Wednesday, December 31, 2008

News From the NRA

This months newsletter from the National Restaurant Association contains a link to an incredible award winning 6 minute video produced by the NRA. While skeptics may see it as a political piece, for someone inside the industry it captures the sense of family those of us working in this industry share.

Sevy and I have dined in other states, other countries, and yet when we've disclosed our relationship in the industry, we've been welcomed into the back of the house, given tours, even picked up at 5 am at our hotel to tour the local markets. People who work in this tough laboring field have an understanding and respect for others who chose a career of satisfying people through food and service.

2008 was a horrible year in our industry, more restaurants closed than opened and we hate to see those hopes crushed. May 2009 see more dreams reached than destroyed. Enjoy good food and good wine with good friends, Happy New Year.

How To Cook A Family Getaway

I have fond memories of spending childhood vacations with my extended family at Burt Lake in Northern Michigan. We didn't get to see our cousins much, they lived in Iran, then Germany until they were in high school and college. But we had a week together every summer and enjoyed the freedom to roam while feeling safe. Each family had their own cabin but dinners were spent in the "big cabin" where my grandparents stayed with my unmarried aunt. It's something I've always wanted to repeat with our kids.

I think we may have found just the spot at Port Royal, in Port Aransas on Mustang Island. With three families from North Texas, one from Michigan, plus a grandma, we numbered 15 and had rented four 1,300 square foot, 2Bed/2Bath condo's on the beach. Being "off season" the room rates were very reasonable, about $130 per night, but the weather was very "in season" with daytime temps in the mid-80's. We had a fully decked out kitchen, the only thing we needed for Thanksgiving was a big roasting pan. And the resort had 5 pools and 6 hot tubs, the pools weren't heated so we wussy adults purchased floaties and dipped our toes in - the kids jumped right in like it was warm. The beach was a short walk over the dunes on a boardwalk, and every day we went down to see what was newly deposited.

Food wise - well everything down there revolves around the gulf, so most places feature a "Catch of the Day" directly from the ocean. A majority of the group (not me) went fishing one day, and while 18 fish (and one stingray) were caught, thankfully none were brought back to cook (I don't mind the catching, but I can't take the smell). With a full kitchen in each condo, we really didn't eat out much, instead opting for a dine-around at each others' pads. But for those who don't want to cook, the resort had a full service restaurant, and the town had many restaurants to choose from.

We saw pelicans feasting on fish churned up by dolphins in the bay, diving down over and over again in a frenzy. BIG birding area - one day I saw an osprey take off from one of the tidal pools with a wiggling lunch in his talons. Fisherman swarmed the many piers in the area, and equipment was easily rented by the day at several locations. There was a golf club on the island, about 10 minutes down the road, and Corpus was only a 20 minute drive south, the girls HAD to go see a movie that had just been released.

Between our families, we have three boys all heading off to college next year, but all agreed to come back down for Thanksgiving if we do it again.

Pantry Finds - or Hey, I Forgot We Had That!

New Year, clean pantry. Well kind of - it would be cleaner if I hadn't decided to do a NYE Blogathon. But in starting the job, a few delicacies surfaced that we're going to have on New Years Day.

Mayhaw Jelly, by Pleasant Acres says it's a "Certified Product of Louisiana" (Pineville). I have no idea what a mayhaw is, and for a jelly it's pretty runny, but we're cracking it open and spreading it on our bagels in the morning - or throwing it away if it's horrible. I believe there are some football games on tomorrow, so we'll be dishing up Evan & Burt's (Fort Worth)"Jalalujah" Green Fudge, made with jalapenos, water, onions, vinegar and other stuff.

Evening appetizers will be from Napa, we brought back jars of tapenade: Roasted Portobella with Porcinis & Shallots; and Mediterranean with Olives, Capers & Merlot, all by Made In Napa Valley. We can move on to Tortilla Soup by Chef Dean Fearing, and a salad with Sevy's Caesar Salad dressing. I had already planned on roasting a chicken for dinner, now I'm going to glaze it with some of Dean's Silky Orange Blossom Sauce. We also saved a tenderloin and a NY strip from Christmas to have, we'll sprinkle them with a little of Chef Richard Chamberlain's Steak Rub. To go with the Starthistle honey (Pat Brady, 989-754-6415 - brought back from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last summer) will be warm cornbread.

Best of all, dessert. Vanilla ice cream with lots of Sander's Milk Chocolate Hot Fudge, another Michigan staple. And then I'll have some free space in my pantry.

New Years Eve Plans

It would seem natural that New Years Eve would find me at a certain restaurant, however with it being one of the busiest nights of the year I usually spend the evening at home, or ferrying the kids to and from parties. Or there were a few years where I took the kids skiing in Colorado, Sevy had the house to himself. That stopped after I came home to find two dining room chairs in splinters after a late night card tournament he hosted.

But this year I'm going down to the restaurant and enjoying a great meal with friends to celebrate the end of 2008 and cheer in good times for 2009. We have two delicious fixed-price menus, the three course menu is $39.95 and is available to those who are seated by 6:30 or earlier. Or, you can dine from the four course menu all evening, it has more selections in each category and is $64.95 - and it includes a complimentary champagne toast for those who last until the ball drops in Times Square. I'll post the full menu, maybe you'll decide to come to eat as well. 8201 Preston Road (Preston @ Sherry Lane), (214) 265-7389 for reservations.

First Course
Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Crostini
Second Course
Choice of:
Fresh Baby Greens with Hearts of Palm, Warm Mozzarella Croutons and Tomato Basil Vinaigrette
Crispy Calamari Rings with Zesty Cocktail and Tartar Sauce
Our "Award Winning" Caesar Salad (the "Works" if you wish)
"Chunky" Lobster Bisque, Creme Fraiche and Fresh Tarragon
Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart with Arugula and Balsamic Fig Reduction
Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Dilled Green Beans, Remolade and Cocktail Sauces
Kobe Beef Skewers, Soy Ginger Glaze, Shiitake Mushroom and Vegetable Stir Fry
Truffled Duck Confit over Mascarpone, Crispy Polenta and Blackberry Thyme Sauce

Third Course
Choice of:
Seared Snapper Fillet a la "Lobster Oscar", Fresh Asparagus, Maine Lobster, Hollandaise Sauce and Creamy Orzo Pasta
Crab Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, Tarragon Linguini, Roasted Red Pepper Butter and Tiny Green Beans
Marinated Quail, Creamy Jalapeno Grits, Chipotle Raspberry Sauce and Grilled Corn Pico
Beef Tenderloin Filet, Truffle Whipped Potatoes, Tomato Gratinee, Cabernet Sauce, with Crispy Black Pepper Onions
Herbed Lamb Chops with Creamy Roasted Garlic Polenta, Minted Zinfandel Sauce, and Tomato, Cucumber and Feta Relish
Sea Bass Fillet, Artichoke Whipped Potatoes, Lemon Caper Butter, Smoked Salmon Salad
Dry Aged New York Strip, Grilled Vegetables, "Loaded" Stuffed Potato and Bearnaise Sauce
Fresh Steamed Whole Maine Lobster, 2# Lobster with Fresh Asparagus, Angel Hair Pasta, Drawn Butter and Lemon
Half Maine Lobster and Half Beef Tenderloin, The Best of Both Worlds!

Fourth Course
Choice of:
Dark Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Hazelnuts
Fresh Berries with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream (Fresh Berries also available simply plain)
Warm Chocolate Almond Chocolate Torte with White Chocolate Ice Cream
Three Citrus Pie and Fresh Berry Puree
Crispy Apple Pecan Chimichanga with Cinnamon Ice Cream

Arugula, Do You?

Amazingly even with the freezing nights and an early snow, the arugula is still growing strong in my garden.

Welcome to Preston/Forest Chocolate Angel too

Ran by the newly opened Chocolate Angel too yesterday and picked up lunch to take home. Just down the way from The Mercury and Chic by Barcelona, it's been open for less than 1 month. I don't review restaurants on this blog, so consider this more of an introduction.

With windows overlooking both the front and the (open air) lobby of the building, the interior was bright with light. Featured at the ordering counter is a case containing ready-to-go boxed meals of their house specialties, along with a large cookie selection, including decorated sugar cookies. The cases and the menu were very similar to Celebrity Cafe & Bakery at Preston/Royal, but there is much more table space and a room to the side that could hold a group of 20 - 24 people. It seemed like a great place to have a meeting, and am going to keep it in mind for the future. Overall, my chicken salad was a great value, and very tasty; service was friendly and fast.

Preston/Forest has certainly seen a "food explosion" over the last few years, this opening brings the total number of places you can get something to eat to 25. Fine dining (The Mercury), Greek (Ziziki's), American Grill (Woodland Grill), Spanish-kind-of (Chic by Barcelona), Italian (Prego Express, Penne Pomodoro), Tex-Mex (Mi Cocina), Asian (KU Sushi, Pei Wei), seafood (TJ's Fish Market, Mainstream-soon to be Rockfish), coffeehouse (Starbucks), subs (Quizno's, Potbelly's, Jimmy John's), cafe (Corner Bakery, LaMadeleine, Chocolate Angel II), salads (Snappy Salads), barbecue (Sonny Bryan's), hamburgers (Scotty P's), gelateria (Paciugo), fast food (Jack in the Box), and grocers (Whole Foods, Tom Thumb).

Helen Corbitt - Dallas Really Does Love You!

So in my quest for information about Helen Corbitt, I may have emailed my city councilwoman (Hey Linda!) asking if the city had ever officially recognized this early pioneer of quality cuisine. It must have been passed along, because last week an email from a mayoral intern included a prototype of a recognition statement. Half wondering if this was some joke, I made a few recommendations for improvement, and emailed the young lady back.

Yesterday in the mail, came a beautiful navy blue folder, enclosed within was a City of Dallas Special Recognition for Helen Corbitt, with a gold seal, red ribbons, the whole shebang. It states:

City of Dallas
Special Recognition

, Helen Corbitt was born in New York and moved to Texas in 1931 from her job as dietitian at Cornell Medical Center in New York City to manage the tearoom at the University of Texas; and

WHEREAS, she was lured to the Houston Country Club before operating the tearoom at Joske's department store in Houston and had started her own catering business when the Driskell Hotel called her back to Austin; and

WHEREAS, Stanley Marcus "courted" Helen Corbitt for eight years until she finally accepted his offer to direct his Dallas store's lunchtime oasis; she then dazzled celebrities and dignitaries who flocked to the famed Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus for tantalizing cuisine; and

WHEREAS. Helen also authored five cookbooks; her first cookbook Helen Corbitt's Cookbook has sold over 350,00 copies since it was published in 1957, and her cookbooks brought nation-wide recognition to the Dallas food scene as one of the earliest "culinary stars"; and

WHEREAS, in 1961, Helen Corbitt became the first woman to ever win the food service industry's highest honor, the Golden Plate Award, give to the food operator of the year from the Institutional Food Manufacturers' Associaiton; and

WHEREAS, Helen Corbitt made a lasting positive impact on the city of Dallas and throughout the state of Texas with her renowned cooking that was well-known for new and unusual flavor combinations; the finest and reshest ingredients; and served with impeccable style.

NOW, THEREFORE, I TOM LEPPERT, Mayor of the city of Dallas, and on behalf of the Dallas City Council, do hereby extend special recognition to


for her excellent service to Dallas, Texas (Signature) (seal).

Next week I'm contacting the librarian at the University of Dallas to see if this could be added to the Helen Corbitt collection they received from her estate.

Additions to "The Collection"

Picked up a few new cookbooks as mementos of our trip in November, The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cook Book by Christopher Hirsheimerand and Peggy Knickerbocker and Goat Cheese by Maggie Foard. Unfortunately due to luggage limitations, they came home in a friend's luggage and are still with same friend so I haven't had a chance to taste.

From Gma Gerry, Sevy received Eric Ripert's new book, On The Line; The Stations, The Heat, The Cooks, The Chaos and The Triumphs Inside The World of Le Berdardin (with Christine Muhlke). Lots of pictures, I especially like the ones in the Fish section, which includes a statement on each about usage or flavor. They also have a sketch of Le Bernardin's kitchen layout and many, many staff pictures. The back half of the book is mostly menus with some sketches of how a dish would be plated. In the far back there's a list of "sources for other hard-to-find items", like squid ink, smoked salt, dried rosebuds, tamarind concentrate.

For Christmas, I gave hubby three food books, The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst (4th ed.), replacing a dog-earned 2nd edition we've had for 13 years. The latest version has 2,700 more entries than our old copy, obviously a significant upgrade to this indispensible dictionary of food and ingredients.

The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook was a trip down memory lane, we lived in Poughkeepsie while Sevy was a student at the CIA, 22 years ago. Poorer than church mice, we made it through a very cold winter living on homemade pasta in a 100+ year old house that had been converted to apartments. But it was worth everything, their level of excellence in education and food in unparalleled, and it led to a job back in Dallas post-graduation. The cookbook has some technique pictures, but is mainly just recipes - I love that it includes a ribbon book mark in case you lose your page.

Alinea, by Grant Achatz was an exercise in weight lifting just to get it to the check out. 395 pages of glossy, luxurious paper in a double-wide binding, it's as much about the beautiful pictures as the beautiful food. Chef Achatz is reknown for his devotion to food as art, both visually and flavorfully at his restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago. Contributors to the book include Michael Ruhlman, Jeffrey Steingarten, Mark McClusky, Nick Kokonas, Michael Nagrant and photos by Lara Kastner.

Vodka, Vodka, Who Got the Vodka?

My infused vodka (marinated with horseradish, dill, garlic, peppercorns and jalapenos for two months) didn't last long. I belong to an investment club, "The Syndicate", and every year make the gift bags for our annual holiday dinner - we all needed a stiff drink after reviewing our stock portfolio. There went 15 jars.

And I sent some to others who provided inspiration for being a better blogger, Nancy Nichols (D Magazine) and Bethany Anderson (who I swear works at D Magazine but apparently doesn't). One jar to Dr. Larry for some excellent Port Aransas advice for our November trip, and girlfriend Debbie Jo got a big jar to share with her family back in Russellville, Arkansas on Christmas morning.

I have one jar left, sadly not for me but for friends who's enjoyment of my first batch inspires me to make it again and again. Hey Kevin & Jodi!

New Years Eve Blog-athon

Turner Classic Movies is having a John Wayne-athon, American Movie Classics is having a Clint Eastwood-athon, Toyota's got their "-thon" on, and HBO is having both a True Blood-athon and and Entourage-athon. Consider me inspired to clear off my "to write" list on this, the last day of 2008. Goal - 15 posts today, and a few old movies watched.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Foodie Gifts On Short Notice

This one has to be quick, I still have to shop for a gift for my husband. These are relatively easy purchases to make, no mall parking, no crowds to fight, just a little driving time for some.

Gift Tip #6 - Lou Malnati's Pizza from Chicago. 1-800-LOU-TOGO. Every time we visit my sister in Naperville we go to one of their restaurants for their tremendous deep-dish pizzas. And we're not the only ones who love these monstrosities - Tom Fleming, a Chicago native, cofirmed to me that Malnati's is his "must go to" place when visiting the Windy City. All pizzas are frozen, flown overnight air and packed with dry ice in a styrofoam cooler. We've been on the giving and receiving end of this gift and it is a wonderful New Years day meal.

Gift Tip #7 - Subscription to Gastronomica Magazine. Subtitled "The Journal of Food and Culture", it contains minimal advertising, great articles and is published quarterly. For all the reasons I didn't like AoE, I love this publication, I thought the cover was an orchid - it's popcorn. Not cheap at $13 per copy (one year is $48) but any foodie would love this gift. All you need is the most recent copy (Fall '08) and a note to let them know a full year of enjoyment is ahead. I purchased one copy (for me) at Central Market, and another copy (gift for a friend) at Barnes & Noble (but I bought the last copy at the Prestonwood location - don't go there).

Gift Tip #8 - For the oenophile foodie friend, a bottle of Fuqua Winery's 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. How cool is it that right down at Lemmon and Inwood, behind the Home Depot, Dallas has it's own winery that produces some great red wines - gifts with stories are so much more interesting. Their Red Table wine is sold at The Mercury, and retails at the winery for $50 per bottle. I prefer their '02 Cab, it's a more moderate $29 per bottle and the flavors hit my sweet spots.

Chocolate Angel Too at Preston/Forest Now Open

A few months ago I noticed a temporary sign hanging announcing the soon-to-open Chocolate Angel Too at Preston/Forest (just down from The Mercury and Chic by Barcelona).

From Morgan, the manager of the new store, word comes that they've opened - just in time for Christmas. They are open for lunch 7 days a week and until 8pm on Monday through Friday. Telephone 972-788-4600.

My mother-in-law happens to be a huge chocolaholic, so I'll be stopping by today for a little Christmas day dessert.

Good Morning Hard Times

Shopping. For some it means to going to the store, for others it means poking holes in cars to see what others have bought. Apparently we had the latter cruising through our neighborhood last night, wanting to know what goodies were tucked behind those heavily tinted windows. The thieves apparently weren't interested in a well-used set of golf clubs encased in a lovely Sevy's Grill logo'd golf bag.

Since I'm the early bird in the family, I had the joy of going up to tell Sevy about the new ventilation system someone had installed. Of course, with all the shootings going on around us last night, the Chef prefers to think the car had been sniped - right. And the Boy, who parks right behind him was very glad he'd taken his stereo system out of his car, Dad needed the old truck for a catering gig a few days ago.

Well at least they didn't get into the house, but that would have been at least entertaining (in a funny Coen brothers movie kind of way), as we had multiple teenage girls sacked out on the living room floor and three 70+ lb. dogs waiting to greet them. And they wouldn't have found anything more than the car contained, you can see our tree hasn't received very much attention (yet).

Squirrel hunting training for the puppies is going to take on a whole new dimension.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Foodie Gift Idea #5 - Penzey's Spices

I was unfamiliar with Penzey's Spices until my sister, Missy, came to visit and insisted on going to the store that had just opened next to my dry cleaner's. That was a few years ago, and I still love to go in there and poke around. For years they sold their products almost entirely from catalogue, bucking the trend of moving away from store locations. Personally I think it helps sales a great deal when you can shop-by-smell.

They have multi-spice gift packs, or you can pick out your own. My favorites are the international spice mixes, you can add them to sour cream for dip, toss them into mashed potatoes, make salad dressings. They have use suggestions that I've never thought of.

Let's review the foodie holiday gift suggestions so far: #1 was the Bloody Mary infused vodka; #2, cooking classes at the Dallas Farmer's Market; #3 pie mixes from Hearne, Texas; #4 - a FREE membership to Dallas Uncorked. I have more to come.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fuqua'd At "The Grill"

At my urging we've purchased a case of Fuqua Winery's (pronounced Foo-kway) award winning 2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I've tasted this vintage, it's wonderful and made right here in Dallas!

We're running a December by-the-glass special, a nice healthy "Sevy"-sized pour for $16, or a bottle for $60. Come by and try it!

The Fruit Trees Were Nestled All Snug In Their Beds

Meet Simon (pomegranite), Theodore (Fuyu persimmon) and Alvin ("Dakota" miniature peach), who for the last three days have been living inside the garage. I was worried that the freezing temperatures might be harmful since permanent locations have not yet been found for them. Attending Northaven Garden's free fruit tree seminar in November convinced me that I could expand my agricultural pursuits to these three breeds with very little effort.

They join my other assortment of fruit trees, Miss Figgy (fig), Louie B. Meyer (lemon), and King Corona (lime). Why the names? Well I've found that once personalized, I'm more invested in seeing them succeed in our north/south/dry mixed climate. For example, I spent most of Monday morning freezing my size XX fanny building a "house" for King - he produced an amazing number of limes for such a little tree, it was the least I could do. It's PVC piping, painter's plastic and duct tape, and there are Christmas lights at the bottom to warm it up. So far it seems to be working.

And Louie has found a home in our living room during the winter, his first year produced about 2 dozen large lemons, I harvested the last of them after Thanksgiving. Now he's beginning to bloom again, so I wheel him out each day for a dose of sunshine, then back inside for the night.

We'll see how the new additions do, fruit-wise. Ms. Figgy set many fruit last year, but by the time they had ripened they had been stolen by those #!(@&#*&#$ squirrels. This year I've got two secret weapons, who are lately discovering the joy of hunting them down, right Deuce, Tres?

I learned so much from the 1 hour class at Northaven Gardens, if you are considering a home garden you might want to attend one of their (did I say FREE) classes. You too might come home with a few new friends.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

February Visits Dallas in December

Brings to mind the old joke - "What do they call this in Michigan?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Anything Else You Need To Know?

Apparently I was the featured "guest" on Bethany Anderson's "Know Your Blogger" weekly post at The Eleventy Billionth Blog - like a week ago. Sorry Bethany, been out of town then decorating a restaurant for the holidays.

Anyhoo, don't ask my why I responded, except it was fun to write. Ya'll already probably know most of it already if you've been reading my posts. Well, except maybe the toilet-fixer thing.

Dinner With Friends

Many people have mentioned that they would feel intimidated cooking for a chef, but last night we enjoyed a delicious meal with friends, each couple made one course. We brought two bottles of Chardonnay purchased on our Napa trip for an accompaniment to our appetizer course. Both the Nickel & Nickel and the Gundlach Bundschu wineries hosted our group of chefs and guests in Napa, we sent lots of their wines home. We also enjoyed a delicious Spanish red, Melis Priorat, 2004 provided by our host, it was rich and smooth and is apparently highly rated by others as well.

I had not previously met one of the dinner guests, Ms. Hayley Hamilton, but she was extremely knowledgable about wine and the food business, it made for great conversation throughout dinner. She's the founder of Dallas Uncorked, a social group that is "dedicated to providing an outlet for both the sophisticated wine aficionado and the curious novice, to further their knowledge and appreciation of wine, in an informative and social atmosphere."

"Our members include novice and experienced wine drinkers, all with a common desire to learn about wines in an affordable and relaxed atmosphere. You won’t find your typical “wine snob” at our events! We are average, everyday people from all walks of life that love to socialize, drink and learn about wine. Our members can expect to meet many new professional and personal contacts, while learning about wine and food during monthly walk-about tastings, happy hours, and sit-down dinners. So if you are seeking a way to up your wine IQ in a fun, friendly and hip atmosphere, Dallas Uncorked is the organization for you."

I was floating around their website this morning, and this looks like a fun group. They have monthly meetings around Dallas, and they've gone on trips to learn about wine, places like Argentina and Oregon. The group photos reminded me very much of our recent Cattle Barons Chef trip to Napa - drinking wine early in the day can do that.

So Holiday Gift Tip #4 - give this one to yourself - membership is free. Sign up to join their group and attend some of their fun events in 2009.

Soup's On at The Stewpot Alliance

It's a souper idea for a new fundraiser - Dallas chefs make and serve their favorite soups at a luncheon at the House of Blues on Tuesday, January 27th. And it benefits the Stewpot programs and food services at The Bridge. The information packet lists 59 Table Hosts, and 400 attendees, but no ticket information so it may be a sell-out already.

The Chef Chairman is Brian Luscher of The Grape, and Chef participants include John Tesar, The Mansion on Turtle Creek; Jim Severson, Sevy's Grill; Keith Hanks, House of Blues; David Uygur, Lola; Joel Harloff, Dali Cellar and Wine Bar; David McMillan, Consilient Restaurants; Nick Badovinus, Neighborhood Services; Kevin Garvin, Neiman Marcus.

I just sent over Sevy's recipe for our Corn Chowder, but for this event he's planning to top it with a very nice garnish of Crispy Lobster. I may just have to help work this event, it sounds too delicious to miss.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Conrad's (Almost) Cooking

December is a very busy month in the restaurant industry and it's when my job includes everything from holiday decorations to printing gift certificates, so I apologize for the low number of posts. But I did spend some time over at Conrad High School's restaurant/magnet classroom last week, and their restaurant is almost open. First they had to have a dishwasher installed, then they had to pass inspection, now they are waiting for a permit from the City of Dallas.

They've scheduled the installation date for the point-of-sale equipment and software which is being donated by Radiant Systems and Texas Cash Register (Thank you Tammy!). For now they are learning their procedures using handwritten tickets - which is a very handy thing for servers to know how to do. However, a computerized system will help make everyone's job easier.

Each days menu will feature a choice of entrees, and includes salad and a beverage for a flat $5. I think they'll be busy, and I'll let you know when they are open to the public.

Oh, and I have a new assignment, selling yearbook ad space for their first ever graduating class - now this is something I love doing. $300 full page, $175 for half - email me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Need Help? Got Elves

The Boy made the big time in this month's Advocate Magazine (far right). From raking leaves to planting pansies, these boys will sign up to do the work. This is the fourth year that the baseball team has performed neighborly duties to help raise money for the squad's activities. I'm asking two of them to help re-organize a storage area full of heavy boxes.

Email , with your job needs and dates to get your to-do list done!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Destination: San Francisco's Ferry Market

The opportunity to get away is limited for a small business owner, so when a commitment to prepare a dinner in Napa came up, we added an extra day for San Francisco and were joined by friends Lisa and Richard Chamberlain. Arriving in time for lunch, we set out for the Ferry Market in the Embarcardero, under the Bay Bridge. Not only was the exterior surrounded by 10' x 10' white tents operated by produce merchants, the inside was a bustling thriving mercado of specialty items.

It was obvious we were about to enter Oz, the samples of fruits on the sidewalks gave a warning that this was not going to be just another gourmet market. And opening the door led us right down the main hall to culinary heaven. Standing there, right across, was Acme Bread Company, selling crunchy-crusted, still warm sourdough loaves. I purchased 4 or 5 different types of bread and rolls. Next to them, an outlet for Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, their Mt. Tam is my favorite Triple Cream (yes, it does make a difference!) Brie. While the line was long inside the store, outside they were selling sampler bags for a flat $20, so we grabbed one of those. Next shop, delicious-looking cured meats, too many to choose from, luckily they also had a cone-filled assortment of various shaved proscuitto and salamis, a flat $8. Carrying our purchases, we came to store #4, Ferry Plaza Wine Bar, merchant of fine wines, and their house brand was pretty good too. So we ordered some wine flights and sat eating our bread, cheese and meats, and toasted our first two hours in San Francisco.

Once sated, we continued our walk of the market: mushroom stores, pasta stores, I purchased two cookbooks to bring home. We were shopping and waiting for friend Casey Thompson to meet us for a quick catch-up on what's going on with her post-Dallas chef life. Which led us to the back, where more tents were set up for sellers of produce and cooked delicacies. While killing time, Richard and Sevy shared a crab sandwich while Lisa and I split a chicken empanada
topped with a red mole.

This is the market template that everyone in Dallas would love to see downtown, local produce, local food production companies, thriving businesses and a tourist attraction. Yummy.

Thanksgiving Week Pie Cookoff

I visited the Northaven Gardens Pie Contest, even tho' I didn't have a pie entered. I was sitting in on the class about growing fruit trees in Texas (more on that later). I blame that contest for getting me in the mood to cook pies - which I hadn't done in years. So I decided to try the pie mixes I had purchased a few weeks earlier at Plano's Jr. League 'Neath the Wreath bazaar, and took them to Port Aransas for our Thanksgiving vacation. Made by Easy As Pie, in Hearne, Texas, they are packaged in delightful little gunnysacks tied up with tags that contain the ingredients and directions.

With intriguing names like "Pineapple Upside-Down Pie" and "Dixie Delicious Pie", I had purchased four flavors: "Chocolate Puddle", Cherry Crumble", "Praline", and "Sugar Daddy". All required a frozen pie shell (one of the tags recommended Mrs. Smith's Deep Dish Pie Crust) and 1/2 c. butter; three mixes also required eggs; one required vanilla; and one called for a can of pie cherries.

Sister, who is quite an afficionado of undercooked brownies, loved the Chocolate Puddle pie, as did niece Katy (also 14), but it didn't grab me. Great chocolate flavor, but we served it at room temperature and it might have had more appeal warmed. The Sugar Daddy Pie was a hit with everyone - think of way over-sugared oatmeal cookies baked in a pie - pure sugar rush. Also a hit - and nephew Kenny stood guard over the last piece - was the Praline Pie, a combination of butterscotch chips and pecan pieces. I confess that my least favorite may have been that due to my own error, the Cherry Crumble Pie Mix called for a can of pie cherries - and I now realize that I purchased cherry pie filling. My main complaint had been that it was too starchy - well that explains everything. The crumble was actually delicious, it completely covered the top and contained oatmeal for crunch.

Ease of preparation? Well this cooking slacker would give them an 11 (out of 10) on the easy scale, each one took 5 minutes or less, plus cooking time. If you too can microwave butter, you'll agree. What's not as easy, is ordering two of the above four - the website doesn't list the Cherry Crumble mix nor the Praline mix. But I called, and they still have it in stock, per their instructions, you can place an order for another mix and include in the comments that you want to make a substitution for either of the unlisted mixes. Or you can call them directly and place your order over the phone, (979) 279-2607.

Each mix on the internet costs $8.95 each (plus a flat $6 for shipping). But check their website for monthly specials, in December you can get 25% off orders of $85 or more, so I'm re-stocking to put into friends stockings this year. Holiday Tip #3: These would make fabulous little hostess gifts if you're going to any dinners or parties this season.