Trying to get a large group of people to decide where to have lunch is like trying to win at the Lobster claw crane game -- a Big Choice machine filled with live lobsters: You take a long time trying to figure out how to go about it but you're likely disappointed in the end.
Well, it's time to add a bit of chance to your lunch hour and please your co-workers. Introducing the Wheel of Lunch -- the best food-based wheel since the Wheel of Fish. You just enter your zip code and then virtually spin the wheel. The site combines Yahoo! review with geographic data to offer up recommendations.
The first three spins w/ the Pitch's zipcode, 64108, advised us to head to Lidia's Restaurant, Manny's of Kansas City, and Taqueria Mexico. Since it was best two-out-of-three, looks like it's Mexican today.
Danica Pollard is the pastry chef at Lidia's. She recently returned from New York, where she won over some of the biggest names in the food industry at the James Beard Awards.
Fat City asked her for a recipe that combines her love of baking with an ingredient close to her heart. Pollard delivered with strawberries, saying she absolutely loves them. "The color, taste and especially the smell
remind me that it is warm and lovely outside. Every spring I wait for
them, and the ideas of what I might like to make with them begin
rolling around inside of my head."
She has kindly shared two recipes in one. A strawberry mint panna cotta topped with strawberry-prosecco gelee. (Though you can make either one independent of the other.) Pollard describes this dish as "light, cool and perfectly suited to eating with friends
outside after a nice meal."
Strawberry Mint Panna Cotta
1 ¼ c. cream
1/3 c. whole milk
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, with seeds scraped and reserved
¼ oz. fresh spearmint
½ c. sugar
4 sheets of gelatin
1 ¼ c. fresh strawberry puree, strained
-- Heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan.
-- When bubbles start appearing around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean and seeds and spearmint.
-- Let steep for 15 minutes.
-- Place sheets of gelatin in a bowl of cold water until they are very soft and flexible.
-- Lift from the bowl and squeeze out excess water.
-- Add the gelatin and sugar into the saucepan and reheat until the gelatin has dissolved.
-- Strain mixture through a sieve, and whisk in strawberry puree.
-- Divide mixture evenly among 6 champagne flutes, and carefully place in refrigerator.
-- When panna cotta has begun to set, about 2 hours, proceed with the gelee recipe.
Ben & Jerry's has become known for the names of its ice cream as much as for the ice cream itself. And to celebrate our dearly departed president, it decided to let the public name George W. Bush's ice cream.
Not really. What is true is that after Ben & Jerry's released "Yes Pecan" for Obama, every blogger worth his or her pixels tried to outdo one another by picking an ice cream for W. Somebody had the good sense to round up the names on a list.
Here, in no particular order, are my numbers two through nine favorites:
It sounds delicious! I'm a longtime fan of Goo Goo Clusters -- a candy that's been around since 1912; it was invented by a 19-year-old entrepreneur named Howell Campell in Nashville, Tennessee. One theory about how the candy got its name is that it was sold as a concession treat at the Grand Ol' Opry (GOO).
During the Great Depression, the slogan for Goo Goo Clusters was "a nourishing lunch for a nickel."
In this Depression, I'd love to find a nourishing lunch for a nickel. I'd go goo-goo over it.
Last week, Fat City reported that Food & Wine Magazine had named Elbow Chocolates' No. 6 Dark Rocks the best chocolate in
the whole wide great big United States.
Christopher Elbow seemed honored, but his eyes didn't really light up until we started talking about the limited-edition Valentine's Day boxes that he created specially with his wife Jennifer.
Elbow said he started working on the box in October and that each of the 17 flavors took a week -- or weeks -- to perfect. "They're not really an aphrodisiac, but I tried to choose romantic flavors. There's passion fruit champagne, red wine... we just finished them and put them on the counter."
When Elbow makes a chocolate it's not a normal process.
For the last few years I've been saying that tiramisu -- the Italian confection of spongecake or ladyfingers dipped in coffee and marsala wine and layered with sweetened triple-cream mascarpone cheese and grated chocolate or cocoa -- has become so ubiquitious in the United States that I expected McDonald's to be serving it any day now.
That hasn't happened yet, but Archer Farms, the food-and-beverage house brand for the Minneapolis-based Target stores, has a packaged Italian-style versionon sale in the freezer cases of most area Target and Super Target stores.
The 12-ounce portion of the Archer Farms tiramisu is big enough to feed three hungry people and six people with more modest appetites. It takes a long time to defrost in the refrigerator, but it is easier to slice in a semi-frozen state. The box explains how, for an intimate dinner party, a tasteful host or hostess can cut the frozen confection "into small cubes and divide between four wine glasses. Let stand on counter for 20 to 30 minutes."
There's no wine or liqueur in this tiramisu, of course, and I wouldn't call the ladyfingers light and fluffy (or resembling anything like the photograph on the box), but the recipe is quite close to the traditional recipe -- which I've made many times and it's extremely easy to prepare from scratch. The biggest difference, of course, is that the Archer Farms dessert uses corn syrup, the low-cost staple of most processed foods, candy and soda pop in America.
It's tasty enough, but if I need a quick fix of a really first-rate tiramisu to pick up on the go, I prefer the generous individual portions sold at Avelutto's Italian Delight restaurant and grocery in Mission. It's not frozen, but tasteful hosts can still put it in wine glasses for a festive dinner party. I know because I did!
My parents were both children of the Depression and could remember lots of businesses closing in those troubled times. But not, my late father once told me, the places vital for American life: movie theaters and saloons, of course, and drug stores, grocery stores and bakeries. In those days, people still bought their bread from bakeries -- and their cakes, doughnuts and cookies too.
It's a different world now and no matter how fabulous a unique, family-owned bakery can be, it's hard to survive in this tough economy. Case in point: Last fall, I wrote a Fat City post about the closing of Artisan Francais bakery in Overland Park. I mean, I knew it was closed, even though the phone message was still optimistic, announcing that the owners, Sebastiene and Briana Saint-Ouen, were on vacation. Three months later, the glass bakery cases still sit empty, the cappuccino machine is unplugged and the doors are locked, with this depressing sign: "Closed Until Further Notice."
On the other side of the metro, another sensational bake shop -- two, in fact -- served their last pastries after 11 years. The two Pastry Goddess shops -- in the Northland's Briarcliff Village and the original venue in Independence -- were shuttered in mid-December. The owners, Kathy and Doug Huddleston, left a brief farewell on the Pastry Goddess Web site.
Not only is the economy making things hard, but the competition is getting more intense. Just across the street from Artisan Francais is the very big Whole Foods Market, which has several well-stocked pastry cases. I tasted a first-rate bear claw and a flaky croissant from the bakery department one day. Maybe not as fine as the ones made by chef Sebastiene Saint-Ouen, but pretty darn good. One of the employees explained that the cakes and pastries aren't exactly made on premises: the croissants, for example, are brought in frozen and baked off in the store and the pretty iced cakes (including the surprisingly delicious non-dairy vegan apple layer cake) are "assembled" by store employees.
It's all too bittersweet.-- By Charles Ferruzza
Holidays ain't the greatest time to be dieting. Still, a lot of people are hoping not to gain that five or 10 pounds over the holidays, and that involves some concessions.
Instead of giving up entire meals, most people will try to cut back on one thing or two. The foods with the most calories are alcohol and sweets. Preferably, hardcore dieters would give up them both, but you don't want to be a total calorie Grinch. So you're at the Christmas table and the wine starts flowing. Do you pass and wait for dessert or say yes to the wine and exit before dessert?
After the jump, a special Pitch-made chart and a BBC game to help you figure out the answer.
I've been trying to think of a restaurant that has a really great chocolate brownie on its dessert list -- and would be happy to take nominations from our Fat City friends. -- Charles Ferruzza
Today is National Chocolate Day! I'm a huge fan of this dessert myself, although rather than ordering them in restaurants, I prefer to bake my own (which I once did live, on-camera for KCPT-Channel 19 for some kind of cooking-segment fundraiser). I have to confess, though, that I have a secret weakness for the Brownie Fudge Sundae at Steak and Shake -- even if it does have -- gulp! -- over 43 grams of fat!
I've always wondered who invented brownies. The first known reference to them is a box of chocolate candy (named for the characters in a Palmer Cox book) sold in the 1897 Sears & Roebuck catalogue. The first recipe for the dessert was in the 1906 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook.
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