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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Olive Garden to Revamp Restaurants

Olive Garden to revamp restaurants

Olive Garden plans to renovate as many as 400 of its existing restaurants nationwide by 2013 into its Tuscan farmhouse design, a new model introduced in 2000.

The Italian restaurant chain, owned by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI), said the revamp of the 400 locations will include updated decor inside its restaurants along with new Tuscan-inspired outside updates such as Cypress trees.

Renovations are scheduled at 30 Texas locations this fiscal year, a spokeswoman said. Remaining restaurant renovations will be determined based on feedback.

See more details on the remodel here.

Olive Garden has six New Mexico locations. The Westside Olive Garden restaurant, which opened in Albuquerque in May 2003, was a Tuscan farmhouse-style design. It is located in the Cottonwood Corners shopping center at Ellison and Coors Bypass NW.

The 8,000-square-foot restaurant features a tile roof, rustic stone walls, trellised patio, stucco exterior walls and an interior with 18-foot vaulted ceilings.

Darden Restaurants — which also owns Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze — last week reported $151.7 million in profit, or $1.08 per share, for its fiscal third quarter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Burger King Has NEW Chicken Tenders

New Burger King Chicken Tenders Reviewed

The Verdict: C. Gone away are the crown-shaped chicken pieces of the past; at a glance, these new Chicken Tenders look just like McNuggets (albeit a tad smaller) -- they have the same colored batter and even come in peculiar shapes like the ones at Mickey D's. The batter is crispy and starchy, like the McNuggets', with little to no herbs or spices to be tasted other than salt and a little pepper. The inside texture is just like the McDonald's counterpart: white meat that is ground, pressed, processed, and formed into nuggets. The taste is also similar, but not exactly the same. If it was BK's intention to simulate their rivals' chicken offering, they've missed the mark; what they have is drier and leaner-tasting, as opposed to the slightly fattier and softer texture found at the Golden Arches. (When I'm in the mood to order processed fast food chicken nuggets, I already know what I'm getting into, and prefer the latter.)

Perhaps these new Chicken Tenders have a flat taste by themselves because they are merely vehicles for the six dipping sauces available. However, those are nothing to rave about either: The light orange Zesty sauce is generically tangy; the Honey Mustard tastes like no-frills honey mustard; the Ranch merely maintains its status quo; the Buffalo is slightly spicy, but still sort of flat; the Barbecue has that sweet, factory-engineered smoky flavor; and the Sweet & Sour tastes like the kind you might get at a generic Chinese take-out place. Each sauce inherently enhances the chicken a tad, but that isn't saying much when you don't have something exciting to begin with. If this was BK's attempt to best Chicken McNuggets, like they tried to do with French fries, I'd advise them to try again -- or just stick with their signature items and improve upon them, instead of trying to emulate their rivals' food.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chef Daniel Boulud expands into casual cuisine

Chef Daniel Boulud expands into casual cuisine

America's preeminent French chef Daniel Boulud says luxury is alive and well and though he's expanding into more accessible food, he is uncompromising about his take on casual dining.
The three-star Michelin mastermind behind an empire that includes a dozen restaurants and catering company in New York, Florida, London, Beijing and Singapore is set to open two new Manhattan venues in May -- a Mediterranean grill and adjacent cafe and market.
Boulud, 56, who closed his two Vancouver restaurants earlier this month, said he is looking closely at a new project in Toronto, and hoped to confirm it soon.
He spoke to Reuters from New York about his inspirations, the backlash against self-satisfied foodies and the most tiresome culinary craze.
Q: What was some of the inspiration behind your new restaurant Boulud Sud and cafe/market Epicerie Boulud?
A: "I had a lot of fun creating some restaurants with a casual note to it, such as DBGB, for example, where it was about bangers and beers, being a very casual brasserie with very affordable food but very interesting homemade program ...
"I worked in the south of France for three years and I never forgot my time there from eating a pain bagnat on the beach to enjoying the sort of casual approach to Mediterranean cuisine ... not by virtue of simplicity. For me to go casual is not to go simple. To me it is to be able to bring back the art of tradition and the soul of French food and my interpretation of that."
Q: Given the rise of global food prices and popularity of more casual and affordable restaurants since the recession, what do you think the future is like for fine dining?
A: "I think dining is still the most affordable luxury of all because when you see that a woman spends $10,000 on a pair of shoes, on Jimmy Choo or (Christian) Louboutin, and a nice bag on average is maybe a couple thousand and they're selling them like there's no tomorrow ... I think people appreciate quality.
"Of course, the restaurant business or the hotel business or the luxury business in hospitality is not something you wear and it's not something you show off with it, you just take it for your soul and you take it for yourself."
Q: What do you say about the backlash against foodies and the self-indulgence they stand for?
A: "I think in France for example, we can say whatever we want about the French, but going out and dining is more about the intellectual moment to share with the people you dine with than trying to figure out what the chef did with that little piece of salmon or lobster and all that. It's more about the conversations, it's more about the privilege to share a moment with your friends and not be so obsessed with everything going into the plate and around it ... I think luxury and pampering and refinement and rarity in what you have stimulate your intellect. I take so much pleasure at seeing customers who are happy, happy with what they eat but happy with their friends and sharing a great moment together and I think that is more important in life than the endless pursuit of perfection."
Q: Are there are new foods or ingredients you're obsessed with at the moment?
A: "We just discovered putting sorrel leaves to seep into olive oil ... by keeping the virtue of the taste and yet having very fresh color with it which is difficult. And the wild salmon is starting. Salmon and sorrel is nothing new. Troisgros in Roanne created that recipe 45 years ago ... but to me every spring we play with sorrel and salmon and every spring we come up with some new ideas applying the two together."
Q: What food fads are you sick of?
A: "At (his New York restaurant) Daniel, 18 years ago we were doing a whole braised pork belly ... talk about a fad. If there's one piece of meat in the world that became overused and overrated and still delicious and captured by every sort of chef, it's the pork belly."
Guinea hen casserole with morels, fava beans and fiddlehead ferns (serves 4)
1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns, cleaned and trimmed
1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (about 1 1/2 pounds with pods)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 2 1/2- to 3-pound free-range guinea hen, cut into eight pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound morel mushrooms, stemmed, washed twice, and drained
1/2 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
4 shallots, halved, or 8 spring onions, trimmed
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme, leaves only, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup unsalted beef stock or low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons minced chives
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fiddlehead ferns and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Add the fava beans and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Drain the vegetables into a colander and run under cold water to cool. Make a small incision in the skin of the favas with your thumbnail and pop out the beans. Discard the skins.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Warm the olive oil in a large cast-iron pot or roasting pan over high heat. Season the hen with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, slip in the pieces, skin side down, and sear until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the pieces over and add the morels, potatoes, garlic, shallots, bay leaf, thyme, and butter, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, for 5 minutes. Slide the pan into the oven and roast the hen for 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clean when the hen is pierced.
Transfer the hen and the vegetables to a large bowl and keep warm. Place the pan over high heat on the stove; add the beef stock and reduce the liquid by half. Return the hen and vegetables to the pan and toss until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives and serve family-style from the pan.

Monday, March 28, 2011

CHEFS: These Are The Gadgets You Need In The Kitchen

CHEFS: These Are The Gadgets You Need In The Kitchen

Jodi Rhoden has a simple rule concerning the purchase of kitchen tools.

“If it hasn't been invented by now, you don't need it,” said Rhoden, baker and owner of Short Street Cakes in West Asheville. We've had thousands of years since the discovery of fire to figure out the basics of what we need to cook.

“Most ‘As Seen on TV' items are going to be useless,” she said.

In keeping the spirit of spring cleaning, now is a good time to pry open those cluttered kitchen drawers and determine what you really need to cook — and what tools are a waste of time, space and money.

“The more multipurpose a tool is, the more useful it is,” Rhoden said. “I was recently in California during a wedding. There were all these tools that were so specific to one purpose, the George Foreman grill, juicers specific to one kind of fruit … those are the things I avoid.”

Rhoden can't live without her easy-to-use sifter and her offset spatula. “I have this Echo spatula that is completely indispensible,” she said. “I've had it since I moved out of my parents' house.”

Although professional chefs may have the need and opportunity to use cutting-edge cooking gadgets, you'll find that people in many of the Asheville restaurant's kitchens also want to keep things simple.

Justin Smudde, who just opened Bandido's Burritos in West Asheville, said he had to keep his tool to-buy list short.

“I made a list of the bare necessities of what I needed and figured out what I could afford in my budget,” Smudde said. “As time has gone by, we are adding (kitchen tools).

At the top of his list: a commercial food blender. “I make everything in that: all of our salsas, all of our vinegars, all of our marinades,” he said.

“It just pulverizes anything. You can put rocks in and make dust out of them.”

William Dissen, chef and owner of the Market Place, considers himself a “conservative in the kitchen when it comes to buying tools.”

“Yes, we play with a vacuum sealer and an immersion circulator, both for the craft of ‘sous vide,' but a chef has all he needs with a good knife, a solid oven to cook over and a little creativity.”

Here's a look at what other Asheville chefs will always keep in their kitchen — and a few ideas about what items they will never buy again:

From William Dissen, of The Market Place:

“No. 1 is a good chef's knife. I use a Glestain, which comes from Japan … I am left-handed, so finding a knife that “fits” well is hard to come by. When you are using this tool every day, you want to make sure that you really love working with it. I buy my knives from Korin, which is located in New York City and Japan.

“No. 2 is my Pacojet. It takes ice creams and sorbets to a whole new level. The machine spins so fast that it can make a typical ice cream light and airy.”

From Charles deVries, CEPC, instructor, hospitality education at Asheville-Buncombe Community College:

“I can't live without offset spatula ... very versatile for chocolate, cake work and sugar. The other more important tools that you can't buy are my hands. Waste of money: Silicone brush ... not good for eggwash, spreading anything but barbecue sauce.

From John Hofland, culinary instructor at A-B Tech:

“My 8-inch chef's knife is what I can't live without. I could cut a cord of wood with it if I had to.”

From Robert Wallace, Bistro 1896 chef:

“I got a few years back a rechargeable hand blender as a gift. By the time you would get halfway through a chore, it would die. … I took it work, and everybody made fun of it

“A thing I can't do without is a chinois. It is just to strain soups to get out any grit and to make the texture velvety.

“A silpat is essential in baking cookies and making candies. It's a nonstick, Teflon plastic surface you put on a pan. You can cook anything on it, and you don't have to use (cooking spray) or butter.”

From Laurey Masterton, of Laurey's:

“My chef's knife is No. 1. I have an 8-inch knife. I have it at home, and no one else is allowed to use it. My microplane grater for lemon zest and parmesan is important. A lemon reamer for juicing works really well, and it is a lot easier to use.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cheesecake Brownie Minus the Guilt

Cheesecake Brownie Minus the Guilt ( Recipe)

by Tanya Zuckerbrot

Great for those moments when you just can't decide, cheesecake brownies are the perfect solution to having two desserts when you know you should be having only one! Adding the cheesecake topping creates an additional layer that is almost like frosting. Not only adding character and color to the dessert, this layer adds calories from fat andsugar to an already sweet dessert.

In my rehab, I will lower the fat content by replacing the oil in the brownies with applesauce and substituting low-fat Neufchatel cream cheese combined with non-fat Greek yogurt in the cheesecake topping. Reducing the amount of calories from sugar is always a challenge, but I will reduce the amount and enhance the flavor with vanilla, cocoa powder, and espresso. This dessert has a great complex combination of flavors that is sure to please your taste buds without missing the extra calories from sugar.

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar (or ½ cup Splenda brown sugar blend)
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup prepared espresso
2 teaspoons vanilla

4 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (or ¼ cup Truvia or Splenda)
1 egg
1 tablespoon cake flour
4 ounces non fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray an 11-by-9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. To prepare the brownie layer, sift together the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat together the egg, egg whites, and brown sugar until smooth. Add the applesauce, coffee, and vanilla and continue to mix until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and blend until smooth.
3. To prepare the topping beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Add the yogurt, egg, flour, and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth.
4. To assemble the dish, pour half of the brownie mixture into the baking pan. Evenly pour the topping over the base brownie layer. Use the remaining brownie mixture to drop large drops over the topping layer. Using a knife, draw the tip through the top two layers to create a swirled effect.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick entered in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan before cutting into 15 pieces.

Serves: 15

Nutrition Content (per serving):
200 calories, 7 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 30 g carbohydrates, 23 g sugars, 2 g fiber, 6 g protein, 191 mg sodium
Note: Replacing the sugar with Splenda or Truvia reduces the calories to 122, carbohydrates to 10 g and sugars to 3 g.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Number of TGI Friday's to double

Number of TGI Friday's to double

Carlson Restaurants says it plans to double the number of T.G.I. Friday's restaurants around the globe.
The company announced the plans at its global business conference last week in Dallas, saying that it is uniquely positioned to increase the company's footprint given the strength of its brand, management and franchise partners.
The company plans to accelerate growth over the next five years, and ultimately double the number of the T.G.I. Friday's sites around the world. Carlson did not disclose a timeframe for reaching the long-term goal.
The company has more than 350 restaurants in 60 countries and is on track to open nearly 40 new restaurants in 2011.
T.G.I. Friday's is part of Carlson, which is a travel and restaurant operator headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Cook For Your Girlfriend

How to Cook For Your Girlfriend

You've probably heard that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. What you may not know is that women like to eat too, and cooking for your girlfriend is a great way to show your appreciation for her. If you're reading this article, you probably haven't cooked for your girlfriend before, or if you have, it didn't turn out as well as you hoped, or you are just concerned with doing things to make your girlfriend happy. Don't worry, though; with a little planning and work, anybody can pull off a thoughtful, home-cooked dinner. Follow these tips and you'll be cooking up romance in no time.

Assess your relationship. Before you plan that exquisite gourmet meal, it's a good idea to think about where you are in your relationship. If you've been with a girl for a while, cooking a fancy meal that takes a lot of time to prepare can seem really romantic. If you just met the girl last week, however, that same meal can seem kind of creepy. Early in a relationship, it may be best to stick with simple dishes--still mindful, of course, of what your girlfriend likes to eat--or you might give the impression that you're too eager to please her. Besides, if you cook a six-course dinner on the second date, imagine how many courses you're going to have to make if you're still together in a year or two.

  1. Discover what your girlfriend likes to eat. You can cook just about anything you want, really--it's the thought that counts. Put a little more thought into the meal, however, and it counts a little more. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if your girlfriend is a vegetarian you should skip the meatloaf, but if you really want to make the meal special, you'll need to look beyond the obvious. This can require some advance preparation--you need to listen to her and make mental notes to yourself. For example, maybe a couple months ago she mentioned how she used to love Brunswick stew but she never learned to make it. Surprise her with some for dinner, and she'll be amazed you remembered. In other words, you're not just cooking, you're being an attentive boyfriend or girlfriend.
  2. 3
    Search for a recipe. By now you should know what you want to make. Get out the cookbook (there's probably one lying around somewhere) or get on the web. Want to makechicken enchiladas? Just enter "chicken enchiladas recipe" in your search engine, and you'll have probably hundreds of variations to choose from. Read the instructions and ingredients and choose a recipe that you feel comfortable making--if the first one you find looks too difficult, keep looking.
  3. 4
    Choose accompanying dishes. Depending on what your main dish is and how big a production you've decided to make your meal, you may want to add side dishes, a salad or a dessert. Often, entree recipes will have suggestions for side dishes and wines, or you can find an entire meal planned out. If the recipe you've chosen to make doesn't give you any suggestions, look at similar recipes for ideas.
  4. 5
    Decide on a date for the big meal. If you're planning on cooking today, you're probably in a hurry—skip this step. Otherwise, make plans with your girlfriend. You can just tell her you'd like to cook dinner (or breakfast or lunch) for her, or you can surprise her. If you're going to surprise her, make up some pretext--a good one is to tell her you're taking her out to eat--so that she will (a) show up and (b) show up hungry.
  5. 6
    Make a shopping list. A day or two before you will cook, go through each and every item in your recipe(s) and see if you have it in your kitchen. Make sure you have enough of each ingredient, as well, and make sure they're all edible (1 egg won't substitute for 3, and rotting vegetables just aren't the same as fresh). Also, check to see that you have all the kitchen utensils you will need (you can buy these or, preferably, try to borrow them from somebody). If you don't have something, write it down on your shopping list. Make sure your list is detailed--include the quantity you'll need and any other pertinent information. Of course, if you're like a lot of bachelors, you can probably just take the recipe with you to the grocery store--you know you don't have any of that stuff.
  6. 7
    Go grocery shopping. Bring your list to the grocery store and purchase what you need. Cross each item off the list as you put it in your cart, and before you leave, make sure you've got everything. You'll probably see a lot of girls at the grocery store; this is not the time to flirt.
  7. 8
    Pre-prepare. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Sometimes this is absolutely necessary (you may need to marinate something overnight, for example), so pay close attention to your recipe. Even when advance preparation isn't required, the more you do early, the easier your cooking experience will be.
  8. 9
    Prepare the meal. Make sure you start your cooking early enough to have the meal ready on time, but not so early that it's sitting around for hours. The recipe may give you an estimate of preparation and cooking times; you may want to add a little time onto these if you're not a proficient chef. Unless you really know what you're doing, follow the recipe's instructions exactly.
  9. 10
    Set the mood. Be creative with the ambiance you set for your meal. Maybe you want to have it on the balcony under the stars, or maybe it's breakfast in bed--the sky's the limit. As in your choice of meal, you may want to consider where your relationship is at. If you're looking to inject some romance into a long-term relationship, dim the lights, hire a violinist and break out the candles and roses. If you've only been dating a week, however, you might want to keep it simple: dim the lights, get a friend to guard the door to make sure no other girls stop by, and break out the thick, classy paper plates.
  10. 11
    Serve the meal. Your service will depend on the meal you've chosen, of course, but a couple of rules apply regardless. Make sure the food is ready to be served--hot foods should be hot and cold foods cold, for example--and serve your girlfriend her food first. Make sure she is comfortable and has everything she needs to enjoy your magical feast. Wait for her to take her first bite before you dig in.
  11. 12
    Relish the togetherness. Just focus on your girlfriend, not the food. Even if you're insecure about your cooking, act confident. Don't keep asking her if she really likes this or that. You've worked hard to prepare this meal for your girlfriend, but you don't need to tell her that--she knows.
  12. 13
    Clean up everything yourself. This may make the best impression of all.