Archive for the ‘Steak’ Category
A frozen entree, with mash potatoes and cream gravy. Boston Market, like many companies, does not actually produce this product, but licenses their name to Bellisio Foods, a company I know a bit about.
Both companies were started on a shoestring in Northern Minnesota, by local son of an immigrant entrepreneur, Jeno Paulucci. He built both companies to attain tens of millions in annual revenue, and sold them off, Chun King first, to RJ Reynolds, followed by Jeno’s, which was spun to General Mills to combine with their own “Totino’s” brand.
Most of these foods were produced in my hometown of Duluth, MN, until Jeno had a hissy fit, threatened to move production out of state, and ultimately did – to Ohio. Jeno could be incredibly generous and civic minded, and meaner than moose piss other times.
Years later, he starts a new frozen food company, “Michelina’s,” also based in Duluth (including some production) which he builds up by acquiring other brands in the segment. Jeno was successful in building another monster company, with production facilities around the country, and distribution around the world.
A number of qualified buyers approached him during the last part of his life, but he rebuffed them all, asking far more than the company was worth. Finally, literally on his deathbed, a transaction was negotiated, but for less than the company was worth. Fine tuning the operations, the principles flipped the company a few years later to a Thai conglomerate, and made a bundle.
So now you know where this product comes from – intellectually. Physically, it is produced in a factory in Jackson, OH, about a hundred miles east of Cincinnati.
“TV dinners” were introduced by the Swanson Company in 1953-1954. Swanson was started in 1899 and is stilled around, owned by Pinnacle Foods (formerly Vlasic). The dinners came in tinfoil trays, with separate compartments for entrees, vegetables, and starches. They were heated in a conventional oven – from frozen – for about an hour. They weren’t very tasty.
Today, they are microwave friendly, of course, packaged in plastic, a few minutes from frozen to ‘edible’ tho I still use a conventional oven if the directions are on the box as an option. Which is what I did today, about 45 minutes at 350, with a ‘potato stir’ in the middle.
And here’s what I say about every single “heat and eat” fried thing I try. After sixty years, don’t you think they could have figured out the science to make crispy things crispy? There are few experiences worse than biting into something you expect to be crispy/crunchy, and having it have practially zero texture.
I like chicken fried steak for breakfast, so I prepped it that way, added eggs, toast. Usually mashed potatoes aren’t a breakfast dish, are they? But that’s how this meal is packaged. How were the potatoes? Better than fast food, not as good as those heat and eat tubs they sell nowadays.
Tactile experience aside, the flavor of the meat was OK. As was the gravy, but the plate (pictured) becomes one big mess, not at all (of course) like the corporate marketing image. It might help to put the gravy in a separate ramekin. Just sayin’.
They’re all about the same. At restaurants, you hit the jackpot when you find a cook that makes his own. Would I buy this again? Nah. Just did for the novelty, and for the sake of YOU. LOL.
Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review
Name of the town is Bigfoot. No relation to the legendary monster whom we never see, because Noah didn’t let him on the ark. Along with the dinosaurs.
Blink and you’ll miss Bigfoot. There’s a cemetery. A used car dealer. A closed manufacturing facility of some sort, and a “Welcome to Illinois” highway sign. The Bigfoot High School is in Walworth, WI, a few miles north.
Bigfoot is also home (since the mid 1940s) to the Bigfoot Inn, a survivor of a dying breed of restaurants in the Upper Midwest we call “Supper Clubs,” which wikipedia defines as “a dining establishment generally found in the Upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. These establishments typically are located on the edge of town in rural areas.”
Supper clubs became popular during the 1930s and 1940s, and generally feature “simple” menus with somewhat limited offerings featuring “American” cuisine. Menus include dishes such as prime rib, steaks, chicken, and fish. An all-you-can-eat Friday night fish fry is particularly common at Wisconsin supper clubs.
Full meals are quite inclusive, starting with a relish tray, cracker basket or rolls and butters, and entrees generally include soup, salad, starch and vegetable. Some establishments even include dessert.
The Bigfoot Inn is no exception to the aforementioned generalities, but their menu is quite extensive, features daily and nightly specials, and offers an AYCE champagne brunch on Sundays. The establishment is open seven days, has a large, full bar, and video gambling machines.
Spoiler alert. Was I ever impressed! Our server “the guy from Elkhorn,” was informed and attentive without being intrusive. He knew the menu and the area well. He boasted that everything was made from scratch, and after eating (btw, servings are HUGE), I had no reason to doubt his claim. I over ordered, because there were so many good things on the menu.
Started with appetizers of saganaki (flambed cheese, a Chicago thing) and perfect onion rings, large cut, nice breading, mildly seasoned, fried perfectly.
Along with the appetizers came complimentary crackers, rolls, butter, and cheese spread (another geographical thing). Soup? Yes please, and a tale from the server of when he met the actual “Soup Nazi.” Salad, with a wide choice of dressings, and then the entree; they come with vegetables and a choice of many different starches. With my Wienerschnitzel Holstein style, I went with steak fries. Couldn’t finish the steak or the even start on the fries, was too full with the prelims.
Also at the table, perfectly grilled, inch thick pork chops, a huge spud with all the fixins’ brought without asking.
$70 for two dinners, two appetizers, an adult beverage, and worth every nickle. Actually, I think the place is under priced, but don’t tell them.
Will I return? You bet. The bottomless champagne brunch (Sundays only) is around $13! Egad! The Washington Times did an interesting bit on Wisconsin supper clubs. I was recently at another, “Donny’s Girl,” which apparently I didn’t write about. It was out in the sticks, kinda hard to find, but worth the trek.
For me, “discovering” someplace “new” is a kick. Even if the entire rest of the world knows about it. I get suggestions on places to stop from friends, acquaintances, strangers, locals and world travelers alike – look at tourism materials, websites, stop and ask people on the street.
But the thing that jazzes me the most is finding someplace that nobody mentions, and discovering a restaurant or experience that everybody SHOULD mention, because it is just so unique and delightful, you want to share it with the whole world, but at the same time, hope that nobody ever discovers it, because you want it to remain exactly the way it is, forever.
I found one of those places in Greenwood, Mississippi, but the more I talked about it after the visit, the more I have found out I may well be the only person that did NOT know about it. In the oft chance you haven’t had the pleasure, I am here today to tell you all about Lusco’s, a very unique dining experience in Mississippi Delta Country.
Walking through the front door of Lusco’s is to experience the cliché “like walking back in time,” but that’s the only way it can be described. A small grocery at this location since 1933, my first thought was “this ain’t the place, this IS a grocery,” with a small counter and shelves behind the counter stocked with bodega-like provisions. But an amiable hostess led us through a curtain at the back of the store and through a series of old hallways covered with an original stamped tin ceiling, back to a partitioned area of small wooden partitioned private rooms, with curtains offering privacy from the world and the rest of the restaurant. Surely nothing has changed within these walls in the past 70 years – not the paint, not the light fixtures, not the wall decorations – not even the small electric buzzer one can use to summon the staff when you are ready to order or need another cocktail.
Founders Charles and Marie Lusco and their three daughters added the partitioned booths to their grocery to serve customers who largely came for Papa Lusco’s homemade brew. The advent of World War 2, the opening of several military bases in the area, and a train station directly across the street that disgorged hundreds of traveling GI’s, and Lusco’s reputation grew as soldiers returned home and mentioned this unique establishment. It’s reputation continued to grow with the flux of travelers and locals alike during the years of prosperity after the war, when cotton was king in the Delta, and planters and local businessmen entertained their guests at Lusco’s.
Presently being operated by the 4th generation of family members, very little has changed at Lusco’s.
We started with an off the menu appetizer, baked oysters wrapped in bacon, large juicy pearls of Gulf oysters served on the half-shell, followed by a half-order of Lusco’s Onion Rings which was too large to finish. Other favorite starters include seafood cocktails or broiled shrimp in Lusco’s special hot sauce.
The dozen or so salads, ranging from $3.50 to $8.95 have a decidedly Mediterranean bent – often adorned with anchovies, capers, and olives, with the top of the line offering including fresh lump crabmeat, bell pepper, celery, tomato and egg tossed in a special dressing. Add-ons are available for the salad – extra heaping portions of shrimp, crabmeat, lives, capers, or feta.
Entrees are “plain and simple:” steaks, seafood and chicken. Steaks are sold at market price because they are cut in-house, so one can request a variety of sizes to fit one’s appetite on the day in question. I opted for an 8 oz filet, which I ordered “bleu,” and it was prepared perfectly. At “market
price,” it came in at $25.00.
Entrees include a small salad, and choice of starch. Beef can be cut to serve two as well, a nice touch; a single porterhouse can weigh in as much as 28 ounces, if you’ve a mind to ingest all of that.
Fish offerings include fresh cat, snapper and pompano filets (it’s nice to see pompano on a menu these days), broiled only, specify having it served “wet or dry” (with or without Lusco’s fish sauce, a garlic-butter-seafood stock based accompaniment. Add their unique crabmeat topping for $4.25 more.
A variety of broiled shrimp and crabmeat offerings round out the mains, with a broiled or fried half chicken also available. One additional choice, handmade rigatoni with homemade red sauce completes the offerings, and is also the least expensive item on the menu at $8.25.
In addition to baked potatoes, rice, and fries, sides include two additional gravies: a plain mushroom, or a mushroom and garlic, for those who like that addition to beef dishes. I didn’t have room for dessert (I seem to never get to it), but Lusco’s offers some refreshing choices, including flan and a crème de menthe parfait, as well as the usual regional specialties.
Service is what you want it to be at Lusco’s, with the “buzzer/waiter” option. Ring and they come. Don’t ring, and they won’t bother you. You’re behind a curtain in a private booth, free to enjoy your meal and your company.
Lusco’s offers only soft drinks and beer for beverage choices. Set-ups and ice area available if you BYOB, which is encouraged. Corkage fee is:
How great is that?
Open nightly, Lusco’s is “off the beaten path” at 722 Carrollton Avenue, in the “old downtown” of Greenwood. Call them at 601-453-5365 to check on hours before heading up. Greenwood is approximately 4.5 hours up I-55, and a half hour west of the Interstate on US 82 West.
(This is from my archives, the restaurant has changed hands and done some remodeling; I haven’t visited since that happened)
In a city known for great seafood, and as I have written before, I’m delighted there are so many great steakhouses here. Especially ones that have endured w/o change over the years. For the past 70 years, Charlie’s has been selling the “sizzle” right along side the best of them, but doing it with considerable panache despite being a “bare-bones” operation. (No pun intended).
Charlie’s doesn’t take reservations, and doesn’t bother to print menus. With less than a handful of choices to make, your waiter will run through the choices aloud, standing next to your table: “small, medium, or large T-Bone, or 9 oz filet; au gratin or fried potatoes; iceberg wedge salad with dressing.”
Except of course, he’ll ask you if you want onion rings for an appetizer, which, of course, you should say “yes” to. Charlie’s rings are the think and crispy kind, and one order is probably enough for two couples to share. There were two of us at dinner last night, and we hardly made a dent in the pile, despite ravenous appetites and the taste treat in front of us. (Note, Charlie’s is one of the few places that makes their rings with a seasoned flour especially FOR the onions – it’s not a seafood batter, and contains no corn meal).
Dinner moves along at a pretty fair pace – when you’ve been preparing these few items for this many decades, you get your systems down to a science.
We started with the iceberg wedges, both opting for Charlie’s very thick and creamy blue cheese dressing – at least 6-8 ounces on a 1/3 head of lettuce with a few tomato wedges. The dressing might just be the best in town. I just said creamy, tho, didn’t I, and creamy is not the correct description. It’s packed full of chunks of blue cheese crumbles, full of flavor and bite.
The steaks came just as we were finishing the salads (well, we didn’t finish, they were too big), and were cooked and served precisely as ordered. Diners are lectured by their waiters not to touch the plates (the bubbling sizzle is even audible), but a disbeliever at the table next to us didn’t pay attention to the instructions, and spent the rest of his dining experience with one hand stuck in a glass of ice water.
We chose their famous au gratin potatoes as a side, and it was overkill — soaking in sharp cheddar, which had a nice cap of broiled, black cheese covering it, we barely managed a couple of spoonfuls each. Nor did either of us manage to finish the filets. Desire is one thing, capacity is another.
As always, we skipped desert – which traditionally at Charlie’s is a heaping bowl of local favorite Angelo Brocato’s spumoni; but we did have coffee, which we weren’t charged for.
The waiter, as is the custom there, I am sure, asked if we wanted to take any of the leftovers home, and I said no, but being the “funny guy” that I am, I reached for the Worcestershire and said “But I am taking this.”
The waiter replied “hold on a second,” turned around, and placed an unopened bottle in front of me, and said “at least take a new one.”
We were in/out, and fully sated in less than 90 minutes. Charlie’s attracts a very mixed crowd of blue-hairs from the neighborhood, students, and people that are just plain lost and stumble in.
When you walk in, you think you might be in the wrong place, as you see a small bar on your left, the kitchen in front of you, and no tables in site. But you’ll quickly be shown a table, and the rest of the evening’s enjoyment is left to you.
The restaurant is short on ambience, but big on quality and flavor, and, after all, isn’t that what we are paying for?
Charlie’s is off Napoleon, right behind Pascal’s Manale… Lunch Tue-Fri, dinner, Tue-Sat. 4510 Dryades Street. 504-895-9705. No reservations. Casual. Off street parking available.
Charlies Steak House Review
I have written about the joys of going to an establishment where they remember you – your likes, your dislikes; or are willing to prepare something “off the menu” to your liking. But I find a certain comfort, as well, in being a regular at a place where just the opposite is true – they savor and protect your anonymity, and everyone is treated the same.
Such has been my experience with my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles – the venerable “Musso and Frank” Grill, in Hollywood, which purports to be Hollywood’s oldest restaurant (1919) and certainly can count itself as the sole survivor of the former plethora of “old Hollywood” celeb hangouts like The Derby, Ciro’s and Chasens. In a city where nothing remains the same, and a historical site draws real estate speculators instead of preservationists, Musso and Frank is always there, always the same. I’ve been dining at M&F for 30 years, and I’m still a stranger and family at the same time, each and every time I visit.
M&F’s has always been a Hollywood favorite – from as far back as the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett – and continues this day with frequent visits from the likes of Woody Allen, Al Pacino, a virtual who’s who list in Hollywood. The dark wood paneled walls, crowded booths, and geriatric waiters have all survived the decades – as has the menu. Where else can you find Welsh Rarebit, Jellied Consommé, or stuffed celery on a menu – with not sign of penne, pesto or anything remotely classified as noveau or fusion in sight?
You’ll start your dining experience as all customers do, with your linen-tablecloth adorned table being graced with a pitcher of water, ample real butter, and a plate of their ‘signature’ rye bread – tho the regular can be heard to ask for a “basket of butts” signifying to the waiter that 1) they have been here before, and 2) they prefer the ends of the loaf to the thick sliced slabs from the middle of the loaf.
The menu is lengthy. Entrees are separated into “ready to eat” and “cooked to order” categories. It’s noted that some entrees may take up to 40 minutes to prepare.
But you won’t care – you’ll just slam back another martini or perhaps a mint julep (William Faulkner used to get behind the bar and mix his own), while you are waiting; or perhaps you’ll doodle the outline of your next screenplay on a scrap of paper while you munch on a butt.
M&F is an assured “celebrity-spotting site” for tourists (I say tourists, because a native Los Angelean would never ‘bother’ a celebrity in public). The last time I dined there, I had Fred Willard and a lady friend on one side of me, Rip Torn and a friend/colleague on another. Willard was very gracious; Torn was very drunk.
And me? I emulated Willard and Torn both, and got graciously drunk….
M&F is open from 11-11 Tuesdays thru Saturdays at the corner of Hollywood and Cherokee.
If you’re a “regular” or a “regular wannabe,” you’ll enter thru the back door…
Musso and Frank Review
Always been curious about this place, which advertises heavily along the interstate. They also have another Missouri location and one in Foley, Alabama. They are known for “throwed rolls” – servers walk around the room with tins full of piping hot popovers, diners raise their hands, and a roll is pitched to them. (Note of caution, the servers are wearing GLOVES, cause the damned things are HOT).
This “country themed menu” restaurant also includes “pass arounds” with each meal; servers walk through the rooms with buckets/pans of fried okra, sorghum, black eyed peas, apple butter, fried potatos, and mac and tomatos. The night I was there, despite sitting right near the kitchen door, the “pass arounds” were seemingly in short supply. While the sorghum girl frequently passed, potato guy and okra person were nowhere to be seen for the entire meal.
Entrees (like catfish, fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chops and the like) come accompanied by your choice of two or three sides from an extensive list (beans, taters, slaw, cornbread, tater salad, greens, veggies and the like).
I went with chicken fried steak, which came with mashed potatoes, gravy, and I chose greens and white beans for my sides. Surprisingly, this is one of the better chicken fried steaks I have had, and if you are a regular reader, you know I have tried them in a lot of different places.
Food is delivered very quickly, seeming to indicate there is some pre-cooking done, as this is a massive place, but it didn’t seem to affect the quality or taste.
The only annoying thing (for me) is the constant honky tonk piano music.
One of the oldest operating restaurants in New Orleans, and generally regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the country, Galatoire’s is emblematic of fine cuisine in the Big Easy. I’ve had dozens of spectacular meals there. Unfortunately, our Revillion dinner, on Christmas eve, was not one of them. Revillion menus are set price, multi-course holiday dinners. Galatoire’s offering pays tribute to local ingredients.
As you might expect, the restaurant is extremely popular for these meals, and at this time of year, but with advance reservations, we were seated prior to our actual reservation time. All good so far.
My personal menu selections included starters of a Shrimp Scampi dish, followed by Lobster Bisque, a Beef filet with red wine reduction and creamed spinach, and a flan-like dessert.
The “Scampi” was an interesting approach to the traditional prep, with a number of hot, seasoned, shrimp perched atop a piece of crispy bread that had been marinated in shrimp and butter liquids. Very nice.
The soup arrived, and the four of us at the table received a wide range of temperatures for the soup – unfortunately, the range started at tepid and went all the way down to cold. Any attempts to get the server’s attention to get new, hot servings, fell on deaf ears. She made a major server faux pas at this point, and said she was busy with a “very large table.” Tsk. Tsk.
The entrees arrived prior to the return of the soup, and they too, were room temperature. They were probably plated beautifully in the kitchen, but the server had apparently jiggled them enough en route that the wine reduction had splashed all over the plates.
By that point, we had given up trying to convince the server to rectify matters, and (reluctantly) said a word to the manager, “Billy,” who offered to “make things right,” to our satisfaction.
Two soups reappeared, and oddly, they kitchen had just nuked the partially eaten soups instead of sending a new serving. Soup has splashed and dried along the inside of the bowl, and wasn’t very appetizing in appearance.
Billy reappeared, and his solution to the experience was to shower us with as many cocktails and desserts as we cared to consume. We indulged, but didn’t take advantage, of course.
He also sent around a “prepared table side” special flaming coffee for the whole party. Nice effort, but too little too late.
He did step up with the bill tho, and whacked about 25% off the tab, which was unexpected. So the Revillion dinner for four with cocktails, desserts, after dinner drinks, came out to about $240. A good value for Galatoire’s and for the season.
Will I return? Absolutely – as I said at the top, I’ve had dozens of great meals here. Most diners at the restaurant are used to being waited on by servers that have worked their for decades, and maybe our person (who was young) was new, and to her, it was just a job.
Galatoires Revillion Fail
Best Steak Houses used to be all over the Twin Cities, or at least places like this with the same name. This one has been around for 40 years. When I started going to them, you could get a complete steak dinner, meaning steak, baked potato, salad and texas toast, for between $2 – $4. Today the range is more like $6- $12 on average, with some up charges and add-ons available. I was in the mood for “chopped steak,” simply because you don’t see it on menus very often. (And after all, the name of the site isn’t “Steak, Dogs, & Pizza!”)
You wait in a line up front and tell the grill man your order, there is no discussion of “doneness” or anything. Move on down the cafeteria style line, pick up your tray, silver, and make a salad from the selection of fixins, which are not in abundance or up market. (Genuine face bacos!) But hey, this is value dining!
While the menu says each dinner comes with a potato, it means “baked potato” and there is a 99 cent up charge for fries, but why the hell not? They are fresh cut, cooked to order for each diner, and plopped on the plenty in quantity. Perhaps a pound?
I made my salad, paid, and you’re told to wait at the register for your order, it will be right up, and it is. One mystery to me was that some people got two slices of Texas toast, and others got one. Didn’t seem to coincide with any menu selection or price. I think I figured out it had to do with your politeness in line (I’m not kidding, some of the people are just damned nasty to grill guy). So anyway, I got two pieces, and if you’ve read this blog at all, you know I’m all about the Texas toast!
The meat was great, flavoful, and a host of condiments, steak sauces are on the table. I couldn’t finish the fries, but I’d be damned if I was leaving them behind! Seriously, some of the best fries I’ve had in a long time!
Best Steak House is kind of north and east of downtown St. Paul, open for lunch and dinner seven days, and you can get the whole dinner at lunch time for less than $6.00.
You should check them out. They also have fried shrimp, gyros, and burgers for the kids. Daily specials as well. Menu.
Best Steak House Review
I’ve written a whole lot about the products from Cincinnati-based Advance Pierre, the premiere “heat and eat” and “gas station sandwich” maker in the U.S. Often, besides in vending and C-stores, you’ll find their frozen products at dollar stores.
You know how much I love chicken fried steak? I’ve tried it all over the country, both from restaurants and the heat and eat varieties.
This product was made in the plant pictured below, and is comprised of beef, mechanically separated turkey, and, not kidding, about 150 other ingredients. Nuke of 90 seconds, stir “gravy,” nuke another 30, let sit for 30, and then “enjoy.”
Now ordinarily, I’d put this product in the category of “I tried so you don’t have to.” But I didn’t really “try” it. I had one bite and it was so awful, I couldn’t go on.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef
“Think Jerky,” a Chicago start-up is doing just that, with flavors like Ginger-Orange and Sweet Chipotle Beef Jerky, and Siracha and “Thanksgiving” Turkey Jerky.
The brainchild of Michelin star chefs Laurent Gras, Gale Gand, and sustainability expert Chef Matt Troost, “Think Jerky” is out to change the way the industry and consumers perceive this traditionally tasty, but sometimes not so healthy protein snack.
Here is the chef/owner’s tick list for ingredients and sourcing:
- Grass Fed
- Free Range
- Paleo Friendly
- Family Farmed
- Gluten Free
- No Nitrates
- No Added Antibiotics
- No Added Hormones
Herbs and spices are substituted for the salt and chemicals employed by many large meat snack companies.
Packages of “protein snacks” and drinks are all the rage these days, but Think Jerky heads the list for quality ingredients and healthy nutrition.
The snacks are high in protein, lower in sodium,sugar and carbs as evidence by the nutritional contents of the Ginger Orange package I received.
There are a lot of reasons to enjoy the Ginger-Orange jerky. As you’ll note from the pic below, ThinkJerky uses whole muscle meat – this isn’t a chopped, pressed, formed or extruded product from a mystery meat slurry like a lot of meat snacks.
You’ll immediately like this because it’s less salty than mass marketed competitors, due to using tamari instead of regular soy. Tamari is a thicker, fermented, less salty soy, and ThinkJerky uses a gluten-free one, an additional benefit! (And no fake smoke flavor!)
The citrus flavor is there as a nice undercurrent and the ginger is more pronounced; it almost reminds me of South African meat snacks like biltong, which relies heavily on flavors like coriander and nutmeg. In other words, with ThinkJerky you get your meat snack fix on while enjoying some very refreshing flavor combinations. It’s a winner! Chef Gand came up with this flavor, and there is a short video of her talking about her thoughts on putting it together.
Oh, and by the way? You can help “Think Jerky” get to market a lot faster, and be one of the first to receive the product by participating in their Kickstarter campaign, now in full swing.
The product will be on shelves near you sometime this fall! (Samples were provided by Think Jerky).
Think Jerky Review