Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting The HTML Out Of Here

We have a website,, and a few years ago we hired a web designer who understood the mysterious language called HTML Code to set up our website for us.  But that also meant that every time we had a new menu, or wanted to update promotions, post newsletters, add information, we had to call and have the changes made by the designer - or risk screwing up our website.

And then I found Homestead, by Intuit (y'know, the Quicken/ Quickbooks company).  And now I'm the web designer, kind of, with help from the experts from Homestead.  It's a whole new look for Sevy's Grill, and every time I visit I see something that needs to be tweaked.  But the great thing is I can log in and do it - I even added a Monthly Events page.  All. By. Myself.  No HTML knowledge required.

Maybe you've got a small business but haven't the funds to expand on the web?  Homestead has over 2000 free templates to choose from, many designed for specific industries.   Their web hosting costs as little as $10 per month.

We opted to pay for a Homestead designer to set up a custom template for us, set up the initial 5 pages (we can have up to 10), money well spent even though I've gone through and changed all the fonts and moved buttons, added links.  Because it allows us to put our own personal imprint on our business' web portal, and I think that's important. 

And it did not all go smoothly - transferring over our domain and then linking it to our design was a little stressful.  They have a help staff, it sometimes takes about 24 hours for them to get back with you (depending on the subject).  It would be lovely if they had a "Live Chat" button, even if the result is the same ("We'll get back with you"), at least you feel like you've reached a person.  There were some gaps in the published Help guide when it came to setting up a new page (it does not include instructions for setting up a page with a custom designed template).  But there was a solution for all of my questions, it just required a little patience.

So check out our new look, and please, I'd love some feedback.  I'm thinking of adding a "Chef's Corner" page with some recipes from Sevy and Buzzy.  Oh, and I can set up a blog on it - but wait, I already have one of those.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 Continues To Be Tough

Independent restaurants took the hardest hit.  So sayeth Mark Brandeau on Nations Restaurant News.

To which I reply, "I know".

My ongoing review of Dallas restaurant Mixed Beverage tax receipts shows that few of us who were open two-plus years ago are back up to our 2008 (alcohol) sales numbers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Security Reservations on OpenTable Checks

UPDATE:  Friday, 8/20 - Upon checking the website, the company has changed their pdf poster.  I have removed the copy of the original poster from this website as well.
But I have to say, this is a poorly constructed mechanism to inform their members about important financial transactions.  And there is a very important difference between OpenTable Restaurant checks and Traveler's checks, even if phony, a Traveler's check will never be returned to the payee.
I was visiting the website today (this is where businesses conduct their OpenTable relationship) not logged in, just a "regular Amy" checking it out, and noticed an alert in red ink:

Who knew that OpenTable was getting in the "traveler's check" business, I guess it's their way of capturing part of the gift certificate market, or maybe they issue their rewards this way.   Anyhow, it was news to me, we haven't had one presented before at Sevy's Grill.

Apparently anticipating greater numbers of these checks during the holiday season, they were letting us know to train our staff should one be presented as payment.  Continuing, they added the next really helpful message:

Useful Facts about Dining Cheques
1. Accepting Dining Cheques is part of the OpenTable contract.
(Does this seem a little pushy for a company that makes money off of their  client transactions?  I mean it's not like they're VISA or anything).

Attached was a PDF file "an informational poster to download and print and post for your employees".  And upon downloading it, this is where the SHIT HIT THE FAN

Photocopied onto this PDF file (completely accessible to anyone who goes to was full pictures of the two types of checks OpenTable is issuing - including their bank account and routing numbers.

So let me get this straight - me, member, paying YOU fees, must accept a check that YOU HAVE PROVIDED FREE OF CHARGE TO ANY ONLINE THIEF WITH A PRINTER AND A SUPPLY OF BLANK CHECKING PAPER?  Don't think so.  Because when we are presented with this old-fashioned payment, we have to deposit it, and won't find out for days that it is a forgery. 

And I have a reservation with that, "Security"!

UPDATE:  So admittedly I'm not the best at explaining a situation, re-reading the above is confusing even to me.  So to elaborate, let me put it in the form of a fictional story scenario.

One night at a restaurant, not so far away, a random guest pays for all, or a portion of his dinner check with a "Checque" [please].  The server takes it to the back of the restaurant (it's printed as payable to any Member restaurant) compares it to the check photos on the "informational poster" provided, and hey, it's a match.  Thank you sir and have a good night.

The check is deposited in the bank, and a few days later the restaurant is informed that "sorry", it was a forgery.  Downloaded off the internet - in fact the company website itself, graphically perfected, printed on blank check paper by a ring of (fill in your favorite ethnicity here) thieves, who printed thousands of these checks, selling them over a 24 hour period for 25 cents on the dollar on an internet sales site, called Teebay.

By the time the first check is redeemed, refused and returned to the restaurant, the site is closed down and the restaurant eats the lost money.  Or OpenTable does.  Which would it be?

Brothers II Grill Coming to North Dallas

We were driving up north for an evening of Quiddler with friends, when at Frankford and Preston (northwest corner) I noticed a dumpster parked in front of the former Berryhill Grill spot.

Brothers II Grill is already in Plano and Frisco.  And their website has one of the best musical backgrounds of any restaurant website I've ever visited.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Fondest Educational Dream Comes True

No, not the one where the DMN gives Dr. Hinojosa unqualified credit for bringing up our schools.  The other dream, the one where DISD schools get salad bars

Stopped by the Greenville Whole Foods after shopping at Half Price Books (purchased The Secrets of the Jennivine Restaurant by Jennifer Messina), and at checkout they asked if I'd like to make a donation to Project Salad Bar?

"Whassat?"  I asked, maybe fuzzy from the four white wines I'd sampled while buying dinner ingredients.  "We're trying to raise enough money to put salad bars in seven Dallas schools," nice checkout lady said.  The only elementary school they were sure of is Jill Stone at Vickery Meadows Elementary (DISD).

Thank you, Whole Foods, for opening the gates to better eating for kids all over.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dallas Zoo Is Getting "Cheesy"

They're having their annual photography contest at the Dallas Zoo, "Feathers Furs and Scales" entries may be submitted until September 30, 2010.  The $15 entry fee lets you submit up to three 8 x 10 photos just attach an entry form, here

Four categories eligible to win, Children (to age 12), Junior (13-18), Novice (beginner/nonprofessional) and Advanced, awards given to First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention as well as a Grand Prize winner. 

Wet, Wetter, Wettest

I downloaded the lastest Mixed Beverage TABC tax report for the city of Dallas, it covered remittances received in July (mostly for June sales, but I did see many businesses that were paying for May as well).  Total taxes received for the period were just over $6.5 million, so with the help of Excel I did a little numbers analysis.  Hello, are you still awake?

First we have the dry areas, which are really wet, restaurants just have to license as clubs.    Club licensees located in "dry" Dallas paid over $1.4 million, or 22% of the total tax receipts.  The top five booze-selling "dry" zip codes in Dallas (as a percentage of "dry" booze tax totals) are:  75287 (14%), 75240 (11.7%), 75208 (8.3%), 75230 (7.4%), 75243 (6.6%).  Other "dry" sales of alcohol transact in zip codes 201, 203, 206, 207, 211, 212, 214, 217, 218, 219, 220, 224, 225, 228, 229, 231, 248, 252, 254.

Wetter, is the licensees located in "wet" Dallas, whose restrictions and limitations are less stringent and whose 78% of total tax receipts equals total alcohol sales of over $31 million (for one month).  This does not include packaged beer, wine or liquor sales at retail locations, this is bars, clubs, hotels and restaurants.   Wet zip codes include: 088, 201, 202 204, 205, 206, 207, 209, 210, 214, 215, 219, 220, 223, 225, 226, 227, 229, 231, 235, 247, 287.

And wettest, the top five booze-selling zip codes (% total wet  / % total city) are 75201 (17.6/14.1), 75206 (16.3/12.6), 75220 (13.4/10.4), 75204 (12.1/9.4), 75219 (10.5/10.4).  These five zip codes account for almost 57% of poured alcohol sales in Dallas.  

The top ten liquor paying taxpayers for the month ending June 30th are:

Baby Dolls ($68,298)
Ritz Carlton/Fearings ($56,934)
Hilton Anatole/Nana ($55,643)
The Lodge ($50,609)
Sheraton Dallas Hotel ($46,120)
Far West ($44,886)
Escapade 2001 ($44,194)
Ocean Prime ($43,414)
Ojo Loco Sports Cantina ($40,118)
Dallas Gentlemans Club ($39,809)

Conspicuously absent (at least to me) is the American Airlines Center.  Can't find numbers for them anywhere.

June Contest Winners Announced

There were three "Memory Lane" contests in June.

Name The Chefs Winner:  "Michael", who named 6 out of 12 correctly, and who wanted to know where this was taken (Dallas Farmer's Market in the shed that is now enclosed - which wasn't back then).  Michael, honey, you didn't let me know who you are, so contact me about collecting that prize at .

For the record from left to right, back row:  Bernard Mueller, Tom Fleming, Marc Cassel, Helen Duran.  Middle row:  Samir Dhurandhar, Gilbert Garza, Joanne Bondy, Kevin Ascolese, Kathleen Ellington, Jim Severson.  Front row:  William Guthrey, Annie Wong.

Who Dat? Was won by another chef who used to be cooking in Dallas, Ron Rosenbaum, formerly of Nana and the Crescent.  He correctly identified the mystery man above as Robbin Haas, former Executive Chef of Nana who we lost track of after he moved to Florida. 

Ron, it turns out is now in Chicago, Executive Chef at The Casino.  Ron - great to hear from you!  I spent an hour yesterday digging in boxes - because I knew I had a picture of you and your wife, and here it is.  Aspen Food & Wine Festival (we were all at Maroon Bells) in.... '89?  '90?  Dude, you won a jar of Sevy's Ancho Chile Relish, please drop me a line and let us in Dallas know how your doing!
The second part of this puzzler involved naming where Robbin Haas is now.  And a few weeks ago while at dinner at Salum, chefriend Kevin Garvin provided the answer, without realizing there was a contest going on.  "Hey, did you hear?  Robbin's up in Montauk (Long Island), he's executive chef for Montauk Yacht Club."   Kevin doesn't know it yet, but he won a $25 gift certificate to Sevy's. 

Looks the same.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Diary Of A Daycation

A few weeks ago Sevy mentioned he wanted to drive out to East Texas to pay a visit to Strube Ranch, producers of Wagyu beef, also known as American Kobe.   Their ranch is near Pittsburgh, and we decided to make it a scenic day, driving out on Highway 80, sticking to the small towns like Terrell, Wills Point, Grand Saline.  Eventually, when we hit the piney tree forests of East Texas we were going to cut north, skirting the west edge of Lake O' the Pines.

Chefriend Samir was having a birthday in a few days, so we decided to stop at Bob Well's Nursery in Lindale to pick up an olive tree as a gift.  Nobody was there when we arrived, so we called the phone number on the door.  Bob remembered us!  But he'd just had shoulder surgery and was laying low, so he told us to just take the tree we wanted and leave a check on the desk.  That's good country friendly.  He had many varieties of fruit trees in stock if you're looking, his prices make it worth the drive.

We arrived at Strube Ranch offices, located in a tidy metal barn surrounded by pastureland and encircled by miles and miles of red fencing.  And cows, lots of cows everywhere.  Meeting us was Tia Strube Ables, daughter of the founder, J. Larry Strube a "wildcatter" of wagyu when it was first developed in Texas, going to Japan and bringing back full-blood Wagyu semen during a window in time when exports were allowed.   Tia drove us all over the ranch in her truck, she was good country friendly.

They carry two grades of meat, Mishima and Gold,  scored using a Japanese BMS system grading the visual marbling of each piece of meat.  On their 2000 acres at any one time there is typically upwards of 5,000 cows, calfs and bulls.  They are fed minimally processed grains with no hormones or antibiotics, and are allowed free roam of the countryside, not caged inside barns during Texas heat.  About a year before they are to be butchered they are shipped to "select Iowa feedlots to be fed for 350 to 400 days in an all-natural, sheltered, low-stress environment".

About 80 percent of their product after processing is sent to the Chicago and New York City markets, including Kosher.  The 10 percent that does not grade "Prime" is shipped to different processors, but not sold under the Strube name.  According to Tia, a few years ago her dad was convinced that there could be a strong local market for his excellent beef, so he invested in a refrigerated truck and started visiting chefs and restaurants.  They do not use distributors, and supply a number of area buyers, including Rosenblatt Meats, Bonnell's in Fort Worth, and Chamberlain's in Addison. 

And now at Sevy's as well.  What can I say, good is good.  We've switched to their all-beef hot dogs for our All-American Kobe Beef Corny Dogs on our bar menu, we've switched to their tri-tips for our Kobe Skewers and inside round for our Pot Roast. 

So finding our way home required driving on several county roads before we came to Winnsboro, a charming town that Tia told us included a small pub tucked behind a bakery.   Hot day, cold beer, that sure sounded good, so we stopped for a snack and a couple beers at Brewbaker's Restaurant & Pub. 

We must have screamed "city folk" because owner Jeff Heath came by and introduced himself.  Formerly from the Dallas area, he bought a bakery and added the pub on the back.  On the weekends they feature live performers and bands.  Anyhow, Jeff was sure good country friendly, he sent Sevy and I some Bacon Wrapped Shrimp to go with the Pork Shank Ribs (excellent) we'd ordered. We'd put this on our "go back" list next time we're in the area.  

Continuing westward, facing the setting sun, we crossed Lake Fork, then a few miles down the road passed through East Tawakoni and West Tawakoni.  Twenty minutes later we were at I-30 and LBJ, another 10 minutes and we were pulling into the driveway.

Sevy's August Food And Wine Dinner

Join us on Monday, August 23rd at 6:30 p.m. for our monthly four course food and wine dinner, featuring
“A Night in Venice”
Sevy and Buzzy have created a special menu to take you away for the evening, specially paired with wines to compliment each course. $59.95 per person (plus tax and gratuity), seating is limited, reservations are required. Please contact Stefaan, Amy M. or Hillary at (214)265-7389 or

Beef Carpaccio with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan
“The Bellini” from Cipriani Restaurant

Insalata Di Mare
Torresella, Pinot Grigio, Veneto, 2009

Summer Vegetable Risotto
Pieropan, Soave Classico, 2007

Osso Buco with Creamy Mushroom Polenta
Bertani, Valpolicella, Rpasso, 2007
Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’ Asti “Le Orme”, 2007

Peach and Amaretto Tart
(Torta Di Pesche all’ Amaretto)
Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti "Nivole", 2008

8201 Preston Road, Dallas, 75225 * (214) 265-7389 *

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Subterranean Aviators "Who Cares" Album Release

Cover art by Tommy Lewis
The party is tonight at the Curtain Club, 2800 Main in Deep Ellum.  They take the stage at 8:30 pm SHARP and play for the next 50 minutes.   $10 cover.  One day you might be able to say "I saw them when....".  Just saying.

Four teenagers playing their dreams.

Meet Mack-Daddy, The Knife

So we're in Naperville Illinois a few weeks back visiting my sister during a heat wave and 90+ percent humidity (lovely) when my brother-in-law, Andy (co-owner with sis of The Hammer Source, serving all your hammer needs), says, "Hey, have you met Bob?".   Looking around, I only see him, with his arms crossed across his chest, holding a knife in one hand, a beautiful knife, a knife that glimmered with the craftsmanship that was put into it's making. 

Now let me regress a little, a while back I posted about listening to an episode of The Splendid Table, and an interview with Master Bladesmith Bob Kramer who was formerly a chef, but fascinated with creating the perfect chefs knives.  Father's Day was coming up, so I went on his website to see about ordering one of his creations, only to find out his custom knives cost THOUSANDS, gad, and are so popular that he's not even taking orders right now.  So, no go for a papa present.

So (flash forward) here in Andy's hands was a Kramer knife, not one that was handmade by Bob Kramer, but handmade by his direction by artisans at SHUN Cutlery in Japan and sold at Sur la Table in the USA.   Unfortunately, or fortunately, later that day we had lunch downtown Naperville at Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House which happened to be right next to Sur la Table.   So we decided to take a peek, and it must have been fate, because they were On Sale - I had the credit card out before Jim could pick out his knife.  But not cheap - his 10" Chefs knife was "marked down" to $379.95, or just over $400 with tax.

But it's been one of the best gifts I've ever given him.  "Look honey, see how it cuts," as he touches the knife to a watermelon and it splits in half, well maybe thats an exaggeration, but it is one hell of a killer knife

"Denn die einen sind im Dunkeln
Und die andern sind im Licht
Und man siehet die im Lichte
Die im Dunkeln sieht man nicht"

Blogathon Friday

Time to clear off my list of things waiting to be written about, don't know how many I'll be able to get in today - the record is 10, so far.  But "other" work intrudes a little, treasurer duties for the school spirit team, financial duties for the restaurant.   Oh and around mid-day the Mom Job kicks in, that's when hubby and the Boy leave for a 9 hour caravan drive for College, Year 2.  Expect something either about alcohol or crying right about then.

And yes, this counts as post #1.

UPDATE:  Where'd she go?  You might wonder.  Took a shower to get my thoughts organized, and in the process thought of about 5 more things to write about.  So I'm making this a two-day Blogathon, overlapping into tomorrow (up until the boss gets home).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Is Almost Over

It's time to get back to work.  Well, actually, work has been what has been keeping me from blogging.  But I have so many things to share, so, be ready, I'm callin' it:  Blogathon Friday this Friday.  Hubby and the Boy are headed out on a 9 hour caravan drive back to school, Sister's in drill team practice (and just got her drivers license), and the dogs, well, they love laying around while I type.

It's too damn hot to do anything else.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Glen Lakes Grill Opening Soon - But No Mention When

We were driving 'cross town to pick up our Goody-Goody supplies (yes, we  buy retail just like everyone else), and I noticed that Glen Lakes Grill has progressed to where it has a sign, and a Craigslist ad for staff.

Last time I checked, they were applying for a late-night liquor permit.  We also saw in front of Dave & Busters (in the same shopping center), an "eye-in-the-sky" Dallas Police cherry-picker/observatory thingee.  Maybe a crime spike?