High-Tech Hacks for a Tiny Kitchen… tools, tips and apps

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Cooking demonstrations are slow to come, mostly because I have such a teeny kitchen. If you’re like me, perhaps you can benefit from these few high-tech kitchen hacks!

High Tech Kitchen Hacks
For more detail, click below…

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Kevin Rathbun Steak… Surprisingly Vegetarian Friendly

Kevin Rathbun's Steak Cocktails
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My “vegetablerian” friend got a group of her favorite foodies together, myself included, for an indulgent girls night out. We decided to visit Kevin Rathbun Steak located in the Atlanta neighborhood Inman Park near the Krog Street Market– right on the belt line.

The restaurant was packed on this Saturday night. We added one person to our reservation at the last minute, which resulted in a bit of a wait. So we grabbed seats outside by the fireplace, ordered a few appetizers and a round of cocktails. Literally EVERYTHING was delicious– including the server J/K. The Grilled “Thick-Cut” Bacon is the perfect blend of sweet and salty and savory thanks to the sriracha-molasses glaze. And for me this appetizer is just one example of what sets Kevin Rathbun Steak apart from other steakhouses in the city.

Kevin Rathbun Steak is obviously known for meat, specifically the aged steaks. I had no doubt that this portion of the meal would be amazing. I was however concerned about the sides. That is typically where steakhouses fall off for me. As is common, the sides are ala cart– meaning the meat doesn’t come with a side. You order them separately and they are generally large enough to share. This group had already agreed to share the sides so that we could try everything.

With a vegetarian in the group, I assumed that we’d have to be judicious with what we ordered. I was shocked to see that the vast majority of the sides were actually vegetarian. I was also surprised to see that it didn’t just consist of generic options like asparagus and potatoes. There are 15 side dishes to choose from. The stand outs for me where the Kale laced with agave, the macaroni with truffle crumbles and the butternut squash risotto.

Final Word: Two thumbs up. Great atmosphere, great service, great drinks, great food. Kevin Rathbun’s Steak is not a boring steakhouse. You won’t find food like this at your neighborhood chain restaurants.

TIPS: (1) Make a reservation– especially on the weekends. I returned on a Tuesday and it was still packed. (2) Follow the crowds. Apple maps will send you to a house on the next street over and announce “arrived!” (3) Feel free to bring your favorite wine; the corking fee is only $20.

 

Kevin Rathbun Steak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Champagne… How to Choose Your Next Bottle of Bubbly

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I love champagne! I don’t indulge nearly as much as I would like. I’d wake up to champagne if I could, but real life. And also, maybe you can relate, I’m overwhelmed by options. The info graphic below (from the Aria Resort and Casino in Vegas) might be helpful.

Champagne Guide Infographic

Below, click MORE for more details about champagne pairings.
“Pleasure without Champagne is purely artificial.” – Oscar Wilde

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Portico Global Cuisine– Basic Menu, but Good Food

Valentine's Day Surf N Turf
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I recently dined at Portico Global Cuisine, which is located at the Le Meriden Hotel Perimeter Atlanta, near Perimeter Mall. Over the years, this particular hotel location has been the Westin, the W Perimeter and a few years ago it got a complete overhaul as the Le Meridien.

The Le Meridien present itself as design centric, contemporary hotel with a focus on the customer experience. Entering the lobby, you immediately get that sense with the clean lines of the design esthetic, the contemporary earthy textures, warm fabrics and of course the friendly staff. I hoped that Portico would deliver in the same vein.

As it was Valentine’s Day, there was a prix fixe menu that featured a few clichés but I can’t complain because I totally took the bait and ordered the Surf N Turf. I needed a lobster tail in my life that night. It was served with truffle cream, asparagus and mashed potatoes.

My love ordered from the regular menu which disappointingly featured a host of generic staples like a salmon dish, a pork chop, a burger and a market fish. He ordered the ribeye, which was served with asparagus and a mushroom risotto. The menu options didn’t thrill me, but again, I hoped that they would deliver in execution.

As the food goes, nothing was amiss. I have to say, for all my disappointment at the uninspiring options on the menu—my steak was nothing short of fantastic. It was cooked perfectly. The lobster tail was huge and tender. The potatoes were clearly prepared with heavy cream. And the truffle cream sauce for my steak was to die for–I nearly cried.

It’s noon somewhere… J/k these were our drinks from Valentine’s dinner. Super delish! @eddie_shoryuken loved his Manhattan. #drinks #bar #love #foodie #datenight #dinner #drink #vodka #instagood #happyhour #drinks #alcohol #drinkup #cocktails #cocktailhour #classiccocktails #atlanta #atl

“It’s noon somewhere… J/k these were our drinks from Valentine’s dinner. Super delish! @eddie_shoryuken loved his Manhattan. #drinks #bar #love #foodie…”

Let’s talk about the drinks. After flipping the wine menu over a few times I realized there were no cocktails. When I asked about that, the server presented me with a separate menu that no other table seemed to have.

The conversation of ordering cocktails brings me to the bar service. Portico has a small dining room. There is also an outdoor space which I hope to experience this summer, but it too is very small. The bar for the restaurant is technically the lobby bar called, Longitude 84. So if you ever have to wait for a table, you’ll be hanging out at the lobby bar until they call you.

For Valentine’s Day, the restaurant was prepared for the high volume with many servers and I imagine a full kitchen. So seating went quickly, food came in a timely fashion, but the drinks did not—as Longitude 84 serves not only the lobby, but the restaurant and the guest rooms. So on high volume nights, be prepared for a wait on drinks unless you order at the bar before checking in with the restaurant hostess.

My final thoughts: Having tried a few salads, a soup, a few steaks and a few cocktails at Portico– I have to give it a thumbs up. I say if you live in the area and haven’t tried it—stop in on your next date night or girls’ night. Portico doesn’t cater to a jeans and t-shirt crowd. I remember one couple coming in dressed that way and everyone in the dining room looked at them sideways. You don’t have to be in a suit, but I believe in matching the restaurant’s aesthetic.

My only critique is the menu. The food is prepared well, but the name of the restaurant is Portico GLOBAL Cuisine and I was completely underwhelmed with the options. I hope that they will revisit the menu before I return in the summer to hang out in the outdoor space.

Portico Global Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Eat Your Way to a Prosperous New Year

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Champagne goes with everything!
Champagne goes with everything!

Growing up, my family got together every January 1st for lunch or dinner. It was always the same meal, but I really never realized that pattern. One year, I heard someone say “I gotta get some more collard greens, I need all the money I can get!” This confused me, so of course I asked my mom what that meant and she explained it all to me.

 

It is a tradition in some cultures to eat a specific meal on New Years Eve or New Years Day. In Span and many latin american countries, they eat 12 grapes at midnight. In Pakistan and India people eat rice to symbolize prosperity. There are even behavior traditions, like packing a suitcase to encourage travel in the new year. Other people believe the first person to cross the home’s threshold will be the most lucky. And in my family, we make sure that we have a very clean house by midnight.

 

As for food, our tradition is fairly simple. We eat black eyed peas, collard greens, candied sweet potatoes and ham. The black eyed peas and ham are for good luck. The collards represent financial gain. But I have no idea why we always have candied sweet potatoes. There are other foods around too, but those four are the main staples.

 

Even some restaurants get in on this game. One year a lot of my relatives were traveling, so my mom, my aunt, my cousin and I went out for lunch. In honor of the new year, South City Kitchen was serving a black eyed pea and collard green soup as a special starter. We all indulged. It was fantastic.

 

Anyway, I wish all of you a very happy new year. If you’re even a little bit superstitious, be sure to eat some good luck foods! The list below could be a good place to start. Happy New Year!!

Click for more ideas for good luck meals on New Years Eve and New Years Day!

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The Bitter Truth about Bitters

The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
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The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set

I have to admit that for years I had no idea what “bitters” were. I would see the word in cocktail ingredients list and shrug it off. 

I also didn’t know that there were so many different types of bitters. I only ever saw angostura bitters and orange bitters on the shelf at the grocery store. So you can imagine my surprise when I started talking to mixologists about why they used bitters in drinks. 

So for those of you who don’t know:

What are bitters? Bitters are literally liquid extracts of herbs, seeds, barks, roots, rinds, flowers and leaves. .

What do bitters do? Bitters were historically used by apothecaries to aid in digestion among other things. Today they are used to add very specific flavors and to add amazing smells that bringing out mild, unique flavors in your cocktails.

Can I use bitters at home? If you want to upgrade your home bar, you should absolutely include at least two different types of bitters. You’ll seriously really impress your friends with your extensive home bar if you include these key ingredients.

Where do I start? Purchase The Bitter Truth Traveler. This set includes five different flavor bitters in a cool box. As an added bonus, this set is TSA regulation for in-flight carry-on bags! And from my personal experience, since you only need a few dashes per drink, this kit will last you a long time! 

For more information about the kit click here. And click below for cocktail recipes for the bitters!

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Thanksgiving Prep… Never Feel Overwhelmed Again!

"The Turkey" by Antony Quintano (CC)
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"The Turkey" by Antony Quintano (CC)
“The Turkey” by Antony Quintano (CC)

For many home cooks, Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most stressful meals of the year.  This year, however, can be different thanks in part to these 7 Thanksgiving Cooking Hacks from the team at Chef Works, the leading supplier of culinary apparel for chefs and home cooks alike.

 

7 THANKSGIVING COOKING HACKS

1. Create a timeline and master grocery list

Cooking a meal for a lot of people can be quite the challenge. To help make the process easier, you can spread out parts of the meal and cook it throughout the days leading up to it. By the time your Thanksgiving guests arrive, you’ll have everything ready sans the extra stress and clean up.

Start by making yourself a cooking timeline and a master grocery list several days before the big day. Not only will this allow you more time to enjoy your family and friends, but it also gives you wiggle room for mistakes and ensures that you won’t be making last minute grocery trips because you forgot an essential ingredient.

 

2. Prep ahead of time

One of the biggest challenges on Thanksgiving Day is juggling multiple dishes at the same time.  Instead of trying to do everything at once, take a look at your menu and see what can be done ahead of time including:

  • Pie dough. Make your dough far ahead of time and freeze it. That way all you have to do is thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and you have homemade piecrusts to impress everyone the next day.
  • Turkey stock and gravy. You can easily go to the butcher and get all the turkey extras you need (necks, wings, etc.) to make your homemade stock that you will use for stuffing and side dishes and freeze it weeks in advance. The same goes for gravy, which is usually the most stressful part to make with everyone breathing down your neck anyway. Making gravy ahead of time gives you plenty of time to pay complete attention to the process (we all know that stepping away from constantly stirring the gravy can mean disaster) and give you time to strain it so that you don’t have bits of anything in it. Plus, gravy freezes well, so all you have to do is reheat it Thanksgiving day.
  • Casseroles, soups, and roasted vegetables. When creating your menu, consider items that can be done a day or two ahead of time then reheated just prior to the big meal including corn, green bean, and/or sweet potato casseroles; creamy squash or carrot soups; and roasted root vegetables and/or Brussels sprouts.  And if refrigerator space is limited, simply store them in an ice filled cooler until they are ready to be reheated.
  • Prepping vegetables. Cut down on the prep time Thanksgiving Day by chopping all of your vegetables, peeling all of the potatoes, and sauté the stuffing ingredients ahead of time.
  • Add frozen butter to the dough. Adding cold butter to your pastry or biscuit dough rather than melting it or softening it to make it easier to mix in is what makes the end result deliciously soft and flaky. However, “cutting in” cold butter is the ultimate pain. Instead, use a cheese grater to grate frozen butter into your flour.
  • Skip peeling the potatoes. My family doesn’t serve mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, BUT… One of the most tedious tasks that usually ends up with peels flying all over the kitchen no matter how careful you are, peeling the Thanksgiving potatoes is not necessary. Boil your potatoes with the peels on, then once they’re cooked, “shock” them by dunking them in ice-cold water and the peels will slide right off when you rub your hands over them.

3. Cook your turkey outdoors

We all know how precious stovetop and oven space is before holiday meals.  This year, consider cooking your turkey on the grill or in an industrial fryer (grilled turkey with citrus-herb salt and sage butter here).  Not only does this free up a large amount of room in the oven for side dishes and desserts, the smoky flavor from the grill will be a welcomed surprise for all of your guests. And who doesn’t love fried meats?

 

4. Tape all your recipes to your cabinet doors

Printing out all of your recipes and taping them to your cabinet doors not only gives you a visual of what still need to be done, it’ll save precious minutes as you won’t be searching for recipes online, in cookbooks, and elsewhere. Plus, this makes it easier for others to jump in the kitchen and help.

 

5. Ran out of butter but have heavy cream?

It’s crunch time and you suddenly realize that you’re out of butter.  No need to panic, however, as you can make your own as long as you have a jar, heavy cream and salt. Watch this video to learn how.

 

6. Have your emergency contacts ready

Okay so Thanksgiving is rarely an absolute disaster, but there are definitely moments of panic and second-guessing throughout the day. Have this list of holiday hotlines on hand if you need a quick answer about your Thanksgiving dinner preparations. From turkey preparations to how to store and what to do with leftovers, these hotlines can help you out in a pinch (especially if you’re the stubborn kind who doesn’t like to ask family for help).

 

7. Don’t forget about your slow cooker

Your oven will be getting a workout and you might be panicking about getting all your dishes heated in time for dinner. Slow cookers are an excellent and out-of-the-way cooking option for veggies, mashed potatoes, or cranberries. There are plenty of Thanksgiving recipes for slow cooker casseroles, so don’t let this space-saver go to waste!

 

I you have tips for how to make Thanksgiving dinner prep much easier, send them to me via twitter or facebook! Talk to you soon. Until then remember life is good; eat it up!

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Buttermilk Kitchen… The Best Ingredients for a Basic Breakfast

Buttermilk Kitchen fried egg BLT  from IG @DineWithDani
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Buttermilk Kitchen fried egg BLT  from IG @DineWithDani
Buttermilk Kitchen fried egg BLT from IG @DineWithDani

After roadtripping to a samba gig at a latin festival, my fellow passista and favorite vegetablearian (more on that to come) joined me for brunch at a place I drive by almost daily. Buttermilk Kitchen is nestled in Buckhead just south of Chastain Park and next to a few other restaurants I’ve been meaning to try (10 degrees south and Mirko). This farm-to-table, local foods restaurant is known for its fried chicken served on a buttermilk biscuit. And as is my luck when I go in search of certain dishes, they were sold out when I got there.

Buttermilk Kitchen has a pleasant atmosphere. Parking on site is very limited and a bit disjointed, but it is clearly marked. When you finally enter the restaurant, the hostesses are smiling and helpful. And since the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, be sure to allow for about a wait during peak times. On a sunny day the breakfast bar/waiting area is bright and airy. You won’t be able to sip a mimosa or bloody mary while you wait, since this place has no bar. Major downer.

Anyway, I found the Buttermilk Kitchen breakfast menu to be full of unpretentious ingredients and techniques, offering familiar dishes with a slight twist. Its not the most comprehensive breakfast menu, but it covers most of the basics.
With her dietary restrictions, my vegetablearian friend did her best with the menu and opted for the market scramble, which changes seasonally. This one included sweet potatoes, poblano peppers, red onions, cilantro and cotija cheese. A strange combination to me, but with the addition of tabasco sauce–  it seemed to work for her. While ordering, she asked if they could add spinach to her scramble. The response was a long-winded explanation about different types of spinach, the local demand and then ultimately the rule that they don’t modify dishes. The latter would have sufficed upfront. My friend ultimately chopped up a side of sauteed kale and mixed it into her dish.

I ordered a fried egg BLT on ciabatta. the green tomatoes and mountain of bacon on the sandwich were perfect, but I wasn’t really a fan of all the bread. My hash browns with rosemary salt were pretty good. They looked like a prettier version of the kind you get at mcdonalds, but they tasted way better. I wish I had more to say about it.

I really love a local foods, farm-to-table scheme in a restaurant. But I have to admit that I was underwhelmed. This cute little rustic blue house with the very nice staff serves good food, but this first impression was not great. Maybe my mind would change if I had the fried chicken biscuit. However, I saw a biscuit on someone else’s plate. Meh.
If someone else invites me to Buttermilk Kitchen, I’ll definitely consider it. And I’ll pray that I can try the fried chicken. But otherwise, this place wouldn’t be added to the list of options. I’m glad i finally checked it out. I have nothing bad to say about Buttermilk Kitchen, but nothing stellar to say either.

Buttermilk Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Start a Better Breakfast Routine… BistroMD

Courtesy of BistroMD
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September, Better Breakfast Month, is nearly at a close– but it is never too late to improve the way you start your day. Breakfast truly is the most important meal. A good breakfast can give you more energy and help you to make better choices throughout the day. I have a horrible habit of skipping breakfast usually because I don’t leave myself enough time to make something great, but I notice a difference when I make time for myself.

Don’t let the fact that September is almost over deter you from beginning a better breakfast routine. Fall is really good time to jumpstart your health and fitness regimen– it is so much easier to roll into the new year with good habits when you do.

BistroMD shared a few simple recipes with me that I’d like to share with you! Trust me– they are pretty yummy. Have fun!

bistroMD’s Sweet Potato Pancakes:

Courtesy of BistroMD
Courtesy of BistroMD

Serves 2

Calories: 330

Protein: 24 g

NET Carbohydrate: 19 g

 

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cooked sweet potato
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Peanut Butter
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

Directions: Mix all ingredients in bowl. Mixture will be lumpy. Cook on a skillet or griddle and enjoy!

Serve topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a side of turkey sausage.

 

bistroMD’s Black Bean Omelet

Courtesy of BistroMD
Courtesy of BistroMD

Yield’s one serving

Calories: 330

Protein: 21 g

NET Carbohydrate: 44 g

 

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of cage free 100% egg white liquid
  • 1/8 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of sea salt and black pepper

Directions: In a nonstick 8-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Pour the egg whites into a small bowl and sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Whisk for 10 seconds, add in the egg mixture to the skillet to cover the bottom and cook the eggs for two minutes. Using a rubber spatula, flip the egg over and cook for another two minutes. Transfer to a plate and leave the omelet open.

More ingredients that you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup of canned organic black beans
  • 1/8 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of diced green pepper (1/4″ x 1/4 “)
  • 1 tablespoon of diced red pepper (1/4″ x 1/4″)
  • 1 teaspoon of dice onions (1/4″ x1/4”)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon of fresh chopped cilantro
  • A pinch of sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of Mexican shredded cheese

Directions: Drain black beans and rinse with cold water. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add in the onions. Cook until the onions are clear, add in the peppers and cook for another two minutes. Add in the black beans. Continue to cook for another minute and add in the cumin, cilantro and salt and pepper. (The cheese is for the stuffing).

This delicious breakfast staple gets kicked up a notch with a black bean filling and fresh salsa on top.

Check out BistroMD.com for more healthy recipes and information about eating to live.

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Never Clean Your Grill Again… Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheets

courtesy of 5WPR
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courtesy of 5WPR
courtesy of 5WPR

When I first heard about Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheets I was really curious. I love using parchment paper and liners when baking; it saves so much time in the cleanup process. I seriously hate doing dishes. The dishwasher is one of my favorite kitchen appliances, but certain items aren’t dishwasher safe– namely the grill. And since cleaning the grill can be cumbersome, I’m so grateful to have these Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheets to avoid that messy process.

When the sheets came in the mail (sent from Cookina’s reps) I was super excited. I thought the packaging was really cool. Not the box per se, but the fact that it comes rolled up and with a reusable metal ring to help you store it neatly and discreetly among your other grilling accessories as well as a scouring pad to help you clean it.

After grilling chicken wings, chicken tenderloins, sausages and vegetables, I have to say that i’m pretty pleased with the sheets. While I was unable to get grill marks on my food (I’ll keep you posted on whether it happens on the next use), the food was evenly cooked. And afterward the grill grate was still perfectly clean.

My only unanswered question is about how long the sheets last: how many uses one can get out of one sheet? I think they’ll last at least an entire season of grilling if not longer. Either way, the price is worth sparing yourself the grief of cleaning the grill grate for the time being.

I would absolutely recommend the Cooking Reusable Grilling Sheets. They are available at Home Depots, Ace Hardware and the Cookina website. I’m so glad to have the sheets. I’m not a grill master, but I imagine this is going to make grilling meats and veggies that much simpler.

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