Category: Food Items (Page 1 of 19)

Home Run Inn Cheese Pizza Review

My new favorite frozen pizza

The final frozen pizza on sale at Safeway last week was Chicago’s Home Run Inn pizza. I got both a cheese and a pepperoni one and my daughter made the cheese. We both loved it. It’s hard to describe a pizza, but this one reminded me of the pizza served at La Vals in Berkeley when I want to college. It’s quite a bit thinner, but flavor wise it’s very close to what I can remember. It is probably my favorite frozen pizza ever.

Signature Reserve Wood Fired Gorgonzola & Bacon with Pear Chutney Neapolitan Style Pizza Review

A success!

Safeway had a bunch of frozen pizzas on sale this week, so it seemed like a good opportunity of giving them a try. I’m not generally fond of thin crusted pizza (which is what I gather Safeway means by “Neapolitan style”), but it’s overall healthier.

This flavor particularly intrigued me, as pear and gorgonzola pair beautifully and bacon could only make it better. This time, I was right. The flavors actually all worked very well and the pizza was very good. I’d have it again (despite its crispy, thin crust).

Gorgonzola by itself would be overwhelming, so the pizza also has mascarpone and Mozarella cheeses – but I had to read it in the box, as it’s not apparent. The predominant flavor is gorgonzola, but in a reasonable amount. I did like both the bacon and the arugula, but felt it could have used more of both. The pear came in the way of a very sweet chutney. Of course, fresh pears would be better – or even a less sweet chutney, but it did provide a nice note to the pizza.

It’s made me want to try the other pizzas from this series – though only as long as they’re on sale for $6.

Gino’s East of Chicago Deep Dish Gooey Mozzarella Cheese Pizza Review

The worst frozen pizza I’ve ever tasted

I absolutely love Chicago style deep dish pizza, so when I saw that Gino’s East of Chicago Deep Dish Pizzas were on sale at Safeway for $6, I had to give it a try. The reviews were so good that I got both a Mozzarella cheese one and a Supreme. Boy, was I disappointed!

The pizza tastes of one thing and one thing only: pasta sauce. And while it’s not a bad pasta sauce, it’s not a great one either. On top of some spaghetti, with some Parmesan cheese on top, I might even enjoy it. But it just does not belong on pizza. I am aware that the sauce for Chicago style pizza, unlike that for other pizzas, is cooked – so it lacks the fresh, fragrant flavor of raw sauce. But they still tend to taste different than pasta sauce. Zacchary’s, my favorite Chicago-style stuffed pizza chain in the Bay Area, uses a sauce very similar to just stewed tomatoes, which retains much of the freshness of the raw fruit. Gino’s sauce while still chunky, is really a melded sauce. It’s hard to describe other than it really makes you think of spaghetti sauce.

And while the sauce is on top, as is the custom for Chicago-style pizza, I couldn’t remove enough of it to be able to taste the other ingredients. It was just a mess. No one else in the family liked it either. I hate to waste food, but I ended up giving it to the dog.

It takes 45 minutes on a pre-heated oven to heat up this pizza. I was pre-warned by reading reviews, but you should be aware. At $6 for a 2 Lb pizza, it’s not a bad value while on sale. It should feed two people (or more if you are eating a salad or something else).

NYC Food Adventures: A NYC Hot Dog

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

NYC is famous for its hot dogs. Should it Be?

As part of my foodie trip to New York City, I wanted to try some of the city’s most iconic foods: New York style pizza, New York cheesecake, New York bagels, halal truck food and hot dogs.

Watch any movie or show based on New York City, and chances are you’ll see the protagonists getting a hot dog from a hot dog cart. These “dirty water” hot dogs – called that as they are boiled and rest in water before being moved into the bun – are famous, not only because they serve as a good prop for movies, but because they are supposed to have a special flavor due to being boiled in NYC’s superior water (maybe it’s all those tiny shrimp). But are they as good as the claims go? On our next-to-last day in NYC we set out to find out.

Finding a hot dog cart in Manhattan proved harder than we thought. There were plenty of halal trucks serving hot dogs – but then, that’s not exactly the same concept. It took us walking several blocks from our hotel to find a hot dog cart per se. And then, in Mike’s words, we had the whole New York experience by being charged $5 for the smallest hot dog ever. To add insult to injury, it just wasn’t that great.

Don’t get me wrong, the hot dog was fine. But then again, most hot dogs are fine. The $1.50 hot dog that you get at Costco was probably better, three times as large and comes with a soda. Of course, that’s a loss leader and you have to deal with the inconvenience of going to Costco, but that’s pretty much the only time I get hot dogs anyway.

The hot dog we got was from a cart labeled Sabrett – which is the same brand of hotdogs that seems to be for sale at most halal trucks. Maybe a Nathan’s hot dog would have been better. Or maybe, the allure of NYC hotdogs was the same than their 99-cents pizza slices: they were cheap. Now that they aren’t, it’s time to move on.

Sabrett branded hot dog stand
Corner of 7th Ave. & West 53rd
New York City



Safeway’s Signature Cafe Tomato Bisque is not Vegetarian

In the “battle” between Safeway’s and Panera’s Tomato Bisque, Panera is the clear winner.

I have never been a fan of soup – ramen excluded -, but I became fond of Panera’s creamy tomato soup during the pandemic. It’s warm, creamy and hearty – and most importantly, not too acidic – and feels just like a hug. In retrospect, it’s not a surprise that I would like it. It’s really just a thinner version of pasta sauce, and we all know that pasta is just a vehicle for sauce.

During the pandemic, when I still had kids at home (insert empty nest tears here), we usually got the soup as part of a family feast – my vegetarian daughter didn’t really like the sandwiches, but she did enjoy the soup. Later, I found out that they also sell the soup at the supermarket, it’s almost as good, and at $12 for 32 oz, it’s considerably cheaper than at the store (unless you are ordering a family feast). The store-bought soup is also vegetarian and, as I mentioned, quite tasty. Here are the ingredients: Tomatoes, Water, Heavy Cream, Onions, Contains 2% or Less of: Butter (Cream, Salt), Sugar, Salt, Spices, Corn Starch, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Nisin Preparation and Garlic.

This week, Panera tomato soup wasn’t available at Safeway, so I decided to get their Signature Cafe Tomato Basil Bisque instead. It looks very much like Panera’s and, truth be told, it doesn’t taste that differently. It’s a bit spicier – something I don’t really like -, and seems to have less umami than Panera’s, but it’s also very comforting and good. What it is not is vegetarian. The soup contains chicken base and chicken broth.

Safeway’s soup also uses tomato paste instead of tomatoes, as well as a variety of other ingredients to, I presume, enhance the flavor. That, I imagine, is the purpose of the chicken base and broth. It’s thus interesting that it’s not as tasty as Panera’s far simpler one. For just $2 less for a 32 oz container, it makes little sense to buy the Safeway Signature Cafe brand, unless the Panera brand is out of stock, or they change it.

Here are the ingredients for the Signature Cafe tomato soup:

Water, Heavy Cream, Tomato Paste, Contains 2% or Less of: Butternut Squash, Onions, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch Tomato Concentrate, Butter (Cream, Salt), Chicken Base (Chicken, Salt, Rendered Chicken Fat, Dextrose, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Safflower Oil, Chicken Broth, Turmeric), Organic Canola Oil, Cultured Dextrose, Garlic, Organic Roasted Tomato Flavor (Organic Tomato Puree [Organic Tomato Paste, Water], Sea Salt, Organic Molasses, Organic Soy Sauce [Water, Organic Soybeans, Salt], Organic Onion Powder, Natural Flavor, Yeast Extract, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Natural Flavor, Organic Canola Oil, Organic Spice), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Yeast Extract, Sea Salt, Basil, Beta-Carotene (for Color), Alpha-Tocopherols (Antioxidants, Citric Acid and Spice.

Filippo Berio Tomato & Ricotta Pesto – Review

I came across this product soon after having some complimentary bread with a creamy tomato sauce at some restaurant, probably Buon Appetito in Hayward. My daughter and I really liked it, so when I saw it, I figured I’d give it a try.

I hadn’t tried it until now but it tastes exactly as you would expect from the title/description. It basically taste like pesto, which has been mixed with some ricotta cheese and tomato sauce. The strongest flavor in the mix is the Grana Padano cheese, a cheap cousin to Parmesan, followed by the basil, which stands in the background. The tomato adds quite a bit of intense acidity to the mixture, while the Ricotta somewhat softens it, but can mostly be felt in the soft yet slightly chalky texture.

All in all, I enjoyed it quite a bit on French bread, but the acidity is such that you can’t eat too much of it. Still, it works well as a dip, and you could make interesting canapes with it. The producers also suggest as recommended uses: “Roasting or Basting Proteins and Vegetables, Baked into Bread, Layered with Pasta as Lasagna, Base for Creamy Soup”. I’d note that due to its intense flavor, less is likely to be more on any dinner dish.

Filippo Berio is a brand named after the namesake of the olive oil company he started. In addition to olive oils, they produce and sell balsamic vinegars, pestos and glazes. They seem to be base din Lucca, Italy and the pesto is made in Italy. It sells at my local Safeway supermarket for $6.60 (I bought it on sale 2 months ago for $2.50 and it’s currently on sale for $4).

Morning Star Vegan Meats: Are they Diabolic?

My vegan-cum-vegetarian daughter is very fond of Morning Star products, particularly the buffalo cik’n. But did you know that “Morning Star” is another term for “Lucifer“, aka “the Devil”?

I’d never had realized that if I hadn’t started watching both “The Sandman” and “Devil in Ohio*. Of course, I had to go to Wikipedia, where I found a not-very clearly written article on Lucifer. For what I can make up from it, it would appear that the planet Venus is known as the “morning star.” Venus is the closest planet to the earth and therefore the brightest “star” in the sky – but it’s particularly visible when it’s low in the horizon. As both the Earth and Venus orbit the sun, their relatively position changes, and approximately every 18 months Venus goes from appearing brightest right before dawn to appearing brightest right after sunset. It was thus known in ancient times both as the “morning star” and the “evening star.” I’m not clear if the ancients realized it was the same star.

In any case, the Latin name for Venus as the morning star was “Luciferus,” or “bringer of light”, from where we get the name “Lucifer”. As many astral bodies, Luciferus became personalized and given a family and vague mythology.

Meanwhile, there is a passage in Isaiah, in the Old Testament, where they refer to the King of Babylon by a Hebrew term that translates as “the shining one”, also understood to be Venus, aka “the morning star”. In the Vulgata and King James versions, they translated that word as “Lucifer,” while modern English versions use the term “morning star” or even “day star“. The passage describes the King of Babylon’s fall from grace – which you can compare to Venus, as the morning star, being seen low in the horizon before dawn. I guess the fall from grace motif caused “Lucifer” to become a name for the devil.

So, is eating Morning Star products a form of devil-worshipping? I mentioned it to my daughter and she laughed. More seriously, though, Morning Star is a product line that belongs to Kellogg’s, a company that has a history of exploiting/mistreating employees, false advertisement/lying to consumers, andincluding toxic ingredients in its cereals. That seems like quite evil/devilish behavior. So perhaps, by giving money to Kellogg’s and increasing its promising, we are rewarding evil and worshiping the devil in the only real way to do so.

* My daughter tells me that this is a also a well known fact to people who watch the show “Lucifer“, as the main character, the Devil, is called “Lucifer MorningStar,” but I never watched it.

Primal Kitchen Beef & Mushroom Bowl – Review

I found these frozen bowls at Grocery Outlet, I think for $4. I was impressed by the simple ingredients and “grass fed” beef so I figured I’d give them a try. It was fine, about the quality you expect from frozen food. The beef consists of “patty crumbles”, the mushrooms are limp and the sauce is basic a tomato sauce, a little bit spicy and a little bit undersalted. The dish is in need of a starch, some bread, rice or cornbread would probably compliment it nicely. Of course, they are sold to cater to the “paleo” market, thus their lack of carbs.

I did like that it came in what seems to be a compostable bowl and is covered with wax paper – but I have curve side composting. And the portion was large enough for a light lunch. I just wasn’t sold on the flavor.

Primal Kitchen, which started as a small company but was later acquired by Kraft, sells 3 frozen bowls – the other two are panang curry and chicken pesto. It’s not clear to me if the bowls are in the process of being discontinued, however. The only place I can find that sells them, other than Grocery Outlet, is Thrive Market, where they retail for $9. They used to be $8 at Safeway, but they’re no longer available.

Pasquier Macarons – Ooh La la

I’ve finally found a brand of macarons worth the hype

My oldest daughter loves macarons – which really the only reason I ever buy them, or eat them. I’ve tried a few here and there: frozen and fresh ones from the supermarket or specialty stores, gourmet ones from French bakeries, both in the US and in Paris, and I’ve even made them myself – but I never have really gotten the point of them. They usually consist of a too-dry-cookie with an underwhelming filling. I’ve never been impressed, until now.

I’m pleased to say that Pasquier makes the best macarons that I’ve ever had and that they are easily available and not too expensive (as far as macarons go, these are very expensive pastries to begin with). The cookies are moist while still having a bit of crunch, and the flavors of both the cookie and the filling are explosive. They are just delicious.

The macarons come in six flavors: vanilla, pistachio, caramel, raspberry, lemon and chocolate, and I can’t say I have a favorite (OK, maybe pistachio, but maybe lemon). They all hit the right spot, albeit with a tiny bit too much sweetness. They are tiny, I’d say the size of a silver dollar if I remembered just how big those were. But if you can resist not emptying the box, you do get a lot of flavor for your buck. They are made in France, they are refrigerated and you must consume them within 2 days of opening the box. I don’t think you’ll have trouble.


I found them at Grocery Outlet for $5 for a box of 12 (5.6 oz total), but they also seem to be available at Sprouts and Good Eggs for $7-8 and at Target for $11.

Safeway Sub Sandwich Review

It’s a great deal when it’s on sale

The Safeway sub, with a bread knife and fork for size comparison.

Every Friday, Safeway supermarket has a bunch of items on sale for $5. Usually this includes a couple of items from their deli, and more often than not, it includes their “Signature Cafe All American Sub,” which is normally $10. This 14″+, 2lb sandwich includes ham, cured turkey, white American cheese and romaine lettuce. The ingredient list says it also has beef, mayo and mustard, but these never seem to make an appearance in my sandwiches. Adding the latter two improves the experience. The sandwich could probably also used more cheese, there really isn’t enough to cover all the meat.

Despite these shortcomings, it’s a damn good sandwich. For $5, it’s an excellent sandwich. It provides enough food for easily 3-4 meals and it actually keeps fairly well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

The bread is usually on the hard side, but the sub I got today was in a soft roll, which I prefer.

All in all, this is one of the best deals at Safeway. Look for it on Fridays.

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