Archive | May, 2011

Restaurant Outlook Positive So Far in 2011

31 May

The overall outlook is positive right now for restaurant performance, as reported by the National Restaurant Association. March and April are showing solid stats, and restaurant operators are signaling their confidence in the dining industry thus far. Despite some negativity towards the chances of economic recovery, many restaurants are stocking up on items to help them bring in more business – such as new equipment.  The year is still relatively young, but so far it looks like restaurants are holding steady!

We’re sharing the following excerpts from an article recently published on restaurantnews.com. Follow this link to read the full post in its original location.

Restaurant Industry Outlook Remains Positive as Restaurant Performance Index Stood Above 100 for Fifth Consecutive Month

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 11:13 am

Buoyed by positive same-store sales and solid optimism among restaurant operators for continued growth, the outlook for the restaurant industry remained positive in April. The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 100.9 in April, essentially unchanged from a level of 101.0 in March. In addition, April represented the fifth consecutive month in which the RPI stood above 100, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

“The restaurant industry continued to build momentum in April, with restaurant operators reporting positive same-store sales and customer traffic levels for the sixth time in the last eight months,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. “Barring any significant external shocks, restaurant sales and traffic levels will continue to improve in the months ahead.”

Restaurant operators continued to report net positive same-store sales results in April. Fifty percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between April 2010 and April 2011, down slightly from 52 percent of operators who reported higher same-store sales in March. In comparison, 31 percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in April, matching the proportion of operators who reported lower sales in March.

Restaurant operators also reported a net increase in customer traffic in April, although levels were somewhat softer than the March results. Thirty-eight percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in customer traffic between April 2010 and April 2011, down from 45 percent of operators who reported higher traffic in March. In comparison, 35 percent of operators reported a traffic decline in April, up from 32 percent in March.

Capital spending activity among restaurant operators trended upward in recent months. Forty-eight percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, the highest level in nearly three years.

Restaurant operators remain bullish about sales growth in the months ahead. Forty-seven percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), down slightly from 50 percent who reported similarly last month. In comparison, just 13 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, matching the proportion who reported similarly last month.

While restaurant operators’ sales outlook remains positive, they aren’t quite as optimistic about the direction of the overall economy in the coming months. Thirty-three percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, up slightly from 32 percent who reported similarly last month. In comparison, 17 percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to worsen in the next six months, compared to 19 percent who reported similarly last month.

Restaurant operators reported a slight dropoff in plans for capital spending in the months ahead. Forty-nine percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, down slightly from 53 percent who reported similarly last month.

For the seventh consecutive month, restaurant operators reported a positive outlook for staffing levels in the coming months. Twenty-four percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), while just 11 percent said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months.

The RPI is based on the responses to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey, which is fielded monthly among restaurant operators nationwide on a variety of indicators including sales, traffic, labor, and capital expenditures. The full report and a video summary are available online.

How to Make the Perfect Grilled Pizza

27 May

Memorial Day is coming up fast, and everyone is talking about grilling.

In case you’re contemplating pizza instead of something a little more traditional, check out the recipe below. These excerpts are courtesy of SeriousEats.com. To read the full story, follow this link. Enjoy, and have a marvelous Memorial Day weekend!

How to Make a Grilled Pizza

Posted by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, May 27, 2010 at 3:30 PM

Courtesy seriouseats.com

For my money, grilling pizza is by far the best way to cook pizza at home. It’s the only method that consistently delivers the crisp, blistered crust that the best pizzerias achieve.

The basic theory is easy. Take a round of pizza dough, expose it to the intense heat of a grill, flip it, top it, char the bottom, and serve. Because grills can reach upwards of 600°F and emit radiant energy like a motherfu**er, the pizzas bubble, crisp, and char in about 45 seconds flat per side. That’s timing that rivals the hottest wood-burning oven, and just like those pizzas, the result is a crust that is soft and chewy in the center, with a crisp, crackly shell that’s deeply charred in spots—especially if you go all out and make it with the finely milled Italian type “00” flour.

Have you ever seen anything this spotty-yummy come out of a home oven?

There Are a Couple of Snags — Here’s How to Work Around Them

1. There is no heat source on top of the pies. This means that you have to reverse the order of the toppings, placing the cheese directly against the freshly charred crust so that it melts properly. The tomato sauce (I prefer a simple uncooked sauce of salted canned San Marzanos) has to be applied in dollops so that the melty cheese can show through.

2. It also means that toppings that require cooking must be precooked and added hot—say, sausage chunks or spinach leaves. Additionally, salumi like soppressata or pepperoni will not get the deliciously crisp edges that they do in a normal oven.

As a crust lover, personally, It’s a trade off I’m willing to make.

Finally, just like a good stir fry, mise en place is all-important. These things cook fast, so have all of your tools and ingredients on hand before you throw the first piece of dough on the grill.

Follow our recipe for grilled pizza for exact timing and measurements or, if think you’ve got a good dough and sauce of your own, head into the sideshow above for a quick visual breakdown of the process.

About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and co-writes the blog GoodEater.org about sustainable food enjoyment.

On the Prowl: Finding the Best Margaritas in Fort Worth, TX

19 May

Cool, refreshing, with just the right mix of sweet and sour: nothing says summer quite the way a margarita does! If you happen to be passing through Forth Worth, TX in the coming hot months, this little post may help.

We found this article on livability.com and took a few excerpts to share with you here. To see the full article in its original location, follow this link. And check out the rest of the site while you’re there – we love browsing their reviews for new ideas and suggestions.

You know what would make browsing even more fun? A margarita….

Get Your Margarita On in Fort Worth

Lance C. | Livability.com
May 6 2011

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For reference, the by-the-book margarita, carved into stone by the booze scholars at the International Bartenders Association, is composed of seven parts tequila, four parts Triple Sec (a French orange liqueur) and three parts lime or lemon juice. The mixture is poured over ice in a salt rimmed glass. With a recipe that simple, though, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

If you’re ever in Fort Worth, TX, you might want to consider trying the ‘ritas at one of these places:

Dos Gringos

In my experience, the best margaritas come from the places that don’t look like they’re trying too hard. Dos Gringos (Spanish for, uh, two gringos?) is a run-of-the-mill TexMex joint in the DFW area but they serve positively enormous margaritas served in Boracho glasses. Though their “Best Margaritas” title has been ceded to the usurpers at Joe T. Garcia’s, there’s something to be said for taking the title home at least once. Give the Gringo-Rita a try, it’s their top shelf signature.

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The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

If your tastes are quite a bit fancier than “Arlington dive bar,” The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro might be up your alley. It does have the word “bistro” in its name, after all. Located in the touristy Stockyards section of Fort Worth, Lonesome Dove is the creation of local rock star chef (and one time Iron Chef competitor/winner) Tim Love, specializing in rustic Western cuisine. But we’re not here to talk about the kangaroo nachos. One of Lonesome Dove’s signature cocktails is the Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita, which tastes more or less like it sounds – not quite spicy, not quite sweet, with a solid bite from the Casa Noble and Cointreau.

La Familia Mexican Restaurant

If you want style without the heavy price tag associated with gourmet food, La Familia will set your margarita on fire. No, literally. Their house margaritas are served with flaming sugar cubes balanced on lime wedges, like a half-remembered absinthe recipe. Reviews are mixed on the margaritas themselves, but who doesn’t like a little spectacle?

Summer at the Double Wide

11 May

If you live in Pittsburgh and haven’t tried the Double Wide Grill on East Carson, you’re missing out. And if you’re planning a trip to Pittsburgh this summer, this is one tasty, laid-back place you’ve got to try!

Review is from Pittsburgh Magazine, and before that it was published in After Dark. Check out the link at the bottom to learn more.  Thanks to Sean for highlighting yet another fabulous summer dining hangout!

Time Again for Double Wide Grill’s Summer Menu

Yes, Double Wide Grill is a themed restaurant. No, it’s not an overpriced Rainforest Cafe, nor a place where you’ll pay ridiculous prices for cheesecake just for the opportunity to eat it near some sunglasses from Terminator 2.

by Sean Collier

Double Wide Grill's white fish seviche, served on a corn tortilla. Photo courtesy of Double Wide Grill

I’m looking at the 10-day weather forecast. Yes, I know it’s the optimistic, reckless brother to the more sensible five-day forecast, but I’m embracing the future.

And the temperatures, it seems, are creeping up—not yet to full-on summer territory, but with regularity that ensures a comfortable night in the elements to anyone clothed in jeans and a hoodie. It is time to begin heading outside. It is time to taste beer in the fresh air.
It is time, once again, for Double Wide Grill.

Sure, I’ll stop in for a big meal full of ribs and gusto throughout the winter, but with more sunlight and higher nighttime lows, one’s inclination rises for the uniquely themed restaurant on the South Side. And Double Wide has obliged us by expanding their kitchen hours; you can get some great home-style grub until midnight Sunday through Tuesday or until 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Bonus: You can keep drinking ‘til 2 a.m. every night.

If you’re unfamiliar with Double Wide, you may have shuddered at the words “themed restaurant,” but make no mistake. This is no overpriced Rainforest Cafe, nor a place where you’ll pay ridiculous prices for cheesecake just for the opportunity to eat it near some sunglasses that someone wore while filming Terminator 2. This is a brilliant bit of marketing and design, turning that ‘Burgh staple—down-home cookin’—into a fun, festive experience, with every night posing as the best cookout you’ve ever attended.

It starts with the food. I’d like to direct your attention to the special barbecue menu—featuring the most meat-tastic thing this side of the Hofbrauhaus, the “Pig Out” (1/3 rack of ribs, chorizo, bacon and pulled pork for $15.29.) I can’t pass an opportunity to mention my personal favorite, though, the “Build Your Own TV Dinner”—pick a main course and four sides, and it’ll appear on a metal TV dinner tray, just like grandma used to give ya (when she didn’t have time to cook). Crazy delicious, and a filling steal at $15.99.

Double Wide’s underrated as a Sports Bar, too—remember, not everywhere you go to watch the game need be a generic family restaurant-style festival of wings and light beer. They’ve got a quartet of 10-foot projection screens, so you won’t miss a thing.

I also must mention the beer—right now, Double Wide has around 35 on tap, including Maudite, Bells Two Hearted Ale, Great Lakes Conway Irish Ale, Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA … I could go on.

But mostly, it feels like every night you ever spent on a lawn chair in good company—only infinitely more delicious. Get three to seven close friends, get a table outside (you might have to wait), and spend the whole night. Someone will challenge someone to the beanbag toss game, an impromptu eating contest may erupt or you might just spend a night reminiscing and cracking jokes ‘til well after midnight.

There are surprisingly few places on the South Side to do this kind of thing outdoors; fortunately, Double Wide Grill is the all you’ll need.

This article appears in the May 2011 issue of After Dark

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Mother’s Day Dining in Florida

6 May

We know you’re all making plans for Mother’s Day. If you live in Florida, we’ve got a few places you might enjoy in Palm Beach and Miami. We compiled a list from various reviews on southflorida.dinemag.net – feel free to add your own Florida area faves!

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4 Palm Beach Dining Options:

1) BRIO Tuscan Brill at the Gardens Mall, Palm Beach Gardens
TIme: 10:00 a.m.

BRIO will offer an a la carte brunch menu on Mother’s Day will menu items ranging from $10.95-18.95. Enjoy breakfast favorite like White Chocolate Raspberry French Toast or Crab & Shrimp Crepes or opt for lunch favorites like Citrus Chicken with Shrimp Scampi or Grilled Salmon & Angel Hair.

2) China Beach Bistro, 409 Northwood Rd, West Palm Beach
When: May 9-14

While China Beach will be closed on Mother’s Day, they will be celebrating mom all week long (5/9-14). Bring mom in anytime during the week and she will enjoy a free dessert with the purchase of an entree. China Beach will also be giving away Northwood Neighborhood Preferred cards that will give you 20% off your entire check from now until November. Stop by anytime and ask the hostess for your card.

3) Morton’s The Steakhouse, locations in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach
Time: 3-9 pm; Cost: $59++

Take mom to Morton’s on Mother’s Day and you will enjoy a 3-course prix-fixe for just $59. Start off with your choice of salad (either Morton’s Salad or a Caesar), an entree (Single Cut Filet Mignon with Bernaise, Filet Oskar with Asparagus and Jumbo Lump Crab, Broiled Salmon, Colossal Shrimp Alexander or Chicken Christoper) with a side dish; and either Creme Brulee or Double Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

4) Four Seasons, Palm Beach
Time: noon-6pm; Cost $100++ or $30++ for children 5-12

Enjoy a delectable brunch at Four Seasons with mom this year and her experience will enjoy mini-spa treatments, complimentary gifts from Amala (the new luxury cosmetic line), and browsing in the Tory Burch Lounge. There will be a lavish display of sumptuous treats for the brunch including a Iced Seafood Station with Oysters on the Half Shell, Assorted Sushi Rolls, a fruit and yogurt bar, American Caviar, salads, tapas, a carving station, classic breakfast options like made-to-order omelets; a dessert buffet (try the hot citrus crepes with vanilla ice cream) and more.

3 Miami Dining Options:

1) Area 31 at EPIC Hotel Miami; 305.424.5234
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m; Cost $55++/adults or $25++/children 6-15

Make this Mother’s Day extra special by taking mom to Area 31 for a decadent brunch. Standouts on the menu include Lobster Ravioli with Black Truffle Sauce; Domestic Caviar and blinis; Long Island Duck Breas with Ruby Orange Glaze; Spring Greens; and Kobe Hot Dog Chemis with spicy mustard and chili sauce.

2) Atrio Restaurant & Wine Room at Conrad Hotel Miami, 1395 Brickell Ave, Miami; 305.503.6529
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., $65/person or $24/children 5-12

Sumptuous cuisine with a view will set the mood for Mother’s Day this year at Atrio. Enjoy all of mom’s favorites like Spiced Honey Roast Ham with Pineapple Salsa; Seasonal Salads like Asparagus, Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Lemon; fresh pastas include home made mac & cheese; fresh omelets made to order; and an extravagant dessert station including the decadent chocolate fountain.

3) Norman’s 180 at the Westin Colonnade Coral Gables, 180 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables
Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.; a la carte

The team at Norman’s 180 will be whipping up some Mother’s Day specials in addition to their regular breakfast menu next Sunday. These specials include the “Cuban Benedict” with poached eggs, buttermilk bisquit, smoked ham, ropa vieja and mustard bernaise ($15); Serran and Manchego Frittatas ($12); Smoked Salmon with poached asparagus, truffle ravigot and crispy fried red onions ($14); and Champagne Mascarated Local Fruit with mint, honey and chantilly ($10).