Monday, November 12, 2018

Tony Packo's Toledo, OH

      What trip to this area would be complete without the Ultimate Cultural Coup de Gras?  If this place doesn't ring a bell it was made even more famous in the long running TV show MASH as Maxwell Q. Klinger's favorite hometown Toledo eatery.
       Tony Packo was the son of Hungarian immigrants, growing up on Toledo's east side.  He learned the restaurant business from his brother, John.  In 1932 Tony and his wife, Rose received a $100 loan from relatives to open their own sandwich and ice cream shop.  Tony's signature sandwich, sausage with sauce on rye, was created when he decided to add a spicy chili sauce to enhance the flavor of the sandwich.  He used a Hungarian sausage called Kolbasz, but because it was so large, decided to cut it in half.  Not only did it resemble the American hot dog, but he could sell it for 5 cents.  Very nice considering the depression economics.  Over the years his creation has grown to the worldwide famous entrée that is Tony's Hungarian Hot Dog.  

      Over the years Tony's has grown to include 5 locations throughout the Toledo area, but the original still stands at 1902 Front Street.  The menu is still the same as it always has been over the years to accommodate popular demand.  Of course the Hungarian Hot Dog is still the favorite, but there are some additional choices to accommodate even the most discerning, let alone Hungarian, tastes.  Chicken Paprikas, Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian Open Face Roast Beef Sandwich, and Chili Mac are some of these.  There is also a pretty decent assortment of appetizers and sides.  
Tony's Original Hungarian Dog
      Of course 'the original' demands the most attention......and did on our visit as well.  Packo's Original Hungarian Hot Dog served with mustard, onions and hot dog sauce, or the Front Street American Frank with mustard, onions, and hot dog sauce.  Pickles, peppers, or sweet hots on the side?  It's yours to add.   I was completely impressed with their "Dog Packs"   These can range from 2, 3, 5, or 10 dog packs or if you want "THE WORKS" there are the 5 or 10 Dog Packs both with a Bucket of Chili.  This is by definition COMFORT FOOD.  

Hungarian Dog, Bowl of Chili, Coleslaw, and Chicken Paprikash

     Barb and I traveled the 19 miles south to Toledo on a Monday.  We arrived with appetites stoked and ready for some tasty carbs.  It is remarkably easy navigating to get off  I-75 to I-280 and find Tony's as well as a large parking lot.  We were sure it would be well worth it.  We were also aware it would be much harder to get back home without the smell of this meal on our clothes to arouse the furbabies.  Challenge accepted?  

Lunchtime fills up quickly
Digging in
      We arrived at about 11:40 a.m. and just in time.   The lunch crowd begins and the line goes easily out the door.  Most are workers from nearby factories or the ships in the river.  We were met immediately by a gentleman who could tell it was our first time.  He showed us the menu and then when we decided exactly where to go at the counter and who to see.  While there we discovered they were also offering a seasonal promotion for Hungarian Vegetable Soup, Meatloaf & Mashed Taters, Kolbasz Sausage & Baked Beans, as well as their signature Chicken Paprikas.  ALL hot dogs are $2 on Tuesday during this promotion as well.  After a bit of indecision......Barb ordered a single dog and fries while I went ALL IN ordering 2 Hungarian Dogs w/everything and German Potato Salad.  The extra dog is only $1.99.  Be sure to ask about the walls full of autographed hot dog buns.     
Somewhere underneath it all are 2 Hungarian Dogs
      We found the food to be delicious and very filling, served by hospitable waitresses working very hard.  The head waitress at the counter really barks out the orders, never missing a beat.  She would have to be loud and in command with this lunchtime crowd.  The sausage is delicious, with a 'snap' when you bite in just like Bockwurst.  I didn't care for the dog sauce, but the chili and cheese were awesome.  Barb loved hers, but didn't care for the spicy sweet pickles on the side.  I loved them.  Our total tab for this meal was $21.16.  This place is a 'CAN'T MISS'.  Our only regret is that it may be awhile before we are in this area again......or maybe not.  

"Some people wanted caviar and champagne, when they should have had beer and hot dogs"
Dwight D. Eisenhower

WiFi courtesy of Harbortown RV Resort 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Eureka Eatery! Monroe, MI

      When in the Detroit Regional Area one does not simply think about Greek Cuisine without visiting Greektown, the quintessential downtown dining and entertainment experience.  We have eaten downtown before and the reputation is well deserved, but one of the days we were out exploring the Monroe area we decided to stop in and try a place that is highly recommended throughout this area.  The amazing part is that this 'foodie destination' is located in a Sunoco Gas Station at 3080 North Monroe Street on the outskirts of town! 
      We were not phased one bit as some of the best food we have ever eaten has been enjoyed in roadside stands, gas stations, and even truck stops across the country.  They are located back in the corner next to one of the largest liquor stores I have ever seen.  It is walk up counter service with several long tables to dine in.  Like any good Greek experience Gyros of any possible flavor are available as well as a number of other Middle Eastern selections.  They also offer online ordering as well as catering.  You can see the entire menu at Eureka Eatery

Short Rib Poutine
      Schwarma?  They got it.  Grilled Cheesesteak, Chicken Bruschetta Wrap, Falafel Wrap, Fattoush, Tabbouleh, and a myriad of deserts are on the menu as well.  They have a Short Rib Poutine that will satisfy desires you didn't even know you had!  You can even order Pita Bread with one of their signature spreads.  They offer fresh hummus flavors every two weeks.  Chick Peas anyone? 

A great selection of spreads
      However, one of their best offerings might well be the "Create Your Own Entrée".  You simply start with the checklist and decide....
Step 1   Bread or Bowl or ala carte 
Step 2   Pick your meat
Step 3   Add some toppings
Step 4   Add some sauce
Step 5   Extra toppings or extra cheese?  (the Truffel Fries are delicious) 

Make it your way possibilities!  

      As I said earlier, Barb and I stopped in for lunch while running errands and exploring.  There isn't 'always' a line, but it is no secret either.  Admittedly, the fact that you are dining in a gas station is still a bit of a surprise.  No matter.  After a bit of consideration and anxious anticipation Barb ordered the Gyro while I went with the Order It My Way w/lamb, red onion, cukes, olives, and extra Feta. I also ordered the Truffle Fries.  

Barb's Standard Gyro
My Make it your way Gyro

      Our total tab for 2 sandwiches, large drinks, and Truffle Fries ran $20.  The food was delicious, in fact they were the largest gyros we have ever had with easily TWICE THE MEAT.  This is a hell of sandwich for less than $7.  Counter service was very good even though there was a little wait.  The place is known throughout the area.  It is worth the trip for lunch or a great take out idea for dinner.  Unfortunately for us, dinner was still at home the crockpot upon our return.  

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world"
JRR Tolkien

WiFi courtesy of Harbortown RV Resort 


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Italian Sausage Soup

      With the coming of much cooler fall and inevitably winter weather what better time for a good bowl of soup.  I came upon this recipe a few years back and we certainly do love it.  Although the recipe calls for 4 Serrano peppers diced you will love the taste, but certainly experience very much of the heat.  The recipe also calls for Italian Sausage which imparts a delicious flavor, but if you desire you can use any good quality smoked sausage to your liking.

8 ounces Italian Sausage, skinned and browned
2-5 Serrano Peppers, diced depending on taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 roasted bell pepper, chopped
1 12 ounce can tomato sauce
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup small pasta shells
Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

      Heat a soup pot to medium heat and add slice Italian Sausage and Serrano peppers. Stir and cook for 7-8 minutes or until sausage is mostly cooked through.  Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring.  The amount of Serrano Peppers you use depends on your tastes.  You need at least two for taste, but after that it all depends on how much heat you want.  I'm old and I usually use 3-4.
Simmering before shells added
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a quick boil.  Don't add the pasta shells till about 1 hour prior to serving.  Reduce heat immediately when achieving boil and simmer while stirring for 15 minutes; until pasta is nice and soft and the flavors when tasted have developed.  Serve with Parmesan or Romano Cheese grated on top and garlic bread on the side with a nice salad.

"Good manners; the noise you don't make when you're eating soup" 
Bennett Cerf
WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Closing Doors and Opening Windows

      It is no secret that Barb and I have spent a considerable amount of time with my mom in Western Washington the past year and a half.  We have taken care of some of the property and rental maintenance, her finances, and made sure she was able to continue to live 'on her own'.  This was the only thing she asked of us when Dad passed away 17 years ago, "Let me live in my own home".  Between me and my two sisters we have worked hard to grant that wish. 
      Time has a way of changing things, mostly due to age and health concerns.  Mom turns 90 this year and the time has finally come to change our course of action.  She has worked with us throughout, although stubbornly at times (perhaps a look at my own future?).  We had plenty of help from mom's renter, Rosalie.  She checked on mom daily, took her the mail, took her to the store and doctor when needed, and made sure the house was clean.  She will always remain a family friend.  Recently mom has realized that it is time and has decided to move in with my sister Deb in Salem, Oregon.  Deb and Jim built her a small efficiency apartment near their garage about a year ago and this was always our plan for this year.  The closer it got, the more mom dug her heels in, but in the end I want to believe that love and trust of her family finally won out.  Barb has been a Saint throughout all of this.  I can't even tally the incredible workload she willingly shouldered in order to make sure Mom was taken care of; admittedly I was just a 'gopher'.
      Deb and Jim moved mom to her new 'crib' the second to last weekend of June.  I can't even imagine how difficult that was for all of them.  She lived there with Dad for nearly 52 years.  My sisters and I grew up there.  BBQs, family reunions, and all those years in between.  Everything we are is a result of that environment.  It was a great time to grow up in Western Washington.  
      I gave everyone several more weeks to let mom get settled in as she remembered everything she forgot to bring before I flew home.  This time was also tainted by a couple of disagreements with my siblings that we had to just put aside.  It was also quite the juggling act for Barb and I as it was the year to power wash the house, clean and wax the RV, as well as an unexpected dental surgery to replace my loosening bridge.  We did get the new barn roof in place before my departure.  Once again, Barb was tasked with taking care of our home front when I flew to Washington.  I only booked a one way ticket from Traverse City to Seattle as an 'open ended round trip' was $$$ and I didn't really know when I was returning home.  The price was a very reasonable $305.  I would figure out the leg home later.
         I flew into Seattle on July 23rd and was graciously met by dear friends from high school who shuttled me home.  It was a bit weird at first, walking into a nearly empty house by myself not being met and hugged by mom.   I would stay there throughout my time and be able to drive mom's van in order to get things done and save a few $$$ on a rental car.
     I spent the first week inventorying the house, deciding in what order to do what, what to sell, and what to haul to the dump.  With a little help from my friends, that turned out to be the easy part.  I spent the first 5 weeks camped out in the house as my office and base of operations.
     Selling the assorted items turned out to be a FAIL as I ended up coming down so much on items just to move them.  I did cut my youngest sister a huge break on mom's antique china hutch.  One sofa and an oak entertainment center ended up going with the house.  Once the house was ready and cleaned, I moved in with friends for 3 weeks.  
     The buyer is mom's neighbor, a contractor who wants to renovate the house and move his own aging mother in next to him.  Our renter would be able to stay on as well.  It is a WIN WIN for everybody.  Negotiations with them not only went very well, but the offer was very fair and mom decided to accept.  A bit of email and Verisign Magic back and forth to Salem, OR and the deal was in place.  The rest of the process took nearly 2 months total for financing (twice), house inspection, appraisals (again twice), septic pumping and repair (with county code certification) and home insurance matters.  There is a rental unit on the property as well adding another dimension to the sale process.   Our renter was an absolute angel throughout this entire process.  She has lived there for 12 years and will always be family to us.   Several issues with paperwork plagued us requiring days to solve.  Every place has it's own issues and I learned damn near every one of them.   I did have to make two day trips to Salem, OR (350 miles roundtrip) for Power of Attorney updates and to open Mom's healthcare trust account. We finally closed on the house sale September 19th, 8 weeks after my arrival.  I seem to remember this naïve dude in Michigan saying he should be able to wrap this up in about a month.
     After a last look around with a few tears and hugs from everyone I left home traveling south to Salem, OR to return mom's van to her and spend a few days before flying back to Michigan.  I still managed to get decent plane fare home on a 'red eye' from Portland, OR for $350.  Barb has a kidney cyst that although benign needs drained and I want to get back for that as well.  We head south again soon.
     I owe a big debt of thanks to all the friends who helped Barb and I throughout not only this trip, but the entire process the past two years.  You helped me with 'dump runs', kept me company, fed, and out of trouble.  Dan and Carol Taylor, Annette and Clarence Stancil, Dan McNamara, and most of all John and Wilma Meek who not only helped with the garage sale last summer, but hauling to the dump this trip and housing me for the last 3 weeks.  We love you all. I head home now, very ready for a reunion with my own family and of course the mandatory slobber survivability test with the furbabies.   Behind I leave a piece of personal history and many, many memories.  This blog chapter is but a 2 month part of those memories.


      It is said that when God closes a door, he opens a window.  Mom is enjoying her new 'digs' in Oregon and for that I am so very grateful.  She is very near family on a daily basis as well as able to enjoy her life and my sister's good cooking.  Barb and I look forward to visiting her in the future.
      Another part of the journey.  I pray for many more years that mom can help keep my sorry ass in line.  You will always sit at the head our table, mother.  We love you.   

"Your age is measured by your dreams, not by the years"
Amit Ray
WiFi courtesy of John & Wilma Meek

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Frederic Inn, Michigan

Entry Way
      Dining joints come and go.  Some eclectic, some trendy, downtown or rural, fusion, or just another way of showcasing the same cuisines that also come and go.  I mean no harm to the more trendy or upscale eateries, but I have had some of my best meals at the smaller local 'mom and pop' places or even truck stops at times.  Price is not often an issue with me, but quality is.  We have dined at many fine restaurants in Traverse City, but sometimes you just want a good meal close to home.  This review will come at no surprise to locals.  It is a treasure.  
      Frederic Inn is a local place, located 14 miles east of us on County Road 612.  We have eaten there many times.  Also located just 2 miles west of I-75, Frederic is a MAJOR stop on the NW Michigan Snowmobile Trail System and during winter time, the traffic both on and off road can rival many interstate highways.  In fact the main street entry is enclosed within a building wide 'mud room' so that you may escape the freezing weather from parking to entry.
The Bar
      When you enter, your initial impression would mostly likely be a small bar with a couple of tables for dining.  There is, however, another whole room for dining as well.  Many nights during the week it is pretty casual with occupancy nowhere near full.  During weekend specials or winter weekends, it is very much 'first come, first served' if at all.  
The Main Dining Room (and there is another)
      First of all, the Frederic Inn has been awarded Best of the North for not only their Wet Burrito, but their entire Mexican Cuisine for several years.  Their menu is characteristically 'Up North' with burgers, both fresh walleye, perch, and whitefish; ribs, soups and salads, chicken, steaks, pizza, Friday fish fry, and some very tasty liver and onions.
Introducing the 'Super Wet Burrito'
      Obviously their Wet Burrito is the most famous entrée, but other items deserve merit as well. All their fish entrees are delicious!  An entire Wet Burrito is an enormous meal that may very well require a 'to go' box.  Barb always gets the 'Baby Wet Burrito' and sometimes can't finish that.  It is a delicious, but hearty meal. We have eaten there several times on Friday and Saturday Prime Rib.  This is NOT TO BE OVERLOOKED.  We can honestly state this Prime Rib is as good as any we've ever eaten.
Prime Rib
      We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, the meat was done to perfection;  tender, and tasty.  Barb likes hers well done and I prefer a medium rare, but sometimes 'butt end' piece.  Tonight's cut was a bit more 'medium', but delicious nonetheless.  There was plenty of Au Jus.  I did ask for horseradish.  The sides were mashed taters and the salad bar.  The service were excellent.  We enjoyed drinks with our dinner with a total price of $42.  
      For us Frederic Inn is a close, comfortable standby, ALWAYS good food at a fair price.  For those winter fanatics it is a major stopping point, beer joint, and warming place for friends and family.  For those traveling to the Great White North any time of year I have to say that this should be a MUST SEE on your way.  You will never be disappointed.  Dilly Dilly!

 "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list"
Susan Sontag

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

Friday, July 13, 2018


      As old as Germany itself, this recipe brings out the best in the culture.  Pork Hocks (or knuckle), open fire, traditional seasonings and Hot Potato Salad and Dumplings.  There is no down side here.  I have eaten this many times and within the past several years have found if I request the larger 'hocks' from a local butcher I can create this as I wish.  When selecting them I ask to see their largest.  The bigger the better.  The natural thick skin of a pork hock serves well for holding seasonings and controlling temps while over the fire.  I picked my hocks this year from Stewarts Meats in McKenna, WA.  This is a regional favorite in Western Washington for any type of meat product you desire.
      First off, lay your hocks out on a cutting board and let rise to room temperature.  Then spread and rub in a mix of:

2 Tblspn sea salt
4 cloves, ground
4 juniper berries, ground
10 black peppercorns, ground

NOTE:  These proportions can be modified as to your particular tastes.

Seasoned Hocks
      Grind using mortar and pestle.  Then place in the refrigerator uncovered for 12-24 hours.  When ready to cook thread the hocks on a rotisserie spit and rotate over a high fire heat until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  I roast my hocks on my Aus Spit over my outdoor fire pit using a mix of maple and cherry wood.  This normally takes about 2 hours, depending on fire.  These were BIG hocks and took a bit over 3 hours.  When ready, remove from the spit and let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Almost done on the spit
       I usually finish this off serving it with Potato Dumplings, Spätzle, or Hot German Potato Salad.  These recipes will not be published at this time as they are my mother's (and generations before) personal recipes and out of respect for them I will only share the picture.  These hocks were big enough only one side dish was needed.  The best of Deutschland.  Joie de Vivre!  

Bon Appetite'

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was Thank You, that would suffice" 
Meister Eckhart

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi 


Thursday, July 5, 2018

My Girl Gets Back In The Game

      When I met Barb she was also an avid hunter and fisherman, but as the years progressed she settled in with fishing.  She was always a good shot and her skill in bow hunting was just as impressive.  Recently, after a number of my retiree trips for bear, deer, and pig hunting Barb expressed an interest in once again 'joining the fray'.  I couldn't be happier.  
      The weapons I shoot are much larger than she would be comfortable with (7mm Rem Mag, 45 Long Colt, 45/70 Gov't.) so I spent some time with research.  I wanted a bolt action weapon (in my opinion the most accurate) in a caliber that she would be comfortable shooting.  After much research and talking with other friends I trust we decided on the 7mm-08 Remington.  An exceptional caliber for ballistics as well as a 'not too brutal' recoil.  This caliber would provide excellent ballistics out to several hundred yards as well as knockdown power for any and all game Barb would want to conquer.  The 150 grain Federal Power Shok Speer Bullet with Hot Cor technology pumps 2650 fps at 2350 flbs providing all the energy and knock power Barb will ever need.

      Even in light of all the recent CRAP involving Remington Barb chose to go with the Remington Model Seven in synthetic stock, stainless finish.  Weighing in at a 6 1/2 pounds it fit her very nicely.  We ordered this through Lake Effect Guns n Gear in Kalkaska, MI.  Next we would search for an appropriate scope in stainless finish to complete her rifle.
      We selected the scope in a Nikon Pro Staff 2.5 x 10 with rings and mounts.  Because we use our Cabela's card so much during the year we had accumulated enough bonus points to get the scope for $88 less.  Nice!  We had the scope mounted and bore sighted at Lake Effect Guns and Gear as well.  She sighted it in at our farm using the Caldwell Gun Sled.  As always the initial set up is a booger, but once completely adjusted she adapted.  It was a very hot morning to shoot and the rifle provided 'balls on tight groups' right out of the box. Our goal is .67" low at 25 yards which will put it dead on at 100 yards.  I wanted to sight the rifle on it's initial upward trajectory as it will continue to rise through zero and fall again within it at 100 yards, our site in target.  We finished up this morning at about 1 1/2" low.  It will take a bit more tuning.  There is never any hurry to get it right.  Finding accurate ballistic tables for this round online proved to be challenging, but Nikon provides a very helpful website that more than solved our problem. 

"Some people wait their entire lives to meet their hunting buddy....I married mine"  
WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi