Amsterdam, NL – HEMA

HEMA is a Dutch-based department store (wiki reference)  in Western Europe, with over 500 outlets. I read some interesting statistics about how much of a force it is in the Netherlands, something like at any one time, three out of four women are wearing a HEMA bra; and a HEMA smoked sausage (rookworst) is sold every second.

It’s a modest priced chain but with an accent on delivering quality for value-prices. The stores have a small snack counter, and that’s where you’ll find the famous sausage. Of course, I had to try one.

Rookworst is not distinctly Dutch, though they claim it to be. It’s simply ground meat with spice, salt and smoked flavoring in a casing. I’ve been told that the sausages are not naturally smoked, but the smokey flavor is from “flavor enhancers”. Which probably means artificial liquid smoke, like most smoked sausages in the US, which generally receive a spray mist bath of smoke flavor during their cooking stages.

I didn’t really glance at the HEMA menu, as I had a singular purpose there, tho I did notice they also offered a hot dog, and of course, croquettes.

The wursts were clearly displayed at the front of the counter, and a counter-top sales piece pronounced the available for two Euros.

I asked the server for one, slid my two Euro coin on the counter, and she asked me two simple questions, with bread? (Oh yeah). With mustard? (OH YEAH).

It’s kind of a monster sausage for the price. The meat flavor was very good, and the grind was fine, not coarse and rough like French sausages. The smoke flavor was intense.

As with most things with I am doing this kind of sampling, I just take a bite and toss the rest. Especially when bread is involved, but the rolls the Dutch used everywhere were so damned good, and Mrs. BDB wanted to get in a taste or two, also, so we polish the wurst off in short order.

If I lived in Amsterdam, there would be no hope that I would ever be able to maintain my svelte figure, what with burgers, dogs, and pizza available every ten feet. OK, I don’t have a svelte figure. But living in Holland, I would be in contention with Homer Simpson, when he did the “world’s fattest man” thing. For sure.

HEMA locations in Amsterdam

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Home Test – DiGiorno Crispy Flatbread Pizza

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I have been wanting to try one of these, see how crispy their “Crispy Flatbread” gets. I am skeptical about the results from the get-go, because at the store I purchased this product from, the entire selection of the product had obviously been subjected to freezing problems (like thawed and refrozen – indicated by warped boxes, ice crystals on the interior packaging. I am trying the Italian Sausage and Onion variety, which claims both slices of sausage as well as crumbles, and sliced  white onion.

Reading the ingredDigiorno Nuitrionalients, I am thankful that the sausage seems to be “normal” (i.e., no poultry products in it), as does the cheese. The nutritional ingredients are thus:

So eating an entire pie, contributes 1200 calories, 210 % of my daily fat requirements, 150% of my sodium, and 27% of my carbs (that’s surprising!). Yeah, like I pay attention to this.

Cooking instructions are preheat to 400, cookie sheet, 2nd rack, 23-27 minutes. Additional notes include “do not allow to thaw” and “let sit five minutes before eating.” I guess they should know, since they claim “If it looks like delivery, smells like delivery, and tastes like delivery, it must be DiGiorno!” (I hope they are discriminating in their comparisons…I mean they wouldn’t want it to taste like Domino’s would they?) (Although I haven’t tried the new Domino’s recipe).

I also wanted to try this before its ownership floats overseas….Kraft sold its profitable pizza division to Nestle’s this week in order to finance their attempt at acquiring Cadbury.   It’s curious that they didn’t sell to a strategic buyer, like Schwan’s.  You can always get more money from a strategic buyer.  But Schwan’s and Kraft have a little “history”, so that probably prevented them from wanting to make a deal like that.

Here’s the pie straight from the box.  It’s kind of a bad sign that there are ice crystals INSIDE the vacumn wrap.  Not sure how that could happen.  Think I am in for some freezer-burn tasting sausage!

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Pie out of wrap.   Appearance of substantial freezer burn.  Now I am really worried.

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In any case.   Pizza in the oven.  Requisite amount of time.   Pictured cooked as instructed. After 23 minutes, cheese not melted, crust not crispy.

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But after 27  minutes?   I am gonna surprise you.  This may very well be one of the best (to my taste) frozen pizzas I have had.  The crust crisped up nicely.  The sausage and cheese were flavorful.   The toppings and sauce weren’t like anything I have experienced with any Digiorno pizza before.  I especially liked the moderately heavy use of herbs, which is reminiscent of my heretofore personal frozen favorites – California Pizza Kitchen’s “Sicilian.”

The white onion slices were a nice touch.  I’ll buy this one again.   They could even pump up their advertising a little to say “It’s better than a lot of deliveries.”

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Ask Me About My 10″ Wiener

That’s what the t-shirts from Bro Dogs read. Does size matter when it comes to your weenie? I’ve never been one for foot longs, at least at home, because it’s so hard to find buns. I know of one store locally that has them “almost regularly”, but not often enough that I’d want to purchase foot-longs and come up bunless.

Or I could always cut them in half (or thirds), but then what’s the point? In any regard, the weenies from Original Bavarian Sausage in Tigard put Bro Dogs to shame. Fully extended, you can see these puppies weigh in at a solid thirteen inches!

The grind is very, very fine, but the flavor is good, only a slight smoke, and a nice casing. Served alone or with Skyline Chili, they are a welcome addition to my usual local dog vendors. My local fave list in addition to Bavarian, includes Otto’s, and product from Zenner’s, available at most local grocers. Hill Meat Company from Pendleton makes a fine weenie, too, but they are not as easy to find as Zenner’s.

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Portland, Or – Screen Door Restaurant

Being as I moved here from New Orleans, quite a few people have suggested I try out the Screen Door restaurant for my much missed creole/cajun fare.

Haven’t been able to get there for dinner, but Saturday found us in the neighborhood around brunch time, and my better 2/3 embraced the idea of stopping when I told here she could imbibe in a) a gin fizz, and b) cheese grits, all at the same time. She was down for that!

The Saturday morning brunch crowd (or those waiting for it) spilled out onto the sidewalk when we arrived, and although in the past, my better 2/3rds usually would have said “oh, you don’t want to wait,” she didn’t yesterday, because I am a changed man in this (and many other ) regards, as of late. We put our name on the list, there were about a dozen parties ahead of us, and stood on the sidewalk patiently (well, for me) waiting our turn.

Eventually, we were seated by the hostess, and our waitress, Arial, took our drink orders, (gin fizz for my wife, root beer in a bottle for me) (we had coffee’d up earlier at Espresso Giuseppe. The place was chock-a-block full of southern style tschotskes and NOLA type music which we took in as we were waiting for our plates.

The wife went with fried oysters on poached eggs with bacon, hollandaise on the side, and the cheese grits. As it was after the noon hour, I seriously contemplated the hamburger (which is very highly rated among my PDX burger peers), but ultimately chose the eggs, biscuits and gravy. The wife had a second thought and ordered an additional side of bacon for my benefit. (She’s always thinking of me! ).

The food was marvelous, the oyster breakfast vanished quickly, even with at each bite, my wife saying “I’m stuffed and can’t eat anymore,” and another bite was disposed of.

My biscuits and gravy were superb, the gravy thick, peppery, and lacking the floury taste so many breakfast gravy establishments are guilty of. Big hunks of mild sausage were buried under the gravy and while the sausage attendance was aplenty, one could always use more. My over easy eggs were done to perfection, and the biscuits were light, and slighly grilled, a nice twist, and cut in squares instead of rounds.

I swore (as I am wont to do) that I could not finish all of it, but or course I did, plus the side of bacon, and a couple of spoonfuls of cheese grits, as well. I also “borrowed” a taste or two of the hollandaise, which was incredibly mild, slightly lemony, and smooth as silk.

The bill was a modest, in the $30 range, with a good 20% of the total due to the one cocktail. Who would have guessed foamy gin would be a nice addition to breakfast?

Steeled with our nutritional fortification for the day, we were ready to take on our other predesignated tasks, a couple of car test drives, before ending the day at the Expo center for the local tattoo show. I’ve been tempted to add some ink lately, perhaps a White Castle logo, but we’ll save that adventure for some other time.

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Portland, OR – Otto’s Sausage Kitchen

Off to local legend Otto’s today (featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives this week!), where they make over 50 fresh and smoked sausages, buy ’em, take ’em home, or they’ll cook them out front on the sidewalk grill for you.

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