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Exclusive Interview with Chef John Besh on Cooking From the Heart

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Administrator

Cooking from the Heart Cookbook

Chef John Besh is the owner of many restaurants in New Orleans and the author of three cookbooks, the most recent, Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way.

Chef Besh was kind enough to take time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak with us about his everyday life, cooking inspirations and his take on food bloggers.

AoFB: Did you have any influencers growing up that got you into cooking?
JB: My grandparents and my mother influenced me tremendously growing up.

AoFB: What is your favorite kitchen tool or gadget?
JB: Large spoons that stir the pot. I love making jambalaya, etouffe, creole, stews, large one pot meals. I usually set the spoons right back on the stove after I’m done cooking because I know I’ll be using them again and again. And I love the Le Cruset cookware.

AoFB: Curiosity and the cook? Tell us a little more about that.
JB: That chronicles the time I spend in Europe in my twenties with my wife, Jenifer. Those were fantastic days. We visited so many little hole in the wall spots and had some of the most delicious foods. I learned so much about cooking from these places and tried such a variety of things, things that I wouldn’t normally have tasted. It really broadened my palate.

AoFB: You run restaurants. Your wife works but you have four children. How do you find time to balance work / family life?
JB: Yes, Jenifer quit work to be dedicated to the family so that has helped a lot. But it is all about the priorities you make. If it is important to you, you will do that so as busy as our lives are especially with the boys sports, we still make it a priority to sit down together with the family. That is what my book is about – bringing people and families together.

AoFB: Do any of your sons prod you to open a restaurant with their name?
JB: Ah! What was I thinking when I did that? My restaurant, Luke, is after my grandfather. I sometimes wish I didn’t do that. I get a lot of flack for it.

AoFB: In recent years there has been some controversy about food bloggers. What are your thoughts about them? Do they have relevancy in the industry and how you see them shaping the food world?

JB: I think bloggers are great and continue to influence and shape our industry. I have been very fortunate that so many bloggers and critics have given my restaurants positive reviews. However, I do think people are so quick to critique something instead of enjoying it for what it is and the experience. A meal should be about sitting down with those who are special to you. I think that young kids like 17 and below haven’t event developed their palate yet and they are already critiquing places, which isn’t right. Even my son Brandon writes a food column in his paper and he is so young.

AoFB: What is your guilty pleasure food?
JB: I’m a chef, pretty much everything I make is a guilty pleasure, isn’t it? Okay, I guess if I were to pick something I like French fries dipped in Mayonnaise

AoFB: I see the pumpkin Tian that you made on the Today show in your cookbook. The stars of the new movie, Last Vegas acted as your Sous chefs. What was it like directing Michael Douglas, Robert Dinero, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline?
JB: I had so much fun with that. Kevin Kline was great, and it was my first time meeting him. Robert Dinero Michael Douglas was terrific too. It was like being with friends because they have dinned in my restaurants before.

AoFB: What else?
JB: Check out my new book, Cooking from the Heart, visit BeshRestaurants.com as well for more information.

Here is a recipe from John Besh’s latest cookbook, Cooking from the Heart:

RABBIT IN GELÉE WITH CHANTERELLE SALAD
Makes 8–10 ramekins

Here’s one way to think about a gelée: individual ramekins used as molds to turn out little aspics with morsels of rabbit and diced vegetables. I like to serve this appetizer with a beautiful salad of chanterelles and cherry tomatoes to enhance the delicate flavor of the rabbit. Or serve it more simply, with a variety of pickled vegetables.

Ingredients
Young rabbit (about 3 pounds)
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 carrots, diced small
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
8 cups Basic Chicken
Stock (page 250)
Salt
1 cup diced celery root
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 packets (.25 ounce each) powdered gelatin
Freshly ground black pepper
About 2 cups small chanterelle mushrooms
A handful of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar

1. Combine the rabbit, onions, leeks, half the carrots, the thyme, bay leaf, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, cayenne, and Chicken Stock in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly for 1½ hours. Transfer the rabbit to a bowl.
2. Strain the cooking liquid through a finemesh sieve into a medium pot and discard the aromatics. Bring the stock to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until it has reduced by about half to 3–4 cups, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining carrots, the celery root, and the chives. Soften the gelatin in ½ cup cold water and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the gelatin to the reduced stock and stir until dissolved.
3. Debone the rabbit and dice the meat, then add it to the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and if you think it needs it, add more salt and pepper.
4. Evenly divide the rabbit, vegetables, and stock among 8 or 10 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, toss chanterelles and tomatoes with oil and vinegar and reserve.
5. To serve, place the ramekins in of warm water for just a moment to soften the gelée. Use a knife to release, invert and carefully unmold each onto a plate.

BASIC CHICKEN STOCK
Makes about 6 cups

Save the carcass from every chicken you roast—it’s the foundation of a great chicken soup. I always have a few in my freezer for just this purpose.

Ingredients
2 carcasses roast chicken
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1. Combine the chicken carcasses, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with 12 cups cold water and bring to a boil. With a spoon, skim and discard the foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until reduced by about half, about 3 hours. Strain the stock through a finemesh strainer over a large bowl. The stock is ready to use, or chill and freeze for future soups and stews.

—From Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing

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Behind the Scenes at Le Cordon Bleu + IACP Conference Recap

Posted on 05 November 2013 by Administrator

We recently attended an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Conference. The speaker roster included a well known Anthropologist who shared insights into the culture of food and what is means in our society for the past, present and future. Another speaker, well known author and James Beard award winner Shirley Corrinher, shared some cooking tips with us. We also got a behind the scenes tour of Le Cordon Bleu, where the conference was held.

Shirley Corrinher at IACP Conference

Shirley Corrinher is many things: a well respected chef, abiochemist and author of CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking. Corrinher also is the winner of a James Beard Foundation award. Here other book BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. CookWise explains how scientific principles can be applied to traditional cooking, while BakeWise applies the same theory to baking. She’s also a riot to be around. She spoke at the IACP conference and shared some cooking tips with us. Here are three gems Shirley shared with the audience:

  • Salt. Everywhere we turn nowadays we are told salt is bad for us. But did you know that a small amount of salt reduces the bitterness in foods?
  • Risotto. Want to make it extra creamy? Add an egg yolk to risotto to make it super creamy.
  • Searing meat does not keep juices in. Cooking it a consistent temperature is the way to keep the juices in. To avoid moisture loss make sure meat is brined. Meat that has been brined will lose only 15 percent moisture. Meat that has not been brined will loss about 30 percent moisture.

After our speakers were done and a scrumptious lunch (they do it up right!) we got to tour Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta, where the conference was held. I didn’t know much about the culinary tracks offered at Le Cordon Bleu, only experiencing meals from some of their talented graduates. It is quite an operation they have in their “classrooms.”

Classroom at Le Cordon Bleu

Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School Atlanta

We toured the numerous and neatly organized classrooms. I’m told chefs are spoiled by how elegant the appliances are at Le Cordon Bleu and have a bit of an adjustment when they get out into real world restaurant kitchens. Also worth noting is that many work stations have cameras mounted from the ceilings. During demonstrations, students can really see techniques up close. Cameras can also be used to review the process to help identify where mistakes were made. All in all we were pretty impressed with the operation!

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Food Trucks vs. Restaurants

Posted on 01 October 2013 by Administrator

Food trucks are all the rage these days. They’re convenient, offer tasty food and hold a ton of personality. Restaurants may not agree, however, only because food trucks are taking away some of their customers and revenue.

During the American Civil War, cattlemen looked for simple ways to feed other cattlemen while herding through Texas. Chuckwagons then emerged, selling food to herders, now known as food trucks. Since then, food trucks have resurged due to the downed economy. Restaurants that lay off chefs are one example why food trucks have grown over the past few years. New opportunities have emerged for experienced chefs who don’t have jobs and need to make money.

Social Media has played a huge role in the popularity of food trucks. Fans can follow the trucks on Facebook and Twitter to find out when and where they will be. Loyal customers will drive many miles to support their favorite food trucks.

The Current State of Food Trucks
Food trucks are taking advantage of every opportunity they can, pinching every penny and fighting any restrictions that affect their business. You’ll see them frequently rolling around in larger cities, but they’re popping up more and more in smaller cities and college towns. Why? People are always looking for more convenient ways to eat some tasty, affordable grub.
Their convenience and small kitchens also make for great food outlets for special events, music festivals, parties and other public or private gatherings. They’re small enough to not take up a large amount of space and mobile enough to cater to any special event.

Restaurants haven’t really changed much, except from the fact that there are more of them…a lot more. So many restaurants exist that if you lived in a large city, it could take you years to try every one. It’s a growing market, especially as people’s lives get more hectic.

Hardships
Food trucks are a difficult business. They fight many restrictions and regulations that cut down on their revenue. Food truck owners in larger cities, such as Chicago, are a great example. They have many parking restrictions and only recently have been allowed to cook onboard with proper licenses, rather than offsite kitchens. They can only park for 2 hours at a time and have to be at least 200 feet away from restaurants.

Restaurants also have their own hardships. Over the past few years, they’ve had to let workers go due to poor economic health, which inadvertently created more competition for them because some of these people started their own businesses…food trucks. In addition, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, restaurants will have to pay more towards health benefits, which will affect how much they can pay or even keep their employees.

The Ongoing Battle
The fact of the matter is, restaurants don’t like food trucks, food trucks don’t like restaurants and both parties have difficulties with regulations passed down upon them. In larger cities, restaurants seem to have a larger voice, which can influence the way laws are passed. Food trucks, particularly in San Diego and Chicago for example, have been upset at some of the regulations enforced upon their operations. They’ve missed out on opportunities to make money due to some of these restrictions, but if you look at it from the restaurant perspective, is it fair if a food truck parks right outside a brick and mortar establishment?

Can’t we all just get along and enjoy some food, whether it’s at a table or on a street corner?

By Sam Ott

He  writes for Willies Restaurant in Columbia, Mo. Willie’s is known for their tasty wings since 1994.

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vosges chocolate barsMei Mei’s Kitchen Boston dessertshouse made bittershouse corn popsiclefrog legs with kitchen’s hot sauce, gorgonzola piccante and slawEstelles Southern Cuisine BostongEstelle’s Southern Cuisine Boston chicken liver deviled eggAmaro

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2013 Food and Drink Trends

Posted on 22 February 2013 by Administrator

By Markeya Williams

2012 was an exciting year for many food and cocktail trends. It was also the year that ended
with many trends on the horizon and awaiting their turn to blossom from the minds of geniuses
and out into the world to turn us on.

Leave your ‘sweet tooth’ behind

2013 is the year of the bitter, sour, and spicy! Let’s talk digestifs if you will; though it does
appear to be and odd place to begin.

Amaro. Interpreted as “bitter” in Italiano. 2012 ended with great interest in such digestifs as
Averna and Fernet-Branca, which made quite the reintroduction to society along with aperitifs
such as Campari and Aperol.

The American palate is being forcefully pushed toward bitter and herbaceous and we should
all be grateful. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re out on the town, order a Fernet-Branca or
perhaps a Menta-Branca and watch your bartender’s eyes light up then hold on to your chair for
the astringent, though pleasantly smooth and very grown up experience that is Fernet.

House made (wonderfully inviting new buzzwords) bitters, simple syrups, and shrub syrups.
It’s a pretty surreal experience to sit at the oak in your favorite watering hole and observe hand-
written labels boasting “grapefruit shrub” or “house bitter blend”. It almost takes you back to

Organic Chemistry class, but with a more entertaining result.


Photo Credit: Markeya K. Williams (DrFoodie Photography). ArtBar (Cambridge,
Massachusetts)

House made hot sauce is also challenging us all beyond Texas Pete (not that there’s anything
wrong with that). But aged, fermented Korean chili paste (gochujang) and even fresh
horseradish based hot sauces are leading the way these days. Most are simple, but brace you for
a few with a storyline.


Photo Credit: Markeya K. Williams (DrFoodie Photography). Kitchen (Boston, Massachusetts)
Chef Scott Herritt’s Frog legs with House made Hot Sauce

Salted & Boozy Desserts

Not so unusual in Asian cuisine, salted desserts are capturing and holding the attention
Westerners. Salted caramel has eased us into this trend. We’ve found salted caramel swirled in
vanilla ice cream, enjoyed bacon chocolate, stout(ed) chocolate, bacon cotton candy, and salted
caramel candies/chocolates. It’s quite an interesting ride! Adult milkshakes (think banana with
rum) are also all the rave!


Photo Credit: Markeya K. Williams (DrFoodie Photography)


Photo Credit: Markeya K. Williams (DrFoodie Photography) Corn popsicle at The Painted
Burro Mexican Restaurant (Somerville, MA)


Mei Mei’s Kitchen (Boston) Cider ice cream w/ salmon roe and brown butter powder


Crisp fried chicken livers with orange marmalade, fried tobacco onion, and garlic seared greens.
Estelle’s Southern Cuisine (Boston, MA)

Fun-Filled Deviled Eggs

I never imagined such a phrase would ever be written, but restaurants everywhere seem to be
competing on how to design the trendiest deviled egg. Think smoked, spicy chicken liver, pesto,
or smoked salmon with capers and you’ll understand what I mean.


Spicy, Smoked Chicken Liver Deviled Eggs. Estelle’s Southern Cuisine (Boston, MA)

Not Your Average Kid’s Meal

Fancy kiddos celebrate! Your child is not a second class diner with limited choices of chicken
nuggets and mac n’ cheese. Even the palates of babes are becoming more sophisticated. Treat
your little gourmands to panko hand-breaded chicken, whole grain items, pot stickers, even small
filet mignon and they may not expect a toy afterwards.

-Markeya enjoys sharing her experiences one bite and/or flight at a time! Her work can be found
at Traveling Foodie 2006

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Taco Bell Cantina Menu: Social Media Fail

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Administrator

“You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” That’s what a Taco Bell employee said to me when I flashed their Facebook offer on my smart phone, refusing to honor the July 4th weekend BOGOF promotion for their new Cantina Bowl.

Like many other food bloggers, I rarely ever eat fast food. Created by Chef Lorena Garcia, Taco Bell’s new Cantina menu seems to be different. The upscale menu comes with guacamole, cilantro rice and charred corn salsa and protein of your choice, and is under 600 calories. The price point makes it a poor man’s Chipotle.

Between the television commercials and consistent Facebook ads, it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing about the deal. Interested in seeing how well the Cantina Bell menu lives up to its claims, I decided to give it a try. Plus, I like to participate in social media promotions just to see how well they play out in the real world.

Trying to keep printing to a minimum, I was pleased to see that Taco Bell’s offer allows users to simply show the promo on their smart phone and still claim the offer. Nice green initiative, or so I thought. However, I was told by the cashier at Taco Bell, I would have to print the deal out (as the person in line behind me did) to use it. Her recommendation was that I go to the library (cause libraries are open at 7 pm on Saturday, right?) and print it out.

I did try to go back to their page and take a screen shot of their response but my comment had been removed from their Facebook page before I could.

After Taco Bell refused to honor the deal, I tweeted to them. No response. I then went on Facebook the next day and recounted my experience. Their response was “Not all stores participated in the promotion.” Um, if they honored it for the person in line behind me, that is still participating, no? Who is running their social media accounts? Was that the standard response to anyone who had a problem using the deal that weekend?

Besides the deplorable handling of this social media initiative from every angle possible, it was rather sad that the store manager hid in the back and made his or her subordinate tell me he or she had chosen not to accept the Facebook promotion via mobile.

I even went back and read the rules of the promotion: Basically unrestricted use throughout the entire weekend. So, Taco Bell really, really, wants everyone to try their new menu. Why then the refusal to honor a mobile deal? Why kill trees unnecessarily?

If this happened to me, I’m sure it happened to many others as well. It is always a shame when a neat concept flops because of lack of proper company communication. Clearly, marketing came up with a great promotion but failed to properly communicate it down to the store level. They certainly spent enough money on it between advertising and media events.

Even more of a shame is I really did want to like the Cantina bowl. I really did want to believe Taco Bell had come up with a good concept. Provided the food lives up to how tasty they claim it is, they had an opportunity to win me and many others over who had sworn off their food. If only they had handled any part of the social media right. Unfortunately, they botched it up pretty good. No quiero Taco Bell.

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The Great Food Truck Debate Rolls On

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The Great Food Truck Debate Rolls On

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Administrator

FoodTrucks

In Seattle, Chicago, Raleigh, Atlanta and other cities across the nation, the debate on allowing food trucks rages on. Foodies love food trucks because you can get a sampling of various kinds of food for little cost. Think of anything from a Korean taco, to tamales to cake pops and much more. Besides being inexpensive, the food is innovative and convenient (read: can be eaten while standing up holding over a paper plate).

In some cities food trucks are relegated to the outskirts of town, and some are only allowed to serve pre-packaged food; cooked food can only be served if it has been prepared in a restaurant kitchen. Food trucks must pass a health inspection just like a restaurant. And they do receive random visits to make sure they are up to code.

It all sounds like a fun way to pass the time, right? The gathering of food trucks around a designated spot to sell a various array of tasty foods to hungry patrons? Some say yes, while others vehemently oppose the idea. And consumers lie somewhere in the middle.

Restaurant owners argue that food trucks are loud and create lots of litter. They also say they take up valuable customer parking. It is especially a hot button in a tough economic climate where restaurants are battling each other for dollars and don’t want to compete against the lower priced food trucks.

Then there is the food truck vendor side. Food truck vendors argue that they don’t take business away from brick-and-mortar restaurants but rather appeal to those office workers that brown bag it or the young crowd of late-night partiers looking for something quick and cheap.

The crux of the problem lies somewhere in the middle. Restaurants must pay exorbitant amounts for rent, in addition to property taxes, employee wages, electricity, etc. A food truck doesn’t have nearly the expenses. And with everyone hanging on to their money these days, it is much more likely for consumers to spend 3 bucks on a quick taco vs. upwards of 10 dollars plus tip at a restaurant. Food truck vendors start a mobile business because that is all they can afford, and see it as a stepping-stone to one day owning their own restaurant.

One thing that is for sure is that the food truck issue isn’t going anywhere. City officials are weighing options of mandating that food trucks operate a certain distance from restaurants. New York has enforced that many trucks operate in parks. While the food truck scene is trendy, and the food quick and delicious, nothing can take the place of a beautiful restaurant with fantastic service in a comfortable atmosphere.

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Generous Pour Wine Event at The Captial Grille

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Administrator

With locations around the country, the Capital Grille is a restaurant you know you can walk into in any city and be treated with amazing service and have a damn fine steak too. Now, through September 4th, The Capital Grille has their Generous Pour Wine Event going on. The Generous Pour Wine event offers guests the chance to taste nine varietals ranging from bubbly to full-bodied reds to a Port. These wines are selected by Master Sommelier, George Miliotes – Twitter @TheWineExpert – Tweet him, he’ll tweet you back! He even hosted a live webcast during our preview wine tasting where we were able to tweet to him and ask questions.

Ample servings of nine rare and limited vintage varietals – all for just $25 per person (with dinner entree purchase) from July 12 through September 4. The collection includes wines from all over – Spain, California, Australia and Italy. So no region is excluded. Guests are able to try wines that would normally be out of price range like the Freemark Abbey, Cabernet Bosche, 2003 which is about $250 a bottle. Everyone at the Capital Grille is friendly and helpful and not snooty at all even if you are a non-oenophile.

I’m not usually a fan of white wine and Chardonnay is my least favorite but I’m so thrilled that I tried the Chateau St. Jean, Belle Terre, 2008. This wine was fruity and citrusy, with not a hint of oak that is typical of Chardonnays. It is my new favorite white. My favorite of the reds and the clear winner that night was the Chalk Hill Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma 2006. It paired nicely with my Kona Sirloin. I’d have put a picture of it below, but let’s just say the camera didn’t love it as much as I did.

Guests may sample all nine wines or they may choose to have multiple tastings of one or more of their favorites from The Generous Pour – their server will guide them through the experience, suggesting pairings for each course ordered and providing each person with a summary of tasting notes. The restaurant will also prepare custom wine flights upon request, for those guests interested in comparing and contrasting The Generous Pour selections.

The Generous Pour Wine Event Highlights from this summer’s collection of choice whites and reds are:

· Tarima Hill Monastrell, 2009 – Making its U.S. debut at The Capital Grille this summer, this spectacular varietal is setting a new standard for Spanish medium-bodied red wine.

· Chalk Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – Named for the volcanic chalk under the vineyard’s hillside surface, which gives a delightfully unique quality to the wine’s flavor, this rich, dense wine is one of Sonoma Valley’s best.

· Marquis de la Tour, NV – This sparkling “bubbly” hails from a vineyard in France’s Loire Valley, which has been producing excellence since 1885.

· Conte Brandolini Vistorta Merlot, 2006 – Harvested from 100-year-old vines in a small vineyard in Northeast Italy, this merlot epitomizes powerful elegance.

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Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour

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Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Administrator


I knew that wines had special reserves, but I had no idea that tomatoes had reserves. Thanks to Muir Glen for enlightening me to these special tomatoes. I was one of a lucky few that was invited to a special Tasting Dinner of reserve Muir Glen tomatoes. The event, the Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour, had stops in select cities: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle, with a special tasting dinner. For Atlanta, the selection was Chef Gerry Klaskala’s Aria Restaurant in Buckhead.

The selection of Chef Klaskala and Aria for the Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour as they call it, wasn’t random. Chef Klaskala is one of five award-winning chefs from around the country who actually traveled to Yolo County, California, in August to participate in the hand-harvesting of the special tomatoes. The 2010 Reserve Tomatoes were grown exclusively for Muir Glen under certified organic practices. The tomatoes are hand-harvested at the peak of ripeness to guarantee exceptional quality and taste, going from vine to can in eight hours.



Our intimate group was treated to three appetizers (tomato-beef sliders, grilled cheese and bruschetta) while we were waiting for all the guests to arrive. Remember EVERYTHING on the menu had some of these rare tomatoes in them. The tomatoes were in a jammy consistency in the bruschetta, which was absolutely delightful. The grilled cheese with tomatoes was lovely, but it was the sliders that stole the show. The tomatoes added an overall sweet juiciness that was unlike any slider I’ve ever had before. I couldn’t resist having two – bear in mind, we still had a five course meal ahead of us.

Once seated, we started things off with a Tomato and Shrimp Bisque. Velvety and creamy, with the perfect amount of tomato, I was in heaven. The next two courses were a sort of tomato ragout – one with pasta and one with polenta. Fourth course was a perfectly cooked (and by perfectly cooked I mean medium) lamb chop served alongside a tomato and Eggplant ragout. I truly believe Eggplant and lamb were meant to go with one another and this dish upholds that theory, not to mention how perfectly it paired with the Sangiovese it was paired with.

So after tasting one each of the hors d’oeuvres, plus one extra slider, plus four courses, who would have room for dessert, right? But, oh, how this dessert was worth waiting for and saving room for. Now, when one thinks of dessert, tomato is not the first thought that comes to mind. Surprisingly, this was the highlight of the meal for me. This tomato dessert was panna cotta served with some sort of jam-like topping made from tomatoes, and served with it was a tomato sorbet. We were also treated to a shortbread cookie filled with tomato jam. If organic tomatoes are always this tasty, sweet and versatile, sign me up!

Many thanks to Muir Glen, Aria Restaurant and Chef Gerry Klaskala for allowing me to participate in this exceptional, one-of-a-kind, experience. Chef Klaskala’s passion for organics and farm-to-table foods is contagious. I felt like I was a judge on Iron Chef: Battle Tomato!

You can taste these tomatoes too. Sign up at Muir Glen and order a kit – click here for more info. For more information about the Tomato Vine Dining Tour, click here.

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100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

Posted on 02 December 2009 by Administrator

This article is courtesy of the New York Time Blog By BRUCE BUSCHEL

Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building. Veteran waiters, moonlighting actresses, libertarians and baristas will no doubt protest some or most of what follows. They will claim it homogenizes them or stifles their true nature. And yet, if 100 different actors play Hamlet, hitting all the same marks, reciting all the same lines, cannot each one bring something unique to that role?

1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.

2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?” Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar.

3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.

4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.

5. Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated.

6. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.

10. Do not inject your personal favorites when explaining the specials.

11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.

12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.

13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the handles.

14. When you ask, “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.

15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”

16. If someone requests more sauce or gravy or cheese, bring a side dish of same. No pouring. Let them help themselves.

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.

18. Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?”

19. Offer guests butter and/or olive oil with their bread.

20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.

21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong.

22. If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two.

23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.

24. Never use the same glass for a second drink.

25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing them on the table.

26. Never assume people want their white wine in an ice bucket. Inquire.

27. For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour.

28. Do not put your hands all over the spout of a wine bottle while removing the cork.

29. Do not pop a champagne cork. Remove it quietly, gracefully. The less noise the better.

30. Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle.

31. Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong.

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by.

34. Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers.

35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests.

36. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage.

37. Do not drink alcohol on the job, even if invited by the guests. “Not when I’m on duty” will suffice.

38.Do not call a guy a “dude.”

39. Do not call a woman “lady.”

40. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.

41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do.

42. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.

43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.

44. Do not discuss your own eating habits, be you vegan or lactose intolerant or diabetic.

45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests.

46. Never acknowledge any one guest over and above any other. All guests are equal.

47. Do not gossip about co-workers or guests within earshot of guests.

48. Do not ask what someone is eating or drinking when they ask for more; remember or consult the order.

49. Never mention the tip, unless asked.

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.

51. If there is a service charge, alert your guests when you present the bill. It’s not a secret or a trick.

52. Know your menu inside and out. If you serve Balsam Farm candy-striped beets, know something about Balsam Farm and candy-striped beets.

53. Do not let guests double-order unintentionally; remind the guest who orders ratatouille that zucchini comes with the entree.

54. If there is a prix fixe, let guests know about it. Do not force anyone to ask for the “special” menu.

55. Do not serve an amuse-bouche without detailing the ingredients. Allergies are a serious matter; peanut oil can kill. (This would also be a good time to ask if anyone has any allergies.)

56. Do not ignore a table because it is not your table. Stop, look, listen, lend a hand. (Whether tips are pooled or not.)

57. Bring the pepper mill with the appetizer. Do not make people wait or beg for a condiment.

58. Do not bring judgment with the ketchup. Or mustard. Or hot sauce. Or whatever condiment is requested.

59. Do not leave place settings that are not being used.

60. Bring all the appetizers at the same time, or do not bring the appetizers. Same with entrees and desserts.

61. Do not stand behind someone who is ordering. Make eye contact. Thank him or her.

62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.

62(a). Do not let a glass sit empty for too long.

63. Never blame the chef or the busboy or the hostess or the weather for anything that goes wrong. Just make it right.

64. Specials, spoken and printed, should always have prices.

65. Always remove used silverware and replace it with new.

66. Do not return to the guest anything that falls on the floor — be it napkin, spoon, menu or soy sauce.

67. Never stack the plates on the table. They make a racket. Shhhhhh.

68. Do not reach across one guest to serve another.

69. If a guest is having trouble making a decision, help out. If someone wants to know your life story, keep it short. If someone wants to meet the chef, make an effort.

70. Never deliver a hot plate without warning the guest. And never ask a guest to pass along that hot plate.

71. Do not race around the dining room as if there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency. (Unless there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency.)

72. Do not serve salad on a freezing cold plate; it usually advertises the fact that it has not been freshly prepared.

73. Do not bring soup without a spoon. Few things are more frustrating than a bowl of hot soup with no spoon.

74. Let the guests know the restaurant is out of something before the guests read the menu and order the missing dish.

75. Do not ask if someone is finished when others are still eating that course.

76. Do not ask if a guest is finished the very second the guest is finished. Let guests digest, savor, reflect.

77. Do not disappear.

78. Do not ask, “Are you still working on that?” Dining is not work — until questions like this are asked.

79. When someone orders a drink “straight up,” determine if he wants it “neat” — right out of the bottle — or chilled. Up is up, but “straight up” is debatable.

80. Never insist that a guest settle up at the bar before sitting down; transfer the tab.

81. Know what the bar has in stock before each meal.

82. If you drip or spill something, clean it up, replace it, offer to pay for whatever damage you may have caused. Refrain from touching the wet spots on the guest.

83. Ask if your guest wants his coffee with dessert or after. Same with an after-dinner drink.

84. Do not refill a coffee cup compulsively. Ask if the guest desires a refill.

84(a). Do not let an empty coffee cup sit too long before asking if a refill is desired.

85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

86. If a few people signal for the check, find a neutral place on the table to leave it.

87. Do not stop your excellent service after the check is presented or paid.

88. Do not ask if a guest needs change. Just bring the change.

89. Never patronize a guest who has a complaint or suggestion; listen, take it seriously, address it.

90. If someone is getting agitated or effusive on a cellphone, politely suggest he keep it down or move away from other guests.

91. If someone complains about the music, do something about it, without upsetting the ambiance. (The music is not for the staff — it’s for the customers.)

92. Never play a radio station with commercials or news or talking of any kind.

93. Do not play brass — no brassy Broadway songs, brass bands, marching bands, or big bands that feature brass, except a muted flugelhorn.

94. Do not play an entire CD of any artist. If someone doesn’t like Frightened Rabbit or Michael Bublé, you have just ruined a meal.

95. Never hover long enough to make people feel they are being watched or hurried, especially when they are figuring out the tip or signing for the check.

96. Do not say anything after a tip — be it good, bad, indifferent — except, “Thank you very much.”

97. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.

98. Do not wear too much makeup or jewelry. You know you have too much jewelry when it jingles and/or draws comments.

99. Do not show frustration. Your only mission is to serve. Be patient. It is not easy.

100. Guests, like servers, come in all packages. Show a “good table” your appreciation with a free glass of port, a plate of biscotti or something else management approves.

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