Kitchen Efficiency Products

12 Restaurant Kitchen Tools that Maximize Efficiency

Written by Erica Bishop
February 21st, 2014

As the old adage goes, chefs are only as good as their tools. Using inefficient tools can really slow down your operation, especially during peak times. Below, we showcase a handful of commercial kitchen products that will have your back of the house running smoothly in no time.


Color-Coded Safety: Give your HACCP program a boost with smart solutions designed to reduce the risk of food-borne illness by cross-contamination. Implementing a simple color-coding system takes the guesswork out of deciding what tools to use for which foods.


Sani-Safe Knives from Dexter Russell

Kolor-Cut Cutting Boards from San Jamar

Storplus Containers from Carlisle


Speedier Prep: Kitchen prep is made oh-so-easy with the right gadgets. Task-specific equipment and tools help to quickly chop, dice, peel and julienne with precision.


Wedge Machines from Vollrath

Ergonomic Peelers from TableCraft

Madolines from Matfer and Paderno World Cuisine


Just the Right Size: Portion control tools pack a one-two punch by simultaneously lowering food costs and reducing food waste.


Portioning Scoops from Browne Halco

Portion Control Scales from Taylor Precision

Portion Control Dispensers from Service Ideas


Double-Duty Dishes: Bring cooked food from kitchen to table in just one dish. Versatile bakeware and cookware provide an elegant presentation while offering superior heat retention.


Oven-to-Table Bakers from Oneida

Cast Iron Baking Dishes from Lodge Mfg.

Miramar Display Cookware from Vollrath


Trinity Groves Brings New Eateries to Dallas

Written by Ashley Almodovar
February 19th, 2014

Trinity Groves, a 15-acre restaurant, retail and entertainment destination in Dallas, has rapidly expanded new innovative concepts since its inception. The development has attracted several startup businesses and has created not only jobs, but opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs. A central focus of the Trinity Groves project is the Restaurant Concept Incubator program, which encourages restaurateurs to create and present a unique idea to a panel of experienced restaurateurs. If a concept is accepted, the panel will help turn their idea to reality.


Since the program started, there have been several successful restaurants that include a variety of tastes, from Moroccan to Latin-Asian fusion to Italian. Here are a select few of the popular restaurants that have been thriving and cooking up some amazing plates.


Chino Chinatown
Chino Chinatown

About: Looking for a new flavor? Chino Chinatown has what you’re looking for! Inspired by Chinese immigrants that came to South America, Adrian Verdin and Uno Immanivong created Chino, a destination for a unique blend of Chinese cooking with Latin ingredients. Enjoy a variety of dishes, including hanger steak, sea bass or duck fat fries and add a hand-crafted drink to go with it. Be adventurous and taste an unexpected great flavor with every bite!





Kitchen LTO
Kitchen LTO

About: Now here is a very interesting concept for a restaurant! Kitchen LTO is a pop-up restaurant that reinvents itself three times per year and rotates between up and coming chefs and designers. Customers can enjoy a variety of amazing dishes every 4 months that may include modern Latin, New American, or modern Texan cuisine. Today, locals can relish in New American dishes by Chef Eric Shelton, including double boned pork chops, pan seared scallops and salmon BLT. Take a chance and see what kind of savory cuisine you will walk into when you visit this restaurant.




Luck (Local Urban Craft Kitchen)

About: Get your comfort on at this location! A craft beer-inspired kitchen, Luck serves delicious regional American comfort foods paired with amazing craft beers and a twist of Texas flavors. First time restaurateurs, Chef Daniel Pittman, Jeff Dietzman and Ned Steel bring local to their ingredients, including their craft beers, to give their dishes a taste of greatness. Indulge in dishes such as pork schnitzel, shrimp and grits or fire and smoke wings. Bring your friends and enjoy a brew or two!





Resto Gastro Bistro


About: Step into a world of vintage and rustic dining that’s inviting and comfortable! At Resto Gastro Bistro, Chef DJ Quintanilla serves Modern American cuisines mixed with global influences. Try a wide selection of delicious innovative dishes made with fresh ingredients, including braised beef short ribs, red chili honey cured filets and crab cakes with roasted artichokes. Pair that with a tasty drink from the cocktail menu or glance at their wine list filled with various wines from around the world. Bring a date and enjoy a great dinner for two (or more).






About: Get a taste of flavors from Morocco with influences from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Western Europe at Souk.


Owners Yaser Khalaf, Chef Najat Kaanache and Charles Accivatti bring a Moroccan Bistro where customers can not only dine, but buy handmade preserves, spices and treats from the Souk market. If you are looking to dine in, the menu has a great selection of delicious dishes that include beef kebabs, Moroccan steak filets and Taktouka, a Marrakech ratatouille salad. Pair one with a great tasting wine and you have yourself a great Moroccan meal!




In addition to restaurants and retail stores, locals can enjoy an array of exciting entertainment, including live music, art shows, cook-off competitions and more. It’s a perfect place to take the family, hang out with friends, or simply enjoy the company of others.


Q&A with Caron Golden of San Diego Foodstuff

Written by Erica Bishop
February 19th, 2014

Are you a San Diego foodie looking to try something new? Or perhaps a visiting gastronome looking to taste the area’s best fare? Then it’s time to head over to San Diego Foodstuff, where local go-to food finder Caron Golden shares her most fabulous discoveries.


A San Diego-based freelance writer and culinary blogger, Golden is passionate about food, farmer’s markets, restaurants and everything in between. Her work appears in a wide range of local and national publications, including her weekly her column, Local Bounty, and guest appearances on KPBS radio’s weekly show, Midday Edition.


A regular contributor to Edible San Diego, Golden was recently invited to author the magazine’s first blog, Close to the Source. At last October’s J-Awards, she received three awards for her writing, including the top award in the Magazine Food & Restaurant category for her Edible piece, The Legacy of Chino Farms. The San Diego Press Club also awarded her two nominations for her Foodstuff posts.


In our interview, Golden talks about her inspiration for making the leap into freelance food writing, shares her advice for getting kids interested in cooking, and offers up her latest local dessert discovery.


R.W. Smith: You write for an impressive array of food publications, including Edible San Diego, San Diego Magazine and Saveur. What inspired you to become a food writer and journalist?


Caron Golden: I grew up in a food-centric household. My first memory as a young child is my dad holding me carefully over the stove to teach me how to make scrambled eggs. I would have been about three then. My parents and grandparents were wonderful home cooks and I grew up cooking for my family and friends. While I loved food, cooking, dining, and shopping, it never occurred to me to write about it when I was choosing a career. But later, well into my life as a freelance writer, I wanted to make the plunge. Blogging technology motivated me to launch San Diego Foodstuff as a food-writing portfolio to help me get newspaper and magazine work. And, it did. I initially established a niche writing about markets, which are still my passion, but over time I’ve embraced a more generalist approach to food writing.


RWS: At San Diego Foodstuff, you write about restaurants, farmer’s markets and local food finds. Which latest find are you most excited about?
Golden at the San Diego Farmer's Market
CG: What day is it? I’m constantly inspired by chefs, farmers, and artisan food vendors. My most exciting days are when chefs or artisans invite me into their kitchens to cook with them. I learn so much and, in turn, get to share what I’ve learned with readers. But if you have to pin me down, I’m guiltily thrilled that a long-time reader, Erin Smith, has launched her own caramel business, Caramel Collective. She’s a scientist so she brings that precision to her caramels. They’re exquisite.


RWS: Not only do you sample fabulous foods in San Diego, but you’ve enjoyed some pretty interesting cuisines during your travels. Tell us: what was the most unusual meal you had abroad?


CG: It could be the fried cricket tacos in Tijuana or the sea snail tostadas in Ensenada—but that’s too easy. (And, btw, they were delicious.) I’d say Australia lent itself to some unusual meals—ostrich steak and Moreton Bay Bugs (well, that’s kind of cheating since they’re really Australia’s version of lobster, but doesn’t it sound extreme?).


Actually, I’d have to say some of my more unusual meals have been created by adventurous chefs like Chad White and Davin Waite’s sushi bar in San Diego. We have the most amazing year-round bounty here and our chefs love to take advantage of that. Recently, I went to White’s sushi bar in Oceanside, Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, where he served me grilled local hagfish—a fairly gnarly-looking eel—marinated in ponzu, sesame oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Now that’s unusual. And very tasty!


RWS: As a volunteer chef and instructor at Olivewood Gardens in National City, you work with kids by showing them how to make healthy, tasty meals. What tips can you offer for getting kids interested in cooking?
Making S'mores
CG: Cooking with them. It’s as simple—and complicated—as that. What’s not to love about cooking when you’re a kid? You get to play with food, get dirty, and you end up creating something wonderful for your family.


The question really should be how to get kids interested in eating healthy food and understanding where it comes from. That’s the greater challenge in our communities. That comes from gardening and cooking. When kids help with preparation they’re more invested in the meal. Even young kids can help, although you have to be patient and creative. In the kitchen we use plastic lettuce knives for young kids, as well as OXO choppers. The little ones love that and it allows them to chop garlic, onions, peppers, and herbs without the chance of hurting themselves. We also have a rule that you have to take one big bite before turning something down. The rule comes in the form of a pledge we all recite. That helps, too. If they commit to tasting something they’re wary of, they often find they like it. Basically, the kids are easy that way. It’s often the field trip parents we have to insist take that bite. And, in fact, with this exposure, along with education at school, the kids can change the family dynamic where food is concerned and insist on parents cooking instead of defrosting/reheating prepared meals or buying fast food. That’s so exciting!


RWS: You’ve received many awards for your food writing and journalism. What’s your best advice for budding food writers and bloggers?


CG: The reality is that it’s a tough market and for 99 percent of food writers, the pay is negligible. I love food writing, but I also spend a lot of time doing business writing to pay the bills.


The advantage today is that technology offers more of an opportunity to showcase your work and create a niche that you can become known for. You have to have passion and commitment. You absolutely must refine your skills—whether it’s through classes or workshops or simply writing every day. Then you have to identify your food community, these days through social media, and develop an audience. Go to local food events and meet chefs, farmers, vendors, and other writers. Become a vital resource for information. Basically immerse yourself in the world you want to be in. And, have fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, that joy will come through in your work, and what’s more attractive and compelling than that?


Customer Profile: University of Phoenix Stadium

Written by Ashley Almodovar
February 5th, 2014

The University of Phoenix Stadium is unlike any other stadium. With its incredible design and technology, the venue is marveled by many fans and visitors. Located in Glendale, AZ, the 63,400-seat stadium opened in August 2006 and is home to both the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and the Annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.


What many may not know about the stadium is that it also hosts a variety of non-sporting events throughout the year, including expos, weddings and corporate functions. This is all made possible with the help of Rojo Hospitality Group, the catering and concessions team that coordinates and caters to every event need.


We were lucky enough to speak with Denise Dewald, Catering Manager of Rojo Hospitality Group, to learn more about her accomplishments, what it’s like to cater events at the stadium, and, of course, a bit about the 2015 Super Bowl.


R.W. Smith: Please share with our readers what inspired you to be in the catering business.


Denise Dewald: I have been working in the food and beverage service since I was a senior in high school, when a friend said we should go get a job at ASU.  I started working in concessions at various sporting events and worked my way up to Catering Manager. I left ASU in 2006 and started here at the University of Phoenix stadium, and have loved every minute of it!


RWS: Rojo Hospitality Group is extremely committed to being environmentally friendly. How have you and your staff helped to fulfill this mission?


DD: We try and purchase items that are friendly to the environment. Although we can’t make client’s use the water dispenser instead of bottles of water, I do recommend they do so whenever possible.


RWS: When planning an event for a customer, your goal is to provide them with an exceptional experience. What are some of the bigger challenges that you face in trying to meet their expectations?


DD: Our building is quite unique; we can offer service for a small group of 10 to large groups of 1,000s. I think our biggest challenge is getting all the information from the clients before the event.  What is the ratio of men to women? How many are vegetarians/gluten free/vegan?


RWS: It’s really exciting to hear that the University of Phoenix Stadium will be hosting Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. How will you prepare for such a large event?


DD: We had Super Bowl XLII here, so we have a good idea of what to expect this time around.  We will be in several meetings with the Super Bowl Committee as well as the NFL, where we will go over all of the events, parties and game day in detail. We are all very excited to be in the national spotlight and are up for the challenge!


RWS: What advice would you give young, aspiring catering managers to help them be successful in their career?  


DD: My advice is to become aware of all aspects surrounding events; not necessarily just what your job description entails. I get asked many questions that are not food and beverage related, and I am usually able to help the guests out, if not find out the answer for them.  The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be willing to jump in and help wherever needed!


RWS: As a Catering Manager, you’ve coordinated a variety of distinctive and memorable events. Could you tell us about a particularly unique one that stands out?


DD: We do have quite a few events besides football, from floor shows to proms.  Lots of folks think that since we are a football stadium that all we do is hot dogs and hamburgers. Well, that is just not the case.


I guess the one that stands out the most was our first wedding we did here at the stadium. We had the ceremony, reception, dinner, dancing – the whole shebang! The majority of the guests that do come to events here at stadium have not been here before; it is those guests who I enjoy watching and speaking to the most. It is fun to hear questions like “where is the field?” or “how long does it take to move it in?” Most people do not know that the field is only in for sporting events and that the field lives outside all of the other days.  It’s not just beer and dogs, folks!

Grub Burger

Grub Burger Expands to Dallas on Greenville Ave

Written by Ashley Almodovar
February 5th, 2014

Grub Burger Bar, known for their signature briskets and chuck blend, opened its Greenville Ave. location in Dallas, TX last November. Customers can now enter into a world of big flavors and delicious food made from scratch at this burger bar. Take a seat and enjoy savory certified Angus beef burgers, fresh delicious salads and hand spun shakes that will satisfy any appetite. Even their buns are made from scratch and baked to perfection every hour! If you’re itching for a drink instead, make your way to the bar where you will find a variety of signature sips, draught beer and grub’ritas.


Grub Burger Bar has more than just amazing drinks and food; it also has great people who will take care of you and make sure you leave with a smile on your face. When you’re in the Dallas area, drop on by and enjoy a fun night out.


Congratulations Grub Burger on your new location and many more to come!

Plate Restaurant Dining Room

Customer Profile: Plate Restaurant

Written by Erica Bishop
January 30th, 2014

Whether you’re in the mood for organic comfort food on a cool winter day or a refreshing and healthy salad in the middle of summer, Plate’s earthy California cuisine will hit the spot. Located in Malibu, CA, the restaurant sources organic cuisine that is always local, in season and naturally raised. Meat lovers and vegetarians alike can relax in the casual and contemporary dining atmosphere and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner any day of the week.


So how did Plate Restaurant evolve from concept to bustling ocean-side eatery? We chatted with Kat Hakim, Guest Relations Manager, to find out.


R.W. Smith: Please share with readers the back story on Plate Restaurant.


Kat Hakim: On December 5th, 2008, Plate first opened its doors to the public. It was – and is – the brainchild of an exceptional partnership from Schatzi on Main Restaurateur Charlie Temmel, Chef Victor Rosales, and wonder woman Shiela DeLeon. After their success with Schatzi, the trio came together to open something that was unheard of at the time – an organic, wholesome, no-tolerance-for-sacrificing-flavor concept restaurant, close to Charlie’s home in Malibu. In all ways, they were pioneers and risk takers, especially at a time when the entire nation was experiencing an economic downturn.


To date, despite the burgeoning farm-to-table haunts, there isn’t a single restaurant quite like Plate. With Chef Victor’s brilliance and Charlie’s insistence, Plate offered a very broad yet healthy menu – a combination you will not find elsewhere. We have everything from freshly-squeezed organic juices to gourmet salads to wild caught fresh fish to an Austrian Weiner Schnitzel. We even have a 14 oz. Delmonico Steak. In 2012, Charlie and Shiela sold the restaurant to their best friends and while we’ve been staying true to Plate’s essence, 2014 has a lot of exciting enhancements in store. Stay tuned…


RWS: As Guest Relations Manager, what is your best advice for handling a complaint or difficult customer?


KH: Keep calm, follow the golden rule, and always follow-up.


RWS: How does your staff build rapport with and show appreciation for guests?


KH: Two words: great energy! Our team is the most genuine and lighthearted you will find from here to the moon and back. The only time I’ve ever experienced attitude among us is on the dance floor during our annual holiday party. We consider our guests part of the Plate family – we are on a first name basis with over 400 of our regulars, and we always strive to accommodate their requests. However, in all sincerity, our guests do make it very easy for us. We’ve gotten very lucky with the clientele we’ve attracted!


RWS: Plate’s menu boasts organic and natural cuisine that doesn’t sacrifice flavor. What are some guest favorites?


KH: Breakfast: Egg White Garden Omelette, Buckwheat Pancakes, Granola French Toast, Plate Chicken Hash, Huevos Rancheros


Lunch: Stir Fry Vegetables, Daily Vegan Soup, Raw Kale Salad, Cobb Salad, Santa Fe Salad, Curry Papaya Chicken Salad, Ahi Tuna Wrap, Portobello Panini, Grilled Herb Chicken Sandwich, Sweet Potato Fries, Kobe Beef Tacos (served as a special)


Dinner: Ahi Tuna Spring Rolls, Crab Tower, Eggplant Parmigiana, Weiner Schnitzel, Coconut Poached Halibut, Truffle Mashed Potatoes


Dessert: Apple Strudel, Chocolate Flourless Cake, Divine Dips Vegan Ice Cream


See what I mean about the very broad menu!

RWS: The best dining experience that you’ve ever had – where were you and what made it so special?


KH: Mundaka in Carmel. The energy of a place is everything and nobody does better at vibing-it-up than charismatic owner, Gabriel. His mantra is simple: “I’m going to be here every night so I will treat this like my living room – serve the best food, play my favorite music, watch movies I love, and throw a party every night.”


Time for a road trip up north!

60 Degrees Interior

Master Chef Fritz Opens 60 Degrees Mastercrafted

Written by Ashley Almodovar
January 30th, 2014

In November 2013, certified Master Chef Fritz Gitschner’s new ranch-to-table restaurant, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, did a soft opening that gave locals a first look experience of the unique and contemporary restaurant.


Located in the Upper Kirby District of Houston, TX, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted creates a warm and casual atmosphere where customers enjoy amazing American dishes with a touch of other cultural cuisines.


What is one thing that patrons will find interesting about the menu? Well – a $200 Bistro Burger! It’s made from Akaushi ribeye steak topped with foie gras and shaved white truffles, and it’s served on a bun made with 24 karat gold. For all their beef based dishes, the restaurant only serves certified Akaushi Beef, touted as the healthiest and tastiest beef in the world.


Experience this exclusive upscale restaurant for yourself and be sure to try the Akaushi Beef. It’s sure to please your taste buds.

Forks for Lovers

5 Restaurant Marketing Tips for Valentine’s Day

Written by Erica Bishop
January 24th, 2014

Looking for a great way to perk up sales during the slow season? Valentine’s Day is the perfect late-winter holiday for attracting new and returning guests to your restaurant. Set the mood for romance by creating a special promotion fit for lovers. Then, follow these online marketing tips to have your reserved seating booked in no time. Competition, eat your heart out.


  1. Create Your Promotion: Brainstorm the types of deals that have proven to draw-in customers and improve your bottom line. Consider offering a food and wine pairing special. What about designing an aphrodisiac-infused, prix fixe menu to attract local foodies? Or perhaps you want to offer a cooking demo for couples in your open kitchen during non-business hours. There’s a smorgasbord of ideas out there—the key is deciding which one works best for your audience.

  3. Make a Landing Page on Your Website: Diners will be doing plenty of online searches for restaurants offering Valentine’s Day promotions. Creating a web page dedicated to your special promotion will help your establishment stand out from the crowd and position your offer in front of potential diners. Showcase the reasons why your restaurant is the ideal place to dine. What accolades and reviews have you received? Were you named Most Romantic Restaurant? Were you included in a recent “Best of” list? Flaunt that here.

  5. Send an Email: Subscribers of your email opt-in list will be delighted to hear how they can celebrate this special occasion at your establishment. Customers who sign up to receive emails are some of your most loyal, so give them added incentive to make a reservation by offering an additional deal exclusively for them. Be sure to include a button link to your online reservations page or the number to your reservations hotline.

  7. Promote with Social Media: What better way to let guests know about your landing page than to share it! Social media provides ample opportunity to generate word of mouth marketing. A good rule of thumb is to share the link a few times over the coming weeks to remind guests about your special promotion. Get creative with your messaging and change it up for each post to keep readers interested.

  9. Create a Site Link for Your Paid Search Ad: If your restaurant is advertising with AdWords, take advantage of this crucial ad extension. Add in site links for any ads created around your brand. This way, when customers search for your restaurant, you can quickly let them know about your promotion. All you need is a bit of link text, such as Valentine’s Day Special or Best Romantic Hotspot, and the landing page URL. A description for the site link is optional, but will provide you additional opportunity to entice searchers to click.

We’ve outlined just 5 ways you can leverage your online marketing strategy to boost winter sales. What creative marketing methods will you be using to promote your restaurant’s V-Day special this year?

Denise Landis

Q&A with Denise Landis of The Cook’s Cook

Written by Erica Bishop
January 24th, 2014

As foodies and casual diners, we usually see recipes in their final form. But what goes on behind the scenes to make them so great?


Vital to making any recipe foolproof is its meticulous testing process. Restaurant chefs and cookbook authors are responsible for testing their own recipes, a time-consuming process that calls for multiple tests for each one—which is where pro recipe tester Denise Landis comes in. For more than two decades, she’s scrutinized instructions, measured ingredients, jotted notes and cooked up some of the finest recipes.


Naturally, all that recipe testing prompted Denise to become a recipe creator and cookbook author herself. In 2005, she published Dinner for Eight: 40 Great Dinner Party Menus for Friends and Family, which shows home cooks how to prepare for group entertainment with a dinner party timeline and sample menus for every season.


As an expert in her field, Denise is often asked about what goes in to the process of testing and writing recipes. So what better way to celebrate the craft of food writing than to bring together and cultivate a community of food lovers from all levels who wish to write about food? Launching in February 2014, her groundbreaking digital magazine, The Cook’s Cook, will do just that and more.


In our interview, Denise offers us a sneak peek at life inside a recipe test kitchen and reveals the aha moment that led to her forthcoming publication, created for home cooks and professional chefs alike.


R.W. Smith: For over 20 years, you’ve tested recipes for The New York Times, cookbooks and professional chefs. Could you describe the experience of being an expert tester?


Denise LandisDenise Landis: I enjoy my work very much because it’s constantly surprising. I never know from day to day what I’m going to be asked to cook. Even after twenty-five years it’s still exciting. Recipes are sent to me by newspaper or magazine editors, and occasionally I am asked to test an entire cookbook manuscript. Sometimes publishers hire me, sometimes authors hire me privately. Once I receive the recipes, I read each one and make notes on questions or possible errors. I look over the ingredients to see if there is anything that should be ordered by mail or for which we might want to offer a substitute. I talk to my client if needed. I shop for ingredients, then I cook. As I cook, I make notes all along the way. I ask myself if the recipe can be organized better, if the timing is accurate, the cooking temperatures appropriate, the correct cookware specified. I check quantity—does the recipe really make 3 dozen? If soup “serves 8,” what’s the total volume and the volume of each serving? Are all the ingredients listed and in the correct measures, and are they all used? Lastly, I edit the recipe in the form required by the publication—or, if I’ve been hired privately, in the style requested by the author.


I have a large kitchen and a great deal of equipment, all intended for use by home cooks. I have every kind of cookware there is—ceramic, glass, terra cotta, black clay, stainless steel, copper, cast-iron (enameled or plain), nonstick, electric… Need some recipes tested for grilled foods? I can grill in a grill pan (I have several sizes) or on my range-top grill, or on a gas grill, or with charcoal, or in a fire pit.


My kitchen is designed like a home kitchen, but with conveniences that make it easy for me to test recipes. Large pull-out bins built into cabinets hold flour and granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar. I have an instant-boiling-water dispenser at my sink. In my pantry and freezer I have spices and seasonings from around the world—curry leaves, asafoetida, sumac, kaffir lime, every kind of paprika… All of this allows me to test recipes on short notice.


 RWS: Of all the recipes you’ve evaluated, which have been the most memorable?


DL: The reasons I remember recipes is because they were very good, very strange or difficult, or, in one particular case, because an ingredient was very expensive. There have been so many great ones, I’d hardly know how to pick favorites. Many of them are in my cookbook, Dinner for Eight: 40 Great Dinner Party Menus for Friends and Family. A few of my favorites from over the years at The New York Times are Mendiant Tart (a chocolate tart), Bosnian Bread (a no-knead recipe that makes two huge loaves), Braised Short Ribs in Porcini Prune Sauce (a hearty winter dish), Curried Scallops with Tomatoes (a simple and very quick recipe with excellent flavor), Maple Glazed Meatloaf (topped with bacon!)…I could go for hours about my favorite recipes and why I love each one.


Among the strange recipes would be one consisting of tomatoes stuffed with pineapple and caramel, and poached in something sweet. There was one that combined cottage cheese, Cool Whip, and powdered lime Jell-O. And odd ice creams! Lima bean ice cream was one. Another was peanut-butter-pickle ice cream that had chunks of frozen pickles—-I gave it some to my neighbors’ children and they loved it!


Some recipes have been challenging because they’ve had to be adapted from chefs who are used to working with a kitchen staff. There was one recipe for a very complicated chicken dish that took at least three hours to make. I worried so much about whether home cooks could successfully execute all the steps, and my husband told me, “Are you kidding? Do you really think anyone is going to try to cook this?” I relaxed, because I actually thought he was right. In any case, there were never any complaints from readers.


The expensive recipe was a simple one with caviar. My husband and I have a foster daughter who was about to leave for college, and we had decided to send her to a summer program on campus. The cost of the caviar (for which I was reimbursed) was the exact price of her housing for the entire summer, and that troubled me.


RWS: In February 2014, you will be launching The Cook’s Cook, a free digital magazine for cooks, food writers and recipe testers. What inspired you to start the publication?


The Cook's Cook, February 2014DL: After 25 years as a recipe tester and food writer and constantly fielding inquiries from people about how to have a career in those fields, I thought, “Why not share this information in a broad way?” I realized that there was no organization or community specifically of food writers and recipe developers and testers. I felt that one was needed for all levels of expertise, including those who aspire to write about food.


The Cook’s Cook is not meant to be a trade magazine. It’s for anyone interested in writing about food or getting their recipes into type. That includes home cooks who would like to keep a record of the recipes they have created, borrowed, or adapted, or who would like to organize or rewrite recipes they have from an earlier generation. My own adult children have books in which I have hand-written their (and my) favorite recipes. The largest and most elaborate cookbook collection in the world (and I love cookbooks) can’t begin to compare to that.


Consider the sheer number of blogs about cooking. So many people are blogging about food, but they aren’t familiar with the standard forms of writing a recipe or why they should want to utilize one of them. Many professional chefs would like to write a cookbook, but they aren’t sure how to begin. Some writers who are planning to self-publish could use tips on how to make their book more appealing or more useful or reach the perfect audience for their book. And there are people like me who are established their field and who would enjoy connecting with others who are doing the same work.


I decided that articles and instruction should be given away for free. It was obvious that it was going to require an online publication, so I decided to publish a digital magazine, free to subscribers and supported by advertising.


Here’s where to sign up for a free subscription:


Because so many people who cook are interested in the food of other cultures, and therefore have an interest in travel, I decided to approach my favorite tour company, Gate 1 Travel, about teaming with the magazine. The result is an agreement we have with them to offer discounts to our readers if they register for a tour using our code. We will receive a small percentage of each sale that will help us fund publication of the magazine.


RWS: The magazine includes a section on recipe writing tips. As a cookbook author and food writer yourself, what advice can you give chefs and bloggers about writing their own recipes?


DL: In brief, my advice is to be aware that food writing is much more than being a good cook or even a good writer. A recipe is a set of instructions, and the instructions need to be written in a form that other people can understand and follow.


Once you have a collection of written recipes, making them into a cookbook is not an easy task even for an experienced food writer. It usually takes a team to put together a cookbook— author, recipe tester(s), literary agent, publisher, editor, copy editor, photographer, food stylist, and more.


That there is so much to be said on the subject of food writing is why The Cook’s Cook will have a column on food and recipe writing (“The Cook Writes”), a column on recipe testing (“The Cook Tests”), and one on recipe editing (“The Cook Edits”). Each column offers instruction in three levels. The Beginner level is for readers who are unfamiliar with the subject. Intermediate is for those who are familiar with some vocabulary and technique. Professional is written for those who are already employed in the field or are currently seeking employment. Of course, anyone is welcome to read any section he or she chooses. It’s all free on The Cook’s Cook website.


RWS: Which culinary trend would you like to see turn up in your test kitchen this year?


DL: Something new introduced by The Cook’s Cook! I hope and expect that we will be trend setters, sharing the newest information about what’s developing in the world of cooking, starting with farming (and exploring the very definition of “farming”) and following everything that happens to our food from planting to plating.

The Refuge Bar and Bistro

Customers Retreat to New Refuge Bar & Bistro

Written by Ashley Almodovar
January 16th, 2014

In early October, The Refuge Bar & Bistro opened its doors and welcomed customers into a carefree world of great food and innovative cocktails. Located in Texas, The Refuge creates a retreat for customers after a long day’s work. It’s dark wood, luscious antique wallpaper, and intimate ambiance is the perfect place to enjoy a night out. For great drinks, make your way to The Refuge bar, where there’s a massive shelf filled with a variety of spirits, liqueurs, mixers, microbrews and wines. Be sure to try the Refuge Retreat—a light and airy drink with Ramazzotti amaro, Cointreau foam, rye and a hint of citrus.


If you live in the area, go relax and enjoy what The Refuge has to offer. It’s sure to be a great experience for anyone who visits.