Archive | August, 2011

“Hurricanes” Are All Over the US. . . As Restaurants

25 Aug

Hurricane Irene may only just touched down in Florida, but there are plenty of restaurants in the sunshine state that call themselves “Hurricane.” Tropical storms are in season during late summer for the lower eastern seaboard of the US and sometimes they do great damage to the coastline and then some; costing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in repairs to homes, offices, and restaurants alike. Irene is currently a category 3 storm and as the East Coast braces for impact we get a kind of quirky kick out of the fact that a significant amount of eating establishments call themselves after these violent tempests.

What does come as no surprise is that many of these restaurants are located in states that have coastlines,  located close

hurricane seafood restaurant in St Pete Beach, FL

Hurricane Seafood Restaurant in St Pete Beach, FL

to bodies of water (often with a view), and specialize in seafood. Hurricane Seafood Restaurant in St. Pete Beach, FL has been around since 1977 and features fresh, locally caught seafood on the menu and beautiful views within walking distance from the beach.

An exception would be the chain restaurant, Hurricane Grill & Wings which has very little fish on the menu and even has locations in land-locked Arizona and Indiana. They are however currently offering a contest where the prize is a trip to the Dominican Republic. Just wait a few weeks to book your trip!

So whether you’re running to the grocery store to stock up or going to weather the storm and keep your reservations, be safe this weekend everyone.

N.B. The Boca Raton, FL location for Hurricane Grill & Wings is located on Powerline Road! Really? Really though? LOL


Time For Dessert! ‘Top Chef Just Desserts’ Premieres Tonight

24 Aug

Season 2 of 'Top Chef Just Desserts' premieres tonight on Bravo

For those of us with a sweet tooth, the wait is finally over for ‘Top Chef Just Desserts’ season two. 14 pastry chefs get their time to shine and compete for $100,000 from KitchenAid, a spotlight in Food & Wine magazine, and a showcase in the Annual Food & Wine Cayman Cookout. With two challenges and an elimination in each episode there should be plenty of drama for the pastry chefs.

The challenge for the season premiere is to create a dessert that is inspired by fairytales and Bravo promises that the contests will just get more involved and demanding from here. So tonight make sure to leave room for dessert and tune in to Bravo for ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts” at 10pm eastern/9pm central time.

Slowly But Surely, Restaurants “Go Green”

19 Aug

Green Restaurant AssociationAccording to the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) the top 5 US cities with the most certified green restaurants are New York (77), Boston (31), Chicago (24), Los Angeles (14), and San Diego (8), but the greenest restaurant in the United States is The Grey Plum in Omaha, NE. Now a green restaurant is not only measured by the organic-ness of its food, a restaurant can be green by making efforts to recycle and conserve energy.

So if you are out for dinner in one of these cities and your waiter doesn’t automatically bring water to your table it may not be due to a lack of service but rather in an effort to conserve clean drinking water. Since 1990 the GRA has been trailblazing environmental awareness, such as reduction of the amount of water wasted in the restaurant industry and certifying restaurants as green based on their performance in seven different categories:

  1. Water Efficiency
  2. Waste Reduction and Recycling
  3. Sustainable Furnishings and Building Materials
  4. Sustainable Food
  5. Energy
  6. Disposables
  7. Chemical and Pollution Reduction

Being a Green restaurant is easier than you might think; and the GRA has different levels of certification so that restaurants are able to invest in their “greenness” over time and always encourages improvement. The smallest steps taken by a large group of participants can make a huge impact on the environment, and often times these steps will result in significant saving in the long run.

In the United States there are millions of restaurants and they produce anywhere from 50,000 – 100,000 lbs of garbage annually; 95% of which could be recycled or composted. Also restaurants use approximately five times as much electricity as other retail or office buildings and an average size restaurant will use 300,000 gallons of drinkable water a year. One of the GRA’s main goals is to educate restaurant owners about how much switching over to energy saving light bulbs and fixing that leaky faucet can not only significantly reduce their carbon footprint, but save them money.

As diners we hope that restaurant kitchens are clean, but what about environmentally conscious?

Diners usually make decisions about where they dine based on cost, cuisine, and ambiance. How soon will the way a restaurant runs its business affect our decision about where we go out to eat? For a list of restaurants that are certified Green visit the GRA’s website, and also find tips on how you can make a difference when you go out to eat.

Does Green Certification factor into your decision about where to eat? Take this poll:

Do You Beer Garden?

15 Aug
Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens

A bird's eye view of Bohemian Hall in Astoria Queens, NYC's largest beer garden.

Even with the heat wave, one of the best ways to enjoy summer is to dine al fresco. That being said, it’s hot out there and what better way to keep cool than with a nice cold one? Beer Gardens are a trendy way to combine the two, not to mention they are a big hit with people in their 20’s and 30’s.

Derived from the German “Biergarten,” beer garden’s are an open-air area where beer, other drinks and local/bar food is served. They are commonly attached to a drinking establishment such as a pub and are just rows upon rows of picnic tables or other lawn type furnature in order to be optimal for socializing. The largest beer garden is the Hirschgarten in Munich, Germany which can accommodate up to 8,000 people.

Completed in 1919, the oldest beer garden in New York City and possibly the US is Bohemian Hall located on 24th Ave in Astoria, Queens. The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall officially sits 800, though often entertains more during festivals, concerts, and other events. Beer gardens are also popular in England and Japan, where many are located on the roofs of department stores and hotels. So if you’re single and ready to mingle, you might just want to hit up a beer garden this summer. The beer is plenty and the food is cheap!

Benvenuti in Italia Jersey Shore!

4 Aug
Jersey Shore Cast

The pop culture phenoms film in Italy for the 4th installment of Jersey Shore.

To help celebrate the premiere of the Jersey Shore season 2, Rachel Ray had the cast on her show and cooked a special Italian meal for the occasion of hot sausage, pepper and onion ragu with rigatoni and provolone besciamella. Now that we are about to embark on season 4 which takes place in Italy no less, we started to get hungry all over again for some authentic Italian cuisine.

And then we took a look at the preview and completely lost our appetite! What these young people won’t do only goodness knows, but there are sure to be no dull moments watching these grenades fist-pump their way through Florence. Yeah I said it, they are themselves the grenades they constantly strive to avoid . . . ironic don’t you think?! The antics of this depraved bunch will translate about as well as Ronnie’s Italian style Ron-Ron Juice, but that’s what makes them such good television.

And who knows, perhaps Italy will broaden their horizons and without the same GTL access they will become a little less Guido and get in touch with their Italian roots. One can dream anyway, and since we’re dreaming we’d love to dream up some Penne Arrabbiata and Tiramisu. Hmmmmm, maybe our appetite wasn’t lost after-all and we’ll meet you at the nearest Buca di Beppo!

My Plate – The New Guideline To Healthy Eating

3 Aug
My Plate

MyPlate: the new quick reference tool for healthy eating.

On June 2, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA’s new food icon, MyPlate. This new diagram will replace the USDA’s past guides for nutritional intake, the Food Pyramid. MyPlate serves as a quick reminder about what types of foods should be occupying our plates per meal, not per day. MyPlate is consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is an uncomplicated visual reminding us to make half our plates fruits and vegetables and the other half whole grains and lean proteins; the ‘plate’ is also accompanied by a smaller circle representing fat-free or low-fat dairy to complete a well-balanced meal.

In a press release for the announcement of this new initiative First Lady Michelle Obama stated, “This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating, and as a mom I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country. When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew; so it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”

The disturbing trend of increasing childhood obesity in the United States and children not receiving the proper nutrition has been blamed in part on our culture of fast food eating, so what effect will this new initiative have on restaurant business? The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has been named a strategic partner with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy on spreading the word about MyPlate. The NRA, who applauds the effort to create MyPlate, recently launched its Kids Live Well program which is also consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and on track with MyPlate.

So whether you are eating at home or dining out, MyPlate is an easy reference tool to improve the quality of your diet. The USDA would like to see how you’re turning MyPlate into “your plate” by encouraging Americans to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. What’s on your plate today?