Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Savor Dallas Goes Green

Hop on the Savor Dallas Shuttle and let someone else do the driving to enjoy the International Grand Tasting on Saturday March 7th. Cru-A Wine Bar in Allen (75/Bethany Drive), Cru-A Wine Bar in Plano (Shops at Legacy), and Go Fish Ocean Club (Alpha/Noel) are all designated pickup spots. Just remember to drink responsibly - you have to drive home from these locations.

Sign up for the shuttle when you purchase your tickets for the event, $125 per person. Low on cash? You can sign up to write restaurant reviews for Pegasus News and win FREE tickets for various Savor Dallas events, here - or win a Savor Dallas Trip to Aruba, here.

Success By Default

When Sevy was a culinary student "the joke" was (after getting your very expensive degree) to make a lot of money in the food business, open a pizza place. News of SBA loan defaults in today's WSJ, might make the argument, if you want to stay open, open a pizza place, or even better, a Subway. Or maybe it makes the argument to stay out of the industry - of the 11 highest defaulting franchises, 8 were food related.

Studying loans made from 2001 to 2008 vs. the number of these loans that defaulted in 2008, the data showed Subway the lowest loser with a default rate of only 2% of loans made, followed by Domino's Pizza (5%), Quizno's (6%), and Cici's Pizza (8%). The highest percentage of defaults came from Dream Dinners (18%).

But buried further, studying a longer period of time, "the worst-performing franchise brands, as measured by the percentage of SBA-guaranteed loans issued to franchisees over the past eight fiscal years that defaulted: Mr. Goodcents Subs & Pasta's, 55%; Philly Connection Sandwiches, 51%,....Carvel and Blimpee, both with 41%."

Married, With Restaurant

Last night as I was drifting off with Channel 5 news, an ad for a new cooking show, where "eight couples go up against 'The World's Greatest Chef'". I immediately sat up and said "Wolfie?" (sorry honey). But no, it was an ad for the latest reality cooking show 'Chopping Block', featuring Marco Pierre White. According to NBC, Chef White (who apparently made Gordon Ramsay cry, so expect tears on this show) is "the original rock-and-roll chef" formerly winning three stars from Michelin, but who was retired for many years until he replaced Gordon Ramsay on the British version of "Hell's Kitchen."

Eight couples will be split into two teams, each team gets their own restaurant - next door to their competitors somewhere in Manhattan.. They will be responsible from taking the "bones" of the building through development, design and production to the finished product. One couple from the worst-performing eatery will be sent home each week. This lends the show a "novel twist," according to NBC reality chief Craig Plestis, "That's where you're going to see all the drama."

Yes, opening a restaurant can be extremely stressfull on a relationship, but is this a cooking show or a relationship show? I guess time will tell. One thing to keep in mind, it was all filmed last summer. The premiere episode is on March 11, 7pm (Central).

I've never seen Chef White's "Hell's Kitchen" episodes, but I did see him up against one of Dallas' top chefs, Richard Chamberlain. In my mind, Richard won that round.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wine At Half The Shine

Yes, half priced wines by the glass at the bar at Sevy's Grill, Monday through Friday from 5 pm to 7 pm. With over 30 to choose from, it's a great chance to try some new flavors!

Another reason to come in and see us.

Prime Rib Fridays At Sevy's Grill

Beginning this week Prime Rib will be available every Friday night at Sevy's. A popular special, the 10 oz. portion is accompanied by generous helpings of garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus and horseradish cream sauce for $24.95. Yum.

Not familiar with Sevy's? We're located at 8201 Preston Road, 3 blocks south of Northwest Highway at the corner of Sherry and Preston Roads. We take reservations for any size parties and are open for lunch Monday - Saturday, dinner 7 days a week.

We also bring the excellence of "The Grill" to your home or office. (214)265-7389 or SevysCatering@aol.com for reservations or catering information.

True Food Porn?

The argument, here.
Thoughts of Michael Eisner's candy nipples certainly has me grossed out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Food For Fat (Tuesday)

Just as everyone is blogging about bacon, news yesterday that Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork processor, is cutting production 10%, shuttering 15 plants and laying off 1,800 employees. Not only are exports expected to slow, but beleaguered US consumers have been switching to lower priced "house label" brands. Eventually once supply shrinks enough, prices will begin to sizzle.

So to throw a little fat on the pan and support this necessary industry, I propose Save The Bacon, where "Fat Tuesday" (2/24) be renamed "Pork Tuesday", and everyone make something hideously fattening containing pork. Just for this one year.

My recipe contribution to this expected excess of cholesterol comes from my Granny, Lucille Browning Kressbach who at an early age moved from Logan, West Virginia to Pontiac, Michigan with her (young) widowed mother and sister. Maybe it was growing up in a rural town in WV in the early 1900's , but Granny loved bacon, and Jim Beam. This is a recipe she made for over 40 years for her bridge group, you make it the day before so it's very low maintenance the day of the event.

I make it now for my family it's one of their favorites, but I can't bring myself to make it more than once every three or four months. I've modified it slightly, the chicken breasts today are much larger, so for portion control I've cut them in half. This of course isn't a cooking blog, but in the interest of Save The Bacon, I'm sharing.

Granny's Party Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half crosswise (12 pcs.)
4-5 oz. dried beef (the small round kind they sell in jars)
12 pcs. bacon
2 c. sour cream
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup

Grease 9 x 12 pan (with bacon fat, if you have it) spread beef over the bottom. Wrap each piece of chicken with 1 slice of bacon and place on beef. Mix sour cream and soup, spread over chicken. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 275 degrees for 5 hours.

The Recipe Double Down

Yesterdays Wall Street Journal pointed me to the latest battle against portion distortion - cookbooks. So since I have a few hundred laying around, I thought I'd do my own un-scientific study to see if recipe quantities (and calories) are indeed rising. Among cook book authors, I compared Craig Claiborne (NY Times Cook Book, 1961 vs, Best of CC, 1999), Helen Corbitt (Helen Corbitt's Potluck, 1962 vs. Best from HC's Kitchens, 2000), Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1961 vs. 1971) and Betty Crocker (Cookie Book 1963 vs. 1998). In none of these books did I find a distortion of quantities or ingredients, almost all were exactly as had been published in earlier editions.

The article spotlights the classic Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, in comparing my two copies (1973 vs. 1997's "All New, All Purpose" re-write by Irma's grandson Ethan Becker) the two dozen recipes I compared were in fact larger portions. Either the quantity of ingredients went up, or the number of servings went down, or in some cases both.

In their defense, the rewritten (1997) edition has a far more in-depth discussion about caloric intake and balanced eating. In the almost 80 years since originally published things like the food pyramid, official dietary guides, and a gazillion fad diets have changed eating habits. In the section called "About Calories" it discusses the importance of matching eating to the amount of exercise one expends each day (as I sit here typing), AND they have a handy chart called "What Counts As A Serving". While perhaps some of their older recipes have grown in quantity, the book also expanded it's number of healthier Asian and Vegetarian recipes.

I don't know which cookbook is correct, the older Joy of Cooking "Calorie Values" section begins with a quote from Jane Austin:

"Personal size and mental sorrow have certainly no necessary proportions. A large, bulky figure has a good a right to be in deep affliction as the most graceful set of limbs in the world. But, fair or not fair, there are unbecoming conjunctions, which reason will patronize in vain - which taste cannot tolerate - which ridicule will seize. "

Pretty, but not exactly scientific. The following pages go on to (yawn) list the 1963 USDA caloric guidelines, closing with the following reminder:

"Two martinis before dinner count as much as a generous slice of pie for dessert and, if you are trying to keep your weight constant, second thoughts are better than second helpings. "

Thank you Sarah - I forgot to post!

February is the month of romance, so join us on Monday the 23rd at 6:30 pm for a
"Romantic Evening at the Grill"
a sparkling wine reception followed by four delicious courses paired with specially selected wines.
$59.95 per person, seating is limited, reservations are required.
Call Jimmy, Stefaan or Amy M. at (214)265-7389 or SevysCatering@aol.com today.

Potato Blinis with Smoked Salmon, Caviar and Creme Fraiche
Cristalino, Sparkling

First Course
Jonah Crab with Smoked Bacon, Corn Vinaigrette and Shoestring Potatoes
Cassone, Chardonnay, Mendoza 2008

Second Course
Asparagus Soup with Parmesan-Reggiano Custard
Urano, Malbec Rose, Mendoza 2007

Third Course
Beef Wellington with Vegetable Gratin and Roasted Shallot Peppercorn Sauce
Urano, Cabernet, Mendoza 2006

Fourth Course
Chocolate Pots de Creme with Double Chocolate Chip Cookie
Lucas Lewellen, Late Harvest, 2000

Monday, February 16, 2009

OpenTable IPO - Make My Reservation

In my e-mailbox from Restaurant Hospitality, an editorial asking if the upcoming IPO of OpenTable , a popular on-line reservation system, is worth the stock sales price given the economics of the current industry - and the sales growth necessary to justify it. We don't use OpenTable at Sevy's Grill, nor do I personally know any of it's current owners - it was founded by Danny Meyer, who is the owner of my must-go-to-when-in-NYC-restaurant. But I don't know him personally.

So it triggered a thought, how could a company like OpenTable, which has developed the trust of most of the nation's top restaurants, leverage this relationship to translate into higher revenue? First of all, the primary goal would have to be to increase their client numbers, not just how much they make from each existing client since the bulk of their revenue is from the monthly service they provide. To do this, they could easily increase the services they offer, at a relatively modest fee, that parallels what they offer to clients now, providing more incentive to become an OpenTable member. So I decided to do an informal poll of several friends who do use OpenTable as their reservations assistant. I promised anonymity to those who responded.

First, a background. OpenTable is an on-line reservation system, they provide merchants with the software for booking reservations charging a flat monthly leasing fee plus a commission for each reservation booked. Both are modest, a contract is not necessarily required, for those restaurants not open during the day it provides a secure system for guests to leave their instructions. While not providing telephone reservation assistance, it is widely used by concierges throughout the city and costs a business as little as $10 per day.

One restaurateur who has been a client of OpenTable for about 5 years pointed out that it also provides a venue to track guest preferences, information is backed up to a secure server, reservations can be accessed remotely and through OpenTable's marketing efforts, people are directed to make reservations through multiple sites. During my research, I found that OpenTable also incentivize regular "bookers" to specific restaurants through a points "reward" system. Brilliant.

So, to my question, as it pertains to sales growth at OpenTable to justify the IPO asking price of their stock. To current users of the OpenTable reservations system I asked: "What would it take for you to allow OpenTable to sell your business' gift certificates?" Or, to elaborate, if they are capturing your guests on-line for reservations, could they also capture their gifting needs?

Assuming the logistics could be worked out (utilizing an E-Bay/Paypal model of multiple "sellers" and payments channeled through a reliable middleman), I was curious if owners would take the next step of letting a company help market and sell their products. Back before the dot.com bust, several local restaurants (including Sevy's) were approached by Send.com, a national on-line seller of meals to send to others as "gifts". Eventually, Send.com went out of business because sales and income were insufficient to justify their highly inflated stock price during that speculative period.

But OpenTable is a different business model. They have grown by offering a labor saving, secure and reliable service for everyday operations, they have built a trust that can be expanded with the right choices. Let's say when someone makes a reservation, a screen pops up reminding them that a nice meal is a wonderful way to say "Thank You", or "Happy Birthday", or "Congratulations" to business associates, teachers, pastors and friends, you can buy it right now and get it off of your list of things to do. Voila? Or not?

Both (yes 2) of the chefs that responded sounded somewhat receptive to the idea. For a reasonable fee, or percentage of sales - what the volume could be is any one's guess, but it does increase the service to the client. What I didn't point out to the chefs was that OpenTable could pair up with someone like Citicorp, or Chase, and begin issuing their own "branded" gift cards, or pre-paid credit cards with the OpenTable logo. I hope they don't make that choice, because then in essence they would become competitors to the clients they serve.

This could be win-win, because the restaurant gets the sale and the traffic to his restaurant, OpenTable would, of course collect a commission for the sale, increasing per-client revenues (Wall Street Loves That). The restaurant would collect the money for the certificate and funds for shipping and handling (paid by the purchaser), OpenTable would collect the commission plus (reasonable and customary) credit card fees for running the transaction.

There, done, sign on the dotted line. I'll take my commission in trade-out.

UPDATE: Heard from a third chef, who also was intrigued as long as there were maximum limits on the commission and the amount was a fair percentage.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Steal of a Meal Deal in the '230

Sure you can get a $2 hot dog outside of any hardware store in North Dallas, and a $4 hamburger - well McD's certainly sells for less. But what they can't offer is a free baseball game to go with it. Since last fall season the parents of the Hillcrest baseball team have busily built a full-sized concessions shed to better serve the players, their families and the community.

Yesterday I pulled the early shift, the Panthers were playing a 3 team scrimmage against RL Turner and Seagoville - I highly recommend the hot chocolate on chilly mornings. And the other afternoon during a 4:30 game they had the grill going and were selling hot dogs to the spectators and to students who were getting out of after-school activities. Not that it's a huge moneymaker, but it's certainly an amenity to the excitement happening on the field.

Everyone is welcome to come and watch, the schedule is here, we'll be cooking at almost every home game - for example this Saturday (2/21) there's a scrimmage against FW Brewer (JV at 10:00, Varsity at 12:00). Or beginning March 5th, we host a our annual Bryan Martin Classic Tournament (at HHS and St. Marks), with an amazing lineup (Palmer, ESD, St. Marks, Hyde Park, Pearce, Molina, Frisco Centennial, Wilson) - three days of food and baseball all day long.

Oh, and President & Mrs. Bush, since you're our new neighbors we'd be happy to set you up with some VIP seating should you come over to enjoy a game, we know you're big baseball fans.

Pictured from top: "Chef" Kevin Sherrington mans the grill - where'd you learn that technique Kevin?; the view from inside is the best seat in the house, motivating volunteerism; the crowds attending seemed to appreciate being able to buy a cold drink or snack.

Post Panther Pancake Breakfast Update

The Hillcrest Panthers Pancake breakfast last Sunday (has it already been a week?) was a huge success. With representatives from varsity sports serving plates of delicious food to over 280 guests. All told in one morning's work (if you don't count the time I spent selling tickets before the event), they raised over $4,000 in ticket sales and tips for football, girls soccer, baseball and cheerleading.

Maybe we'll do a 5th, next year. A big thank you to all in the community who came and supported this great neighborhood school. Especially the Class of '61, who were fun, fun, fun and seemed to enjoy themselves as well.

Pictures above: Sevy insisted the staff be fed prior to working - the Panther Football players said grace before digging in. Baseball???...... ; JV Cheerleaders manned the tip jar where thankful guests deposited gratuities to hear them thunderously yell "1,2,3, 'Crest!"; The Class of 1961 eventually filled up the entire "table of honor" along the front, they sure laughed alot - maybe it was the $5 mimosas and bloody marys at the (self-service) bar?

Dallas' Declining Dollar$

Umph, news of a budget shortfall hitting the City is no news to those of us in the trenches. I originally posted this response on The Eleventy Billionth Blog's post about cities that are reconsidering smoking bans due to declining tax revenues. I hope Bethany doesn't mind, but it could bear re-posting given the city's dire straits.

Economics of Restaurant Taxes 101
Let's say a couple go to a restaurant, order a nice steak, cocktails and bottle of wine, total bill $200 (liquor sales of $100), with sales taxes it comes to $208.25 (no sales tax on poured alcohol).

The city/state/DART/whatever takes in a total of $22.25 from the 14% gross receipts taxes on alcohol and the sales taxes on food.

Same meal, cooked at home: the food, well there is no sales tax on unprepared food, so sales taxes = $0. The cocktails and wine, purchased retail sells for $40, and packaged alcohol is charged the normal sales tax rate of 8.25%.

The city/state/DART/whatever takes in a total of $3.30.

Not to mention, that you don't have to do the shopping, cook the meal, serve the meal or clean up. IJS.

The Virginia Housewife Cook Book, via Michigan

Sent by Mom, for my birthday, apparently found in an antique store somewhere in Michigan and the penciled price, $9.95. The Virginia Housewife Cook Book by Mrs. Mary Randolph (1762-1828) unlocked a treasure trove of food history. Called the "most influential American cook book of the 19th century" and "the first truly American cook book" it was reprinted many times in the 70 years following the author's death. She is credited with the birth of regional cooking utilizing local ingredients in Virginia agriculture, and incorporating English, African Black, Indian and Creole cooking.

Originally published in 1824, the cook books conceptualization by Mrs. Randolph came during retirement after years of running a popular Richmond boarding house. Born to wealth, educated formally, she was also instructed in good household management techniques. While living in Richmond her home became synonymous with distinctive entertaining. When her husband's political position was removed (by her distant cousin, Thomas Jefferson), and with a decline in their tobacco revenue due to an economic depression, they lost their home, Moldavia. Mary took the brave position of advertising in the local press that they would provide accommodations for Ladies and Gentlemen at their new business, to great success.

Other interesting facts about Mary Randolph, she has been widely credited with the invention of an early "icebox", but was not quick enough to patent it. She was godmother to the wife of Robert E. Lee (Mary Randolph Custis), as well as a distant cousin and Mary considered them her closest family. As such, when she died she was buried on their estate, and her grave is credited with being the oldest on what is now Arlington National Cemetery. How serendipitous that all who were buried afterwards came to the resting place of a great national hostess.

The book given to me has no publication date, but it is marked "Arlington Edition" and the publisher is listed as Hurst & Co., New York (1871-1919), who was a major re printer of works that were losing copyright protections. I had to laugh reading the following quote of their work, "Beautiful covers around deplorable paper", pretty much sums up the condition of this book. Other books published by Hurst & Co under the Arlington label are credited with "circa 1890", I have older books that are in much better condition. When originally published, this book sold for $1.

And here, for historical perspective, I'll share one of her famous recipes:

Peel large potatos [sic], slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth; and fry them in lard or dripping. Take care that your fat and frying-pan are quite clean; put it on a quick fire, watch it, and as soon as the lard boils and is still, put in the slices of potatos [sic], and keep moving them till they are crisp; take them up, and lay them to drain on a sieve; send them up with very little salt sprinkled on them.
I think I had these at Nick & Sam's Grill the other night.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

NOTE: Flowers on Valentine's Day! Well they were my Christmas present from Sevy - fresh flowers delivered every month for a year.

We're celebrating Valentine's sometime next week, here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pig Hunting Without Pigs, Hmmmm

It's hard to hunt wild pigs when they just don't show up for the party. Not even the strawberry-jello-soaked-corn could entice them to the meadow next to the east Texas house where the chefs were "camping out". Fear not, the boys did not starve from lack of protein - they left Dallas with a car full of food and wine.

I think they still had fun. The pigs too.

Sweet Dallas Recipes

From Helen Thompson, "Texas-based food writer and editor", with Metropolitan Home and Meredith Publications (among other gigs), comes a collection of dessert recipes from some of Dallas' favorite restaurants. Dallas Classic Desserts, (Pelican Press), with a foreword by Patricia Sharpe.

Missing Doughmonkey's Madagascar Flourless Chocolate Cake? It's in there. Got a hankerin' for Al Biernat's Texas Pecan Pie a la Mode (I do!), it's in there. How about Asian Mint's Green Tea Ice Cream Cake (yes, yes, yes), it's in there. And (don't melt) there's even the recipe for La Duni's Quatro Leches Cake. Need I say more?

I'll share one of the recipes here, it's one I happen to have on file in my computer since my job duties include recipe typing.

Sevy's Grill's Three Citrus Pie. (Makes 1 pie)

Pie Shell:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
12 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

6 large egg yolks
6 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 (14 ounce) cand Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

Whipped cream to garnish
Thinly sliced citrus fruit to garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. To prepare the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a medium bowl and mix well. Press evenly along the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. To prepare the filling, beat the egg yolks in an electric mixer on low speed until just blended. With the motor running, slowly pour in each juice in a thin stream. Let set for 5 minutes, then gradually stir in condensed milk. Pour into the cooled crust.
Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then chill. Garnish each slice with whipped cream and a thin slice of citrus fruit. You may also garnish with raspberry sauce streaks if desired.

Dallas Classic Desserts can be ordered online, 20% off of the cover price of $15.95, here.

Spring Fever Gardening

While our broccoli is harvest-ready, the arugula behind it is beginning to flower, which means it's time to re-plant. The Meyer lemon tree is in full bloom, the fruit tree class I took instructed me to pull off all the baby fruit for a few years, but I just can't bring myself to remove them all. And a new addition, a Mandarin orange tree named "Nick" (I gave matching "Nora" to Richard Chamberlain for his birthday) is suffering from Puppy Chewitis, a common ailment in our backyard these days.

So the gardening bug bit you too? I found out North Haven Gardens is having a series of classes on Saturday, February 21st called "Let's Go Organic!"; beginning at 11:30 with Wildlife 911 (keeping critters out), 12:30 with Patti Moreno, or Gardengirl, on sustainable gardening, 1:30 Victor Peck of the Dallas Zoo offers a kid-friendly discussion on the organic veggie garden, and 2:45 a class on preserving and harvesting herbs by Kay Nelson.

And, beginning on Sunday, April 5th (all day) comes the:
"First Sunday Farmer's Market". In conjunction with EatGreenDFW.com,

"they will feature local producers of grass-fed meats and organic vegetables right at North Haven Gardens! The great folks at EatGreenDFW.com will be here with their local growers the first Sunday of each month through summer."

Other food events hosted by NHG through April include:

February 28th 10:30 - "Herbs for the Shade Garden" with Barbara Gollman, Dallas County Master Gardener

March 11, 11:30 - "Details About Tea" by The Cultured Cup, exploring flavored vs. scented teas.

March 18, 11:00 - "The Spring Vegetable Garden" by Leslie Finical Halleck (NHG), all the basics covered.

March 21, 1:30 - "Tons of Tomatoes" with Tom Wilten, Dallas County Master Gardener. I can believe this is one of their best attended - I'm dying to find out. It says come early to get a seat.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Neighborly News In Preston Center

So yesterday morning I had to run down to Sevy's Grill to pick up payroll reports (everyone wanted to get paid this week) and since I parked in back I exited down the alley that we share with the soon-to-open Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen. I couldn't resist slowing down to take a peek. Well the paper is off the windows, and it looks like they've made some significant changes to the interior. And later in the day Sevy and I stopped by the restaurant again, and noticed they were getting food deliveries. We can't wait for them to open, welcome to the neighborhood Kent! We'll be regulars.

In my email inbox, news of a grand opening party to benefit the March of Dimes on February 17th looks fun, cocktails and hors d'oevres for $75 (RSVP only). So this morning I checked Kent's website, and there is a contest going on! Anyone one who signs up for their newsletter will be entered into a drawing.

"One lucky winner will be invited to all three VIP opening parties, including lunch for two, for an entire year!!"

Ready, set, go.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

St. Valentine's Day

Let loose the sails of love and let them fill
With breezes sweet with tenderness to-day;
Scorn not the praises youthful lovers say;
Romance is old, but it is lovely still.
Not he who shows his love deserves the jeer,
But he who speaks not what she longs to hear.

There is no shame in love's devoted speech;
Man need not blush his tenderness to show;
'Tis shame to love and never let her know,
To keep his heart forever out of reach.
Not he the fool who lets his love go on,
But he who spurns it when his love is won.

Men proudly vaunt their love of gold and fame,
High station and accomplishments of skill,
Yet of life's greatest conquest they are still,
And deem it weakness, or an act of shame,
To seem to place high value on the love
Which first of all they should be proudest of.

Let loose the sails of love and let them take
The tender breezes till the day be spent;
Only the fool chokes out life's sentiment.
She is a prize too lovely to foresake.
Be not ashamed to send your valentine;
She has your love, but needs its outward sign.

Edgar A. Guest, A Path To Home, 1919

Flu Got You? Here's What I'd Do

Call Jeff Dains, GM of Neiman Marcus' Downtown Restaurants at (214)573-8228 and order a Sunshine Tray. Personally I think they need to rename it the Ginormous Happy Basket, because even if you're feeling bad, its contents will cheer you up. Kevin Garvin told me that Mr. Marcus was the recipient when he was feeling under the weather and Jeff mentioned that they have people who send themselves a little "Sunshine" for illness or birthdays.

We received one a few years ago, a large wicker basket filled with their popovers, strawberry butter, fresh fruit, and two quarts of their deliciously delicate chicken broth. They have many options from their kitchen and bakery: muffins, shrimp salad, chicken salad, cheeses, you can build what you'd like. While the basket is not inexpensive at $60, it contains food for several days, or several people if others can't keep their hands off.

The healing qualities of food are debatable, but the comfort qualities certainly are fact - no doubt this basket is all about quality.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How To Cook A Sweet Valentine

Sevy cooks for love every year on Valentine's Day, it goes with the career. But in 2000, as a birthday gift to me, he took a Valentine's Dinner off and we went to New York City. Not only would we dine at some of the world's finest establishments on that February 14th, he was thoughtful enough to include tickets to an annual Champion Dog Show at Madison Square Gardens, something I'd always wanted to attend.

It's been too long to remember the details of that trip, except the dinners at Gramercy Tavern and Jean Georges were two of the best meals we've ever had. And an English Springer Spaniel won that year - we had one at home that was only 5 months old.

It's not yet Valentine's Day this year, but tonight is Night One of the 133rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Gardens. The TV schedule has been pitifully wracked for some reason, the show begins on USA Network at 7pm (Central) until 8pm, then switches over to CNBC for the second hour. Tomorrow, the entire two hours (or more) can be seen at 7pm on USA Network. Sweet doggies - sweet hubby.

Hog Heaven

Today's editorial in The Dallas Morning News made me giggle. Called "Feral Hog Wild", it calls for a state solution to the feral hog problem in Texas, using helicopters and turning it into a state subsidized mini-industry for hunters. No doubt a serious problem for our rural neighbors with an estimated 2 million of the beasties digging and rooting and eating - everything.

I've got a cheaper solution - four chefs with guns and 50 pounds of strawberry jello-soaked corn.

A few weeks ago, hubby and some buddies went out to the "Garvin East Texas ranchette" for a chef's retreat/fishing trip. They didn't bring back any fish, it's catch-and-release only at the lake they fished, but they awoke to almost two dozen wild boar rooting in the field next to the house. An idea was born.

So sometime this week the boys are heading back east, with guns and jello-corn. Richard Chamberlain probably has the most experience, he's been hunting feral pigs down in the Victoria area for years. Hubby, he grew up deer hunting in Michigan, how different could hogs be? Except he mostly used a bow back then. He's borrowed a gun (or rifle, or whatever a "thirty-aught-sixty" is) from our brother-in-law, and spent some time at the shooting range practicing and taking a gun safety class. His eyesight is amazing - he can spot a trooper on the highway three hills away.

The boys know how to dress and butcher the meat - sausage for anyone?

Pictured above, Chef Richard Chamberlain and his son Stephen on a hunting trip in 2008.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Practicing Eating at Nick & Sam's Grill

About the 3rd time my fork fell on the ground, the Boy and Sister started teasing me. But there was so much food on the table, it left very little space for things like bread plates and silverware. The whole Sevy family had been invited to the practice, or mock dinner at the new Nick & Sam's Grill, on the corner of Fairmount and Cedar Springs. Of course I don't review restaurants on this blog, just consider this an introduction.

With a black enamel finish, the bar area at the entry lends sophistication and a perfect background for the beautiful oil paintings on the wall (many by artist/owner Phil Romano). Doors on the front of the building open wide, making the bar and patio (one of two patios) a part of the busy urban setting outside. The Boy said the style and feel of it reminded him of Gramercy Tavern, and we couldn't disagree, but maybe using more black paint.

We decided to sit in the bar, half inside-half out, so I didn't get a view of the other dining area, but the second patio (on the side of the building) was enclosed and we could see a fireplace within through the plastic drapes. We were early, but they had quite a few tables already seated, and the servers were spot on. Of course in this economy there are many good people available, and Nick & Sam's Grill seems to have picked only the very best.

Beginning with a house specialty drink, a blood orange martini, immediately upon being seated the food started flowing from Samir Dhurandar's kitchen - we never saw a menu. A basket of homemade potato chips, very lightly salted, thick and crunchy was followed by their guacamole and chips, prettily assembled with a garnish of chopped tomatoes on top. Hummous, topped with olive oil and pine nuts, and accompanied with toasted pita was hard to share with everyone. And surprisingly, while three of us aren't big lamb fans, their Chicken Fried Lamb Ribs left four plates with only the bones on them.

Second round, salads. Their House Salad is one I would order again, thinly sliced strawberries and pumpkin seeds with a light (not overly sweet) vinaigrette. Their Asian Chicken Salad included snap peas and had a chicken breast with it's skin-on (well kind of, it was so crispy that it curled away from the meat) I didn't ask Samir, but it looked like it had been rotisseried. Finally, a delightful Taco Salad, with ground beef and all the fixings, tomatoes, kidney beans, cheese and a ranch-styled dressing. Samir said they also have three other salads: a Salmon Salad, the Romano Salad and a Chopped Salad.

Entrees kept up the high standards, somehow the NY Strip ended up in front of the Boy, he shared a 1/2" x 1/2" piece with each of us before it was gone (oh to be 17 and able to eat that much), it came with a small fry basket full of thick, fluffy french fries, served still piping hot. I landed the Chicken Fried Pork Chop, tender, easy to slice and definitely not greasy, it was served with a canning jar full of Greek salad, a delightfully arranged layering of orzo, black olives, lettuce, and feta. Jim had the Striped Sea Bass and Stir Fried Vegetables (confession - not a seafood eater myself, he loved it), and Sister had the dish all the servers whispered to us to request, The Grown-Up Grilled Cheese, yum. Served in a three-sectioned plate, with a small salad and some of the best Tomato Basil soup I've had, I'm not going to spoil the surprise of what's in this sandwich. I'll only say, the waiters are absolutely right, and were thanked appropriately.

There were no desserts available at that time, and we were good with that. While I don't review restaurants on this blog, let's just say we'll be going back.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How To Cook A Senior Year

Can't. Get. The. Smile. Off. after last nights Mr. HHS contest up at Hillcrest. An annual talent (beauty?) contest for senior guys, the performances were some of the funniest in years. A skit from Abbott & Costello, a drum solo, Sinatra's "My Way", were some of the entrees on the menu. One young man wrote a song, which he accompanied on the piano; another danced - and his partner was his mom - and both were very good.

The Boy (while not saying he was talentless) opted to be the Master of Ceremonies, wearing a tux and at ease in front of the crowd, he had memorized the lines in only 2 days. Everyone wanted to know why he hasn't been in theater - I wanted to know why he hasn't been working the front door at the restaurant. My baby boy all of a sudden looked very manly.

Runner ups? Jake Sherrington, who was asked which was worse passing a kidney stone or having a teacher step on his new shoes (inside joke), and Josh Fein who painted a relief picture of the Statue of Liberty in under 3 minutes. And the winner of Mr. HHS and the People's Choice award? Jeff Wilke, who not only performed "Miss Jackson" with an electric ukelele, he kept his academic profile high by giving a thorough answer to the question about "What should we do about terrorism today." Jeff's heading off to Tufts, or Emory, or some other brainiac school that wants a National-Merit-Finalist-with-his-own-band . Subterranean Aviators, check it out.

I think it will be many years before this young man retires to be a bum.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fill Me With Love Cheesecake

At Neiman Marcus, here.

Good News In Food

An interview with Dallas chef Kent Rathbun in Nations Restaurant News discusses a market niche his company will be trying to cover in the next year. Private jet catering.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A New Food Blog

Mmmmmm, and it looks delicious. From Jeffrey J. Heaney, CFSP and President of Bauscher USA, Inc. comes Deep Plate,

"a new blog that aspires to be an open source of inspiration for professional chefs. Chefs now have an outlet to continuously present their culinary philosophy in new, creative ways. Chefs are no longer limited to the resources in their current operation."
It goes on to say
"every month, participants who register will be sent a plate, platter, bowl or other piece of china at no charge and be asked to submit their creative presentation in photo and word format. The resulting submissions will be posted."
Well that makes sense since Bauscher is a German plate manufacturer.

I'm telling you, this is like photo candy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Buy Your Tickets This Week

for our


$10 per person
Includes fresh fruit cup, pancakes, eggs, bacon and choice of juices, milk, chocolate milk or coffee.
Hillcrest athletes will be your servers and all proceeds will go to support Hillcrest Athletics.
Seatings are available from 9:00 am to noon,
Reservations Required - but all are welcome.

Contact Amy Severson at ChefSevy@aol.com
Pre-payment is required to guarantee your reservation. All donations or gratuities are welcomed and appreciated.
UPDATE: Class of 1961 - you rock! We'll have a big table ready for you in our Private Dining Room.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Do Unto Others.......

I need something to change the flavor in my mouth, disappointment has a bitter taste. So tonight, since hubby is working a double shift, Sister is in Denton at a JV soccer game and the Boy has mock trial finals practice (who knew I birthed an "unimpeachable witness"?), I am going to sit my happy seat down at the bar at Houston's.

You see, I know Houston's would never advocate the position taken by certain thoughtless journalists. And they taught me (while in college) how to be the best waitress, well, that I was ever going to be up at the old location on Walnut Hill. And I really, really like Houston's food, as I suppose many others do, they are always busy.

And I gladly hand over to Park Cities the 1% of the sales, they are, after all, our neighbors.

Please, Can't We All Just Get Along?

I'm beginning to know how Rodney King felt. After a being "beaten up" by the Park Cities People Newspaper in an editorial last week, their editor, Jason Heid, claimed "justified force", or to quote "all things being equal, Park Cities residents might give preference to those businesses within their own municipalities." in his emailed explanation to me.

I think he missed my point. An organized movement such as the "Most Favored Shopping" status they proposed, is very divisive to a community, and it can backfire. I'm not going to speculate on who would come out short, Preston Hollow alone dwarfs the Park Cities, but why even start the fight? Not to mention, what is going on with their business model for advertising? Not only will the "non preferred" merchants say "No Thanks", but also PC businesses that don't want to get their fingers in this mess will probably say the same. The Reginald Dennys in all this are the businesses that will have to close.

So here's where I understand how Rodney King felt. Yeah, we've been unnecessarily and unfairly targeted, and in this economy we are all just trying to stay off of the "Closed" list on SideDish. But as I said in my original email to PC People Newspapers, "Park Cities does well when Dallas does well, and vice versa, let's concentrate on being good neighbors."