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James Beard Awards 2012

20 Mar
sally field james beard awards

The James Beard Awards are the Oscars for food, and although Sally didn't win one the chefs who do are just as excited and honored.

The James Beard Awards are to restaurants and chefs what the Oscars are to movies and actors. For those of us that are total “foodies” these awards set the standard for successes in the restaurant industry and is a barometer for keeping up with food and restaurant trends. The finalists for America’s highest culinary honors have been selected and the winners will be announced the second week of May.

James Beard (1903-1985) was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Beard appeared on the first cooking shows and has written dozens of cookbooks, his passion for enjoying good food was matched only by his desire to educate others on the importance of eating well. 

After his death, Beard’s

brownstone in New York City’s Greenwich Village was converted into a historical culinary center. In addition to being the headquarters for the Foundation,  the James Beard Houseis a place where Foundation members, the press, and the general public are invited to sample creations of both established and emerging chefs from across the country and around the globe. I highly recommend a special occasion splurge on a  reservation there to enjoy a tasting menu from a visiting master chef! 

James Beard was an American food icon and his legacy lives on through his foundation and their mission to educate people on the importance of good food.

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards are held on the first Monday in May and honors the finest chefs, restaurants, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers, and electronic media professionals in the country.  Presented at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, nominees and winners congregate for a weekend of events in New York City that has become the gastronomic highlight of the year. The awards end with a reception tasting of the signature dishes of the James Beard Foundation’s very best chefs. Yum! Click here for this year’s nominees.


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It’s Oscar Time Again! And the Academy Award Goes To . . . ?

24 Feb
the academy awards

It's Oscar time again! Have you seen this year's contenders? It's not too late, the show airs this Sunday, Feb 26th.

So the Academy Awards are this weekend and leading up to the big show, movie theatres (the savvy ones anyway) always replay the nominated movies for the major categories. One of this year’s heavyweight’s is a film called “The Artist”  and is about the relationship between an older man who is a star of silent films and a young actress. The film takes place in Hollywood,  between 1927 and 1932 and parallel to the romantic plot is the storyline of the silent films being replaced by the “talkies” and how some stars were not able to make the transition.

The film is also shot to look more like an older film as well which I thought was a really nice nod to the era in which it was set to take place. Watching a black and white, silent film is a movie-going experience that generations have missed out on and to be able to see one again on the big screen shot with today’s much improved cameras is a real treat, not to be missed.

And speaking of treats not to be missed, another experience that not too many movie-goers nowadays get to enjoy is eating actual meals while watching a movie. AMC Theatres has brought back food in the cinema at a few select locations, they are called AMC Dine-In Theatres, they provide full sit down meal service, and if you’re 21 or older you can even order an alcoholic beverage! Kettle corn popcorn and junior mints are my go-to snacks for watching a movie, but how cool would it be to enjoy some salmon or a grilled chicken salad instead?

My point is that movie going is an ever evolving experience, from the type of films, to the technology, to the amenities a theatre provides. Now mom & pop dinner movie-houses have been around for a while and it’s nice to see that a sit down meal at the movies has become available at a larger chain, even if in a limited capacity.

So this weekend if you’re headed out to catch some Oscar nominated flicks at the last-minute, why not see if there’s a dinner movie-house near you to enrich your experience? And if you haven’t seen it, definitely check out “The Artist” it’s already done so well at the Golden Globes, it’s Oscar success is almost in the bag.

Heart Disease, Eat Your Heart Out!

2 Feb
American Heart Association Go Red For Women

Heart disease is the #1 killer of American women, so this Month the AHA reminds you to be good to your heart and yourselves.

February is National Heart Month! The American Heart Association (AHA) which does such good work all year round raising funds and awareness about heart disease will get some well deserved recognition this month and hopefully so will your heart. A surprising and scary statistic shows that heart disease kills more women than cancer, so the AHA shows some love to the ladies with their “Go Red For Women”campaign. In fact tomorrow is National Wear Red Day so if you have some red in your closet break it out, wear it with pride, and tell your friends!

Being educated about heart disease (just as with anything else) is the first step in being able to prevent it. So I always like to draw attention to events like these because it never hurts to remind ourselves that these conditions are out there, what the warning signs are, and what we can do about it. Mimi’s Cafe, a French style bistro with 145 locations in 24 states thinks so too and they are the first national chain to partner with the AHA in order to get people involved for the cause. Starting with a free cup of soup to “warm the heart” of customers who wear red tomorrow!

I love it when restaurants get involved with health causes because what we eat is so instrumental in maintaining and improving our good health. Also, when restaurants support causes like National Heart Month, it only makes sense that they offer healthy menu options as well which is an overall win for everybody. The AHA knows that what you eat can impact your health and they offer a pretty good guide to dining out for anyone with a heart condition on their website.

Restaurant Resolutions Part II

1 Feb

New health conscious restaurant chains like Elevation Burger boast organic menu items.

So the first month of the year has come and gone and I was curious to know how everyone’s doing on their New Year’s resolutions. I’m still being good, eating right, getting to the gym, and working on those little projects that tend to get away from you as the year rolls on.

As a trend for 2012, restaurants have pledged to include a healthier range of options on their menus. And so far they seem to be keeping their promise! Which is great because it makes eating right that much easier for me.

According to Healthy Dining Finder, even established comfort food chains like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Boston Market all have menu items that are identified as healthy. Also listed are menu items that are “sodium savy” and part of the Kids Live Well program which was initiated by none other than our fabulous First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Also new health conscious restaurant franchises are emerging like Zpizza and Elevation Burger. Both chains use 100% USDA certified organic ingredients and buy locally to ensure freshness. Totally stepping up the game on two American favorite comfort foods, pizza and burgers. I’ve had a burger from Elevation Burger and I must say it was quite delicious! The price wasn’t too bad either as long as you don’t add on too many condiments, which is hard because the options are plenty and tempting.

So it looks as though the restaurant industry is on point to keep their resolutions. How about you?

Is Eating Out Cheaper Than Dining In?

26 Jan
family dining out

Dining out may cost you less than groceries!

Going out to eat to me has always been a special treat, no cooking, no cleaning, but of course at a price. However, with the rising costs of food and groceries, restaurants have made themselves competitive by keeping their costs relatively the same if not lower!

According to a consumer report released late last year by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, consumers have been spending more (almost 4.5%) on dining out. I don’t mean the 5 stars, but family restaurants are promoting more deals and with the added convenience of no prep time and left-overs for lunch the next day, sometimes it works out for the better.  Shopping and cooking takes time so it’s definitely more convenient for a family to eat out. The time saved on meal prep is then able to be spent on a second income or a part-time job which is the case with a lot of families these days.

Part of what makes this recession so challenging is that as salaries have been coming down the cost of living has been going up. Supermarket food prices have increased approximately 6% a year, about 2.5 times as fast as the cost of restaurant meals, according to the same report. Effectively making dining out more cost-effective. Restaurants have been struggling in this difficult economy as well so they are passing down the savings from their ability to buy at whole sale to diners like you and me!

Keep in mind though that restaurants have been providing themselves additional savings by cutting back on staff and decreasing hourly wages. Restaurant staff tend to be hard workers with a mindset that their money comes from tips, so restaurants have been able to get away with lowering hourly pay without too much fuss. Most restaurants also do not offer benefits so don’t forget to tip your servers people!

eMenu, The New Tablet On US Tables

25 Jan
eMenu logo

eMenu brings their touchscreen technology stateside, starting with New York!

eMenu, a restaurant menu software that is meant to replace paper menus has recently come to NY. The features of eMenu rival those of  E La Carte with the same goals of improving the dining experience by increasing efficiency of ordering by use of a touchscreen tablet and decreasing the dependence on wait staff. 

The company started in Israel and then branched out to Europe, Africa, and now has become available in the US. eMenu’s interactive restaurant menu technology displays detailed information about a restaurant’s menu and provides high quality photos of dishes too.

Just like E La Carte, eMenu claims that their tablet helps increase restaurant revenue by at least 10%. I think having a tablet at the table is cool, but I don’t know if it would necessarily make me order more . . .  although, being able to see what the food looks like might make me order something extra if it looks too good to pass up!

A custom designed eMenu on for the iPad.

What seems to make the eMenu system differ from E La Carte is that it is a software program compatible with any digital LCD touchscreen computer or iPad, so the restaurant doesn’t have to buy hardware that is only good for the eMenu system. Also each eMenu is customized to each restaurant so what the customers see on the screen is truly that restaurants actual logo and photos of their food. 

eMenu is currently at Garden of Eden in Brooklyn and Abigael’s in Manhattan will have their eMenu system up and running in approximately two weeks! Look for eMenus to be popping up soon in North Carolina and Florida restaurants as well.

I guess time will tell if these digital menus will completely replace printed ones, and their effect on the overall dining experience and remains to be seen.

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Etta James Dies at 73

20 Jan
Etta James

Etta James passed away at age 73. She was a strong woman and a vocal legend. RIP Etta James.

This is turning out to be a bit of a morbid week for posts but I have to pay my respects to one of the all-time greats, Etta James, who passed away today at the age of 73. Etta James is most recognized for her song, “At Last” which she recorded in 1961 with Chess records. Her catalogue of songs includes hits in R&B, Gospel, Blues, and Rock and Roll. Like many artists of her generation she had her battles with drug addiction and for long periods of time was not able to make the most of her musical talent because of it.

And oh boy was she talented! Etta James had the kind of voice that rips through your soul and makes you feel every word of what she’s saying, like it or not. She could be soft, she could be strong, she could be sad, and she could be hard, but whatever she was she did it beautifully and with gusto . . . and she will be missed.

It is a rare gift to hear a voice like hers and even though there are many talented vocalists out there, precious few voices have the ability to effect you as powerfully as Etta’s. As for myself I can think of only three others who have moved me like Etta, Billy Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Adele.

If you go out this weekend, hit up a jazz club. And if you hit up a jazz club, you’re bound to hear some Etta James. Hopefully they will do her the justice she deserves, may she rest in peace.

This is my favorite Etta James, I hope you enjoy!