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Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category

Incline Station Review – Duluth, MN

We’ve previously taken a look at the burgers at the Spot Bar inside Incline Station in Duluth.  The sports bar/bowling complex offers indoor recreatin as well as typical pub fare.

A group pizza party sampled a buffet of pizzas, with nice stretchy cheese, flavorful pepperoni and sauce.  The crusts seem to have the texture of pre-mades, but were enjoyed overall by all in attendance.

 

Incline Station Review Duluth

Incline Station Review Duluth

 

 

 

 

Incline Station Review

Jimanos Pizza Review – Chicago / Denver

Jimano's Pizza ReviewJimano’s is a mini-chain based out of suburban Chicago; they started in 1997, have about a dozen locations and have started franchising.  Their first Denver, CO location was named the best pizza in the city by a local television station after only four months of operation.  They have the requisite Chicago accompaniments on the menu, including Italian beef and other sandwiches, hot appetizers, salads, ribs, and pasta.  They offer both dine in and delivery, catering, and most locations offer online ordering.  They have their own app to facility your order.

They state that they have a commitment to using the highest quality  ingredients.  They offer a daily special which is quite economical – for instance on Monday you can get a 16″ pie with up to five toppings for $16.99, and that can result in a savings of 25% or more.

I took advantage of the Monday special, stopped in a store, ordered, and waited 10 minutes or so for the pie to be done.  The store employs a ‘carousel’ type oven, which I had heard of, but not seen.  With multiple decks revolving like a ferris wheel, running off gas or electricity, carousels let you pack a whole lot of baking capacity into a small footprint.

Jimano’s thin crust pie was great.  The cracker thin crust has a hint of cornmeal, the pork sausage was very flavorful, the sauce was not overpowering, and the cheese in a unique blend.  A heavy dose of herbs finishes off the pie.

If I  lived in the Chicago area, Jimano’s would be one of my regular go-to pizzas, for sure.  Locator. Menu below (click on for larger image).

Jimanos Pizza Review

Thin Crust Sausage & Olive

Jimano Pizza Review

Exterior – Fox River Grover, Illinois

Jimano's Pizza Menu

Jimano's Pizza Menu
Jimano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Jimanos Pizza Review

New Orleans Jazz Fest

Billy Joel 2013

Billy Joel 2013

Officially, the name is New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, and it’s a 10 day musical celebration held each April and May at the New Orleans fairgrounds (race track) and other venues around town.

Now in its 45th year, the fest attracts musical acts and fans from around the world – samples of nearly all musical genres in addition to jazz, and presents dozens of acts daily spread across a number of outdoor stages. Sets run between 45-90 minutes with little time for band changes.

In addition to local favorites, the fest is chock-a-block full of international headliners, attendees this year can catch Keith Urban, John Legend, the Who, Jimmy Cliff, Robert Cray, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Jimmy Buffet, Beausoleil, Chicago, Elton John, Dr. John, Buddy Guy, and many, many more.

The music is great, a chance to see so much talent in a relatively small venue, back to back. But for some of us, it should be called “New Orleans Food Fest” as it’s a chance for local restaurants and chefs to show off the masterpieces, which are sold in booths around the fairgrounds.

Some of the more popular options are the local favorite sandwich muffaletta, crawfish bread, crawfish, poboys, pralines, fried catfish and shrimp, alligator sausage, meat pies, beignets, and more. All fabulous.

If you ever craved a music / food orgy, surrounded by 50,000 other revelers for fun in the sun, put Jazz Fest on your calendar for next year. Music line ups are announced in January.

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Jazz Fest

Aidells Andouille Sausage Review

Aidells Andouille ReviewI was visiting a friend, and her command cooking request was for me to whip up a pot of gumbo, eat some now, freeze some individual servings, and I’m always delighted when people ask me to cook for them. Validation.  I remember the first time recognition really happened, we were hosting a dinner party in Paris, and a stranger walked up to me and asked “did you make the mayonnaise?”  Be still….

Anyway, my pal doesn’t live in an area with easy access to true Louisiana ingredients, so the closest we could come to traditional Andouille was Aidell’s “Cajun Style” Andouille.

Aidell’s has been around for about thirty years, started by a chef, primarily chicken sausages at the time, but a full line now, under the ownership of Hillshire, which recently was purchased by Tyson.

The ingredients list is straightforward:  PORK, WATER, SALT, SPICES (INCLUDING RED,WHITE AND BLACK PEPPER), GARLIC, SUGAR, PAPRIKA, CELERY POWDER AND DEHYDRATED ONION.

Celery powder” (or juice) is being used by manufacturers for flavoring and preserving, as a substitute for MSG.  It has a little bit of naturally occuring nitrate in it.

These sausages are smoked, and thus pre-cooked.  You can heat and eat in whichever method your prefer.  I like charring them a bit in a cast iron skillet, adds to the illusion of having a natural casing.  (Tho these do have a nice snap).

The ‘heat factor’ is minimum, you can taste the smoke and the celery.   It’s a slightly coarse grind (pictured) much more appealing than andouille in France. Trust me on that one and never order it.  You can find Aidells near you with their locator, or order online from their site.

 Aidells Andouille Review

Aidells Andouille Review

 

Aidells andouille Sausage Review

Cafe Olympic Review – Crystal Lake, IL

Cafe Olympic ReviewAs in any major metropolitan area, one has a multitude of breakfast choices in Chicago and its environs. An awful lot of the eateries are owned, or were started by Greeks, so it’s not unusual to see a co-mingling of Greek and American cuisines, regardless of the time of day. To wit: “scrambled eggs with gyro meat.” I’ve been to my fare share.

In this part of the ‘burbs, I guess my favorite so far is Andy’s, also located in Crystal Lake. I like Round the Clock, as well.

I hadn’t tried the Olympic, and locals talk about it, so off I went, and it was Sunday morning, and it was either suffer in silence a lengthy wait for a table or booth, or be seated immediately at the counter, which I don’t mind, there are always interesting things to observe.

Chicken Fried Steak was on special, and I’ve reviewed the dish in a lot of different locations,  so I plunged in here, adding two over easy, rye toast, and crispy hash browns.   I don’t know why I bother getting potatoes, I never eat them.  But since they are included in most breakfast plates, they might as well put them in front of me for presentation sake.

At the Olympic, an ample amount of sausage gravy (quite peppery) covered the “steak,” which tasted like any mass production CFS anywhere.  Eggs and taters were done to order, toast could have used more butter.  Yes, I could have asked.

Service was quick and thorough.  Two breakfasts, two coffees, $21 plus gratuity.

Will I go back?  Probably.

 Cafe Olympic Review

Cafe Olympic on Urbanspoon

Cafe Olympic Review

Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review

lousLou Malnati, and his father Rudy, managed Pizzeria Uno, one of the first outlets for “Chicago Deep Dish” pizza. Although Uno (now Uno Chicago Grill) claims to have invented the pie, local food historians give the credit to Rudy.

Lou and his wife Jean opened the first Lou Malnati’s in 1971, in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood. The rest is history, and the company now boasts 40 shops in the Chicago area and ships frozen pizzas nationwide.

The main difference between “Chicago deep dish” and similar pies in other parts of the country, is that in Chicago, the tomato sauce goes on top; many restaurants that offer a deep dish sausage pack the bottom of the crust with a blanket of cheese, then the sausage (or whatever you choose) and then  the sauce.

No matter which restaurant you chose to patronize (Malnati’s, Uno, Gino’s or local mom and pops) be prepared to wait for your dinner, as it takes awhile to cook up these pizzas.

I reviewed Gino’s frozen a couple years ago, and another Chicago deep dish, Edwardos,  so a follow up with Malnati’s seems like a good idea.  Baking instructions call for 425 and 35-40 minutes for the sausage pie.   There’s a slight variance in the directions than you (we) are probably use to:  “remove pizza from pan, wipe off any condensation that has formed, lightly oil pan (I used spray) and return pie to pan prior to placing in oven.”

After 40  minutes, I took this beauty out.  In appearance, it closely resembles its restaurant cousin.  It’s about 1 1/2″ deep, 9″ across, and weighs 24 ounces.  I paid $12.99,  ( @ .54 ounce) which is probably more that you will see it most groceries, I was in an “up market” store.   At a Malnati’s restaurant, the same pie will set you back about the same amount.  A large sausage goes for $20.25 at the time of this posting.

I’m really pleased with the end result;  this is one of the more flavorful frozen pizzas I have encountered.  Many people don’t understand that a “Chicago deep dish” is a THIN crust pizza, and is deep due to the ingredients.  The crust was appropriately crispy, the cheese has really nice “pull,” the pie is wall to wall with the sausage, and the (chunky) tomato ‘sauce’ just pops with flavor.

When you look at the ingredient list, there aren’t any of those words you can’t pronounce or have no idea what they are. Example, the sausage is pork, salt, and spices.  I’d do it again.

According to the packaging, these pies are made at USDA factory number 18498, at 3054 S. Kildare Ave., Chicago, which is apparently owned and operated by Home Run Inn pizza for their frozen pie operation. (factory pics below) HRI makes one of my favorite frozen thin crust pizzas.

If you’re rolling into Chicagoland, and want to hit a Malnati’s restaurant, you’ll find them here (note, some locations are carryout/delivery only).

Lou Malnati's Frozen Pizza Review

Lou Malnati's Frozen Pizza Review

Out of package, before oven

 

Lou Malnatis Review

Back of Factory

Lou Malnatis Review

Front of factory abuts an HRI location

Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review

Halftime Pizza Review

Yet another Upper Midwest  frozen “tavern pizza,” Halftime was launched out of a popular rural bar an hour NW of Chicago.  If you’re a regular reader here, you know how much I admire small business owners, and guys like this, trying to enter a very crowded field, with (presumably) a marketing budget that can’t possibly compete in the space, well you have to give them an “E” for effort, and wish them the best of luck.

The package boasts include “made by hand” and “The Official Pizza of Brookfield Zoo.”  (If you’ve never been to Brookfield, it’s worth a trip). Ingredients are pretty straightforward, except there’s that dreaded corn syrup derivative, which I hate seeing in any product.

Instructions call for middle shelf, 450, 12-15 minutes.  On a cookie sheet if you prefer a softer crust.

I checked at the 12 minute mark, and opted for another minute.  On the plus side, I liked the larger chunks of hand-pulled Italian sausage, and the very thin crust is cracker crunchy.  The sausage could use more flavor (for my taste, only), and the sauce is very strongly flavored.  Cheese is adequate, but more would be nice.

The pies sell for $12 + at the bar, have a suggested retail price of $10 at the grocer, I paid $7.99 on sale.  At a $10 price point, these guys are competing in the upper range of frozen pizzas, and they are in for a tough fight.  As a smaller manufacturer, lacking the economies of scale, purchasing, and automation, their price probably reflects the minimum number to make a profit.

But for me, the taste, texture and ingredients are more reminiscent of a pie in the ‘value range’ of frozen pizzas, competing with brands like Tony’s, Tombstone and the like, but of course, those brands pricing is considerably less.

The pies are made in McHenry, IL at USDA est 51161, located at 4025 W. Main Street, and pictured below, if Google maps is accurate.  Locator.

Halftime Pizza Review

Packaging

Halftime Pizza Review

Frozen, from packaging

Halftime Pizza Review

McHenry, Illinois Factory

 

Halftime Frozen Pizza Review

13 minutes, at 450

 

Halftime Pizza Review

Cozy Dog Review, Springfield, IL

Cozy Dog ReviewSherman, set the wayback machine for the early 1940s, Springfield, Illinois, Land O’ Lincoln, the horseshoe sandwich, and purported by many to be the birthplace of the deep fried corn dog.  Others claim the honor should be awarded to other concerns, like the Pronto Pup Company of Portland, Oregon.  The U.S. Patent office has a completely different version of the origin.  No matter.  If you like them, you’ll pick them up most anywhere;  the late Mrs BurgerDogBoy was a big fan, but it was probably due more to the size and shape than the taste and texture.

Me?  I can take them or leave them, but I’ll nearly always stop at a restaurant on old Route 66, and Cozy Dog has that distinction.

Feeling a might peckish, I stopped in for a burger and fries, with a pork tenderloin on the side.  If you’re not familiar with tenderloins, they are pretty much the exclusive territory of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, and are made up of a boneless pork chop, smashed into a flattened, oversized ‘patty,’, breaded and deep fried.

From time to time,  one runs into restaurants that vie for having the largest tenderloin compared to bun ratio.

The tenderloin was adequate, tho most likely not made in-house, the fresh ground burger was great, and the fries tasty.  I like any place that has a condiment bar, and the Cozy’s was dandy.

Finished the grub, and hit the road again, southbound on I-55 for another adventure.  The Cozy Dog was a perfect place to stop, as today was “National Something on a Stick Day.”  No fooling.

Bonus?  It’s on old Route 66 and chock-a-block full of memorabilia to amuse you.

 

Cozy Dog Review

Burger and fries

 

Cozy Dog Review

Mr & Mrs Cozy Dog

 

 

 

 

Cozy Dog’s full menu.
Cozy Dog Drive In on Urbanspoon
Cozy Dog Review

Rigazzis Review – St. Louis

Rigazzis Review St Louis

Exterior of restaurant – from their own website

I think I have only been to two “traditional Italian” restaurants in my life, where I either went “wow” or returned multiple times; one was in London, the other Hong Kong. I stopped in an Olive Garden thirty some years ago shortly after they started, haven’t been back. I imagine their food would be a lot like Rigazzi’s.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at my reaction to the restaurant, I lived in St. Louis for a year and have been back several times, and with the exception of one very memorable evening decades ago, I’ve never had a good time in St. Louis, no matter the reason for being there or the person I had in tow.  I also can’t think of a time I’ve enjoyed a meal in any city where the locals insisted a joint was a “don’t miss.”  A lot of time I believe those endorsements come from a reputation earned years ago, but get passed down due more to tradition, than anything else.  Whatever.

Rigazzi’s is the oldest restaurant (60 some years) on “the Hill,” which is the “Italian neighborhood” of St. Louis.

It was a Wednesday night, and we were seated promptly. I had perused the menu online, in advance, so I had an idea of what I wanted.   The problem wouldn’t be finding something I would enjoy, but narrowing down my choice, as the menu was long and seemingly held lots of promise.

When you’re seated, you’re presented with a half loaf of bread, a cracker basket, and butter packets.  Drink orders are taken and rather promptly filled. Service is friendly.

I started with the antipasto plate, described as “for two,” with a combination of Italian meats, vegetables, olives, some oddly misplaced triangle wedges of American cheese slices, and a dollop of blue cheese.  It was a lot of food, and a really great value for the price.  I’d go with it again, and be even more enthusiastic if they offered a choice of platters, like all meat, or just meat and cheese, and so on.

I knew I wanted my plate to be loaded with meat for the entree, so I ordered meat filled ravioli, in meat sauce, with a meatball, and  with a side of Italian sausage.

There is crumbled, unidentifiable meat in the sauce and the ravioli (pic below);  the pasta was cooked far past the point of oblivion (which seems to be a common complaint in many online reviews), meaning attempting to pick it up with a fork made the pasta pillows disintegrate; it’s a dish you end up scooping instead of stabbing.

The sauce was thick with not much unique flavor.  The meatball was in the “it’s OK” category, and the sausage was a finely ground, fairly unseasoned Italian –  I prefer mine “hot” as they are labeled from manufacturers, which doesn’t usually refer to a ‘heat from seasonings’ designation, but usually from a dose of fennel and Italian herbs.  I use a lot of fennel in my Italian dishes at home.

I didn’t get a pizza, which I had fully intended on trying.

Would I go again?  Doubtful, but I think the food and service are just right for the palates and temperaments  of most American diners.  It’d also be a good place for groups, as I imagine one could “under-order” (say, 2 entrees for every three people) and leave happy.

The restaurant’s prices are fairly modest.  They have that going for them.

On second thought, I might return for meals of bread, sauce, and sausage/meatballs, skipping the pasta.  I’d be OK with that.  But it wasn’t an experience like I had in London or Hong Kong!

Rigazzis Review St Louis

Meat ravioli, dissected

 

Rigazzis Review St Louis

Italian sausage

Rigazzi's on Urbanspoon
Rigazzis Review

Dominos Review

Dominos Review

Cedar Square West – Minneapolis

I first became acquainted with Dominos when I lived in my first apartment in Minneapolis.  Near the U of M, “Cedar Square West,” was a HUD experiment of a “city within a city” and the exteriors were represented to be the domicile of Mary Tyler Moore on the television program that bore her name.

Dominos was the only joint that delivered to the complex, where safety could be dicey at times.  I can still picture the long-haired, bespectacled delivery kid, who regularly bathed in patchouli.

That was about forty years ago.  When they started delivering to me, they were, in fact Dominos, but a lawsuit by the makers of Dominos Sugar forced them to change their name for a few years, and I recall it as “Pizza Park.”  Same colors, logo, but packaging and signs changed.  Ultimately, the court said the pizza guys could keep their name, and now they are the second largest pizza chain in the US, and the largest in the world, with about 10,000 stores, corporate and franchisee owned.  They bring in nearly $2 billion in revenue annually.  India is the largest Dominos market outside of the U.S.

They specialize in ‘value priced’ product, and in addition to pizza, have ‘pasta bowls,’ sub sandwiches, chicken thingies, and pizza bread.  Taking a cue from the Taco Bell philosophy, Dominos is able to take the same core ingredients, deliver them in different shapes, and with different names.

They frequently run pricing specials, and are generally acknowledged to be the technology leader as far as ordering apps, both online and with mobile. Their “pizza tracker” shows the progress of your order, from received, to prep, baking, and delivery.

One of their long time promotions was the pizza would be delivered in “30 minutes or it is free,” but ultimately, this proved to present some danger to drivers and pedestrians alike, so it was dropped.

At present, they have a deal where you can get two or more menu items at $5.99 each.  They add a delivery charge, cautioning buyers this does NOT go to the delivery man, implying you should tack on some more dough for the pizza schlepper.

Since they now offer sandwiches, pasta, and chicken, they have dropped the word “pizza” from their name, and they are now simply “Dominos.”

I haven’t had their product for years, so in the interest of keeping you, dear readers, informed, I ordered a pair of the $5.99’s, one with “hand-tossed” crust, and one with “crispy thin” crust.  Both were topped by two different processed pork products.

According to said “Pizza Tracker,” I placed my order at 11:01 AM and “Patrick” left the store with my pies at 11:17 AM.

He arrived at  11:45.

A few years ago, Dominos touted that they were completely re-inventing their pizzas, which did have a reputation for not being all that tasty.   There were a lot of jokes about not being able to tell the difference in taste and texture between the pie and the box, and so on.  So the company said a change was needed.

Today’s product is the result of those changes.

I have to tell you, both pies were pretty awful.  Similar in taste to low end frozen pies, like Totinos, or Tonys.  The hand-tossed one had two types of Italian sausage, chunk and sliced, and the thin crust was pepperoni and salami. Except they forgot the salami.  Sausage pie was cut in sliced, pepperoni in squares.

While I am usually a fiend for thin crust over any other kind, I actually preferred the hand-tossed today.

But neither have any distinctive flavor, in their toppings, sauce or cheese.  At the low end of the price point schedule, i actually preferred the bacon wrapped deep dish from Little Caesar’s recently.

If you’re drunk, don’t care, are cheap, have to feed somebody else’s kids,  or are hosting relatives or people you don’t like, it may well be Dominos is your best choice.

Morning after, cold pizza test:  Hand tossed, sausage pie is slightly better, thin crust, pepperoni, slightly worse.

Dominos Review

 

 

 

 

 

Dominos Review

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