Monday, February 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bonefish Grill

Ok, I know you're thinking, "Yeah, but that's a seafood restaurant. It's supposed to be focused on meat." Sure, but it's a good business decision to offer a few vegetarian options, and here's why.

On my recent visit, there were no meat-free main course offerings. None.

The only choices I could find were side dishes, and few at that: mashed potatoes or steamed green beans. There was also an appetizer of steamed edamame (soybeans). All pretty bland stuff to have as a main course--why bother eating out if you're going to eat that?

What I did is ask for an entree consisting of the edamame and a side of french fries (no side of fries was offered on the menu). The edamame are good of course but kind of bland to eat for a main course. I asked for a side of a dipping sauce which was quite tasty--a blend of Asian flavors and a spicy sauce usually served with calamari. Unfortunately afterward I found out the sauce contains oyster juice.

Here is a perfect example of a restaurant that could easily offer a vegetarian entree without breaking a sweat--just combine dishes that are already on the menu and discreetly label it "vegetarian" so we aren't forced to choose between eating something we don't want to or having to make an issue of it with the server.

Help us out a bit, restaurants--tell us on the menu what sauces don't contain hidden meat. That way we don't have to ask 1000 questions in front of our friends.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vegetarian Dishes at Restaurants

All restaurants should offer a few vegetarian selections. It's a smart business decision. First, not all omnivores want to eat meat at every single meal, nor do they need to. Second, most omni customers have at least one potential dining partner who is a vegetarian. When eating out together, they are most likely going to mutually agree on a place that meets both their needs.

A lot of restaurants fail to understand and accommodate this. The explanation I get is, "Well we just don't have a demand for those foods." Sounds a lot more like a failure to do market research than anything else. The customers who don't come through the door aren't demanding vegetarian foods, therefore you shouldn't offer them? Illogical.

We also know another thing about human nature--sometimes we just want to have choices, even if we don't use them. We want the Baskin Robbins 31 flavors but we usually get vanilla. Offering a few choices will play to what I call "vegetarians in the contemplation stage". Those are folks who are thinking about becoming vegetarian, or call themselves one but sometimes eat meat. (And YES, FISH IS MEAT.)

Anyway, it's not as if offering a few meat-free options is going to hurt anything. Keep a few cans of beans on hand and let guests choose between chicken or beans on a main dish salad. In the event you get an order, rinse the beans, add some fresh herbs. They could look really pretty and taste awesome.

Or how about a kick ass baked onion soup made with vegetable broth? Or a creamy mushroom noodle casserole?

If the goal is to bring more customers through the door, restauranteurs should make the vegetarian dishes delicious, not just tolerable. No one wants to pay $20 for some iceberg lettuce and canned beans. Be creative; make it delicious and different.

A lot of these dishes would be popular among all guests, not just vegetarians and people observing Lent. :)

Product Review: Perry's "Piece of Cake" Ice Cream

I am not a cake lover at all. Most of the time I feel cakes are not even good enough to waste the calories on. Yet about once a year in the winter, I feel like having a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Even while I'm eating it, I'm thinking, "This isn't good." And yet I am craving it.

I do love ice cream though. Normally I am orthodox about my ice cream shopping. I don't stray from the few brands that don't use artificial ingredients. And yet last night I found this prize:

All in one package, I've got my unorthodox ice cream brand and the flavor of yellow cake with chocolate icing. Not only that, but the icing tastes exactly like the one from the can (which I never eat, even when I'm having the annual weird craving).

And yet it's strangely satisfying. It has a few tiny cubes of yellow cake. The ice cream flavor itself is the perfect interpretation of yellow cake made from a box mix, and like I said, the frosting is the frozen version of canned frosting.

What do I have to say for myself? I'm embarrassed...and not.

mmmm.... yummy mono- and diglycerides, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan, and dextrose....

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's on your Valentine's Day menu?

At this time of year I get to the point when eating out becomes a bore. It's not the restaurants; it's the process of going out. It's freaking freezing out there, and the mud-salt-sand-slush combo is annoying. Then you wait in line to be seated while newcomers provide you with a never-ending blast of frigid air when they open the door. A good part of the enjoyment is gone when just getting there makes you uncomfortable!

So staying in it is. I'm really looking forward to it though. I bought a fondue maker and I'm ready to go. I've been planning my menu for weeks. Here it is:

Field greens with heart-shaped herbed crouton and blood orange dressing
Cannelini garlic dip
Mushroom ravioli with marinara sauce
Eggplant braciole with pear tomato sauce (my own invention)
Chocolate-coffee liquor fondue with fruit

Am I a good wife or what? ;) (I guess we'll have to see on that one. Hopefully my husband won't miss the meat!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Soup's on!

The microwave and fridge at work haven't been available for a while, so I have been getting by on whatever I can--usually hummus and crackers. The winter has been so cold--below zero a few times last month--and I've been craving soup.

Finally Sunday I had an afternoon at home to make some good, old fashioned soup. I winged it. I cooked some dried cannelini beans in water with spices and random pieces of vegetables I'd saved for the occasion--celery leaves, beet stalks, mushroom stems, etc.--anything to give it flavor. When almost done, I drained the water, added spinach, and pureed it. Then and added some mushroom broth, half a lemon, more basil, spinach, and uncooked spelt. I cooked it until the spelt was done and sprinkled a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan on it.! It's a brown, thick, hot mess but man is it awesome!! Definitely a keeper. I'm going to have to restrain myself from eating several more bowls today.

I feel warmer already.