The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Every Restaurant is the Fulfillment of Someone's Dream"

What is the state of the restaurant industry?

“Every restaurant is the fulfillment of someone’s dream”, quipped Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Ms. Sweeney was in town for the Mid-Atlantic Food, Beverage and Lodging Expo and was the keynote speaker at the Industry Leadership Breakfast hosted by Phillips Harborplace. Sweeney comes to the “table” with strong leadership credentials from AARP.

She is not shy to getting down and dirty for the betterment of the organization, immersing herself in the assorted positions held in the restaurant industry: line cook, expediter, front of house manager, and server. After 8 hours of being on her feet working at a food prep learning experience, Ms. Sweeney was tired but then thought of her co-worker who was heading out to his 2nd job and from there a 3rd. As Ms Sweeney said, “it reaffirms that the people in this industry work really, really hard.”

At this same breakfast last year, the then NRA CEO said that the number one issue was staffing for restaurants. But what a difference a year makes. Restaurant operators were surveyed and the number one and two concerns now are the economy and food costs.

Ms Sweeney offered out these statistics:

*the latest number on average annual household spending on restaurants is $2700

*the typical adult averages 6 "restaurant occasions" per week, since "eating out" might not be interpreted to include off-premises dining (such as takeout, delivery, drive-thru and curbside) which the 6 includes.

*the average daily spending at restaurants is over $1.5 Billion (or about $64 million per hour per day)

*The restaurant industry added 64,000 jobs this year

Dawn talked of a new 5 year plan to be introduced for the industry that stresses:

1. Sustainability and social responsibility
2. Food and healthy living *
3. Emphasize that the restaurant industry isn’t just a job, it is a career
4. Business advocacy – assistance with profitability

* Ms. Sweeney expressed her opinion on adult obesity saying what we choose to eat is our own personal responsibility.

Tacky, Tacky, Tacky

During the Q & A, I reiterated to Ms Sweeney and the attendees that I heard that customers, due to economic hard times, have chosen not to leave tips. The NRA president said interestingly that she had just heard that the night before. Dining Dish states unequivocally that if you can’t afford to leave a tip then maybe you should reevaluate your dining choices. This is not Europe, tips are not included in the food cost and most importantly servers rely on the tips as their income.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sauce Piquant - A Verbal Recipe from New Orleans

It has been 25 years since I was in New Orleans and I'm back in NoLa. I went on a recent market tour and found Jack Oser at the Gretna Farmers Market who gave me an oral recipe for Sauce Piquant. Being your dining mama, I picked up the trusty Kodak and filmed it for you.

There will be other exciting videos and stories to come from my trip to the Women Chefs and Restaurant conference. Stay tuned

Something Different for the Table at Rosh Hashanah

Jill Bloomfeld of http://www.teachkidstocook/ sent me this recipe, something different for the Jewish Holiday table. Jill said "this recipe turns gefilte fish haters into fans. When it comes out of the oven, it looks like cake! Use cookie cutters to cut it into fun shapes for your Rosh Hashanah table."

Sweet Ginger Gefilte Fish

Gefilte fish a cooked patty or loaf of different finely chopped fish cooked with onions and carrots. Sweetened by orange juice and honey, this gefilte fish recipe can help you welcome a sweet new year.

9 inch round cake pan
small bowl
aluminum foil

1 (16 ounce) loaf gefilte fish, defrosted
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
Press fish into pan.
Whisk remaining ingredients in bowl and pour over top of fish.
Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes and heated through.

This recipe is pareve and can be served with either dairy or meat kosher meals.

Most gefilte fish is usually made of carp and whitefish.

The gefilte fish loaf can be found in the frozen foods. Here are three stores I know that carry the gefilte fish frozen load. Call your local store to check and see if they carry it as well.

Giant Food
3757 Old Court Rd
Pikesville, MD 21208
(410) 602-7660

Gourmet Again
3713 Old Court Rd
Pikesville, MD 21208
(410) 484-8959

122 Shawan Rd
Cockeysville, MD 21030
(410) 773-3900

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Brews from the Fancy Food Show

The Summer International Fancy Food Show has been an annual pilgrimage for me for the last 10 years: whether with friends looking for an excuse to go to New York and dine at great restaurants, as the marketing and public relations director of the exhibiting Vanns Spices, or trend monitoring for my food consulting business. This year, like last year, I was “booth staff” for friends of mine, Katie Luber and Sara Engram, founders of the award-winning tsp spices.

Each year the Summer International Fancy Food Show gets bigger and bigger. The Fancy Food Show attracted approximately 24,000 attendees from specialty food, wine, gift and department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, mail-order and other related businesses. This year they expanded to a 3rd floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. It is truly overwhelming and impossible to notice every new item, though I gave it my best try in my down time at the show.

With ¼ of our paychecks going to fill the tank of our car there is less dining out and more dining in. Consumers are more involved in what is going on their table focusing on new flavors, healthy-for-you, eco-friendly, and convenience. As time permits I will be writing about my picks from the show.


#1 Pick: Hydrangea Tea (also known as Suguk Cha, E-Seul Cha or Morning Dew Tea in Korea or Amacha in Japanese).

WHY: This herbal tea is naturally sweet, truly sweet no sugar needed. No artifical sweetners or sugar needed. The key word is natural.

The sweetness of hydrangea is all natural. There is a component in the leaf called "phyllodulcin" which gives it its natural sweet flavor. The process of rolling the tea leaves further brings out this natural taste. The hydrangea plant used for this tea isn't the typical plant you find in your back yard but a different "breed" of hydrangeas grown in the wild in high altitudes.

The Japanese use the Amacha in ceremonies celebrating Buddha.

To purchase:
Hankook Tea Usa, Inc. or you can check your Korean Grocery Stores. It is not cheap and a little goes a long way.

Honorable Mention

Premium Goji Tea

To make Goji Tea it used to take 3 to 4 hours of brewing and it tasted bitter. They have perfected the 100% Natural Goji tea that can brew in 3 minutes in hot or cold water. It is 90% Gojiberry, 8% wild rice with cassa tore and Solomon’s seal wrapping up the mix.

Medicinal claims on the website are numerous from extend your life, strengthen muscles and bones and improves digestion. I believ e there are medical benefits to the Goji Tea but maybe not their claim to prevent cancer – it probably lost something in the translation of the website.

The taste and aroma was earthy to me, for some reason reminiscent of dried mushrooms, and I liked it with nothing else needing to be added.

They also have Baeksie Gojiberry tea powder, a granulated tea and wonder how chefs might may adapt this in their cooking and baking just as they have with Green Tea Mancha.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Marcella's Memories - Amarcord

One of the benefits of my diverse food writing is receiving advanced copies of cookbooks and food related books. Publicist extraordinaire and friend, Carrie Weinberg-Bachman, formerly of Harper Collins/Wm Morrow, forwarded the soon-to-be released copy of Marcella Hazan's autobiography, Amarcord ~ The Remarkable Life Story of the Woman Who Started Out Teaching Science in a Small Town in Italy, but Ended Up Teaching America How to Cook Italian.

I am a huge fan of Marcella's cookbooks; they are a must for every cook's shelf, the Italian gospel in cooking. I remember taking a cooking class 20 years ago and one of the recipes taught was her herb marinated green beans, simple yet vibrant in flavor. It is a recipe I have prepared over the years to the same oohs and ahhs I gave it when I first tasted it.

I have heard of Marcella's perfectionism and getting an insight into what makes her tick was a story I wanted to read. What brought this Italian girl to the forefront of the US and international culinary world was a fascinating read. From the beginning of the book, pre-war Italy and life as an Italian then, and through the war, to bringing authentic Italian cuisine to the world ~ this is a "must read." There are no cooking recipes but recipes for life and passion.

Amarcord by Marcella Hazan - release date October 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

Overwhelmed in the Wildwood Food Triangle (recipe included)

My nose stopped me dead in my tracks on the Wildwood, New Jersey boardwalk, it was a magical crossroads where all the aromas of boardwalk food came together: pizza, sausage with onions and peppers and French fries. Liken my image at that moment to Mary Tyler Moore twirling around in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, just before she tosses her hat (or was it a beret) in the air, awe struck of her surroundings. I turned to “the husband” and said “here, right here, in this food triangle, is where I want my ashes to go. I want to enjoy these aromas both here-and-now and the hereafter.”

It is at this section of the boardwalk where there are food stands on both sides with a broad intersecting street that has even more food vendors that creates such intense aromas. No matter what time of day or night, I must stop for an Italian Sausage Sandwich – it is the full blast bouquet of the fried onions and peppers that makes me salivate.

I had a hankering for one them sammiches* yesterday, so off I went to the food store for the crusty 6 inch sub rolls, Italian sausage, and a large green pepper.

How to Make an Awesome Italian Sausage Sammich

5 to 6 Italian Sausages (mild or hot) – I do mild
1/3 cup Water
1 Tablespoon Pure olive oil
1 large Onion, peeled, halved and slice in thin half moons
1 large Green pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1/3 to 1/2 cup Tomato sauce, tomato puree or pasta sauce (choose 1)

¼ cup White Wine

5 to 6 6-inch sub rolls, similar in crustiness to Keyser rolls (do not use hotdog rolls)

1. Take a fork and poke holes in the sausages on both sides

2. Put a 1/3 cup of water in a 10 or 12 inch sauté pan (you will need a lid to the pan). Add the sausages and put on a medium to medium high heat and cover. This will cook the sausage and allow some of the fat to run out of the sausage. This should about 10 minutes.

3. In an another 10 to 12 inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil, add the onions and peppers and heat over medium heat, put the lid on and sweat them. As they become soft add the tomato sauce, tomato puree or pasta sauce and optional white wine. Put the lid back on the pan and let it simmer.

4. Take the sausages from their liquid and add them to the onion-pepper mixture and let them simmer so all the flavors meld. (by this time the smell of the onions and peppers will be driving you crazy).

5. Prepare your rolls. Tear out some of the bread inside the roll so to create a cradle for the sausage and peppers. I first put some of the pepper and onion mixture, then the sausage and top with more onion and peppers.

6. Mangia baby, enjoy that sammich!


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