Archive | July, 2011

Let Them Eat Cheesecake!

29 Jul
The Cheesecake Factory

So many cheesecakes, so little time!

Saturday, July 30, is National Cheesecake Day! God bless whoever came up with the idea to add sugar to cheese, bake it in the oven over a nice graham cracker crust and serve it up for dessert . . .  except for the guy who did it with ricotta cheese, because that’s just wrong! Nowadays there are so many different kinds of cheesecake to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one. Ordering dessert at the Cheesecake Factory for example can take like 20 minutes. There are so many choices and they are always coming out with new flavors like the Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Cheesecake , which makes its debut tomorrow. It is described as, “layers of chocolate cheesecake, moist chocolate cake and ganache, topped with a creamy chocolate frosting and chocolate chips” who could say no to that?

On National Cheesecake day, The Cheesecake Factory will make the task of cheesecake selection a little bit easier and you can get two for the price of one because all slices of cheesecake will be half off! Oh no . . . wait, you can only get one slice per diner and also you have to be “dining in” which means by the time you get to dessert you’re going to already be stuffed by The Cheesecake Factory’s gi-normous portions. But that’s probably a good thing because otherwise we might be tempted to overindulge!


Missing Top Chef? Come To Rocco’s Party

28 Jul
Rocco DiSpirto

Rocco DiSpirto hosts Bravo's newest cooking show.

When we heard that Bravo’s Top Chef was nominated for four Emmy’s it got us missing the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges and we started looking for something to tide us over until the next season begins. Thankfully, for all of us suffering from Top Chef withdrawal, we didn’t have to look too far. Bravo has given us Rocco’s Dinner Party on Wednesday nights and in each episode three chefs compete for the opportunity to cater a dinner party for Rocco DiSpirto and his celebrity guests. Whoever throws the best party wins and walks away with $20,000 cash.

 Last night the competitors were executive chefs, Kevin Gaurdreau, Janet Kim, and Chris Calcagno. Each were asked to prepare a signature dish, the one that impressed DiSpirto the least was eliminated and did not get the opportunity to cook for Rocco and his guests. Chris was cut first because of his broken beurre blanc, leaving Kevin and Janet to battle it out in the dinner round. The party’s theme, gastropub, looked like it favored Janet to take home the bacon. Kim works as a chef in Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant at The London Hotel in New York City. However, Kevin’s more simplistic attitude towards food and his experience as executive chef of The Pier Restaurant in Newport, RI earned him the big W.

 Rocco DiSpirto pulls no punches in his commentary about the cooking, the jury is still out on whether he’s a jerk or he’s justified, but either way we’re hungry for more and will be back next week. Three new chefs will be competing with a whole new theme:  dishes inspired by high-end fashion. Rocco’s guests will include fashion designer Nicole Miller, Hairspray star Nikki Blonsky, NPR’s Dinner Party Download co-hosts Rico Gagliano and Brendan Newnam, Project Runway finalist Kara Janx, and TV Host and Early Show contributor Katrina Szish. 

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NFL Lockout Ends, Restaurant Owners Breathe Sigh of Relief

26 Jul
NFL logo with football

Players and Owners are able to agree in time to save the season and the restaurant business from cardiac arrest.

Pizzerias and sports bars around the country can relax now that the NFL lockout has ended and the NFLPA have agreed to the owners’ compromise deal and the 2011-2012 football season will pretty much begin on-time. The bar and grill chains, pizza-delivery, and hospitality industry overall benefits greatly from the trickle-down revenue of football fans. That revenue had been threatened since four months ago when the NFL locked out the players due to the expiration of old contracts; and the continued unresolved dispute over new contracts could have resulted in a cancelled season. This caused much unrest in the restaurant business as much of their profits has long been supported by the Sunday afternoon and Monday night games.

Pizza Hut U.S. Chief Executive, Scott Bergren said, “There’s a trickle-down economics at play with NFL economics, and ultimately that trickle reaches us. Ending the lockout is very important to our fans and to our business.” Pizza Hut typically makes 15% – 25% more profit on an NFL game day over a typical Sunday. Other pizza delivery chains such as Papa John’s and Domino’s Pizza also experience a boost in sales when there is a game on. Papa John’s even signed a three-year agreement last year as the NFL’s official pizza sponsor, and last year they saw their shares rise 10 cents to $31.51, during a down market. Recent reports also showed Domino’s shares were up 21 cents to $26.03.

A popular sports bar chain, Buffalo Wild Wings, receives about 10% of its annual profit from NFL game days. The company was so concerned about potential profit loss that they created a Facebook page petition in light of the lockout to “Save Our Season,” and offered fans who signed six free chicken wings if the NFL resolved the dispute by July 20–the day players were scheduled to report to training camp. As of Monday, July 25th, the Wings’ Facebook campaign had nearly 5 million people, no word on whether or not they will get their free wings.

All the controversy over the precarious start to this year’s season now seems to stand to make establishments even more money as so much extra attention has been brought to the sport. The successful end of the lockout gives restaurants momentum to host kickoff celebrations when the games resume. And the fans couldn’t be more pleased!

Calorie Counters Beware!

21 Jul


Low-calorie menu options might be more "supersized" than you think.

Time Magazine reported that in a recent study by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University the lowest calorie menu items at dozens of popular restaurant chains actually contain more calories than are listed on the menu. Forty-two restaurants were reviewed in the report, about 269 food items; and restaurants named in the study included Olive Garden, McDonald’s, Outback, and Boston Market.

Susan Roberts, the director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at USDA says that the calorie amounts they got back from their tests were on average 100 calories over the menu count. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but the practice of counting calories for weight loss and/or health reasons is on the rise as people are becoming more aware of and making healthier decisions when it comes to what to eat. And the unaccounted for calories that diners may be taking in ordering off these low-calorie menus can potentially represent up to 15 pounds of weight gain over the course of a year. All other things constant, that’s two pants sizes!

But before we all get bent out of shape, remember that in life all other things are not constant, you don’t always finish every meal that you eat while you’re out or perhaps you don’t even dine out on a consistent basis, and there are many other ways that a person can find to gain weight. Restaurants could argue that the calorie counts displayed on menus are representative of the average amount of calories over several different plates of the same meal and no two plates are going to be identical. So there really is no way to guarantee a certain calorie count on any plate every time.

 Roberts told Time, “Anybody trying to lose weight or avoid gaining weight — and that’s about 50% of the American public — are ordering the lowest calorie foods when they eat out, so this is an important group of foods for American health. And the information about their calories is inaccurate.” Surprisingly, discrepancies were less prevalent in fast food restaurant menu items, but then again portions are more controlled and uniform in fast food establishments.

So whether it’s the restaurants misrepresenting their low-calorie selections purposely or whether it’s an honest mistake because it’s too difficult to keep track; calorie counts on menus should be taken with a grain of salt. Or rather just use them as a guideline and make sure to leave some room for error . . . . And while you’re at it, leave some of your most likely overly large portion on your plate!

Seasonal Summer Menus and Cookbooks

19 Jul

Just like with a wardrobe, menu items change according to the time of year. Whether it be because the season has come for certain fruits and vegetables to be at their best or because it’s so hot that diners’ eating habits are more geared towards lighter meals; lots of restaurants make fantastic summertime menu adjustments. And as an extra bonus, a few of our favorite top chefs have made cookbooks available so that you can try your hand at some of their summertime classics at home as well. Bon appétit!

Adam Perry Lang's BBQ 25 Cookbook

Adam Perry Lang's BBQ 25 Cookbook

‘BBQ 25,‘ by Adam Perry Lang | Restaurant – Daisy May’s BBQ USA

–          Even though this cookbook has been on the market since May 2010, it is still a strong contender as this summer’s go-to cookbook. The author, Adam Perry Lang, was trained at the Culinary Institute of America focusing on French cuisine but now is considered a guru for all things barbecue. The recipes in his cookbook range from brisket to anything cased. Lang’s restaurant, Daisy May’s BBQ USA, is also serving up food straight from the pit. claims “Daisy May’s authentic Southern treats have been anointed the Big Apple’s real deal.” Daisy May’s is located on 623 11th Avenue & W 46th St in New York City.


Alice Waters' In The Green Kitchen

Alice Waters' In The Green Kitchen

‘In the Green Kitchen,’ by Alice Waters | Restaurant – Chez Panisse

–          Alice Waters’ cook book is founded on her belief of locally grown ingredients. The cookbook is based on her project ‘The Green Kitchen’ which teaches the art of simple cooking through videos. Her cookbook will feature 30 fundamental techniques and recipes which will also be demonstrated by Waters’ friends and chefs. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, is also based on the idea of organic and fresh ingredients. Since opening in 1971, Chez Panisse has received many honors throughout the years including being recognized as one of the world’s best restaurants from 2002-2008. Chez Panisse is located at 1517 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California.



Rick Bayless' Fiesta At Rick's

Rick Bayless' Fiesta At Rick's

‘Fiesta at Rick’s,’ by Rick Bayless | Restaurants – Frontera Grill & Topolobampo

–          Rick Bayless’ book Fiesta at Rick’s is a guide not only for authentic Mexican cuisine but also for the art of entertaining. Bayless’ 150 recipe collection is an inspiration for many including celebrity chef, Rachel Ray who stated “Rick Bayless is el mejor cocinero! His flavors are so intense and layered that each bite brings tears to your eyes and that’s not just the chili peppers!” Bayless’ restaurants are also serving up the same Mexican cuisine. Frontera Grill has a more relaxed but energetic feel in comparison to its classier and more elegant sister restaurant, Topolobampo. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are both located in Chicago at 445 North Clark Street.


Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Cookbook

Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Cookbook

‘The Good Stuff Cookbook,’ by Spike Mendelsohn | Restaurant – The Good Stuff Eatery

–          If you’re looking to prepare a great burger, homemade fries, or milkshake in your own kitchen, The Good Stuff cookbook is where you should be finding your recipe. The cookbook houses 120 recipes from author Spike Mendelsohn, who was also a contestant on Top Chef Season 4. Mendelsohn takes his recipes straight from his restaurant, The Good Stuff Eatery.  Located in the heart of our nation’s capital, Mendelsohn’s restaurant is even frequented by the First Family and Michelle Obama has stated that their burgers rate high on her list of favorites. The Good Stuff eatery is located 303 Pennsylvania Ave S.E. in Washington D.C.


Do you know of any great summertime dining hotspots?

US Restaurants Pledge to Offer Healthy Menu Options For Kids

15 Jul

Michelle Obama is a well-known advocate for the fight against childhood obesity in the US with her Let’s Move Campaign. And the First Lady has good cause for concern, childhood obesity rates in the United States have more than tripled in the past 30 years.  The fast food culture that we have adopted over that time has been largely identified as the culprit for this dramatic increase so now the National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dining have come up with a program to try to prevent these numbers from rising even more. On July 13, 2011 they launched their new initiative, “Kids Live Well,” where participating restaurants will provide healthier options for children dining at their establishments.

Kids Live Well Program

The new Kids Live Well program, encourages restaurants to offer low calorie menu options on kids menus.

 According to the National Restaurant Association’s website the criteria these restaurants must meet are as follows:

  • Offer at least one full children’s meal (an entrée, side and beverage) that is 600 calories or less; contains two or more servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; and limits sodium, fats and sugar
  • Offer at least one other individual item that has 200 calories or less, with limits on fats, sugars and sodium, and contains a serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy
  • Display or make available upon request the nutrition profile of the healthful menu options; and
  • Promote/identify the healthful menu options.

Nineteen fast food and restaurant chains in 15,000 locations have agreed to participate in the initial launch of “Kids Live Well.” Some of these restaurants include Au Bon Pain, Burger King, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chevys Fresh Mex, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Friendly’s, IHOP, Joe’s Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, and Sizzler.

Including healthier options on popular restaurant chain menus is definitely a great start, but it’s still up to parents and kids to make smart decisions when they place their orders.

No Kids Allowed!

14 Jul

Small town restaurant's new policy has been causing quite the stir!

Ever been dining out, trying to enjoy the atmosphere and had the experience interrupted by a small child sitting at the next table misbehaving? What is the dining etiquette for bringing small children to restaurants that aren’t specifically geared towards family dining? Most restaurants don’t say outright whether or not bringing small children is allowed which means that a date night or a romantic evening could be disturbed by the family that can’t or won’t leave their kids at home.  Well at McDain’s restaurant in Monroeville, PA bringing your child is no longer an option.

 McDain’s restaurant owner, Mike Vuick is creating quite the buzz with his new policy which prohibits children under the age of six to dine at his restaurant. Vuick sent out an email to his customers stating their children will no longer be welcome in his restaurant and has stirred up quite the controversy by laying down this “‘law.” In the email Vuick says, “Beginning July 16, 2011, McDain’s Restaurant will no longer admit children under six years of age. We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers.”

But they would appreciate it if you left the kids at home!

Vuick claims that he is actually being commended for his new policy and has been receiving more positive feedback than negative. McDain’s atmosphere boats sophistication and is certainly not child oriented. In addition to the implementation of the no kids allowed policy, this coming weekend is Customer Appreciation weekend at McDain’s. So come on down and bring the . . . oh wait, nope you can’t!