Archive | October, 2011

Trick or Treat, Smell My… Takeout?

28 Oct

It's All Hallow's Eve weekend! Scare up some special treats by dining out.

We love October! There is always a slew of horror movies on TV, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks bring back pumpkin flavored coffee (I’ve had 3 this week!), and it’s Halloween! Restaurants must love it too because according to the National Restaurant Association one-fifth of Americans will be ordering takeout or delivery on Halloween presumably so they won’t have to cook while passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. N.B. to restaurant owners you might want to offer some deals or Halloween themed menu items (#I’mjustsaying!)

Jekyll & Hyde Restaurant in NYC is spooky all year long!

Or if you feel like venturing out for treats you could always go out to a scary theme restaurant, like Jekyll & Hyde in New York City or check out any of these “Haunted Happenings”in Salem, MA.  There are even some restaurants that have a history of being haunted! 

1859 Café - This restaurant is located in Hickory, NC and is supposedly haunted by a young blonde woman. It is unclear who the woman is or why she is there but she has been seen mostly by the restaurant’s staff after their shifts. The owners are a little skeptical but when they were taking a picture of the restaurant a young woman can be seen walking out of the restaurant in the developed picture. I guess you’ll have to dine in and see for yourself.

Beardslee CastleThese ghosts are a little more invasive than the one at 1859 Café. At this restaurant located in Little Falls, NY there have been stories of ghosts setting tables, shattering glass, and moving other objects. One of the ghosts is thought to be a former owner who hung himself in the restaurant. (Yeah we’re a little freaked out by this one too.)

Catfish PlantationIt is unclear who may be haunting this restaurant in Waxahachie, TX but since 1984 the owners have been experiencing some strange things. Diners have noticed toilets flushing themselves, a piano suddenly playing, and doors unlocking and locking. Sounds like a fun house to me!

Whatever you decide to do this Halloween weekend, have fun and be safe!

Here’s to the Next 20!

27 Oct

In the heart of Times Square, the first Planet Hollywood restaurant.

Planet Hollywood celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first restaurant’s launch a few days ago which obviously made us think about their mouth-watering burgers but also how this franchise continues to stay on top.

Before coming to the United States, co-founder Robert Earl had successfully opened a few themed restaurants in England. American’s fascination with the stars prompted the decision to give a new restaurant a museum like quality with television and movie costumes and props. Some of these props included Dorothy’s dress from “The Wizard of Oz,” the pottery wheel used by Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in “Ghost,” a replica of the castle from “Dracula,” the Batmobile, the Flintstones buggy, and a plastic model of the meat slab that was pulverized by Stallone in the film “Rocky.” It also didn’t hurt that the restaurant was frequented with its original celebrity investors.

The first Planet Hollywood opened in 1991 in New York City with the backing of celebrity investors that included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg. Each were at the height of their acting career appearing in several blockbusters which included Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, and Ghost. Together these movies grossed well over $1.4 billion.

The original investors on the cover of Opportunist Magazine in 1996.

While the Planet Hollywood Franchise may have had a few setbacks in the 1990’s they continue to be a dominating player in the restaurant and entertaining industries. Today there is about 20 restaurants opened throughout the world and a Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino located in Las Vegas. The company even has plans to open PH themed hotels in 3 locations in Doha, Qatar; Panama City, Panama, and Boao, China. Wyndham Worldwide is set to manage the Planet Hollywood Franchise. The first of three properties is scheduled to open in 2014 in Qatar.

The Return of the McRib! McReally?

25 Oct

McDonald's brings back the McRib . . . for a limited time only!

McDonald’s has brought back the elusive and apparently highly coveted McRib sandwich now through November 14, 2011. For the second time in two years this boneless pork patty, slathered in sautéed onions, pickles and BBQ sauce will be available for this limited time at participating McDonald’s locations. What is it about the rare appearance of this sandwich that makes people so nuts? Fans of the McRib erect websites and blogs petitioning for its return and notifying other fanatics when it becomes available.

The McRib is renowned (believe it or not) for its quality and before making its return in 2010, the McRib hadn’t been available nationally for 16 years. Its return last year generated a 4.8% sales increase in the US, demonstrating just how passionate consumers are about the McRib even after being absent for so long!

Does Michelle know about this?!

McDonald’s has made a lot of changes to its menu over the years, most of which have been towards healthier options so why is the McRib which is 500 calories, 40% fat, and has 980 mg of sodium so popular? Well it does have 40 calories less than a Big Mac, but even so . . . I think it comes down to this – even with all the facts we have about the harm of fast food, sometimes you just gotta go for the stuff that tastes like the guilty pleasure it is. Good thing it only comes around once in a blue!

Crazy For Cupcakes

21 Oct

Miranda & Carrie enjoying a cupcake outside Magnolia Bakery during an episode of Sex and the City

There’s a funny online debate right now about the fate of cupcakes – have they come so far as to warrant the existence of “Cupcakeries” or is the excitement over the increasingly broad range of cupcake options a passing trend? Our answer: cupcakes are here to stay baby!

We don’t mean to suggest that cupcakes were ever in danger, there will always be a place for them on a designated bakery shelf. However, the new obsession with portion control and the more frequent appearances of cupcakes in pop culture make cupcakes the new “it” splurge, plus they’re convenient to boot! So to meet this increasing demand “Cupcakeries” or bakeries devoted entirely to cupcakes have sprung up all over the nation.

Here’s a few of our favorites:
 

Sprinkles Cupcakes - Gourmet cupcake pioneer Candace Nelson & her husband opened their first store in Beverley Hills, CA in 2005 and now six years later there are 7 other locations on both the West & East Coasts. I guess it helps when you have stars like Oprah Winfrey handing out your cupcakes during her talk show or Jimmy Kimmel who stood in line for 45 minutes to order 80 of them!

Crumbs Bake Shop – Crumbs opened its first store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan less than ten years ago and is now the largest cupcake chain in the country with over 40 stores. The company even made its decision to go public through a $66 million merger with an investment company earlier this year.

Georgetown CupcakeThey may be considered the new kids on the block but that doesn’t mean they’re not as popular. The ladies at Georgetown Cupcakes, Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne, quit their corporate jobs to follow their dream of owning their own business. Along the way they caught the attention of the cable network, TLC and now they have their own show called DC Cupcakes.
 

Check out this line for Georgetown Cupcake!

Donuts & tarts look like they may be making a move on the spotlight of our beloved cupcake, according to Nation’s Restaurant News trying to get a piece of that portion controlled dessert “pie.” But I don’t see anyone lining up around the block of the new “Tart-ery” do you? No disrespect to tarts and lovers of tarts, but there’s something magical about those little cup-sized cakes with frosting.

Gadhafi Is Dead, Libyan Food Is Not

20 Oct

Libya, North African countryThis year the revolution was televised and we saw the people of Egypt and Libya rise up against their governments both of which were run by dictatorships. Today it has been reported that Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi has been killed by the  rebels leading the revolt in his country. As the US awaits official confirmation of Gadhafi’s death Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued a statement describing the event as “an end to the first phase of the Libyan revolution.”  And said that the US and Europe “must now deepen our support of the Libyan people.”

Couscous and vegetables a common Libyan dish is flavorful and vegetarian friendly.

Groupon.com is interpreting that by offering a 50% discount at Nomad, voted best Mediterranean restaurant in the East Village in NYC. Chef Luísa Fernandes is a past winner of “Chopped” which airs on the Food Network, and serves authentic North African food with a Mediterranean twist. Libya as I’m sure we all know is located in North Africa and their cuisine therefore is a blend of Mediterranean, African, and Italian influences. Finding a straight Libyan restaurant in the United States is rare, we stumbled upon Bisou in Pittsburg, PA which serves a great plate of Libyan rice. Does anyone have any good intel on where we can score some authentic Libyan food?

Do You Fondue?

17 Oct

Ladies take advantage of The Melting Pot's ongoing Ladies' Night Out promotion, special menus and prices vary by location.

The Melting Pot is currently running a promotion at all of its locations called  “Big Night Out America.” Through this Friday Oct. 21st a special four-course menu is available featuring regionally inspired menu items from around the country. The four courses include cheese fondue, salad, an entrée, and chocolate fondue. If you can’t make it this week, no worries The Melting Pot runs this destination-themed “Big Night Out” menu every six months and is truly a complete fondue experience. So what is fondue exactly?

cheese fondue

The earliest known recipe for fondue comes from a Swiss book from 1699.

Fondue come from the French verb “fondre” which means “to melt” and is a traditionally Swiss dish that includes melted cheese served in a communal pot that is kept warm over flames or a burner and eaten by dipping pieces of bread, fruit and veggies into it. Chocolate is another popular fondue and common dippings are marshmallows, fruit, and cakes. Meat can also be cooked in a fondue pot filled with seasoned hot oil. Fondue is a fun group dining activity, especially if you love cheese and chocolate. But certain niceties must be observed such as be responsible for your own stick and no double dipping!

Farm-to-Table, Seasonally Delicious

14 Oct

Chez Panisse is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year!

Autumn is in full swing and that means that restaurants who buy locally or from farm to table are tweaking their menus to reflect seasonal options. Restaurants who buy from local farms and use  ingredients that are in season (not frozen) are not only serving the freshest food possible, but they are also contributing to the local economy by doing business with area farmers.

Alice Waters, the executive chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California has been at the forefront of the Farm-to-Table movement. Since Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971 Waters and her team have been cultivating relationships with local farmers because she is convinced the best meals contain ingredients that are fresh.

This philosophy is paying off, Chez Panisse has been recognized as

Interior dining room at the Herbfarm.

one of the world’s best restaurants since 2002, and there are other Farm-to-Table restaurants that have earned similar kudos. The Herbfarm, located in Washington State began as a nursery but in 1986 converted the farm garage into a restaurant. Owners Ron Zimmerman and his wife Carrie Van Dyck say their fresh ingredients helped earn The Herbfarm the prestigious AAA 5-diamond award. For a list of recognized Farm-to-Table restaurants in your state check out the American Farm to Table Restaurant Guide.

Not all restaurants are able to be 100% committed to the locally grown mission like Chez Panisse and The Herbfarm, but some do make efforts where they can. For instance, have you ever noticed the some restaurants have “seasonal vegetables” listed as a side option? When available chose the seasonal veggies over your usual mashed potatoes or string beans, they are going to be the freshest. Also Seasons 52 is a high end restaurant chain where the menus are inspired by the season and guarantee fresh healthy food, oh and their wine lists aren’t bad either!

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