Arkansas Menu Labeling for Catfish

Appropo to my article the other day about mislabeled fish in restaurants, the state of Arkansas wants to do something about it.

There’s a move to be able to label specific origins of catfish on restaurant menus statewide, drilling down as far as “farmed,” “wild” “wild-river” “wild lake” and so on.

Not sure how many diners care about this, but it’s a step towards cleaning up the much bigger problem of you not getting what you think you ordered, which is a huge problem in the seafood biz.

Arkansas Times article

Menu labeling catfish



Arkansas Catfish identification

Arkansas Catfish identification

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All About Swai

All About Swai

All About SwaiI like fish. It’s a genetic thing.

My dad was crazy about fish and seafood. So much so, that when he came to visit me in Hong Kong, we pretty much had fish/seafood three meals a day because of the preponderance of fresh product there.  When I was growing up, we routinely had fish at least once a wek, but it was some frozen preparation, tho my dad might cook fresh fish for himself on occasion.

There are so many more types of fish available in the market today than there were in my salad days. OK, I never had “salad days.” But I’ve come to discover that fish isn’t always precisely what it’s labeled in the grocery counter.

How did this happen?  Back in the 1960s, when cotton and other cash crops began losing their footing in the deep south, farmers were looking for an alternate source of income and aquafarming began to take root, particularly for catfish, which was gaining popularity on US dinner tables. Raising All About Swaicatfish domestically provided for an easy to raise, cheap cash crop.

Not wanting to miss out on this growing market, other countries, and particularly Vietnam also started raising catfish and exporting it to the U.S.

American catfish farmers didn’t cotton to this (see what I did there?) because the Vietnamese were undercutting American wholesalers prices in an attempt to get a foothold in the market.  Seeing this and feeling the wrath of his constituents, Uncle Sam raised a bony finger, pointed at the Vietnamese and said “knock it off. Go open nail salons or something.”

Eventually they got the message and imports of Vietnamese catfish dwindled. Or did they? Turns out those crafty folks merely changed the name of the Asian cats. To Swai. And/or Basa.  The Asian cats are milder than the US farm raised, and lend themselves to easily being manipulated with different flavorings and cooking methods.

The Swai comes from the Mekong River, which starts in the Tibetan plains and meanders 2,703 miles  through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It’s one of the world’s most diverse and productive fisheries, producing 4,500,000 tons of fish/seafood per year!

So now you know.  Anyway, I was thinking about this over the weekend as I was screwing around with different types of breading for frying fish. Got out the mini-Cuisineart and pulverized pretzels, cheetos, cheese popcorn, saltines, matzo and the like.

All About SwaiIn any case, I was disappointed in my experiments, except I thought the pretzel one had potential, tho most people would find it too salty. I suppose I could find unsalted pretzels somewhere.

In the end, I used my old standby,  2/3 cornmeal, 1/3 flour, and am doses of Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning and paprika. For me, that combination works just fine.

Swai and Basa come in multi-pound packages of individually wrapped frozen boneless filets. Generally about $3 a pound. What other healthy protein can you buy at that price?

Oh, before I go, one more thing. There’s no such animal as “Chilean Sea Bass.”  It’s a marketing term designed to sound nice on menus.  Cooked up by a fish wholesaler in 1977. The actual  fish itself? It’s a Patagonian Toothfish.  Doesn’t that sound yummy?

All About Swai

Seasoned cornmeal coated fillets, 375 oil, 3 minutes per side

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Crystal Lake Rib House Review – Crystal Lake, IL

Crystal Lake Rib House ReviewYeah, I’m just not a rib guy.  Never have been.  I’ll cook them for others, I’ll go to restaurants that serve them, they just aren’t for me. When it comes to BBQ, give me pulled pork (I make an excellent one), BBQ sausage, smoked turkey, chopped ham ‘cue, maybe some beef.

Besides, I’ve been to the two BBQ capitals of the western world, Lockhart, TX, and the North Carolina BBQ trail. Who can compete with those destinations?

A friend wanted some BBQ chicken, so after considerable research, off we motored to Crystal Lake Rib House, in Crystal Lake, IL, a distant suburb of Chicago, that toddling town.

These guys have apparently won bucketloads of awards, and in addition to the restaurant will cater your event or roast a whole pig for you. (I’d love that).

We started with the “Sweet Vidalia Onion Rings,” which were good sized and had a light breading primarily of cornmeal. You could have a choice of one or two dipping sauces with those. Enjoyable.

My friend ordered the BBQ 1/2 chicken, which was four generous pieces, taters, slaw and a roll, and I was up for catfish (I have been a lot lately), and they presented me with two monster filets, fries, slaw, and a roll. Tartar sauce, lemons, and honey butter on the side.

The cat had a crispy cornmeal based breading, not too heavy, fried to perfection, and the chicken was juicy and amped up with the flavorful sauce. Like most people mentioned about this, the side of “red potatoes in butter” will make anybody happy, and the fries are of the “steak fries” size and texture. Again, excellent.

I generally don’t read other people’s reviews before I go to a place, I know, odd, huh, but do after, and for some reason, this place is currently getting a bad rap. There is a trend for people to launch into trashing a restaurant based on hearsay from a friend or relative, and that can throw a joint’s stars/points/numbers way off. It’s not fair.

We had good food today, as good as I’ve had anywhere, at a fair price, with prompt courteous service.  I can’t ask for more.

Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Perfect Crispy Rings


Crystal Lake Rib House Review

BBQ 1/2 Chicken


Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Catfish fillets


Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Menu, Click to Enlarge, Prices Subject to Change

Crystal Lake Rib House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crystal Lake Rib House Review

Crystal Lake Rib House Review

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Finding Nemo – Fast Food / Chain Lent Menus

 Fast Food / Chain Lent MenusWe’re two weeks away from Mardi Gras, which also means we are two weeks away from the start of Lent, the 40 day period leading up to the Christian celebration of Easter.

A type of fasting is a customary observance for many Christians during this period, with a particular rite being the substitution of fish, for meat, on certain days or throughout the period.

American fast food businesses like to offer alternatives to the segment of the population giving up meat during this period, and generally offer fish/seafood alternatives, specials, for the period surrounding Lent.

Last year, the following companies added specials to their menus, as described, this year’s offerings may be similar or new items added. (Prices are not verified for accuracy).In the case of chains/franchises, subject to participating restaurants of course.

Abuelo’s – Special menu items like Pescado Guerro, Yucatan Shrimp Fajitas, Tilapia Vera Cruz, Enchiladas De Cazumel, Salmon Santa Cruz, and Shrimp Fajita Salad.

Arby’s – Fish sandwich, spicy fish sandwich.  Had the spicy fish (“Nashville Hot”) recently, quite enjoyed it.

Bakers Square – AYCE Fish Fry – specific days/times

Bertucci’s – Twirl your fork in a a bowl of pan-sautéed mussels with aglio-olia spaghetti for $15.99 (). The dish includes P.E.I. mussels sautéed with chopped garlic, onions, cherry peppers, chunky tomatoes, and Italian parsley over aglio-olia spaghetti tossed with olive oil and garlic.

Black Angus Steakhouse – Lunch on beer-battered fish and chips for $9.50 () with purchase of a beverage.

Bojangles – You can enjoy a wild-caught Alaskan pollock sandwich (), which includes fry seasoning, cheddar cheese, and tartar sauce on a toasted, buttered bun.

Bonefish Grill – Share a dinner for two for $55 (). The dinner includes two seasonal fish entrees from the Dine & Discover for Two menu, Bang Bang shrimp, and a dessert.

Boston Market – On Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, enjoy the baked cod (), which includes wild-caught pacific cod with two sides and freshly baked cornbread.

Bravo Cucina Italiana – Dig into Lenten lunch specials for $14.99 and dinner specials for $16.99 (), such as the grilled jumbo shrimp, romano crusted tilapia, lobster bisque, and salad.

Brio Tuscan Grille – Choose one of the Lenten specials (), which include meat-free appetizers and entrees like Peroni beer-battered fish and chips, as well as ravioli with lobster and shrimp.

Buffalo Wings & Rings – Browse the Lenten menu (), which features meatless items and seafood dishes like the blackened Chilean salmon sandwich and the fish and chips with Haddock filet flash-fried in Sam Adams batter.

Burger King – Munch on a Big Fish sandwich (), which includes 100% white Alaskan pollock, breaded with crispy panko breading and topped with sweet tartar sauce, tangy pickles, all on top of a toasted brioche-style bun.

Captain D’s – Over Lent, get full meal deals for $4.99 (). Choose from favorites like butterfly shrimp, southern-style fish tenders, and fish with home-style shrimp.

Carl’s Jr. – Grab a Redhook beer-battered fish sandwich ().

Carrabba’s – Choose from a variety of Lenten seafood specials (), such as salmon cetriolini, shrimp and sea scallop spiedino, and cioppini.

Charlie Brown’s – salmon, crab cakes, shrimp, and fish and chips.

Cheddar’s Casual Cafe –  sweet and spicy crispy shrimp ), which features crispy beer-battered fried shrimp tossed in a handcrafted Sriracha and chile garlic sauce.

Cheeseburger in Paradise –  all-you-can-eat fish Fridays

Chili’s – Lunch on Lent specials  like the Margherita flatbread salad, Cajun shrimp pasta, mango chile tilapia, and ancho salmon.

Church’s Chicken – YLenten specials , such as the hand-breaded fish or eight-piece lemon-seasoned butterfly shrimp, both served with Hush Puppy Biscuit Bites.

Corner Bakery Cafe –  Lent breakfast, lunch, and dinner specials (), such as the California Grille panini, mac and three-cheese pasta, tomato mozzarella sandwich, and tuna salad sandwich.

Daphne’s California Greek – Greek Baja crispy shrimp pita. The sandwich includes warm pita bread with avocado spread, tomato slices, red cabbage, and crispy shrimp topped with creamy chipotle sauce.

Del Taco – Lenten specials: Buy one, get one free jumbo shrimp burrito * Two fish tacos with wild Alaskan pollock

Eat’n Park – fish fry for $19.99 (). The fish fry includes two Whale of a Cod fish sandwiches, fresh chips for two with ranch dressing, and a pint of soup or coleslaw.

Firehouse Subs – Free chips and soda with purchase of certain sandwiches

Friendly’s – Endless shrimp

Fuddruckers – AYCE Fish fridays; menu item fish and chips

Genghis Grill – Seafood combinationsincluding shrimp, calamari, Khan’s Krab, garlic-lime marinated white fish, and more.

Golden Corral – Fish Fry Fridays featuring an endless buffet of fried fish, baked fish, popcorn shrimp, and all the fixings.

Hardees –  Redhook beer-battered fish sandwich

Jack in the Box – Alaskan Pollock fish sandwich with a 100% Alaskan Pollock fish filet, tangy tartar sauce, and shredded lettuce on a bun.

Joe’s Crab Shack – Half off 2nd lunch on certain days.

Krystal – Shrimp po boy or double dozen combo.

Logan’s Roadhouse – Sasonal seafood items (), such as the Moonshine popcorn shrimp.

Long John Silver’s – Catch these Lenten special deals:
* A free six-piece order of shrimp () with any regular family meal purchase.
Combo specials, meals and platters

Macaroni Grill – Try Lent specials under 600 calories (), such as the folded ravioli pomadoro or the sweet and savory salmon and kale salad.

Marie Callenders – Check out the new fish and shrimp dishes

McDonald’s – Try the classic  Filet -O-Fish ().

Mimi’s Cafe – Lenten skewers such as Atlantic salmon, shrimp, or sea scallops paired with roasted ratatouille vegetables, a Provence medley of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and tomatoes in a red pepper sauce.

Shakey’s – Garlic shrimp pizza, special price

Sizzler – Special fish entrees

Smashburger – Black bean burger

Souper Salad – Check local restaurant, offers will vary.

Steak ‘n Shake – Fish sandwich or fish plate special

Taco Bueno – Shrimp and drink special

Taco Cabana – Shrimp quesadillas.

TacoTime – Fish burrito discounts.

Texas Corral – Over Lent, you can catch these three deals:
* Everyday Lenten seafood specials (), such as the shrimp fajitas $12.99, fried lake perch and jumbo shrimp for $16.99, or the crab penne alfredo for $12.99.
* Catch of the Day Fridays . Every Friday, you can get a different item from the Spring Seafood menu at a special priceAn all-you-can-eat shrimp dinner for $16.99 which includes a soup or salad and a choice of side.

Togo’s – Lemon pepper tuna sub, hot or cold

Wendy’s – wild-caught North Pacific cod, hand-cut and lightly coated in a crispy, panko breading, and then topped with a creamy dill tartar sauce and crunchy dill pickles.

White Castle – Fish and shrimp nibblers.  Had these last couple years. Wrote about them.








Fast Food / Chain Lent Menus

Fast Food / Chain Lent Menus

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Harolds Chicken Shack Review – Chicago

Harold’s Chicken Shack is a Chicago legend. Iconic to all who live on the South Side of the city, after 5 decades, Harold’s has spread to the burbs and even a couple of out of state locations.  On the menu? (Below) Fried chicken, wings, shrimp, catfish and assorted sides.

I went with a combo plate, catfish and perch, which came with fries, slaw, and white bread. All of it was excellent, and prepared to order, so it was fresh and hot. I noticed the fish and chicken have a different batter, with the former being more corn-mealy which was fine with me.  The fish batter was crispy yet light, and the fries were done perfectly.

You can order by the plate, quantity or individual piece.

Seems like there are abour 40 Harold’s locations, according to some online information. They deserve all the success they can achieve. Great product, great value.

The Schaumburg location has limited seating. Counter and a few four tops.

Wanna check out the competitor? Frank’s Chicago Shrimp is the main one.  The main thing I like about Franks is you can order by the quarter pound, and really mix things up!


Harolds Chicken Shack Review

Fish combo plate

Harolds Chicago Shack Review

Full menu

Harold's Chicken Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Harolds Chicken Shack Review – Chicago

Harolds Chicken Shack Review – Chicago


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Blue Gillys Review – Edgerton, WI

Blue Gillys ReviewMy dad loved eating fish. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, couldn’t get enough. I brought him over to visit when I was working in Hong Kong and he was in seafood heaven. Geez, I craved a burger during that trip.

He wasn’t much of a sportsman himself, but his colleagues and employees made sure he was kept well supplied, dropping off quantities of trout, sunfish, crappies, pike and bluegills when they had good days.

Don’t think its genetic, but I’m a fish eater too, not anywhere compared to him. And here in the upper midwest, you’re likely to run into one restaurant or 200 that features a “fish fry” every Friday nite, offering you a choice of cod, walleye, perch, or shrimp, often on an AYCE basis.

I was surprised and delighted to run into a place called “Blue Gilly’s” in rural Wisconsin yesterday, a breakfast/lunch restaurant that prominently features bluegills on the menu.

I can’t imagine where they source them, I’d been under the impression for several years that “panfish” – the group of freshwater swimmers that bluegills fall into, were incapable of being farmed. So if they’re wild, they are most likely coming from pristine lakes in Northern Canada or Alaska.

So I had bluegills and eggs for breakfast. The fish is fried with a very, very light breading, and I’m no expert, but I’m gonna guess that they use rice flour for the breading. It has its own unique texture and taste, and of course, is gluten free.

The fish was delightful, and the standard serving (1/2 pound) was more than I could finish at a serving.

The restaurant is open seven days from 6:30 – 2:00PM, and features a full breakfast and lunch menu. Lotsa pancakes on hand, as well.

It’s much bigger inside than it appears outside, so even if the  parking lot would make you think its really crowded, there are probably
tables available.

If you’re traveling I-90 thru Wisconsin, the restaurant is just off exit 163, about an hour north of the Illinois border. Worth a stop.


Blue Gillys Review

Bluegills and eggs breakfast

Blue Gillys Review

A nice side dish in the Midwest –  LOL

Blue Gilly's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Blue Gillys Review

Blue Gillys Review

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Rics Dog Gone Good Food Review –

Rics Dog Gone Good Food ReviewI’m on a roll, lately I’ve hit quite a number of places that have exceeded my expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that, at all!

Yesterday was no exception, when I was out in the NW Chicago burbs surveying changes that have occurred since we first moved to the idyllic town of Barrington in 1987. And the answer is LOTS. Like most everywhere in America these days, urban sprawl and strip malls have replaced farm fields.

But hey, that’s ok, one of those strip malls has given birth to “Ric’s Dog Gone Good Food.”

“Ric’s” is run by Howard, an outgoing, affable gent who greets customers the second they pull on the door handle. He’s as engaging as the lengthy menu. He did not explain who “Ric” is, but then I didn’t ask.

Menu selection ranges from Chicago style hot dogs via local legendary  quality supplier Vienna Beef, to chopped steak burgers, deli sandwiches, wraps, salads, and plated entrees.  Greek foods comes from another quality local supplier, Kronos.

Burgers start out with 1/3 pound hand-formed patty (diminutive size also available), and I went with one of Ric’s ‘specialty burgers’ – the Greek, where the beef patty is topped with feta and chopped Kalamata olives. Going all out into the Greek arena, I asked if I could please have some tzatziki on the side. Tzatziki is a Greek inspired sauce (or dip) made from yogurt, cucumbers, dill and garlic.

I had a mind to smear it on the burger, which I did, but discovered it’s an excellent alternative to Ranch as a fry dipping sauce.

On the subject of fries? Ric’s gives you five choices. Fresh cut, crinkles, seasoned curlys, cottage, and cheddar. Rings, battered ‘shrooms and cauliflower round the the fried sides menu. He also offers ‘skins and bakers.

I went with the fresh cut, which were an absolute joy, seriously, but I’ll have to go back to try the rings and cottage fries. Based on my first visit, well worth the trip. The fresh cut fries were piping hot, fried perfectly, lightly salted.

I have a habit of disassembling my burgers at the start, checking them out. It’s also important to me to taste the patty, unadulterated, as quality, flavorful beef has to be at the heart of every great burger.

I have to pause here, and say, in all seriousness, I’ve had burgers in probably 50 countries, for which I have spent anywhere from fifty cents to fifty dollars, and this is one of the finest patties I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Great beefy flavor. A great grind providing great texture in the bite experience. Lightly seasoned to complement the true beef taste.

(Don’t you hate biting into a fast food burger and realizing it could just as easily be called “fried protein puck”). Meats should taste like the animal they come from, and Ric’s fits the bill.

Toppings were top quality, both the creamy feta and the Greek olives. The bun was bakery soft, yet sturdy enough to hold any toppings you are to pile on your burger.

The restaurant and washrooms were sparkling. Beverage choices include fountain, cans, bottles, brewed ice tea and shakes.

The Google tells me the restaurant is 14.8 miles from my door, 27 minutes by car, an hour and a half by bike, or 5 hours walking.

I don’t have a bike. But I’d walk. You should to…or drive. Anyway, go there. Eat. Enjoy the food. Enjoy Howard.

In a city where there are a reported more than 1500 places selling hot dogs and Chicago fare, you sure have to admire the mom and pop outfits that slug it out every day in a crazy, competitive business segment.

They deserve our support.  Here’s the whole menu.

Rics Dog Gone Good Food Review

Greek Burger w/ Fresh Cut fries


Rics Dog Gone Good Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Rics Dog Gone Good Food Review

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Two of My Favorite Tuna Recipes

Favorite Tuna RecipesMy late mother made tuna a regular part of our family’s meal rotation. One was an entree, what we call in Minnesota a “hotdish.”

Her recipe called for two cans of tuna, drained, stirred into a  can of cream of mushroom soup simmering in a sauce pan.

It was plated by ladling it piping hot over crunchy “Chinese noodles.”

We affectionally called the dish (polite version) “tuna stuff.”

Tuna melts entered the scene as we got older, and she followed a pretty standard recipe. As we children got older, we all adapted our own variations to our individual tastes.

My long term tuna melt recipe is to take two cans of solid  white in water, drain, break up with a fork in a mixing bowl. Add in 1 T of mayo, and 1 of yellow mustard.

My mom would add in diced dill pickles or celery for crunch. I’ve elevated it to used diced quality Kalamata olives. On white toast,  covered with your favorite cheese, under the broiler til the cheese is bubbling. I like mine when the cheese takes on a  little burn!









Favorite Tuna Recipes

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Middendorfs Review, New Orleans

Middendorfs Review New Orleans CatfishI love this place.  Been in regular attendance for the past two decades.  They’ve had their share of troubles, flooded twice cause of storms, but they keep coming back, stronger and better than ever.

Caveat one:  this is a New Orleans AREA restaurant, not in the city, it’s about a 30 minute drive north on I-55. It sits perched on the edge of Lake Maurepas, which in turn empties into Lake Ponchartrain. There’s a nice outdoor deck when the weather is nice, which it usually is.

Middendorfs, like a lot of area restaurants, serves tons of local seafood, prepared in all manners and styles, but deep fried is the New Orleans way; you can get giant combo platters of shrimp, oysters, fish, and crab. But most people go for a dish unique to the restaurant, deep fried catfish filets, but they’re cut lengthwise into paper thin slivers. Unique. Crispy. Tasty.  Dinners come with fries, slaw and hush puppies.  Never had any use for the latter, personally.

You can get a piece of beef or chicken if you insist, and there is an adequate ankle biter menu. You can get raw or BBQ oysters or delicious gumbos as a side or starter.

I only get here once every few years, and I hope they keep on and on.  It’s my place for ‘cat’ in the New Orleans area. (Oh and they also serve them whole, bone-in, if you like it that way).  I like to bring out of town company here. If I haven’t taken you, it’s because I hate you.

Middendorf’s Menu.


Middendorf's Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Middendorfs Review

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