LTH Home

Beefathon VI - Looking up

Beefathon VI - Looking up
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • Beefathon VI - Looking up

    Post #1 - March 12th, 2006, 2:02 pm
    Post #1 - March 12th, 2006, 2:02 pm Post #1 - March 12th, 2006, 2:02 pm
    Can't say I have ever run a marathon, but I have run & biked some distances. And there is often a point where you get down, realize how far you have to go, and that you are not doing so great. Doubt creeps in and you need to manage it by blanking your mind of everything except the moment, the pace, maybe a song.

    The Beefathons have been a marathon, and the middle section was a killer. The Beef was not so great for the most part, one disappointment after another, and I could not help but have my doubts as to the point of it all, and whether we would ever get it done.

    But on a beautiful spring-like Saturday it all came together. The turnout was great - I did not count but I think we started at around 16 people, new & old, young & not so young - all serious about their beef. We had great guides for this tour of far southern places that are not too familiar to many of us. Primarily guided by Rene G & sdritz, who provided excellent selections, and the logistics planned by George R, it all went very smoothly (except for yours truly slightly underestimating the number of score sheets needed).

    And the food was quite good, too.

    The two Pops (S. Kedzie & Homewood) are worthy representatives of the best Italian Beef - perhaps not quite contenders for the best of the best, but very good. The others were not special, but were also not especially bad. The added stops at Wolf's Bakery and Cunis Candies were very good. The GNR presentation at Cunis also went well, and was an enjoyable end to a day, even if I felt obliged to head to George's Ribhouse for a slab and some tips to take home to the family. (Yes, I know, with no wood it ain't really barbecue, but it is really good, really good.)

    So all that is left is to figure out the finalists and schedule Beefathon - the Finals (tm), and rather than feeling like it is a lot of work for no sensible reason, I am feeling a bit sad about it coming to an end.

    Detailed reports on food and places to follow, but I wanted to get this up so others could share their thoughts while still fresh.

    Thanks again to Suzy, Peter & George. Great outing.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #2 - March 12th, 2006, 6:33 pm
    Post #2 - March 12th, 2006, 6:33 pm Post #2 - March 12th, 2006, 6:33 pm
    A very big thanks to Rene G. for pointing us towards Wolf's Bakery. My husband purchased a pecan roll which we devoured on the way to Rosangela's. Last night, after taking my parents out to dinner for their respective birthdays, we indulged in individual sponge cakes, frosted and decorated for St. Paddy's Day, in lieu of a birthday cake.

    This morning we broke out the raspberry coffee cake and the soda bread. I would gladly go back for more soda bread this week if I had the time. I think there are two slices left from the loaf. Slightly sweet, it was a delicious treat.

    I really enjoyed watching someone pick up a cake for their daughter's birthday, beautifully decorated with not only Cinderella, but her castle as well. It was truly a masterpiece.

    The atomic whipped cream cakes looked delicious, even more so than the ones I used to get at Surma's in Homewood (now closed). I was told when I moved out to Homewood that Surma's was the only place in the area to get an atomic cake. I'll definitely consider making the trip to Wolf's Bakery the next time I need a special birthday cake.

    The company yesterday was lots of fun, the rain held off until we were through, and all in all it was a very enjoyable day. I was glad to see that my hometown beef sandwich held up favorably with this discerning bunch of beef eaters!!

    I did learn a valuable lesson. The worst sandwich of the bunch yesterday was Marnell's in Chicago Heights. The last time I got sandwiches from them was nearly a year ago. I will never recommend a stop for my fellow LTH'ers in the future unless I've tried the place recently!! :oops:

    Thanks to all who participated, and especially Dickson, George and Rene G for all your hard work. I'm thinking of checking out JJ Sausage (originally on our list, but they moved to Dolton) on my own in the next few weeks and will report back.

    Suzy
    " There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
    - Frank Zappa
  • Post #3 - March 13th, 2006, 2:28 am
    Post #3 - March 13th, 2006, 2:28 am Post #3 - March 13th, 2006, 2:28 am
    I hadn’t been on a Beefathon since the first, back in the Heroic Age (also known as the Age of Idiots), when we tackled 9 places and also stopped midway through for fried shrimp then capped it off with espresso and gelato. This one was a bit saner and almost as much fun.

    Pop’s on Kedzie has become one of my favorites and I think it showed fairly well on Saturday. I’m more and more convinced that getting a sandwich fully assembled (i.e., juicy, hot) is considerably better than getting it with gravy and peppers separately. It is definitely instructive, however, being able to taste the components on their own. I’m increasingly fond of these fresh jalapeño giardinieras served at Pop’s and Chickie’s.

    Pop’s beef, hot peppers, gravy
    Image

    We made a detour at Wolf’s, a neighborhood bakery in business since 1939. It’s a great old-school shop with amazingly efficient and friendly service despite the crowds. Some of their cakes were too sweet for me to even look at for long.

    Wolf’s signs and cakes
    Image
    Image
    Image

    Then a few blocks east to Rosangela’s, where I’d sampled a red beef a week earlier. The regular beef came on toasted bread accompanied by a subtly seasoned gravy, nonstandard but not unpleasant. I have to admit I preferred the red beef. Rosangela’s fries were quite good.

    Rosangela’s beef with gravy
    Image

    Then off to Homewood for another Pop’s. Similar thinly sliced, almost fluffy beef and fresh jalapeño giardiniera.

    Beef at Pop’s of Homewood
    Image

    I’d wanted to try Marnell’s for ages. It didn’t quite measure up to my hopes but I’m glad I finally tried it. Another great sign.

    Marnell’s sign, beef and peppers
    Image
    Image

    I’m not a big ice cream eater but Cunis is fantastic. I had a chocolate soda, the best I ever had. There’s a reason seemingly simple things like chocolate sodas and strawberry sundaes are still popular.

    Two classics, executed perfectly at Cunis
    Image

    Looking forward to the next one.
  • Post #4 - March 13th, 2006, 9:53 am
    Post #4 - March 13th, 2006, 9:53 am Post #4 - March 13th, 2006, 9:53 am
    HI,

    If anyone has a photo, I would love to see an Atomic Cake. I've read about them though never seen one.

    Sounds like a great day.

    ReneG wrote:back in the Heroic Age (also known as the Age of Idiots)


    I think the Expresso-athon conducted by a small group was the best. All those expressos made several participants sick. Several couldn't drink coffee for several days. Someone correct me, but I believe they drank something like 7 expressos before hanging it up.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #5 - March 13th, 2006, 10:07 am
    Post #5 - March 13th, 2006, 10:07 am Post #5 - March 13th, 2006, 10:07 am
    Cathy2 wrote:If anyone has a photo, I would love to see an Atomic Cake. I've read about them though never seen one.


    Wolf's Atomic Cake dressed for Saint Paddy's Day
    Image
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - March 13th, 2006, 10:12 am
    Post #6 - March 13th, 2006, 10:12 am Post #6 - March 13th, 2006, 10:12 am
    Cathy2 wrote:
    I think the Expresso-athon conducted by a small group was the best. All those expressos made several participants sick. Several couldn't drink coffee for several days. Someone correct me, but I believe they drank something like 7 expressos before hanging it up.



    Yes, as ReneG once said to me, the espresso-athon was both my best idea and my worst idea--although to this day, it is the athon that my wife enjoyed best ( :!: :?: :!: )

    I wonder if myself, if I am athoned out. I had the misfortune of arriving too late to try the consensus best beef on Saturday, and from there on, what I tried ranged from standard (i.e., good enough to eat) to plain wretched. Still, I wonder how much it is me, not them, when I walked away from even from Cunnis Candies not blown away.

    Did not Cunnis used to make their own whipped cream? Even if it was not Gayety, I remember it being better than the canned served on Saturday. Also, the hot fudge was just not as intense, and all around wonderful as in my past two visits. Cunnis does an amazing lack of business considering what it is, and I wonder if they are finally subcoming to this lack of clientele. Or it could have been me :roll:

    But anyways, getting back to the beef athons. One of the things that is missing from the later places, is a sense of pride in the places that was SO evident in the first round. ReneG was mentioning our interaction with Boston BBQ on the first round, and I also contended that our opinion of Patio was so influenced by our hanging out with them for a while. Surely, it is unfair to blame the later beefs on the lack of interesting proprieters, but it has effected the pizzazz of the days.

    BUT! I do not want to blame George or Dickson. They have done great work in these things, and I hope my ennui is temporary.

    Rob
  • Post #7 - March 13th, 2006, 10:21 am
    Post #7 - March 13th, 2006, 10:21 am Post #7 - March 13th, 2006, 10:21 am
    Rob, you are correct about the hot fudge. Perhaps it was just an off batch, but both girlmoxie and I thought it did not compare to the hot fudge at Mitchell's, one of the stops on the first ice-cream-a-thon. I was disappointed that the fudge seemed more chocolate-y than fudge-y this time around, but that still didn't stop me from scraping the bottom of the container when I was done with my sundae. :oops:

    Suzy
    " There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
    - Frank Zappa
  • Post #8 - March 13th, 2006, 4:08 pm
    Post #8 - March 13th, 2006, 4:08 pm Post #8 - March 13th, 2006, 4:08 pm
    Rene G wrote:I’m more and more convinced that getting a sandwich fully assembled (i.e., juicy, hot) is considerably better than getting it with gravy and peppers separately. It is definitely instructive, however, being able to taste the components on their own.

    Peter,

    I'll take this one step further and say that the experience is even better if you get your own sandwich entirely. This is nothing more than an extension of your own idea about my suggestion of splitting a bowl of carne en su jugo one time at Taqueria Altos. I know that many will say that with this approach, they're most likely finished after one place on any beefathon.
    How about splitting sandwiches with a loved one?!!
  • Post #9 - March 13th, 2006, 6:03 pm
    Post #9 - March 13th, 2006, 6:03 pm Post #9 - March 13th, 2006, 6:03 pm
    Rob/VI - Hey, I shared your ennui, and it was just with this outing that I found my Beef Jones once again. Can't speak for George, but I think that is just the natural way it works - there are times when a prolonged survey like this will be boring, even unpleasant and seem like work. I only hope it has not turned you off of Italian Beef.

    Rob/PIGMON, and Peter - There is a method to the tasting, and the method is more about doing the survey and getting some form of usable results than it is about pure gluttony and maximum enjoyment, sadly, at times.

    A full sandwich is a better experience - agreed.

    As to whether having the sandwich dipped with peppers on it is better than the deconstructed experience, with peppers and gravy on the side, that is a little more tricky. I think the better the place, the more the giardinera obscures the flavor of the sandwich; for a lesser place, giardinera is always a good addition. Johnnies, Al's and Chickies are giardinera-optional spots; Frans, as an example, is giardinera-required.

    I also want to draw everyone's attention to the photo of Rosangela's sandwich above. Not a great sandwich, but look at the browned, toasted bread. Not a perfect solution, but a great improvement on the soft, soggy Turano and Gonnella rolls usually served. If your local beef stand has a pizza oven, or a toaster, ask for the roll to be browned. Not as good as supplying your own baguette, but a marked improvement. My crusade for more crispiness in Chicago rolls is already winning converts :!: :!: :!:
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #10 - March 13th, 2006, 6:17 pm
    Post #10 - March 13th, 2006, 6:17 pm Post #10 - March 13th, 2006, 6:17 pm
    ddickson wrote:My crusade for more crispiness in Chicago rolls is already winning converts


    I occasionally go to Pot Belly's for lunch. They give you the option of reducing the bread to save carbs. Just for chuckles, I asked them to reduced the bread, which is then toasted as they always do. I found the thinner, toasted bread had a much firmer and crispy texture. I found I liked it better with the bonus of a few less calories.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #11 - March 16th, 2006, 12:44 pm
    Post #11 - March 16th, 2006, 12:44 pm Post #11 - March 16th, 2006, 12:44 pm
    Rob,

    Ennui happens. It's not you, it's the natural course of things when events are not as fresh and exciting as they once were.

    But once you get past the letdown stage and settle in there is still much to appreciate. IB's are still tasty when done right, we all had fun and we learned a lot about IB sandwiches and we found in Pop's another worthy place. I hope you can participate in the Grand Beefathon.

    I would also like to add my thanks to everyone who participated. It was fun to meet people and to attach faces to handles.

    Special thanks to sdritz and hubby for providing clear directions. (The Google directions I got were complex. confusing and generally crappy.)

    Also Rene G's scouting reports were critical. The special trip to determine JJ's existence was above and beyond the call of duty. For this he receives the Croix de Boeuf with A Pepper Rampant.
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #12 - March 16th, 2006, 5:38 pm
    Post #12 - March 16th, 2006, 5:38 pm Post #12 - March 16th, 2006, 5:38 pm
    You came sooo close to the best beef in Chicago, you probably drove right past it! Next time you come on down, stop into Calabria Imports on 103rd and Longwood. The front of the store is all specialty italian groceries and the back is a lunch counter that has THE best beef in the city. Everything that can be homemade is. Just delicious.
  • Post #13 - March 16th, 2006, 5:42 pm
    Post #13 - March 16th, 2006, 5:42 pm Post #13 - March 16th, 2006, 5:42 pm
    NSH wrote:You came sooo close to the best beef in Chicago, you probably drove right past it! Next time you come on down, stop into Calabria Imports on 103rd and Longwood. The front of the store is all specialty italian groceries and the back is a lunch counter that has THE best beef in the city. Everything that can be homemade is. Just delicious.


    As the great Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) once said, "missed it by THAT much".
  • Post #14 - March 21st, 2006, 10:02 pm
    Post #14 - March 21st, 2006, 10:02 pm Post #14 - March 21st, 2006, 10:02 pm
    NSH wrote:You came sooo close to the best beef in Chicago, you probably drove right past it! Next time you come on down, stop into Calabria Imports on 103rd and Longwood. The front of the store is all specialty italian groceries and the back is a lunch counter that has THE best beef in the city. Everything that can be homemade is. Just delicious.

    Calabria Imports was mentioned as a possible stop. Maybe I hit them at a bad time a couple years ago but I remember their Italian beef sandwich as solidly average (but admittedly better than quite a few sampled on previous Beefathons). Based on your recommendation I suppose I’ll give it another try next time I’m in the neighborhood. The second (and last) time I went to Calabria I was annoyed that they refused to make me a fresh sub sandwich but insisted I take a prewrapped one from the refrigerator. Since it was late afternoon, and the thing had probably been sitting there since before lunch, I politely declined and left.
  • Post #15 - July 15th, 2006, 1:49 pm
    Post #15 - July 15th, 2006, 1:49 pm Post #15 - July 15th, 2006, 1:49 pm
    Have I waited long enough? :wink:

    In any case, here are the scores:

    There really are not enough scores to rate Marnell's for some reason. Seems to be a consistently mediocre place - 5's across the board - but very few sheets were filled out.

    Pop's/Chicago and Rosangela's both had decent atmosphere, earing a 6.2 and 6.6 respectively. Pops/Homewood in its spiffy new place was lower rated at 5.4, but none of these places were wonderful or terrible.

    The Sweet Peppers were also decent, and roughly equal - Pops/Chicago, Rosangela's, and Pops/HW earning 6.6, 5.8 and 5.1 respectively. Of course, in the grand scheme of things a 6.6 for Sweet Peppers is a lot like a 9 for most other things.

    As to Fries, opinions varied widely, based on one's preference in style of French Fry, I suppose (McDonald's versus handcut skin-on, I think). Pops/Chicago and Homewood were pretty close with their mostly McD-style - 5.1 and 5.7 respectively. Rosangela's had great handcut and scored an 8.

    With the exception of Rosangela's toasted bread which scored a record 7.7, all of the rest is pretty much the same with the only difference being age, storage and sogginess. In those areas, Pops/Chicago did much better with a 5.7, versus Pops/HW at 4.8.

    And now for the main event.

    The gravy at Pop's/Chicago was pretty good, fresh, well-seasoned and just tasty, and got a 6.7; Homewood had less seasoning and trailed at 6.0. Rosangela's was close to that at 5.7, but had more canned broth notes.

    The Beef at Pop's Chicago also stood out, well cooked, well seasoned and darned good, earning a 7.1. Pop's/HW trailed with a 6.0, and Rosangela's really was not Italian Beef, presenting more of a pure Roast Beef seasoning profile, and not cooked so well either. It earned a 4.7.

    As often happens, when it is all put together a little magic happens and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Toasted bread, decent giardinera and gravy pulled the beef up at Rosangela's to earn a 6.0 - not great, but not really bad either.

    Pop's/HW came in with a 6.8, which means the consensus is it was a good sammy. And Pop's/Chicago left the others in its dust with a 7.9, which means it is worth a little detour to get a pretty darned good IB.

    Will begin a thread on Events to discuss the finals.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more