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Champion Frozen Pizza Review

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Champion Frozen Pizza Review

Champion Frozen Pizza ReviewChampion Pizza is a frozen pizza line started in 1981 in the microdot town of Hebron (Illinois, not Palestine).

Like many frozen pizzas in the Upper Midwest, they got their start supplying to restaurants and bars before landing shelf space in regional grocery stores. They also supply products for charitable fund raisers.

About their product, they say “We pride ourselves on using only the freshest ingredients that include our own hand made pizza sauce, freshly grated
mozzarella cheese and fresh raw italian sausage, not a precooked nugget.”

You can look in the window of their “factory” – the times I have, there has only been one person making pies. They boast about making nine different varieties in two sizes.

Surprisingly, you can’t buy the pizzas direct, but you can pick some up at the gas station at the end of the block, underneath the towns sole blinking red light.

The gas station is directly across the street from the Dari, local fast food establishment (reviewed), and across the other street from “Beaners” Mexican restaurant. (Hey, I just report, you decide).

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

Packaging. Cello wrapped on cardboard

Champion is in the “value pricing segment” of frozen pizzas, clocking in at around $5 for their large, single topping pie.

The crust is cracker thin, but never quite gets to cracker crispness, except for the edges. Not sure why. Even experimented with more time than the instructions stated.

The cheese person must have been out the day my pie was made.

It’s quality cheese but doesn’t run out to the edges, and unwrapping this pie, the paper stuck to the top, and some of the cheese was a little melted, so this baby must have thawed somewhere along the line and then was refrozen.

The hand pulled chunks are good. Good flavor, good texture. Smattering of herbs.

Will I add this to my go-to list of frozen pizzas. Nah. But good for them that a small operation can make a go in a segment where two global players have about a 90% share of the market, right?

And locals seem to like it a lot.

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

Out of the package

 

Champion Frozen Pizza Review

14 mins at 425

 

 

 

Champion Frozen Pizza Review Champion Frozen Pizza Review

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Caradaro Club Pizza Review – Milwaukee WI

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Caradaro Club Pizza Review Arguably Milwaukee’s oldest pizzeria, the Caradaro Club was started in the mid 40s, as the popularity of pizza grew in the US due to returning European theater GI’s, who had experienced in while serving.

Starting with a fully-proofed, very thin crust made with low gluten flour, the Caradaro is all about “tavern style” pizza, cracker thin crust, cut in small squares. Toppings are from quality suppliers and are amply distributed edge to edge on the pie. Fabulous cheese. Sauce leaning towards “sweet” as pure tomato products should.

I went for the “Works” a common configuration in Milwaukee, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and black olives. Ask for the “Kitchen Sink” if you want the “Works” plus anchovies.

The reputation of 75 years in business holds up. So often I go into a new city and hit the “area’s favorite” to find it’s a place resting on its laurels from decades ago. Not so with the Caradaro Club.

The proprietor “Wally” is affable and a story teller. You can take a minute to “meet him” in this video from a pizza trade magazine, starting at around the 2:20 market.

Here’s the menu, which is very pizza specific and brief. Caradaro stands by its pizza with three generations of pride, and has never felt the need to clutter up the offerings with the standard fare at big chains – wings, pasta bowls, and the like.

There are two locations, the original spot is open for take-out and delivery only, with the newer edition boasting ample seating – enough for large groups.

I get to Milwaukee every couple months. The Caradaro will be a regular stop from now on.

Caradaro Club Pizza Review

18 incher, “The Works”

 

Caradaro Club Pizza Review

Caradaro Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caradaro Club Pizza Review
Caradaro Club Pizza Review

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Buona Beef Meatballs Review – In Chicago Area Grocers

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Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Store Packaging

Buona Beef is a local Chicago restaurant chain, started about thirty years ago. They have been on an expansion tear recently, and it seems like they are popping up on a regular basis. As well, they have a few of their products in the grocery stores now. The chain specializes in “Chicago foods,” Italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, subs. I’ve previously written about having the beef sandwich in one of their restaurants, as well as having the same product from the grocer. Quality stuff.

They own their own manufacturing facility, where they not only make their products, but also do private label business. Not sure if that’s for restaurants or groceries.

I spotted their meatballs in sauce, recently, and picked up a package to take home. It was around $7. The packages are hard frozen, so it’s best (IMHO) to let them thaw completely in the refrigerator before heating (they are pre-cooked).

The package weight is two pounds, and contains eight fairly good sized meatballs and the marinara sauce. I did not weight the individual balls. There own description of the product is: Authentic hand-rolled meatballs, seasoned with garlic, parsley, and Italian spices in a rich Marinara.

The ingredients listed on the package are thus: Marinara with Meatballs (Marinara Sauce {Fresh Vine-Ripened California Tomatoes, Sugar, Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Modified Food Starch, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Spices, Natural Flavor, Naturally Derived Citric Acid], Meatballs [Beef, Pork, Water, Romano Cheese (Cultured Cow’s Milk, Enzymes, Salt), Textured Soy Flour, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Salt, Dextrose, Yeast), Seasoning (Salt, Dried Garlic, Spice, Dried Parsley, Brown Sugar, Cottonseed Oil, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Citric Acid, BHA, BHT), Ricotta Cheese (Whey, Milk, Cream, Vinegar, Salt, Stabilizers), Caramel Color]).

I was quite happy with the meatballs, they have the density, texture that I like, and great flavor. The sauce is good, but leans towards a little too much “sweet” for my personal taste, for red gravy I’m more in the heavy garlic/fennel camp.

My only real “beef” is I yearn for — say — a 24 pack of balls with no sauce. I’d be a regular.  More than regular.  I see their fresh (not frozen) Italian sausage in stores, as well. Haven’t tried it, but will. I go through a lot of Italian sausage in my kitchen, both link and bulk ground.

If you can’t find their products in your grocer, some of them are available for shipping on their website.

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Company marketing photo

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Thawed product at my house! 

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Size

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Cross section

Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Restaurant Review
Buona Beef Italian Beef Review

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Teasia Tea and Coffees Review

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Teasia Tea and Coffees ReviewAlthough only a few years old, Southern California’s “Teasia” have become known and praised for high quality teas,  coffees, and excellent customer service.

In the tea line, they specialize in K-cup products, with a variety of Oolong teas from Taiwan, and florals from around the globe.

I drink (literally) a bucket of coffee each day, from wake up to bedtime, and tho I have been able to partake in America’s favorite morning beverage on five continents, bought directly from growers, purchased green beans to roast at home, I honestly have never had coffee as superb as the line that Teasia puts out.

Concentrating on single origin,  small batch roasting, Teasia offers coffee from Africa, Asia, Central and South America. They always try their best to purchase Fair Trade beans.

The folks at Teasia sent me three different roasts to try: Guatemala Antigua, a Costa Rican, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. All three are medium roasts, single origin, whole bean.

Each were excellent in their own right, and I’m not sure I’d be able to pick a favorite. OK, I could, it is the Guatemalan. It’s very “bright” and you can detect the slightest hint of citrus and smoke. I ground it extra fine to use for espresso drinks, and it was the perfect.Teasia Tea and Coffees Review

I have not had Ethiopian coffee in the past. I’ve missed out. As a hot coffee, this one surprises you with a slight spice flavor and some floral. It’s very smooth, with no bitterness or acidic after taste.

In the summer, I’m all about iced coffee, nothing fancy, literally drip coffee on ice. Now that “cold brew” has come in to fashion, I can get the drink pretty much year around in a lot of outlets.

But I don’t always want to go on a hunt for it, so I’ve mastered it at home, and Teasia’s Costa Rican beans are perfect for it, and it’s so easy. Take a used liter water or soda bottle, rinse, put in a teaspoon of ground coffee for each six ounces of water. Fill it. Agitate. Place in the refrigerator overnight, at least. You can strain it into a new bottle through cheese cloth. I have a very fine mesh mini strainer, so I just pour out a cup or glass at a time. Costa Rican coffee may well be the smoothest you’ve ever had.

Teasia packs their coffee within 24 hours of their small batch roasting, and it is available in different sized airtight bags of whole beans. Their line is very competitively priced.

You can purchase teas and coffees online, directly from their Amazon store.

In the meantime, follow @teasiateas on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review – With Black Garlic and Wine Risotto

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Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review I personally think that the sudden glut of frozen heat and eat meals at the grocery is due to the success of the “meal kit” business.

Those deals where they send you portion cut ingredients and a recipe and it’s supposed to be so easy to create a gourmet meal with no fuss.  ( I tried them when they came out, read about that here. Spendy and no less work, sez I).

So all sorts of frozen food companies have come out with meals, kits, and there are fast food branded ones, and even the big grocery chains and WalMart have their own take on the concept.

My experiment today is from the Gorton’s company, (over 150 years old)  the people you’re used to buying crispy seafood filets and fish sticks that never get crispy.  This is a shrimp bowl, with ‘black garlic and wine” (sauce) rissotto.

I know a dozen people who won’t even try risotto from scratch at home, so this is a surprise.  In smaller print, there’s a reference to ‘parmesan cheese,’ but to me, that was the predominant flavor in the rice.

Here’s the full ingredient list: (Cooked arborio rice, Shrimp (Shrimp, salt, sodium di-, tri-, and polyphosphate [to retain moisture], sodium bisulfite and sodium citrate [preservatives]), water, mushrooms (mushrooms, water, salt), olive oil, cream, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, black garlic and wine seasoning (maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, vinegar solids, modified corn starch, spices, malic acid, dehydrated parsley, black garlic powder, soy lecithin, lactic acid, jalapeño pepper, white wine solids, natural flavors), onions, corn starch, garlic (garlic, water), butter, white wine (contains sulfites), sea salt, parsley, tara gum).

There were  about 8-9 shrimp in the bowl, which are frozen solid, of course, so when you microwave (three minutes, stir, one minute) a lot of the trapped moisture in the shrimp is going to escape and they are going to shrink.  So I added a half dozen, because I had them on hand, and I could.  There are mushrooms, which retained their texture well. They look like slices of baby bellas.  The box says a “hint of parmesan” but as I said above, I think it’s a pretty dominant flavor.

The risotto was creamy as it should be and the shrimp remained very firm, as they should be too.

Bottom line?  I surprised myself and liked it.  Not sure if it’s supposed to be two servings or not, it wouldn’t have been at my house.  It was a comfortably sized serving for me.

It was $5.99 and a bogo yesterday.  There’s a coupon below you might want to try.  Their Entire product line.   Where you can pick some up.

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Frozen, out of the box

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Plated after microwave

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Coupon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

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Harpers Country Ham Review

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Harpers Country Ham ReviewMan I love good ham. OK, I love bad ham, too.  But “country cured” – a dry cure lengthy process with salt, hickory smoked,  that’ll get me everytime. I’ve driven back roads of Missouri, Virginia, the Carolinas and Kentucky in search of small processors.

I’d never heard of Harper’s, even tho they’ve been around since 1952, and I might not have ever heard of them as they suffered a devastating fire last year and had to look around for a frenemy to cure their pork for them.  Which they found in “Goodnight Brothers” of Boone, NC.

I ran into these hams at BOOMLAND!  a retail oddity on I-57 (and two other locations) in Missouri. Giant fireworks stores, knick-knacks, regional foods, ice cream parlor, and discount tobacconist.  I prefer the boneless biscuit size slice packages (which are only biscuit sized if your biscuits are the size of a small frisbee).  I bought all they had.  It was a BOGO thing.  It freezes fine.

Country cured ham can be very salty. Many people give it a simmer in water prior to frying, baking, whatever.  I’ve also known people who soak it in cold water overnight, or in the case of a whole ham, for several days.

I do or don’t, cause I love the flavor.  I eat it on its own as a snack, on sandwiches, but especially for breakfast.

Happy I found the product.  Sad I won’t run into it again for a few years.  Probably. Tho Goldbely has it for shipping from time to time it seems.

Harpers was the winner of the 2013 and 2014 National Champion Country Ham. 2013 Grand Champion Ham at Kentucky State Fair.

Harpers Country Ham Review

 

 

 

 

 

Harpers Country Ham Review

Harpers Country Ham Review

 

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Panamei Seafood Review – in Grocery Stores Nationwide

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Panamei Seafood ReviewPanamei is one of the brands available from Quirch Foods, an importer, exporter, distributor of quality products to groceries and industrial accounts.

They trace their roots back to the early 20th century in Cuba, then after 59, immigrated to Puerto Rico, set up there, and finally to establish a base in the Miami area, where they are today.

The work the entire gamut of food – beef, pork, poultry and seafood – fresh and frozen.

I was attracted to their frozen seafood because of specials one of my local grocers was running, several weeks in a row.  I hadn’t noticed the product line in the past.

First item up was one pound frozen blocks of lobster meat.  Their lobster comes from Central America. The package ingredients say: lobster. Period. You should slow defrost it in the frig for 24-36 hours. It is raw. I chose to steam it, then gave the meat a quick char under the broiler.  Mind you, this isn’t one or two small tails, this is loose meat, from tails and claws.  Good for sandwiches, salads, bisque, bouillabaise, and casseroles.

The reason I broke the speed limit to get to the store the day I noticed the product in the circular, is because it was marked at $7.  A pound. Lobster meat.

And it was delicious.  Yes, there are a few packs in the freezer.  This time around it evolved into tasty lobster rolls, split buttered, toasted bun, slight memo and finely diced celery bits in the salad.

Following week it was shrimp.  Good size (13-15), great value at $6 a pound.  Sourced from Southeast Asia, package ingredients, shrimp, salt, water.  The flesh was very flavorful and firm.  It was great on skewers on the grill. I’m damned picky about my shrimp, having lived in New Orleans for years. This meets the grade. Yes, I stocked up on this, also.

Check the products out if you run across them. Don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Panamei Seafood Review

 

 

Store locator.

Panamei Seafood Review

Panamei Seafood Review

 

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Wahlburgers At Home Review – Ground Beef at the Grocery

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Wahlburgers At Home ReviewSo the Wahlberg family from Boston, ex con, one celebrity, one half celebrity, one fry cook, one overbearing parent.

Start a burger restaurant, sign lots of expansion deals – “coming soon” is their most famous location. Wahlburgers they call it.

They’ve made a big deal with the Iowa-base grocery chain of Hy-Vee, which is attempting to set the pace in the new genre of “groceraunt.” Yeah, we’ll see.

They expanded to grocer counters as a premium brand of patties or bulk, at my store in the range of $8 a pound.

Blend of chuck, brisket and short rib. Blends are the new “thing” in burgers. New as far as the mass market, not new to high end suppliers to restaurants.  I pan fried a patty, and found it had more than adequate beef  flavor, but is a very fine grind (not my preference). Curiously, there was  nearly 1/2 c grease left in skillet from 1 lb burgers. But the patties crumbled. So lean to begin with or all the fat cooked out?  I can’t anwer that.

(Note broken patty on bun pic) Be a disaster on an outdoor grill, me thinks. Odd labeling on package: “Color is not a good indication of
freshness.” (Tested without condiments or seasoning). Worth $8 a pound? Nope.

According to the USDA plant number on the package, the Wahlbergs have contracted with AVA Pork of New York, to make and package the product.  AVA has been supplying institutional users since 1985, primarily in pork.

Want to visit one of their restaurants? Locations.

I tried one of the competitors recently, Schweid & Son, which I wrote about here. So the Wahlbergs aren’t going to be on my shopping list regularly, but I do wish them success.

If money was no object, I’d put Creekstone Farms as my favorite ground beef supplier, found in a lot of fast casual restaurants, like The Company Burger in New Orleans.  Pat LaFrieda, who sells to Shake Shack, would be number two, and these Schweid fellas come in third.

 

 

 

 

Wahlburgers At Home Review

Wahlburgers At Home Review

 

 

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Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

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Schweid & Sons Burger Patties ReviewDifferent blends of beef for burgers have been the rage for awhile.

The method not only provides distinctive flavor and texture, but also gives processors a premium product.

Until recently, you only ran into these in restaurants, unless you have an able butcher who was willing to do it for you in-house.

Schweid & Sons is a large purveyor of quality ground beef, with a meat business heritage that dates back more than 120 years. Starting in New York’s Lower East Side, eventually, succeeding generations of family members chose to focus only on ground beef, and moved to a modern federally inspected factor in New Jersey (pic below),, just five miles from midtown Manhattan.

The company has grown exponentially with the rise in burgers as a steady part of American diets.  They furnished the Five Guys chain with meat when they had just a few stores, and still do today. The serve a host of other regional chains as well as the East Coast locations of Fatburger.

Schweid has expanded to the retail market and placed their attractively packaged products in grocery stores across the country.  They have a number of different blends.

(Sidebar – I crave finding a burger in a restaurant where the meat patty stands on its own as exceptional – thinking I could do that at home has been only a dream).

I opted for their C.A.B Blend – Chuck and brisket, tho the packaging does not say what percentage. They start with Certified Angus Beef, a designation and label you’re probably used to seeing in your deli or meat counter.

The package (fresh, not frozen, tho I can’t say whether or not they were frozen in transit), contains four patties of 5.3 ounces each.  Which at my store, works out to just north of $6 per pound.

I cooked mine on the grill with a quick sear on each side then low and slow to very rare. Condiment free, I nestled the patties onto a kaiser.  You can see the thickness of the raw patty in my hand below, compared to the cooked on – very little shrinkage.

FOR MY MONEY, this is an exceptional burger. The texture is exactly my preference, and the patty tastes like beef, which you may think is a strange thing to say, but I’m a stickler for believing meat should taste like the actual animal. These are just great. Cliche, I know, but they really do taste like quality chopped steak.

There’s a whole host of frozen patties in the grocery freezers these days, some are pre-cooked, some not, some are no name, some are emblazoned with the name of known fast food restaurants.  I’ve tried most all of them and always been disappointed.  Here’s some of them.

I hope this experiment in wide spread distribution works for Schweid and Sons. I’d also be thrilled if they had some bulk one pound packages to use the product in recipe.

Here’s where you can find these fine, fine burgers near you.

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Packaging

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Patty thickness

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

On the grill – rare

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Processing plant

 

 

 

 

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

Schweid & Sons Burger Patties Review

 

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Outsiders Pizza Review – Nationwide Frozen Food Product

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Outsiders Pizza ReviewDo you remember when craft beer started to take off, to the surprise of the giant brewers?

So what did they do, they created spin-off “mini-companies” with new brews, and marketing them as such.  So we didn’t know that Miller (or whomever) was behind “Bob’s Garage Brew – the beer made with sink water from Bob’s house.”  Well, you get the idea.

So I stumble on this new frozen pie from “Outsider’s Pizza Company” someone I’ve never heard of, and according to the box, they are based in somewhere, Ohio.  “Interesting” I said to no one.

They had two pies in the frozen aisle, “Detroit style” and “Milwaukee style.”  I like Detroit style pizza, and to my knowledge, nobody in the segment is doing a frozen one.  None of the Detroit chains have expanded nationwide (like Buddy’s).  Little Caesars deep dish is a mass appeal version of the product, but not very true to the original.

A Detroit style pizza is rectangular, a thick crust which resembles focaccia bread, chewy, but extra crispy around the edges. This effect can come from one of two methods, running the cheese out to, past the edge of the pie and it drips down during baking making a caramelized edge. Or some places simply brush the crust with butter before baking.   Cheese.  Some apply a modest amount of sauce before baking, other insist on drizzling sauce after baking, not covering the entire surface, tho. Toppings are conventional.

IN ANY CASE, (geez, get to it, would you!!!??!)  the Outsider’s Pizza Company is like the giant beer companies microbrews – it’s actually part of the Nestle pizza line (which they acquired from Kraft) and includes DiGiornos, California Pizza Kitchen, Jacks, and Tombstone.

I’m gonna say Nestle’s frozen Detroit style pizza is a fairly good effort. Whoever comes into the market next will improve on the concept, undoubtedly.

The crust is ok, bread-like, and the edges have a modest caramelization, not complete.  I don’t care for the sauce which tastes, to me, awfully industrial, mass production. Cheese was adequate and the topping (salami) was flavorful.

Lo and behold, behold and low upon further examination, the pies are made in the same factory as DiGiornos, which isn’t even a Nestle factory, but a contract manufacturer down the street from me in Chicago.  Nation Pizza.

Here I wanted to actually be made by some “outsiders” so I could applaud their industry as a start-up.  Damn.

Outsiders Pizza Review

Baked pie, 27 minutes at 400.

Outsiders Pizza Review

Semi caramelized crust, note crust thickness

 

 

 

 

Outsiders  Pizza Review

Outsiders  Pizza Review

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