nina | December 6th, 2011 - 9:00 am

A new long-term US study announced last week found that eggs and chicken may sharpen your memory. 

Senior researchers from Boston University School of Medicine performed the long-term health study on 1,400 adults, spanning 10 years. Those participants who ate diets packed with plenty of choline performed better in memory tests and were less likely to acquire brain changes associated with dementia than those who consumed less choline in their diets.

Other foods high in choline include legumes (such as soy and kidney beans), saltwater fish, liver and milk.  However, note that no one nutrient is a magic bullet against demetia. 

Other ways to boost your brain power? Some studies have shown that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids could help slow the typical cognitive decline that comes with age. In addition, according to a 2010 study, tea drinkers did better on tests of memory and information processing than non-tea drinkers did.

Source: RelaxNews, 12/1/11

Trivia – Steak: The Real Meat Eater

nina | December 2nd, 2011 - 9:00 am

Enjoy these fun trivia questions about the most popular meat – THE RED MEAT!

Question 1:  Cuts from tenderloin, these are the most tender steaks one can buy.  Do not marinate and avoid overcooking.
a.  T-Bone; b. Filet Mignon, c. Porterhouse or d. NY Strip

Question 2:  Originally served in pubs this is a large, flavorful steak cut from the short loin, nearest the sirloin.  The tenderloin portion of this steak can be served as filet mignon.
 a. Flank, b. Ribeye, c. Porterhouse,  d. Filet Rouge.

Question 3:  Do not confuse this one with ordinary sirloin, which includes a bone.  It is great marinated and grilled.  This steak can also be substituted with a nice tri-tip roast.
a. T-Bone, b. Tenderloin, c. Top Sirloin, d. NY strip

Question 4:  Which steak is easily identified by its bone?
a. Rib Steak, b. T-Bone, c.  Boned Sirloin, d. Rump steak

Question 5:  When the tenderloin strip has been removed from the short loin, the remaining steak is called what?
a. New York Strip, b. Shell Steak, c. Kansas City Strip, d. All Listed Choices.

Question 6:  What is the best recommended way to prepare a T-Bone steak?
a. Pan frying, b. Baking, c. Broiling, d. Sautee Method with Mushrooms & Onions

Question 7:  Which of the following is NOT a USDA standard for grading steak before it can be sold?
a. Select, b. Prime, c. Special, d. Standard.

Question 8:  In reference to all steaks, what does the term “marbling” signify?
a. None Listed, b. Intra-muscular fat, appearing as white flects in the read meat, c. Weight of the steak regarding max. price at which it may be sold, d. None listed.

Question 9:  How long have USDA standards existed in the beef industry?
a. Since 1988, b. Since 1900, c. Since 1965, d. Since 1950.

Question 10: Kobe beef is considered to be a world delicacy when served as a steak.  From where does it originate?
a. Phillipines, b. Hawaii, c. Korea, d. Japan

Answers: 1. b; 2. c; 3. c; 4. b; 5. d; 6. c; 7. c; 8. b; 9. c; 10. d


nina | December 1st, 2011 - 9:00 am

The use of descriptive labels is a continued trend in the hospitality industry. But does simply changing the menu labels from generic, straightforward names to descriptive names impact sales or make a customer actually believe the food tastes better?

Here’s a simple example what a popular restaurant tried. They changed the menu from Seafood Filet became Succulent Italian Seafood Filet and Grilled Chicken became Tender Grilled Chicken.  Did descriptive labels influence one’s taste? Definitely. They increased sales by 27 percent over the plain-labeled menu items. In addition, the menu items were viewed as more appealing and tastier, and the restaurant as being trendier and more up to date.
Why? Descriptive labeling allows consumers to concentrate more on the feelings and taste aspects of the products instead of focusing only on the functional or utilitarian properties. For instance, when asked to comment on their entree or dessert, people who were given a descriptively labeled product directed 84.5 percent of their comments to factors related to the taste and sensory nature of the product. In contrast, those who ate the less descriptively labeled products focused only 42.6 percent on these sensory aspects and reserved their remaining comments (such as “good,” “filling,” or “reasonable”) for the more utilitarian or functional characteristics of the foods.

Categories That Connect.
How do you generate descriptive or suggestive labels?

Labels that claim to reproduce the same flavors that are specifically found in geographic areas have proven successful. For example are Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes or Little Italy’s famous baked ziti.

Alluding to past time periods can trigger happy memories of family, tradition, and nationalism. Customers sometimes like the feeling of tasting something wholesome and traditional because “they sure don’t make ’em like they used to.” For example, Pappy’s Pecan Pie or Hand-Churned Peach ice cream.

If labels accurately describe the taste, smell, and mouth-feel of the menu item, then customers will be more able to picture themselves eating it. Ice cream shops accomplish this masterfully— “Very, Very Raspberry”—but menus of all types can benefit from creative sensory labels. Examples are Hearty Wholesome Steaks, Jumbo Tender Shrimp.

A cross-promotion with a related brand that carries its own important associations makes the menu item more attractive. The idea of cross-promotions is not new, but it is catching on reasonably fast in the chain and franchise restaurant world. One drawback of brand labels is that the legal costs and licensing costs can be too expensive for single-unit restaurants. The use of brands says to consumers, “If you love the brand, you’ll love this menu item.” Examples are Fresh Black Angus Beef Burgers, Jack Daniel’s BBQ Ribs, and M&M Blizzard.

Name Game. 
One method to generate ideas for descriptive labels is to sit down with a pencil and think of food-related associations that tie in to relevant places, memories, or descriptive adjectives. A second means starting your descriptive labeling talent is to take a pen and paper and to physically note the variety of descriptive labels used at different restaurants. Two great places to start are theme restaurants and flavored coffee shops.  Of course, using descriptive labels can raise consumer expectations, which must be met by delivering a quality product. It’s a bad idea to label yesterday’s goulash as today’s “Royal Hungarian Top Sirloin Blend.” It might generate first-time sales, but those covers may also be the last.

Source isante, eknowledge for restaurant professionals, 10-31-11, brian wansink, md


nina | November 30th, 2011 - 9:00 am


1 pound lean ground beef
10 oz condensed cream of mushroom soup, divided
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup onions, yellow chopped
1 teaspoonMontrealsteak seasoning  
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup cognac or red wine
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1-2 cups beef broth
brown gravy

In a large bowl, combine beef, 5oz mushroom soup, bread crumbs, egg, onions, and steak seasoning. Mix thoroughly and shape into 4 oval patties.

Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown patties on both sides and transfer to a plate.

Add remaining butter and cognac (remove pan from heat when adding cognac.) Saute mushrooms for 7 to 8 minutes. Add beef stock and whisk in brown gravy until smooth. Stir in remaining mushroom soup.

Return patties to skillet and spoon gravy over top. Cover pan and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve Salisbury Steaks and Mushroom Gravy over hot cooked rice or mashed potatoes.

Bryan Bernstein, Corporate Chef, Saval Foodservice


nina | November 28th, 2011 - 9:00 am

Restaurants are preparing for the month-long celebrations that come with the December holidays.  Are your menus ready?

As the winter holidays approach, restaurant operators and chefs are trying to be extra-inspired in their culinary creations and planning. It’s all part of an effort to draw more companies, organizations and friends to celebrate the season with them.

Even though it’s still early for making predictions, restaurateurs are optimistic that holiday bookings will continue to improve over previous years that were snagged by the Great Recession of 2008.

Most operators report a slightly higher or similar number of Christmas parties being scheduled this year, both in the restaurants and catered, than in 2010. Dollars budgeted are up a little, too.

Although December sales are not quite as important to restaurants as to retail stores—the holiday season represented nearly 20 percent of total retail industry sales last year, according to the National Retail Federation – they are still vital for an eatery’s business.

Mother’s Day is the busiest “holiday” for restaurants, with more than a third of the nation’s moms dining out on the second Sunday in May. Independence Day and Halloween are bigger days for holding parties.

But the Christmas season stands out, because it lasts an entire month, capped off by New Year’s Eve parties.

A Cautious Outlook
Many of the culinary trends that are appearing during the holidays this year are similar to the overall trends that full-service restaurants have been seeing.

That means more tasteful and purposeful parties than frivolous ones, with focus on food and friendship rather than on décor.  There will be fewer balloons and ice sculptures and sushi goddesses and more Kobe beef and heirloom pork.  Holiday celebrations are increasingly including locally grown, organic food.  It’s still a handful or so, but the interest is definitely growing.

Consumers show some savvy.
Consumers are getting very smart and can recognize good food.  They ask more questions now.  People want us to cook what is here, locally.  That includes fruits, vegetables, herbs and meat. 

One of the things that seems to be different is that there seems to be more requests for luxurious parties like we used to see a few years ago.  Just as luxury items are slowly making a comeback in retail, the same is happening for parties.

Affordability is still the name of the game.
A lot of people are going with lighter fare – petite portions but with more variety.  They would rather see tapas and multiple hors d’oeuvres with creativity in design with different cooking techniques an textures.

Operators can still show good profits on reduced portions by offering variety and creativity.

Holiday parties are always brightened by a decadent dessert, such as rich chocolate cakes topped with whipped cream.  Or maybe gingerbread pumpkin pudding.

The idea of heavy hors d’oeuvres, rather than plated dinners, is popular nationally.  As well as having a chef at catered events in party rooms.

One culinary trend being incorporated into holiday parties is the exploding interest in food trucks.  Restaurants and caterers around the country are using their own or others’ food trucks in their seasonal events. A Food truck can prepare all of the food right on the spot right before they start the party. 

Of course, there’s nothing like a festively decked-out restaurant to put you in the holiday spirit.  Another festive aspect of a holiday-season party is the choice of beverages, particularly alcoholic ones.  Most people tend to be very traditional with holiday drinks.  There are many ways to update a classic. . . all it takes is a little creativity.

Source:  Restaurant Management, 11-15-11


nina | November 25th, 2011 - 9:00 am

Grain farmers in the Midwest may want to pinch themselves.

In recent years they have been buoyed by a dream scenario. Record high prices. Record high profits. Record high farmland values. Near record production. Farm debts paid off.

Historically agriculture has been asset rich, cash flow poor, profit poor. This time we are asset rich and profit rich. That makes for a very combustible brew.  It’s a super cycle. It’s only happened four times in the past 100 years, as told to U.S.agricultural bankers at their annual meeting this month.

But can it last?  Analysts often cite the rise of China andIndia as the main driver of the boom, with their hundreds of millions of hungry and wealthier consumers lining up at the table for grain from the United States, the largest food exporter in the world.

But the single biggest consumer which has changed the game in farm country in recent years is closer to home: ethanol.

The alcohol-based fuel has, in less than a decade, gone from consuming less than 10 percent to currently 40 percent of the giant U.S.corn crop.

That enormous slice of the pie — which exporters and starch makers and food processors and livestock feeders must also still fight for — is the key to the recent farm boom.

This is likely the single biggest cause behind the surge in corn prices and farm income, according to the Farm Credit Administration, regulator of the government-linked Farm Credit System, the largest real estate lender to American farmers.

The dynamic has been simple. The 2007 bill mandated that a total of 15 billion gallons of renewable ethanol must be produced by 2015 for energy independence. Almost all that fuel is “blended” with gasoline.

Demand for corn skyrocketed, with prices of corn and then corn land following it up. Other grain prices have risen just to assure that farmers don’t all switch to corn. Farmers have reaped the benefits, as have their suppliers from tractor suppliers to fertilizer producers to land auctioneers.

There are a lot of people betting a lot of money on land right now. Land wouldn’t be going for $9,000, $10,000 an acre in the Corn Belt unless people were convinced that corn prices were going to stay strong.

But will corn prices stay strong? More to the point, will ethanol prices? And if they don’t, will the bubble burst?

Confidence in ethanol is being tested in the current U.S.budget environment, where Republicans in Congress have been pushing for major cuts in spending that include long-standing subsidies and incentives for ethanol production.

A blenders tax credit and a tariff on ethanol imports are set to expire on January 1, 2012. Most experts do not expect either to be renewed given Republican-led budget pressure.

But the mandated use target remains 12.6 billion gallons of ethanol in 2011, peaking at 15 billion by 2015, or roughly 10 percent of the fuel burned by cars and light trucks.

It is anticipate the blender’s credit is going away at the end of the year but the mandate is still going to exist to blend. It’s not going to change the amount of corn we’re blending.  If ethanol is the key to corn prices and land prices, then experts say crude oil remains the key to ethanol.

A bubble implies it’s going to burst some time and the farm economy would go into the tank — or the ethanol bubble will burst. Demand for ethanol derives primarily from the price of crude oil. As long as crude oil is high, the demand for ethanol is going to be high and agriculture is not on a bubble.

Ethanol producers say $30 billion in investment and growth in ethanol in recent years has changed the outlook. Ethanol producers, for instance, now export almost 1 billion gallons a year, mostly to Brazil where sugar-based ethanol is common.

Ethanol producers cite the benefits of lower corn prices. But there is also a subtle political factor for those in Congress: corn is grown in most U.S.Congressional districts, where farmers have reaped the dream scenario of ethanol.

The ethanol industry has rejuvenated rural America. We bring high paying jobs back to small towns. It has huge impact on the local community.  Though lower ethanol and corn prices would hurt all those now benefiting from the farm boom, farmers would be in far better shape for a downturn now than 30 years ago when the last big farmland bubble burst in the 1980s.

Source:  Reuters, Christine Stebbins, Chicago, 11-20-11


nina | November 24th, 2011 - 9:00 am

A Few Fun Facts about Pumpkins. 
– A pumpkin is really a squash.  It is a member of the Cucurbita family which includes squash and cucumbers. 
– Pumpkins are grown all over the world on six of the seven continents, with Antarctica being the sole exception.  They are even grown in Alaska.
– The self proclaimed “Pumpkin Capital of the World” is Morton, IL where Libby has it’s pumpkin industry and plant.
– From a medicinal standpoint, pumpkins have been used for a variety of ailments:
   * They were onced recommended as a cure for freckles.
   * They were used as a remedy for snake bites according to eHomeRemedies
   * The seeds help avoid prostate cancer in men.
– Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
– In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
– Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
– It takes 3-4 months for a seed to become a pumpkin.


nina | November 23rd, 2011 - 8:16 pm

5 oz Roasted turkey
1 ea Roll
1 tablespoon Cranberry sauce
2 Tablespoons Mayo
1 ozTurkeygravy
½ oz shredded Lettuce
2 slices Tomato
2 oz Corn bread stuffing

Make cranberry mayo by mixing the two together.

Heat turkey, stuffing and roll.  Cut roll long ways and spread cranberry mayo.  Layer hot turkey, stuffing, lettuce and tomato and then drizzle gravy over top.


nina | November 22nd, 2011 - 9:00 am

Every cook likes to show off sometimes, and few dishes are as beautiful as the old-fashioned but remarkably light souffle, very yummy!  The secret to these perfect puffs has everything to do with egg whites.  Whip in a blast of air, and carefully incorporate froth into a creamy base.  Then serve right away.  These delicate […]


nina | November 21st, 2011 - 9:00 am

Baltimoreans, are among the nation’s least frequent diners, but they tip just fine.  Only diners in Boston and Philadelphia say they dine out less frequently.

The Zagat released its 2012 America’s Top Restaurants Survey, covering 1,578 of the nation’s top restaurants across 45 U.S. markets, including Baltimore, which is joined together in most, but not all, of the survey questions with Washington.

Restaurant owners in Baltimore/D.C. area may have their work cut out for them.  Diners in our market say they eat out an average of 2.6 times a week, which ranks 43rd among the 45 markets surveyed and far below the national average of 3.1 times a week.  The four top markets are all in Texas – Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Service, as it has been for year after year, is the number one irritant to survey responders nationwide — 66 percent say it’s what most irritates them about restaurants, followed by noise/crowds at 16%.

Baltimore and Washington were considered separately in the survey’s meal-cost comparison.  The national average meal cost was $35.65, and average meal in Baltimore was $34.29, just a dollar and a half less than the $35.99 average D.C. meal.  Las Vegas, at $47.53, was the highest.

The survey included only the 20 most expensive restaurants in each city, the average in Baltimore was $62.02, well below the national average of $79.39 and staggeringly below the average very expensive meal in New York City, which was $163.34.

63 percent of diners in the Baltimore-D.C. market say they’d pay more for food that is locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised.  That’s above the national average of 57 percent.  The city where diners care most about “green” food was Portland, OR.  The city where the diners don’t seem to care so much where there food comes from was Las Vegas, which makes perfect sense.

Diners in Baltimore-D.C. tip 19.2 percent, right at the national avverage of 19.3.

Top Restaurants:  The list as top restaurants in Zagat’s major markets includes the following:
Baltimore/Annapolis – Charleston
Washington, D.C. – Marcel’s

Source:  Richard Gorelick, the Baltimore Sun, 10-25-11

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