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Sunday, March 04, 2007



and as you all probably know, moving is a process that takes up a little bit of time and some extra effort.

please bear with me through the server switch

Consumatron will resume in a few days with a new blog service (wordpress) and a server that won't go down as often as this one has.

Thank you all for your readership.
I couldn't have done all of this without your comments and support.
I appreciate you all more than you could know.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mar. 1st - Weekly Buy Nothing Day

I would usually post something here about how I enjoy taking a break from perpetual purchasing. I would tell you that I use these days to really appreciate what I already have. I would tell you all to strive to do the same...

Well, today I was sick and I haven't left the house. All I've done is sleep. I have no thoughts other than, where's my damn tea!

I'll catch up on reviews this weekend. Head on over to the minute if you miss me that much.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Buitoni Spinach Cheese Tortellini (9 oz.)

Item Purchased: Buitoni Spinach Cheese Tortellini (9 oz.)
Location Purchased: Dominick's / 3145 S. Ashland / Chicago, IL
Price: $3.99 + tax

Review: Two observations before I assess the pasta I just ate. Number 1: From a graphic design point of view, do you really think it is a good idea to put the "dated for freshness" logo on this package right next to the text that says "since 1827. Number 2: The first listed ingredient in this pasta is "extra fancy enriched durum flour." You can stop with enriched. You've got me. I'm not looking for fancy when I'm only spending four bucks on a meal.

This "fresh" pasta that can stay in the refrigeration section for months on end scares me sometimes. This is especially true when the pasta contains a foodstuff that caused an outbreak of plague-level sickness a while back.

My reservations shouldn't be so dire, but rather more down to earth. The fact is, though this pasta is just fine, I've had dehydrated pasta with grated cheese that tasted just as good as this stuff. Sure, the texture of the pasta is much fresher than your run of the mill boxed pasta, but if texture was the only thing I cared about while eating, I'd chew on Play-Doh all day long. Besides, this pasta didn't even cook evenly because of the bunched up and flattened edges.

Even the fine mix of cheeses inside of each tortellini doesn't make this product worth the price.

Spend less than a third of the money on a bag of dehydrated wheat pasta and throw some grated cheese on top. You'll be better off.

Rating: 2 / 5

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Feb. 28th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Small Peanut Butter Cup Gelato from Massa

Item Purchased: Small Peanut Butter Cup Gelato from Massa
Location Purchased: Massa Italian Cafe / 807 W. Roosevelt Rd. / Chicago, IL
Price: $2.95 + tax

Review: I didn't spend any money on lunch today (brought some leftovers from home and was given some leftovers at work) so I thought I would treat myself to some gelato at the end of the work day.

I remember swallowing down countless Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Nerds Blizzards from Dairy Queen as a kid. I couldn't get enough of them. I was also overweight, out of shape and had rather bad digestion. Why is it, we only remember the pleasurable things when it comes to desserts?

This gelato is made with ground up peanut butter cups and is a sweet and creamy delight at first bite, but as I scooped more and more of it into my mouth at ever increasing speeds, I gave myself a super sweet, supersaturated stomach ache. The velvety beckoning of this masterfully made dessert was no match for what little will power my work-a-day ready-to-go-home appetite had left.

Though at first taste, Massa's PB gelato seems harmlessly tasty, it may be just a bit too sweet for an entire dessert. My advice is to take a sampling of this flavor and then move on to the hazlenut or pistachio.

Rating: 3 / 5

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Feb. 27th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

[ Small Guatemala Atitlan Coffee from Caribou ($1.55) ]


Monday, February 26, 2007

Feb. 26th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cup of Coffee from Huck Finn's

Item Purchased: Cup of Coffee
Location Purchased: Huck Finn Restaurant / 3414 S. Archer Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $1.20 + tax

Review: Diner coffee is a thing of mystery and beauty. Mystery because you never know if it will be watery and weak or singed and strong. Beautiful because, along with the endless refills, the liquid is ever changing. An early refill throws off the balance of sugar and cream and you must treat the chemistry with a careful hand and keen eye. Will the hurried waitress tend to your empty reservoir, or is she too busy helping the other diners?

Regardless of the outcome of the coffee itself or the frequency of replenishment, the best thing about diner coffee is that it is always there.

Since Huck Finn's is open 24 hours a day, this is especially true of the coffee at Huck Finn's.

Oh, and in case you were wondering... It was weak today, but the waitress was on her game!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Belgian Waffle from Huck Finn's

Item Purchased: Belgian Waffle
Location Purchased: Huck Finn Restaurant / 3414 S. Archer Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $4.75 + tax

Review: I've got eggs and bacon in my fridge at home, so I decided to order something I don't normally eat for breakfast... A Belgian waffle.

Huck Finn's Belgian waffle is pretty basic. Buttery, naturally sweet (sweeter with the ocean of syrup I put on it), about an inch and a half thick and the circumference of a compact disc.

Nothing special, but it filled me up and went well with my watery diner coffee. You can't ask for much more from a place like this.

Rating: 3 / 5

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To Be Reviewed on Mediatron

[ Adam Fitz live @ Schubas ($7.00) ]


Feb. 25th - Unreviewable Purchases

Purchased for my girlfriend:

[ Hobo Skillet from Huck Finn's ($4.95) / Large Orange Juice from Huck Finn's ($2.25) / Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Beer (Pint draft) from Schuba's ($3.00) ]


Feb. 25th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

[ Schlitz (12 oz. can) from Schubas ($2.25) ]


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Deep Fried Pigeon from Lee Wing Wah Restaurant

Item Purchased: Deep Fried Pigeon
Location Purchased: Lee Wing Wah Restaurant / 2147 S. China Pl. / Chicago, IL
Price: $11.95 + tax

Review: Ask any Chicagoan what the most annoying animal is and, nine times out of ten, they will tell you that is is the pigeon (it's actually the cockroach, but nobody wants to admit that they have frequent contact with roaches). Now ask the same 90% from the original question if they would ever eat a pigeon and, nine times out of ten, they will tell you "hell no, that's friggin' disgusting ("friggin'" represents a true Chicagoan).

Well, I wouldn't answer in the majority for the first question (I'd probably tell you that the most annoying animal is people who dress their small dogs in cute sweaters) and now, I cannot truthfully answer in the majority for the second question.

That's right... I ate a pigeon... And I'd do it again!

Lee Wing Wah serves up their pigeon deep fried. You get everything but the feet (including the cute little head). The meat of the pigeon is dark and a bit tougher than chicken meat or other meal birds. With very little fat and less meat in relation to the bird's body mass than a chicken, a fried pigeon at Lee Wing Wah makes for a slightly expensive meal. I am banking on the belief that a part of this price represents the fact that this pigeon isn't a native of Chicago (at least I'm hoping that is a fact). Though the deep frying infuses a bit of flavor of its own into the pigeon, the inner most meat of the bird has a natural lean meat flavor that is ever so slightly salty, but not overbearing. This is one food that definitely doesn't taste like chicken, or many other animals, for that matter. The closest I can come to describing the pigeon experience with comparison is to suggest you imagine a Cornish game hen that was crossed with the leanest pork chop.

But why, you ask, would I ever choose to eat a pigeon? Well... why do people eat crunchy fish eggs that pop inside of your mouth and taste like urine soaked Styrofoam? Who came up with the general consciousness campaign that made people think that was a tasty food? I ate it because it was different and to try new foods from other cultures is one way to experience life outside of your normal patterns without waiting for a vacation. Some people travel halfway across the world and decide to eat at a McDonalds. I guess I'm just the opposite kind of person. I traveled halfway across the world by walking a mile down the street and eating something that isn't normally served in my daily routine.

Unless, of course, that pigeon was simply scooped off of the streets of Chicago. If that is the case, then I suppose I got my just desserts and technically ate the cigarette butts and McDonald's French fries that have seen pigeons on State St. eating so many times before.

Either way, it was an adventure... A tasty one.

Next time you're in Chinatown... Order a pigeon. You won't be sorry. Knowing what we know about factory farming, pigeon is most likely better for us than the majority of mutant chicken we put into our bodies.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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2 Plastic Condiment Bottles

Item Purchased: 2 Plastic Condiment Bottles
Location Purchased: Woks 'N' Things / 2234 S. Wentworth / Chicago, IL
Price: $0.95 + tax / ea.

Review: No, I am not opening a hot dog stand. I am not even going to hold a barbecue in my backyard. These bottles are not for ketchup, catsup or mustard. These bottles are for olive oil, vinegar, cooking wine, and whatever else I might need on hand for cooking or garnishing. Though I would have preferred a clear squeeze bottle for my needs, Woks 'N' Things had only these symbols of American cuisine.

They're sturdy and conveniently color coded for my needs. That works.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

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Chinese Rice Wine (Michiu 750 ml.)

Item Purchased: Chinese Rice Wine (Michiu 750 ml.)
Location Purchased: Chicago Food Market / 2245 S. Wentworth Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $3.75 + tax

Review: The label on this bottle of rice wine says "Not For Beverage Use."

I don't especially like it when my groceries tell me what I should or shouldn't do. I mean, that's the best part about moving out of the parents' place and buying your own groceries. Those bags of Fritos and Mello-Yello don't tell you what to do! Besides, with a warning like that on a liquid with 19.5% alcohol content, all I could think of on the way home was what a glass of this stuff would taste like. Of course, I know better and realize that it would taste worse than rubbing alcohol shots from a bottle cap, so I didn't. It seems like my groceries think I'm an idiot.

This wine does taste good (or it adds flavor rather) when used in a black bean vinegar sauce in sparing amounts. Though, not the fanciest or most fragrant wine to use in stir fries or other dishes, this inexpensive bottle of michiu will last me a long time and serve to spice up many dishes.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Myland Combination Sharpening Stone

Item Purchased: Myland Combination Sharpening Stone
Location Purchased: Woks 'N' Things / 2234 S. Wentworth Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $3.75 + tax

Review: My girlfriend, knowing my culinary tendencies and pipe dream chef aspirations, bought me a set of knives last Christmas. Even if I'm only going to be a serious cook in the confines of my own kitchen, I better take care of my tools. The truth is, I love experimenting in the kitchen and take my cooking fairly seriously. And as with anything you take seriously, I believe you should treat the tools you use with care. That's why I bought a sharpening stone.

For only $3.75, this Myland sharpening stone gets a job done that is invaluable to anyone who cooks a lot. With both a medium and fine grain side, this stone makes sharpening any knife to razor reach an easy job. After only a minute of running my knife along both edges, I could feel a significant difference in the sharpness of my blade.

I'm sure there are better stones out there... name brand or what have you... but if it gets the job done, I don't see why this modest four dollar score wouldn't be an acceptable option.

Rating: / 5

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Scotch Sour from Lee Wing Wah Restaurant

Item Purchased: Scotch Sour
Location Purchased: Lee Wing Wah Restaurant / 2147 S. China Pl. / Chicago, IL
Price: $4.00 + tax

Review: When a menu has mixed drinks listed for $2.75, you don't ask questions. You also don't chance ordering something from the bar that is not on the menu. Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant business will tell you that the price gouging happens there. What I didn't expect was my drink to cost me $1.25 more than the menu proclaimed.

Still... a four dollar scotch sour in Chicago is nothing to complain about... Especially when the glass comes filled to the brim and as strong as I would have made it at home (i.e. no sour, less liquid)

Though I find it a bit shifty that my check charged me more than the menu said, I am not going to begrudge Lee Wing Wah for a $1.25 difference.

Yes, I know it was crappy plastic bottle scotch they served me, but for a weekend afternoon drink during a late lunch of Pigeon, I'll chalk this one up to learning experience.

Rating: / 5

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Three Treasures Chow Mein from Lee Wing Wah Restaurant

Item Purchased: Three Treasures Chow Mein
Location Purchased: Lee Wing Wah Restaurant / 2147 S. China Pl. / Chicago, IL
Price: $8.95 + tax

Review: Who doesn't like treasure? Let alone three treasures? Our waitress told us that the three treasures in this chow mein dish were pork, chicken and ham. This led to a discussion between my roommate, Josh, and I about the difference between pork and ham. He said it was the same thing. I said it was something different by restaurant standards. Josh was right.

So our treasures were pork, ham and more pork?

Not really.

I considered the third treasure to be the perfectly fried chow mein noodles in this dish. On the outside, the noodles were crispy and almost dry. Near the center, the noodles were tender and soppy with delicious brown sauce. Absolutely delicious!

Lee Wing Wah is a great restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown to take larger groups of friends or just a couple of people to share plates. The staff is pleasant, but quick. You may feel rushed, but with such a limited seating plan, they simply must be, in order to generate the highest turnover rate of customers. Inexpensive food in large portions, cheap and strong mixed drinks and a somewhat loud, but pleasant atmosphere makes this one of the better lunch stops on your trip to Chinatown. We're not talking fancy gourmet food, but real, good and hearty Chinese fare that will keep you going.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

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Feb. 24th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ziyad Imported Tahini (16 oz.)

Item Purchased: Ziyad Imported Tahini (16 oz.)
Location Purchased: Sultan's Market / 2057 W. North Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $3.99 + tax
Purchased on: 01/28/2007

Review: The Ziyad Brand company was formed in Chicago in 1966 and is one of the foremost producers, importers and exporters of Middle Eastern foodstuffs in the Chicago area. They are still family owned and operated to this day and distribute to ethnic grocery stores as well as large chains. I have been buying Ziyad brand products since my first couple of months in Chicago when I would travel to the end of the brown line to visit that fragrant corner grocery with all of the flavored tobacco in its adjoining room just to buy fresh honey and falafel mix. Now that I'm more Chicago savvy, I need only to stop off at Sultan's Market for a great lunch and a few grocery essentials.

Tahini is much like peanut butter, only made from sesame seeds. I like to have it on hand with a can of garbanzo beans to make fresh hummus. It's just too bad that my blender sucks everything but what you put in it.

Ziyad's tahini is creamy and rich in flavor and one of Ziyad's imported products, so you're getting the real deal and not some American cheese rendition made by Kraft. Sure, you may pay a bit more than you may like, but if you know what to do with it, this Tahini is well worth it.

Rating: 4 / 5

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2 Farmland Bacon (16 oz. bag)

Item Purchased: 2 Farmland Bacon (16 oz. bag)
Location Purchased: Dominick's / 3145 S. Ashland / Chicago, IL
Price: $5.79 + tax ($2.895 ea.)
Purchased on: 02/22/07

Review: Dominick's offers fresh and thick bacon slices from their deli counter, and I want to try it soon. Outdoing themselves, however, Dominick's was offering a 2-for-1 deal on packages of Farmland Foods Bacon slices. Checking the expiration date ("use by March 27th... all good), I opted for the deal.

Though not as thick as the bacon behind the glass counter, Farmland Foods' bacon has less fat and fries up crispy and oh so tasty.

Farmland Foods is owned by Smithfield Foods, which is renowned for their shoddy labor practices, factory farming and use of sow gestation crates. The Olson family from Jewell, IA, however, are pictured in the top right corner of my bacon package and they look pleasant enough. I doubt they participate in such atrocities.

I eat a lot of disgusting stuff every day. We all do. I will finish this package of tasty bacon, but perhaps next time I go for pork belly goodness, I will travel a bit farther than the Dominick's down the street, or at least pay more attention to the packages of the bacon I do buy.

Rating: 2.75 / 5

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Dominick's Corn Starch (16 oz. box)

Item Purchased: Dominick's Corn Starch (16 oz. box)
Location Purchased: Dominick's / 3145 S. Ashland / Chicago, IL
Price: $1.46 + tax
Purchased on: 02/22/07

Review: I bought this box of corn starch in order to make a slurry for a black bean dressing and a batter for a tofu dish I cooked for my girlfriend and I. I also learned that Pioneer is making biodegradable Blu-Ray discs out of the stuff. With the speed at which new digital storage media is released these days, I have to say this is a good idea. Maybe some day I will be making slurries and sauces from CD-Rs.

Until then, I will simply keep a box of this inexpensive base in my cabinet for all of my cooking needs. If anyone knows of a more organic, eco-friendly cornstarch, please let me know. Those of you who have read the site for a while already know how I prefer to buy sustainable and fair trade items, but it is the inconsequential things like corn starch that are so easy to forget about.

Safeway's corn starch works just fine, however, and I'm really not sure how to judge the better/worse merits of differing corn starches. There were no clumps or off-color particles in this box, and beyond that, I can't really comment at this time.

Rating: 3 / 5

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cup of Coffee from Bridgeport Bakery

Item Purchased: Cup of Coffee from Bridgeport Bakery
Location Purchased: Bridgeport Bakery / 2907 S. Archer Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $1.00 + tax

Review: Those of you who read the site regularly may want to get your tape recorders handy, because what I am about to say may shock you...

This may quite possibly be the worst cup of coffee I have ever had the displeasure to put into my mouth.

That's right... I said it. Bring on the Starbucks, Folgers or Starbucks/Folgers blend any day! This was quite offal (pun intended).

I appreciate a good cup of coffee, but I've also been known to enjoy a cup of watery swill more than the average bear.

Don't get me wrong, Bridgeport Bakery is good at doing what their name says they do... Bake! A coffeeshop, they are not. I've had lecture-hall vending machine coffee that tastes like it came from a silver pot when compared to this stuff.

BB's coffee is self-serve and sits in a diner-style glass pot atop a hotplate warmplate lukewarmplate room-temperature-plate by the entrance. After pouring it yourself and fixing it to your liking, if the smell doesn't hit you, the first sip will. Cold, bitter and watery with a bit of a dull cardboard aftertaste. Is this simply a leftover pot from last week's morning shift that got lost in the kitchen?

Oh the things I will do to wake up.

Never again. This was so bad, I had to buy a gutrot Coke to get the taste out of my mouth.

Stop in at Bridgeport Bakery for a pastry or bread loaf, but for your own good, stay away from that light brown liquid they call coffee.

Rating: .05 / 5

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Feb. 22nd - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Asahi Draft Beer (12 oz. bottle)

Item Purchased: Asahi Draft Beer (12 oz. bottle)
Location Purchased: Cost Plus World Market / 1725 Maple Ave. / Evanston, IL
Price: $1.79 + tax
Purchased on: 02/18/07

Review: World market had a mix-n-match rack of beers from around the world. I couldn't resist. As a result, you'll be seeing quite a few beer reviews on Consumatron over the next few days. If they don't make any sense, that means I liked them.

Asahi could be Japan's backup when there is no more Budweiser. Similar in taste, this pale lager has all of the important qualities that any average after-work sixer needs. It has a foamy head that dissipates quickly, a crisp sweet and slightly malty flavor on the top and a clean finish. This would make a great beer-and-pizza beer.

Just as the Japanese businessmen I used to wait on at my restaurant job would consistently order Budweiser, I will be sure to order plenty of Asahi when I make it over to Japan.

One point of confusion: I'm not sure why the bottle says "Draft Beer" on it, when it is clearly bottled. Perhaps a bit of mis-translated Japanese?

Rating: 3 / 5


Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale (12 oz. bottle)

Item Purchased: Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale (12 oz. bottle)
Location Purchased: Cost Plus World Market / 1725 Maple Ave. / Evanston, IL
Price: $1.79 + tax
Purchased on: 02/18/07

Review: After doing some preliminary research online (ha! "research" that's funny! cite my sources... "google"), I've come to develop the theory that most beer lovers have bad taste. I make this assessment based on the fact that most people who comment on Anchor Brewery's Liberty Ale seem to like the stuff.

Liberty Ale is much like the definition of the word "liberty" itself. There is a lot of argument over what liberty actually means just like there is a lot of internal argument over what kind of beer this brew is trying to be. As far as I can tell, it is a golden amber ale with pale tendencies and a pipe dream of becoming a full blown belgian fruit beer when it grows up.

To me, it tastes like the beer equivalent of mixing all of the sodas at a self-serve fountain together, then putting a bit of slushie in the mix to gross it up some more.

Such a dissapointment from a brewery that makes other fine beers (Anchor Steam). With that kind of attitude, Liberty Ale, you'll never grow up. Time to retire, if you ask me.

Rating: 1 / 5

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Lunch Special (Create A Lunch) from Kohan (Steamed Rice w/Beef, Pepper, Green Beans, Scallion, Tofu and Red Curry)

Item Purchased: Lunch Special (Create A Lunch) from Kohan (Steamed Rice w/Beef, Pepper, Green Beans, Scallion, Tofu & Red Curry)
Location Purchased: Kohan Japanese Restaurant / 730 W. Maxwell St. / Chicago, IL
Price: $7.95 + tax
Purchased on: 02/20/07

Review: Japanese cuisine isn't known for red curries, but I'm smart enough not to beg and choose at the same time. Lunch specials are never a good place to start if you are looking to partake in a cuisine's specialty dish. You take what you can get and try to order the dishes with ingredients that haven't been sitting around for days on end. Specials are basically the clearance rack of the restaurant industry, but with a little knowledge and a bit more acceptance, you can sometimes come up with a meal that tastes pretty damn good.

Such is the case with Kohan's "Create-A-Lunch" specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Stay away from the shrimp and peanut sauce, and you should be okay.

The size of this lunch special is always ample, but it was a great surprise when I received a red curry sauce that tasted better than most Thai cafes I've tried here in Chicago. Unexpectedly complex in flavor, Kohan's red curry seeps into the fresh vegetables, perfectly fried silken tofu (usually I hate silken tofu) and medium-cooked beef strips. Not only did the curry make everything taste jucier than it probably was, but also gave my tongue and nostrils a decent tingle with its ample spiciness.

So, while Kohan has several items on their menu that are sure to be better than this red curry lunch special, you can do a lot worse (and probably will if you go anywhere else on Maxwell St. for lunch.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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From the Pay-per Plastic department:

On March 15th, IKEA is going to start charging $.05 per plastic bag at all of their U.S. locations. This is an effort to cut down on consumer waste, and I think it's a great idea. The plan is to encourage customers to use IKEA's reusable bags to carry merchandise out to their cars. My only question is, will there now be a bag security position at IKEA stores?

Y'know... I have a drawer full of plastic bags from the local grocery. If anyone's interested, the going price is $.04.


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Feb. 21st - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chicken Tostada Dinner from Mexico Steakhouse

Item Purchased: Chicken Tostada Dinner from Mexico Steakhouse
Location Purchased: Mexico Steakhouse / 2983 S. Archer Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $7.95 + tax
Purchased on: 02/17/07

Review: No one actively seeks out a Mexican restaurant here. Mexican restaurants in Chicago are a dime a million and most of them aren't that good. Residents of this portly city eat at these restaurants quite often. Most of us will even tell you that we like them, but there is rarely a moment in the average Chicagoan's day when their mind is pre-occupied, thinking about that great taco, burrito or carne asada that they are going to get after work at the local taqueria.

Yes, Mexican food is everywhere here, but with the exception of a few choice restaurants' output, Mexican food from the midwest is greasy, soggy and just another meal.

It is for these reasons, and more, that I feel fortunate to have discovered Mexico Steakhouse on Archer Avenue. I feel even more fortunate to be able to walk to this Central American jewel from my apartment even if the snow is up to my knees.

Mexico Steakhouse is much more than a taqueria, but holds no pretensions about being fine dining or family style. With a large dining room, friendly, attentive staff and prices that are more than fair, dining at this establishment gives you the feeling of attending a happy family reunion (what are those like?).

The food also speaks and makes you wonder if you were, in fact, raised in a Mexican household and question whether it is your mother preparing the food just for you.

Forget everything you know about Chicago's soggy tacos, grease balloon burritos and dry tortilla chips. This place takes actual pride in their modest, yet substantial work.

My plate came with three sizeable tostadas, fresh refried beans and a lightly seasoned helping of Mexican rice. Each tostada was piled high with lettuce, cheese and meat of your choice (steak/chicken). I wouldn't normally say this, but choose the chicken! You can tell by just tasting this bird that the meat was recently picked off of the bone and cooked to juicy perfection that you would never find in shredded and torn taco meat anywhere else. The flavor actually convinces you, for a second, that everything is right and just in America's poultry industry.

In addition to the feast you paid less than the price of a haircut for, Mexico Steakhouse also offers the Midwest's best tortilla chips and a complimentary cup of their daily soup.

It would be nearly impossible to leave this restaurant unfulfilled or with a bitter heart. Though out of the way for most of Chicago's dining public, Mexico Steakhouse is worth the trip. There's nothing fancy here... But sometimes something good is all that you need.

Be warned, though. You might just find yourself consciously thinking about Mexican food after eating here.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Feb. 20th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bag of Fresh Tortilla Chips from Mexico Steakhouse

Item Purchased: Bag of Fresh Tortilla Chips from Mexico Steakhouse Steakhouse
Location Purchased: Mexico Steakhouse / 2983 S. Archer Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $1.50 + tax
Purchased on: 02/17/07

Review: I've been known to rave about Chicago's El Ranchero Tortilla chips. They have been a staple in my households for years now. They are tasty, inexpensive and can hold their salsa. Bar none, El Ranchero makes the best tortilla chip to be found in any grocery store... Ever.

I stand by that opinion, but what I am about to say may shock you.

Mexico Steakhouse's tortilla chips are tastier, less expensive and, yes, even better.

I know what you are saying... "How can this be?"

I'll tell you how.

You can't find these chips at your local grocery. Made fresh daily and served as a complimentary appetizer, Mexico Steakhouse on Archer will sell you a bag for a buck and a half if you ask them, but they're not coming to you. For chips this good, you have to go to them.

Oily, crisp and full of natural flavor, the salting of the chips is up to you. Each bite packs a crunch unlike any you can get from a snack food that has been sitting in a bag on a storage shelf for months. These crisp corn delights are kept warm from the time they are made until they land in your lucky, lucky hands. "How's their salsa tensile strength," you may ask? Well, they wouldn't win in a contest against El Ranchero, but unless you are more thrifty than I am and are using tortilla chips as a replacement for spoons, they'll do just fine.

It has taken me a while to find a neighborhood treasure close to my current residence. Now that I have, it is even better than expected since I am able to take a delicious little piece of it home with me.

Rating: 4.8 / 5

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Feb. 19th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Small Coffee from Eat, Drink & Surf NetCafe

Item Purchased: Small Coffee
Location Purchased: Eat, Drink & Surf NetCafe / 246 East 14th St. / New York, NY
Price: $1.75 + tax
Purchased on: 02/01/07

Review: This quaint new coffee shop in Manhattan's East Village may still be finding its personality (it was formerly a copy shop and only became a cafe within the last month), but the coffee, price and personality of the owner makes up for it.

Though the coffee is a bit on the high end in price. It's also on the high end in flavor. Earthy complexity and low acidity makes this a great place to stop on your way to your day.

And with free wireless access, you can kill a few minutes rearranging your "Top 8" before heading into the office. You know, important stuff.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Strawberry, Banana & Chocolate Crepe from Eat, Drink & Surf NetCafe

Item Purchased: Strawberry, Banana & Chocolate Crepe
Location Purchased: Eat, Drink & Surf NetCafe / 246 East 14th St. / New York, NY
Price: $7.95 + tax
Purchased on: 02/01/07

Review: I came for the coffee... That's all.

As I do in most eateries that are new to me, I glance at the pastries and other goodies offered behind glass counters. All this place had was a few muffins and a cookie or two. When the owner saw my wandering eyes, he thrust a menu into my hands and assured me that there was more than meets the eye. "You should try the crepes!" he urged me.

I'm pretty open to suggestion when traveling and tired... so I did try the crepes.

Two crepes, to be specific, stuffed with fresh strawberries, banana slices and ooey, gooey chocolate syrup. The crepe's themselves had a natural sweetness built in and were obviously home-made. Even though I asked for no whipped cream, the owner saw deep into the bashful decadence of my soul and loaded me up anyway. Bless/damn him in the same breath.

I probably shouldn't have eaten these crepes so soon after I had eaten lunch, because once I started, I couldn't stop. This odd little ex-copy shop turned cafe comes highly recommended!

The owner assured me that the space was still in transition. There are already several internet computer stations where you can pay per minute for computer access, but the remainder of the space will be filled with couches and more comfortable lounge-style furniture soon. I'll be sure to check in the next time I'm in NYC. If for nothing else, for a crepe!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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Slice of Fresca Style Pizza from Famous Famiglia

Item Purchased: Slice of Fresca Style Pizza
Location Purchased: Famous Famiglia / LaGuardia Airport / Flushing, NY
Price: $3.99 + tax
Purchased on: 02/03/07

Review: I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is about regarding Chicago vs. New York style pizza. The thick gooey blocks of buttery dough and layered cheese thicker than a February snow that you get in Chicago is far more preferable to the crisp, tortilla-like thin slices that New York offers up. Don't get me wrong, they are both tasty, but when it comes to rich flavor and substantial filling that doughy Midwesterners like myself enjoy, Chicago wins hands down. We may not do much right, but hot dogs and pizza are the two things that the school of Chicago can teach.

When in New York, however, I have to say that the best choice of thin crust concoctions that I have seen has to be the Pizza Fresca. It is a minimalist slice which begins with the dry and dusty crisp crust that New Yorkers love so well and continues only a few millimeters upward with a thin brushing of tomato sauce and a uniform platform of mozzarella cheese. Atop this is nothing more than a few tomato slices and a dusting of torn or chopped basil. The oddest thing about this style of pizza is the way that the mozzarella is compacted together to make one flat slice-like layer of cheese that is white and resembles a crayon's wax.

Sometimes the simplest flavor combinations are also the best. The minimal tomato-cheese-tomato reminds me of a Caprese on a cracker.

Famous Famiglia does a great job with the minimal. If I've learned anything, it's to not expect much from airport eateries. Sometimes, however, when you aim low, the outcome surprises you. That's exactly what happened here.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Feb. 18th - Unreviewable Purchases

[ Harp Lager (12 oz. bottle) for my roommate ]


Feb. 18th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mulligatawny Soup Appetizer from Panna II

Item Purchased: Mulligatawny Soup Appetizer
Location Purchased: Panna II Garden Indian Restaurant / 93 1st Ave Ste 5 / New York, NY
Price: $1.25 + tax
Purchased on: 02/01/07

Review: "Pepper Water."

That's what mulligatawny translates as, but this soup wasn't very peppery or watery. Panna II's mulligatawny is more like a tomato curry soup with little bits of rice and parsley in it. Appropriately, the soup is slightly spicy, which fits the massive amount of chili pepper lights hanging from the ceiling in this fantastic Indian restaurant. The right price and size for a soup appetizer, this small, but amazing East Village Curry Row stop serves up a fantastic mulligatawny. Though it may not be a traditional recipe, this mulligatawny introduces the base taste of Indian cuisine to your palate and prepares you for the amazing tastes that are sure to come.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

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Khan Vindaloo w/Lamb from Panna II

Item Purchased: Khan Vindaloo w/Lamb
Location Purchased: Panna II Garden Indian Restaurant / 93 1st Ave. Ste. 5 / New York, NY
Price: $6.95 + tax
Purchased on: 02/01/07

Review: Take one look at this East Village Indian restaurant and you might think that they have nothing more to offer than a surrealist mise-en-scene. When I was younger, I used to think that my mother went a bit overboard with Christmas decorations around the house. Sorry Mom, you've got nothing on this place. Panna II prides itself on its colorful display of strung lights, chili pepper light bulbs and overall weirdness. If it weren't for the tables, napkins and silverware, I would have been tempted to think that I wandered into a Coney Island fun house. The narrow dining room is so laden with lights and ornaments hanging down from the ceiling, that it is nearly impossible to stand up straight and a minor challenge to maneuver into your seat.

Beyond all of the colorful glee, however, is a restaurant that offers affordable Indian Cuisine that could put some of the more elegant eateries on Manhattan's Curry Row to shame. For only seven dollars, I received a healthy serving of tenderly cooked lamb meat and potato chunks swimming in a spicy vinegar curry mixture that will have you drinking the complimentary lentil soup that comes with it like it was a glass of soothing milk. Though spicy enough to have you breathing digestive fire, all of the complex flavors required for any lamb dish are present. Served atop the generous serving of rice I received, this lunch filled me up and sent me on my way, ready for whatever hurdles a whirlwind walk through Manhattan had in store for me.

In addition to the quality of the food, Panna II's service is impeccable. Though the typical tourist may be easily discomforted by the stone-faced servers here, they are attentive and concerned with your dining experience. It may have been due to the fact that I was taking pictures of everything on the table, but my waiter responded to my compliments on the food with a complimentary cup of tea at the end of my meal. Appetizer and meal in New York's East Village for under $10.00? You can't beat that. Even if you paid double the price elsewhere, I doubt the dining experience, atmosphere or taste of your meal would come close to equaling Panna II's output.

Mark this oddity as a regular stop for me when I visit New York in the future!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich from Jet Rock Bar and Grill

Item Purchased: Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich
Location Purchased: Jet Rock Bar and Grill / LaGuardia Airport / Flushing, NY
Price: $8.49 + tax
Purchased on: 01/31/07

Review: Pop quiz... What's wrong with buying a Philly Cheesesteak in New York?

Answer: Nothing, unless you buy it at an overpriced airport sports bar & grill.

The beef in this thing was bland and dry. The cheese was the same type of substance as that Velveeta that comes in long pillars of jelly. It amazes me that some establishments think that just because a cheese is melted, no one will notice how crappy it is. It amazes me even more that most people don't notice. To top off all of these points against this sandwich, the price was more than I would ever choose to pay for something four times as good as this sandwich.

The fries were the best part about this meal. Unless it's a Figs, it's probably a good idea to let yourself starve in an airport than to waste your money at some cut-rate hot plate with a few neon beer signs and four hundred flat screen televisions hanging on the wall.

The French fries were the best thing about this meal. That's never a good sign.

Rating: 0.25 / 5

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2 Small Coffees from Coffee Beanery

Item Purchased: 2 Small Coffees
Location Purchased: Coffee Beanery #254 / LaGuardia Airport / Flushing, NY
Price: $1.50 + tax ea.
Purchased On: 02/03/07

Review: You'd think, since I was on the east coast, that I would run to my beloved Dunkin' Donuts, which are everywhere. Nope. When in Rome, look for something Roman that you'd never find back home in Chicago. That's what I always say. (Okay, I've never said it, but, whatever)

Of course, Rome is part of the global economy, just like the rest of us, now. What I mean to say is that the coffee at Coffee Beanery is nothing I haven't had back home at a local Caribou coffee shop. Though I am not sure of the exact roast or blend I received, both cups were a lighter roast, and when mixed with the cream and sugar I add to every cup of coffee I drink, I'd place this coffee right along side the Caribou blend coffee I drink so very often.

Yes, I rate the Caribou blend rather high, but since this is simply a doppelganger of something I've had many times before, the Coffee Beanery gets a solid average score.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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Sun Belle Greenhouse Grown Tomatoes On The Vine (14 oz.)

Item Purchased: Sun Belle Greenhouse Grown Tomatoes On The Vine (14 oz.)
Location Purchased: Dominick's / 3145 S. Ashland / Chicago, IL
Price: $3.99 + tax
Purchased on: 01/27/07

Review: A true testament to the quality of these particular tomatoes lies in the fact that I forgot about them. Shortly after purchasing these tomatoes, I was sent to New York City on business for four days. Add on the few days it took me to get my sleep schedule back on track and the couple more days it took me to remember that I had some tomatoes sitting on the top of my fridge, and we're talking at least a week and a half before I used these vine-ripened fruits.

Most grocery-bought tomatoes (or any tomatoes for that matter) would have gone all squishy and pear shaped by then. These tomatoes, however, only went slightly squishy.

Yes, these fruit/vegetable/things were still firm enough to chop up without having them bleed and turn to liquid immediately. I was able to fry them up and make some pretty tasty tofu tortillas with them.

Three cheers for vine ripened goodness!

Rating: 4.25 / 5

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Back on Track this weekend.

Okay, so I'm catching up on some reviews and other writings this weekend. Unless the site goes down again, we'll be back on track by Monday. If we're not, I'll buy you all a Hershey's Kiss... (and probably eat it myself, but still... It's the thought)


Thursday, February 15, 2007

From the Don't Play With Your Johnson department

This has already been widely linked, but I felt that it needed to go up because it reflects how I feel about many technology consumers to a T.

Joel Johnson, who wrote for the tech-blog Gizmodo for two years has returned for an Ass-Whoopin' minute with an essay that slaps some wake up into everyone who used to hang on his every word. The gist of this essay? Stop buying new shit just because it's new you idiots! From the article:
You want to know the punchline? The average Joe that makes up the market is smarter than you saps. The market-at-large waits until a clear leader emerges, then takes a modest plunge. You may think you're making up the "bleeding edge" of "gadget pimpatude" but you're really just a loose confederation of marks the consumer electronics industry uses as free market research and easy money. "Give me the latest version," you coo, hiking up your skirt another inch over your exposed wallet. "Point Oh One upgrades make me so hot."
I couldn't have said it better myself, Joel.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Feb. 14th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Trader Jose's Corn Tortillas (10 oz.)

Item Purchased: Trader Jose's Corn Tortillas (10 oz.)
Location Purchased: Trader Joe's / 1840 N. Clybourn Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $0.99 + tax
Purchased on: (1/23/07)

Review: Here in Chicago, corn tortillas are a dime a dozen (sometimes literally), so why would I pay a dollar for the same?

Trader Joe's corn tortillas are your typical pressed corn discs with a bland flavor. When pan fried in oil, they crisp up nicely and absorb the flavor of the oil you use more than other brands. Their primary difference (and the one that wins me over) is that even if you don't fry them thoroughly (or at all), these tortillas don't taste as mealy as other brands. You wouldn't want to just eat them straight from the bag, but the un-mealiness is an important factor when dealing with the foundation of another culture's cuisine.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Feb. 13th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Monday, February 12, 2007

Feb. 12th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

Site was down over the weekend.. Reviews have been slow.. Bear with me. Still catching up on New York. Also, haven't been buying much.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Feb. 12th - Previously Reviewed Purchases

[ Camel Turkish Royal Cigarettes (Hardpack) ]

I know... I slipped up... I'm human. Broke my resolution, but not my promise. I put a total of $60.00 into the paypal account this week. That's an extra $30.00 plus the $8.00 I paid for the pack. Yes, the money is in a money market account earning over 5% interest but that's still one expensive pack of smokes!

For a partial explanation why I caved, watch tomorrow's Consumatron Minute.