Restaurants overhaul menus because of calorie count rules – Los Angeles Times – This is why it’s a good thing to require restaurants to display calorie counts on their menus, even if many people don’t take action as a result. It forces the restaurant to re-evaluate its menu, make portion sizes more reasonable and offer more healthy choices so it doesn’t get the reputation for being a feeding trough. Those of us who do want to eat healthy most of the time may actually have options when we go out to eat as a result.
Tag Archives: Restaurants
I guess we should start looking for an influx of New Yorkers around here anytime now, because the New York Times has mentioned local food and restaurants three times in the last couple of weeks. In the Sunday magazine was an article about a farm in Hillsborough (where I live), which is opening a restaurant in Durham that will serve only foods grown on the farm. There will also be a farm store in the restaurant. I can’t wait. You really can’t have too many options when it comes to fresh, local, deliciously cooked food, can you?
Fresh Direction: A Farm-to-Table Restaurant (NY Times Sunday Magazine)
There is a nice article about local food and Durham, NC, restaurants in today’s New York Times dining section: Durham, a Tobacco Town, Turns to Local Food.
We were in Las Vegas for 4 nights and we had 3 great dinners, all of them memorable, all of them unique. (The fourth night we saw Mystère, a Cirque du Soleil show that was also pretty memorable, and only grabbed a quick bite afterward.) I have a hard time saying which meal was the best, because they each evoked such a different style of food and eating. But I will say that they were all under $200, with alcohol, which in Las Vegas is no mean feat, let me tell you.
I’ll start with our anniversary dinner at Bouchon. Bouchon, one of Thomas Keller‘s restaurants, is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I love the style: French bistro with a bit of a contemporary twist. The restaurant in the Venetian is open, airy and bright. The waiters, at least at dinner, are chatty and helpful. The ambiance is generally casual, fun and the antithesis of stuffy fine dining.
My husband and I shared everything but dessert. We started with two stellar appetizers. One was a pork belly sausage served with tiny potatoes in a very sweet, reduced vinaigrette. The second was my personal favorite: smoked salmon and fresh salmon rillettes. It came in a little jar topped with a layer of clarified butter, which the waiter had to cut away in a nifty presentation. We then scooped out the rillettes and spread it on croutons. For dinner, we split the steamed mussels in mustard, cream and saffron, with a side of frites and an extra order of macaroni gratin. It was all delicious, and so generous that even two people could not finish.
We also ate breakfast at Bouchon, and let me tell you, if I could eat breakfast there every day for the rest of my life, I gladly would. The waffles I had were practically ethereal, they were so light, but just the fresh baguette with homemade preserves would make a great breakfast any day of the week. I was dying to try the other pastries. Maybe next time.
Nobhill, one of Michael Mina‘s restaurants in the MGM Grand, was a very different experience. The decor there is also beautiful, but much more private, hushed and very relaxed. It’s like eating dinner in your living room, if your living room is very nicely furnished and decorated, and comes with a helpful waiter. The specialty there is the lobster pot pie, but I think I found a true bargain in Las Vegas when I ordered the San Francisco cioppino. Normally, I would think of cioppino as a stew made up of bits of mixed fish and shellfish. What arrived, though, was a beautiful plate of individually cooked seafood: rare tuna, flaky salmon, plump shrimp, mussels and clams. When I removed my crouton, there was a surprise: two perfectly seared scallops. A thick tomato broth was poured over all. (See my husband’s photo above.) It was like getting the best of the restaurant’s seafood offerings on one plate, and so generous I couldn’t finish it, although I gave it my best shot.
Okada is the Wynn’s Japanese restaurant, where we ate our first night. Our rule is that we no longer eat sushi unless we are in a major city where we know the fish is fresh and the chefs are first-rate. In Okada, we sat at the sushi bar (which I recommend — no waiting) and made friends with the chef. We asked him his recommendations and so tried some of the best fish of the night: the yellowtail and the kampachi. We also had delicious halibut, served two ways, and a mackerel roll that the chef made for me, since I told him I wasn’t overly fond of mackerel. But my favorite had to be the snapper, which was dressed only with a little sea salt and lemon juice, and was so good we had to order it again.
So, there you have it. Three nights of dining in the desert on seafood, three wonderful meals. I have to say that eating in Las Vegas is amazing. There are so many choices of great restaurants, and it is absurdly easy to get a reservation or just walk in and get a table. Even if you don’t partake of Vegas’s other vices, it is worth visiting just for the food.
Update: The recipe for the smoked and steamed salmon rillettes is in my Bouchon cookbook! I must try to make this sometime.
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My husband and I are heading out soon for a much-needed, adults-only, anniversary celebration in Las Vegas. We already know we will be eating at Bouchon on our anniversary and we will be having sushi one night. Does anyone have any good restaurant recommendations?
I’d love recommendations for hidden gems or places we should not miss. We are not eating beef these days, so steak restaurants are out. Thanks in advance for any help!
The absolute best baby gift we received was a gift certificate for a week’s worth of family dinners from a local favorite, Foster’s Market. (Those of you who don’t live around here may be familiar with Sara Foster’s cookbooks.) Everyone who has a newborn knows that early evening is their fussiest time, and so it’s really difficult to cook, eat and clean up dinner. Give new parents easy-to-prep meals instead of baby clothes, and they’ll be forever grateful — trust me!
Foster’s offers a week’s worth of healthy and tasty family dinners, nicely packaged and ready to heat up and serve. The entrees come with bread, salad and dessert for the week. I have to say, the meals are delicious and generously portioned. This week, we’ve eaten cheese tortellini casserole, barbecued chicken and pasta with salmon, snow peas and mint (my personal favorite), plus spinach salad, strawberry shortcake and extremely tasty cornbread muffins.
What are the drawbacks? Well, at $10 per person per meal, they are pretty pricey. (However, my friend who eats out all the time and doesn’t cook thinks the cost is a bargain.) You have to get a week’s worth of meals at a time and there’s no flexibility on the menu, so it can be tough to find a week with meals we both want to eat, since I don’t eat beef or pork and hubby is allergic to shrimp.
Considering all that, I think we’d watch the menus and order again. All the meals are freezeable, so you don’t have to eat them all in one week. And having ready-made, healthy meals for this whole week has greatly reduced my stress levels, especially since the baby has been very cranky each evening (we think he’s hitting his 6-week growth spurt). I would love to have a few of these on hand as an alternative to standard grocery-store frozen meals for high-stress times or if we were having houseguests.
But home cooks can take a lesson from Foster’s and prepare our own family dinners ahead of time, such as on the weekends. Just look for recipes that can be made ahead and then reheated quickly at dinnertime. Based on Foster’s menus, some ideas are casseroles, pasta dishes that can be quickly sauteed, tacos, soups and stews, and baked or roasted chicken. Assembling a salad for the week (keeping the dressing separate until serving, of course) is another great time saver. Still, when the weekends are as chaotic as weeknights, a service like this is a handy once-in-a-while alternative.
I took a slightly longer break from blogging than I intended. Vacation can be wonderfully relaxing, but why does returning from vacation have to be so stressful? But you don’t want to hear about that. Let’s get to the good stuff — the food.
This was my first visit to Las Vegas. I have to say that for the most part, I found it a rather tawdry city, reminiscent of a gigantic shopping mall, but one that allows gambling, drinking and smoking everywhere. While I appreciated the twilit coolness of the casinos, I didn’t appreciate the crowds, the noise or the 109-degree heat. Hey, at least it was a dry heat.
Ah, the beauty of the Las Vegas skyline, where the construction never stops.
What I liked about Las Vegas was the eating. There are a ton of really good restaurants owned by well-known chefs, and unlike in New York or other major cities, it is very easy to get a reservation.
Since we were only there for three nights total — we spent the rest of our vacation enjoying the quiet beauty of Zion National Park in Utah — we had to choose carefully where we ate. For our major splurges, we chose Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in the Venetian and Tom Colicchio’s CraftSteak in the MGM Grand.
Bouchon was the favorite of both my husband and me. The menu is traditional French bistro, and the prices are rather reasonable, for the context. I began with the apricot and arugula salad, something I wouldn’t normally have ordered. It was fantastic, a perfectly subtle mix of flavors: sweet apricot, peppery arugula, a hint of anise from the fennel, salty nut brittle. My entree was the roasted chicken, which was incredibly juicy and succulent. It was served atop a puff pastry filled with ratatouille vegetables and topped with crisp garlic chips in a pool of the chicken jus. For dessert, I had the crème brulée, which provided the ideal light and creamy finish. This was a great meal, and I would return to Las Vegas just to eat here again.
CraftSteak is a deconstructed version of a classic steakhouse. Everything is served a la carte in rustic copper pans. Each dish is simple and elegant; there are no towers of layered food here. So each dish had to rely absolutely on impeccably fresh and well-prepared ingredients, and that was delivered. The side dishes seemed a little pricey, but I guess when you’re a chef with his own TV show, you can charge what you like.
For an appetizer, I ordered the heirloom tomatoes. This was literally a platter of different kinds of tomatoes, dressed very simply with olive oil and vinegar and garnished with fresh herbs. Many of the tomatoes I have never seen or tasted before; it was a tomato lover’s fantasy. For an entree, I had the diver scallops, which were perfectly seared and served in a pool of a light wine and butter sauce. My husband had the steak (I don’t eat beef), and he declared it one of the best steaks he had ever eaten. As a side, we got the leek and roasted garlic potato gratin, which was very light, cheesy and creamy with just a hint of white pepper. The perfect dessert was a simple homemade blackberry sorbet or vanilla ice cream; after all that food, we didn’t want anything too heavy. So despite the hefty bill, CraftSteak won us over, although next time I would rather go with a large group so I can try more of the sides.
Other memorable eating experiences were the breakfast buffet at the Wynn (they have American, European and Chinese-style breakfasts); the fried mozzarella with just a hint of salty anchovies in the breading at the old-fashioned Italian eatery Piero’s, and the truffles made with red chile and balsamic vinegar we sampled in Vosges Haut-Chocolatier in Caesar’s Palace.
The eating in Utah was not quite so memorable; the scenery is the reason to go. But one restaurant in Springdale, near Zion National Park stood out: the Spotted Dog Cafe. This was perhaps the closest thing to “local” cuisine that we found; at least, the ingredients seemed local and seasonal. I had the fettuccine with pumpkin seed pesto. But what most impressed me most was that with the bread and butter, they brought out a whole head of roasted garlic — yum! Still, hiking around in the glorious scenery of southern Utah really builds up an appetite for classic fare like big breakfasts of eggs or pancakes, tacos or pizzas, and all are readily available.
Vacation went too quickly. For our next culinary adventure, we are thinking of going to Chicago for a long weekend. Any suggestions?
Unfortunately, it looks like the volunteer pumpkin and butternut plants that had sprung up in my garden didn’t make it. I had to pull out all but one today and throw them back in the compost for another try next year. I don’t know whether it was the unrelenting heat or the lack of rain that did them in. They may have also been too crowded. If we have volunteers next year, I’m going to thin out the seedlings better and maybe transplant the strongest plants to their own bed.
We’re heading out for vacation, so I’ll be posting even less than usual — in other words, not at all, since we’ll be Internet-free. We’re spending a couple of days in Las Vegas (my first time) before driving up to Utah. In Vegas we plan to do some good eating. We have a reservation at Thomas Keller’s restaurant Bouchon and a list of other places we should try. Since we’ll only be there two days, we’ll have to be a little choosy, but I hope to have some good restaurant experiences to report on when we get back. The eating may not be quite so good in southern Utah, but I do plan to do a whole lot of nothing while I’m there and rebuild my energy reserves, so I can get back to cooking when I get home.
See you in a couple of weeks!
After three weeks of either eating out because I’m traveling or stress-eating because I’m gearing up for the next big launch/presentation/demo, I can see and feel the toll it has been having on my body. I feel bloated, I’ve gained back what little weight I had lost, and I feel an urgent need to detox. To avoid alcohol and sugar and even meat. To consume mass quantities of vegetables and broth and fruits.
Under normal circumstances, I eat very sanely. I stick to three meals a day, only one of them a large meal, and I rarely snack. I indulge in dessert about once a week. But when I get under stress, all that goes out the window. I don’t feel hungry, necessarily, just craving the comforts that food can bring. And since I’m too busy to cook or away from my kitchen, the foods I go for are all too often fried or fatty or sweet. Then I start to feel sick, which adds to the stress.
This past week I was in Washington, D.C., and I tried very hard to eat well, but that can be nearly impossible when you’re eating out all the time. Restaurants put more fats in their foods than I do when I’m cooking; that’s why restaurant food tastes so good. But here are some of my tasting notes from the week:
- Because I work at a nonprofit where many people are vegetarian, the lunches provided were very healthy, with a wide selection of salads and fruit for dessert as well as sweets — this is rare at conferences and workshops, so I’m thankful
- The best-named meal I had all week (not necessarily the best meal) was the Bowl of Spring, which was gnocchi in a light cream sauce with asparagus tips, peas, mushrooms and I can’t remember what else
- The best meal I had was at a rather expensive Italian restaurant next to the hotel: salmon-stuffed ravioli with a smoked salmon, lemon and cream sauce — yummy!
- Finally, the night before a big presentation, it is never a good idea to eat sushi and drink sake, no matter how ridiculously good both of them are; your digestive system will not thank you
The presentation went extremely well, regardless, and now that I am back home and I have had my first good night’s sleep in weeks, I am ready to return to the straight and narrow. I predict at least two weeks’ of home cooking, focusing on healthy, vegetable-laden recipes, and of course, I will share the best of those with you.
Brian Unger of NPR is the latest to weigh in on Wolfgang Puck’s decision to make his restaurants “cruelty-free,” including no longer serving foie gras, and his commentary is the most sensible yet. With all this concern about the eaten, he asks, what about the eater? Restaurant patrons mocked by waiters for ordering tap water, force-fed on Las Vegas buffets and packed into too-small spaces and told it’s romatic. Hear, hear! (Listen to the entire commentary on NPR’s website.)
I personally have managed to live a rather pleasant life without ever eating fatty liver (or foie gras, if you want to class it up), but then again, I haven’t eaten a steak in 15 years either. Any effort to make the raising and slaughtering of animals more humane and more sustainable gets a big thumbs up from me. I think foie gras is a convenient target because it’s perceived as a luxury item, but Puck will also be supporting small farmers and doing his part to preserve the environment in his efforts to responsibly serve cage-free eggs, sustainably caught seafood, and unconfined pork and veal.