago-style pizzas”(which you shall refer to them from this day forward) are DEEP, yes, but not because of a thick bready crust. They are DEEP because they are cooked in a deep pan, and have a HIGH but THIN crust. The depth hides all the deliciousness stuffed in, in the “Chicago order,” crust cheese, meat, tomato sauce. That’s right, sauce on TOP. Are we clear?
There’s more than a couple guys who say they invented this concept. I go with the Ike Sewell version, who cooked up the first one at Pizzeria Uno in
downtown Chicago in the early 1940s. Let’s leave it at that. Ike’s pies were so popular that soon he created a sister restaurant (Pizzeria Due, natch) and started franchising, with the license for the first four going to a group of businessmen in Boston.
When Sewell died, the Boston group bought out the original restaurants, name and recipes, and set off a go-go growing a chain of restaurants that bore a limited resemblance to the originals; the chain is called Uno Pizzeria and Grill.
They stuck with the original pizza offering, but have a very extensive menu in addition, like nearly any fast casual restaurant these days. They are in about 20 states, find one here.
Although a bit spendy, the Uno frozen pizza is about as good as it gets in this segment. It bakes up well (about 40 minutes), has a nice crisp outer crust, fresh chopped tomatoes in the thick sauce, ample cheese and flavorful sausage. (I had the sausage variety, there are others).
I have one beef…er pork…about the pie. The sausage bits in pretty small, and other “Chicago style” pies feature a slab of sausage covering the entire pie, crust to crust. As a sausage lover, I like that.
So the sausage bits on an Uno aren’t a deal killer for me.
The Uno frozen division also makes a more traditional round thinner crust. Their USDA inspected factory in Brockton MA is pictured below.
UNO Deep Dish Pizza Review
I’ve lived a lot of places in my life, but nowhere til now where you could imbibe in multiple versions of a schnitzelwich! And despite my world travels, I don’t think I ever recall seeing “dill pickle soup” anywhere – where has this been all my life?!?!?
Otto and Anita’s, a smallish place (but the sign says they can host parties, meetings, receptions of up to 40!), in Portland ‘s Multnomah Village, caters to person craving modest German/continental fare – from schnitzels to sausages to Dover sole.
Pleasantly decorated thematically, the affable servers meticulously explain the menu choices, describe the daily specials, and serve your food in a pleasant and efficient manner. The traditional cuisine has not been “Americanized” per se, and is very reminiscent of similar dishes I have enjoyed in Germany and Austria.
For no particular reason other than enjoying my wife’s company, I took Mrs. BDB to lunch at Otto and Anita’s, and we whiled away an hour or so with a midweek noon sojourn.
She started with the dill pickle soup, which I happily finished (I love this stuff, quick, somebody find me the recipe!), and had the lightly sauteed Dover Sole Almandine, and I went straight for the schnitzelwich, on a very nice crusty French, with kraut, cheese, mustard, but sans sauteed onions, as I wasn’t in an onion mood. My plate had a mound of traditional German potato salad, which was sweet and tangy at the same time. Next visit, I will enjoy plowing through one or more of the spaetzle offerings as a side.
Mrs. BDB’s plate was too much for her to finish, and I had a few bites, the sole was flaky, lemony, with a light batter, pan-fried. Very nice.
My sandwich was good too, with the pork cutlet also lightly fried, a tangy mustard, and the bread was wonderful, I couldn’t finish the bread, but didn’t leave a single morsel of the cutlet behind.
Offering something for everyone, in addition to the traditional German fare, Otto and Anita’s has a few steaks, some salmon dishes, a bevy of salads, a kids menu, and a host of appetizers and small dishes. A lot of menu for a small place.
I’ll be happy to go back, I have my eye on their burger (of course), french dip, and traditional desserts.
Otto and Anita’s is open for lunch Tues- Fri, and dinner Tues-Sat, at 3025 SW Canby, just off Capitol Hwy in Multnomah Village.
Otto and Anitas Bavarian Review
40 years ago, it was called “Bill’s,” and it was in the same location. Hasn’t changed much, same counter, same booths, now fairly worn, the faux leather brittle with age. The home-spun murals of scenes of Italy on the walls are fading.
But would the pizza hold up? Did we love it because it was great? Or because at the time, it was the only show in town?
My sophomore roommate was a guy from Chicago named Joe Szabo. Nice guy. Talented artist. Wanted to grow up to be a famous talented artist. Hope he made it.
Most college roommates experience the “either / or” phenomena, meaning that it’s pretty normal that one roommate has some money, and the other doesn’t. The cycle reverses on a regular basis.
In our dorm room, whoever had the money had the power to dictate toppings: Joe always got ground beef and diced onion; for me it was Italian sausage and sliced green olives. Neither of us minded the other’s selection.
There were a couple of great things about rooming with Joe. He had a car. And a very tasty morsel of a girlfriend. In a college dorm room, it’s hard not to become somewhat “familiar” with everything that goes on and Sara was, well (swoon).
One night Joe let me use his car (unheard of) so he and Sara could have a special “moment”. He flipped me a sawbuck, too, and said “go have a ‘za’, and take your time.
I started off down College Avenue, it was winter, there were patches of ice, I was very careful with Joe’s pride, a green Beetle. I stopped at the RR crossing for a slow moving freight, minding my own business, anticipating the ‘za, when WHAM! I got re-ended. As you probably know, the Beetle has the engine in the back, so a whack can cause serious damage.
No one was hurt, someone summoned the police, who informed me the drunk driver who just plowed into my roommate’s car was “so and so’s son”, and there was never, ever anything going to come of it.
And nothing did. I got a pizza all by myself, Joe and Sara had their special moment, and if Joe was ever pissed about the accident, he never let on.
So nearly 40 years later, I show up at Basil’s, order a medium of (my) sausage and green olive, and (Joe’s) ground beef and onion, to compare and contrast as it were, to see if this is great pizza, or just a glorified memory.
I did notice a couple things while the dude is making the pie, things that (for me) are critical for a good pie: 1) sliced cheese, not shredded, and 2) bulk sausage, pinched by hand, in nice sized pieces.
The old Baker’s Pride ovens had lost some oomph, it would take a full 15 minutes to bake, with the requisite occasional door opening, and paddle spin.
I took my hot pies back to my motel room. I tried one, then the other. Then the first, then the other. They were superb. Great melted cheese that clings to the crust, a cracker like crust, a big of tang to the sauce, and quality toppings.
Could I eat two mediums all by myself? Nah. But 40 years ago I could.
Basils Pizza Review
“Fresh Thyme Farmers Market” is a relatively new chain of grocery stores in the Upper Midwest. I’ve heard it described as “Trader Joe’s meets Whole Foods.” I guess that means the focus is on “natural” and “organic” mixed with some interesting items (imports) like Trader Joe’s stocks.
The chain is the brainstorm of the former CEO of Phoenix based Sunflower Farmers Markets, which was founded by the originator of the Wild Oats chain, which was sold to Whole Foods. The start-up is being financed by the giant Meijer grocery, out of Michigan, and has a goal of having 60 stores by 2020.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (not sure what happened to the apostrophe) stores are larger than Trader Joe’s, but smaller than most Whole Foods. They have a very large selection of fresh produce, and the one I was in had a hot foods counter (pizza, sandwiches) and a deli counter. This location the deli meats were exclusively from Boar’s Head, which is a respectable company, but in my own personal opinion, not the best in the segment.
To me, the store appears to have better value pricing than either TJs or WFs, and the day I was in, weekly specials included a pound of Thai (pond raised) shrimp for $3.79, and house made sausages in many flavors at $2.99.
I go to these kind of specialty stores for a few reasons: looking for unknown (to me) ingredients to try out, house-made specialties, and unusual imports. So I bought the shrimp, sausage, some produce, and a frozen pizza imported from Italy, which I hope is as good as the imported pizzas at Trader Joe’s. I’ll let you know. My opinion, the frozen pizzas at TJs from Italy and France are far superior to almost all American brands.
The stores are immaculate, open early and late, and the personnel are courteous and informed. I’ll stop back from time to time, for sure.
Store locator. (Photos from the company’s website and copyright their respective owners).
Fresh Thyme Market Review