nina | May 25th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Every April, asparagus stalks shoot up from the soil to the delight of food lovers everywhere! 

Every year as winter fades and the soil warms, a miracle happens. The cool wet soil gives way to emerging asparagus spears. It’s one of the first crops available for home gardeners and market farmers alike. And anyone who has had the pleasure of eating it raw knows that fresh asparagus is heaven.

Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables. Michigan ranks third in the nation for asparagus production, and asparagus is one of the first crops to appear in the spring, according to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. The state’s fresh asparagus season runs April through June.

This year, the weather has played an interesting trick on produce growers.  It has certainly been a crazy year. The warm weather in March caused the stalks to push out of the ground last month, which is unheard of. But the frost and cooler weather has helped regulate the growth somewhat.

There has already been a limited harvest from growers in the southern part of Michigan and that some of the crop was lost to frost. But to date it looks like we are going to have a reasonably good crop.

Michigan’s average 22 million pounds of asparagus may be completely harvested by early June instead of later in the month. The season will be shortened, but it will be good.

And good for you too. As long as asparagus isn’t drenched in Hollandaise sauce or butter, it’s a fine low-calorie food. The spears are great eaten raw, but most people want their asparagus cooked. That’s fine, but take care not to boil the nutrients and flavor out of this seasonal culinary treat, which happens to be a good source for vitamin A, potassium and folic acid, as well as traces of copper, zinc and vitamin B.

An easy way to use asparagus is to steam the spears for about six to eight minutes and serve with a little sea salt and good olive oil. It’s a simple but memorable dish. Asparagus is also lovely when wrapped with prosciutto or bacon. Chop roasted asparagus tips into an omelet with melted fontina or goat cheese and lunch will have to be pretty spectacular to follow that morning meal.

Although green asparagus is the norm, purple varieties are worth a try, too. White asparagus is achieved by growing the vegetable without sunlight, which prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll. The white variety is a delicacy that some find less bitter than ordinary asparagus. It’s a stunner when plated and can be mixed with green spears for an interesting look.

Source:  detroitnews_com. 4.19.12

Saval Foodservice to Add Natural Gas Trucks to Fleet

admin | May 25th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Saval Foodservice, Elkridge, M.D., announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Ultimate CNG LLC, to add two new clean natural gas-fueled trucks to its fleet. This represents another step toward Saval Foodservice’s goal of providing a healthy and clean environment for its customers and community. CNG Vehicles produce 20% less Greenhouse Gas […]


nina | May 24th, 2012 - 9:00 am

IN THE FOOD business, there’s not much that’s trendier than a food truck. Maybe gluten-free pastry.  Or garlic scapes. Or waiters with mustaches. That’s about it.

Breakfast through dinner, mobile culinary units have in recent years multiplied nationwide. Today, they also host trucks and carts serving gourmet grilled cheeses, breakfast tacos, pork bulgogi and vegan banh mi.
In fact, some parks with plenty of parking, became a temporary residence to a mess of mostly newbie trucks proffering wood-grilled pizza, custom burgers, Trinidadian doubles, single-origin coffee, red velvet cupcakes and “Iron Chef”-approved tacos.

So, it should come as no surprise that they’re popping up in other places, too. Like weddings. And corporate picnics. Community fundraisers. Sweet 16s. Hair-salon openings. Roller derbies.

The food truck is the new party bus.  According to a business that does NYC rentals for party buses and limos, there’s crazy potential to do unique events. Makes sense. Food trucks can drive almost anywhere, don’t take up much space — and almost always draw a crowd of curious eaters.

People want that truck experience. They’ve seen [the Food Network’s] ‘Great Food Truck Race’ and are all over it.

Source:, 5.11.12


nina | May 23rd, 2012 - 9:00 am

The heat is already on for summer seasonal hiring, as quick-serve managers are hiring summer help earlier in the year to have their pick of top-shelf applicants.

Snagajob, a Richmond, Virginia–based hourly employment network, released its annual summer job survey in March. The report found that 23 percent of summer positions will be filled by the end of April, while 79 percent will be filled by the end of May.

During the recession, restaurants knew there was a qualified pool of applicants they could tap into at any time. Many waited to hire until they were confident they’d have enough summer business to justify the headcount.

Now, however, with a stronger economy making operators more optimistic for summer traffic, they’re no longer waiting to fill positions.

They’re hiring earlier this year, and that shows they feel like they have to hire sooner to get quality hires.

There is a new program, Summer Jobs+, announced by The White House in January.   This program aims to increase employment opportunities for young people during the summer, and hopes to add 180,000 jobs through public-private partnerships.  Many rstaurants are jumping onthe band wagon with this program.  Many national chains holding early summer job fairs.

About 23 percent of summer positions will be filled by the end of April, while 79 percent will be filled by the end of May.

Surveys show 10 percent of hiring managers will hire more summer seasonal help this year than they did last year, while 30 percent intend to hire at the same level.

As the recovery continues, business has improved dramatically, so restaurants are staffing above and beyond what they normally would for the summer.

 About 25 percent of hires are found online, with the rest found through more traditional methods, like college campus outreach, in-store recruiting, and open houses.

There’s less competition from older, more experienced workers going into the summer market out of desperation.  However, the average pay remains about the same as last summer’s, at $10.90 an hour. The market is a little tighter, but not tight enough owners feel they need to pay more.

A new report released by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in Washington, D.C., says restaurants have added more than 200,00 new jobs in the past six months. In fact, job growth in the restaurant industry has outpaced the economy, although the industry has yet to hit pre-recession levels.  The NRA, says the organization expects 2012 summer jobs to match last year’s more than 400,000 positions, and possibly more.

There are almost 13 million individuals employed in the industry now … so the industry is an important jobs generator in the national economic infrastructure.

Source: 4.23.12

NUTS. . .Smart Storage.

nina | May 22nd, 2012 - 9:00 am

Ever since some long-ago ancestor cracked open the first shell and ate the meat of a nut, we’ve been happily munching on one of nature’s best foods ever since. Full of protein and good oils, there aren’t too many dishes that nuts don’t make better (hmm … brownies with walnuts, tabbouleh with hazelnuts, toasted almonds in my oatmeal, pignoli cookie,  you get my obsession here).

Sweet or savory, nuts go a long way to make our foods tasty as well as nutritious. But because of nuts’ richness in oil, they can easily become stale and rancid. So it’s important to keep nuts as fresh as possible.  

If you buy nuts often and use them within a few weeks, just refrigerate them, tightly covered. But if you’re tempted to buy nuts in bulk, go for the ones that are vacuum-packed. Many people now have sealing machines at home, which makes it easy to vacuum pack your own if you buy from the bulk bins.  (Word of advice: make sure the store has a good turnover. There’s no saving money if the nuts you buy are already stale.

Don’t have one of those handy dandy machines? Then freeze nuts, double-wrapped in sealable plastic bags or tightly sealed containers. I like to bag nuts in typical recipe amounts, about one cup. Just spread your frozen nuts out on a cookie sheet and pop them in a 350?F oven for about 8–10 minutes to bring out their peak flavor. And, of course, any leftovers nuts are the cook’s nibble.


nina | May 8th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Driven by solid same-store sales and traffic results and an increasingly bullish outlook among restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) matched its post-recession high in March. The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 102.2 in March, up 0.3 percent from February and equaling its post-recession high that was previously reached in December 2011.

In addition, the RPI stood above 100 for the fifth consecutive month in March, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

The first quarter finished strong with a solid majority of restaurant operators reporting higher same-store sales and customer traffic levels in March.

Current Situation Index
The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 102.0 in March – up 0.1 percent from February’s level of 101.9. It remained above 100 for the fifth consecutive month, signifying expansion in the current situation indicators.

Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the tenth consecutive month in March, with sales results similar to their February performance. Sixty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2011 and March 2012, up slightly from 63 percent who reported a sales gain in February.

Restaurant operators also reported positive customer traffic results in March. Fifty-five percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between March 2011 and March 2012, while 24 percent reported a traffic decline. In February, 55 percent of operators reported higher customer traffic, while 19 percent reported a traffic decline.

Expectations Index
The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 102.4 in March – up 0.4 percent from February and the strongest level in 15 months.

For the fourth consecutive month, a majority of restaurant operators expect their sales to be higher in the months ahead. Fifty-three percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), matching the proportion who reported similarly last month.

For the sixth consecutive month, restaurant operators reported higher expectations for staffing levels in the months ahead. Twenty-seven percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), while just 10 percent said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months.

Along with a positive outlook for sales growth and the economy, restaurant operators are boosting their plans for capital spending in the months ahead. Fifty-six percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 49 percent last month and the strongest level in more than four years.

The RPI is based on the responses to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey, which is fielded monthly among restaurant operators nationwide on a variety of indicators including sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures.

Source:, 5.7.12


nina | May 7th, 2012 - 9:00 am

Michigan’s asparagus farmers are looking to hire hundreds of workers to harvest this year’s crop.

There are about 230 immediate job openings, with more expected in the coming weeks, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Hart is located in Oceana County, known as the asparagus capital of the nation.

The fair is hosted by the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board and State of Michigan Workforce Development Agency.

This year growers are in danger of losing their crop and the benefits it brings unless they can hire enough workers to harvest it.  Our job fair will give people an opportunity to see what it takes to do the job and earn some extra springtime cash.  Growers had to mow off more than a million pounds of asparagus last year because they lacked enough workers to harvest it.

Asparagus season typically runs from mid-April through June. Workers are paid based on the amount they pick. Skilled harvesters can earn more than $10 an hour, but all workers are guaranteed at least the minimum wage of $7.40 per hour.

It’s physically demanding labor — workers ride special carts through the field and harvest the asparagus by hand.

Michigan produces up to 25 million pounds of asparagus annually. Most is grown in Oceana County as well as the area between South Haven and Benton Harbor.

For more information contact:  the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Source:, 4.8.12




nina | May 2nd, 2012 - 9:00 am

When it comes to food, the alternatives are endless: spicy or bland; Mexican, Italian, Asian or Southern-style comfort dishes. But when it comes to beef, almost everyone agrees on a few features. Consumers say that higher fat levels are more desirable and they like it better. It’s been found that marbling level has a really big impact on […]

LA PALAPA TOO. The Perfect Place to Celebrate CINCO DE MAYO!

nina | May 1st, 2012 - 9:00 am

This is the perfect place to celebrate CINCO DE MAYO!

La Palapa, too is one of the best mexican restaurants in Howard County.  Located directly off of Route 29 (Columbia Pike) and Johns Hopkins Road in Maple Lawn, Maryland.  Spend your happy hour outside on their lovely patio or have a romantic dinner inside their newly expanded restaurant.  It you prefer, enjoy their bar area for your meal.  The whole place is great!

The same great authentic Mexican food and friendly service you have come to expect from the Historic Ellicott City location.

You will find all your favorite Mexican dishes like tacos, enchiladas and burritos as well as some fantastic specialty items.

La Palapa, too is open for lunch, dinner & brunch along with your catering needs.  Every day there is a special of some sort.  And don’t forget. . . Wednesday Night is Fajita Night – $3.00 off any Fajita!

Cantina Specials:
All Specials are for the Bar and the Patio only from 3:00PM until closed.
Monday:  1/2 Price Mexican Flyers & $2.00 Burgers
Tuesday:  $5.00 Quesadillas
Wednesday:  $2.00 Taco
Thursday:  $5.00 Taquitos
Friday:  $6.00 Appetizers
Saturday:  $5.00 Muchos Nachos

Concina Specials:
Monday:  Kids Eat Free!
Tuesday:  All you can Eat Tacos $9.99
Wednesday:  Fajita Night 
Thursday:  Fiesta Night – $2.00 off any entree
Friday:   Mariachi
Saturday:  Cazuela Night – $2.00 off any Cazuela.

La Palapa Too Mexican Restaurant. . .Mi Casa es su Casa!

Other locations:
La Palapa, Historic Ellicott City
La Palapa 3, Silver Spring, MD
El Azteca, Clarksville, MD
Pachanga Grill, Odenton, MD
Pachanga Cocina Mexicana, Ellicott City, MD

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