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March 6, 2014

Top 5 Fairly Odd Food Tales

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and nowhere is that truer than in the restaurant industry. From a wide-range of internet sources – some of them even trustworthy – we’ve compiled five of the most unusual experiences in the restaurant biz.

View them as cautionary tales – and be afraid-d-d. Or, you know, mildly amused.



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February 6, 2014

Taking the Confusion Out of Fusion

In 1989, acclaimed chef and Miami restaurateur Norman Van Aken  gave a name to the type of cooking that combined crossover flavors from various ethnic cuisines and regional ingredients with classical cooking techniques. He called it “fusion,” borrowing the term from jazz.

Aken’s dishes were complex, both in flavor and technique, for instance Chiles Spiked Veal Adobo with Corn Relish, Garlic and a Spanish Sherry Wine Vinegar Reduction” a Mexican Adobo rub with a classical French sauce and Nueva Pork Havana, marinated in a mix of sour oranges, garlic and so forth, in which he integrated black beans into a sauce with fried plantains, instead of the more expected black beans and rice.

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January 22, 2014

Theme Nights Chase Away The Slow Night Blues

OystersWhether it’s a three-course dinner featuring lobster or a dinner with a guest chef, restaurants are increasingly turning to unique themes to bring in customers during the off-nights of the week.

Tuesday, we’re looking at you.

Finding a theme that’s a match for the restaurant and its clientele – whether it’s a one-off, or a weekly special - can be a fun, creative process. Take the ever-popular restaurant week, which began in New York in 1992, and quickly spread to large and small cities across the country.

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January 2, 2014

A Chicken in Every Pot; A Tablet on Every Table?

When Applebee’s announced it had purchased 100,000 tablets for its restaurants, the news spread quicker than you could say “Wi-Fi.” It’s just one way the chain restaurants may rock the restaurant industry in 2014. The chains are known for their ability to make innovative and even expensive moves that often lead the way for others. “The chains have the capability to test things,” says restaurant consultant John Imbergamo, “They can try the idea at a Chili’s in Eugene, Oregon, and if it doesn’t work, they don’t bring the whole chain down. Chains can spread the risk among bigger numbers.”

In addition, the chains have the luxury of fine-tuning something until they get it right. Whereas the independent restaurants get feedback pretty much one customer at a time, “the chains can do it on a broader spectrum; they can get a broader look at whether or not something works.”

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December 16, 2013

Sour Hits the Sweet Spot in Beer

What would sweet-and-sour chicken be without the sweet? Or hot and sour soup without the hot.

That’s right. Sour.

On the other hand, there is sour cream. Sour Patch Kids. Grapefruit. So, maybe sour isn’t, well, all sour.

Especially if you’re talking about beer.

Sour beers are the newest passion of craft brewers, which falls into the everything-old-is-new-again category. Sour beer is one of the oldest, if not the oldest style of beer-making. “The Belgians invented this style called lambics,” says Bill St. John, a wine writer and educator in Chicago, who has an interest in the style because of his Belgian heritage. “It’s an ancient way of making beer, using wild yeast from the air.”

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November 26, 2013

Chef Derin Moore Brings Home the Gold


Chef Derin Moore
Chef Derin Moore of Performance Foodservice - Milton's

With all eyes focused on the Winter Olympics, Derin Moore can speak from experience about going for the gold – in the culinary world at least. Moore, 47 is a corporate chef/culinary consultant in Atlanta with Performance Foodservice. His team recently won the gold medal at The USA Culinary Cup Challenge Team Competition in Orlando, Florida. Eight teams competed from across the country to produce a winning four-course meal.


That competition was only one of many wins for Moore, who has represented the American Culinary Federation both in regional competitions (1992 to 1996), national competitions (1997 to 2000), and the 2000 international Culinary Olympics, with the ACF Culinary Team USA placing sixth in the event that’s held every four years.

The rigorous requirements to make the team are not for the faint-of-heart. Moore has the competitive spirit of any athlete, which means “training hard with the right people.” After he was selected for the national team, “I was on an airplane all over the U.S. training in different facilities.”

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November 12, 2013

The Vegetable “IT” List

TurnipWhen Norman Rockwell painted his iconic Thanksgiving portrait of the family gathered around a plump turkey, he couldn’t have imagined the holiday in the 21st century. There’s grandma bringing in the bird, all right, but over in the corner, the cousins are fighting over the Tuscan kale.

Vegetables, once a cheap way to stretch a meal, have come into their own. Once folks realized that you didn’t have to cook a vegetable until it was dead, they found out that a vegetable might actually taste good. From there it became a short hop, skip and jump from the gardens to the kitchen. Add in chefs, vegans, vegetarians and nutritionists and suddenly everyone has a new spin on his or her favorite vegetable dish.

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October 29, 2013

The Wheels on the (Food) Truck Go Round and Round Part II

Josh Wolkon
Josh Wolkon / denverpost.com
In our last blog, we talked about the food truck and how it’s opening new markets in the foodservice industry. This time we look at why a well-established restaurateur with three brick-and-mortar restaurants would want to take to the streets. We e-chatted with Josh Wolkon, who has three vastly different food concepts at his three highly successful restaurants in Denver: Steuben’s (comfort food), Ace (Asian-inspired), and Vesta Dipping Grill (fine dining). Wolkon helped to launch the industry in Denver in a big way when he hopped on board the Steuben’s food truck.


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October 15, 2013

Food Trucks are Driving a New Market from Coast to Coast

Call it a moveable feast or meals on wheels. On a bright, sunny end-of-summer day, we’re outside stalking our query: Food trucks lined up end to end in a city park.


There are at least 10 choices. So that we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, we sidle up to the menus on the side of the trucks and check them out before stealthily moving on. Do we feel like something gourmet or something funky? Grass-fed burgers or biscuit potpie; Chinese sandwiches or barbecue? So many delicious choices, so little time.

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October 1, 2013

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

In our last blog, we talked about some of the products and ideas that we wouldn’t have given odds but then, what do we know? Today we bring you some foodie favorites and products that shoulda worked but didn’t – or that are still out there, but are fading fast in our never to be humble opinion. (We like  bacon as much as the next guy, but do we really need bacon breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Just sayin’.)


1) Runny Egg on A Salad

Where it came from: Probably out of one of those “mystery basket” cooking shows – you know, you have arugula, spinach, watercress– and a quail egg. So how do you put them altogether? Well, it’s not exactly a locked door mystery.  You lightly cook the quail egg, so the yolk is still runny and you gently lay it on top of the salad, so that the yolk mixes with the dressing when the diner mushes it all together.

Why it was doomed: Very tres chic. Very tres-mystery basket. Very tres-if-you- have access to fabulous-salad-dressings-from-sources-like-Village Garden, Piancone-and-Roma -  why do you need a quail egg in the mix, thank you very much.)


2)  Quail eggs

Where it came from: See mystery basket competition. Or, chefs who took Chicken Little too seriously.

Why it was doomed:  Although popular in Asian and other cuisines, quail eggs are small, hard to peel – and a true specialty item. Flash in the omelette pan.


3)   Ketchup in colors

Where it came from: Heinz thought kids would go for the purple and green colors.

Why it was doomed: Nothing says tomato ketchup like the color purple (you knew we had to work that in).   Besides, we don’t remember ever begging kids to “eat their ketchup or you won’t get any more fries.”


3) Colorless Pepsi

Where it came from: Pepsi came up with a clear version called Crystal Pepsi that was popular for about 15 minutes (Ok, maybe a year).

Why it was doomed:  Pepsi should be brown. Otherwise it’s Mountain Dew. Duh.


4)  Heirloom tomatoes

Where they came from: Down on the farm. Really why would you want some ol’ hybrid tomato, when you can have tomatoes just like you (almost remember, but can’t be sure) granny grew.

Why they are doomed: Plain and simple, they’re too pricey. And they usually don’t taste the money, so to speak. Unless you have a good heirloom source – and most of us don’t (granny’s land is now a 7-11), heirloom tomatoes are usually tossed together in a bin so the shopper doesn’t know if he’s getting Brandywine or Mortgage Lifter. The only one having a field day with this one are the folks out there naming the varieties.


5)  Bacon ice cream:

Where it came from: The everything-with-bacon national movement.

Why it is doomed: Nothing says tasty treat more than ice cream mixed with a little pork. Besides who needs bacon ice cream when there are logical combos, like butter and pecan and rocky and road?


6)  Silicone pans

Where it came from: Health concerns over metal pans; something new and different. Silcone pans could take the heat and were non-stick.

Why they’re doomed: The other day a plumber asked us if we had a pan to put under a dripping pipe. We immediately reached for our silicone pan. At last we had a use for it. Some things are great in silicone – spatulas, for instance. But the pans?  Too bendy, too flexible, too our-cake-just-wound-up-on-the-floor.  It did make a good drip pan, however. 


7)  Expressions That are Tired and True

Where they came from: Folks who think they’re clever and hip and a tad bit smug.  

Why they’re doomed:  Enough with the farm to table; locavore; snout to tail; cheek to jowl.  It’s like commercial jingles played over and over – at some point we stop paying attention. We deserve a break today.