Archive | April, 2011

World’s Best Pizza

27 Apr

What is it about pizza that makes us love it so much? Is it the savory cheeses, the pliable crust or the aromatic sauce? Perhaps it’s the customizable nature of the treat. Each pizza is different; across the country — the world, even — foodies get to compliment their pies with the toppings they most love. You can call it an Italian creation, an American staple or even a Brazilian standby, but one thing’s for sure: we all crave pizza. But where should you expect to taste the best slice?

#6: Rome, Italy

While other cities try to entice you with the whole pie, Rome’s claim to fame is offering pizza al taglio, or “by the cut.” This variety has a thin crust and is normally baked on rectangular trays in a wood-burning oven. Tasty toppers include prosciutto, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant and potato, but when in doubt, you can also order a traditional margherita with just tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Vendors will allow you to determine just how big a slice you want (you’ll be charged based on its weight), after which they’ll cut your slice, fold it and wrap it in paper to go.

Where to Taste: Pizza al taglio is a convenient snack to have while sightseeing. You could order from Da Michele by the Trevi Fountain (opt for the kosher aliciotti e indivia with anchovies and endives), or at Da Remo by the Pantheon (try the zucca pizza with pumpkin).

#5: Chicago, USA

The foundation of any Chicagoan’s pizza is a thick, crunchy layer of crust that’s been stretched up the sides of a deep-dish steel pan. That dough is then layered, starting with mozzarella cheese, followed by any preferred toppings (such as pepperoni, mushrooms or sausage) before it’s coated in a layer of chunky tomato sauce. The first Chicago-style pie was served at Pizzeria Uno in 1943, and present-day diners can still frequent this Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue fountainhead to eat one of the city’s most identifiable dishes. Bonus: you don’t need to be in Chi-town to taste the magic; Pizzeria Uno is now a popular chain restaurant (known as Uno Chicago Grill) throughout the country.

Where to Taste: An employee at the original Pizzeria Uno, Rudy Malnati is the disputed creator of the traditional deep-dish pizza recipe. And according to many, his son Lou serves up one of the best incarnations of Chicago’s “casseroles” in the entire city. You can eat at his establishment, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, in the River North area.

#4: Osaka and Hiroshima, Japan

Sometimes called the “Japanese pancake” and at other times called the “Japanese omelette,” okonomiyaki’s flat shape and assorted ingredients have also earned it the nickname, “Japanese pizza.” Even the phrase okonomiyaki loosely translates to “cooked as you want it,” which sounds a little like what makes pizza so special in the first place. But what exactly is okonomiyaki? At its base is batter (made from flour, eggs, water, cabbage and cooking stock) paired with your desired combination of cheese, vegetables, fish and meat. In the city of Osaka, where the most popular version of the dish originated, all the ingredients are cooked together (by grilling on both sides) before the pizza is topped with a sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise, katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and aonori (seaweed flakes). If you’re dining in Hiroshima, the cook will fix your okonomiyaki batter first before layering on the other fixings.

Where to Taste: Several Japanese eateries earn a shout-out for their “Japanese pizza.” Osaka’s Mangetsu restaurant serves an okonomiyaki original sauce that “tingles and tantalizes your taste buds to the point you can’t stop eating the food that’s covered in it,” according to a satiated Virtual Tourist. And foodies across the web recommend Hassho, a Japanese chain scattered through Hiroshima Prefecture, for the best sampling of that city’s style of the dish.

#3: São Paulo, Brazil

Many Paulistanos in this self-proclaimed “Pizza Capital of the World” have a ritual of eating pizza every Sunday. And it’s not hard to find a place to indulge, as Reuters reports that there are more than 6,000 parlors in this city. São Paulo’s obsession with pizza dates back to the early 20th century, when Italian immigrants moved to the Braz district and their culinary tastes began to infiltrate Brazilian culture. Now, city residents even celebrate “Pizza Day” on July 10. People in São Paulo barely use tomato sauce, but they practically smother their pies in mozzarella cheese; popular pizza varieties include Portuguesa (also sprinkled with ham, onion, hard-boiled eggs and black olives) and Casteloes (which adds spicy Calabrese sausage). Whatever you do, be sure to abstain from adding ketchup to your slice — though this is a popular topping in the rest of Brazil, no self-respecting Paulistano would dare besmirch their pizza with the condiment.

Where to Taste: Casual and hard-core foodies agree that the best place to try a little São Paulo pizza is Braz, one of the city’s most popular parlor chains. Pizza is served rodízio style, where you pay a fixed price for all-you-can-eat and servers mill the premises offering various types of pie.

#2: New York City, USA

One of the more recognizable pies of the United States, New York-style pizza is characterized by a puffy outer crust that gets thinner and crispier toward the middle. Tricks of the trade include hand-tossed dough and cooking the pizza on a stone rather than in a pan. And as any New Yorker will tell you, there’s another key element to the Big Apple’s slices — the city’s delectable tap water. Who is to say whether the water’s importance is myth or actual method (The editors of the foodie blog Serious Eats even conducted a considerably comprehensive but ultimately unsatisfactory study)? Eddie & Sam’s pizzeria in Tampa, Fla. seems to think so: The owners proudly boast to importing New York tap water for the making of their dough.

Where to Taste: The hands-down favorite for New York parlors is Lombardi’s Pizzeria, located in NoHo. Considered the first pizza parlor in the United States, Lombardi’s also gets a shout-out from travelers for using fresh ingredients. Just come ready to chow down — this pizzeria doesn’t sell by the slice.

#1: Naples, Italy

There’s a reason the city of Naples earns the first slot on our list. It’s because the Neapolitan pizza is the most enduring recipe the world over, and recipes originated in other cities are often just variations on Napoli’s theme. And considering there’s even an organization devoted to the upholding the authenticity of the dish — the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana — it’s evident that this city takes dough-making and cheese-melting seriously. The wheat flour dough of a true pizza napoletana is kneaded into a pancake shape that shouldn’t exceed 11 inches across, before it’s smothered in fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and San Marzano tomatoes. It’s then cooked in a wood-fired dome oven at approximately 900 degrees Fahrenheit for no more than a minute and a half.

Where to Taste: Serious foodies disagree on where you’ll find Naples’ best pizzas, but there are a few favorites: Located on the city’s Via Sersale, Antica Pizzeria da Michele is one of the more popular spots — as evidenced by the long lines (and its cameo appearance in the movie Eat, Pray, Love). There’s also Pizzeria Brandi, oftentimes credited as the place that first served pizza margherita.

When to drink Water

25 Apr

We all need water, but did you know there is a correct time to Drink Water ?

I knew you needed certain amounts of water to flush the toxins out of your body, but this was news to me.

From A Cardiac Specialist!

Drinking water at certain time maximizes it’s effectiveness on the body:

2 glasses of water after waking up – helps activate internal organs

1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal – helps digestion

1 glass of water before taking a bath – helps lower blood pressure

1 glass of water before going to bed – avoids stroke or heart attack

Tricks of the Restaurant Trade: 7 Ways Menus Make You Spend

22 Apr

This is a really great yahoo financial article about menus by Marlys Harris
I am totally proud. My younger son Ezra recently graduated from the CIA. Not the government spy agency but the Culinary Institute of America. Based in Hyde Park, N.Y., it trains chefs and restaurant managers, and according to its website, is “recognized as the world’s premier culinary college with an industry-wide reputation for excellence.” I hope so, because, over the years, we paid a lot of tuition.

Ezra’s education, however, included mastering some skills almost as surreptitious as those employed by a secret agent. Example: Menu engineering, the topic of his honors thesis.

“The menu is the heart of the restaurant. It embodies the restaurant’s demographics, concept, physical factors and personality,” Ezra wrote in solid prose that is an obvious genetic inheritance from his mother. But don’t kid yourself. A menu, he confided to me in an exclusive interview, is also a sales vehicle, and many restaurants — smart ones — use it to get you to eat right. And, we’re not talking about your health, but about their profits.

Restaurant dishes generally divide up four groups, says Ez. First come stars — popular items for which diners are willing to pay much more than the dishes cost to make. Example: penne with vodka sauce. Plowhorses, are popular but less profitable items, like steak. Puzzlers are high-profit items that are tough to sell, say, sweetbreads. Finally, there are dogs that not many people like and aren’t profitable. Why they are on anybody’s menu, I’m not sure. Clever menu engineering exists to steer you to stars and puzzlers, to spend as much as possible and to enjoy doing it. After all, restaurateurs want repeat business.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Nevertheless, before you order your next Lasagna Classico at Olive Garden, Crunchy Rabbit at Jean Georges in Manhattan or Egg McMuffin at You-Know-Where, you might want to be aware of these seven common menu ploys.

1. First in show. Many restaurants group their offerings under the obvious headings: pasta, beef, seafood, entrees, appetizers and so on. Testing has shown that if you decide on chicken, you are more likely to order the first item on the chicken list. That’s where a savvy restaurant will place its most profitable chicken dish. A really sharp chef might put a puzzler like sweetbreads first in a grouping. “They only cost about $3, so the margin is huge,” says Ez. Of course, you’ve got to hope that enough people like sweetbreads.

2. Menu Siberia. Unprofitable dishes, like a seafood combo plate that require expensive ingredients, and lots of work, are usually banished to a corner that’s less noticeable or in a multi-page menu stashed on page five.

3. Visual aids. If you draw a line around it, people will order. That’s why many menus box off something they want to promote. Chicken wings are a prime example. They’re “garbage,” says my son of one of my favorite noshes. “They cost pennies so they’re huge profit items.” Photos also sell dishes. An album of what look like ten-inch-high pies set on each table at Bakers Square make it hard to resist ordering a slice. Fancy-schmancy restaurants, however, like this one in Westport, Conn., consider photos déclassé; from them the most you’ll get is a sketch or two.

4. Package deals. So you stop by McDonald’s for a mid-afternoon burger. When you get to the counter, however, what’s really in your face are photos of Extra Value Meals. You figure, says Ez, “Hey, I could eat two patties, I could use some fries, and now I’ll get a soft drink too.” The single burger you intended to buy is off in menu Siberia, on the board far to the right, but you’ve already spent more than you intended. A small percentage of the chain’s 47 million customers dropping a few extra bucks each day translates to millions in additional revenue. Another example: Olive Garden’s Bottomless Pasta Bowl ($8.95). “It’s very unlikely you’re going to eat more than two bowls,” says Ez. And, as one whiny diner noted, you’re like to scarf so many free breadsticks first that you won’t have room for all those noodles.

5. Dollar-sign avoidance. Focus groups who’ve been asked to opine on menus display an acute discomfort with dollar signs and decimals. Keeping money as abstract as possible makes spending less threatening. Many high-tone foodie establishments that charge an arm and a leg for, say, a bowl of lentils and groats now omit such crass symbols from their menus — like Spoonriver, a place I like in Minneapolis. I almost don’t notice that I’ve paid $12.50 for a rather small chicken quesadilla. Once upon a time, menus used leader dots (… .) to connect the entree with the price. You won’t find them much anymore either.

6. The small plate-large plate conundrum. A restaurant may offer two chicken Caesar salads, one for $9 and one for $12. You may think that you’re getting a break ordering the small one, but, says Ez, that’s really the size they want to sell. And if a diner decides, hmmm, I may as well get the larger one because I’ll never get rich saving three bucks, the restaurant will throw on some extra lettuce, making the price differential almost pure profit.

7. Ingredient embroidery. Foodie-centric restaurants practically list the recipe for each dish making each ingredient sound ultra-special. (An item is more likely to sell if it dwells on the fact that, say, the cheese came from cows at the Brunschwagergrunt Farm in western Wisconsin or that the organic mushrooms were raised by a former duchess with an advanced degree in microbiology.) Even at a humble eatery, however, a dish labeled Mom’s Special Mac and Cheese or “The BeeBop Bar’s Mac and Four Cheese casserole” sells better than just plain old mac and cheese. “It may not be any more special than what you get somewhere else, but you’ll start to think you can only get it there,” says Ez. And that will keep you coming back again and again.

You won’t find these gambits at every eatery. Not all restaurant owners plan their menus as carefully as they should. If they did, contends my kid, maybe they would stop placing entrées in the middle of the right hand page, prime menu real estate, because “most people who go to a restaurant are going to order an entrée anyway.” he says. “That’s where I’d put desserts.”

S. Pelligrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants

19 Apr

Organized by Restaurant magazine, the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts. What constitutes “best” is left to the judgement of these trusted and well-travelled gourmets.

There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria; for example an interesting experience in a simple establishment, where exceptional innovation was discovered, could be judged better than a more opulent meal from a widely feted restaurant team. The results are a simple computation of votes.

Given that this well-constructed list is based on personal experiences it can never be definitive, but we believe it is an honourable survey of current tastes and a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the globe.

World’s Top 50 Restaurant List

http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners

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