Monday, March 21, 2011

Service V.S. No Service

To Serve or Not to Serve?
One of the most over looked aspects of the hospitality industry is Service.
The ambiance of a restaurant is very important to a customers over all experience.  Having a bad server can make or break a good time out and will influence customers decision to come back again, this goes for cleanliness and appearance as well. This is why most businesses flourish. The repetition of consumers to a certain establishment is because they “plain and simple”, had a good time.
They enjoy the food and they enjoy the company.
Great service can be achieved easily through a proper training processes and a good management team.  For chain facilities, (for example The Keg, Milestones, Jack Astor’s etc.)  have a basic manual, uniform and staff policy that make them very similar from establishment to establishment. This reassures the guest that when they are about to dine they can expect very similar if not the same food and service as compared to a sister property.  

Unfortunately there are more bad then good experiences being had by most people these days. A lot of this is because of time management. Drive-through is great when you are in a hurry but completely takes away the human interaction that usually would make one want to re visit if the food happens to be un-enjoyable.  However with the majority of the population attempting to multi task an “on the go” feature is very appealing.  Let’s just hope the product continues to remain reliable and the staff on there A game.

I find that anyone who works in the hospitality industry has a greater appreciation for good service because we know how it feels to have worked a slow night to a difficult busy night. Now it could be that the kitchen goofed or the customers are just being difficult but bottom line a bad night sucks and reflects a bad mood. Most of my friends are in or have been in a hospitality job.

One friend in particular is an excellent server and decided to create a blog rating different facilities in the area. Being a server for so long ensures that she knows what is fair and what is not when it comes to service. If you know of a place you would like her to rate, or would just like to see an experts opinion please follow the corresponding link and send the name and location to her web address.

Please Tip your waitresses 15% at least. Its a bare minimum to show appreciation for the attempt.

~"Nouvelle Cuisine, roughly translated, means: I can't believe I paid ninety-six dollars and I'm still hungry."~

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Apologies, My Recipes!

My Apologies... My Recipes

My deepest apologies to all my followers. This blog and the last have been a little delayed to the fact that I am currently moving my residence from the beautiful Niagara region 2 hours north to Barrie area. I will try to make up a few blogs so on Thursdays I just have to post them but buying my very first home requires a lot more work then I intended and therefore has kept me very busy.  With that being said I will continue to write about things I know and am learning.
I’m going to share a bunch of drink recipes with you that I enjoy in loving honor of Jessica. One of my Best friends and Birthday Girl! A Drink lover like me, who I’m sure will enjoy quite a few cocktails over this awesome celebration time.

Before I share my recipe list I just want to allow you to understand the terminology of making a drink.
Drinks are put together by different methods. Build, Stir, Shake, Combine and Layer are the most common methods of preparing the most delicious cocktails. Build is adding the ingredients as they are listed, Stir is to add the ingredients as they are listed and then stir them with a bartending spoon, Shake refers to the use of a shaker which allows you to add your ingredients together and then blend them very well, Combine can mean to build while adding ingredients simultaneously or combine separate and then to the drink. Last but not least Layer is to add one ingredient at a time but because of their viscosity level they will appear as if they are sitting on top of one other.

 Drink Name: Apple Pie
 Glass type: Cocktail
 Method:  Shake
 Garnish:  Slice of Apple, sprinkle of cinnamon
  Recipe:   1 ½ oz. White Rum, 1 ½ oz.  Sweet Vermouth,  ¼ oz. Apricot Brandy, 2 Tsps. Grenadine, splash of lemon juice, Garnish.

Drink Name:  Boiler Maker (Granddaddy of shooters)
Glass type:   Shot glass and A Tall highball or pint.
Method:       Drop & Shoot
Garnish:       N/A (No time)
 Recipe:       Drop shot glass of whisky into a glass of beer. Be prepared to drink quickly.

Drink Name: Coffee Royal
Glass type:  Cup/ Mug
Method:   Build
Garnish:   Whipped Cream (chocolate sprinkles if desired)
 Recipe:   1 ¼ oz. Whisky or Scotch, Coffee, Garnish.  (More of an after dinner drink)

Drink Name:  Dry Manhattan
Glass type:   Cocktail
Method:    Stir
Garnish:  Cherry
 Recipe  :1 ¼ oz. Rye, 1/8 oz. Dry Vermouth , Garnish.

Drink Name:  Electric Popsicle
Glass type:   Shooter
Method:   Shake
Garnish:   N/A (No time)
 Recipe:  1/3 Each Vodka, Parfait Amour, Creme De Banane, Dash of Lime Juice.

Drink Name:  Flying Cow
Glass type:   Champagne
Method:    Shake
Garnish:    Pineapple Slice
 Recipe:   1 oz. Brandy, ½ oz Apricot Brandy, 2 oz. Pina Colada, Garnish

Drink Name:   Godfather
Glass type:   Rock
Method:    Build
Garnish:    N/A
 Recipe:    Ice to loosely fill the glass, 1 ¼oz. Scotch, ¼oz. Amaretto.

Drink Name:   Jelly Bean
Glass type:   Shooter
Method:    Layer
Garnish:    Can be Flamed. (Yes, you light the drink on fire if desired)
 Recipe:   1/3oz. Grenadine, 1/3oz. Anisette, 1/2oz. Tequila

Drink Name:  Banana Split
Glass type:    Champagne
Method:     Combine
Garnish:     Cherry
 Recipe:    1 ½ oz. Swiss chocolate Almond, ½ oz. Creme De banana, 3oz. Cream. Combine in blender with ice cubes.  Garnish. (May substitute ice cream for cream)

Drink Name:  Whisky Sour
Glass type:   Sour
Method:    Shake
Garnish:    Cherry.
 Recipe:    1 oz. Canadian whisky, 2 oz. lemon juice, Garnish. (Any desired liquor may be substituted
EX. Scotch Sour)

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Oath Of Growth

Restaurants, shops and many local businesses took a hard hit when the Canadian economy took rest due to the crash of the US economy. Although many say we are headed in the right direction for recovery, I am curious if our markets still have the worst to come. Being in the hospitality and tourism industry myself, this is a big concern for my well being and that of many others in Ontario.

Canada did manage to float along alot better then some other nations during the financial wave. If this is due to a great government plan or sheer dumb luck, your guess is as good as mine. Unfortunately it is inevitable that Canada will take another hit to our already unstable financial market in the neer future.
The main sign we are to look out for is being placed in an asset bubble. Much like the states, our housing market becomes drastically unstable and the banks begin to raise interest levels higher then what targeting markets can justify. As the unemployment rate seems to be settling, there is still too many Canadians jobless and looking for alternate terms to gain earnings for their families.
So if this other hit in our economy strikes us at any moment those people who have not managed to grab a life raft will have to swim in the storm.

If we are lucky the next wave of unjust increase in everything from food costs to gas prices will not be as hard to handle as it was the first time around. Now we are prepared, now we have time to get ready.
Personally I hope that a way to soften the blow is to take advantage of our tourism industry. In this past year the Canadian hotel industry has boomed by about 60 percent creating employment opportunities and a fairly stable atmosphere. Room prices have dropped to ensure more interest as well as the new age pros that come in a package deal. For example most hotels have pools, hot tubs and saunas but now water parks, themed exploration and even connections through other establishments are being made to keep the industry up to date and appealing to the customer market. Having Canada sign a contract in 2010 with Japan for future tourism opportunities was a smart move. We are now expecting summer 2011 to bring over 100 000 egar tourists to scale our beautiful home in hopes that they bring along their wallets as well as their appetite for diversity in our culture.

Everyone keep your fingers crossed! This may just be the beginning of a long line of recovery or an accident waiting to happen, only time will tell.

It is a scary thought you have to admit, the uncertainty of your income which unfortunately is the base of existing life. Not only am I worried for those job hunting, but careers that are not high in demand will struggle as well. Here's hoping for a light in the tunnel.

I believe Jimmy Carter says it best:

~We must adjust to changing times and still hold on to unchanging principles.~

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For My Foodies;

For my foodies I'd like to chat about some different foods, Chefs and a particular inspiring food lover.
Foods are best enjoyed at their freshest time of the season. Some foods are found to be great all year round while others are only available for a limited time. If there is one thing that culinary school taught me that stuck the most, its that the best tasting food comes from fresh produce and home style recipes. Personally I find food from restaurants to be filled with MSG and different wax like preservatives that are to fake for my taste buds which may be enjoyable at the time but my body pays for it later.
 Not only am I uncertain of the quality of some foods at an eating establishment but the concern that is always on everyones mind is how good or bad it is for your body. With more and more Canadians getting fit and starting to have better eating habits it is important that we watch our daily intake of the food groups.
Follow the pyramid steps to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
Everything is great in moderation!

Speaking of fresh foods here are my top 5 favourite vegetables that are in season right now!!!
1) Artichokes; best boiled and steamed. I, for one, am in no doubt that the nutty, rich flavor of artichokes is worth the hassle of preparation that takes place before you can eat one.
2) Beets; can be eaten simply thinly sliced and drizzled with olive oil, turned into chips, grilled or roasted. Beets are available for much of the year, but the first spring beets, with their fresh greens still attached by deep rosy stems, are more tender than their larger ones harvested later on in the year.
3) Fiddlehead Ferns; have a grassy yet earthy flavor, a bit like artichokes, a bit like fava beans, even a bit of mushroom flavor.Fiddleheads can be steamed, sauteed, or pickled, but never eaten raw!
4)Lettuces;  are at their sweet and tender best in spring! With such a wide variety to choose from at your local farmers market, these light crisp leafs are best enjoyed with your favourite dressing drizzled over top.
5) Radishes; are around almost all the time, but they are smaller, sweeter and crunchier in spring. The spicy crunch of radishes is divine all by itself or complimented by a variety of foods.

In honour of all the award shows on these future and previous days I would love to talk a little Wolfgang Puck.Wolfgang is the chef for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, February 27th, 2011. Not only am I a foodie fan of his I was also privileged to work in his restaurant in Niagara Falls before he decided to pull his business from Canada. Plans for a new facility of his will appear sometime in the future in down town Toronto, but for now you will have to travel state side to try his dishes or pick up one of his many cookbooks and "do it yourself". From pumpkin ravioli, salmon & BBQ pizzas to his famous stuffed chicken Wolfgang is all about flavour-flave and presentation.
Another hot Chef right now is Guy Fieri. Another one of my top 5 fav's, hes known for his cuisine as well as his sense of humor. You might know him from the famous drive ins, dinners and dives or as the new t.v show host of minute to win it. Guy owns 5 restaurants in California and has not only written a few books but has been written about by other authors. This Italian, Irish chef was named the "face of the network" mid 2010 by the food network and has been on fire ever since.

Before I come to a catch phrase and leave you hanging until next Thursday, I'd also like to mention my favourite Chef who is not famous or very well known to the public spot light...YET.
My girl Linda Keeping who was my lab partner first year of school deserves some recognition. Not just because she is one of my closest friends but the food ideas and recipes she comes up with are some of the most creative I have seen in a while. Linda is a take home chef for any of you Niagara locals and comes highly recommended by clients from Beamsville to Font hill. Linda's blog is one that I will continue to follow for as long as she continues to write. If you don't believe me check out her page yourself by just clicking on her name.

                  ~  I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.~

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grape To Glass

Understanding the types of grapes used in wine and their characteristics is vital for any relevant knowledge of wine. Apart from white and black grapes, varietals come from two main families.
Vitis Vinifera, which is dominant in Europe, and Vitis Labrusca, which is native to Canada and the eastern United States.V. Vinifera is cultivated on every continent except for Antarctica.
In the 17th Century, North America formed hybrids with native species from the Vitus gene to combat an insect pest called phylloxera which was known to wipe out entire vegetation.

 The factors that affect wine flavor are the variety or varieties of grape used, the location where the grapes are grown (appellation), the treatment of those vineyards and skills used to manage them and of course equipment and techniques used by the winemaker.Different varieties of grape have differing aroma and flavor characteristics known as Varietal character.
Arguably, the types of grape used is the dominant factor in wine flavor.
If you were to take any World Famous Vineyard, or even an entire Appellation, plant it with a different variety and the wine from there would become unrecognizable.
There are over 5,000 varieties of wine grapes. Below are some of the main types:
This is a fresh, fruity grape grown in Burgundy, Champagne, California, Australia, and South Africa. Chardonnay wine tends to taste like fruits - melon, peach, etc. - and also many have an oaky flavor. It is one of the most popular and easiest to grow white grapes - it buds early, grows easily and has high ripeness levels.
Gewurztraminer; The first part of the name literally means "spicy" in German, the second part Traminer is the region of Germany where the grape was first founded. It has a floral taste with nutty tones. Gewurztraminer is also grown in Italy, California, Canada and Australia.
Riesling: Not just a dessert wine-grape, Riesling can produce dry crisp and fruity wine as well honeyed, musky flavours in warmer climate or when left longer on the vine. Riesling wine is native to Germany, and is also used in France, Australia, California, and many other countries . The Finger Lakes region of New York are well known for their Rieslings.

Sauvignon Blanc: This grape is grown primarily in California and France. It has a grassy flavor and makes a crisp, light wine. Fairly floral on the nose, would accompany citric dishes with chicken, fish and sea food.

Muscat; This is a very grapey-tasting grape that doesn't ripen easily. There are various varieties of Muscat - Muscat Blanc, Moscato from Italy, Muscat of Alexandria, and Muscadel. Moscato is the grape used for Asti Spumanti, the sparkling wine from Italy.
Vidal Blanc: Vidal is mostly grown in the northeast US, and is very hearty. It does well in late harvest sweet wines, as well as in ice wines. Vidal can adjust to many temperatures and yield higher then most grape types.
Auxerrois: Also known as Malbec or Cot, Auxerrois creates a neutral wine, fruity and soft. It is mainly grown in Luxembourg and Canada. In Alsace it is often blended with the pinot blanc grape.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon wines are made from these grapes. On the vine they are red, small, and tough. The wines tend to taste like blackberries and cedar. Bordeaux uses the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, usually mixed in with Merlot.
These grapes are also grown widely in California and Australia. The grape contains a lot of tannin, which leads to a good red wine when properly aged.
Cabernet Franc: A "parent" of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Cabernet Franc is used mainly in Bordeaux. It is also used in the Loire Valley, where it is called Breton. Other names include Bouchy, Bouchet, Gros Bouchet and Veron. Cabernet Franc is mostly used as an additive to blend with other grapes.

Gamay: This is the grape famous used in Beaujolais Nouveau wine, from France. It is often drunk young in as in these light fruity reds. various types of Gamay are used in the US and Canada often in Blends.

Merlot: This is an early ripening grape, with gentle flavors of cherry, honey, and sometimes mint. It has less tannin than some of its red cousins. Merlot wine is a major blending component of most Bordeaux wines. It's grown in France, Italy, Australia, US, Canada, and California.

Pinot Noir: These grapes are softer and earlier ripening than Cabernet grapes
, and are very sensitive to conditions. Used often in red wines, they are also used (without skins) as a white ingredient in Champagne. Pinot Noir wine is made in Burgundy, and also Australia, California, Oregon, Italy and Germany. Pinot Noirs from the Niagara region contain the highest amounts of resveratrol.
Syrah /Shiraz: This grape is grown in France and California as Syrah wine, and in Australia as Shiraz. In France, it is associated with the Rhone Valley and Hermitage red wines. Syrah tends towards a minerally, blueberry, or sometimes spicy and peppery type of flavor. Not to be confused with Petite Sirah which is an entirely different grape.

A grape plays a large roll in the flavour of a wine but what about the proper consumption method?
For reserve wines please decant for 1-3 hours before enjoying, you can also use an Aerator if you do not think that you will drink a full bottle. There are many types of stemware so you must be careful when selecting a glass to pour you wine into. Burgundy reds usually have a larger bowl for maximum aeration and swirling. Glasses that narrow towards the mouth are meant to send the wine to specific taste buds before your stomach gets to fully appreciate it. The newest technology to the stemware group is the new breathable technology which claims to be a thinner glass and allow air to travel to the wine faster and easier.
You can pick up any stemware at a Home Sense, Sears or Ikea at a reasonable price but the wineries are going to have the latest and the greatest fads for consuming wine as long as you can afford to pay a little more then you usually would for a glass.

                                                        ~Wine a bit - You’ll feel better~

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reds, Whites & Drunk All Over!

Have you ever had a good wine buzz? I'm not talking about being completely inebriated to the point past intoxication, although many of us have walked down that road I'm sure, some more than others. I'm talking about having a couple glasses of the vino and getting that happy medium between sober reality and the too tipsy to function. It starts with the giggles or a little speech slurring. You could become a little red in the face or find your self going to the washroom a little more than usual. Every one's symptoms are different but it all means the same thing... that wine is too good to put down!

Now as much as I love encouraging folks to try a few different wines or just 1 memorable bottle I would like to take a minute to turn to the serious matter of intoxication and the appropriate measures to take.The new intoxication law has been put in place so now to be deemed "drunk" your Blood Alcohol Concentration is .5 instead of the old .8. About 17,000 impaired driving incidents were reported by police in Ontario in 2005 with that number increasing every year! Roughly 174 people were killed and 3,852 people were injured in motor vehicle collisions involving a drinking driver. 16.7% of drinking drivers in Ontario had a BAC of less than .08 and the majority of those were more likely to flee from the scene of a crime because of intoxication.
Please, please, please do not drink and drive! There are many means of alternate transportation accessible to those who have had one too many. Catching a cab is now easier than ever thanks to technology! You can order a cab online or with a mobile application. Buses are free to students in most post secondary education communities and are cheap for a monthly pass or even to ride for the evening. There is always the good old street car in some larger cites or the never failing call a friend.
My point being you will not get away with drinking and driving. Eventually the police will catch you either in a ride program or on the roads. I just hope it happens before someone gets seriously hurt, no one wants to learn the hard way from a tragic mistake that impacts many lives including your own.
Please arrive alive and stay responsible!

On a lighter note enjoying an alcoholic beverage with friends or family is encouraged as long as your taking the right precautions. A wine always tastes better with the right company compared to drinking alone or in the wrong company.
Remember that moderation is key with food and wine! It is the balance that keeps us healthy and happy.

Wine pick of the season:Speaking of happy, I keep going back to a 2005 VQA Cabernet Sauvignon by Lakeview Cellars. Please keep in mind that I am biased and I prefer a light red to an easy drinking white any day of the year.
I prefer Merlot's and much earthier reserves, but this wine was so exquisite and jumps with life on your palate that I just can't say no. It is available through the 20 Bees winery at Niagara-on-the-lake for 25 dollars. This bold, fruit forward, reasonably priced red is perfect for the cold snowy season we've all been enjoying this winter. Not so easy drinking to most, however my  refined palate can appreciate older and more full bodied wines compared to wines I enjoyed a year ago. Anyone who lives within driving distance should try a bottle before it is out of stock! it is not available at the lcbo but 20 Bees is open Monday through Sunday 11A.M - 6P.M.

Eatery of the season:My choice of eatery for the season would have to be The Office. It is located down town St.Catharine's, Ontario. Menu selections from wanton nachos to soups, salads, pastas and sandwiches range from $5.00 to $30.00. Great food in a very modern setting, this smaller style, affordable restaurant offers more than meets the eye and is the greatest local hot spot I have found so far. Time after time I enter and leave satisfied and completely content from food to service. Not to mention the Monday - Wednesday FREE corkage! Which means you can take a bottle of your favourite wine and enjoy it with appetizers or a full on meal.

~The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.~

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Heart Smart

It is now the first week of February 2011.
Besides the intense snow storm we received yesterday, 2011's winter has been fairly sunny and bright with fair to moderate amounts of snow. For Canadians, this results in a lot of out door activities. If your one of my friends your outside snowboarding and tobogganing but for those of you too timid to brave the storm there are a few things you can do inside that are amazingly enjoyable and great for the heart. After all Valentines Day (the best day of the year in my opinion) is right around the corner and there is no such thing as being too sweet for this lovable holiday.
Did you know that Pinot Noirs from Niagara have the highest levels of resveratrol? It is a known fact, Resveratrol is the natural antioxidant found in the skins, seeds and tannins in red wines that lower cholesterol and are good for your heart. What a great excuse to crack open a few extra bottles this month! If you would like your full bodied reds to be as smooth as you are this up coming holiday, pour into a decanter and let rest for about an hr. Just wait, it gets even better, chocolate also has the natural antioxidant which is good for your body so a pairing would not only be extremely satisfying for your taste buds but healthy too! Eureka!

I personally plan to enjoy a few bottles of Pinot Noir this month with the roommates and a few favourites. However, 6 ladies in one house means I'm going to supply at least a case of the good stuff. Being realistic for a second, I do not have that kind of money to spend on wine just yet so I have found a few bottles that I can enjoy without having to break my budget. I have come up with 5 local picks that are reasonably priced without sacrificing the great healthy flavours I am looking for.

Lets Break It Down;
1) 2007 - 20 Bees Pinot Noir.
This easy drinking red is something great for my white wine drinkers who find the tannins a little on the offensive side to enjoy. Great to have on its own or paired with soft cheeses, grilled meats, veal or vegetable lasagna. At $10.95 a bottle its hard to just buy 1.  (Bottle is 750ml)

2) 2007 - Dan Aykroyd Pinot Noir.
This wonderful ruby red has fresh red fruit on the nose and palate that include sour cherry, raspberry and cranberries. Not only is it being consumed by our troops over in Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan but it is widely enjoyed by the staff who produce it. $14.95 a bottle is a small price to pay for such a well structured VQA red. This wine will compliment a variety of delicious foods from mild sea food dishes to turkey and pork loin.

3) 2006 - Megalomaniac Sonofabitch Pinot Noir.
Subtle aromas of Cherry, wood spice and vanilla make this medium-bodied red very enjoyable.
John Howard's "heart break grape" is featured at the winery and in the LCBO for $24.95.
Marinara pastas, herbaceous salmon or a simple mild cheese and fruit platter would be this red wines best friend for an evening full of memories.

4) 2007 - Konzelmann Estates, 4 generation Barrel aged Pinot Noir
This full-bodied Burgundy style Pinot Noir has fresh and clean character. Spicy, smoky, Black cherry jam aromas accompany the good firm weight of this robust red. At $30.00 a bottle, this bold red would stand well to a perfectly cooked steak or lamb.

5) 2004 - EastDell Estates Pinot Noir
This beautifully aged pinot was my personal favourite. Tasting so close to a glass of welches grape juice, hints of vanilla and wild berry flavours lingered on the tongue after the smoothest finishing pinot Ive drank so far.
On sale at $12.00 it is no wonder that the smooth earthy library wine sold right out of stock.

This brings me to my final conclusion for pinot's in the Niagara region.
Taste a few before the good ones are gone. Not only are they good to taste but are good for you.
Understand what you like in a wine and take a tour to a few vineyards to find something better. Is all I ask is for you to make it your mission to get to at least one winery in NOTL, Beamsville or Pelee Island and see what they have to enlighten your senses. If not a red maybe a white, a port or perhaps an Ice Wine.

Once your done your tasting I would love to hear if anyone has hit a gold mine and found a wine that I should consider taking a second look at. Even if its a wine you had a month or a year ago, just like good people wines make an everlasting impression on the mind.

~ Here's to freezing cold nights, warm friends and a good drink to give them~