Holiday Shopping Made Easy

I would love to make everyone on my holiday shopping list a big basket full of handmade breads, pastas, and pastries.  But between the constraints of kitchen space, time, and location, sometimes this is not possible.  In steps Zingerman’s.

The first time I felt like a true adult is when I placed an order for a few holiday gifts through Zingerman’s food catalog.  My orders were simple baskets full of pastries, chocolates, and coffee, but they were a huge load off of my mind.  Without having to worry about shipping, packaging, or wondering if the receiver would like it, it was a breeze.

I chose Zingerman’s for a few reasons.  First of all, I love giving the gift of food, especially if that food is savory (I don’t even want to look at another sugar coated cookie come December 26th).  Food to me is thoughtful, the opposite of a wasteful “filler” gift, and something that will make the recipient think of you when she is chowing down.  I chose Zingerman’s for two simple reasons.

1. I had just moved from Michigan and their deli sandwiches were always on my mind (If you haven’t seen The Five Year Engagement, you should, as it will give you an idea of the things people do for these sandwiches), and.,.

2. They have a great quality selection.  The owner of Zingerman’s has travelled all over the world to find the best of the best.  You can rest assured that whatever olive oil you order from them will be infinitely better than your supermarket variety.  Plus, they package gift baskets to help expand palettes, meaning your recipient gets something they like and then some.  In addition, their customer service is through the roof.

I love having this mail order on hand simply because it makes ordering for any occasion easy and I never have to scour the internet to find something someone will like.  There are countless companies out there that do just this, and I invite you to find one that will suit your needs the best.  Until then, I’ll be noshing on some roadhouse bread!

-Ashlyn

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Garden Harvest Cookbook Tutorial

My grandma recently told me of a beautiful problem that was plaguing her kitchen: her garden had created an over abundance of zucchini and tomatoes.  Her and my grandpa have been scrambling away to find recipes that would fulfill all their vegetable needs, but they had a hard time finding anything tasty outside the traditional salad and kabob rut (with the exception of a gratin they made for a Sunday dinner).

The unfortunate thing about gardens is that sometimes, no matter how much harvest you give away or bake into dinners, sometimes you still have too much.  For me, I feel like I spend all winter dreaming of the delicious ways I can prepare produce from my garden only to make more than my fair share of caprese salads when summer rolls around.  Here’s my idea to combat this waste of delicious food: create a recipe book specifically tailored to the veggies you grow.

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In my version, I used a simple binder found at an office supplies store, binder dividers, construction paper, and chalk.

Since I wasn’t able to keep a garden this year, I made my (small) list of categories very general.  Tomato, zucchini, kale, peppers, and spinach.  If your garden is more in depth, or you want to push your culinary boundaries, make categories for each variety of plant you have.  Japanese eggplant? Heirloom versus cherry tomatoes?  The possibilities are endless.

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Then, load up your new cookbook with recipes you find all year long.  When your garden delivers a bounty, it’ll be easy to create something delicious from your pages of inspiration.

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Also, if you aren’t a fan of printing out pages or keeping a physical book, make a garden Pinterest board.  Make boards the same way you would for physical folders, and pin away.

Either way, don’t let your bounty go to waste.  Stay inspired!

-Ashlyn

Kitchen 101: How to Use a Chemex

It’s just for hipsters in their Brooklyn apartments with their exposed brick walls and Arcade Fire playing on their turntable, you say.

It’s just for brooding baristas, with their ironic paper crane tattoos and hair swooping over their hungry eyes, you say.

You like your $20 coffee maker, you say.

You don’t have time for pour over, you say.

Well, it’s not and your wrong, I say.

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Gone are the days where the brooding hipsters get all the good coffee because now we can all have explore the joys and taste the greatness of pour over coffee!  Simply put, pour over coffee is made manually, with the help of freshly ground beans, a strange looking hourglass shaped glass, and hot water.  The reason this coffee tastes so good (and is a little more expensive to order at a coffee shop) is because the technique leaves the beans evenly soaked, not acidic, and smooth.  Try for yourself.

Needed:

Chemex

Chemex unbleached square coffee filters

Coffee grinder

Really good coffee beans (Pelican is my favorite)

Kettle

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How to:

1. Bring enough water for however many cups you want to boil in a kettle.

2. When water is boiled, grind enough beans to cover the blade.  Grind until you can still see chunks of bean, as you don’t want the cofee too fine.  Never do this in advance, as beans lose flavor and aroma the minute they are ground.

3. Open up square filter.  You want it to be shaped like a funnel, with the paper two sides thick on one side and one side thick on the other.  Set the filter into the top of your Chemex and pour the ground coffee beans inside.

4.  Slowly begin to pour your hot water over the beans.  You want to do this in a circular motion, not just pour it on top in one location.  Start by pouring your water on the sides of the paper and slowly work closer to the beans.  Allow the water to settle, then continue to pour.

5.  Once all the water is poured, wait until it has drained into the basin of your Chemex.  Once you are finished, enjoy your delicious coffee!  Skinny jeans and a copy of Slaughter House 5 are optional.

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Festival Booth: Yay or Nay?

Last week, Michael and I ran Lino’s Italian Restaurant’s very first festival booth. We slung homemade meatball submarines and lasagna for $5 each and worked hard to entice people to visit our brick and mortar location near by.   We made t-shirts, signs, and even did a little dancing.  Although less than profitable, it was four cold, rainy days of learning.   Although I cannot say I am an expert of hometown festivals with only one under my belt, I’d like to offer my insight for independent restaurants looking to gain more exposure.

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1. Attend the festival as a guest.  This might have been our biggest mistake.  Our choice of Troy Daze was based on the relatively inexpensive price of setting up and the smaller crowd.  Not knowing what to expect, we wanted to start small.  Taking the festival’s chairperson’s word that there would be 50,000 people all hungry for meatball subs, we were a little shocked to find that the much smaller crowd (5,000 people) wanted only fried carnival food.  Had we attend the festival for ourselves the previous year, we might have been able to tell that Troy Daze’s clientele was not for our restaurant.  We might have fared better at a festival geared towards food, not rides.  

2. Critique your menu to the weather.  Our only saving grace was the fact that the weekend of the festival was frigidly cold.  Our piping hot lasagna warmed up chilled hands and kept people toasty as they enjoyed the festival’s rides.  Although it can be difficult to plan your food’s temperature for the impending weather, it’s a good idea to leave some room for hot or cold drinks.  Had we also offered hot chocolate or coffee, our booth might have been packed.

3. Market your hottest feature.  At Lino’s, everything is homemade.  My boyfriend’s grandma and great grandma spend their mornings making sauces, pastas, soups, stocks, and meatballs from scratch, the old Italian way.  Since this is unique to us, it made sense for us to play it up.  Making signs highlighting your unique selling point is a sure fire way to get people’s attention.  In addition, Michael’s ten year old sister helped us out, and who can say no this adorable girl?

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4.  Use social media! If your restaurant is not on Facebook and Twitter, it should be (more on that later).  If it is, USE IT!  Post reminders that your business will have a booth, post links to the festival’s website, travel directions, whatever,  a week or so before the event.  When the event is live, post photos of you and your gang having fun, serving food, and enjoying the festivities.  Someone sitting on Facebook will likely think you’re having more fun and come and check you out.

5. Beautify your tent.  We didn’t really take into account the aesthetics of our tent.  White tablecloths, white walls, and a big, silver warmer was pretty much the visual visitors got of our fine dining establishment.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t memorable.  Take the time to pick out fun tablecloths, make eye catching signs, and hang things from your tent wall.  If it doesn’t give you more traffic (and it should) at least you’ll have a more pleasant living space.

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Here at Lino’s we are checking the surrounding area’s calendars for our next festival.  With one under our belt, we’re hoping to knock ’em out in round two.  But what about you?  Has your restaurant set up a booth before?  How’d it go?  Would you do it again?  Let us know by commenting below, we’d love to hear from you!

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