Category: Breakfast

Recipe: Coarse Liverwurst & Muenster Omelet

Having suffered my first sinus bleed in three years last weekend (a rather bad episode I might add, with about three pints of blood loss), I found myself once again in need of the wonderful healing properties of the Coarse Liverwurst from Kilgus Meats in Toledo. Mary picked up four pounds of the stuff on Friday, keeping two pounds in the fridge for my use and throwing the rest in the freezer for later. I’ve been munching on its beautiful richness quite a bit on its own with just a fork as usual, and every time I do I seem to get a bit more energy.

On this Easter morning we’ve been taking it kinda easy. I haven’t cooked in more than a week and felt it was time to actually get up and get myself something instead of having Mary or someone else do it. I wanted eggs but of course felt the coarse liverwurst would end up being a side dish anyway. That’s when Aaron suggested I make a Coarse Liverwurst Omelet. That sounded pretty darn good.

I decided I wanted to sauté the liverwurst, as it would need to be like the meat in the Fried Egg & Spam dish that’s popular in Hawaii. Adding chopped onion to it would also give it the texture of a handmade corned beef hash. With the liverwurst being as rich as it is I knew I wouldn’t want a strong cheese in the omelet. I needed a mild cheese to balance the flavors, and Muenster seemed a better choice than Swiss because of the additional creaminess offsetting the texture of the sautéed liverwurst and onion.

The amounts used in this recipe are certainly to taste … I used a lot more of the liverwurst than most people would, cutting a bit more than an inch off the loaf and skinning it before breaking it up into chunks. Without adding oil or butter to the omelet pan, I sautéed the coarse liverwurst and a few teaspoons of chopped yellow onion until the liverwurst broke down into smaller pieces and the onion was translucent. This I drained on some paper towel.

After wiping out the pan, I melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter then made a 3-egg omelet over medium-high heat the normal way, seasoning with our standard staple for eggs, Alden Mill House Miracle Blend. (A combination of Kosher salt, black pepper, granulated garlic and other spices, a product made in Alden near Torch Lake here in Michigan, and also available at Kilgus Meats in Toledo.) When the omelet was almost ready, I added the still-warm meat and topped it with the slices of Muenster cheese.

This turned out to be a lot better then even I thought it would. I hadn’t overcooked the liverwurst so it was still nice and moist. I might have wanted to add a third slice of the cheese for more creaminess, but it was still a good amount. This is something I’ll make again, especially when a couple more of my boys are home and I’ll have the strength to cook it for them.

As it was though, when I sat down to eat it, I was sweating and short of breath from the exertion of actually doing something. Obviously, I still have a long road ahead.

Thanks for the suggestion, Aaron!

Breakfasts at Rivalrys Bar in Erie, Michigan

An excellent breakfast at a bar? Who’d of thunk it?

Yeah, that’s a big pile of schmutz. But it’s a good pile of schmutz. Out of all the breakfast burritos I’ve eaten in probably 40 years, this one is one of the best if not the best one of the bunch. This thing is absolutely huge. I’d hoped to get a photo of what the inside of this burrito looks like, maybe with a good cross-section, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

One of the more interesting points about this burrito is where its served. If you live in Monroe County and/or drive the infamous Telegraph Rd. in Michigan near the Ohio state line, you’ll likely have driven through the intersection at Sterns Rd. about two miles north of Ohio. You’ve probably looked at the little bar on the northwest corner, Rivalrys, and because it doesn’t look like much whatsoever you’ve always driven right past it.

Late yesterday morning we were actually on our way to breakfast at another restaurant when I spotted Rivalrys once again. My curiosity got the best of me, I made a hard right turn and parked at the far end of the little building.

Inside, the place is a classic bar. There’s country music in the jukebox, a karaoke machine by the front door, a tin ceiling, Club Keno on a couple flat-screen monitors, burly bearded bartenders schlepping drinks … and yes, vodka-based Clamdiggers being served at 11 a.m.

As soon as the bartender had gotten us our coffees and we opened the menu, we spotted it: The Belly Bustin Burrito:

Mary said that, if I didn’t order the thing that she was going to because one of us had to have the experience. I went ahead and order the Burrito while she ordered the Farmer’s Omelet.

Like I said, this was likely the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my life. It may not be the largest. That would have been one I tried to eat at Tony’s in Birch Run, Michigan, where they don’t measure their portions. (They just serve the package they get!) One problem with a lot of breakfast burritos is that the fillings are either too dry or they’re a bit on the runny side. The filling of the Belly Bustin Burrito was neither, with thick chunks of sausage and good potatoes in with the eggs. The sausage had an excellent flavor, while at the same time it didn’t overpower the rest of the dish. There was also a good southern-style sausage gravy on it, one that’s not too peppery. What was interesting about this dish was that I didn’t have to use salt or pepper. This burrito came perfectly seasoned, an accomplishment that was impressive on its own.

I did finish this beast. It was about noon and I hadn’t eaten since an early dinner the night before. After eating the Belly Bustin Burrito I also really didn’t eat much the rest of the day either (no surprise there), and only had some cottage cheese and Georgia peaches for dinner.

Mary’s Farmer’s Omelet was also incredibly good, and good-looking as well.

This was also overstuffed with all kinds of good things, potatoes, sausage, cheese, mushrooms and peppers. There wasn’t a brown spot on it as it was obviously carefully made. The lighting in this pic, the sun coming through the front window of the dimly-lit bar, really doesn’t do this omelet justice.

Notice the prices in the menu. The burrito itself was $5.50. Other places would probably charge over seven or eight dollars for that same burrito, or even something smaller. I think her Farmer’s Omelet, as big as it was, was $4.99 like the Mexican Omelet was as shown in the menu photo, but don’t quote me on that.

If you like a really good breakfast, and can tolerate a classic, smoky bar atmosphere (it is what it is), Rivalrys is one of those places you should stop into instead of just driving past. We’re glad we did, and will definitely be going back.

An Odd Way to Make New Friends, and Jeanne’s Café, Grand Haven, Michigan

The Smoked Salmon Omelet with cream cheese, capers and dill at Jeanne’s Café in Grand Haven, Michigan

I didn’t eat this omelet. Neither did Mary. Oddly enough, some biker we met at a rest area ate this particular Smoked Salmon Omelet.

Already, you’re definitely getting the wrong image of the guy. Believe you me, we had an entirely different image of him at first, which was also quite wrong.

Lemme tell you this story …

 Traveling along I-96 last Wednesday we pulled into the rest area just west of Lansing near Portland, Michigan. We pulled in next to a Harley with a lovely young lady standing next to it. We were guessing she was in her early 20s. In the rest room I spotted the other rider … a man obviously in his 40s. My first thought was, “Wow he’s way too old for her.” As Mary and I were walking back to the van she was thinking exactly the same thing. That was, until the guy turned to us and innocently asked, “Would you take a picture of my daughter and I?”


It turned out Alexandra is only 14 but, like my own Briahna, easily looks older then that. She and her dad John are from Windsor, Ontario, and had rented the Harley from a shop in Farmington Hills. I would learn later her dad had promised her this trip on her 12th birthday so, as she put it later, “I had to wait two years for this!”

But I digress.

We chatted a bit at the rest area. We told them we were headed for Grand Haven. John and Alexandra had been headed for Traverse City but felt there wasn’t time, so they were headed for South Haven. We chatted a bit more, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Or so we’d thought.

You know how, every once in a while, some really odd coincidence will happen, and the world will suddenly seem very small? That happened to us the following morning when we were leaving the hotel and Mary said, “Hey, isn’t that … ???” There they were, John and Alexandra, leaving the hotel in front of us! We don’t recall telling them exactly where we were staying, so the odds of us showing up at the same hotel some 80 or so miles from where they were headed are somewhat astronomical.

John and Alexandra in front of Jeanne’s Café with their Harley.

As I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post I was already planning on dropping Mary off for her morning sessions and heading for Jeanne’s Café so I told John about the 25 omelets there. When I got to the restaurant, John waved me over to their table. We had a most enjoyable visit, while at the same time enjoying some of Jeanne’s wonderful omelets.

Jeanne’s Seafood Omelet

I knew what I wanted. The previous evening I’d had some of Jeanne’s wonderful Smoked Salmon at the Michigan Association of Mayors reception near the Grand River and I knew that same salmon was in the Smoked Salmon Omelet. John ordered the Smoked Salmon Omelet shown in the first photo and obviously loved it. (Alexandra had ordered the pancakes and said they were also quite good.) But Jeanne had told me of her Seafood Omelet, containing both crab and shrimp, some Swiss cheese, all topped with hollandaise sauce. I’ve always enjoyed a good seafood omelet, particularly one containing crab. This particular omelet was rather good and the Hollandaise sauce was a perfect complement to it. I’m glad I ordered it.

[Yes, I know that’s not real crab, and Jeanne herself had mentioned this the night before. Just because it’s imitation crab doesn’t mean the omelet’s not good. It was delightful, actually. At over $20/lb right now, real crab likely won’t make it into any omelet I eat any time soon, so I’ll certainly take it this way.]

The exterior.

After feeding Mary and the other city leaders Jeanne came back to her café to chat with customers. After spending some time at our table she was off chatting with others … but after a while came back. She asked if I had my camera as she wanted to show some of the buffet photos from the previous evening to some new friends. After sending John and Alexandra on their way I headed to the table Jeanne wanted me to speak with. It turned out the folks there were Larry and Lisa from the Cocoa Cottage Bed & Breakfast further north in Whitehall. I’d heard of their B&B before, and Mary and I had talked about visiting such a place where chocolate is a way of life. We’ll have to head up there sometime.

You guessed it … the interior.

The following morning I once again dropped Mary off for her sessions and went back to Jeanne’s Café for another omelet. After going through the list of 24 possibilities (I planned on something different from the Seafood Omelet) I settled on the Philly, with its roast beef, sautéed onion, green pepper and mushrooms, some Swiss cheese and a side of cream cheese. The dark rye toast seemed appropriate for this omelet.

The Philly Omelet

So far this one’s my favorite. The roast beef was tender and juicy. There were just enough veggies and cheese to give the impression of a good Philly Cheesesteak sandwich without going overboard. And as Jeanne had told me, the cream cheese made for an excellent topping.

One thing I really enjoy doing is making friends at out-of-the-way restaurants the locals go to but that we’d normally never hear of. There in Grand Haven, with Jeanne’s catering service and her café, and with John and Alexandra unexpectedly showing up in the mix as a nice bonus … this is a place, a city, a group of friends Mary and I plan on visiting again when we can.

A word of warning: The backs of the t-shirts read, “PLEASE don’t feed the waitresses”. I get the feeling that’s a sentence we should all heed …

The Texas Inn, Lynchburg, Virginia

Best hot dogs in the world, eh??

When I got to a hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia this past Wednesday it was well past 8:30 p.m. I’d been on the road for almost ten hours straight. At one point the GPS got me seriously lost in the hills east of New Haven, West Virginia, and I’d ended up on a one-lane road at the top of a ridge with nowhere to turn around with a sign in front of me which read, “Road Closed Ahead”.

The definition of irony: Not 36 hours after said GPS incident, the GPS manufacturer emailed me about upcoming map updates. Go figure.

The darned thing also led me east on route 60, through those nasty switchbacks that go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Shenendoah National Park, then back down again. The sun was still up when I started that section. It was down before I reached the ridge. I can’t stand driving those things in mid-day, but after dark it’s incredibly dangerous.

The gal at the hotel desk, Janelle, suggested I have a couple hot dogs at the Texas Inn, a 24/6 operation up at the next intersection. She claimed, “Best hot dogs in the world!” Too tired to chew more than what was stuck between my teeth, I thanked her anyway, went to my room, ignored the flossing, and went to bed.

By Thursday evening my curiosity had gotten the best of me. I know what the best hot dogs in the world taste like, at least for me. Others will claim Detroit coneys, some Chicago, and yet others prefer Nathan’s Famous. You’ll never find a concensus on the subject, and frankly, I’ve given up trying to find one.

Still, I decided to head up to the Texas Inn and find out what she was talking about.

The little place is … little. Large on the outside, only the northern-most section of the building (the left end in the above photo) is open to customers. Inside, a stainless-steel counter wraps around an open kitchen and waitstaff area. The 15 stools at the counter are all the seats there are.

Parking myself at the stove end of the counter (last stool on the right please), I ordered a couple of the chili dogs Janelle had told me about. In fact, if I recall, I mentioned that she’d recommended the restaurant and the hot dogs. Almost immediately AJ, on the left in this photo, said, “We’re better known for our Cheesy Westerns“. Ok, ummm … what??

AJ made up my two chili dogs, with the chili made right there in the restaurant, and also filled me in on the sandwich he prefered to tell me about.

First off, the hot dogs were passable. I do have issues with steamed or boiled dogs that are proclaimed “Best hot dogs in the world”. Sorry Janelle, but the best dogs are grilled, plain and simple. I do have to say that, even though the chili looked greasy, it actually wasn’t. It had a good flavor, but I prefer it thicker anyway.

Back to AJ’s story …

The Cheesy Western. It’s a rather simple thing and, as AJ told me, the Texas Inn has been serving it since around 1935. I’d learn the following day that the sandwich has a number of adaptations in restaurants in Lynchburg and the surrounding area, but the Texas Inn is likely one of the originators, if not the originator of it.

The Cheesy Western sounded good. Really good. Not only that, in sitting there watching AJ work I saw a few of them slide by to waiting patrons. Quite a few, actually. I decided to go ahead and order one, which AJ proceeded to make up for me.

The way they do it is like this: Quarter-pound burgers are kept in supply throughout the day, made from fresh-ground beef grilled on a small grill next to the stove. The grill has a rotating lid to cover the burgers so they cook up correctly. When a customer orders a Cheesy Western, two eggs are beaten and poured into a small skillet. When they’re almost done the egg is flipped. One of the quarter-pound burgers is laid on the egg and a slice of American cheese is placed on the burger. The whole of it is laid on the bottom of the bun. The top of the bun has a “super-secret” sweet mustard relish spread on it that they make at the Inn, and chopped onions. This is then laid on top of the now-cheesy innards, the whole of it is cut in two for easier handling, plated and served.

I gotta tell ya’, the Cheesy Western is a lot better than the hot dogs were. The hamburger was nice and juicy, which was a given, given the covered grill they’re cooked on. The egg AJ cooked up for the sandwich was similar to a good fluffy omelet. And that sweet relish they make from their “super secret” recipe? Yeah, if I had had a fridge to keep it in for the weekend, I’d have gladly bought a quart of the stuff. It’s that good. And even though the relish was on the hot dogs as well, it’s far better as part of the Texas Inn’s Cheesy Western.

When something is this iconic and has been around as long as the Cheesy Western has been, it develops a following. I saw this in action the following morning when I headed to the Texas Inn to enjoy the breakfast in the photo below. In the 30 minutes I was there from 8:15 – 8:45 a.m., fifteen Cheesy Westerns went out the door in to-go bags, apparently to be saved for lunchtime on the Friday before Memorial Day. Those fifteen sandwiches were sold to eight customers … one ordered a bag of two, and two gentlemen each took a bag of four.

Decadent? Yes. Bad for the waistline, and the heart? Absolutely. Good???

Damn straight.

Breakfast at the Texas Inn. Don’t eat at the hotel restaurant.

Real Oatmeal: There’s Nothing Better

This morning’s bowls of real oatmeal, with dark brown sugar and dried cranberries. I like a couple pats of unsalted butter on mine while Mary likes a little more dark brown sugar. The coffee mug, from Haloburger, shows the Vernors mural that is on the side of the old Peerless building alongside Haloburger #2 in downtown Flint. (Click on the pic for a larger version.)

Just call me Wilford Brimley. (BTW, here’s 5 cats that look like Wilford Brimley.)

For a long time I was a firm believer that Quaker Instant Oatmeal was somehow on-par with their own Old-Fashioned Oats. While the instant variety certainly wins out where convenience and time-constraints are concerned, there’s absolutely no match for the real thing, be it Quaker or some other brand.

If a child or teen comes in from playing in the snow, and there’s a slew of kids who stayed outside, if the kid wants a quick bowl of the instant stuff (strawberry-n-cream?), I can knock that out in a little over a minute. The kid wants and needs comfort almost immediately, and I’ll certainly oblige them. But ten minutes prior to the rest of the group coming inside, I’ll start a batch of the real thing for the rest of the tribe outside. The comfort level is very similar, but the texture of real oatmeal cooked correctly, along with the better level of nutrients, is simply unmatched. Add some sliced fresh strawberries and heavy cream, and even the kid who had the instant stuff earlier will ask for some of the better stuff.

Long-time readers will know Mary gets coffee in bed in the morning 99.9% of the time. We rarely don’t do this and when it doesn’t happen for whatever reason, we seriously miss it and the rest of the day just isn’t the same. Sometimes on the weekends she also gets breakfast in bed. The bowls in the above pic are from this morning just before I carried them upstairs. Some dark brown sugar, a couple pats of unsalted butter for me, and some dried Michigan cranberries from Pic-A-Nut in Warren, Michigan. This is our favorite way to have oatmeal, even though Mary also likes a good Banana Oatmeal Creme Brulée. (Take the recipe in that link and add sliced bananas between the oatmeal and the custard.) She was able to enjoy this dish at the Solaris Restaurant at Marriott World Center in Orlando, and I have yet to be able to match it.

So yes, we love oatmeal. I’ve told the following story before, but it’s a fun story so I’ll tell it again. It just wasn’t a whole lot of fun when it happened …

Back in 1979, I was working in the kitchen at what was then Camp Martin Johnson in Irons, Michigan. One Sunday morning, the lead cook got the idea to serve oatmeal to the campers who wanted it. We got it all set up in the 10-gallon bowl steamer off to the side of the kitchen, got it going on a slow cook … and promptly forgot about it.

We served breakfast, got everything cleaned up, and went into making lunch. Lunch came and went, with over a hundred satisfied campers and staff, and we got all that cleaned up. We then started serving dinner … which is when one of the prep cooks asked, “Hey, why is the steamer hot? And what’s that smell??

That’s how slowly the steamer had cooked the oatmeal. It had crawlingly dried out during the day, had become pungent, and the vapors were just then beginning to leak from the edges of the lid. We made the mistake of opening it indoors at first … and everyone started gagging.

The cook and I hefted the bowl off the steamer and manhandled it down the stairs and out the door. Over by the Dumpster, we set it down, pulled the lid … and gagged some more. We grabbed the handles, got under it, hefted it to our shoulders, heaved it over the edge of the Dumpster … and that’s when the cook slipped.

Before we knew it, rancid over-cooked oatmeal was everywhere, including on us. We stood there, gagging, laughing, and gagging some more. It served us right to be wearing the stuff. After we stopped cracking up, we grabbed a couple shovels and shoveled the stuff from the ground into the Dumpster. It took two washings to get the steamer’s stainless steel bowl cleaned, and we both had to throw our shirts away because of the permanent stench.

I love oatmeal, as does Mary, especially when it’s cooked correctly and has that wonderful texture and flavor.

I just don’t like to wear it.