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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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Women Chefs Heat Things Up

7 Mar

Traditionally men have brought home the bacon and women have cooked it, so I’ve always found it interesting that women chefs are the exception and not the rule. For the most part cooking is to women what a college degree is for most of us, an expected asset. And yet the most notable culinary school in the country, the Culinary Institute of America, didn’t admit women until 1970! For Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at my picks for the top 5 women who have been successful in this surprisingly male dominated field.

1. No list of women culinary innovators would be complete without Julia Child. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, she went on to write one of, if not the most famous cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In 1963 she debuted the successful cooking show, “The French Chef.” In 1993 Child was the first woman inducted into the CIA Hall of Fame.

2. Cristeta Comerford brings a whole new meaning to the term “Executive Chef” as the first female head chef of the White House from Clinton to Obama!

3. Growing up in one of America’s meccas for foodies, it comes as little surprise that Chicago-born Stephanie Izard was the first woman to win the title for Top Chef. She is also one of the show’s most successful participants as she is going on her second restaurant at the age of 33.

4. Food radical and pioneer of the Californian Food Movement which promotes (gasp) organic, fresh, farm-to-table ingredients Alice Walker was the first woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 1992. She is also the Chef/Owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA since 1971.

5. Cat Cora is the first — and remains the only — female Iron Chef . She is a co-founder of Chefs for Humanity, which mobilizes chefs to raise funds and provide resources in instances of emergency. Cora is also the Executive Chef for Bon Appetit magazine and a spokesperson for UNICEF and InSinkErator.

March Is Women’s History Month

1 Mar
first lady michelle obama

No surprise Forbes included the First Lady on their 10 most powerful women list. Mrs. O has achieved great success combating childhood obesity with her "Let's Move" campaign. Image from Wikipedia

March is Women’s History Month and in observance Forbes released their picks for the 10 most powerful women in the world. Naturally this list included obvious choices like, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama, but what I found to be pretty cool was that #10 and #4 were both CEOs of the food industry. This is cool to me for two reasons, the first being that these international and multi-billion dollar corporations have women in charge and second it is significant that Forbes highlights companies in the food industry as powerful.

Number 10 is Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft Foods which is the second largest food manufacturer in the world and has over 127,000 people on staff. Indra Nooyi comes in at number 4 and is a Chief Executive at Pepsico, the largest food and beverage company in the United States, they employ over 300,000 people and make over $60 billion in annual revenue. Is it wrong (and perhaps a little sexist) that I find it hugely comforting that women are at the helm of these highly influential food companies? It’s like they are the responsible “moms” making sure we eat right!

Another interesting member of this elite club is #5 Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Under her tenure Facebook grew from approximately 70 million users to over 750 million active users. These new “friends” include brand pages for companies like Kraft and Pepsico as well as Restaurant Facebook pages from major chains to mom and pops. Sandberg also helped Facebook figure out how utilize all that volunteered  user information that is marketing gold (name, age, marital status, hobbies and a plethera of other preferences) and make a ton of money not just for Facebook, but for companies as well through highly targeted and effective advertising.

These ladies are all incredibly smart and successful and I think it’s fitting that Forbes included them on their top 10 list along with women world political leaders. Forbes recognizes that it’s not only political leadership that is able to wield power and influence in the world but also in other arenas like technology and food manufacturing. And I take off my hat to all the women on Forbes’ list and all women. Let’s take this month to not only acknowledge the great achievements of women throughout history, but keep an eye on the now and make sure that strides are still being taken towards equality because we are not quite there yet!

It’s Feb 29th, Prices Take a Leap!

29 Feb

It's Leap Year, any excuse to offer a deal is a good one, right?!

Despite what we learned in grade school, our planet actually takes 365 1/4 days to revolve around the sun. To catch up on the annual six extra hours, we add a day to our calendar every four years to keep us in sync with the sun. Without leap day, our seasons would shift and over time we’d literally end up celebrating Christmas in July.

In celebration of this rare occasion retailers are offering deals to intice you into their establishments for the “holiday.” And restaurants (chains as well as mom and pop’s) are no exception. We’ve heard whispers of special deals at fast food establishments, like menu items for $0.29 or sit down eateries like Denny’s promoting 29% off your check. Some places like Outback Steakhouse are offering a chance to win four years of free Outback if you visit their facebook page.

Today only save 29% off your bill at Denny's

Other deals include:

Act fast though, these specials are for today only and won’t come around again for another four years!! Do you know of any Leap Year deals near you?!

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.

Last Minute Valentine

13 Feb

Romance can take many forms. Waffle House is a cozy and family-friendly Valentine's Day treat!

Still no plans for Valentine’s Day? Or did you make plans for the weekend, but still want to observe the actual day? It’s not too late! Sometimes you don’t need to go all out, it’s just nice to not have to cook. There are a few chain restaurants that you can still make plans to have something to do on for Valentine’s Day and save the big to-do for the weekend.

Once again, The Waffle House will offer white tablecloth service by candlelight tomorrow night at more than 110 locations nationwide.  Participating Waffle House’s will feature a special Valentine’s Day menu but all the usual favorites will still be available. Even with the romantic atmosphere, The Waffle House is still a family friendly Valentine’s Day treat. So if you don’t have a sitter and want to take all your loved ones out on a date, Waffle House might be a nice way to go!

Olive Garden is offering one lucky couple the romantic trip of a lifetime. Don't enter ya'll because I want to win!

OpenTable recently conducted a survey that revealed 35% of their diners think Italian cuisine is the most romantic Valentine’s Day dinner choice. The Olive Garden is trying to keep that idea alive by not only inviting guests to  enjoy a three-course meal for $12.95 (pending location & for a limited time), but they have also announced their ‘Sweetheart Sweepstakes.’ Now through February 19th you can enter to win a romantic 7-night trip for two to Italy by visiting the Olive Garden Facebook page. There are also daily drawings to win a $25 gift card to the restaurant when you enter the sweepstakes.

And for those of us ladies who don’t have a Valentine this year, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is inviting you to round up their girlfriends and come in on Feb. 14 for Girls’ Night Out. Select locations are offering half price bottles of wine and dessert. In honor of Valentine’s Day Red Robin will debut a new dessert, the Gooey Chocolate Brownie Cake – available for just $1.99 on Feb. 14 with the purchase of a burger, entrée or salad.

Do You Soup & Salad?

9 Feb

More and more people are turning to soups and salads as healthier options for dining out.

According to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting company, consumer purchases of soup and salad are on the rise since 2009, by 61% and 81% respectively! That’s quite a drastic increase and it got me thinking about my most recent food purchases while dining out and soup and salad have indeed been creeping into my habits.

Soup has picked up this time of year because of the cold weather. Nothing warms you up like a nice hot bowl of soup and the range of different types of soups has also increased to make soup that much more of an appealing option. Plus soup has a reputation for being good for people who are trying to eat healthier. Now just like with salads this is not always the case, for example if you go for the creamy lobster bisque with bacon you could be ingesting as many calories as if you hate burger or at least more calories than you are hoping to eat. But if it’s good a creamy lobster bisque might be well worth those calories!

Restaurants have also started offering a wider, more interesting variety of salads as well. If you’ve been to the Cheesecake Factory you know what I mean. And those salads mean business too, it comes at you like a tiny mountain and it is a hungry and tenacious diner that can make it to the end. In the more convenient faster food arena the soup and salad offerings at Cosi and Panera Bread are tempting as well. And if you can’t decide which one you want you can always go with a half and half, cup of soup and a half a salad. I love having my cake and eating it too, don’t you?

And if that wasn’t enough new restaurant chains devoted entirely to salads and soup have started to spring up as well. Chop’t is one of my new faves and I keep hearing wonderful things about Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes. Are you feeling this new trend? Take a moment and take our quick poll!