Archive for August, 2007|Monthly archive page

The New Dunkin’ Donuts – in LA?

DD

Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but the Dunkin’ Donuts you know and love may soon be changing. According to a Time Magazine article a couple months ago…

If it weren’t for the pink door handle shaped like the letter D at the new Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Sarasota, Fla., you might think you had stumbled into a Starbucks. Bags of beans and oversize coffee mugs near the door? Check. A waiting area for lattes and cappuccinos? Check. Heck, there’s even free wi-fi and a rack of gift cards by the register.

This is the Dunkin’ Donuts of the future, a chic space with soaring ceilings and earth-toned walls that will be the prototype for every new store the 57-year-old chain opens. “We’re not a sleepy little New England company anymore,” says Dunkin’ Brands CEO Jon Luther, 63. Sure, they’ll still have time to make the doughnuts for your morning commute, but Luther thinks the slightly musty chain is ready to take on the industry giants–Starbucks and McDonald’s–on their turf. He started small, rolling out espresso drinks in 2003; they now account for 5% of sales. Next he plans to triple the number of U.S. stores, to 15,000, by 2020; expand the menu with pizza and flatbread sandwiches; and give the stores a much-needed makeover.

I just hope they expand out to the west coast. Everytime I visit the east coast I always grab a cup of DD coffee and a couple of bags to take back to LA.

BREAKING NEWS!: Just a couple days ago I spotted Dunkin’ Donuts bags of beans in a Los Angeles area Walgreens. To my knowledge this had previously been unavailable ANYWHERE on the west coast. Correct me if I’m wrong…

But don’t worry about DD turning into a Starbucks or McDonalds.

Instead of trying to compete head on at lunch and dinner, Dunkin’ is betting on snacks like smoothies and miniature pizzas. Drive-through customers account for 60% of its business, so Dunkin’ is focusing on food you can eat with one hand on the steering wheel. Since people stop in for coffee all day long, the hope is that they will be more inclined to grab a quick snack too. The prototype store uses high-speed ovens that can heat sandwiches in less than a minute while giving the bread those toasted brown edges no microwave can imitate.

But you won’t find a dollar doughnut menu at Dunkin’. Rather than engage in a price war with the fast-food giants, Dunkin’ is trying to close the gap between itself and Starbucks. Although it makes more money on breakfast sales overall than the Seattle-based chain, the average Dunkin’ check is just $1.85, vs. $3.75 at Starbucks, notes food analyst Tom Miner of research firm Technomic. Dunkin’ has positioned its breakfast sandwiches as quick quality, at the same price as Starbucks, $2.99. “I think they’re in a good position against their competitors,” says Miner. “Their biggest challenge is to focus on a couple of very popular items and do them really well.”

Oh, and just in case you want a Dunkin’ Donuts fix every morning, pick up one of these Retro Dunkin’ Donut Diner Mug featuring “Dunkie” the original mascot for $3.99.

Photo from Flickr.

100 Calories

Coke

Are those 100-calorie snack packs really worth it? According to Treehugger.com, they’re not.

Extra packaging and smaller bags factor into the price hike, but you might as well buy a regular bag and divvy it up into smaller portions.

The extra convenience—and unnecessarily wasteful packaging—costs extra money, says a new study from the Center for Science in Public Interest. ABC News notes that if you buy a large bag of the regular Chex Mix snack and divvy up portions equal to 100 calories each, you’d only be out 25 cents per portion, compared with 87 cents if you went with a 100-calorie pack. Each 100-calorie portion of Keebler Chips Deluxe Family Size Cookies cost 16 cents, but a prepackaged snack would cost you 40 cents extra. (from Treehugger.com)

And ABC News suggests that even though they only contain 100 calories, too much of a good thing can be bad.

For example, by splurging and eating two 100-calorie packs of Hostess Mini Cupcakes, suddenly a person has consumed more calories than if he or she had eaten one large Hostess cupcake.

And Jacobson said people should realize the types of foods that are in the snack packs.

“I think it’s important to note that none of these foods are really health foods. We’re talking cookies and crackers — foods that we really shouldn’t be eating much of anyhow,” Jacobson said. (from ABC News)

These 100-calorie packs are so popular that everyone is making reduced calorie packs now, even Coke.

And according to USA Today…

The category didn’t exist four years ago. But 29 such 100-calorie pre-packaged products were introduced over the past three years — 18 last year. (from USA Today)

Check out this chart that shows how the percent change from a year ago has lifted the “treats” category by 14 BILLION dollars.

So you pretty much have 2 choices…either spend the extra money for already portioned snack, or portion it out yourself. Just don’t go gorging on the 100 calorie packs because they sound healthier. Cause they’re probably not.

More Dinner with the Band

Dinner with the Band

I’m going out of town this weekend so I thought I’d download a few podcasts for my trip. As I was browsing through iTunes, I noticed that “Dinner with the Band,” an online show hosted by chef Sam Mason, was available for download in all different kinds of format.

In case you missed my first post about this a while back, the premise is this; Chef Sam Mason invites a band over, cooks with them or uses them as a theme, and then the band plays some songs. It’s done really well and it’s entertaining, probably more so than most cooking shows on TV.

Here’s a cooking show that breaks the mold – the perfect mash-up of indie music and edgy food for total entertainment. Chef Sam Mason has been raising the stakes in the culinary world for the last ten years. Now join him as he invites his favorite touring bands to dinner for an intimate evening of cooking, conversation and live performance. Part rocker, part chef, Mason creates “intellectual food” that stimulates the palate as well as the dialogue. Rock on. (from On Networks)

So head over to the Dinner with the Band site or go browse the podcasts on iTunes.

For more on Sam Mason, including his latest projects, check out his site, sammasonnyc.com.

A Grindhouse Breakfast

Grindhouse

Here’s a great find by the new and improved Epicurious Blog network.

For your viewing pleasure, head over to Something Awful and check out the Grindhouse-inspired breakfast cereals.

These cereals are definitely NOT kid friendly but they’re pretty creative and perfectly fit the theme of the movie.

Kai-pee-reen-yah

Caipirinha

Don’t call it a mojito. Cause it’s not. It may look a bit similar, but if you use the authentic ingredients you’ll see (and taste) why this drink stands on its own.

It’s a caipirinha and it’s the perfect summer drink AND it might be the easiest drink you’ll ever make.

You can use vodka (known as a caipiruska) or rum, but it’s not authentic if you don’t have a bottle of Cachaça (ka-SHA-sa). I just picked up my first bottle…it’s a totally different taste than rum or vodka, hard-hitting, but lite and delicious. It’s strong enough for a man, but sweet enough for a woman.

I went to my local liquor store and picked up a bottle of Leblon. It’s a clear, nice looking bottle, with lime green mountain silhouettes (symbolic of the Leblon, Brazil mountains). Mine came with a muddle, which I was in need of, so I was sold.

Here’s some background info on the caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail.

The national drink of Brazil, the Caipirinha gained its popularity in the 1950s and 1960s on the beaches of Rio and Sao Paulo State during the days of Jobim and Bossa Nova. To the non-Brazilian, the Caipirinha has similarities to its muddled cousin the Mojito and the lime-based Margarita. To us, the Caipirinhas have become a whole new cocktail platform for muddling fruits and other ingredients into exciting creations. (from Leblon)

The city of Paraty gave its name to the drink: parati is a synonym for cachaça. Other words for it include: pinga, caninha, branquinha, malvada. There are tours of distillers in the state of Minas Gerais, much in the same way as you’d tour vineyards in Sonoma Valley or in France, with the added bonus of their famous regional cuisine. Cachaça is also notorious for brands with pornographic labels…they’re hilarious!

You can also make a pitcher of caipirinha. Figure out how many people and multiply amounts. If you can’t find cachaça where you live, use a good vodka. The drink will then be called caipiroshka. No vodka? Use white rum and you will have a caipiríssima. Caipirinhas made with sake are all the rage in Rio now!

You can use cachaça to flambé bananas and other food; add it to hot chocolate and even to coffee; marinate pork loin and pork chops, etc. (from Maria’s Cookbook)

It might be tough for you to find a bottle of Cachaça, but if your liquor store carries it, I highly recommend picking up a bottle of the Leblon brand. If your store doesn’t carry it, try bevmo.com. I didn’t know much about it before buying the bottle, but after tasting it and taking a look at their site, turns out the stuff is pretty legit.

Leblon Cachaça was awarded a Double Gold Medal at the 7th Annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It was one of only two spirits in its category to receive the Double Gold Medal, and Leblon was also named “Top Cachaca” by a judging panel of the most influential spirits industry professionals in the U.S. The category with the largest growth was Cachaca – which went from three entries in 2006 (when it was introduced as a new category) to 16 entries in 2007 – making it equal to the Gin category for number of entries.

The recipe is simple enough:

  • 2 oz Cachaça (or vodka or rum or sake…)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 lime
  • crushed ice
  • muddle

And the directions are super quick:

  1. Rinse your lime, then dice it (roll it a bit to release the juices first). Once diced, toss in the sugar. Then, using a muddle, smush the sugar and lime til it turns into a sweet syrup. If you don’t have a muddle, a wooden spoon should work.
  2. Next, fill the remaining space in the glass with crushed ice.
  3. Finally, pour in the liquor. A shot or two will do.

Still confused? Here’s a step by step lesson in caipirinha-ing (I made that word up by the way…) and there’s also a video that can help.

Be sure to snoop around their site (liveloveleblon.com) for Leblon party invites, Brazilian music downloads and streaming radio, recipes and a ton of other interactive features.

Although this drink is good all year long, it’s especially refreshing in the summer, so get out those muddles and get to work. You don’t have much longer.

Photo from Flickr.

The Science of Menus or How Red Lobster Became Classy

menu

Think they just toss some items on a menu under their appropriate categories? Think again.

There’s an actual science behind where each item is placed on a menu in order to get you to spend the most money.

Here’s some of their secrets. You can check out the entire article on Forbes Traveler.

One of the reasons the tabs are going up is because of something you probably don’t realize. Then again, you’re not supposed to realize it: the secret science of menu psychology. Smart chefs (or their menu consultants) know that when most of you open a menu, your eyes go right to the top of the page on the right side. And, armed with that knowledge, chefs place the menu item that will give them the most profit at the top of the page. Hence, it soon becomes their biggest seller. Then, your eyes normally drift to the center of the page. That’s where many chefs place their absolutely most expensive item. They do that not because they expect you to buy that item, but because the psychology of menus indicates you’ll probably then look at the items immediately above and below the high ticket item and order one of those. Again, those two items rank second and third for generating profits.

There’s also a psychology to how menu items are priced.

• Not surprisingly, there is a migration toward higher price points. People buy brands, and food is an easy indulgence. That’s why we buy $4 Starbucks over fifty cent convenience store coffee.

• Price rounding psychology only works with lower-priced items: Someone will buy a $1.99 taco, but not one sold at $2. On higher priced items at upscale restaurants, it’s all called hip, minimalist pricing, and items are rounded up. That big steak in the fine dining restaurant isn’t $38.95, it’s $39.

• What’s the price barrier? $20 is the tipping point for casual dining restaurants. You won’t see many items at PF Changs or Cheesecake Factory above $19.99.

• Restaurants have also learned that pictures sell food, but pictures also pull down the perception of overall quality. Denny’s and IHop use pictures, but Red Lobster is becoming more upscale and stopped using photos last year. Their price points – and their profits – went up.

Not only has Red Lobster stopped using pictures, but they’re totally reinventing their restaurants.

A few weeks ago, the seafood chain, owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, launched a marketing campaign designed to highlight an expanded fresh fish menu and other new culinary creations.

Sensing that some consumers associate Red Lobster with frozen seafood and dining rooms cluttered with fishing memorabilia, executives have been tweaking its look and feel.

Several months ago, Red Lobster introduced a daily rotating menu of fresh fish selections.

The chain also tested a sleeker restaurant design — meant to evoke the Maine coast — that it says will be used as the model for new restaurants. (from the Orlando Sentinel)

And on a related note, Red Lobster actually won an award for the Best Menu Revamp in 1999, but after reading the above you can probably tell that didn’t work out so well.

Lets just hope they keep that delicious cheesey wine biscuits on the tables. In case you haven’t tried them, or if you just want to make it at home, here’s the recipe.

Photo from Flickr.

All out of…

All Out Of

I always forget what I need to get at the grocery store. I keep Post-Its on hand or I’ll scribble notes down on paper, but I always seem to forget something.

That’ll change soon, though. Here’s a couple of items that’ll help you keep track of your groceries, one high-tech and the other old school.

First, the old school. Head over to Perpetual Kid and pick up one of these “All Out Of” note pads.

The miracle of checking off depleted items as you go! Magnets on the back allow for easy refrigerator mounting!

6 x 9 inches, 60 pages, 80-pound uncoated text stock with chipboard backing and adhesive binding.

It’ll only cost ya $6.49 per pad. Good deal if you ask me.

And if you’re living in the digital age and you have an iPhone, check out One Trip.

What’s the one thing you’re sure to have on you when you go to the store – other than your wallet, that is? Your phone. Here’s a simple way to use your iPhone for a little more than passing time by talking to friends while strolling down the aisle. Just browse on over to OneTrip.org and check off items as you add them to your cart. Add new ones from a list of common items with just a tap, or type in that one herb we forgot to put on the list – OneTrip will remember it for next time you shop for the same thing.

Oh, and this one will cost ya nothing. It’s totally free. Head over to the site to give it a try.

Kool to be Kosher

Hot Nosh

Ever wonder what people who keep kosher eat when stranded somewhere where the only food available is fast food or items from vending machines? Me neither. I never really thought about this, probably cause I don’t keep kosher, but I guess it would be a problem if I did.

But no more. Finally, there’s now a vending machine that dispenses hot kosher food thanks to Hot Nosh 24/6 (24 hours a day/6 days a week…sabbath observed of course) according to Reveries.com. How’d this come about?

Alan Cohnen was hungry. Last year, he sat in an airport lounge munching on a bag of chips from a vending machine. Around him, people enjoyed pizza, hamburgers, and other noshes unavailable to Cohnen because kosher food could only be found in the vending machine, which meant only potato chips and pretzels. Cohnen, of Teaneck, and his business partner Doron Fetman, of Monsey, N.Y., came up with the idea of a kosher automat and set to work in September to make it a reality. They self-financed and formed Kosher Vending Industries LLC and partnered with KRh Thermal Systems Inc., which owns the patent on the automated system.

They’ll start with 25 machines throughout New Jersey and New York, but hope to expand quickly to locations where kosher items are unavailable. These machines will serve pizza, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, vegetable cutlets, potato knishes, and French fries, at a cost of $3 to $4 per item, but Cohnen hopes to unveil a meat machine if this takes off.

Good idea you say, but is it cool to keep kosher? Well, if you classify Russell Simmons and Phat Farm as cool, then it definitely is cool to keep kosher.

What do the world of hip-hop and kosher vending have in common? A lot, according to Ruby Azrak, former Phat Farm executive and partner to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, and current producer of House of Dereon, superstar Beyonce’s family brand. Mr. Azrak has invested in the company to help fuel a nationwide expansion. While specific terms were not disclosed, Mr. Azrak confirmed his investment in KVI was “in the millions.” Regarding the unlikely pairing of hip hop culture and instant hot kosher food, Mr. Azrak explains: “Every business I go into targets niche audiences. Hot Nosh 24/6 addresses a void and taps into the kosher food market in a way that no other product does today.”

It’s definitely kool to be kosher.

Fat Food…I mean, Fast Food

McD’s

I try not to eat fast food, but I’ll always cave for a White Castle hamburger when I’m in NYC. Sometimes you just don’t really have a choice in the matter.

So at the request of my brother, here’s some of your better options and some helpful tips when eating fast food.

First up are a few tips from AskMen.com.

Remember that good options include:

  • The smallest size of burger
  • Grilled chicken sandwiches or salads
  • Low-fat dressings and sauces (or none at all)
  • Diet soft drinks or water

A few things to avoid:

  • Super sizes of anything
  • Fried or breaded chicken or fish
  • Chicken nuggets
  • High-fat sauces and dressings
  • Onion rings
  • Extra cheese

Those are pretty obvious, but Real Simple has tips when ordering at some of the more popular fast food places.

For example, when dining at…

Burger King

If You Usually Order: A Whopper with cheese and a side salad.

Make It Healthier: Satisfy your burger craving (and cut out almost 500 calories) by replacing the Whopper with a hamburger from the kids’ menu. (Kids’ menus offer smaller portions.)

Better Yet: Order the Tender Grilled Chicken Sandwich – there’s no crispy fried stuff and no creamy sauce, and you can ask them to double up on the lettuce and tomato for an extra helping of vegetables.

McDonald’s

If You Usually Order: Six-piece Chicken McNuggets (with a side of ranch sauce) and large French fries.

Make It Healthier: Ask for medium fries and replace the ranch sauce with barbecue and you’ve knocked 345 calories off your meal.

Better Yet: Get the California Cobb Salad with grilled chicken. Just beware of what you put on the salad: The Cobb dressing adds 120 calories and 9 grams of fat. Opt for the low-fat balsamic vinaigrette.

Wendy’s

If You Usually Order: A loaded baked potato (stuffed with bacon, cheese, low-fat sour cream, and Buttery Best spread) and a small Original Chocolate Frosty.

Make It Healthier: Save 130 calories and 16 grams of fat by loading your potato with chili, low-fat sour cream, and broccoli.

Better Yet: Try a baked potato topped with chili, broccoli, and chives. It is filling, has loads of fiber, and has a mere 370 calories and 3 grams of fat. Add a glass of 1 percent reduced-fat chocolate milk to satisfy a sweet tooth.

KFC

If You Usually Order: An Extra Crispy chicken breast and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Make It Healthier: Order an Original Recipe wing and leg (290 calories and 17 grams of fat total). Though white meat seems a wise choice, the breast is one of the worst items on the menu, with 460 calories and 28 grams of fat.

Better Yet: Get the Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwich. It only has 300 calories and 6 grams of fat. Among sides, best bets include mashed potatoes (without gravy), green beans, and a small corn on the cob.

Taco Bell

If You Usually Order: Chalupas (fried taco shells filled with cheese and ground beef).

Make It Healthier: “Avoid the crispy things in favor of soft tortillas,” says Leslie Bonci, director of sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. (Indeed, the word crispy is often a euphemism for “fried.”)

Better Yet: Order food “Fresco-Style,” which replaces a dish’s normal sauce and cheese with fresh salsa. Loading up on salsa instead of cheese and other sauces can save you hundreds of calories and 10 or more grams of fat.

Subway

If You Usually Order: A classic tuna sandwich with Cheddar cheese and potato chips.

Make It Healthier: Get a wheat roll, and add extra vegetables. If you can’t omit the cheese, know that American cheese is the lowest-fat option, followed by provolone, with Swiss and Cheddar tied for last. Choose baked chips.

Better Yet: Subway’s tuna salad contains lots of mayonnaise, so a less cholesterol-raising option would be the Veggie Delite or Turkey-Breast Sandwich from the “6 Grams of Fat or Less” side of the menu.

—————————————————————-

Just remember that if you don’t think it’s a healthy choice, it probably isn’t. Some other things to remember when ordering:

BURGERS – Keep in mind lots of burger joints (fast food included) now offer “protein style” where they wrap your burger in lettuce instead of a bun. If you need the bun, see if they offer a whole wheat option. Also turkey burgers are usually healthier than beef.

PIZZA – Go thin crust. Light on cheese, and pile on veggies and protein (like chicken).

PASTA – Ask for a whole wheat pasta option, or get a chicken parm sans bread.

JAPANESE – Avoid anything “tempura” and stick to fishes high in omega-3’s and things like salmon, veggies, and avocado which include healthy fats. Also a soy option (miso soup or edemame) is a good idea.

INDIAN – Replace pappadams (thin and crispy) with naan (thicker bread) and order your food grilled rather than smothered in sauces.

MEXICAN – Limit yourself to chips. Instead of tacos or anything cripsy, stick to a flour tortilla and fill it with extra veggies, lots of salsa, leaner meats and a lot of guacamole instead of sour cream.

If that’s not specific enough for you, check out this site which includes a pretty comprehensive list of various fast food places and their healthier options.

Photo from Flickr, where I found this poem attached to the photo. Pretty much sums up our fast food nation.

Fast Food Nation.

Obesity.

They say we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic.
An epidemic like it is polio.
Like we’ll be telling our grand kids about it one day.
The Great Obesity Epidemic of 2004 (-07 and counting)
“How’d you get through it grandpa?”
“Oh, it was horrible Johnny, there was cheesecake and pork chops everywhere.”

Nobody knows why were getting fatter?
Look at our lifestyle.
I’ll sit at a drive thru.
I’ll sit there behind fifteen other cars instead of getting up to make the eight foot walk to the totally empty counter.

Everything is mega meal, super sized. Want biggie fries, super sized, want to go large.
You want to have thirty burgers for a nickel?
There’s room in the bag. Take it!
Want a 55 gallon drum of Coke with that? It’s only three more cents.

Adapted from Underwear Goes Inside The Pants – Lazyboy.

Veggie Art

Veggie Alien

This is by far one of the coolest food-themed paintings I’ve seen. It’s definitely a step up from this kind of vegetable art, even if it’s not actually REAL vegetables.

It looks a bit like the alien from Aliens, but apparently it’s a tribute to H.R. Giger and Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Entitled Salad, this painting by Till Nowak was in the art exhibit side of Emerging Technologies. It’s modeled and rendered in Autodesk 3DS MAX and then retouched in photoshop for that “painting” look.

Click here to see how exactly this was done and some close up detailing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.