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Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

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Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage ReviewThe full name of this product is “Johnsonville New Orleans Andouille Recipe Smoked Sausage.

In its original form, Andouille is a pure pork sausage that originated in France.  It is comprised of organ meat in a natural casing, with seasonings and wine, and then smoked. It is gray.

The first time I ordered it in Paris, I was quite surprised, the innards are quite rough cut and very identifiable. A bit shocking for a boy from a small town in Minnesota.

The French Acadians brought the sausage recipes to South Louisiana, where it kind of got jumbled up with the Creole cuisine influence already in the area. The recipe changed to a much finer grind, pure pork shoulder (no “bits”) with garlic, onion and wine for seasonings, stuffed into a natural casing and double smoked.

The Johnsonville product in no way resembles Louisiana Andouille, and the Cajuns (Acadians) never settled in New Orleans anyway.

So there we are.

Johnsonville is the largest sausage company in the US, measured in dollar volume, and their products are sold around the world.  They are based in Sheboygan Falls, WI and their giant plant (pictured below) is nearby and has the capacity to slaughter over 3,500 pigs daily.

Their “New Orleans” sausage if pork and beef, water, a mess of seasonings, all the usual preservatives and the dreaded corn syrup. You can taste the sweetness in the sausage. There is a tiny bit of “heat,” although true Cajun and Creole dishes are not known for that quality.

The meat slurry is stuffed into a collagen casing. Collagen is made from various animal parts, skin, tendons and such, and was designed to emulate the natural casings (hog and sheep intestines) used in many sausage.

I don’t know Johnsonville’s smoking process.  With that amount of production, I’m sure it’s massively efficient, which means, not a natural wood fire like smaller producers still use, but rather a liquid smoke “shower” within the smoking unit (oven).

It’s a good product for the mass market, of course, and that is what its designed for.

I do mine in  a cast iron skillet. Putting a little “char” on them further imitates a natural casing (to me). You can see one problem is collagen casings split open, so some flavor escapes.  Since they are smoked, you don’t have to “cook” them, just heat them anyway you prefer.

I hardly ever buy Johnsonville, rarely on sale and always 25-30% more than at least one competitor in any given week. Especially their fresh sausages.

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

 

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

Wisconsin Plant

 

 

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

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K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

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K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages ReviewI am crazy for “little smokies” but it’s one of the few things I have remained a brand snob about.

A few years ago, I started with Hillshire Farms All Beef Little Smokies and pretty much haven’t looked back. Although they are spending (north of $4 a pack usually) they are occasionally in the $2.50 range at WalMart and I stock up.

I prefer their flavor and texture, and I’ve tried a shitload of brands, John Morrell, Eckrich, Klements,  and Aldi, to name a few.

So prowling an Asian hypermart last week, I spotted “K Chef” brand, which the package touted as “uncured cooked sausages,” and implied they were “Korean style.”

To me they looked like regular old “little smokies” but I liked the ingredient list (below) and was intrigued that they said they were in collagen casings, as most “smokies” type sausage, like skinless wieners, are formed in a casing mold which is stripped off after cooking at the plant.

Giant bonus. They were priced at $1.99. That may have been a mistake. If not, I’m taking the freezer truck back over this weekend!

The K Chef brand is a product of a New Jersey company, Premier Foods, which was started in 2012 only, and states as their mission: “we are developers, producers and distributors of unique and flavorful ready-to-eat, frozen, shelf-stable foods for you home and commercial use.”

Premier contracted with Family Food Products, Bensalem, PA, for the manufacture and packaging of these sausages, according to the USDA establishment number on the wrapper.

Bottom line.  I liked them. They have great flavor, a little smokier than most, and the casings add a texture dimension usually not found in smokies and their ilk.

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

Ingredient list

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

In the pan (char is intentional on my part)

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

Bensalem PA Factory

 

 

 

 

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

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Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review – An Aldi Product

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Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review“Mama Cozzi” is Aldi’s brand name for pizzas and related products. They come in a very wide variety of styles, both frozen and take and bake, and are value-priced like most all of Aldi’s products.  I’ve reviewed quite a few of them in the past, read some of them here.

I’m a pizza snob, but I find most of them a tick above “satisfactory.” They are certainly better than Dominos, Caesars, Pizza Hut and 755 of the frozen pizzas on the market.

They had a new one this week, “Tavern Inn” – in the frozen counter, and it appealed to me right away because the package bragged about “one half pound of real Wisconsin cheese,” and you could see the cheese was cut in thick shreds instead of the finely diced method most frozen pies use.  In my personal experience, I have found the former method of chees-ing on frozen pizzas makes for a better, and more even melt.

I thought this pie looked awfully familiar, and since Aldi employs a lot of brand name manufacturers to make their private label products, I would have been willing to bet this was made by Palermo’s in Milwaukee.  It resembles their “P’Mo’s” brand pizza.

But when I looked up the factory number, I found they are actually made by Minnesota pizza company Bernatellos, who labels include Bellatoria, Roma, Orv’s,  Real ‘Za, and “Brew Pub” and that’s the pie that Aldi’s Tavern Inn most closely resembles in appearance. Bernatellos plant is located in a distant northwestern exurb of Minneapolis, Maple Lake, pic below.

So popped this one in the oven, had picked out a combo sausage and pepperoni style, don’t know if there are others, didn’t look. It was done sooner than the package predicted for cook time, and I gotta say, I liked it.  Really.

It’s a cracker thin crust, in fact if you look at the bottom, there are bumps and docking marks that almost makes it look like a matzoh. About the same crunch as well. Ths sausage chunks are good-sized, important to me, and either the sausage or pepperoni had some nice heat to it, which I also like. The sauce leans a little sweet for my personal taste, but tolerable, and the “half pound of real Wisconsin mozzarella?”  Magnificent. Truly.

Aldi has been known to have some pizza styles that have come and gone, hope this isn’t one of them.

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the box

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the oven!

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Bernatellos Minnesota Factory

 

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

 

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Buona Beef Grocery Review

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Buona Beef Grocery ReviewI’ve written a lot about Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwich. The easiest way to explain it to those not familiar is to say it’s a highly seasoned French Dip, but the “Dip” part is not on the side but involves dunking the entire sandwich in au jus (only if desired).  You can read my explanation of the origin if you like.

There are myriad restaurants that sell these marvels, many supplied by Chicago’s Vienna Beef Company, some shops that make their own. Used to be another big supplier, Scala, but I don’t see their product anymore, so don’t know if they are around or not. Devanco is another one, each of these probably does private label as well, and there are undoubtedly a number I don’t know about.

Many of these companies package for retail sale, you can find them at Chicago area grocery stores. I’ve tried and written about a lot of them, including Vienna and Mike Ditka’s for instance.

Enter Buona Beef, a mini-chain of Chicagoland restaurants specializing in Chicago foods – Beef, hot dogs, burgers, pizza.  I visited one for the first time a few weeks ago, and it’s quality, good food, efficient (counter) service.  They are supplied by a commissary/factory that they own, and they are also in the private label business, but lately, I’m seeing product in the stores under their own label. Italian Beef, Meatballs, and a couple other things in their line.

The product comes frozen solid in different weights. It is priced competitively, (but I think they are all too high, actually, I’d buy more if it cost less). I can tell you from experience (and the instructions on the package)  THAW FIRST. On an analog basis!  (Meaning in the frig overnight or on the counter for a few hours – not in the microwave!).  Then eat on a very gentle basis in a saucepan, select your bun/rol (in Chicago, Turano’s seems to be the preference).

Tong the meat into the bun if you want it “dry,”  add some jus to the bun if you want it “wet” or dunk the entire bun in jus for “wet.” Chicagoans often have the sandwich dressed with “giardiniera” a mixture of finely diced pickled vegetables, which can be hot or mild.  Melted mozzarella on top? That’s called a “cheezy beef.”  Wanna feel like a real insider?  Ask for a “Combo” which is an Italian Beef sandwich with an Italian sausage nestled in the beef (pictured).

Buona’s grocery product is good, very flavorful, nice slices of pure muscle beef, not a chopped, pressed, formed product like some companies. The ingredients list (pictured below) is straightforward and free of additives.  Up to this point in my life, as far as grocery store Italian Beef goes, Ditka’s was my favorite.  But now it’s a tie. So I’ll buy by price from here on out.

Haven’t tried Buona’s meatballs, will get around to that soon, I hope.  Buona does ship product, if you have a craving.

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Buona Ingredient List

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Into the pan, prior to heating

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Italian Beef “Combo” “Dry”

 

 

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Buona Beef Grocery Review

 

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Odoms Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

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Odoms Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage ReviewI usually “make my own” breakfast sausage, and by that I mean I purchase ground pork, season it to my liking and fry it up.

After eggs, ground pork is usually the second least expensive protein in the store.

But I keep trying commercial preparations, and have reviewed a host of them, found here, including Bob Evans, Dollar Tree, Usingers, Grandma Pearl’s, Farmer John’s, Parkview (Aldi) and others.

This week, Odoms Tennessee Pride brand “Hot” (they also make “mild”)  was on sale, so I grabbed a chub.  Odom’s makes fresh sausage, pre-cooked sausage, breakfast sandwiches and sausage gravy. I’ve tried the frozen sausage gravy in the past. The company was started in 1943 in Tennessee and today is part of food giant Conagra. Conagra has a ton of food brands which you probably use regularly.

This particular chub of sausage was manufactured for Conagra at Abbyland Pork Pack in Curtiss, WI.

As to this sausage. I was quite pleased with it. Not a terribly fine grind, which gives it some texture. Handsome, authentic pork flavor, and just the right amount of heat for me. I can be a  wimp about hot foods sometimes. Not a whole lot of residual fat in the skillet after cooking, so that’s good too, it’s lean.

I’d buy it again, especially if was on sale, but even on sale, it’s still 30-40% more than fresh ground pork.

Odoms Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

Pan fried

 

Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

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Buona Beef Restaurants Review – Chicago area

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Buona Beef Restaurants ReviewAbout thirty years ago, Chicagoan Joe Buonavolanto Senior had a notion to open a restaurant serving Chicago specialties – Italian beef and sausages, hot dogs, ribs, sandwiches and pizza.

He took a 2nd mortgage out on his house to finance it, and did some of the initial construction with his own hands.

Today, the third generation is overseeing a company with nearly 20 Buona Beef restaurants, several full-service restaurants, two catering facilities, and a custom food manufacturer,  Authentic Brands, which makes a line of products that includes Italian beef and sausages for their own restaurants and private label, meatballs, sauces and other products.

Italian beef is a Chicago thing, lots of stories on the origin, but the main one seems to be families made the dish for weddings and reunions, it was a way of extending a little food for a large crowd.  A beef roast is marinated, slow cooked, and then simmered in its own sauce, thinly sliced and put on an Italian roll. Hot or sweet peppers are added as a personal preference.

Old hands know to order their Italian beef dry, wet or dipped, which are references to how wet you want the bun to end up from the beef’s gravy.  You can order your beef as one of three different sizes (5,7, or 10 inch) – call for a “combo” and they’ll nestle a hot Italian sausage right there on a bed of beef.  Getting fancy?  Have some mozz melted on top. In a no bread mood? Order it by the bowl, instead of as a sandwich. It’s allowed!

So wandering into one of their Buona’s newer locations, in Algonquin, IL, I ambled up to the counter and ordered my beef wet, with a side of house-made parmesan chips. The beef was ultra flavorful and tender, the chips ultra flavorful and crispy. Dinner hour on a weeknight and the joint was jammed as was the drive-through.

I have no idea how many places there are in Chicago that serve Italian beef – a thousand or more? Each claiming theirs is the best recipe. Count Buona’s claim as deserved.  I’ll be back.

Buona is set up to do party, office, or family catering and you can even place your catering orders online.  Find the nearest location of a restaurant, groceries where the products is available or order online at the restaurant’s website.

Buona Beef Restaurants Review

Italian Beef w/ Cheese

Buona Beef Restaurants Review

House-made Parmesan chips

 
Buona Beef Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Buona Beef Restaurants Review

Buona Beef Restaurants Review

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Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

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Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin TrailThe “pork tenderloin” is a sandwich unique to Iowa……and also Indiana.  Go figure.  You take a boneless pork chop, hammer it thin-like with a mallet, dip it in batter, serve it on a hamburger bun one-tenth the size of the meat.

Restaurants vary the batter recipes and seasonings. The “trick” seems to be to get it thin enough to suit the gimmick, but still have it retain juicy pork goodness.

The Iowa Pork Council publishes a list annually of the 10 or so “best” in the state, and if you want to hit them all, they make a map of the “Tenderloin Trail.

I set out with the best of intentions, to hit at least half of the establishments, at least those in the Eastern half of Iowa, but I got distracted by other things and only hit two.

T.C.’s Point After, in historical DeWitt, IA (on the Lincoln Highway) is one of the legends, for flavor, not for girth. Walked in at noon on a weekend and there were only a couple other customers, even tho this is one of the few full-service bar/eateries in this burg. And the loin? It was delicious.

I was delighted that it was my first stop, but disappointed too, as the rest of the trip would be measured against this sandwich. Sadly, after 40 years of operation, I heard this week (2/1/18) that TC’s just closed. Hopefully someone will buy and reopen it. I would go back.

My second stop was the legendary Hamburg Inn 2, Iowa City, which is NOT on the tenderloin list. I went to please an old Iowa alum, as most students have passed thru this eatery since it opened in 1948. Sadly, the original location, near campus, was closed for remodeling, so I was forced to check out the new location on the east side of town, which is a small cafe attached to a gas station/c-store. Still a student hangout tho.

If you come for a “legendary” burger, be prepared to lay out some cash, as a plain burger will cost you over $10, and a hot dog over $6!  Kinda spendy for students, but then when I was in college a picture of beer was $2.50 and a pizza was $4. So there you go.  Even tho the Hamburg Inn is not on the tenderloin list, I went for one anyway, with eggs, as it was breakfast time.

It was a disappointment, cause I’d bet money it wasn’t made in-house, but came prepared from a supplier somewhere. I was able to ascertain that their regular pork chops come from Ruizicki’s Meats, a small processor up the road in Solon, IA.  Of course, I had to run up there and check out their stuff, and yes, I dropped some dough.

It was at this point I got distracted from the tenderloin trail, and a lightbulb went off (“hey, why not check out small town meat processors in search of excellent sausage)?”

So I did.  I hit Washington, Kalona, Wellman and Riverside. In a store in store in Kalona, which had general merch but also a lot of locally produced food stuffs, including a bit in a freezer, I inquired after the legendary “Kalona Whole Hog Sausage” which I had the pleasure of consuming some years early on an Iowa hog far. The proprietor’s eyes glazed over, he knew what I was talking about, and told me that every year the local fire department put on a sausage feed which featured this legendary tubular nutritional delivery vehicle, but no, he didn’t carry it, nor did he know where to get it

Like in most small towns in America, he did want to be helpful and suggested I talk to the fire chief, as he was in charge of the annual fete. I was told he would be in the hardware story kitty-corner. So I ambled across the street.

The fire chief was out doing what fire chiefs to, but the clerk steered me to the source, Bud’s Custom Meats, in the next town of Riverside, IA. Apparently Bud’s is known far and wide for their beef jerky, but they have freezers full of every kind of pork cut a hog eater like me would desire. If you don’t know, Riverside, IA is famous because in the future, it will be the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. No, not kidding. They celebrate it, too.

I loaded up on sausages, some ham, and “Iowa Chops,” two inch thick bone-in pork chops. If you’ve never had them…well….bucket list, really.

It was at that point I had to go north, I was due in New Glarus, WI, “The Switzerland of America,” one of my favorite places.

I’d like to complete the Tenderloin Trail, all in one shot. Maybe someday.  Resources, you know.

I goofed around with making tenderloins at home this week, admittedly using a couple of “cheats.”  You can read about that adventure by scrolling down or jump!.

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

TCs Tenderloin

 

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

Hamburg Inn Tenderloin Breakfast

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Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review, Chicago, IL

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Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery ReviewOne of the joys (for me) of living in Chicago (or any big city and I’ve lived in a raft of them!) is having access to a preponderance of ethnic supermarkets. Within 20 minutes of me, I can partake of markets dedicated to Italian food, Indian, Asian, Polish, Ukrainian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Greek.

It’s that last one that I visited most recently, Spartan Brothers Grocery, in the outer reaches of Chicago, but prior to the burbs.

They’ve been around for fifty years, and have a wide variety of Greek staples, canned and boxed good, as well as frozen entrees from large manufacturers and made in-house.

Through a back window in the shop, you can see hanging carcasses of goat and lambs, so they get busy here, making entrees and sausages, It’s sausages that I have come for.

I first ran into Loukaniko (there are apparently different spellings) sausage at a Greek fest in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles maybe thirty years ago.

It’s a lamb sausage that is mildly spiced, but an unusual feature is that it commonly has citrus zest as an ingredient, which makes it have a taste that I can only describe as “bright.” If you order it in a Greek restaurant (and Chicago has dozens and dozens), it’ll come on a platter with lemon slices usually, which further amplifies the citrus flavoring.

I like it a lot. Spartan Brothers sell theirs at around $4 a pound, the ones I bought were out of the freezer in a two-pound pack. They make them in-house.

A refrigerated deli counter has imported cheese, olives and other goodies.

Location, hours.

Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review

 

Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review

 

 

 

 

Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review
Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review

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Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review, Chicago, IL

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Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Exterior

1870 was the year Herman Berghoff immigrated from German. He worked on plantations and at other jobs before opening his own brewery in Indiana. When the World’s Fair in Chicago came along in 1893, Berghoff set up a booth to sell his beer to fair patrons.

He met with such success, he figured he better have an outlet in Chicago, and thus the Berghoff opened in 1898.

1870, when Herman Berghoff immigrated from Germany to America. After stints working on cotton and sugar cane plantations—and even time spent performing at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show—Herman opened his own brewery in Indiana.

When the World’s Fair came to Chicago in 1893, Herman Berghoff set up a stand in the Midway Plaisance and sold his beers to people entering and exiting the fair. His success at the fair prompted him to consider a more permanent place to sell his beer in Chicago. Thus, The Berghoff opened doors in 1898.

He survived prohibition by expanding the food offerings beyond sandwiches, and brewing and selling sodas and near beer. To this day, the Berghoff brews some of the finest root beer you’ll find anywhere.

The restaurant holds Chicago liquor license #1. Today, there is the full service restaurant, a bar with small bites, and a fast service cafe opening M-F lunch. One of the quirks of the Berghoff is it was strictly “men only” until 1969, when Gloria Steinham and some women friends walked in and demanded to be served at the bar.

That was that.

Renowned for authentic German cuisine, the menu also offers some American favorites, and most everything served is crafted in-house, including some of the best rye bread you’ll ever experience.

I went for the fresh cut, lean corned beef sandwich, which came with chips and a pickle. And of course, a root beer.

If you’re in downtown Chicago, be sure to make this one of your stops.

Regular Menu
Cafe Menu
Bar Menu 

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Corned beef on house-baked rye

 

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

House-made chips

 

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Back in the day menu

The Berghoff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

Berghoff Restaurant and Bar Review

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Capri Pizza Review, Merrillville, IN

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Capri Pizza ReviewI have driven through Merrillville, Indiana countless times and never stopped’ it just happens to be perched at the intersection of a number of highways leaving (or entering) the greater Chicago area(I-65, 90,80, 94, and US 30).  So if I ever have stopped and simply don’t remember it, the stop was either for gas, or to pee, or to grab a Slim Jim or something.

Seems I was stuck here recently due to snow, tho, and found myself holed up in a motel that had no services nor anything around it, so I fired up the Grubhub.com screen on my phone and perused my choices.

Having narrowed them down (no sushi or Mexican, thanks),  I have to cross reference them on Yelp, then go back to GrubHub to order.  So I spot Capri Pizza and note they have been making pies in the Chicago area for decades, and I saw one line somewhere in their puffery that “they grind their own meat daily.”  Me too!

I’m a sucker for great sausage on pizza, so I took the plunge and ordered a sausage (only) pie and hoped that while I was too wimpy to drive that night, that the pizza driver would not be.  I know he would be well rewarded for the effort.

The pie came. Still hot. Take in the aroma.  Ahhhhhh.  It’s thin crust, “tavern cut,” as they say around Chicago (squares, not slices), so l lift one out, it’s got heft, from a lot of cheese, which is seriously melty, and I note the chunks of sausage are ample size and hand pulled.

And yes, it was great. Crispy but chewy crust, gobs o cheese, light sauce, and TERRIFIC SAUSAGE.  Ground daily and hand pulled!  So satisfying!

Here’s their dope and menu.  I’d go again, hell yes.  Menu, locations.

Capri Pizza Review
Capri's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Capri Pizza Review

Capri Pizza Review

 

 

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