3 Hots &
a  Cot

3 Hots

January 7, 2014

 Hop, Skip and Go Naked in 2014

Food Trend predictions for the new year

This past year was a polar opposite year in food trends and Colorado certainly participated in schizophrenia.  With over 250 new Denver restaurants that opened in 2013, we welcomed any and all food trends with open arms: crazy doughnut stores, more food trucks, whole hog, clean eating, and a place to nosh on real Southern biscuits.

Some of my predictions from 2013 panned out:

  • The standard malted waffle batter got bumped for red velvet waffles, waffles with cheddar cheese and bacon in the batter, and waffles used in place of buns for that sweet-savory cravability.
  • Juice became a verb, as in “I’m juicing”.
  • As if on a predetermined schedule, every other week a new brewery opened in Colorado – even in the ‘burbs like Wheat Ridge, Golden, and yes, Highlands Ranch!  Guess what? Twenty more breweries are scheduled to open in Colorado in 2014.

I figure my 50% accuracy rate validates an attempt to predict this year’s trends.  But before we do that, let’s lay to rest the argument over trend vs. fad.

A fad is a flash in the pan, or in this case fryolater, like the Cronut.  Part donut, part croissant, the Cronut became the “in” pastry of 2013.  By the end of the year, this flaky, fried delight will have been forgotten, like twerking or Mayor Rob Ford.

A trend has got some staying power.  Radiant Orchid is predicted to be the color for 2014.  Following a bell curve, a trend will ramp up interest, hit its peak, then slope downward with the next trend hot on its heels.  In other words, your purple toaster will look pretty foolish in 2015. 

Bacon is a prime example of a food trend.  Happily, I believe we are experiencing the denouement of cured pork belly bliss.  Cupcakes and Siracha fetishes too.  And remember all those Cosmos and Appletinis we used to drink?  Even Sochi won’t bring back Carrie Bradshaw’s sexy vodka drinks.

I’m predicting some trads this year; maybe they’re trends, maybe they’re fads, maybe the phrase trad will stick (it probably won’t).

  1. Beans – Beans, beans they’re good for your heart…and your wallet.  Meat is getting pricy; legumes fill the protein bill on the cheap.  The classic rice ‘n’ beans packs complete proteins on a budget, yet still delivers on taste and satiety
  2. Breakfast for Dinner – Speaking of beans, many Brits enjoy baked beans with breakfast.  Although this may sound strange to us in ‘Merica, savory breakfasts will triumph over last year’s sugary sweet pastries.  Items like shirred eggs baked in tomato sauce, omelets packed with veggies, authentic Huevos Rancheros, and pancake batter studded with cheese and chives are so satisfying, be prepared to see them on dinner menus.
  3. Ploughman’s Lunch – Eating wholesome while on the go can still be fun.  Replace that uninspiring sandwich with a grown up “Lunchable”.  This classic pub grub gets an upscale makeover.  Think a wedge of sharp cheddar, a hunk of artisan bread, and substitute the traditional pickled onions for Kimchi.  Add Surryano Ham (made from pigs whole only eat peanuts), and a sweet/sour chutney.  Finish off with a few slices of a tart Granny Smith apple and a square of 72% Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate.  You’ve hit all the five tastes - including umami - in one simple yet unique meal.
  4. Hop, Skip and Go Naked – A ploughman’s lunch pairs nicely with an ale.  But with Colorado brewery openings outpacing Starbucks, standard ales feels a bit “been there, done that.”  In 2014 beer gets fancy.  Brewskis make a great mixer in beertails like Orange Beer (aka Beermosas), Boilermakers, and beer mixed with lemonade, whiskey and grenadine.    
  5. Gin is In – Gin is gender–neutral.  Men have fewer taste buds than women, which accounts for men’s love of deeper bitter smoky liquors: whiskey, tequila, and scotch.  Call it “sensitive” call it “more evolved”, but women’s hightened sense of taste makes those amber drinks unappealing, so their go-to liquor is typically vodka.  Gin bridges that Goldilocks gap and is just right.  The juniper berry delivers a crisp piney taste that both sexes can agree on. 
  6. Mustard Greens – I feel obligated to mention something healthy after all that talk of booze. Kale has enjoyed its time in the spotlight; it’s no longer that weird, curly leaf used to dress up the salad bar at OCB.  But it’s time for Kale – chips and all – to pass the torch to another leafy green.  Mustard greens are dark bitter greens that long for a slow cookers touch.  So toss them in with the above mentioned beans, fold them into some eggs for dinner, or sauté them with…
  7. Spelt – Step aside quinoa and let spelt take a turn in the gristmill.  Easier to spell than freekeh, easier to pronounce than sorghum, spelt is the grain du jour that will help you tighten your belt.

I’m pretty stoked for 2014’s food trads.  With recreational marijuana now legal in the Centennial State, Coloradans will need to satisfy those munchies, which means Mile High restaurants are poised to do big business this year. 

I’ll let you make the final prediction: where will the first magic brownie bakery in Denver set up shop?    

November 26, 2013

Recipe from my Big Sis...

This "no-fail" recipe is perfect for your Thanksgiving table.  I also love to spread a layer onto turkey sammiches with crisp iceberg lettuce and Hellmann's mayonnaise (NO Miracle Whip allowed!).

This also makes a nice gift - a perfect way to say "thanks" during these busy times.  I make a triple batch and can them in 8 oz. Ball jars.  Top the jars with a sqaure of pretty fabric, secure it with a rubber band, tie a piece of twine around in a bow, attach the recipe (optional) and give it to someone you're grateful for.

To ensure proper food safety, put the filled jars through the standard canning process: 10 minutes hot water bath on the stove, remove, 10 minutes upside down on the counter, flip right side up and listen for the glorious "POPS!" which means you've done it right. 

Once properly canned, shelf life is about 6 months.  After you open it, refrigerate it and use up in the same amount of time as you'd hold on to jams and jellies.  But trust me, it will be gone before December 1st!

Triple Cranberry Sauce 

1 c. cranberry juice concentrate, thawed

1/3 c. sugar

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries

1/2 c. dried cranberries

2 t. orange zest

2 T. fresh orange juice

3 T. orange marmalade

1/4 t. allspice

Combine cranberry juice and sugar in saucepan and cook until sugar dissolves.  Add both cranberries and cook until berries are soft.  Remove from heat, add remaining ingredients. 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

March 25, 2013

“Hot” Review: All Hail Prince Lebanese

Prince Lebanese Grill

503 West Randol Mill Road, Arlington, TX 76011

817.469.1811

www.princelebanesegrill.com

Breakfast – NO.  Lunch – Perfect.  Dinner – Okay,

Ever had a food craving surface and there is no cure except indulging it?  Admittedly, like most women, mine often reveals itself in the urgent need for chocolate.  But on this particular day I had a massive craving for Middle Eastern food.

Here was my predicament: I had just landed in Dallas, Texas.  This is not my home town, nor familiar enough to be considered “my ol’ stompin’ grounds.”  I’m in the Lone Star State for work about six times a year, so I know Cowboy-country enough to understand that United services DFW airport and LUV is a hub for Southwest.  Other than that, the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area is so freakin’ huge, it would take me years of travel there to truly feel like I had any sense of belonging in that city.  All I know is I’ve been warned not to “mess” with it. 

Alas, with a metropolis that large, I knew there just had to be a Middle Eastern restaurant or twelve, and one of them was probably: a) close to my business adventures, and b) good.

I deferred to my favorite travel companion: the TV Food Maps app on my iPhone.  Even for people who don’t travel for a living, this is a handy (and free!) app to install on your smart phone.  I’m not going to “sell” you on this bit of technology or bore you with how this app works.  Just get it, use it, and you’ll understand.  Moving on…

With the recommendation of Guy Fieri (yes, I realize 9 out of 10 people surveyed think he is a “Douche” – their word, not mine.  His Massengill-ways don’t bother me too much as I don’t think of him like a real human, more like a caricature of his bleach-blond self) I set off to Prince Lebanese restaurant in Arlington, Texas. 

The building resembled an old drive-in diner from the heyday of American Graffiti.  The current owners hadn’t spent much on updates, which was fine by me.  I like a little grunge vibe when I walk into a Middle Eastern place.  It doesn’t mean “unsanitary” to me.  If anything, it screams “authenticity”.

I don’t get off on starting a restaurant review with the negative, but I need get this conspicuous blunder out of the way.  I go to a lot of “Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives and Douches” joints.  Whoops!  Leave out that last “D”.  Anyhoo…at these establishments you tend to notice an AD(3) effect (After Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).  I’m not sure if the owners signed some complicated release form they didn’t have legal council proof first, or if they are just infatuated with Triple D and its host.  Either way, this place was Guy Fieri’s personal fire hydrant.  His face was on every framed photo as well as the Food Network logo stamped all over the menu.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t impressive – like a signed photo of Betty White on display at Pink’s in Hollywood.  Instead, it screamed of desperation.

Décor aside, the food was phenomenal!  I was distracted (and initially tempted) by the Food Network call outs on the menu, and almost went with some overpriced “sampler” plate that you know was created after the show aired.  Instead, I ordered the more reasonably portioned Kafta Kebab

When Americans think of “kabobs”, we visualize grilled meat (and perhaps veggies) on a skewer – right?  Well kebab, just means “grilled” hence the stick is not mandatory.  In the case of “kafta”, meaning to mash together with your hands, this Middle Eastern cross between a hamburger and a meatball, does not require a stick.  And at Prince Lebanese, it doesn’t.  I told you this place was authentic.

The Kafta Kebab was a charred yet juicy patty of blended beef and lamb, chopped parsley, and onions, all laced with those tell-tale Middle Eastern spices: coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice.

The huge plate of Lebanese goodness was served with rice pilaf, humus and pita, and an extra side of pita because apparently they didn’t hear the news that the Paleo diet is “in” and carbo loading is “out”.

At nine bucks, it was priced right for the lunch crowd, which included doctors and nurses in their scrubs from the local Millwood Hospital.  There were also Middle Eastern customers enjoying their lunch in the dining room.  I consider local worker-bees and “native” customers a “Two thumbs up” rating. 

The quality, flavor, and price of the food greatly dwarfed the aesthetically unpleasing atmosphere of a virginal Richard Dreyfuss, meets Guy Fieri, and asks their lunch lady to come up with a fluorescent lit “theme” for the dining room.  As for service – “middle” of the road for this Middle Eastern place.  I was expecting to be waited on by a mysterious olive-skinned man with a dark mustache and frown plastered across his handsome face (imagine the “Soup Nazi” character).  Instead it was a 19 year-old blonde wearing a hot pink t-shirt who was clueless to the fact that customers, especially solo ones, don’t like to sit in the middle of the dining room as if on display.  I need a wall to anchor me!

I’m not sure why you’d be in this Dallas suburb – and I’m hoping it’s not due to a hospital visit.  But if you are, and if you have an unsatiable hankering for Middle Eastern food, hit up Prince Lebanese Grill for a Texas-sized plate of crave-satisfying deliciousness.

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