Tag Archives: restaurants

The CIA

19 Jun

Nope. Not that one. The CIA, to a foodie like me, always means the Culinary Institute of America. I have been to the CIA in San Francisco, and it is a beautiful facility. A truly magical place to learn, cook, and dine.

As you can imagine, since they train chefs, the CIA supports dining out. I like to dine out in moderation, choosing to eat in most often because of health and budget concerns. I feel that it is usually a healthier option to cook your own food, and there is no way my budget could support eating out multiple times a week. So when I dine out, it needs to count!  I want good fresh “farm to table” meals.

Greg Dreshcer of the CIA recently spoke about the american budget and eating out. He said “Consider these statistics from our annual report: In 1980, only 15% of a family’s food budget went to food from outside the home. Restaurants were primarily for special occasions, and restaurant industry sales were just below $120 billion”.

I can certainly comment on that. In 1980 I was one of 5 kids in my family, but 2 of my brothers were already out of the house. When I went out with my parents and the other kids, it was a special occasion for sure. When we did go out for dinner, my folks could not often  afford to take us out for fine dining. We usually to the local VFW hall for a Friday night fish fry during Lent. (It doesn’t get more midwestern and catholic than that!). I would say that the 15% referred to probably reflected my family at the time.

Mr. Drescher goes on to say “Today, 47% of American food dollars are being spent on restaurants and other food service operations: The industry’s sales have soared to $660 billion”. Wow! That is a huge number! Almost half of our food dollars go out the door. As I said, I enjoy dining out, but for my family, it is, like it was for me as a kid, a special occasion. But the dollar amount wasn’t really the focus of Mr. Drescher. The good news is that restaurants and chefs are now responding to a plea for healthier restaurant meals. Yay!

The consumers can really make a dent in good food choices offered at restaurants. If the consumer becomes a bit of a squeaky wheel, we can really make a difference in healthier food choices while dining out. That is our challenge for today. Start questioning the dining staff at restaurants and gently demanding healthier options. If half of our food dollars are going out the door, then we have a voice. Make it heard!  Encourage and support your local chefs that are featuring healthy food on their menus!  If they are getting 47% of our food dollars, then speak up.

1-2-3-GO!

6 Mar

Alright.  It’s March.  Let’s get rolling on thinking about the upcoming summer.  No, I don’t mean go try swim suits on.  Ugh!  Who wants to try on tiny cloths with pale dry winter skin that hasn’t seen the sun in months!  And shave my legs?  Forget it!  That is not what I am talking about!  It’s time to start planning a garden!  I started mine.  Yahoo!

I get spring fever really early in the season.  I just love warm sunny weather.  So I start to get jazzed about the upcoming summer long before the lawn needs cutting.  Long before warm breezes allow me to enjoy the screen porch.  I simply can’t help myself.  Therefore, I need to placate myself (and NOT by swim suit shopping!).  I find winter joy in planning my spring and summer garden.

The reality is, though, that I am a really busy working mom.  My fantasy of languishing in my fragrant blooming garden, dressed in crisp cotton khaki’s and a sun hat (channeling the lovely Katherine Hepburn!), fielding compliments from jealous neighbors is, well, just that.  A fantasy.  But that doesn’t stop me.  I have learned to reign myself in a bit.  I have a small garden.  But even that is very rewarding.

First, I can start planning my spring summer garden in the late winter months, which is fun.  Second, I go small and easy.  I have mostly herbs in my garden.  My time is tight, and I don’t have the greenest thumb in the world.  In fact, I am a bit clumsy in the garden, so I won’t quit, but I do work within my, shall we say, limitations.  Time, space, and ability are constraints I need to be mindful of when planning my garden.  As much as I would love to devote hours to a fabulous garden, I can’t.  And I learned that lesson the hard way, but I did learn it!

I have already put my seeds in their little peat moss pots.  I have a great sunny window seat, so I move the cushions and plunk my little seedling wannabe’s there to sprout.  My pots are in neat little rows all labels with popsicle sticks and labels.  Simple.  It is very inexpensive to set up because I stay away from the gimmicky “potting and watering systems” for new seedlings.  I go the old fashioned route.  Little cups, good seeds, rich potting soil.  I shove my finger in the filled pot and sprinkle seeds in.  I water them, keep them in a spot where they get good sun, and watch my garden begin.  Happily.

So far I have started herbs including rosemary, 2 kinds of basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint.  I also started arugula, mesculin, and other lettuces.  Again, lettuces and greens are super easy to grow.  I am practically guaranteed success.   I added green onions and red peppers.  That’s it.  Simple dimple.

My little garden scratches my spring fever itch for many months.  It’s so gratifying to watch my little sprouts peek up out of the soil and take root.  When the weather warms up, I will head out to prepare a spot in my yard.  I will spend a morning transplanting and fussing a bit over the garden.  Then I will step back and let it go!  Stepping out of the kitchen into a garden is pure magic.  Picking fresh greens and herbs is gratifying.  And the smells are amazing.  You can’t help but throw your head back, breath the fresh herbs in, and begin creating a flavorful dish in your mind.

So I can’t have the huge blooming garden I think that, as a foodie, I should have, but my little one sure makes me happy.  So go get your supplies, plant your seeds, and enjoy some summer simplicity.  It’s fun.  I promise!

Oops!

5 Feb

You are never too old to make a mistake.  Even on Manners Monday.  Well, it was actually on Saturday, but since we discuss and try to improve our manners on Manners Monday in my home, I brought up my recent faux pas.  Or at least I think it was a faux pas.

Here is the situation:  We have dinner reservations on Saturday for 3 diners.  We are running a bit early for our reservations, so we stop by a new wine bar to check it out and have a small glass of wine before dinner.  The wine bar, by the way, also serves tapas, or appetizers.   When we are seated at a table, there are small plates on the table, along with silverware rolled in a cloth napkin.

Out of habit, when seated, we all take our silverware out and place it appropriately on the table.  The 3 of us also placed the cloth napkin on our laps.  We had no intention of ordering food.  We just popped in for a quick glass of wine.  We were all engaged in pleasant conversation and simply performed our little napkin/silverware ritual without much thought.  Until the waiter corrected us.

The waiter took our drink order and brought it to the table.  Then:

Waiter:  Here is your appetizer menu.  Are you ready to order?

Us:  We just stopped by for a glass of wine.  We aren’t ordering appetizers.

Waiter:  Oh.  When you unwrapped your silverware and placed your napkin on your lap I assumed you were eating.

Us:  Oops, sorry.  (Blank awkward stare at one another).

He was very kind and gentle in his demeanor, but we couldn’t help but realize that perhaps we had made a mistake.  So I did what any self respecting person feeling guilty would do.  I tipped big.  Then I hit the internet to dig into etiquette and manners.  I wanted to know the correct table manners for simply stopping by a wine bar that only served appetizers, or “bites”.  But I couldn’t find a thing about that situation and appropriate manners.

So here is what I think.  Waiters spend a lot of time getting their stations set up and kept up.  I should know…I waitressed in college and completely understand the challenges of waiting tables.  In retrospect, it was not appropriate for us to unroll silverware and use a napkin. We added to the work load of our waiter.  Now he had to wash and reroll silverware that we had no intention of using.  We should have asked him to remove the plates and rolled silver from the table so he could use it at a later time.  I so rarely am in a situation of just having a drink and being at a table for less than an hour, so I just didn’t think.  But I sure feel like we treated the waiter unfairly, albeit unintentionally.

Here is my own rule of thumb.  Whatever situation presents itself, if I am at a table and not dining, I will use as few utensils as possible.  I appreciate the professional way our waiter handled this situation, and will certainly be more considerate moving forward.  I could not find any table manners covering this situation so I will simply put my own rules in place.  You are never too old to learn a new lesson, and I appreciate the opportunity this kind waiter presented for me to gain a new understanding.