Category: Bjorn Koch (Page 2 of 7)

The New Face of Fast Food

In recent years, the fast food market has changed dramatically. Today, there’s a focus on healthier options, better quality of products, and an effort to serve food in environmentally friendly ways.

While the fast food industry may appear to be making positive changes, the negative aspects of still outweigh the good. For example, a standard fast-food restaurant delivers on average more than 1,500 calories per meal. It’s no wonder that obesity is now considered a national health crisis.

 

Could affordable salads be the secret to America’s health?

An easier solution must exist. How can we make fast food healthy and affordable? The secret may have already have been discovered. Drive-thru salad chains.

The genius behind this solution is that it delivers what the market wants (healthy food) yet remains efficient and affordable. The unfortunate lure of fast-food is not the quality but the convenience. If we build healthy meccas that offer nutritious options, we could solve one of the leading health challenges in America today.

 

Leading the way

The future may have already arrived–and chances are–you’ve heard of them: Chipotle, SaladWorks, Panera. While not all of these chains exclusively offer salads, they do impress a healthier image to their consumers. At Panera, a customer can choose from a wide range of nutritious meals, including meat that’s free of antibiotics.

And there’s one chain that’s making a big impression. Salad and Go. This newer model hopes to break into the big leagues by offering fresh and affordable salads and meals, exclusively. With 8 locations across the midwest, the menu at Salad and Go offers salads, burritos, and smoothies made with whole, natural, and organic ingredients. The company’s goal? According to their website, living life in the fast lane doesn’t require sacrificing flavor or nutrition.  

The question remains whether these new chains have the potential to attract the consumers. We know that the market exists and thrives today. According to a Gallup study, 1 in 3 children eat fast food at least once a day.

It’s far easier to consider exchanging the type of food in this American diet staple than trying to reinvent a way for Americans to consume food affordably and on-the-go.

 

Bjorn Koch fast food placePerhaps the biggest obstacle facing these chains is the cultural association we keep with the industry. For 50+ years, the phrase fast food has conjured a very specific type of experience. Today, we have the opportunity to change that. But to achieve that goal, we first must shift our mindset: there’s no rule that the items at a fast-food restaurant have to be fried.

 

 

Want to Cook at Home? Read This First.

Bjorn Koch home cooking

Going out for dinner takes a lot of pressure off of you, the consumer of the meal. Weighed against cooking at home, going out to dinner means no cooking, no cleanup, no time spent cooking and table service. When it’s put this way, it seems like dining out should be the unquestionably better choice here.

But sometimes cooking a nice dinner at home is just a better option. Maybe you don’t feel like spending money on dinner one night, or maybe you just want to hone in your cooking craft. After all, anyone can pay for a meal cooked for them, but not everyone can actually put in the work and cook one themselves. Plating a beautiful and delicious dinner yourself is a sense of pride and accomplishment second only to the satisfaction you get from devouring it.

But not everyone can cook a dinner or prepare a dish as well as what you’d get from a restaurant. If you’re one of the people who falls into this category, consider these four tips.

 

Read the recipe All the Way Before You Start

There is nothing quite as disheartening than getting two thirds of the way through a recipe and then realizing that you lack a fundamental ingredient, or come up a little short in quantity. Rather than forcing yourself to rush to the grocery store for another stick of butter or onion, jeopardizing the entire meal, sit down the night before and read through the recipe.

Why the night before? It’s simple: some recipes require that you let something sit overnight before cooking. While this may seem to be an entirely skippable step, it’s not. If a recipe calls for something to marinate overnight, you’ll want to let it marinate overnight. This is particularly true of tougher cuts of meat, as marinating overnight facilitates the breakdown of muscle fibers and allows for a juicier steak the next day.  

 

Buy Nice Cutlery

The difference between a good knife and a bad knife could be the difference between having two thumbs and having one. The better the cutlery you own, the sharper your knives are, the safer you’ll be when using them. Theoretically, this sounds counter intuitive; a sharper knife however ensures that you’ll have to apply less pressure to cut your food than a you would have to with a duller knife. A sharper knife makes for easier cuts and less slipping and fumbling with your foods.

 

Cast Iron is Your Friend

Cast Iron skillets can be a lifesaver and make cooking much easier and much higher quality. Cast iron skillets are fairly cheap and last almost forever. They’re durable and can withstand higher levels of heat than standard glass or cookware. They’re also fantastic for heat distribution, and the “seasoning” aspect of cast iron means they don’t need to be washed with soap. They’re also non-stick by nature and incredibly versatile, you can cook anything from scrambled eggs to biscuits and gravy, all the way to baking a cake!

 

Practice, then Tweak

While you’re still homing in your cooking skills, follow recipes. It may seem too “standard” or “unoriginal” to simply follow a recipe you found online or in your cookbook, but following advice of the professionals to a T will guarantee good results at first. Then, when you’ve mastered the recipes you should begin experimenting with tweaking them to meet your specific taste.  

Table for One: Why Dining Alone is A-Ok

Bjorn Koch dining alone

Sometimes what we need most in the world is some peace and quiet. We often prefer quiet while we’re working, while we’re reading and while we’re relaxing. There are certain things that are just almost undebatably better to do alone. But, for whatever reason, there are certain other things that are seen as strange to do by yourself, among them going to the movies, going to see a concert or sporting event and, of course, eating.

It’s time to stand up against the stigma. Eating alone can, and often is, a fantastic experience.

Think about what your immediate musing are when you see a friend, coworker or acquaintance sitting alone at a table, whether it’s at an upscale restaurant or the cafeteria at work. Your first inclination is often to offer to sit with them on the grounds that no one should ever have to eat alone.

That right there might be your first mistake. There’s a chance that that person you’re currently taking pity on isn’t being forced to sit alone, he or she is doing it by choice. Sometimes, eating alone is far more enjoyable than eating with others depending on the person.

Dining out alone doesn’t have to be a sad, sultry or pathetic exercise in getting food and hiding behind the menu hoping that no one will spot you committing such an unfathomable act in public. Eating alone is relaxing. It takes the pressure off–this might be one of the relatively few times that you get to experience a silent evening enjoying a meal cooked for you.

There’s no pressure to make something everyone will enjoy, as if you were eating at home.

There’s no pressure to hold a conversation with someone who you may or may not be interested in (think “first date”).

There is no pressure. There is only you. And the waiter/ess. And your delicious food.

And perhaps, a book. Bringing along something to read is another one of life’s carnal pleasures–reading that thriller that you’ve been picking up every night before bed while you eat your dinner is the ultimate experience in solidarity.

There is no sense in being embarrassed or ashamed of eating alone–in fact, it’s something that everyone absolutely should experience at some point in their lives. Dining alone is liberating, stress-free and cheaper. It gives you time to unwind, whether it’s by reading a book or surfing the web on your phone. You can listen to music, catch up on a podcast or have a drink or two at the bar.

Really, you can do whatever you want, you’re alone, remember?

 

Great East Coast Restaurants

In the United States, there’s a nearly endless selection of restaurants, from a McDonald’s to restaurants that are considered the best in the world. I’ve decided to compile a list of high-end restaurants throughout the East Coast. They’re also affiliated with hotels or inns and have stunning views. If you live somewhere along the East Coast, most of these restaurants are a simple drive away, so you might want to plan a special trip to one. New York might have some of the world’s best restaurants, but you’ll have to head outside of the city for these country views.

 

Bedford Post Inn – Bedford, New York

The Bedford Post Inn sits on 14 lush acres and offers stunning views of nature. There are two stupendous restaurants, The Barn and Campagna. The Barn is a more casual dining experience with a rustic decor and wood beam interior. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served during the week, with brunch being served on weekends. Campagna is a fine dining restaurant that serves traditional Italian food and handmade pasta, along with some dishes using local ingredients.

Visit their website.

 

Spicer Mansion – Mystic, Connecticut

Spicer Mansion is a luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of Mystic, Connecticut. The mansion was built in 1853 and has traditionally been the summer home of Captain Elihu Spicer. After much restoration, the mansion now houses a luxury restaurant that offers stunning views of downtown Mystic and the Mystic River. The restaurant offers world-class food and is open to guests or by reservation.

Check out their official website here.

 

Castle Hill Inn – Newport, Rhode Island

Castle Hill Inn rests on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic and provides guests with panoramic views of the ocean. This historic building was originally built by in 1875 for a Harvard marine biologist to spend his summers at. Now, it’s an extensive inn that houses various guests, either in the mansion or in cottages near the ocean. The Dining Room at the Inn has been there for over a century and has the distinction of being a Forbes Four Star restaurant, along with Chef Lou Rossi. There are over 800 selections on the wine list, as well as delicious cuisine. Guests can also opt to eat on The Lawn during summer months.

Read more here.

 

Blantyre – Lenox, Massachusetts

This manor is located between Boston and New York City and sits on 46 hectares. It was built in the Tudor style during 1902. The manor has a spa, beautiful guest rooms, and an award-winning restaurant in the Main House. A pianist will serenade guests with live music, while they enjoy mingling in the Music Room, the Covered Terrace, or the Main Hall. Fresh flowers, linens, and fine china adorn the tables for dinner, which promises to be a memorable experience.

Look at their website here.

 

Camden Harbour Inn – Camden, Maine

Camden Harbour Inn is considered one of the world’s best boutique hotels and is located along the coast of Maine. The Inn has been catering to guests since the late 1800’s. Nobility has even stayed here! Natalie’s is the AAA Four Diamond restaurant in the Inn that offers views of Camden Harbor, the mountains, and Penobscot Bay. Cuisine is a mix of European and New England style food.

Learn more about the Inn here.

 

Get to Know the 5 Foundational Mother-Sauces of Classical Cuisine

Any true fine-diner can speak to the power of a great sauce. Whether that sauce arrives atop a steak in the form of a flavorful glaze or plays center-stage to a bowl of homemade fettuccine noodles, sauces are key to many of the world’s greatest dishes.

Did you know that most sauces can be broken down into five categories? Just like wine, understanding the type of sauce will help you make a more informed decision whether you’re ordering out or testing your hand in the kitchen. Referred to as mother-sauces–these simple bases act as the foundation for thousands of classic meals.

 

Béchamel

 

What it is: A creamy, white sauce that’s thickened slowly, over low heat

To make this sauce, a chef combines a roux (butter and flour) + dairy item, usually cream. This super-sauce is the star of favorite dishes like lasagna and macaroni and cheese.

 

Véloute

 

What it is: A thin, lightly colored sauce flavored by chicken stock

If you’re a lover of roast chicken topped with gravy, you have this sauce to thank. Created using a roux + chicken or fish stock, this sauce accompanies everything from chicken pot pie to shrimp scampi.

 

Espagnole

 

What it is: A basic brown sauce flavored by beef stock

 

Made similarly to the véloute, simply substitute the chicken stock for beef and you’ve got yourself an espagnole sauce. Perfect to make glazes and gravies, you’ll find red wine and mushrooms as common additions to this delightful sauce.

 

Tomato

What it is: The foundational sauce for all tomato-based dishes.

 

The classic tomato sauce accompanies traditional dishes like spaghetti and pizza. It’s flavor is created by combining a roux and tomatoes on the stovetop. Additions like garlic, basil, and onions provide that warm and delicious flavor we cherish.  

 

Hollandaise

The perfect topping for eggs and asparagus, hollandaise sauce may be time consuming, yet completely worth it. A close relative to mayonnaise, this sauce is bound together via an emulsified process using butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice.

An accomplished diner can parse a complicated menu with ease by simply understanding the root of each dish. Why not explore the educational aspect of dining out? It’s a great way to understand the foods we love and try out less familiar foods.

 

For the highly motivated, test your hand at home:

Béchamel: To create the best mac & cheese

Véloute: For any chicken dish

Espagnole: To top a perfect filet

Tomato: For classic dishes

Hollandaise: To impress brunch guests

Five Countries & Their Defining Cuisine

Bjorn Koch Food

Some countries are well known for a specific type of food, like pasta in Italy or sushi in Japan. Other countries have lesser known delicacies that require some research to learn about. I’ve compiled a list of six different countries that are not always cited as the best countries to sample food in, but they do have their own dishes to offer that are stupendous.

 

Australia – Pie floater

The pie floater is a meat pie placed in green pea soup, often finished off with salt and pepper, vinegar, and tomato sauce. It’s ideal for when cold weather hits Australia. Some even claim the pie floater is a reliable hangover cure. They were traditionally served from pie-carts parked on the side of the street, but can now be found in restaurants throughout Australia.

 

Argentina – Asado

Asado is a type of grilled meat served in Argentina. Only the best cuts are used, so the meat will have a tantalizing taste. Many people claim the best place to get asado is in the countryside, or homemade in someone’s backyard. It’s carefully flavored and grilled, which leaves a stunning flavor. This food is an important part of the culture in Argentina. The person who makes the grilled meat even has a special name; the “asador”.

 

Singapore – Katong Laksa

Laksa is a dish that originated with descendents of Chinese immigrants who moved to the area between the 15th and 17th centuries. There are many different variations of laksa, but the way Katong Laksa differs from the others is that the noodles are cut into bite-sized pieces. The noodles are then mixed together with fish cake, bean sprouts, cockles, and prawns, all in a coconut curry gravy. It’s a pleasure to the tastebuds.

 

Canada – Poutine

This dish originated in Quebec, but can now be found throughout the country, in diners or pubs and sometimes fast food restaurants. Poutine is french fries, slathered in gravy and cheese curds. To some people, this food may not sound that appetizing, but many consider it delicious. It’s sometimes offered with different meat toppings, like chicken or bacon.

 

Czech Republic – Czech Goulash

Goulash may have had its beginning in Hungary, but the Czech Republic has given the food their own unique twist. Beef is the main ingredient in this food, and sometimes beer is added in as well. These ingredients result in a thick stew that is mouthwatering. It’s often paired with bread dumplings and a pint of beer!

Restaurants Adapting to Healthy Trends

In a classic case of the chicken and the egg, it’s not always easy to determine just how restaurant menus are crafted. Does the establishment base its menu off the opinions of its patrons, or do the patrons go to the restaurants who already serve the foods they like?

 

As it turns out, it’s a little of both, with new diet trends and a call for one of the most overweight countries on Earth to start eating healthy, restaurants are beginning to modify their menus to accommodate the needs of diners.

 

It’s fairly straightforward thinking that, if you are in the mood for some fettuccine alfredo, you’ll probably make reservations at an Italian restaurant. If you want fish tacos, you’ll lean Mexican. Usually, we base our decision on where we’re going to go for dinner on, primarily, the food that the restaurant serves. And while that may be true as a general rule (as in, the country of origin of the food you’re seeking out) the often-changing and adapting menus of today’s restaurants are opening the doors for healthier eating and new diet options that were unavailable just years ago.

 

Almost out of nowhere, “gluten” became a buzzword. Analyzing Google trends tells us that searches for the word gluten were about 17% as common in 2004 than they are today. Every which way, we find people who have decided to go gluten-free, whether it’s because they have Celiac Disease or because they have heard bad things about the wheat protein and have deemed it avoidable. Food packaging is beginning to label just about everything feasible as “Gluten Free!” even things that gluten isn’t normally present in, like teas, soda and chicken breast.

 

Due in part to this trend and the rising prevalence of Celiac disease, gluten-free menus was named as a rising trend in the restaurant industry in 2014. Restaurants, from fast food establishments to upscale eateries, are taking notice of the trends and modifying their menus accordingly. Similarly, sourcing non-GMO ingredients has been a hot-button issue as the debate rages on as to their safety.

 

Outside of the world of gluten, many Americans are jumping aboard the health-food trend. Even fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King have begun adding healthier options to their menus like salads or apples. The work in redesigning a menu for a global chain takes a lot of time, and a lot of money, but many eateries are taking the hit to bring themselves into the realm of healthy fast food, whether we as people are ready for it or not.

How Are Restaurants Handling Food Allergies?

It was the worst nightmare of anyone with a severe dietary restriction or food allergy. In late July, a restaurant patron was hospitalized–and almost killed–when he was served a dish containing salmon, which he is deathly allergic to. After a hospitalization and a recovery, the waiter who served the dish was arrested and could be charged with criminal negligence in the near future. Apparently, the customer had mentioned numerous times that he had a severe allergy, but the waiter served him a dish containing fish, hospitalizing him.

 

While this occurrence was more than likely life-changing (and nearly life-ending) for the customer at the restaurant in Quebec, it is something that happens almost regularly, as the dining industry is often unable to guarantee that some combination of cross contamination, miscommunication or simple switching of orders won’t result in an allergic reaction.

 

So what can a restaurant–and its patrons–do to avoid scenarios like these in the future?

 

Well, it’s difficult for basically everyone involved. Most restaurants feature footnotes at the bottom of the menu that warns those with food allergies to proceed with caution. Typically, the warnings say, to some extent, that cross-contamination is always possible, and the risk of an allergic reaction is always present, even when precautions are taken. They are similar to the warnings that you may see on the back of packaged goods purchased from a grocery store, essentially warning the eater that the food is produced in a facility that also handles common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts or eggs.

 

A portion of the blame for some allergic reactions that occur within restaurant walls can be laid on the shoulders of miscommunication. While allergies to ingredients such as peanuts or gluten are very real and very dangerous, some allergies are misconstrued as simple intolerances or diets. With the trend of avoiding gluten in meals when possible emerging in recent years, serving gluten to someone on a diet is significantly less harmful than serving it to someone with an allergy. Unfortunately, the line between diet, intolerance and allergy can occasionally be muddled and miscommunicated in the restaurant business.

 

Proper labeling and a knowledgeable staff can help avoid both mixups and negligence when it comes to allergies. Restaurants are required by law to disclose ingredients to dishes when asked, even if the ingredients are a part of a “secret recipe” in order to keep customers safe. This requires not only compliance by the restaurant, but knowledgeable and well-trained staff. There have been numerous instances of waiters and waitresses simply neglecting to properly warn a customer of allergens in a food because they were unaware, as was the case in a cheesecake-related incident. With a wait staff that is not only knowledgeable about the menu offered, but properly trained in food allergy awareness, many mistakes can be avoided.

 

Part of the caution, however, should also fall on the shoulders of the diner. It’s important not only to disclose your allergy to the waiter, but to closely check the menu before ordering and, perhaps most importantly, exercise caution! Understand that there will almost always be a chance of something being miscommunicated, misconstrued, misheard or forgotten about when you’re dining out. It’s much, much better to be safe than to go into anaphylaxis.

 

The Best Dining Experiences in the World

Bjorn Koch Dining

Though it’s hard to conclusively prove that any restaurant is the absolute “best” in the world, I’ve gathered together a few restaurants that are overwhelmingly considered stunning places to dine. They have achieved this distinction from their Michelin stars, various publications that employ experts to review top restaurants, and also general reviews from patrons who dined at the establishments. Take a look at some details about these restaurants that I’ve provided below and then check out their individual websites for more information on their history and menus.

 

Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy

This restaurant was voted the World’s Best Restaurant in 2016 by a panel of nearly 1,000 international gastronomic experts. It opened in 1995 and has since received three Michelin stars and various awards. Head chef Massimo Battura is considered “a key figure among a new generation of chefs”. Battura offers two menus at Osteria Francescana, “Sensations”, which changes from season to season, and “Tradition in Evolution”, which features favorites from the region around Modena and the chef’s homeland. There are only twelve tables in the restaurant, so reservations must be made quite a bit in advance.

 

Their website is here.

 

Eleven Madison Park – New York, USA

 

Eleven Madison Park is considered by many to be New York City’s top restaurant, which is a high honor considering the city is home to some of the best restaurants and chefs in the entire world. In 2006, David Humm took over as the owner and chef, which rocketed Eleven Madison Park into accolade after accolade because of their mouthwatering dishes. The restaurant has been granted three Michelin stars and a four-star review in The New York Times. They offer a menu that utilizes local ingredients and consists of 7-9 courses for guests to enjoy. The restaurant has even published a few cookbooks, so try your hand at some of their recipes in the comfort of your own home!

 

Take a look at their website here.

 

El Celler de Can Roca – Girona, Spain

 

El Celler de Can Roca is arguably the most successful family restaurant in the entire world. It was founded in 1986 by two brothers, Josep and Joan Roca, next door to their parents’ restaurant. Joan has held the position of head chef for the last three decades, notably developing the sous-vide cooking method. Josep operates as the restaurant’s sommelier, while their younger brother, Jordi, joined the team in the last couple of decades and has brought his phenomenal pastry skills along with him. The restaurant was awarded its third Michelin star in 2009. The restaurant’s online store offers various books from the brothers about cooking and the history of their business. The brothers are inspired by traditional Catalan cuisine, then place their own modern, “avant-garde” twist on it.
Check out the restaurant’s website here.

Three Recipes to Wow Just About Anyone

Hosting a dinner, whether it’s for a group, your family or a potential date, can be nerve-wracking. Everything, in essence, should be perfect. You want the dish to taste good, of course, that’s paramount. But you also want to make sure it’s a delicious meal for everyone, not just you. It should also be adequately filling–no one wants to be forced to make a stop at McDonalds on the way home from dinner just to fill up. Presentation, as well, is a key facet of any meal. A meal that looks like something you’d find in a gutter won’t be overly appealing no matter how good it tastes. And, if you’re not the best cook in the world, nailing a dish can be difficult.

Choosing a dish is an entirely different matter. Cooking can be difficult, but recipes can be easy to follow. There is no recipe, however, that tells you what to cook for your guests, only how to cook it.

Luckily, I’ve chosen three recipes that are sure to wow just about anyone you bring over–each recipe is a signature dish from a world-renowned chef and none are overly complicated, convoluted or incredibly difficult to make.

 

Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is an absolute classic main dish that will impress the eyes and noses of your diners, and delight their tastebuds. There is certainly a reason that the dish is a mainstay on the television show Hell’s Kitchen–while it’s not a particularly easy dish to perfect, even a slightly over cooked or not properly cut Beef Wellington is a perfectly palatable dish.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 x 400g beef fillets
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 500g mixture of wild mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves only
  • 500g puff pastry
  • 8 slices of Parma ham
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g beef trimmings (ask the butcher to reserve these when trimming the fillet)
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • 1 x 750ml bottle red wine
  • 750ml beef stock

For the full recipe, click here.

Follow Ramsay’s recipe to a T and you’ll find both you and your guests impressed with the aesthetic and the taste of this classic filet dish.


Mario Batali’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

While the name may be a bit of a mouthful, you won’t be spending too much time talking once you get a taste of the finished product. According to Mario Batali’s site, the dish is named for the town of Amatrice, Italy, where some of the country’s best chefs call home. Once you’ve cooked the  surprisingly simple dish, you likely won’t spend much time arguing that fact, as the simplicity shines through and creates a fantastically hearty and filling pasta-based dish that will delight everyone.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces thinly sliced guanciale pancetta, or good bacon
  • 1 red onion, cut lengthwise in half and then into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
  • 1 pound Bucatini
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano

For the full recipe, click here.


Emeril Lagasse’s Double Cut Pork Chops

Pork chops themselves are an easy dish to make, but Emeril “kicks it up a notch” with this recipe, which adds a Mexican influence to the dinner staple to create a unique–and fairly simple–dish for your next outing.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 tablespoons seeded tamarind paste (Available in Latin, Indian or Indonesian markets)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons dark cane syrup or corn syrup, if cane is unavailable
  • 3 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Southwest Seasoning
  • 4 1-pound loin pork chops, each about 2-inches thick
  • 4 teaspoons Southwest Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the full recipe click here.

 

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