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0 comments on “This Shakshuka Recipe is Egg-cellent!”

This Shakshuka Recipe is Egg-cellent!

If you haven’t heard of shakshuka before, we’re about to introduce you to your new favorite food! Although it’s traditionally seen as a breakfast food, shakshuka is a dish that you can eat for any meal because it’s so flavorful and filling. A combination of eggs, tomatoes and spices, this recipe is delicious and something that you can customize to your personal taste- add some meat for extra protein or make it spicy with some hot sauce! Plus it’s really easy to make if you’re not too comfortable in the kitchen.

Whether you’re looking for a quick meal on a cold night or hosting a brunch at home with friends, shakshuka is a great way to mix it up and keep your cooking from getting boring. Continue reading for the ingredient breakdown and instructions to create this unique dish!

Shakshuka with Feta Cheese

Recipe serves 4-6

You’ll Need:

3-6 large eggs (depending on your preference)

1 can (28 oz) whole plum tomatoes 

5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat (make sure that the skillet you use is oven safe!). Add in sliced onions and cook until very soft, about 15-20 minutes. Add in garlic and then stir in your spices (cumin, paprika, cayenne). Cook for about 1 minute or until your spices are all mixed in. Next pour in your tomatoes and break into smaller pieces once they’re in the pan. Season with salt and pepper and then simmer on low heat until the tomatoes thicken. This should take about 10 minutes. Next stir in your crumbled feta. Finally, gently crack 3-6 eggs (based on your preference) into the skillet over the tomatoes. We used 3 eggs for our recipe but you can do up to 6. Again, season with salt and pepper and then transfer into the oven.

Bake in the oven for about 7-10 minutes until the eggs are just set. Depending on the consistency you prefer for your eggs, baking for 7 minutes will make them runny and baking for 10 will make them firmer. Sprinkle on chopped parsley for garnish and enjoy!

Pro tip: Serve shakshuka with your favorite bread for dipping. Toast in the oven for a few minutes before serving for an extra crunch! 😋

0 comments on “Ratsanee Suksawas, Owner of Le Viet Cafe”

Ratsanee Suksawas, Owner of Le Viet Cafe

This is Ratsanee Suksawas, the owner of Le Viet Cafe, a restaurant on the Upper East Side that combines the best of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Ratsanee worked in the food industry in New York for 15 years before deciding to open her own place. Things had begun changing with the economy and working for someone else was too unpredictable for her. She wanted a change and to be in a position where she was responsible for her own security. Due to her experience in the food industry, she knew when opening the restaurant in September 2015, that being successful means standing out. So rather than making her menu strictly Thai cuisine, she asked her husband (the chef at Le Viet Cafe) to reach out to a friend that he used to work with that was Vietnamese to teach them how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes. She knew that offering banh mis and vermicelli noodles along with pad thai and green curry would differentiate them from other Thai restaurants in a very saturated market. Today, she says, the amount of competition has caused the landscape of the food industry to change even more. You can no longer wait for a customer to come to you, you have to go out and get them. So she continues to look for ways to grow her business by offering unique menu items and interactive meal experiences, while providing the same genuine customer service that her business has been known for since they opened.

Ratsanee started out in the food industry in 2000, when she emigrated to the U.S. from Thailand. She had no previous experience in food but was looking for a job and heard that you could make a lot of money working in a restaurant because people were spending a lot on food at that time and tipping well. Her plan was to work in the U.S. for a few years, save up some money and then move back to Thailand to open a small coffee shop. However, once she began working at SEA (a restaurant that’s now closed) and met her husband (she was a manager there, he was a sous chef), her plans started to change. She got married and had kids and it was important to her that her kids get a good education in the U.S. Now 8 and 11 years old, both of her children attend dual schools where they’re taught in English and Spanish, which she sees as a key requirement for success later in life. She’s raising her children to understand that just like in business, your unique assets and uncommon skills are what make you stand out.

Her children are also the reason why Ratsanee is so committed to her business and is always finding ways to survive among the competition. She recently began recipe testing for some new menu items while also planning out the logistics of operating a pop up experience for corporate catering. She feels that it’s not enough to wait for people to come to them, she wants to go directly to the customer by bringing their food into different offices and testing out various industries to see where customers are the most receptive. She sees this as the best way to introduce customers to the food currently on their menu and drive traffic to the restaurant as well as test some unique recipes that she thinks customers might like. Rather than only offering rice or rice noodles as bases, she is trying to incorporate spaghetti into the mix and create more opportunities with customer by offering these new items that come with a different sauce and a different consistency but a familiar item. She believes this is something that other Thai/Vietnamese restaurants aren’t doing yet and could interest customers that don’t like rice or rice noodles. So they’ve been testing recipes to include spaghetti as well as build your own options, which they’ve never done in the past. Right now it’s hard to know if clients will like the food or not so they’ll need to test it out before fully launching the menu and the pop up experience. But once they’ve found the dishes that they think customers will be receptive to, they’re planning to go to different businesses to see which markets would work for this new concept.

Team at Le Viet Cafe

Although finding unique ways to meet the customer and make her business grow is very exciting to Ratsanee, she recognizes that she’s still battling one factor that she can’t control: technology. Being on delivery apps like GrubHub, Seamless, MealPal and UberEats are a necessary evil for her, something that you need in order to gain access to more customers and more orders. But she gets particularly frustrated with Yelp because if someone has one bad experience, they can write a bad review, which other customers see as a fact rather than an opinion. People have more choices now so they don’t have to get to know you as a business owner or your food, which Ratsanee sees as unfair since 80% of her customers are recurring customers. “If people don’t like me”, she says, “they can just write a bad review”. She feels that Yelp removes the trust from the vendor/client relationship and is always painting the business owner in a negative light. Even when a customer is in the wrong and she has proof of it, they can still write a bad review and she can’t say her side of the story because it comes off as rude and customers get mad. If she does say her side, she says, no one really listens to it anyway, they listen to what they’re reading from others, so she’s stopped trying to defend herself. Ratsanee takes these negative reviews personally because she wants everyone to feel like part of their family when they eat her food, whether they’re visiting the restaurant or ordering delivery. She and her staff are friendly and genuinely care about the food that they create and the people that they serve. They don’t see them as customers who eat the food and that’s it, they see them as friends and family and try to make the restaurant as welcoming as possible. Which is why it’s so frustrating, because they have so many clients who they do have relationships with that will come to them directly if there’s an issue with the food. In these situations, she doesn’t have to worry about someone thinking that they’re good or bad, the customer knows that her team will fix it because they appreciate the feedback and are always trying to make their food better. If it is her fault, Ratsanee doesn’t mind giving a discount or free food because she knows she was wrong. However, when every negative review requires her to give a discount to make the customer happy, she doesn’t make any money, which makes it harder for her to take care of the people that work for her. Her employees are very important to her so making sure that they’re happy, getting paid enough and not getting frustrated with their job is even tougher when she has to factor in discounts, that are sometimes undeserved, on a limited budget.

Dealing with negative reviews and criticism on a regular basis is hard for Ratsanee but she has seen an increase in orders and new customers recently, which is very gratifying for her. A lot of the new customers are people that have tried them out through catering at their office and liked the food so much that they began ordering personally. Ratsanee loves that more customers are learning about her business and visiting the store, where she feels they really get a sense for the business and the positive atmosphere that she and her team create. On one of the walls in the store, “life is beautiful” is written out in books in both Vietnamese and English. Ratsanee hopes that that grateful, easy nature is what customers associate her business with, because she truly does create food from the heart. Moving forward, she’s eager to see how customers react to the new menu items and pop up experience and feels that these unique offerings will help the business immensely. Even if something doesn’t work, she says, they’ll continue testing out different ideas to make sure that they’re staying top of mind for customers. It’s a demanding industry, but she’s ready to fight for it.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “Stella Likitsakos, Owner of Mamagyro”

Stella Likitsakos, Owner of Mamagyro

This is Stella Likitsakos, the owner of Mamagyro. A Greek immigrant who moved to the U.S. with her parents and sister in 1974, food is a part of who she is and opening her own restaurant she says, “was always inside of her”. Stella’s parents owned a small store in Greece before moving to the U.S. so, like her granddaughters now, her life revolved around the store and watching her mother prepare food for their customers until she was a teenager. Once they moved to the U.S., Stella’s father worked as a dishwasher and her mother worked at a fur company making furs. Her father worked for a few years before retiring (there was a significant age gap between her mother and father) but her mother continued working, showing Stella that hard work is the key to success. “She’s the rock”, Stella says, referring to her mother, but this description can also be used when speaking about Stella. A woman who is at her restaurant every day helping to prepare the food and is so committed to providing her customers with an all-natural, clean meal that she doesn’t use butter in any of her recipes or stock in any of her soups, just like her mother. Stella now runs Mamagyro with her daughter, Vicki Giannopoulos, who manages all business operations and catering on top of raising her two young daughters and together they’ve made Mamagyro a staple in the NYC food community. However, more than carrying on their family’s tradition of creating all-natural, authentic and delicious food (which they do), this mother-daughter team is also an example for future generations of women of what hard work combined with passion can forge.

Since she was surrounded by food throughout her childhood, Stella was immediately drawn to the food industry once she started working. She met her husband working at a supermarket that he owned and once they were married, she began running the stores with him. They ran three supermarkets on the Upper East Side and every two years or so, Stella would add something new to the markets, expanding them and slowly turning them into gourmet markets offering everything from fruits and veggies to meat and cheese and prepared food. However, they were still small stores so once large chains like Whole Foods and Fairway started opening and delivery services and online ordering became popular, they started losing business. Their stores were unique with a lot of good quality products but consumers were looking for the “one stop” shopping experience that they couldn’t provide and they had to begin closing the stores. Also during this time, Stella’s husband got in an accident and hurt his neck and was unable to continue running the stores. Stella was in a difficult position and wasn’t sure what to do next. Then one day, as she was walking to Lenox Hill Hospital to visit her husband, she saw a storefront for sale on 77th street and thought, “why can’t I open a little homemade gyro shop here?” It had always been her dream to open her own restaurant and since the supermarkets weren’t doing well, she thought it was time to do something different in the food industry. So she bought the storefront and opened Mamagyro in 2011.

Stella was running Mamagyro for about a year and a half before Vicki joined the business. Vicki had been working at PR company but knew it wasn’t a place she could stay if she wanted to started a family, so she approached her mom and asked her if they could open another store together. So in 2013 they opened their second Mamagyro location on Broadway in Union Square. However, the clientele in Union Square was much different from what they were used to at their flagship store. It was mainly teenagers and young adults who didn’t know them and didn’t want to spend money on good quality food as opposed to the regular customers whose neighborhood they were a part of on 77th street. The lack of steady business combined with staffing issues forced them to close the Union Square store not long after it opened. Soon after closing their Union Square store, they started looking for a commissary kitchen to cook out of because they didn’t have enough space at the 77th street store. However, bad luck struck in 2017 when the building their restaurant on 77th street was in was sold to a new owner who decided to demolish the entire building and kicked out all of the tenants. They now operate solely out of their kitchen space on 106th street, which they were able to turn into another fast casual restaurant. Although they miss their location on 77th street, they’re working on improving the space they’re in now and believe that there is a lot of potential in their new community. The people in the area are very happy to have a new food option available to them and Stella and Vicki see it as an opportunity to expand their reach in a new environment.

If you ask Stella, their all-natural, homemade food is the most important part of their business. And if you ask Vicki, Stella and her hospitality are what customers associate the business with. But both are vital components of what makes this fast casual concept work. All of the recipes for their food are Stella’s mother’s recipes that were passed down to her and now Stella has passed them on to Vicki. It was very important to Stella when creating the menu that everything be high-quality and authentic. They don’t use any canned items in the restaurant. Everything is either made from scratch by them and their team or imported from Greece. They even have their own pita bread recipe, which they have a bakery mass produce for them. For Stella and Vicki, the most rewarding part of the business is knowing that they’re one of the few restaurant in NYC that actually serves good food with clean and fresh ingredients and it’s something that their customers appreciate. To them, it feels good knowing that they’re giving customers all-natural items rather than cheating them with bad ingredients just so they can make more money, which some restaurants do. It would be easy for them to cut corners but they wouldn’t feel right giving customers food with fake ingredients and it’s not the way they want to run their business. It’s this commitment to their food and their passion to keep their brand from becoming commercialized that customers are drawn to as well as Stella’s hospitality. Stella believes that when customers are making a conscious effort to come to their store and buy their food when there’s so many restaurants to choose from, she needs to make it the best experience possible for them and give them more than just food. Vicki says that the way Stella is at home is the way she is in the restaurant. She wants everyone to be comfortable and get the best dining experience possible, which is why they have loyal customers that come in every day and thank them for food that’s been the same great quality since they started.

Although this mother-daughter team is lucky in the fact that they have one another to lean on, they recognize that having a team of people who are dedicated to the business is key for success in the food industry. And it’s an issue that they’ve struggled with in the past. One of the most challenging parts of the business for them has been finding reliable staff that are as committed to the Mamagyro brand as they are. Even though they have each other, there are a lot of different areas to handle when running a business and you need to have team members that have different strengths so that you’re not doing it all on your own. You need to have people behind you that are willing to go through good and bad times with you and continue to push you to do better. That’s the only way your business will grow and it’s something that Stella and Vicki are still working on. However, for the time being they’re excited to see how their business increases in their new location and are considering taking some of the Mamagyro products wholesale (spanakopita, dips, yogurt). They see a need for preservative-free, all-natural food in grocery stores and they feel that taste is being lost with the artificial products that are on shelves now. Stella says she would also love to open a sit-down Greek restaurant in the coming years that focuses on traditional Greek food and seafood. But these are both ideas that they’d like to focus on down the line. Right now their main focus is improving Mamagyro and creating a successful business that Vicki can one day pass on to her daughters.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “Honoring Black History Month”

Honoring Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time during which we recognize and honor the contributions of Black Americans throughout our country’s history. Not only is it essential to use this month as a way to commemorate the lives of leaders of the Black community, it also allows us to reflect on the history of the U.S. and to appreciate the changes that have been made to better our society. However, we still have a long way to go. As Americans, we each make a commitment to tirelessly fight for equality and opportunity for all. Remembering and celebrating the impact of these Black Americans in the face of such adversity  is a critical part of that commitment. 

The History of Black History Month

The idea of formally celebrating the achievements of Black Americans originally came from historian Carter G. Woodson in 1915. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, a prominent minister, founded the ASNLH (the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History) in order to dedicate time to researching and acknowledging the accomplishments of Black Americans that weren’t be represented in American society. In 1926, their foundation sponsored a national “Negro History Week” during the second week of February to honor the men and women who were pioneers of change as well as to connect the event with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. This first celebration inspired communities across the country to organize their own festivities and to begin hosting performances and lectures that highlighted Black culture. These celebrations continued annually in cities nationwide, eventually evolving into a month of commemoration until 1976 when President Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a month-long observance.

Today the ASNLH is known as the ASALH (the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). They continue the work of Dr. Woodson to “promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community”.

2019: Black Migrations

Every year the ASALH announces a theme for Black History Month to be the focus point during their month-long observation. This year the theme is Black Migrations to “emphasize the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities”. The migration of Black families and individuals throughout the U.S., and globally, has resulted in more diverse populations, the establishment of new religions, and the genesis of new forms of music and visual & literary art. This movement allowed communities to evolve in new and unique ways, and laid the foundation for the society that we live in today.

The FoodtoEat Community

At FoodtoEat, we strive to unite all people around a communal table and seek to add diversity to the local food community by highlighting the immigrant, women and minority-run food businesses that we represent. We believe that every person’s history is essential to who they are and contributes to every aspect of their lives, including the food that they create. For those reasons, we’re so excited to kick off Black History Month by highlighting some of the Black American vendors that we work with and telling their story about their business and the mission behind it. If you’re interested in supporting these business this month (or any month!) please email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to inquire about pricing for your next meal or event!

Novar Excell, Owner of Excell Kingston Eatery: Excell Kingston Eatery is a Jamaican style catering company that was created in 2014 by chef Novar Excell and his wife Keelia Excell. The duo are originally from Jamaica and migrated to Brooklyn, New York in 2014. They use authentic, homemade recipes that will transport you to the Island after just one bite. Based in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, they service all five boroughs of New York City, catering any event from birthday parties to corporate lunches to large food festivals.

Yemisi Awosan, Owner of Egunsifoods: Yemisi  is the chef and owner of Egunsifoods, which she created to introduce others to the diverse, delicious and flavorful cuisines of West Africa. She was born in Nigeria but raised in New England and wanted to create a farm to table company that honors her background, while also focusing on flavor, taste and nutrients. She sources her ingredients from locals farms in New York as well as partners with farmers in Africa to source their raw materials. Her mission is to actively give back to African farmers and artisans, creating a long-term impact through social entrepreneurship instead of short-term donation through philanthropy.

Charles Chipengule, Owner of Jaa Dijo Dom: Charles is the owner and chef behind Jaa Dijo Dom. He was born and raised in Botswana, Africa and growing up he always had a passion for food. After graduating high school, he was able to save up enough money to open a breakfast food stall, which funded his technical college courses in engineering and culinary courses. However, due to the dire economic conditions in Botswana, he eventually had to close down his breakfast stall and emigrated to the U.S. After arriving in the U.S., Charles worked at various restaurants and took culinary classes in NYC to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. It was during this time that he was inspired to open Jaa Dijo Dom (an African name that means “a place to eat”) with the idea of bringing together the various cuisines of African nations to a wider audience. Today he takes the time to select the best dishes and flavors from different countries in Africa in order to share the food that he grew up eating and to create a diverse and flavorful dining experience.

Yaya Ceesay, Co-Owner of The Soul Spot: Yaya is the chef and co-owner of The Soul Spot, a fast casual restaurant that combines the best of African, Southern Soul and Caribbean food. Although this may seem like a unusual mix, Yaya serves a unique array of food that represents the food that he grew up eating and the food that learned how to prepare through research during his time in the U.S. Yaya came to the U.S. from West Africa when he was 17 and worked as a chef in Manhattan for many years before opening The Soul Spot in 2003. Although people doubted him when he first started his business, he’s been a staple in his Brooklyn community for 16 years and believes that the passion he sows into his food is what his customers continue to be drawn to and trust.

 

Resources:
https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month
https://thewitnessbcc.com/5-reasons-you-should-celebrate-black-history-month/
https://asalh.org/asalhs-2019-theme-black-migrations/

 

0 comments on “Edward Song, Owner of Korilla BBQ”

Edward Song, Owner of Korilla BBQ

This is Edward (Eddie) Song, the owner of Korilla BBQ, a fast casual restaurant that strives to advance Korean cuisine through innovation. Eddie’s entrepreneurial aspirations began in 2008 when he was graduating from Columbia University in the midst of the Great Recession. There weren’t many job opportunities available so he thought it was a better time than ever to be your own boss. However, unlike many entrepreneurs in the food industry, Eddie’s interest in the hospitality/restaurant business didn’t come from a strong focus on food throughout his childhood. He, like many other people in 2008, was looking for the safety and comfort that was lacking in the midst of the financial crisis and started thinking a lot about what made him feel comfortable and safe. He immediately started reminiscing about going out to eat on the weekends with his family, which, because everyone was so busy, was the only time they had to get together and catch up. So he decided to open a food business that could fill the need for comfort in others as it did for him. He enrolled in a free four month culinary program offered by Kingsborough Community College in conjunction with The Restaurant Opportunities Center United but quickly realized that he wasn’t a good cook. So when everyone else in his program began thinking about specializing in baking vs. cooking and interviewing at restaurants, he started thinking about food concepts. After trying out a bun concept that never took off (the idea was to take the Chinese pork bun and make it more internationally appealing), he began realizing that there weren’t many restaurants focused on creating Korean food. Of course there were communities throughout New York where you could find amazing Korean food but it wasn’t as widely represented as he believed it should be. So he decided to take Korean food and make it more mainstream and readily accessible to the American public through the Korilla BBQ brand.

Korilla BBQ started as a food truck with a menu that Eddie says came through a “series of fortune events”. He wanted Korilla BBQ to represent the aspects of Korean food that he loved as well as the other foods that he and his siblings grew up eating. Growing up in Queens, there were many cultures on a single block so mixing Korean food with Mexican and hints of Southern BBQ and American fare seemed very natural to Eddie and he was able to find a chef who understood his concept. Although the chef was Japanese, he was also from Queens so he had grown up eating Korean food and was familiar with the flavors that Korean food is known for. They began pulling their favorite elements of dishes (proteins, flavors, textures) from Korean food as well as other cuisines, visiting Korean restaurants that Eddie liked and seeing how they could make their items better. Then Eddie got lucky and met a Korean restaurateur who owned a quintessential Korean restaurant in Flushing that was extremely popular. He liked the concept that Eddie was working on and allowed them to observe and work with his chef to learn how to make all of the best Korean foods that they had grown up eating. Through their own research and the help of this restaurateur, they were able to cobble together their first menu, mixing the recipes that they had been taught and the ones that they had reverse engineered.

Once the menu was created, Eddie was able to officially launch the first food truck in October 2010. He believed that the food truck would be the best way to bring their food directly to their customers and for the next three years, they were very successful. At one point they even had four different food trucks operating at the same time. However, in 2013 a lot of new food trucks began opening, increasing competition and aggravating restaurant owners with brick & mortar locations. They began complaining that food trucks were stealing their customers and blocking their store’s visibility and the police started getting involved to help resolve the issue. However, this meant that they would keep food trucks from parking in their usual spots on the street or they would make them move, typically during their lunch rush when it was impossible for them to shut down, move and find another parking spot to sell from. This started happening consistently enough that Eddie realized that he needed to accelerate their transition into a brick & mortar location. They opened their first location in the East Village in October 2014 and replicated the same “build your own” experience that they had on the truck inside the store. They also extended their trademark Korilla orange and tiger stripe motif from the truck to the store design. Eddie chose a tiger as the symbol for Korilla because it’s the national animal of Korea and it’s also very reflective of the food’s bold, fierce flavor. He kept the coloring of the trucks and stores bright and eye-catching to make sure that they stood out and enticed people to walk up to the truck or into the store and see what they were offering. Every location that they’ve opened since the flagship East Village store incorporates the same color palette and tiger motif but each one has it’s own layout. Eddie says that this was done on purpose because each store is an evolution of what he thought Korilla was at that moment in time, giving each location it’s own unique personality.

For Eddie, the most rewarding part of the business has been introducing others to Korean food. One of Korilla BBQ’s core mission statements is to advance Korean cuisine and to create more awareness of the 5,000 year old history of Korean food through the Korilla brand. So seeing customers come into the store who have never tried Korean food before and fall in love with the rich flavors and unique taste validates his mission. He believes that he is a part of a larger movement to take Korean food, which he saw as a relatively obscure cuisine in 2008, and bring it to the forefront of the food industry. Since the majority of Koreans started emigrating to the U.S. in the 70’s and 80’s, including his parents, Eddie sees the elevation of Korean food as his generation’s job. He recognized that no one was pushing Korean food into mainstream American culture not because it was a bad idea but because the only people who were able to do it were people like his parents who were working tirelessly to support their families. Therefore he’s trying to make Korilla BBQ a lifestyle brand that revolves around this movement and hopes that people can think of Korilla as a symbol for change, creating for them a sense of inner confidence and boldness, with which they can attack any situation. However, creating such a strong brand does have challenges, especially when it requires every person in the business having the same zeal and passion for the brand that he does. Eddie is constantly striving for perfection and always wants to provide an A+ experience to his customers every single time. But at the end of the day, he’s ultimately relying on other men and women to provide that experience, which due to so many external factors, may not always reach that expectation. So dealing with the variability of a food business can be very difficult as an owner.

Right now Eddie says he’s still in the process of creating the perfect blend of all four values that he believes are key to a successful business: quality, taste, speed and price. There are a lot of people that he sees in the restaurant industry that are willing to make value sacrifices and trade-offs to keep price low or sell food faster but he doesn’t believe in doing that. Which is why he advises other entrepreneurs to understand that what determines your success is what you’re willing to do or not do and as hard as it gets, you can’t give up, you have to keep on trying. In the food industry especially, you have to be passionate and determined enough that even if you keep getting the same results every single day, you can keep pushing to make it to the next day, the next chapter, the next year, because eventually you will get it. He also advises that every business owner has to be his or her own cheerleader and allow themselves to celebrate small victories. For Eddie, it’s the small victories that feed his passion and motivate him to keep moving forward.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “DIY Game Day Snacks!”

DIY Game Day Snacks!

The big game is right around the corner (ICYMI, the Super Bowl is this Sunday) and it’s time to focus on the most important part of the day: the food. If you’re not taking advantage of a  Super Bowl special at your favorite bar or restaurant, it’s time to get your menu ready for the snack-a-thon that Super Bowl Sunday is known for.

Lucky for you, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the recipes of some of our favorite football eats that are always a crowd-pleaser. Not only are these appetizers delicious, they’re easy to make and don’t take more than 30 minutes from prep to passing to your guests. Plus they’re lighter and less greasy than your typical football finger foods so they won’t make you feel as guilty for cheating on that New Year’s diet (we all do it, the diet gods forgive you). Check out the recipes below and start perfecting your touchdown dance, cause these snacks will have you #winning all game long!

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

Recipe makes 10-15 pieces

You’ll Need:

1 package egg roll wrappers

1 8 oz package cream cheese

1 cup Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup Buffalo sauce

2 chicken breasts OR 1 cup of shredded or diced chicken

1 egg

2 scallions (for garnish)

For this recipe, you have the option to buy a cooked rotisserie chicken and shred it OR buy raw chicken, dice into small 1/2 inch pieces and saute in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil- either way works! When your chicken is ready, add cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and Buffalo sauce in a bowl and mix until combined. Once you have your mixture, add 2 tablespoons to the center of the egg roll wrapper and roll (following the instructions on the egg roll wrapper package). In order to seal the egg roll, you’ll need to use the scrambled egg. Use a brush to dip into the raw egg and rub along the edge to secure it (if you don’t have a brush, your finger works as well). Once secured, bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Once cool, serve with your favorite condiment (we recommend Ranch or Blue cheese)!

Pro tip: If you have it, these Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls taste even better in the air fryer. Cook for about 8 minutes and enjoy!

Zucchini “Fries”

Recipe serves 4 

You’ll Need:

2 zucchini

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg

On a flat plate, add the Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. In a separate bowl, scramble the egg. Next cut off the ends of the zucchini and slice into individual “fries”. Once the zucchini is cut up, dip in the raw egg and then in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture to coat the zucchini. Repeat until all of the zucchini are prepped. Set the oven to 425 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Plate and serve with your favorite marinara sauce or garlic aioli. Yum!

Pro tip: You can make the Zucchini “Fries” in the air fryer as well! Cook for about 6-8 minutes and serve!

Guacamole

Recipe serves 4-6 

You’ll Need:

3 avocados

1/2 small red onion

1 Cubanelle pepper

1 lime

1 small handful of cilantro

2 large cloves of garlic

2 plum tomatoes

salt

pepper

Chop red onion, Cubanelle pepper, garlic and tomatoes and place in a bowl. In a separate bowl, smash avocados up before adding to the bowl of vegetables. Add in chopped cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice. Mix together until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips (for a healthier, grain-free option, we used Siete tortilla chips with lime) and indulge!

 

If you’re testing out our recipes, we want to see! Take a picture of your creations and tag us @foodtoeat. Happy eating (and footballing)!

 

0 comments on “Giuseppe Viterale, Owner of Ornella Trattoria Italiana”

Giuseppe Viterale, Owner of Ornella Trattoria Italiana

This is Giuseppe Viterale (pictured left with his son Angelo, right), the owner of Ornella Trattoria Italiana, an Italian restaurant named after his wife, Ornella, who he met by chance one evening as he was walking down the street in Williamsburg and offered his hand to help when he saw her slip on some ice. Their unique encounter, which sounds like the beginning of a romance movie, is not uncommon for Giuseppe, who shapes his restaurant around just that principle: uniqueness. Giuseppe grew up on a farm in a small village in Salerno, Italy. His father owned a flour mill, which he and his siblings helped run, so his earliest memories are connected to food. At the time, Giuseppe says, he didn’t even realize that he was involved in the food industry because it was the only world he knew, one where everything went directly from the farm to their table. However, Giuseppe had no intention of getting into the food and restaurant business. He had bigger dreams for himself and began studying architecture. But after failing his certification test the first time, he decided to take a few months off and go to New York for a little adventure and fun. He wanted to see a different part of the world and be immersed in a new culture where he knew no one and didn’t speak the language. He was in New York for a few months when he met Ornella on the street that night and as soon as he could, he went back to Italy and passed his architecture test before returning to New York again and getting married. 30 years later, Giuseppe has created an Italian restaurant that’s known for it’s fresh ingredients, uncommon dishes and philosophical yet engrossing owner.

When he returned to New York, Giuseppe began working with a big construction company but got laid off during the recession in the early 90’s. He had to continue to work to support his family so he went to a staffing agency, which placed him at a job in a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Although he had grown up surrounded by food, he had never worked in the restaurant business before and it was much different than the food-related world that he knew. He decided that if he was going to work in this industry, he didn’t want to embarrass himself with his lack of experience so he started from scratch and began training at many different restaurants, learning as he went. Once he felt like he had a good understanding of different restaurants and how they operate, he spent a few months working at a restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. Things were going well there until one day, when he was standing outside the restaurant, a bum passed by and asked him what he was doing there. When Giuseppe responded that he was working, the bum laughed and told him that if he wanted to make real money, he had to work in Manhattan. So Giuseppe took his advice, left his job in Brooklyn Heights and asked the agency to find him a job in the city.

The staffing agency placed him at Cellini, an upscale Italian restaurant where he quickly excelled. He started out as a waiter and after a month, had become their head waiter. A year after that, he became the restaurant’s manager and maitre d. Giuseppe ended up working at Cellini for 15 years, during which time he used his background in architecture to study the real estate market and invest in Brooklyn, slowing purchasing about 50 residential rental properties. Eventually it got to the point that he was doing so well at Cellini and in his real estate ventures that he had to choose to focus on one and shockingly, decided to stay in the food industry. Over the years, his passion for the industry (specifically the restaurant operations, the workers and the customers) had started to grow and he couldn’t leave it. And then Giuseppe got the opportunity to open his own restaurant. Someone he had met during his time at Cellini was looking to open a new restaurant and wanted Giuseppe to run it. Giuseppe was excited for this new endeavor but unfortunately, the business didn’t make it more than a year before it closed. In order to pay the bills and make up for the money he had lost, Giuseppe was forced to sell some of his real estate properties, but instead of getting frustrated with the situation, he decided to start over and open a restaurant his way. He found a small restaurant in Astoria for sale in the paper, went to see it a few times, bought it and then put all of the experience he had learned in his childhood and throughout his life into action. He hired a bunch of cooks, rather than one chef, and started creating recipes based off of the food and flavors he knew from the dishes his mother had cooked on their farm. And in 2010, Ornella Trattoria Italiana officially opened. 

ornella trattoria

Over the years, Giuseppe says he’s found more passion for food, rather than just the restaurant business. Although he doesn’t cook, he loves to create dishes that customers can’t find other places. He says that his philosophy about food is different than other restaurant owners. Like an architect, he builds the foundation of the dishes that he dreams up, based on flavor and fresh ingredients rather than a recipe (something he learned to understand on the farm) and his cooks create the dish itself. He explains to them what he wants and tries it and if he doesn’t like it, they do it again until it’s right. And once they’ve perfected it, they add it to the menu. Although creating these unique dishes and keeping their menu items fresh as well as keeping up with customers’ expectations for new items is challenging after so many years, it also keeps him on his toes, which he loves. He likes that he can surprise even his regular customers with new menu items for them to taste and give feedback on. He never wants his customer to get bored so he’s always trying to re-invent their menu and incorporate food items as they become popular. And he’s proud that the customers he attracts are young, intellectual people that know about food and current food trends and want to learn more. Giuseppe believes that as a food business, you have to be on top of everything going on in the industry, which keeps him from getting complacent. His mind is constantly active and working on ways that he can make a recipe better or improve the restaurant’s operations. “Even if there’s a line out the door” he says, “I’m always thinking of ways how I can keep this line out the door. Because the moment you stop trying to re-invent yourself, someone will do it better than you.”

Giuseppe’s uniqueness extends from his recipes to the restaurant itself. One of his hobbies is carpentry so all of the tables and chairs in his restaurant were made by him as well as the sign outside the restaurant. And rather than buy his ingredients from a food supplier, Giuseppe goes to the market every morning and buys what he needs for that day. Although buying from a supplier would be easier, Giuseppe doesn’t like that you can’t control the quality of the items that you receive and buying the items himself allows him to keep his food cost low. It also allows him to get ideas for new dishes that he can create if he sees produce he’s never used before that he can try out as a special for that day. And even though people may think that he runs his business in an “old-fashioned way” because he runs it with his sons (Giovanni, Angelo and Pino), Giuseppe understands that in order to connect with his customers, he needs to create an experience around his food. Which is why the first thing he does in the morning is check his social media, where he frequently posts videos showing how he created a new dish or curing meat at his farmhouse in the Catskills. He also doesn’t ignore negative reviews on Yelp like most restaurant owners. Instead he responds to them and uses it as a marketing tool, creating wallpaper in the restaurant’s bathroom with print outs of the negative reviews, which he says makes most customers laugh and even attracts customers because he says what people want to say but don’t. Because he’s so established in Astoria, he’s not worried about a lack of customers. He has so many positive reviews that he can afford to deal with the negative ones. It’s more important to him that he’s authentic because his customers appreciate his personality.

For Giuseppe, the most important thing that he sets out to do is deliver good food to his customers. But he hopes that people connect with his business because it’s memorable. From food to furniture, he doesn’t like anything in his restaurant to be “standard” and does everything in his power to create a unique brand that allows him to stand out from other Italian restaurants. He believes that people don’t remember the recipe for a dish they ate but they remember the story of the person behind the food and the atmosphere that they’ve created. His sons understand this mission and now help him run the business, which gives Giuseppe more time to experiment with dishes at his farm upstate, where he plans to build a greenhouse this year. Moving forward, he’s hoping that he can more deeply connect the restaurant to his farmhouse and bring it more in contact with nature to further influence the way he cooks. He wants to use his food to remind people that nature is where everything comes from and that we need to be more in touch with it. He’s hoping that his focus on nature’s impact and his unconventional branding will keep customers coming back to his restaurant.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “Monurai Bhakdina, Owner of Queen Cobra Thai”

Monurai Bhakdina, Owner of Queen Cobra Thai

This is Monurai (Mony) Bhakdina, the owner of Queen Cobra Thai, a business that she credits for making her realize that cooking is her true passion. Like many entrepreneurs in the food industry, Mony started Queen Cobra Thai because she had grown unhappy with her position in the corporate world. But unlike other entrepreneurs, Mony’s food tells a very personal story of carrying on her family’s tradition in a new home. Mony grew up in Bangkok, Thailand and came to the U.S. in 2004. Back then, she says, she couldn’t find any food that was like the food in Bangkok, so she began cooking a lot, recreating the recipes that her grandmother had taught her, as she was the cook in their family that everyone learned from. Her grandmother grew up in Thailand in the 1920s and when she was 10 years old, she was sent to work as a cook in the palace for a royal family. She worked there for fifteen years until she got married and then moved to Chiang Mai, where she opened her own restaurant, specializing in high-end Northern Thai cuisine. In 1983, when Mony’s parents decided to open their own restaurant in Bangkok, her grandmother taught them the recipes that she had created and how to cook each dish. Since her own restaurant had closed at this point and Mony’s father was working as an architect, her mother and grandmother ran the restaurant together for six or seven years until her grandmother was unable to continue working and they had to sell the business. Her grandmother then began teaching Mony how to cook, starting with food prep then spicy beef salad and massaman curry before moving onto more complex presentation skills like carving fresh ginger into flowers (which Mony says she’s still unable to do). It was this personal connection to food, and her family, that spurred Mony’s love for cooking and became a source of comfort for her when she moved to New York. Now Queen Cobra Thai is Mony’s way of passing along the authentic, home cooked, Thai meals that her grandmother taught her to others.

Before starting Queen Cobra Thai, Mony was working as a graphic designer at a small advertising company in Manhattan. She had decided to come the the U.S. after earning her degree in graphic design in Bangkok because she wanted to experience the New York lifestyle and since her brother and some relatives were already living in New York, it seemed like the perfect time. But after a while, she realized that the role she was working in was not her dream job. She was constantly feeling disappointed because clients were picking other designs over hers. She had started questioning herself and wondering if graphic design was the right career for her. Her friends and family, who she frequently cooked for and loved her food, saw how frustrated she had become with her job and kept encouraging her to start a food business. The idea stuck in her head and she thought about it more and more until 2013, when she decided to go for it. She knew that Smorgasburg was looking for new vendors and decided to test her food out there since the market would give her access to a large audience. She began selling her food at Smorgasburg on the weekends and working at her graphic design job during the week. She did this for a few months until her food became so popular that she was able to quit her job in graphic design and focus on her food business full-time.

For the first few years of the business, Mony sold her food at Smorgasburg, street fairs and other food festivals, cooking everything in her commercial kitchen in Bushwick and then transporting it to events. She was doing really well and getting a lot of compliments on the food as well as a lot of returning customers. Her customers soon started asking her to do catering for events and to host cooking classes so that they could learn to make the dishes themselves. After getting involved in catering and teaching, Mony decided to shift her business to focus solely on these two facets as the food market/street fair circuit had started to cause issues because it was forcing her to depend on a lot of other people to help run her business. Now she only offers catering and small cooking classes (for 2-6 people per class) out of her apartment. She no longer has her kitchen in Bushwick so she rents kitchen space from her friend who owns a restaurant in Chelsea where she preps and cooks all of her catering orders. Mony’s cousin, who works at the restaurant that she rents from, helps her cook the food and she also has four other people that she hires for a certain amount of hours for catering orders that help her with food prep and delivery. But for Mony, her personalized, hands-on cooking classes have become the most exciting  part of the business. She’s able to tell her story to small groups of people who really care about her food and are interested in learning where it comes from.

Just like her mother’s restaurant, all of the food on Queen Cobra Thai’s catering menu are recipes that Mony’s grandmother created. However, Mony tries to add her own style or twist to each dish, which sometimes ends up happening out of necessity when ingredients that she would typically have access to in Thailand (herbs, spices, palm sugar) aren’t available in the U.S. In some cases, she has to adjust the recipe altogether because she can’t make a substitute with a different ingredient. Although changing her grandmother’s recipes is hard for Mony, she’s used to customizing dishes for her clients that have allergies or dietary restrictions and is able to accommodate those changes. The toughest part for her though is trying to get her customers without dietary restrictions or allergies to stop limiting themselves with food that seems unusual to them. For Mony, Thai food is all about fresh herbs, unique ingredients and balancing flavors, and she wishes that more people were able to experience that and enjoy it rather than questioning it. She cares so deeply about each dish and what she’s putting into it that she wants every customer’s experience to be as authentic as possible so they can really understand the food and the culture behind it.

Food and beverage is an extremely hard industry to work in but doing so has allowed Mony to finally figure out what she loves to do and she’s excited every morning when she wakes up to teach a cooking class or prep food for a catering order. The reason she started Queen Cobra Thai was because of her grandmother and her family and her desire to share their story through the food that she creates. And although she hasn’t been able to yet, Mony still has her sights set on opening up a brick and mortar location within a year or two and continuing her family’s tradition. However, since running a restaurant is so expensive and she doesn’t want to risk all of the money that she’s earned in her food business, she’s planning to open a dessert shop where customers can pair Thai desserts with tea. Not only is this Mony’s goal because she likes sweets, she’s also realistic and recognizes that a smaller-scale operation will provide her a better chance of success in the long run. As Mony knows, once you find something that you’re passionate about, you just keep doing it, no matter what.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “Food Festivals to Look Forward to in 2019!”

Food Festivals to Look Forward to in 2019!

As the weather continues to get colder, we’re daydreaming more and more about the warm weather that spring and summer bring. One of our favorite things to do from April to October is to get outside and eat some delicious (and mostly unhealthy) food!! And if you’re a New Yorker, you know that the best way to satisfy all of your food cravings is at a food festival. Not only do you get to try everything from BBQ to ice cream, food festivals are the best way to find the newest food trend as well as support the local, small businesses that commonly sell their products at these venues.

In order to help you start mapping out your 2019 schedule (or maybe just brighten your day with our thoughts of warmer weather, sigh) we’ve compiled a list of some of the best upcoming food festivals for you to keep on your radar. 

Smorgasburg: One of the largest open-air food markets in NYC, Smorgasburg began in Brooklyn in 2011 as a spin off of Brooklyn Flea. It attracts 20,000-30,000 people each weekend and it’s a must on any foodie’s festival list. Both the Williamsburg and Prospect Park locations re-open in April with their normal Saturday and Sunday schedule, respectively.

The World’s Fare: This Queens-based food festival celebrates the diversity of New York’s food industry with over 100 vendors representing 100 different cultures. It’s purpose is to remind us that everyone is equal around the communal table as we celebrate the unity of food. You don’t want to miss this 2-day event on May 18th and 19th.

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival: For all those looking to explore a plant-based lifestyle, this 9th annual event is fully vegan with over 100 vendors that focus on plant-based food and products. This festival will run for 2 days on May 18th and 19th with a full line-up of speakers, chefs and entertainers. 

New York Pizza Festival: Get ready to leave a pizza your heart at this 2-day festival that focuses solely on everyone’s favorite food! This is the second year you’ll be able to taste test pizza from the top pizza makers in the U.S. and Italy while sipping on beer and wine and listening to live music. Mark your calendars now for October 5th and 6th!

New York City Wine and Food Festival: Considered the largest food and wine festival in NYC, this weekend-long event runs from October 10th to the 13th. Hosted by the Food Network and Cooking Channel, it has more than 80 events to raise money to support the No Kid Hungry campaign and Food Bank For New York City.

New York Beer Fest: We couldn’t leave out our beverages! The New York Beer Fest is one day only but runs for two different sessions (12-4PM then 6-10PM) and features over 200 beers from 80 different breweries. This event takes over Citi Field and offers games and entertainment throughout the park. If you’re a beer connoisseur, buy your tickets now for May 4th!

Cherry Bombe Jubilee: Although this is more of a food conference than a festival, if you’re a woman in the food industry, this is for you! Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee is a day-long event that combines food and drink with inspiring conversation and meaningful connection. It’s female-focused but open to all genders and it’s all going down on April 7th.

 

0 comments on “Eva Lokaj, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Old Traditional Polish Cuisine”

Eva Lokaj, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Old Traditional Polish Cuisine

This is Eva Lokaj, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Old Traditional Polish Cuisine. Beside her are her husband, Grzegorz (Greg) Gryzlak (right) and his best friend, Przemyslaw (Mek) Motyka (left), the co-owners of Old Traditional Polish Cuisine. This 3-person team began brainstorming how they could fill the void they saw in the New York food industry after realizing how underrepresented Polish food was throughout all five boroughs. At the time, Eva was working at Calvin Klein, Greg was working in construction and Mek was running a cafe in Ridgewood but they felt the need to create a solution since there were limited Polish restaurants to begin with and more and more were closing. So after about a year of research into the market and creating recipes for the menu, they decided to open a food truck with a five borough permit to not only re-introduce Polish food to consumers but to also be able to meet demand, whether it was in Manhattan or Brooklyn or Queens. The food truck gave them the ability to service more people by bringing the food to them directly on the street as well as to specific locations for private events, weddings, after parties and catering. The food truck officially launched in April 2013 and after five years of business, their mission is the same: to bring their culture and traditions to the streets of New York City.

Eva, Greg and Mek all felt a connection to Polish food because it’s the food they grew up eating. However, Eva notes, the concept and passion for the food truck really started with Greg and Mek as a way to bring a piece of home to New York. Greg and Mek were both born and raised in Poland and emigrated to the U.S. when they were teenagers. Eva was born and raised in New York and although she speaks Polish fluently, had a more typical “American” upbringing. She went to St. Vincent High School and then Iona College and growing up she says she didn’t have a lot of Polish friends. In fact, she hadn’t dated any Polish guys until she met Greg through a mutual friend. However, her mother made sure that she understood her heritage and growing up her home was constantly full of Polish dishes that her mother created. So when Greg and Mek decided to pursue the food truck full-time, she left her job to help them run the business. She now does all the marketing and PR for the food truck as well as running their catering operations. She also works part-time as an office manager at a jewelry company. Luckily the schedule is flexible with a certain amount of hours that she’s responsible for each week so she’s able to coordinate her work at the jewelry company around marketing outreach, meetings and their catering schedule each week. Eva doesn’t have any formal training in marketing but tries to work every angle to get their name out there. From social media to email marketing to creating doughnuts with the Polish flag on them in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Polish independence, she knows that the more recognizable their business is, the more customers will be attracted to it.

eva & team in food truck

Although the food truck gives them the ability to meet consumer demand directly, Eva says the logistics of the truck is also the most challenging part of the business. Every morning they load everything onto the truck and get to their spot for the day between 5AM and 7AM, depending on the spot. It’s crucial that you get to the spot you want before construction crews come with their trucks and vans or before the street gets too packed so that you’re ready to serve for lunch time. If you’re late, you’ll lose out on customers in popular areas or you could lose the food that you prepared for that day. However, over the years she says they’ve figured out how much food they’ll need for each day on the truck so that’s usually not an issue for them, especially since they now have a commissary kitchen in Brooklyn. They use the kitchen to prep the food needed for the truck, a majority of which they source from local Polish food vendors throughout New York. Their kielbasa is made by a Polish butcher specifically for them and their bread comes from a Polish bakery in the city. They work with a few different vendors to help create their dishes as they’re not able to prepare all of the food themselves. However, they will create a few dishes on the truck (Hunter’s Stew, grilled chicken, salads) and there’s no one main chef, all three of them contribute to the cooking. Any other items that they can’t get in the U.S. (such as Polish mustard, soda and water), they import from Poland to make sure that every item on their truck is Polish.

Just like their cooking, the inspiration behind their recipes comes from all three of them. Since they all grew up eating Polish food, they wanted to create a menu based off of their family recipes. However, every region in Poland adds their own unique spin on most dishes so they decided to combine each one of their “personal touches” to create their own recipes that they thought everyone would enjoy. They then had Eva’s mother taste test everything and approve it before it was added to the menu. They want customers who try their food to feel like they’re enjoying a traditional Polish lunch or dinner in Poland, so it was vital to them that each recipe was as authentic as possible. And it seems that they’ve succeeded. Customers will come to their food truck with a smile and say “This is how my grandmother used to make it!” or “I miss Polish food so much, I’m so glad that you guys are here!”, which Eva says is the most rewarding part of the business. Being able to bring their food to diverse groups of people all over New York and have them appreciate what it is and the tradition behind it is their passion.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “The Keto Kraze”

The Keto Kraze

The Keto Diet. If you’re like us, at least one person you know is on it or talking about starting it. It seems like this diet has become more and more popular in recent years (we’re looking at you Vinny Guadagnino) so we decided to do some research to learn more about the diet itself and how it affects the body.

As it turns out, the Ketogenic Diet is not a recent fad, it was actually used by physicians in the 1920s to treat epilepsy. A diet rich in fat and low in carbs was proven to produce ketone bodies in the liver. The increase in ketone bodies causes a change in metabolism, which scientists believe allows the body to remove the toxins from the intestines that cause the convulsions that plague epileptics. However, although ketone bodies have proven to help in reducing symptoms for those suffering from epilepsy, scientists still don’t completely understand why. The ketone bodies seem to have an anti-electrical effect on the brain but why that is is still under investigation. As for the diet being used to aid in weight loss, that’s also under investigation, as doctors have mixed feelings about if the benefits outweigh the costs. However, it has proven effective when men and women commit to this lifestyle change, rather than using it as a quick weight loss fix. 

What is the Keto Diet?

The Ketogenic Diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The purpose of the diet is to reduce carb intake and replace it with fat. The reduction of carbs from your system puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, which tricks your body into believing that it’s starving so it begins to efficiently burn fat for energy. 

What are the do’s and don’ts? 

The main focus of the keto diet is eliminating foods that are high in carbs, such as sugars and starches, and adding more proteins, vegetables and natural fats to your diet. However, it does allow for limited carb intake, depending on how strict you choose to be. A true ketogenic diet suggests under 20 grams of carbs a day but if that’s difficult for you to start out with, aim for staying under 100 grams of carbs a day. This will give your body more time to adjust to the diet and then limit the carbs from there, if you would like to. We’ve listed the common do’s and don’ts of the diet below. 

Do Eat/Drink:

Meat

Fish and Seafood

Eggs

Natural Fats (butter, olive oil, cheese and yogurt)

Vegetables (leafy and green vegetables are best: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, avocado)

Nuts in moderation (pecans, almonds, peanuts, walnuts)

Berries in moderation (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Water

Coffee (without sugar and limited milk or cream)

Tea

Bone Broth

Don’t Eat/Drink:

Sugar (candy, cakes, cookies, candy bars, doughnuts)

Starch (bread, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, potato chips, french fries)

Grains (rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, oats)

Beans (kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils)

Fruit

Soda/Soft Drinks

Juice

Beer

Cocktails

Pros of the Keto Diet:

Quick weight loss

Decreased appetite

Increased energy

Lowers risk of heart disease

Lowers blood sugar

Reduces insulin levels and inflammation

Cons of the Keto Diet:

May reduce muscle mass

Causes headaches and nausea 

Digestive issues such as constipation

May increase risk of coronary disease

Difficult to commit to following the diet

If you’ve done your research into the diet and are interested in trying it out, we’ve got the perfect meal to get you started: our keto quesadilla! The recipe is below along with step by step cooking instructions. Test it out at home and let us know if you’ve become a #ketoconvert.

Keto Quesadilla

Recipe serves 1

You’ll Need:

2 Siete almond flour tortillas

shredded Mexican cheese (use as much or as little as you’d like)

1 tablespoon ghee

1/4 lb ground turkey

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat skillet on medium heat. Add the teaspoon of olive oil as well as the minced garlic. Next add the ground turkey and all spices. Mix until cooked through. Once cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.

Wipe down your skillet with a paper towel (you can wash the skillet if desired but wiping with a paper towel should be enough to remove all of the turkey mixture). Return skillet to medium heat and add the ghee. Once the ghee has melted, add one Siete tortilla and cover in shredded Mexican cheese. Next add the cooked ground turkey and cover the ground turkey with more shredded cheese. Then place the second Siete tortilla on top. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until both sides are crispy. Pro tip: add avocado slices to make your quesadilla even more delicious or add a side of your favorite salsa and sour cream for dipping!

We served ours with sauteed purple cabbage and kale (which we sauteed with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of chili powder) but a mixed green salad or roasted vegetables are also good alternatives!

 

Resources:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101
https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/foods#keto-diet-food-list
https://www.news-medical.net/health/History-of-the-Ketogenic-Diet.aspx
https://perfectketo.com/ketosis-for-epilepsy/
https://perfectketo.com/ketogenic-diet-foods-to-avoid/
https://eatsmartproducts.com/fitness-and-wellness/the-pros-and-cons-of-the-ketogenic-diet/
0 comments on “Jacob Ryvkin, Co-Owner of Let’s Poke”

Jacob Ryvkin, Co-Owner of Let’s Poke

This is Jacob Ryvkin, the co-owner of Let’s Poke, a restaurant that he started with his business partner, Alex, who he’s been friends with since high school. Alex handles the back-end operations of the business and Jacob handles the restaurant itself (the management, the menu creation, and the daily operations), since he he began working in restaurants when he was just fifteen years old. Jacob grew up in New York and comes from an immigrant family. His parents were musicians in restaurants so he grew up very familiar with the restaurant lifestyle and always had a love for food. He was independent from a young age and wanted to make money, so it felt natural for him to seek work in the restaurant industry. He started out busing tables and then waiting tables, doing various jobs in different restaurants throughout high school and college. And although he ended up getting a degree in business management and finance and worked a few corporate jobs in finance and real estate, he always found himself getting bored and unhappy with the work. He was constantly drawn back into food and restaurants and eventually realized that his “fall back option” had turned into his passion. Now Jacob uses his 20+ years of experience in catering and fine dining to provide restaurant-quality, high-end, ingredient-driven food to his customers in Let’s Poke’s fast casual setting.

Once Jacob realized how happy he was working in the food industry, he started educating himself on the different aspects of each restaurant’s operations: front of house, back of house, kitchen, bar, and as he worked his way up the chain of command, his love for the industry grew. By the time he was twenty-four, he was managing Rasputin, a night club in Brooklyn, NY, where he was running a crew of 100 people with full banquet service, a band and cabaret and doing over $10 million in sales a year. Jacob eventually left Rasputin and worked at a few different banquet halls and night clubs before deciding to put his experience to the test and branch out on his own. He was on the West Coast scouting spaces to open a new night life concept when he was introduced to poke. Being someone who eats a ton of sushi, he found that a lot of the great sushi flavor was offered in poke, while also being a healthy, filling meal that’s more unique and complex than a salad. He immediately started playing with the poke concept in his head and when he returned to New York, he began doing research into the poke spots that had begun popping up at that time. He thought he could do a lot with the poke concept and was so excited about executing it that he and Alex decided to steer away from night life environment and put their project on hold to pursue this fast casual idea. They began brainstorming and planning a little over a year and a half ago and officially opened Let’s Poke in April 2018.

let's poke sign

Since Let’s Poke is such a new business, Jacob says that it’s been challenging to spread awareness about the business itself, especially since a lot of poke places have opened recently and every one of them is on social media. The New York market is so saturated to begin with, it’s hard to gain recognition, even if your current customers love what you’re doing. However, he knows that they have an excellent product due to versatility of their menu items (there’s over 6,000 ways the customer can customize their bowl or burrito) and the chef-driven ingredients that they offer. All of their sauces are made from scratch and most of the items that they serve are also made in-house. They use premium grade fish and have chicken and beef available as alternative protein options. They also offer a lot of high-end sushi ingredients as toppings for the poke that other restaurants don’t have, such as tamago, crispy salmon skins and ikura. However, the most unique thing about Let’s Poke is that they’ve also adapted the poke concept to fit New York’s fast paced environment with their self-ordering kiosks. Jacob recognized that since not everyone in New York is familiar with poke, walking into a poke restaurant can be daunting. The customer may not only be confused by the vast variety of items themselves, a line set up where they’re talking to multiple different people while trying to place an order as well as ask questions about the items can make it even more confusing and can quickly turn the ordering process into a frustrating experience, for both the customer and the staff. So they removed the confusion and made the process more efficient with self-ordering kisosks, where the customer is shown the menu in a step-by-step guided motion with pictures of each item and a brief description (if needed). Not only is this less confusing and more efficient (cutting down on order time by up to three or four minutes), it also eliminates 90% of errors that come up during an order. Jacob admits that errors still do happen, someone may misread a ticket or forget an ingredient, but at least they know the error is on their end as the customer has taken the time to select exactly what they wanted for their meal. Their ability to provide authentic flavor while making the ordering process so customizable with unique menu elements is something other poke vendors simply don’t offer.

Although they’ve only been operating Let’s Poke for about nine months, Jacob is focused on creating more buzz for the business by scaling out into more catering and events and eventually creating more brick and mortar locations. Because he and his team try to go the extra mile with food preparation, he feels strongly that they have restaurant-standard food that they’re able to provide to customers in the same time frame and for the same price point as you would expect to get at a fast casual place. And he hopes that their commitment to quality is reflected in each customer’s experience. For him, the best part of running a food business is the diverse group of people that you meet and the fact that you can have such a personal experience with each one of them. However, his advice for other entrepreneurs in the food industry is to really love the business and to research and understand the amount of time and energy that you need to contribute to produce a successful business. Although food has been very fulfilling for him and he loves interacting with customers, hearing their feedback and introducing new customers to poke, he recognizes that it’s very complex and stressful industry. So he advises everyone from the business owner to the bus boy in a restaurant to truly love what they’re doing because “unless you have love for the game, this business is for the insane”.

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

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January Vendor of the Month: The Picnic Basket

Happy 2019! We hope that everyone enjoyed their time celebrating the end of 2018 and the beginning of the new year with friends and family. This month we’re kicking off the new year with a new Vendor of the Month special for January from The Picnic Basket!

The Picnic Basket is known for it’s high quality ingredients and it’s unique twist on the office staples: sandwiches, soup and salad. Their Mediterranean-inspired cuisine brings new life to lunch meetings and team meals with their fresh and local components. From now until the end of January, FoodtoEat clients are able to order a discounted lunch combo of one full sandwich and one soup from The Picnic Basket’s wide selection of menu items! Kick off the new year right with a lunch the whole office can enjoy! Inquire now!

January Lunch Combo

$13.50/person

Choice of One Sandwich + One Soup

Sandwich Options:

Mediterranean Turkey

Wood smoked turkey, hummus, Mediterranean pickles, fresh greens and tomatoes

Classic Mediterranean

Hummus, eggplant, hard boiled eggs and Middle Eastern chopped salad; Vegetarian

Chicken Amarillo

Grilled chicken in traditional Peruvian hot sauce with Parmesan flakes, fresh greens and tomatoes

Filet of Roast Beef

Roast beef, Swiss cheese, sauteed onions, fresh greens, tomatoes and house mayo

French Goat Cheese

Goat cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, grilled zucchini, figs, tomatoes and fresh greens; Vegetarian

Turkey and Swiss

Wood smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, fresh greens, tomatoes and date mustard

Veggie

Hummus, eggplant, fire roasted red peppers, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes; Vegan

Chimi Chicken

Grilled chicken filet, mild Chimichurri sauce, fresh greens, tomatoes and house mayo

Crunchy Tuna

Tuna with Mediterranean pickles, corn, chopped carrots, mayo, fresh greens, tomatoes and house mayo

Fresh Mozzarella

Mozzarella, fire roasted red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, fresh greens, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette; Vegetarian

**Sandwiches can be made on gluten free bread upon request & will result in an additional charge**

 

Soup Options:

Lentil (Vegan, GF)

Chipotle Sweet Potato (Vegetarian, GF)

Roasted Vegetable (Vegan, GF)

Turkey Chili (GF)

Hungarian Mushroom (Vegetarian)

Tomato Garden (Vegan, GF)

**Soups can be modified to accommodate dietary restrictions upon request & may result in an additional charge**

sandwich_box_8181

Owners and creators of The Picnic Basket, Yariv Stav and David Vacnich believe that freshness makes the difference, which is what sets The Picnic Basket apart from its competitors. When developing the menu over seven years ago, they were determined to provide the highest quality food possible to their customers. And in doing so, have been successful in growing their business every day since The Picnic Basket was founded in 2012. They serve only handmade bread, which is delivered daily to their locations in Midtown and the Fashion District, along with their vegetables, cheeses and many other ingredients. All food is prepared on site and to the highest food standards.

The Picnic Basket menu combines simplicity with unique and distinctive tastes. They merge flavors from the Mediterranean, Italy and Asia to create a diverse menu with an intriguing amount of variety and edge. They offer more than fifteen different types of sandwiches as well as a selection of delicious soups, sides and salads with homemade signature dressings. They regularly update and increase their menu selections so that their offerings are always new and enticing and they pride themselves on the fact that they can appeal to any palate with their ability to customize their menu items to satisfy common dietary restrictions, such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten free. The Picnic Basket takes the mundane sandwich and elevates it to a new level, creating a one of a kind experience that you must taste to believe!

 

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Susan Palmer, Owner of Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop

This is Susan Palmer, the owner of Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop. A native New Yorker, Susan grew up on Long Island with a family that always seemed to have a connection to food. Her grandfather owned a wholesale candy business in Brooklyn so growing up she remembers hearing stories about the “candy man” whose staircases were always lined with boxes of candy. Watching Julia Child on PBS or other cooking shows was a normal occurrence for her and her three brothers, all of whom worked in restaurants throughout their lives as servers and cooks. One of her brothers even went on to open his own restaurant in Great Neck. Although no one in her family is trained professionally, both of her parents cooked regularly so cooking, baking and working in restaurants always felt natural to them and they all had a passion for it. However Susan didn’t think of pursuing a career in food until 2011 when she decided that she wanted a hobby to dedicate her free time to and started a food blog. After growing frustrated with the lack of growth in her corporate job and realizing that she could earn a living from the content she created on her blog, she took a risk and turned her hobby into a career. And although her kitchen is no longer little or red, Susan is committed to staying loyal to her brand of home style baked goods by using high quality ingredients and only creating small batches of her mouthwatering desserts.

Susan was a music major in college and worked at a theatre company on Broadway for eight years before starting her own business. Although she loves music and plays orchestral percussion, she has stage fright and recognized that as a woman in the music industry with limited performance spots to begin with and no interest in teaching, building a career in music would be hard for her to sustain. So she decided to work in an industry where she could still appreciate the music without the uncertainty of being a performer. She says that she really enjoyed her time working in the theatre industry but as the years continued, she hit a plateau in her position and became unhappy with her job. She began dreading going to work and turned to her food blog (named after the red kitchen she was cooking in in her 7×7 apartment) as a side project since she was already making various dishes at home and taking pictures of them for fun. During this time she also began entering different cooking competitions, most notably The Takedowns, a competition that was started in Brooklyn by Matt Timms where self-taught cooks bring their various creations, including cookies, for people to taste and vote for the best ones. Susan did the cookie takedown in 2011 and 2013 and won both times and also won in 2012 when she did the ice cream takedown. Through these competitions she realized that people enjoyed what she was making, since she kept winning, and her blog was bringing in enough revenue to allow her to earn a living. With this knowledge, she decided to turn her love of cooking into a career and began working on her own recipes and taking steps to open her own business.

Susan continued entering competitions, running her food blog and working full time until 2014. Once she had committed to the idea of running her own business, she strongly believed that if she was going to open her own bake shop, she was going to do it right and took the time to do just that. She used the entire year of 2013 to create a business plan with a consultant and did a lot of research to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe. In May 2014, she did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the business and officially launched it that fall. However, she continued working for the theatre company for another year after that to give herself a solid foundation to rely on before transitioning to the bake shop full time. She says that she did have some anxiety about lack of money and stability when starting the business and then again when she made it her full time focus. But it wasn’t as much anxiety as a music career would have given her or the anxiety that she felt at a job she was unhappy doing. Food brought her joy and she felt less uncertainty starting her own business because she was taking matters into her own hands and choosing her own path. Like any entrepreneur, there were a few moments when she second guessed herself but she kept pushing through them and was quickly able to learn the hustle of the food industry.

Today Susan has grown the blog that started in her little, red kitchen into a successful wholesale business. She sells her cookies, brownies and blondies at small retailers throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and also does food service for the catering department at Murray’s Cheese and 10Below Ice Cream. She does her own catering as well and has a reputation for creating custom items for her clients. The toughest part of the business is that the dessert market is very saturated in New York so it’s difficult to find customers to sell her products to. Which is why she’s so intent on keeping her items homemade and authentic in order to differentiate herself from the many other bake shops and dessert businesses that she’s competing with. Everything is made to order in small batches by Susan or her baking assistant. She’s very picky about the types of ingredients that she’ll use because quality matters to her more than anything. Almost every ingredient they use is organic. She won’t use corn syrup or enriched flour and will only use food coloring when a client requests it. On top of having a product that tastes good, she doesn’t want her items to be loaded with additives that are bad for her customer’s bodies. It’s more important for her to create high quality products than do something that’s better for her financially. Which is also why she bakes a lot of vegan and gluten free customized items and takes her time creating them so that anything vegan or gluten free doesn’t “taste” vegan or gluten free. She enjoys that her customer’s dietary restrictions have helped her think outside the box of what’s considered “normal” for baking.

Susan recently moved into a larger commercial kitchen in Brooklyn and her focus now is expanding into more retail locations and doing more catering. She’s always working to make sure that her products are the best quality possible and that they create a taste that you remember. Her mission is to take the cookies that you loved growing up and make them even more delicious, so that when you bite into one of her cookies, you get a flashback to your childhood… but it’s even better than you remember. The most rewarding part of the business for Susan is making customers happy and she strives to recreate “that warm feeling inside” that you get when an experience makes you nostalgic. She hopes that when customers buy her products she’s able to transfer to them the joy that she gets from cooking and baking and will always go the extra mile to make sure that her customer is satisfied. 

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

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To Our Customers and Vendors…

We wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of our amazing clients and vendors who made 2018 so special. We truly would not be where we are today without the hardworking business owners that we represent and the thoughtful customers that value our mission and are helping us to create a more diverse food community throughout New York City!

We’re so proud of everything that we accomplished this year with the help of our loyal clients and dedicated vendors who create the delicious food that we’re able to showcase during team lunches, office happy hours and so much more. Thank you for continuing to support our team and giving purpose to our journey. We appreciate all of you!

We hope that everyone is enjoying this holiday time with friends, family and of course, some delightful food! We’re looking forward to continuing to improve our concierge catering service in 2019 and can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings!

From everyone at FoodtoEat, we wish you happy holidays and a happy and healthy new year! 

The FoodtoEat Team

 

0 comments on “Spread Holiday Cheer with Our Shepherd’s Pie Recipe”

Spread Holiday Cheer with Our Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Tired of the serving the same food every holiday season? Switch things up with our lentil shepherd’s pie! Although it’s typically a dish that you make in March around St. Patrick’s Day, the flavor and warmth that this feel good food provides makes it the perfect meal to indulge in during the winter. And we’ve got a simple and straightforward recipe that will make creating it a breeze!

Instead of doing the traditional ground beef or lamb, we made our recipe with lentils and mushrooms, which is a crowd-pleaser for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Plus you get the added bonus of this recipe being somewhat healthier for you (what can we say, it still has a layer of mashed potatoes…) while also tasting delicious! So next time you’re looking for some comfort food when the temperature drops, try it out and have some friends over to taste test your work! Slainte!

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe serves 6

You’ll Need:

For the Filling

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 large carrots, chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (ex: shiitake, cremini, mini portobello, white button)

4 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine (ex: cabernet, merlot, chianti)

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups vegetable broth

1 lb cooked lentils

1 cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

For the Topping

4 large potatoes

1/2 stick of butter

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped 

2 teaspoons garlic powder

salt 

pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you make the filling! First, heat olive oil in a large skillet (we used a cast iron skillet for easy stove top to oven transfer) then add in onions, carrots and celery and saute for about 10 minutes. Next add in the mushrooms, garlic, herbs and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 8-10 minutes until mushrooms have softened. Once the mushrooms are cooked down, stir in tomato paste, red wine and Worcestershire sauce, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spatula. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Then stir in flour, vegetable broth, cooked lentils, tomato sauce, frozen peas, parsley, pepper and remaining salt and cook for 5 minutes. Once cooked through, turn off stove and set aside.

Next you’ll make the topping. Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Once the water is boiled, add the potatoes and cook until they are fork tender. When the potatoes are tender, remove from heat and drain the water. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and add the milk, butter, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Mix or mash the ingredients, being sure to add the milk 1/2 cup at a time so that the potatoes don’t get too watery. Once the potatoes are smooth and creamy, add the fresh chopped chives and mix.

Once your topping is complete, you’re ready to put both parts together! Spread the mashed potato topping over the filling mixture that you prepared in your skillet. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes and then broil on high until the top of the mashed potatoes are lightly browned and the filling is bubbly (should be about 4-5 minutes, depending on your oven). When the topping is at your desired crispiness remove from the oven and serve for a delicious Meatless Monday…. or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday 🙂

 

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PriaVanda Chouhan, Owner of Desi Galli

This is PriaVanda Chouhan, the owner of Desi Galli, a fast casual restaurant that specializes in Indian street food. What makes Pria such a unique business owner is that before Desi Galli, she had no experience in the food industry (other than a few years working at McDonald’s). Her parents moved from India to Montreal, Canada in 1973 and at that time, there wasn’t much variety in regards to Indian food. There were only one or two Indian restaurants in the city and they found that they didn’t have traditional Indian flavors and weren’t as authentic as what they could create themselves at home. So growing up, food was a major part of Pria’s life as lunch and dinner were made daily in her home. However, it was typically either her mother or her sister cooking. Pria would always help in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or washing dishes, but she hated the grunt work of food prep and had no interest in learning how to cook since someone else in the family was already doing it for her. It wasn’t until she moved to New York and got married in 2009 that she decided to to learn how to cook. She and her husband were gaining weight eating out at different restaurants and they never felt satisfied with the Indian food that they tried because it never tasted like the food at home. So she taught herself to cook watching Food Network and shows like Rachael Ray and calling her mom, her sister and her mother-in-law for advice on creating different dishes. At the time, she says, she didn’t have any bigger picture in mind other than gaining “basic life skills”, but after trying in vain to get a job during and after the recession, she was frustrated and decided to create her own destiny. So she created a menu based on the dishes that she and her husband grew up eating and in 2012, opened Desi Galli.

Desi Galli was not an overnight success. Although Pria had been cooking for two to three years at this point, starting with simple recipes and then building upon that foundation, she had issues transferring her recipe knowledge from feeding 3-4 people to mass production. In the restaurant she had to do a lot of taste testing to make sure that each ingredient was portioned correctly so that the dishes weren’t too salty or too creamy. She also had never been in charge of a kitchen so with the help of her first employee (who now manages her Lexington Avenue location), they figured out what equipment and set up was needed to run a line as they went. In the first year, her husband managed the restaurant while also working at his full-time job so that he could help Pria as she was learning the different areas of the business. Despite the insane hours she and her husband were working and the threat of bankruptcy looming over her head, Pria worked through her mistakes and was able to start listening to her customer’s requests. Their menu started out as mainly Indian street food because she wanted that “tapas feel” of having a little bit of everything that she and her husband enjoyed. But she noticed that people were coming into the restaurant and asking for traditional dishes, which they didn’t offer. She realized that she had to “ease the customer into the food”, i.e. let them try the traditional, staple items first and then educate them about chaat and kathi rolls. So she changed the menu to incorporate the classic dishes that customers were looking for as well as heavier items for dinner, such as biryani and naan. These changes helped in stabilizing the business and allowed her to get a better understanding of how a fast casual restaurant needs to run.

Looking back Pria says that she may have jumped into the restaurant industry a little too quickly. She was offered the space for her restaurant in February and opened in May and admittedly did very little research into the business beforehand. However, she knew how to run a business from her time working as a Regional Sales Manager for a clothing line in Canada (where she managed the province of Quebec and had 250 employees working underneath her) and she trusted her instinct that this was the right move. Now she has a handle on how the industry runs and is ready to focus on improving her business model and expanding it. One of the biggest things she’s concentrated on at the moment is educating people about her food. She said people will sometimes tell her that her food “doesn’t taste like India”, which she tries not to take personally as all of the recipes for her menu items come from somewhere in their family, with Pria adding her own spin to it. However, she attributes this comment to the lack of understanding that there are different interpretations of Indian food, which are often based on where your family is from and the way you grew up eating a specific food. For Pria, Desi Galli is her interpretation of what she and her husband grew up eating. But one significant thing that does impact the taste of her food is Pria’s commitment to cutting back on heavy creams and oils that are traditionally found in Indian food. After her weight gain the first few months in New York, she started educating herself on what she was eating and became much more conscious of that fats and oils that your body can’t digest and make you feel bad. Therefore, when creating the menu for Desi Galli, she tried to keep items lighter and healthier, which benefits customers and also allows her to stand out from the heaviness of her competitors.

Desi Galli is a unique business. The name itself comes from the restaurant’s structure: desi meaning “one from the Indian subcontinent” and galli meaning “alley”, so “Indian alley” because the space is so narrow. It makes it seem like you’re going to a hole in the wall, which Pria plays into with her delicious and unique menu items like chicken tikka sliders or their famous desipoutine (french fries with tikka sauce and grated paneer). But more than being known for their unique food, Pria also wants to be known for being a “no pressure” restaurant where people can sit and have a cup of chai or eat a snack without feeling like there’s any rush. In New York she found that there weren’t many places to eat, drink and hang out as compared to Montreal, where cafes are very common. So she created Desi Galli to be a cafe-esque space with outlets everywhere so that customers are encouraged to hang out and do work, read or just chill. She incorporates this European vibe to remind customers to take some time alone to slow down and relax when things get hectic. For Pria, keeping customers happy is the most rewarding part of the business. Whether they’re eating in the restaurant or ordering catering, she loves hearing that her customers love her food or got so many compliments at an event that they’re recommending Desi Galli to a friend for catering. It gives her the belief that customers are becoming more open-minded and willing to step out of their comfort zone when you create a good product.

Although the unpredictability of fast casual restaurants is one of the most challenging parts of the business for Pria, she’s looking forward to continuing to expand her business. She now has a second Desi Galli location in the East Village and both locations are doing very well. She says that she’s open to reinventing menu items if she sees that demand again from customers but her current concentration is continuing to do what she’s doing and do it really well. She did face some sexism when she first started out, specifically from other male business owners in her area but now that she’s established herself, she feels that she is part of a larger community that’s working to diversify the New York food industry.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

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8 Techniques to Beating the Winter Blues

Winter is coming here. And although the holiday season is filled with reasons to celebrate, the longer and darker days of winter can often make us feel lethargic and sometimes cause a shift in mood, often referred to as the “winter blues”. This shift is caused by the reduced number of daylight hours and the colder temperatures that we experience for up to three or four months in New York. Which is why it’s important to make sure that you’re stay active during this time and planning activities with loved ones or on your own to keep your energy levels high!

Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to combat the winter blues to make sure that you’re feeling good all season long! We hope that these suggestions allow you to create a more positive environment for yourself and keep you from falling into bad habits before the snow hits.

Host a dinner party with friends. The best way to improve your mood is to spend time with family and friends that make you smile and laugh. So why not set a time for everyone to get together and bring a dish to share while enjoying each other’s company?! Or keep it simple and order in! Even better, make the dinner a weekly or monthly occurrence so that you have something to look forward to throughout the winter months!

Exercise. We know that this is a pretty standard suggestion and that regular exercise during the winter is tough, especially when there’s so much to binge on Netflix. But studies show that physical activity boosts your brain’s dopamine production, which increases happiness and improves your mood. Exercises also helps to reduce anxiety as it gives your body an outlet to release any tension being held in the muscles.

Book a staycation. Sometimes the best way to shake that melancholy feeling is to get yourself out of your normal surroundings. But getting away doesn’t have to mean that you’re flying somewhere. Money gets tight for everyone around the holidays so why not try a budget-friendly staycation?! Book a night at a hotel with a friend or significant other and spend the day taking advantage of nearby activities or relaxing on a massive bed in a plush robe. Take some time away to do as much, or as little, as you want!

Help others. Helping others in any way improves our own happiness because it makes us feel connected to other people and it causes our brain to release dopamine, which improves our mood. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter are two examples of ways that you can help in your community. However, the key to helping others is finding something that you’re passionate about so that there’s genuine love and care behind the help that you’re giving, making it more personal.

Get outside. Going for a walk during the day, even for a few minutes, can improve focus and lower stress levels. Although this is hard to do when the temperatures get really cold, get in the habit of getting away from your desk and going for a walk at a time every day that works for you. Work it into your schedule so that you know there’s a dedicated period of time when you’re away from the office that you can look forward to.

Purchase a light box. Since our bodies are exposed to less sunlight during the winter, a light box can help regulate your body’s melatonin and improve your mood. Light boxes are flat screens that produce full-spectrum light and help you reset your biological clock so that you don’t feel the prolonged sleepiness your body interprets from the darkness outside. If you can’t get outside during the day and expose yourself to natural light, a light box is a good but somewhat expensive option.

Meditate. Meditation is a great way to improve your mental health. Similar to exercising, it causes the pituitary gland in our brand to release endorphins, which elevates our mood, reducing stress and anxiety. The concentration on your breathing teaches the body discipline, making you more focused and efficient.

Treat yourself to a warm snack. Since none of our other techniques have focused on food, our last suggestion is to remember to treat yourself! We’re not saying to indulge every day (the increase in sugar will end up making you feel worse), we’re simply saying that if you’re having a bad day or feeling tired, it’s okay to warm yourself up with a hot drink and/or a snack. It’s a temporary fix but sometimes a little indulgence is just what you need to brighten your mood 🙂

 

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Brian Goldberg, Founder & CEO of Mr. Bing

This is Brian Goldberg, the Founder & CEO of Mr. Bing. Brian opened his first Mr. Bing location in Hong Kong in 2013 but the road that led him to Mr. Bing (and eventually back to the U.S.) is a very long and interesting one. Born and raised in Rockland County, New York, he says that his love for Chinese culture comes from a combination of relationships, food, language, film, music and literature. He grew up eating Chinese food once a week with his family. Whether it was ordering in on Friday night or going out to eat on Sunday, it was part of the culture in his community, so much so that his father taught him how to use chopsticks at age 7. In college he was required to take a language and, having grown tired of the Spanish classes that he’d taken all his life and that he’d also learned from his father (who was a Spanish teacher), he decided to take Mandarin because he was dating a girl whose family spoke Mandarin. During this time he got really into Chinese film and music and ended up majoring in Chinese. He was studying abroad in Beijing, China in 1998 when he was first introduced to the jianbing (pronounced jen-bing), a savory Chinese street crepe that a little, old lady would cook on the back of a bicycle cart outside his dorm room every morning. He had one every day when he was abroad and loved them so much that he told himself that he would bring them back to the U.S. one day. Although it would be years before he acted on this desire, it was during his time in China as a student that the idea for Mr. Bing was born. Today Brian has contributed to the food fabric of New York with his introduction of the jianbing and is committed to expanding the product’s capabilities to make bings a part of mainstream culture in the U.S. 

Brian was supposed to go to medical school after returning from China and receiving his undergraduate degree but decided to do a Masters in Chinese Studies at Columbia University instead. During this Masters program he was required to take a few classes at the business school, one of which was entrepreneurship. He was asked to write a business plan for anything he wanted, so he wrote one for Goldberg’s Chinese Crepes, a six page plan that focused on creating a chain of street carts around NYC, modeled after the hot dog stands that you can find on most corners and the bicycle carts that jianbings were traditionally sold off of in China. While completing his Masters degree, Brian was also competing as a professional athlete in luge, which was a huge passion of his. He competed for a few years and traveled around the world, simultaneously working as the translator for the Chinese and Taiwanese national teams. He retired after the 2002 Olympics and since he had no money or experience in the food industry to execute the plan for the bing business that he had worked on during his Masters program, he put the idea on hold and started working for NBC.

Brian worked as an NBC page and bilingual tour guide at 30 Rock, leading English and Chinese tours of the TV studios before moving over to CNBC and working as an assistant producer at the New York Stock Exchange. Next NBC moved him to Singapore to help cover Asian business news, which he did for a few years and then worked as a sports reporter for a few years as well. However, he really enjoyed his time at the New York Stock Exchange so he decided to leave the journalism industry and started working in finance for an investment bank. He spent ten years at this bank, first living in Taiwan and then Hong Kong. Although he enjoyed his time in finance and was learning a lot, he started getting tired of the industry and began thinking about what was next for him. He always knew that he wanted to start his own business one day but didn’t know what the business should be. Then, about six years ago while he was living in Hong Kong, he was in Beijing for a weekend trip and ate a jianbing and all of his earlier ideas came rushing back to his mind. He remembered his old business plan for Goldberg’s Chinese Crepes and figured it was time to put his plan into action. So he changed the business name to Mr. Bing, combined his money with some money from a friend and opened a little store in the financial district in Hong Kong. He ran this store for two years while also working in finance. And although they were the first restaurant making bings in Hong Kong, since they were mixed in with many other types of Asian food, they were forced to sell the food at really low prices and it was hard to make a profit. However, he noticed that most of his customers were from Northern China or were expats from the U.S., Australia and the U.K. He realized that Hong Kong wasn’t the right market for his bings and that they would do much better in the U.S. because there was no one else creating the product there. So he shut down his Hong Kong operation, quit his job in finance, sold his apartment and moved back to New York in 2015.

Mr. Bing Blog

Instead of opening a store front right away, Brian introduced Mr. Bing to the New York market by doing pop ups: the Garment District pop up, Broadway Bites, Madison Square Eats, Bryant Park Winter Village, etc. He did this circuit for about a year and won the Vendy Award for Best New Street Food in New York. During this time, he met the owners of Urbanspace who offered him his first permanent location at the Vanderbilt food hall. It opened in January 2017 and based on how well it was doing, they were able to raise enough capital from professional investors to open their second location in Times Square. This past year, Mr. Bing opened it’s first storefront in Chelsea, which doubles as their headquarters and also has a commissary kitchen for their catering business, which Brian says is doing very well. They’ve partnered with food service companies like Aramark and Compass Group to do institutional catering at companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Twitter and LinkedIn where they open Mr. Bing kiosks that rotate throughout the year. They’ve also expanded their menu to include dumplings, baos, bubble tea, egg drop soup and most recently, rice bowls. And although they’ve gotten some criticism from Chinese customers who say their bings aren’t authentic because they’re not the bings that they grew up eating (Mr. Bing offers a variety of meat fillings), Brian is committed to preserving the traditional bing that they started out creating. He admits that although their bings are very authentic to what you’ll find in China, Mr. Bing isn’t a 100% replica of the jianbing and he doesn’t want it to be. Their menu is more Westernized and is an evolving process that they’re always trying to improve. Being in New York, they have to listen to what customers want and develop their offerings to meet those demands. However, whether a customer loves the bings or thinks they’re just okay, he finds that most customers, Chinese customers especially, are just happy that they’re here.

Moving forward, Brian’s plan is to open more locations in New York and to continue to perfect the business model before expanding to other cities. He wants to improve their operations, streamline production and tell their story more, so that they can teach more people about where the food comes from. He would also like to incorporate more modern Chinese culture into their stores and kiosks with music and art but says that they’re not there yet. Right now the company’s mission is to introduce bings and other Northern Chinese street foods such as dumplings and baos to the Western world and in order to do so, they have to make sure that they do bings really well. For Brian, the most rewarding part of the business is seeing the impact that Mr. Bing has had on the New York food scene as he’s watched the gradual increase of people who know what bings are and love them as much as he does. It’s amazing to watch people realizing that bings exist and understand that there’s another type of Chinese food that they’ve never had before that Mr. Bing is bringing them. The growing knowledge of this unique and fun product is a testament to Brian that what he and his team are doing is meaningful and although he says he’s “only giving people good food”, he feels like he’s made his mark on the world.

 

 

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December Vendor of the Month: Hokey Poke

The holiday shopping craze is well underway but don’t forget to treat yourself this month! One food trend that’s becoming more and more popular is poke which is why we’re treating you to a special poke offer with our Vendor of the Month for December, Hokey Poke!

If you’re not familiar with it, poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a native Hawaiian cuisine that centers around raw fish that’s diced and marinated. It’s typically served in a bowl or burrito with greens or rice and assorted mix ins, such as edamame, red onion, fresh pineapple and macadamia nuts. But there are a variety of ways to mix and match ingredients to make a poke bowl or burrito that’s perfect for you! And now for the month of December only, Hokey Poke will be offering a discounted lunch package exclusively to FoodtoEat clients! Don’t miss out on your chance to try something new this holiday season! Email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to take advantage of this special. Your team will thank you for it 😉

December Lunch Package

$13/person

Choice of One Pre-Made Poke Bowl + Complimentary Miso Soup

Bowl Options:

Ahoy There

White Rice, Shrimp (poached), Scallions, Cucumber, Radish, Edamame, Red Cabbage, Cilantro, Fresh Pineapple, Spicy Ginger Vinaigrette, Wakame Seaweed Salad, Masago, Pickled Ginger and Pumpkin Seeds

Maui Ahi

Zoodles, Ahi Tuna, Scallions, Red Onion, Wasabi Shoyu, Shredded Nori, Imitation Crab Meat, Crispy Shallots and Black Sesame Seeds

Glazed Kolomona

White Rice, Salmon, Broccoli, Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms, Daikon Sprouts, Roasted Sesame Cream, Lotus Chips, Pickled Ginger and Crispy Garlic

Spicy Atlantic

Brown Rice, Spicy Salmon, Shrimp (poached), Radish, Red Cabbage, Scallion, Hokey Aioli, Chili Infused Ponzu, Hijiki Seaweed, Shredded Nori and Roasted Cashews

Pineapple Express (Vegan)

White Rice, Sweet Chili Tofu, Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms, Fresh Pineapple, Pickled Jalapeno, Sweet Chili, Roasted Cashews, Pumpkin Seeds and Roasted Sesame Seeds

+ Many More!

Hokey Poke Vendor of the Month Blog

Hokey Poke is the creation of owner, Nir Kahan. He credits the restaurant as being a combination of influences that he’s experienced throughout his life. Born in Israel, he decided to travel the world in his early 20s and ended up living in Japan for about six months. It was there that he was introduced to the quality of fresh fish and started to value it in a way that he never had before. In 2009 he moved to the U.S. and after working in a few different industries, began working in food. About two or three years ago, he noticed that poke was becoming popular in New York and he saw the opportunity to blend his love of fresh fish with the more aggressive flavors and mix ins that poke is known for. He decided to transition out of the business that he was involved in and open a fast casual restaurant where he could combine traditional poke with contemporary flavors.

Hokey Poke officially opened in February 2016. In order to set himself apart from his competition, which focused on replicating traditional poke, Nir used his background to incorporate some Israeli influences into his cuisine. His time in Japan also played a part in the development of his business. Because he had a firsthand knowledge of the locally sourced, high quality ingredients that were available to him, he decided that he would only provide customers with the highest quality items that he could find in New York. Rather than using frozen fish like other poke restaurants, Hokey Poke uses sushi grade fish that is only found in high end restaurants throughout NYC. Although this choice severely impacts their profitability, he and his team are committed to providing an unforgettable dining experience that combines fresh, healthy and delicious menu elements and flavors. It’s this dedication to providing customers with the best selections possible that gives Hokey Poke a unique taste that customers can’t get elsewhere. 

 

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Steven Zhik, Operational Manager at Eight Turn Crepe

This is Steven Zhik, the operational manager at Eight Turn Crepe. The concept for this Japanese creperie was brought to New York from Japan by Hiro Nishida in 2012. Hiro was born in Japan and has 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry through his work in both Japan and New York. Although he currently lives in New York, through his travels back and forth to Japan, he noticed that street crepes were becoming more and more popular and that nothing like it existed in his food community in New York. Served in a cone, the crepe is eaten on the go, which Hiro thought made it perfect for the hustle and bustle that New York City is known for. So he decided to introduce it to the New York market and opened the first Eight Turn Crepe location in Soho with his business partner, Tanya Mirvis. The fast casual restaurant was the first Japanese creperie to open in NYC and presented a new meal concept to the NYC food scene. Steven joined the team in 2016 after being connected with Tanya through a mutual friend. A huge fan of the product, Steven was a regular customer at Eight Turn Crepe before meeting Tanya. After speaking with her about the business, he knew right away that he had to be part of their team. His focus now is understanding their customer on a deeper level (dietary preferences, food trends and spending habits) and using that knowledge to grow their business in the U.S. and internationally.

Steven was born in Ukraine and came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He graduated from Pace with a degree in finance and economics in 2001, just two months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and due the economic and social climate at the time, it was very difficult to get a job. So he and a few friends decided to pause their job searches and travel the world. They traveled for about six months and during this time, Steven ended up meeting someone in Vietnam who was from Queens and who he shared some mutual connections with. He was running a tattoo business in the East Village and told Steven to reach out to him when got back to the U.S. if he was interested in helping him out with the business. When Steven got back to New York a few months later, he contacted him and began running their storefront. Two years later, they had opened up two other store locations and Steven had become a partner in the business. This launched Steven’s career in retail. He worked in the retail industry for 17 years, opening up clothing stores and gift shops until he decided that he wanted to invest in a new business and was introduced to Tanya at Eight Turn Crepe. He thought the rice crepe was very unique and already knew that it was high quality from his time as a customer there. Although he had no experience in the food industry, he felt compelled to join the business. So he left the retail industry and became a partner in Eight Turn Crepe.

Once Steven joined the team, he took over all business operations. His day to day now centers around running Eight Turn Crepe’s store operations and catering business. Unfortunately, they were forced to close their flagship Soho location in 2016 just as he was coming on board due to increasing rent. But luckily around the same time they were invited to open a location at the DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, after being handpicked by management there to be a part of it’s innovative dining experience. DeKalb Market is where they currently operate from and so far they’ve been very successful there. There’s a lot of foot traffic during the week throughout the lunch hour because they’re surrounded by a lot of corporate offices and even more so on the weekends with the Market’s daily live programming. Although the industry is much more labor intensive than Steven is used to, he says he’s never regretted his decision to join the business. And after spending two and half years learning the business and the food industry itself, he’s much more comfortable coordinating the staff (which can vary anywhere from nine to fifteen people at a time), and their schedules and the dealing with the inevitable turnover that comes with most food businesses. Like all industries, there are pros and cons but for Steven it has always been more rewarding than challenging.

Steve + Employee from Eight Turn Crepe

Steven is usually at the store 3-5 days a week, which has allowed him to get to know their customer much better than he anticipated. He recognized that consumers are becoming much more health conscious (asking if their crepe batter contains eggs, milk or gluten), which led to their menu expansion to include vegan crepes and an overhaul of their store to make it more vegan-friendly: dedicating a crepe maker to make only vegan crepes, specifying certain utensils to be used and creating a new fridge and counter area where only vegan ingredients will be stored.  Although they are still in the process of rolling out their vegan crepes and finalizing the logistics of the menu change, Steven’s interactions with customers in DeKalb Market have allowed him to zero in on areas of the business that need to be developed and put his efforts into developing them. However, he recognizes that the traditional recipe that they started with is what attracts most of their customers, so they’ll always offer the rice crepes that they’re famous for. Steven sees their menu development as a way to keep up with changing food trends and expand the business as well as to continue to reach their varied clientele. Similar to the business itself, they don’t plan on changing their recipe, just adding to it.

Steven works very hard to make sure that their customer service is top notch, so the most rewarding part of the business for him is reading reviews about how friendly the staff was or hearing from a customer how much they loved their crepe. He’s put a lot of energy into building a team that cares about the business and that care shows in their satisfied customers and the positive energy that surrounds the location itself. He’s hoping to use their DeKalb Market location as a model for future locations as he concentrates on franchising the business in places like Texas and the Middle East. But for now he plans to continue to work on getting their store operations and catering business down to a science, while continuing to listen to the needs of their customers and providing a solution that fits with their brand.

 

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Hanukkah Musts for Any Meal!

Hanukkah is the eight-day festival of lights that commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple by the Maccabees. It’s celebrated by the Jewish community with prayers, the lighting of the menorah and of course, food! It begins this Sunday, December 2nd and ends on Monday, December 10th. So, as any good party planner knows, it’s time to start menu planning and meal prepping to make sure that you have everything you need to celebrate with family and friends. Although everyone has their own traditions, below we’ve broken down the staple menu items that are typically found on the table when celebrating Hanukkah. So whether you’re hosting or attending a Hanukkah celebration, you’ll know exactly what dish or dishes to create for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert!

And if you’re looking for ways to celebrate at the office, we’re here to help! Our vendors are able to create a Hanukkah spread that includes any and all of the traditional or non-traditional food items that you love. Email us today at catering@foodtoeat.com for a custom proposal built for you and your team!

Breakfast/Brunch:

Latkes: Latkes, or potato pancakes, are made from shredded or mashed potatoes and fried in oil. Although they can be eaten with any meal during Hanukkah, if you top them with smoked salmon and sour cream, you can make this traditional Hanukkah food a fancier breakfast item.

Poached Eggs: Always a crowd pleaser, poached eggs are commonly served on latkes during Hanukkah, similar to an Eggs Benedict. However, they can always be served separately over some spinach and roasted veggies.

Apple Fritters: Apple fritters are made by slicing and deep frying apples and topping with powdered sugar. They’re an easy way to sweeten up breakfast or brunch and since they contain no yeast, you can make them in less than an hour!

Lunch:

Matzoh Ball Soup: A traditional soup served during Hanukkah, matzoh balls are soup dumplings made from matzoh meal, eggs, water and fat and served in chicken broth with carrots, parsnips and fresh dill. The matzoh balls typically absorb the chicken broth, giving them the flavor that people love.

Gefilte Fish: Gefilte fish is made from a mixture of ground, deboned fish, such as carp, whitefish or pike. Usually served chilled with a dipping sauce of choice, it can also be served on crackers or bread to make it more filling.

Challah: A Kosher loaf of braided bread, it’s simply made with eggs, water, flour, yeast and salt. Typically used for dipping during a meal or as bread for sandwiches, it can also be used to make french toast for breakfast.

Dinner:

Slow Cooked Brisket: Another classic Hanukkah food, brisket can be used to create a hearty stew or served as an entree with roasted potatoes and green beans.

Kugel: An egg noodle casserole, kugel can be served savory or sweet, depending on your taste buds. If you’re trying to make your kugel unique this year, try mixing in fruits and nuts, such as pecans, almonds, raisins, apricots and cranberries.

Salmon: As an alternative to brisket, many Hanukkah meals also offer basked or roasted salmon as an entree option. It can be seasoned many different ways but typically it’s done with thyme and a honey mustard glaze or more simply with sage and parsley.

Dessert:

Babka: Babka is not bread, although it is loaf-shaped. It’s a dense wheat cake that’s typically swirled with chocolate and cinnamon but can also be made with apricot, raspberry and even cheese!

Rugelach: A bite-sized pastry or cookie made with cream cheese dough rolled around a variety of fillings. Most commonly it is done with nuts, chocolate or jam.

Sufganiyot: A traditional Hanukkah dessert, these deep fried doughnuts are usually filled with custard or jelly and topped with powdered sugar.

Gelt: Although they’re a simple addition to any party, no Hanukkah celebration is complete without gelt! These are chocolate coins, wrapped in silver or gold foil and used as money when playing the game of dreidel.

Photo Credit: Baz Bagel & Restaurant

 

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Dhanny and Joe Palma, Co-Owners of My Kitchen

This is Dhanny and Joe Palma, the co-owners of My Kitchen. Although they grew up in different environments- Dhanny was born and raised in Trinidad and Joe is a first generation Italian American who was raised in Brooklyn- both Dhanny and Joe had a passion for food and understood that meals were always an experience that you shared with family and friends. After meeting through a newspaper ad and building an extremely successful catering business which they ran together for almost 20 years, this husband and wife team decided to take on a a new endeavor: a restaurant/banquet hall, aptly named My Kitchen, where they decided they would serve customers as if they were having a dinner party at home and welcoming guests into their kitchen. Having been in the corporate food industry for many years, Dhanny and Joe wanted to create a relaxing and inviting space where the focus is on good food and good company and nothing else. Dhanny and Joe’s passion for food and love of entertaining has allowed them to build a business with the customer in mind every step of the way. Every facet of their restaurant centers around the question: “how would we want it done for us?” and is executed based on that answer. 

Dhanny and Joe met in 1993 after Joe put an ad in the newspaper looking for someone who was good with computers to help him run the catering business he had just started. Dhanny, who was working as a broker at the time, felt unmotivated in her position, worn down by her commute and was looking for a change when she happened to see the ad and reached out to Joe to say that she was interested and to set up a meeting. They quickly became the best of friends and started building their first business, Culinary Concepts. They worked out of a commissary kitchen in Astoria and although they struggled at first to pay the bills and themselves, they grew their reputation as a reliable vendor with delicious food and began working with corporate clients like Meals on Wheels and Delta. Together they grew the business into a multi-million dollar company with 25 employees, creating pre-packaged meals and catering corporate lunches, meetings and parties. However, over time they began to see changes, both in the food industry and outside it, that were effecting the business. Less people were ordering corporate catering and more were going out for lunch and dinner and renting out venues for holiday parties. Delta filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and their profit margin with Meals on Wheels was getting smaller. They were getting by but they weren’t making money and they knew the end of the business was coming. So in April 2012, they decided to make a change and close the business.

After closing Culinary Concepts, Dhanny and Joe weren’t sure what their next step would be so they floated around for a few months. They used commercial kitchens to cater for some of their corporate clients and Joe went on a few interviews for chef positions. But after being self-employed, Joe was frustrated at the idea of working under someone else and felt he would be moving backwards. So one day, after Joe came home from an interview feeling defeated, Dhanny said let’s just find a new place and start again, so they began looking at retail locations with a broker and were introduced to My Kitchen. It was an existing business that was being sold and when they walked into the location, Dhanny says, it immediately “felt like it was us”. However, unlike their corporate catering operation, they wanted this new business to be on their own terms. They felt that the food industry had been very difficult on their family life and general well-being in the past, so they set out to run a business that worked for them and allowed them time to see their children and granddaughter, take a vacation or take a mental health day whenever they wanted. With that in mind, they signed the lease for the space in November 2012 and re-opened My Kitchen.

Dhanny and Joe turned My Kitchen into an Italian-Caribbean fusion restaurant that also does corporate catering and events, such as weddings, baby showers, birthday parties and corporate events. Because it was extremely important to them that this business be more relaxed than other restaurants, where customers come in and eat their food, they strive to make customers feel like they’re dining in their home away from home. Every dish is made to order by Chef Joe and served by Dhanny. They have no wait staff, bartenders or line cooks other than a sous chef that helps Joe in the kitchen. There’s no rhyme or reason to their menu, it’s just good food that they would eat and the specials each day are inspired by the dishes that they’re in the mood to eat or create. There’s also no rush when you dine at My Kitchen. As Dhanny notes, they would rather have a handful of really happy, satisfied customers than crowds of customers that are annoyed that their server isn’t giving them enough attention or feel that they’re being rushed out so a table can be turned over. At My Kitchen “there’s more to life than the in and out” of customers. Their focus is to create a dining experience that demonstrates the passion and love that they have for food and for creating meals that their customers love. They run the business not to make money but because they genuinely enjoy working together and they love what they do. And they want to share that love with their customers; their business being successful is just an added bonus.

Since Dhanny and Joe have so much experience in the food industry and really understand it, they don’t have the same fear that many new business owners have, which is that if you’re not open, customers won’t come back. They know that the personal touch they add by cooking and serving the meals themselves has created a loyal customer base and guests continuously come back to dine with them. And with the different areas of their business (catering and on-site events) they always have something to do if the restaurant isn’t full. Both Dhanny and Joe know that they way they operate My Kitchen is way outside the norm but they’ve put their time in in the food industry and now want to enjoy their hard work by cooking and entertaining, which is what they love to do. For Dhanny, it feels like a lot of people have forgotten what it is to go out and dine. It used to be a special time when you would enjoy the company of one or more people, without focusing on your phone or worrying about anything beyond the food in front of you. With each meal, My Kitchen tries to bring back that significance and remind its customers that a meal is an experience to take part in.

Although Dhanny had it in her mind that they would only work for five more years when they signed the lease for My Kitchen, they’ve now been in business for six years and don’t have any plans to close. “Maybe next year we’ll stop”, Dhanny says as she laughs and even though she says that a part of her would love to, she doesn’t think she and Joe could ever stop working in the food industry altogether. They love meeting and hosting customers and a lot of their customers have become good friends. One couple they met even became the godparents to their daughter. Right now though, they’re enjoying what they do and wake up each day excited to see what it will bring. So they’ll keep working until they’re ready to move to the next chapter.

 

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Kristen Tomlan, Owner of DO, Cookie Dough Confections

This is Kristen Tomlan, the owner of DO, Cookie Dough Confections. Food was always an important part of Kristen’s life growing up in Missouri. Her mom is a chef so she had firsthand experience of the intricacies of cooking and baking and the creativity that it requires, which spurred her love for both. However, as a teenager she didn’t see a way that her love of baking could translate into a career, so she channeled her creativity into design and continued baking as a hobby. Kristen was working in branding and design in New York when she came up with the idea for DO. An admitted weakness for cookie dough, she would always eat it raw while baking despite the warnings that it could make you sick. After doing this for years, one day (while indulging in cookie dough with friends) she thought, why can’t we make this safe to eat and still bake-able? This moment compelled Kristen to start doing some research and began her journey to reinvent how we see cookie dough.

Other than being a lifelong baker, Kristen had no experience in the food industry before she launched the DO website in December 2014. She decided to start it online first to test the market and see if there was interest in her edible cookie dough. In the beginning, Kristen was doing everything on her own: trying out different recipes, making the cookie dough, packaging it, shipping it out, doing the invoicing, everything from A to Z. And although she says that when she started the business she had “no idea what she was doing”, orders started coming in. The idea started gaining traction through word of mouth of friends and family and then even more so on social media. Since Kristen didn’t have money to invest in any marketing or advertising, she relied on the quality of the product and the uniqueness of the concept to stand out from her competition. And it did. Soon the product got popular enough that Kristen was no longer able to sustain her lifestyle; she was still working full-time at her brand consultant firm, which she loved, and working on DO as a side hustle. She had come to a crossroads and knew that something had to change. So she decided to pursue her passion project and see where it went. She felt that there would always be a job for her somewhere but if she didn’t take a chance now and commit herself to the business that she felt compelled to run, she would never do it. So she quit her job, moved to a commercial space and started building her team.

After finding success through online ordering and catering and bringing on a solid team, Kristen opened a store front in January 2017 and used her design background to create a brand that extended from her packaging to her store. She wanted DO to look different from the typical bakery or pastry shop and to be more graphic and fun. And keeping in mind the very visual way that her generation and younger generations consume experiences and food, she wanted it to be very picture and Instagram-friendly as well. So she incorporated six bright colors to be used in different ways throughout the store (a polka dot wall when you walk in, neon pink signs) but also made sure to include items like the stand up mixers and subway tiles to make it feel more like your kitchen at home and make customers feel more comfortable. The different colors were key to making both the packaging and the store bright and cheery but also to represent the fun and happiness Kristen wants her customers to feel when they eat her cookie dough. A lot of people who try the product connect it with nostalgia because it reminds them of baking cookies with their mom or grandma, which she loves, but she also wants people to associate it with joy and happiness. The joy and happiness that comes from that memory of your childhood or the joy that comes from simply treating yourself to a sweet. Kristen hopes that her cookie dough can give customers a moment of calm during a stressful day or comfort if they’re dealing with an issue in their personal life. Even if it’s a good day, Kristen says, “we’re trying to make it better and make you a tiny bit happier”.

DO sign

For Kristen the toughest part of the business is being responsible for so many different areas of the business at once. Like many small business owners, there are a lot of parts of the business that are out of your control and there’s no rule book that tells you how to deal with these issues as they arise. You just have to figure it out as you go, which gets challenging. She’s also felt that there have been challenges she’s faced as a female business owner that her male counterparts don’t always face. When she first started the business, she felt a lot of people wouldn’t take her seriously or tell her that her idea was “cute”. As a young, female business owner she felt that a lot of people doubted her but she stayed committed to her idea and as the business became more established, people started taking her more seriously.  However, the silver lining of her struggle and the struggle of other female business owners is the change that Kristen sees happening in the food industry. There’s becoming less of a stigma about who you have to be or what you have to look like to run a successful business and more of a focus on your product, your ambition and your passion.

Another amazing change that’s been happening is the willingness of other business owners, especially woman, to give advice to others and share their experience. Most of Kristen’s friends and mentors in the food industry are also in the dessert space but they all feel strongly that the “pie” (no pun intended) is big enough that everyone can take their own piece and still support each other. There is a growing realization that running a good business means doing good by others as well and continuing the cycle; even if you have similar goals, you can still work together to help each other out. The food industry today is much different than when Kristen started out and she’s hopeful that it will continue to improve. As a female business owner, she believes that the awareness and attention that she and other female business owners can bring to the industry as a whole is good for everyone.

 

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0 comments on “Whose Your Plus 1? Unique Ways to Impress at Your Next Holiday Party!”

Whose Your Plus 1? Unique Ways to Impress at Your Next Holiday Party!

In need of a plus 1? We’ve got some suggestions! And no, we’re not talking about impressing others by bringing a cute date. We’re talking about the gift you bring to a party to show your appreciation to the host or hostess. It can range from a bottle of wine to a homemade dessert and when you’re attending a holiday party with friends, family or your coworkers, it’s a must. But let’s be honest- you’re most likely drinking the bottle of wine that you brought and the cookies will be eaten in under five minutes. Which is why we suggest forgetting the frantic search for a date and focusing your time pre-party on finding a gift that shows someone you care for how much you appreciate them this holiday season!

The best thing about saying “thank you” to someone is that even a small gesture can speak volumes. Majority of the time, the most meaningful gifts are the ones that show that you put a lot of thought into what would make the other person happy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, it’s more important that you choose a gift that appeals to the individual’s personality and relates to what they enjoy doing.

Below we’ve broken down some different personalities that you can come across in a host or hostess and put careful consideration into interesting gifts that they might enjoy receiving from a guest at their party. However, these are merely recommendations. We encourage you to take the time to examine what would make your colleague/friend/mother/brother/aunt feel special and gift accordingly. Your host or hostess will appreciate you acknowledging their hard work and your gift will definitely stand out from the rest!

For the Host/Hostess “With a Brand”: Personalized cookies or cupcakes! This is a great gift for someone who runs their own business or is trying to create their own brand. Logos, pictures, symbols, words- most branded dessert companies give you the option to print whatever you’d like on top. Not only is it a delicious, one-of-a-kind treat, it’s also a great way for them to promote themselves to the world on social media!

For the Host/Hostess “Always on the Go”: Anything caffeine-related! If you’re someone who is constantly running from meetings to events to workouts, caffeine is usually your best friend. Something small like a $15 Starbucks gift card or a bag of their favorite brand of coffee beans is a great way for you to recognize their hustle and support their busy lifestyle!

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves to Relax”: An aromatherapy candle or essential oils! Both of these options use plant extracts to naturally calm your nervous system, ease stress and anxiety and improve sleep. This is a great idea for someone who loves spending time alone to wind down after a long week OR someone who you think needs to spend more time taking care of them self. 

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves Working Out”: For this person it’s always good to lean towards a gift that’s focused around an activity that you know they love. Such as a yoga bag for yogis or hand wraps for boxers. However, it’s always a safe bet to go with a gift card to a workout class or paying for an introductory class at a new studio or gym they’ve been wanting to try out.

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves Being Creative”: An art supply kit! Creative people love designing when inspiration hits. Whether it’s pencils, paint, markers or oil, an art supply kit gives them all of the tools needed to translate their craft at any moment from their mind to their canvas.

For the Host/Hostess that “Hates the Cold”: A cute throw blanket or a new winter hat! If you hate the cold, you seek things that will keep you warm at all times. Hence, two items that will keep the cold at bay both inside and outside your home. Plus, these are two items that you can never have too much of.

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves to Entertain”: A cheese board or a wine decanter! Wine and cheese, the perfect combination for entertaining guests. Which is why either of these options is great for someone who enjoys host parties and frequently invites friends and family over. Although cheese boards are more common, a wine decanter is something most people don’t have at home, so it’s a great way to learn more about wine and the purpose behind decanting, if that’s something they’re interested in.

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves to Decorate”: A houseplant or picture frames with pictures of friends and family! The great thing about houseplants is that they purify the air we breathe as well as being a bright addition to any room. A succulent is a great houseplant option because it requires very little care and it’s unique design makes it an interesting piece in a room. If they’re not into houseplants, another idea is buying picture frames to decorate their walls with pictures already inserted. This is super helpful in cutting down the amount of time they would usually spend buying frames, finding pictures to fit them, printing out the pictures… and sends them right to the final step- hanging them up!

 

0 comments on “Yaya Ceesay, Co-Owner of The Soul Spot”

Yaya Ceesay, Co-Owner of The Soul Spot

This is Yaya Ceesay, the co-owner of The Soul Spot, a soul food restaurant with Caribbean and African influences. Although this combination may seem strange, this unique flavor sets The Soul Spot apart from other comfort food vendors and is inspired by Yaya’s personal experience. Yaya grew up in Gambia, West Africa but emigrated to the U.S. when he was 17 to attend college. As a source of income while he was in school, he began working at a Caribbean restaurant in Manhattan called Soul Fixins, delivering food and washing dishes. However, after a year of going to school and working in the food industry, Yaya realized just how passionate he was about food and decided to start working at Soul Fixins full time. His work ethic and desire to learn quickly became clear to the restaurant’s head chef who was planning to retire. He took Yaya under his wing and began training him to take over his position. Although he had no formal culinary training or background in hospitality, Yaya’s passion for food has always allowed him to excel in the food industry.

During his training at Soul Fixins, Yaya learned how to make Caribbean dishes as well as Southern dishes. He and the head chef spent almost every weekend traveling to different cities in then South, trying different foods, doing research on the recipes and understanding how each part of the meal was created. This training early on in his career really laid the groundwork for Yaya’s dedication to his craft. After the chef retired, Yaya became the head chef and started improving the restaurant operations at Soul Fixins. He started cutting out any unnecessary expenses and improving the food quality based off of the research he had done with his former boss. However, over the years Yaya had begun to feel like he was handling most of the business, as the owners who had used to work with him in the kitchen stopped coming to the restaurant and relied on him more and more. He felt unappreciated in his role and decided that if he could run a restaurant for someone else, he could do it for himself as well. He began saving his money and looking for his own restaurant space. He noticed that a lot of his customers in Manhattan were from Brooklyn and would travel to the city for the food at Soul Fixins. He felt that there was a demand for soul food and that he could combine his training in Southern and Caribbean cuisine with the African food that he grew up eating to satisfy it. So in 2001 he moved to Brooklyn to get familiar with the area and started looking for retail spaces.

Yaya and his business partner, his cousin, Banumu Turay, purchased the restaurant in August 2002 but it was almost a year before they were able to open. No bank would give them a loan so Yaya used all of his savings to purchase the space and fix it up. The Soul Spot officially opened on June 4th, 2003 and although he had no working capital or business experience, Yaya believed in his food. He knew that if he was supplying good food, the rest would take care of itself. At first some people wouldn’t even try the food because Yaya wasn’t from the South. They thought that there was no way he would know how to make the food and if he tried, it wouldn’t be good. But soon people started coming in to try it and calling to place catering orders for their office. They were the only soul food restaurant in the area and the unique cuisine set them apart from other restaurants. For the first six months Yaya worked sixteen hours a day to keep the business going, and eventually his hard work paid off. The business took off and formed a reputation for its delicious and varied cuisine. Even now, 15 years later,  word of mouth is still how they get most of their clients for catering orders because the food quality speaks for itself.

Team at The Soul Spot

A normal day for Yaya now usually begins at 4AM or 5AM, when he arrives at the restaurant to begin prepping catering orders for the day. Depending on the size of the order or orders that they have, sometimes he’ll work from 2AM-8AM getting everything ready before the restaurant opens at 11AM.  For Yaya the best part about owning his own restaurant is being in charge of his own kitchen. He loves what he does and is very hands on creating the food because he never wants the quality of the food to change. Which is why his co-owner, Banumu, handles most of the administrative side of the business while Yaya cooks and runs the business’s daily operations. He wants to continue to give his customers the consistent product that they’ve come to know and love and never wants to be a business owner that gives up his time in the kitchen. It’s this passion for the food and the preparation that goes into it that Yaya wants people to remember when they think of The Soul Spot. And despite the naysayers that doubted him when he first started the business, Yaya believes that the passion they sow into their food is what people are drawn to and trust.

Yaya’s next plan for The Soul Spot is to open up a commissary kitchen to handle all of their catering orders. Cooking out of one kitchen is no longer feasible because his team ends up getting in each other’s way and he wants the restaurant to be able to operate more smoothly. He’s also hoping that a kitchen dedicated to catering orders will allow them to handle any last minute requests that come in without interfering with restaurant’s food prep and purchasing. Speaking with him, it’s easy to tell that he’s excited to start this new project and has no qualms about potential issues that may arise. He will handle it the same way he dealt with the critics who doubted him when he first started the business: believing in himself and staying focused on the food.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “Oh, Kale Yes! The Stuffing Recipe You Need to Use This Thanksgiving”

Oh, Kale Yes! The Stuffing Recipe You Need to Use This Thanksgiving

April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring… pilgrims! (dad joke users unite!) We’re getting ready for our favorite holiday and there’s no way that we can give thanks without one of the key pieces of our Thanksgiving meal: the stuffing! Which is why we’re sharing our favorite stuffing recipe as you begin your menu planning for November 22nd. It’s super easy to make and is ready in an hour and a half, so you can cook it the morning of Thanksgiving in case you forgot that you promised your mom you’d bring a dish to your aunt’s house…

All jokes aside, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family to recognize and appreciate all of the things that we have been blessed with in our lives. We hope that this dish will be shared with loved ones in your life and represent our gratefulness to all of our amazing customers who continue to support FoodtoEat and the immigrant, minority and female-owned food businesses that we represent. We hope that you all have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! 🙂

Chicken Sausage and Kale Stuffing

Recipe serves 8

You’ll Need:

1 large Italian baguette

1 multigrain loaf

1 lb chicken sausage, casing removed (turkey sausage can be used as an alternative option)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 cup of celery, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

1 lb kale, chopped and stems removed

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon fresh sage

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

1 cup low sodium chicken stock

3 eggs

1/4 stick of butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup of pine nuts (optional)

Salt

Pepper

First, cut Italian baguette and multigrain loaf into 1 inch cubes. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees until bread is no longer soft. Once finished baking, put aside until needed for mix.

While the bread is baking, add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add in onion and celery as well as some salt and pepper and cook for 5-10 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add chicken sausage, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sage to saute pan and cook until chicken sausage is about 85% cooked through. Next add the chopped kale to the saute pan and cook until wilted. If desired, add salt and pepper to your taste.

In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, chopped parsley, eggs, chicken stock and chicken sausage/kale mixture from your saute pan. If mixture looks dry, add a few more dashes of chicken stock. Mix together thoroughly. 

Once mixed through, transfer to oven safe baking dish and top with grated Parmesan cheese and a few pine nuts for some crunch. Cover dish and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until top is brown. Serve with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and corn bread… or whatever additional items are on your Thanksgiving menu!

 

0 comments on “George Tenedios, CEO of Fresh&Co and Brad Grossman, Executive Chef”

George Tenedios, CEO of Fresh&Co and Brad Grossman, Executive Chef

This is George Tenedios, the CEO of Fresh&Co (pictured right), and Brad Grossman, the executive chef at Fresh&Co (pictured left). These men are two of the driving forces behind the fast casual concept that focuses on providing New Yorkers with chef-inspired organic food. Although this restaurant is already extremely well-known in NYC with 18 locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, Fresh&Co was created only 8 years ago, in 2010, as a branch of Cafe Metro. George’s father, Steve Tenedios, founded Cafe Metro in 1982, after moving from Midwest Ohio to Brooklyn to work with his brother-in-law making doughnuts. However, as a young boy who emigrated to the U.S. from a small Greek island at age 5 and then grew up in the food industry working as a bus boy and a server at a local restaurant, he always dreamed of owning his own business. So when he realized that there wasn’t much demand for doughnuts at that time, he quit and began working with a deli group for a few years before starting his own business. George now carries on his father’s legacy with their locally-sourced food concept that has made this family business a staple of the NYC food industry.

Cafe Metro was created to be a more traditional, classic New York style deli. However, in 2010, Steve, George, Brad and their team started recognizing that food trends were changing and that there was a lapse in the market for healthy, local, clean, organic food. They were finding that as the millennial population grew in NY, more consumers were becoming aware of the different food options available to them and were becoming more conscious about what they were putting into their bodies. It was a whole new demographic of customers whose needs were not being met. There were a handful of lunch concepts that were opening but they felt that there was a lack of high-quality dining where you could get a clean breakfast, a filling lunch and a satisfying dinner without comprising on ingredients. So they set out to be the solution. Brad, who has been with their team since day 1 and helped open the first Cafe Metro in 1982, became the mastermind behind Fresh&Co’s core menu and began creating recipes that included fresh vegetables, healthy dressings and popular food item like quinoa. They opened their first location, 729 Broadway, in 2010 and three days before the grand opening, decided to remove the pasta station they originally planned to be part of the store and replaced it with a quinoa bar. It was a risky move given the time crunch and the fact that quinoa bar had never been done in a fast casual setting anywhere in New York before. But it paid off. Their customers loved it, and after that the Fresh&Co concept took off.

Fresh & Co Blog

Although it’s still under the same management umbrella of Cafe Metro, Fresh&Co now runs as it’s own entity, with a unique brand, it’s own managing team, operations and menu. And the menu has changed a lot since they first started, but one major focus that hasn’t changed is continuing to use local food as much as possible. Most of the produce that they use in their stores comes from Satur Farms on Long Island because it’s extremely important to them to support their local community and cut their carbon footprint with sustainable farming practices that these vendors have in place. Local vendors also give them a lot of quality control and allow George and his team to ensure that their customers receive high-quality, consistent produce all year round. They keep a close relationship with their partners, visiting Satur Farms and Latham Farms (another local partner) a couple times a year to meet with the farmers, check out the operations and go over the production schedule. Their team has become so invested in sourcing local food that Fresh&Co purchased their own farm about two years ago on Long Island, which employs all local Long Island residents. The farm helps them to understand how different items are grown and the practices that need to be used to keep food clean and sustainable. However, Fresh&Co farms only generates about 25% of all the produce that the stores use, which is why they’ve established and developed their relationships with their local farmers who can contribute to the demand. Fresh&Co’s commitment to these farmers creates a wholesome and trusting relationship that benefits both parties. As food trends grow, so does Fresh&Co’s business and in turn, so does the local vendors’ business.

For George and Brad though, keeping up with the ever-changing food trends is proving to be the toughest part of the business. When Fresh&Co was first created, food trend patterns happened differently, new ideas seeped into the industry slowly. But now consumers are a lot more informed about their food and have opinions on it, which makes it harder to stay on top of what’s popular. However, it’s not a bad thing, George says, it “keeps them on their toes” and he, Brad and the rest of their team are always doing their research to see what’s in demand and make sure they’re on top of it. Their goal is always to provide the best possible service to the customer so whether that means using the freshest ingredients in their soup or creating a new menu item based off of a popular food, they’ll make it happen.

Their dedication to the customer, who they say is the reason why Fresh&Co exists, and their desire to continue to supply each customer with a healthy, authentic, sustainable meal is what sets Fresh&Co apart from other fast casual restaurants. Their team set out to create a concept that filled a hole they saw in the market and by doing so, created a mission-driven business that all food vendors can learn from.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “November Vendor of the Month: Eight Turn Crepe”

November Vendor of the Month: Eight Turn Crepe

The weather is starting to cool down but we’re heating things up with a unique Vendor of the Month for November! Eight Turn Crepe is a Japanese-style creperie that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether your preference is sweet or savory, these rice flour crepes come in a variety of flavors that are as appealing to the eye as they are delicious! 

Only for the month of November, Eight Turn Crepe is offering a special, discounted lunch package that combines their signature crepes and a side salad to create an out of the box office lunch experience that your whole team will enjoy! Interested in getting rid of your tired sandwich and trying something new?! Email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to place your order with Eight Turn Crepe!

November Lunch Package

$13/person 

Choice of One Crepe + Side Salad

Chicken Thai Crepe

Sliced chicken breast, mixed greens, cucumbers, julienne carrots, cilantro, Thai dressing, sweet chili sauce, sesame seeds

Eight Turn Lox Crepe

Gourmet smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, baby spinach, capers, sliced red onion

Yuzu Strawberry Salad Crepe

Sliced strawberries, yuzu citrus compote, mixed dressing, carrots, raisins, goat cheese, balsamic dressing; Vegetarian

Strawberry Nutella Crepe

Strawberries, Nutella spread, chocolate custard, whipped yogurt, hazelnuts; Vegetarian, Contains Nuts

Strawberry Banana Crepe

Strawberries, banana, whipped yogurt, custard cream, crushed almonds and pistachios; Vegetarian, Contains Nuts

Banana Nut Chocolate Crepe

Banana, chocolate sauce, house-made chocolate truffles, whipped yogurt, chocolate custard cream, almonds; Vegetarian, Contains Nuts

Served with Mixed Green Salad 

Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, julienne carrots, corn, cucumber, raisins and a side of Italian dressing; Vegetarian

Eight Turn Crepe store

Eight Turn Crepe was brought to NYC in 2012 by Hiro Nishida, a Japanese business owner who lives in New York and wanted to share an extremely popular part of Japanese culture with a new audience. Perfect for the fast paced environment of NYC, it’s a grab-and-go meal served in a cone. Eight Turn Crepe stands out from other crepe vendors due to their attention to detail. Each crepe is created with carefully sourced ingredients and designed with specific item proportions to make sure that you have a meal that’s filling without being overly indulgent.

Nishida originally opened a storefront in Soho but due to rising rent prices, had to move their operation to DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, which is where they currently serve their customers. Due to the high foot traffic in this food hall, Nishida’s focus now is to bring more awareness to the brand, educate new customers about the different styles of crepes and to change the narrative about what’s considered an “normal office lunch”. But whether you consider these rice crepes normal or exotic, the quality of these hand-crafted meals speak for themselves. Try it out today!

 

 

0 comments on “Kay Ch’ien, Owner of Hey Hey Canteen”

Kay Ch’ien, Owner of Hey Hey Canteen

This is Kay Ch’ien, the owner of Hey Hey Canteen. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Kay grew up in the food industry in a unique way. Her great-grandfather was a commodities trader who bought and sold food items such as cooking oil and flour mill in Singapore, a business that her grandfather eventually took over and stabilized, streamlining processes and building a brand around it. Growing up Kay’s parents worked for her grandfather’s business so she was always surrounded by food and its components. This saturation in the food industry gave Kay an appreciation for food and how it’s created, so when she was looking to make a change in her career, it seemed only natural to her that she would do something food-related. Kay opened 2 Duck Goose, a farm to table Cantonese BBQ concept, in 2014 but the long hours and late nights quickly became an issue for her. She wasn’t sleeping at all or seeing her husband and young son and realized that the business wasn’t sustainable for her lifestyle. So she bravely decided to close the business, re-group and take a look at what made sense for her. Which led to the opening of Hey Hey Canteen in 2016- a wholesome Chinese food concept that was born from Kay’s willingness to pivot and to create a new business that worked for her, rather than the other way around.

Kay originally moved to the U.S. to go to college. Her parents had met at grad school in the U.S. so she always had it in the back of her mind that if she was given the opportunity to go to college abroad, she would take it. After finishing college, Kay ended up loving her new home so much that she decided to stay. She went on to get her law degree and began working as a corporate lawyer. After 6 years of working at a law firm, Kay started feeling burnt out and wanted to do something more active that gave her more interpersonal interaction. Since food had always been a major part of her life, she decided to quit her job and open a food business. Although her first restaurant didn’t work out, it gave her the opportunity to figure out a model for a business that she could pursue long term and she was able to create Hey Hey Canteen, a fast casual Chinese concept that puts care and intention into it’s food.

Hey Hey Canteen differs from other Chinese restaurants because the dishes aren’t as heavy or as greasy. It was important to Kay that they produce food that, if you wanted to, would allow you to eat Asian food every day and not feel bad. Therefore, most of the recipes are ideas that Kay thought of and she did a lot of recipe testing to see what worked and what didn’t. Everything is made from scratch and a lot of thought is put into every recipe to make sure that each dish is more wholesome than other Chinese vendors. The added bonus of creating a Chinese restaurant with healthier, cleaner menu options is that Kay can appeal to a broader audience. Most of her dishes are made with Tamari, a gluten free substitute for soy sauce, so although it’s not a gluten free kitchen, she’s able to gear dishes towards those with dietary restrictions, such as gluten intolerance or vegetarians and vegans, which differentiates her from other Chinese restaurants throughout NYC.

Hey Hey Canteen Team

Right now, Hey Hey Canteen is only serving customers directly from their pop up location in Gotham Market in Fort Greene. Kay does have a storefront in Gowanus but had to close it in January 2018 due to the lack of foot traffic in the area and now runs it as a commissary kitchen for their catering orders. Kay is hoping to re-open it in the next few years but needs to see if the community picks up first, since the economic growth in Gowanus is currently going much slower than anticipated. However, Kay and her team are currently working on an expansion into Manhattan with a new location at Turnstyle Underground Market, which they are both excited and nervous for. Although they know the Manhattan scene due to their frequent lunch catering there, this is a big step for the business into a new market that is much more competitive.

Despite her anxiety, Kay is very excited to take the next step with a team of people that respect and care about one another and the business. The toughest part of the food industry for her has been building a team that she can trust and finding the people that are invested in the restaurant’s mission. For Kay, working with a team of people that you really like is the most rewarding part of the business because it creates a positive work environment where everyone is looking out for one another. Now that Kay has found this team, she’s able to think about next steps for the business and what their strategy should be to increase revenue in the coming months and years. No matter what though, she and her team are focused on continuing to create the delicious, thoughtful food that their customers love. And if food trends change and that stops working, Kay is always willing to start again to make sure that what she’s doing makes sense for her, her team and her customers.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “Your Holiday Party Planning Survival Guide”

Your Holiday Party Planning Survival Guide

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about your office holiday party. We know that it isn’t even Halloween yet, but once you brush away those cobwebs on November 1st, holiday season will officially be upon us and it’s important to get the ball rolling before schedules start booking up (both yours and the vendor’s)! And because we also know that coordinating an office full of people is a nightmare, we’re breaking down all the tricks of our trade to help you survive holiday party planning. You ready? Let’s get to work!

  • The Event: First thing’s first when you’re party planning- you need to figure out what you’re looking for. Will the event be drinks and small bites? Buffet style and soft drinks? A sit down meal? Is the party going to be at your office or are you going to rent out a space? Should there be food at all? There are a lot of factors to consider and it’s important to determine what you have in mind for the party and then confirm with your boss or your coworkers that you’re all on the same page. For most holiday events, people expect appetizers and drinks but it varies company to company on how light or heavy the food and drinks will be. So it’s key to decide what’s right for you and your team and then figure out what your next steps should be. Once you’ve determined your vision for the party, it’s much easier to sort out the rest of the details. 
  • Budget: Your vision for the event and the budget really go hand in hand. Since there’s a fee associated with each part of your event (except the space if you’re hosting it in your office) it’s really important to sit down with your boss and/or coworkers to get on the same page, as we mentioned above. If you have a specific vision for your event, it’s good to do a little research into pricing and get an idea of how much the event will cost. You can then approach your boss or manager with a general outline and walk through what’s realistic on their end. Your budget has to be concrete and clear from the beginning so that you can figure out what you can afford in regards to space, food, drinks and any additional costs, like staff or rentals.
  • Date, Place and Time: This will most likely be the trickiest part of the process because it requires you to coordinate multiple people’s schedules and find one night that every person is available for at least 3 hours. Generally holiday parties are scheduled on a weeknight from the beginning of December until the end of January but again, it’s all about what works for you and your coworkers. Place isn’t as difficult of a factor because it’s usually decided by your budget. Larger companies tend to rent out spaces for holiday parties because they may not be able to fit all of their employees in one office or they have a bigger budget and can afford to go outside the office. Those event spaces commonly book up 3-6 months out from the event (depending on the space) so if you’re planning to go outside the office, definitely start reaching out to event spaces and restaurants as soon as you can to determine their availability. If you’re renting out a space, this will also help you zero in on a date since you will be coordinating with the space’s schedule as well. However, a lot of companies that have tighter budgets or that are looking for something more intimate will do events in the office so that they can put more money towards food and drinks and be in a comfortable setting. Also, hosting the party at your office takes much less coordination and puts the ball in your court for determining timing, since you’re not going off of the space’s time frame. Timing is the final scheduling issue that you need to determine. Most holiday parties run from 6PM to 9PM or 5PM to 9PM, but it really depends on the employees at your company. It’s important to be cognizant of your colleagues’s personal lives (kids, spouses, travel time) and take that into consideration when setting your start and end times. Most of the time the party will start at the end of the work day or 30 minutes after (in case you need to travel to the event space) and end 3 or 4 hours later. However, you don’t want it to end too late and have people be exhausted at work the next day. With timing, it’s good to discuss what people are comfortable with and strike a happy medium.
  • Food and Drinks: Once all of the logistical issues have been determined, it’s time to focus on food and drink. If your team decided to rent out a space, you may be all set as some event spaces have catering on-site and include food and drink menus for a set amount of hours. However, if you’re hosting the event in your office, you have more leeway to figure out if you want a full meal or appetizers and beer, wine, cocktails or soft drinks. In regards to food, most holiday events don’t provide full meals because it’s hard to chat with others while holding a huge plate of food. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the event will be going on during normal dinner hours so your coworkers will be looking to eat. A good way to break it down is pieces per person and work from there. Generally a normal event estimates about 3-4 pieces per person per hour, which if you have a 3 hour event means you’ll need about 9-12 pieces per person to keep them feeling satisfied throughout the party. However, make sure that you’re including options for everyone and considering any food allergies or dietary restrictions when putting the menu together. If you’re not sure about allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s always a good to include a cheese and cracker platter or crudites and dip as an option that almost everyone can eat. Next focus on the drinks. If your company is allowing alcohol to be served, beer and wine are usually the easiest beverages to coordinate. Cocktails are a little more risky because without a bartender everyone will have to pour their own drinks and it’s hard to determine how much you’ll need. Drinks are determined in the same way food is, about 1-2 drinks per person per hour. Once you have an idea of the number of drinks you need, you can then break it down between beer and wine (1 beer is 1 drink, 1 bottle of wine is usually 4 drinks). The safest way to do so is to split it 50/50 and estimate that half of the people will drink wine and half of the people will drink beer. If one runs out before the other, they can always switch over. It’s also good to make sure that you include soft drinks such as water, soda, or juice, into the mix along with the alcohol. Generally we say about 1-2 soft drinks per person during an event. It’s always good to include options in case someone wants to break up their drinks or doesn’t want to drink at all but wants something to sip on throughout the night.
  • Additional Things to Think About, i.e. Staffing, Rentals and Decorations: These ideas are just some additional points to think about and definitely not required for any holiday event. They are extra costs that can or cannot be included with your party, depending again on the event itself and your budget. Staffing is always something to consider, especially if you’re interested in serving drinks at your party. You can hire a bartender to pour wine and beer or a mixologist to create cocktails. You can also have servers at the event passing around appetizers, cleaning up any dirty plates or spills and generally just helping out to make sure that the event runs smoothly. Bartenders and servers usually cost a flat rate and work for 4 or 5 hours. Rentals, such as glassware, tables, linens are another option to consider. If you’re looking to make your party a little more upscale, you can rent wine glasses rather than using plastic cups or cover tables with white linen tablecloths for a nicer presentation. Rental cost differs between rental companies but each place tends to have a minimum amount that you need to spend in order to have them deliver to your office or event space. However, every rental company can give recommendations on what you’ll need depending on the number of people you have and what you’re looking for. Finally, although some decorations can get cheesy, they are a cost effective way to make an event a little more exciting. Incorporating some small items into the mix like lights, streamers and signs can really transform a room and get people into the holiday spirit.

There are a lot of different components to keep in mind when planning a holiday party. But as long as you have an idea of what you want your party to be and your budget is set, it’s easy to make the other details fit around that. And if you don’t feel like considering any of these factors, let us do the work for you! We’ll examine your event requirements, budget, headcount, dietary restrictions, etc. and suggest menu options specific to you and your team. Email us at letseat@foodtoeat.com to receive a custom proposal for your next holiday party! 

**For a limited time only, clients who book their holiday party with us before November 16th will receive 10% off their order of $350 or more!**

(Offer good until Friday, November 16th. Offer good for one holiday party of choice. One per company)

 

0 comments on “Alison Moskowitz, Owner of Food Trends Catering”

Alison Moskowitz, Owner of Food Trends Catering

This is Alison Moskowitz, the owner of Food Trends Catering, a family-run business that was inspired by a young girl’s dream to turn meals into events, similar to the celebrations that she grew up hosting with her family. Alison grew up in a big family and fondly remembers their tradition to throw big parties for holidays, birthdays, family dinners… every meal was an occasion in her home and family and friends would always comment how their house was so warm and inviting and that the food was always delicious. So when her family moved from Russia to the United States when she was 16, she saw an opportunity to create a business in a new community that combined her two biggest passions: food and family.

Unfortunately it would be years before Alison could act on her vision. First she focused on finishing her education, which was difficult considering that when she arrived in the U.S. she spoke no English, and then, years later, on raising her family. However, once her kids were old enough, Alison decided to go for it and began trying to convince her father to quit his job and start the business with her. Alison says that her father also had a passion for food, but was practical and worked as a nuclear engineer to support his family. He was the type of person who did what he had to do to make ends meet so he said no at first. But Alison was persistent and although many people said that she was crazy, she knew that that the food would speak for itself. Eventually her father agreed to open up a small restaurant with her. For the first year, they worked out of their shop on 3rd avenue where they sold “simple, good food”. It wasn’t easy but they were making enough to pay the bills and their employees and keep the business running.

However, Alison’s dream was to do catering. She knew food and understood that the key to good food is fresh ingredients but she knew nothing about the business side of it, so she started to educate herself. Slowly she began improving every aspect of the business: creating new recipes, developing food presentation and making their operations more efficient. She even became their first sales person, walking through buildings around the city, offering free samples of their food and asking if she could stop by another day with a tasting for their office. A lot of people who said yes and had the tasting started to order and she quickly built up a client list. Within 5-6 years they were doing so much catering that they had outgrown their store front. They decided to sell the store and focus solely on catering. They purchased a kitchen and two additional floors in the 41st street building that the business still resides in today and have expanded from there.

Group Shot 2

Alison attributes the business’s success to the people that work with her and says that she got very lucky with all of the good people around her. One of her chefs has been with her since day 1 at their original storefront on 3rd avenue and her children, Nina and David, joined the business in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Although David grew up working for the business during school breaks throughout middle school and high school, for both of the kids there was no expectation that they join the company. In fact, both were working in their own fields before their mother approached them to join the team. She saw skills in both of them that she though would be good for the business so she asked them to work there for 1 year and then leaved if they weren’t happy. Both have stayed and will be the third generation to run the business. 

Aside from her staff and her own children, since starting her business Alison’s family has expanded even farther, to include her clients. She has some clients that have been with her since her original tasting days and she’s seen them get married, have kids, have grand kids and has built a personal relationship with each of them. These people have stuck by her because she knows that the relationship with her clients is the most important part of the business and she goes out of her way to cultivate each and every one, even if it requires her to bend over backwards to do so. For Alison, it’s simple- whatever the client needs, they’re going to get, which is why it’s her job to always be “in the trenches” to make sure that every order a client receives looks and tastes right. She’s always in the kitchen with the chefs tasting food, checking on presentation, making sure deliveries are going out on time and then following up with clients to make sure that they’re happy. This is what she enjoys doing and takes pride in and she trains each of her staff to take pride in it as well. It’s her commitment to the client that has been instilled in every employee at Food Trends so that their service and dedication always stands out, creating a system of trust and loyalty that few caterers have.

Overall Alison says she’s very happy with her work day to day and takes pride in being an established, woman-owned business. She wants to see other women and girls succeed and believes that this country gives you the opportunity to be whatever you want if you’re willing to work for it. Even now, Alison is constantly coming up with new ways to generate business, creating new dishes and hiring new people to learn from. She says she never rests on her laurels because that’s when things go downhill. It’s important to always be looking for ways to improve and there’s always a chance to. The most important thing is to never doubt yourself. As Alison says, “If I can do it, anybody can do it. You just need to want it so much that you won’t stop”.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “It’s About to Get Reallllll Chili”

It’s About to Get Reallllll Chili

The weather outside may have finally turned frightful (ugh) but our turkey chili really IS delightful (we promise)! And it’s the perfect way to beat the cold as sweater weather commences. This chili recipe is simple to execute and really flavorful without requiring any fancy ingredients- everything you need is at your local grocery store! Our recipe makes about 6 servings, which is perfect for Sunday football with your friends or meal prep for yourself. Once you create this dish, you can freeze whatever you don’t use and reheat it as needed. It should last about 2-3 months in the freezer, making it the ideal meal for those crisp nights when you just don’t feel like cooking!

Try it out and let us know what you think on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook @foodtoeat! We can’t wait to see how you chili!

Turkey Chili

Recipe serves 6

You’ll Need:

1 lb ground turkey

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz)

1 can fire roasted tomatoes (small)

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 can chickpeas

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add in chopped onions and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add in ground turkey and cook for 3 minutes. Then add in your chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add in the rest of your dry seasonings (chili powder, paprika, dried oregano, cayenne pepper and ground cumin), mix together and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Once all of your dry seasonings are in the pot, add in crushed tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Next add in your kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas and chicken stock (you can do more or less than 1/2 cup of chicken stock depending on how thick or thin you like your chili) and simmer for 30 minutes over low heat.

Ground turkey will be cooked through after 30 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in chopped cilantro and your chili is ready to eat! Add your favorite toppings (we suggest shredded cheddar cheese, scallion, sour cream and tortilla chips) and enjoy! Need a vegetarian option?! Leave out the meat and add your favorite root vegetables! We love potatoes, carrots and butternut squash- perfect for fall!

 

0 comments on “Zeeshan Ali, Co-Owner of Salad Pangea”

Zeeshan Ali, Co-Owner of Salad Pangea

This is Zeeshan Ali, the co-owner of Salad Pangea. He’s been in the food industry for most of his life but only recently purchased his first food business with his brother, Shadman Saeed. He grew up working in his father’s restaurant, Kabab King, which his father opened after emigrating from Pakistan in 1993 and realizing that there was a huge Pakistani/Indian community in New York that wanted halal food but had nowhere to buy it. Although Zeeshan worked in the industry for years, he was never set on making it a career until he got the chance to purchase Salad Pangea. Now, although he’s young (just 23 years old), this eager entrepreneur is committed to doing everything possible to make sure that his business is a success and that he can use his expertise to improve previous standards and redefine halal food service.

Zeeshan began working at his father’s restaurant when he was 13 years old. Throughout the years he worked heavily in their catering business, helping to execute catering orders for groups of 75-1,000 people and dealing with every aspect of logistics and operations from outreach to food prep to delivery. He worked for his father until he was 20 years old and then decided to branch out on his own and pursue other interests. He tried going down a few different paths: a food distribution business, medical school, but nothing seemed to be a good fit and it was important to him that he enjoyed the work that he was doing. Then one day he received an offer to take over a family friend’s catering business, Salad Pangea. The owner had decided to leave the restaurant industry and approached Zeeshan and his brother because he believed that they had the skills to take the business to the next level. Zeeshan says that it wasn’t a hard decision because this gave him the opportunity to work at something that he already had experience in and that he had a passion for. He and his brother purchased the business and have been running it for the last 8 months.

Growing up working for his father has allowed Zeeshan to watch how the restaurant industry works from a young age, understand it and improve it for his own business. Once they took over Salad Pangea, he and Shadman immediately began looking over business costs and cutting out any unnecessary expenses to make it more efficient. They have a small team of employees, including themselves, that work out of a food incubator, Pilotworks, in Brooklyn. They rent kitchen space for a few hours each day to prepare the food and do their deliveries so they’re able to keep their price point low, compared to other vendors like Chop’t and Just Salad that are larger operations with retail locations. Because they focus solely on catering, they’re able to go into different fields and expand, which is exactly what Zeeshan plans to do. He’s starting culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education at the end of October and is hoping to bring what he learns there into practice at Salad Pangea and eventually evolve the business into a full scale catering company that provides halal food from all different cuisines around the world. Taking over Salad Pangea has allowed him to realize that there are so many other ways to provide customers with food and that there are so many more communities that he can introduce halal food service to.

Through his work in the food industry, Zeeshan believes that most restaurants, like his father’s, were created to fill a need. But he has a different way of looking at things. He believes that this generation of consumers is interested in trying something new, specifically in the halal community, and he wants to be the solution for them. He wants to change the perception of halal food, creating a need for a cuisine that he doesn’t believe exists yet: high-end halal dining. And he’s focused on making it a reality.  But he knows that this evolution will take time, which is why culinary school is an important step for him to be able to more deeply understand food, expand his ideas and recipes and eventually teach them to others. Although going to culinary school and running a business at the same time will not be easy, he’s focused on making it work saying, “In order for me to understand this industry, I need to have those skills. If I can’t do it, how am I going to explain it to anybody else?” As is it, he says he only sleeps about 3 or 4 hours a night but he enjoys having a lot on his plate and thinks that free time is a waste. His experience in the restaurant industry has taught him to work hard and he’s ready to hustle as much as he needs to bring his musings to life.

Zeeshan says that since taking over Salad Pangea his mind has shifted on how he should be doing business and he’s taking the necessary steps to create a new concept in halal food service focused on differentiation, quality and customer service. He knows that it will be tough, since older generations of halal restaurant owners focus on providing the food that they know, but he’s up to the challenge. For Zeeshan, the best part of the job is being able to execute a business plan as you see fit and change the plan if needed. And he’s happy to do that as he continues on this journey, as long as he’s doing it his way.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “Spook-tacular Ways to Celebrate Halloween at the Office!”

Spook-tacular Ways to Celebrate Halloween at the Office!

When you think about Halloween the first thing that usually comes to mind is candy, candy, trick-or-treating and more candy! But Halloween doesn’t just have to be about the candy (unless you want it to be, then we fully support that) and it doesn’t just have to be for kids 13 and under. There are plenty of ways for you to celebrate the most frightening day of the year at the office without doing the same thing that you did last year, aka running out the morning of to buy decorations and overloading on sugar. Get creative this year and try something new! We promise it won’t take up too much of your time or energy because whether you’re throwing a monster mash or planning a simple treat for your team, we’ve got fang-tastic food ideas that every office manager can execute!

Ghoulish Breakfast: If you don’t have a huge budget or are looking to do something simple to get your office in the ghosting spirit, a lot of bagel vendors do orange bagels or orange/black swirl bagels to celebrate Halloween. This is a small but fun way to get your team excited when they walk into the office on Halloween morning! Not into bagels? Try some pumpkin spice pancakes or pumpkin muffins with cinnamon cream cheese to really spice things up!

Boo-tiful Lunch: A lot of people think that Halloween is all about snacks and candy but there are plenty of ways to incorporate Halloween colors and ideas into a terrifying lunch! If Halloween isn’t a huge celebration in your office but you do a team lunch once or twice a week, make it special by doing a Halloween-themed lunch! You can do grilled cheese with tomato soup syringes, “decomposed” salad, “bloody” chicken fingers, pumpkin bisque soup- any number of items can be dressed up or given eerie names to get your team excited to sit down together. And if you don’t do a weekly lunch, suggest a Halloween-themed lunch as a special event just for that week! Even if it seems silly, it’ll give your office something to look forward to and your coworkers will enjoy it (even if they don’t admit it!).

Blood-Curdling Snacks: Holiday themed snacks are always a safe bet when you’re feeding a bunch of people, especially when you need to account for different dietary preferences. Having a variety of frightening finger foods ensures that there are a few bites for everyone and that you have options that satisfy each restriction. And the best part about the snack option is that you can schedule it for a time during the day that works best for everyone in your office and make the celebration as long or as short as you would like! If Halloween is big in your office and you’re looking to take it a step further, have your team vote on their favorite horror movie and host a viewing party while enjoying your creepy eats! Talk about netflix and chill

Haunted Happy Hour: Not in the mood for food? We got you covered there as well. Set up a boo-zy after work party at your office and invite all the ghouls and goblins to attend! Sip on some “magic potions” (dry ice is key) and jam to your favorite Halloween tunes all night long! Really feeling the holiday spirit?! Make it costume party and have everyone select the best dressed of the night. You can reward the winner with a small gift, like a Starbucks gift card or a spooky candle, whatever you see fit! Just make sure you’re prepare for a night of gruesome delight!

Whatever you’re looking for to celebrate Halloween, we’ve got a menu to fit your needs! Email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to get a custom Halloween-themed proposal for you and your team and let the bewitching begin!

 

0 comments on “Xiu Chen: Owner of Rice K”

Xiu Chen: Owner of Rice K

This is Xiu Chen, the owner of Rice K, an Asian fusion restaurant that offers Chinese-American cuisine, Japanese cuisine and Thai cuisine that caters to the varied clientele that they serve in Astoria. Xiu’s family has owned a restaurant in the neighborhood for over 22 years. Her father began learning how to cook after emigrating from China with Xiu and her mother and became a chef in the Bronx, cooking Chinese-American food. As he honed his craft and started improving his cooking skills, he decided to start his own restaurant and thought Astoria was a nice neighborhood and a good place for him to build his business. 20 years later, Xiu is carrying on her father’s legacy by continuing the family business. She effortlessly blends their established reputation and authentic recipes with modern food trends, allowing the business to continue to grow, while also raising her daughter and running the business on her own.

Xiu grew up working in the restaurant business from a very young age. She used to stand on a box on the floor at her father’s restaurant so that she could work at the register, so she knows a lot of people in the area that have watched her grow up. Although she enjoyed working there, she says she never planned on taking over the business. She studied marketing in college and after meeting her husband, they moved to China for 6 years to see how they could get involved in China’s quickly growing economy. They ended up starting a construction business and began creating a home in China. However, Xiu’s father was getting older and she felt that it was time for him to retire. At the same time, her daughter, Audrey, was getting ready to start school and she wanted her to begin her education in the U.S. Therefore, it made sense to Xiu that she come back to the U.S., take over the restaurant and set up a home in New York as well. So 2 years ago, she returned to Astoria and took over the business.

Xiu and team from Rice K

Although she never saw herself taking the business over from her father, Xiu says she really does enjoy her job, mainly because of the staff that she works with and the customers that she gets to meet. She says hearing people’s stories and getting to know each person in the neighborhood that comes in is the most rewarding part of the business. These are the people that keep her going, especially when the business gets tough. Xiu’s husband still lives in China and handles their construction business so she runs the restaurant on her own, which she admits gets difficult when you have to be responsible for everything from staffing to food prep to accounting. Most days she’s at the restaurant from 11AM to 11PM or later so it’s hard to balance her time at work and her time with her daughter but she does her best to make sure neither one feels like they aren’t her top priority. Her daughter (now in 1st grade) will come to the restaurant after school a few days a week and Xiu does homework with her and goes through her lessons before Xiu’s parents take over. Luckily they are able to watch Audrey while Xiu works, since her father is now retired, and although they have a good system, Xiu says it’s not something she necessarily wants to pass onto her daughter. “It depends in the future if she likes cooking and if she likes the restaurant business because it’s so much to encompass” but if it’s something she chooses, Xiu will support her. In the mean time, she tries not to put any expectation on her daughter because she knows how hard the business can be. When she took over the business, she knew it would be tough and it was a hard decision for her to make, but now that she has taken it over, she isn’t looking back. As she says, “you only look forward”.

Xiu’s focus now is figuring out her plan for the future and what she needs to do to keep the business growing. She’s very aware that she’s responsible for the business’s success and how that impacts herself, her family and her staff. Which is why she’s made updates to keep the business relevant with the younger generations that have been moving into Astoria in recent years. She’s made changes to the restaurant, remodeling the layout and adding a kid’s menu and most recently, adding karaoke on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. She notes that they’re “probably one of the only restaurants that does that” with a laugh, but unique additions to the business are what have helped her bring in new customers and differentiate themselves from the numerous other restaurants that surround them. However, when adding in these changes, Xiu has been sure to keep the core of the restaurant the same: a family run business that cares about its community. Xiu and her staff take the business very personally, greeting people by name if they can and making sure that each customer feels welcomed and taken care of. It’s these simple gestures and the genuine care that she puts into the business that has allowed Rice K’s legacy to live on.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “October Vendor of the Month: To Spiti”

October Vendor of the Month: To Spiti

For anyone that needs a break from pumpkin spice, we got you covered! Our October Vendor of the Month is To Spiti and this month it’s all about GYROS! To Spiti’s food is made from scratch in their Brooklyn-based restaurant and offers all of the authentic Greek items that you crave: spinach pie, gyros, falafel, baklava, pita bread and all of the dips.. spicy feta, hummus, tzatziki and babaganoush. YUM! It’s the perfect fall comfort food that the whole team can enjoy with their variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free menu options!

For October only, To Spiti has created an amazing lunch package that includes one gyro (can be made on a gluten free wrap if needed), one side and one dessert for just $12 per person! They will be offering this package to FoodtoEat clients exclusively until the end of the month so book your next team lunch with To Spiti as soon as possible!

October Lunch Package

$12/person

Chicken, Lamb or Falafel Gyro

Come with Onions, Lettuce and Tomatoes

Choice of Tzatziki, Hummus or Babaganoush

Served with Spinach Pie and Mini Baklava

Alma To Spiti Photo

To Spiti opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2015 and is owned by Alma Selmanaj, a Greek immigrant who brought her and her husband’s family recipes to NYC! Alma was involved in the food industry from a young age. She grew up in Greece working in her family’s restaurant so she’s always been aware of what customers are looking for in a meal and understood the ins and outs of the food business. After moving to the United States and working in a few restaurants, she decided to put her knowledge to the test and opened up her own restaurant.

Alma and her husband are the only two full-time employees at To Spiti so they prep, cook and deliver the food themselves, adding a personal touch to every order from this family-run business. Although the work is hard and the days are long, hearing customers say how delicious the food was makes it all worth it for Alma because feeding people truly makes her happy. It’s this desire, to serve customers amazing food and the quality of the food that they serve, that makes To Spiti stand out from other Greek restaurants!

 

0 comments on “Ashley Jaffe and Zach Israel: Co-Founders of Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen and Blank Slate Tea”

Ashley Jaffe and Zach Israel: Co-Founders of Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen and Blank Slate Tea

This is Ashley Jaffe and her husband, Zach Israel, the co-founders of Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen and Blank Slate Tea. Ashley and Zach opened Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen in November 2015 and took painstaking efforts in the layout, design and menu creation to make the café feel like an extension of the customer’s home or office. They wanted Blank Slate to be a place where guests could come to work, meet friends, relax; be the go-to spot for anything and everything. Hence the name, Blank Slate- a place for growth, creativity and unlimited possibilities, which is truly what this café has created for Ashley and her husband.

Unlike most restaurant owners, Ashley didn’t grow up in the food industry and she doesn’t have a culinary background. Ashley worked in Public Relations for 10 years, specifically covering celebrities and entertainment, but fell in love with food and beverage after landing on The Food Network account at her firm. She started doing food and beverage PR, covering restaurants, spirits and soft drinks, and met her husband, Zach, who had an extensive background in the hospitality industry. Both had a love for food and beverage and, at the time, saw a huge gap in the market for a café where you could get an awesome meal and a killer cup of coffee at the same place. After dreaming up this vision for an all-day café concept, where people could “just come in and hang” (a la Central Perk in Friends), Ashley decided to quit her job, become business partners with Zach and open Blank Slate.

Although Ashley says she had no idea how to run a restaurant when they started, she is now the key decision maker for the business and runs the day to day operations. She admits that she has run into one or two issues being a female business owner (mainly men asking her if she needs to consult with her husband before making a decision related to the business, which she laughs off as “silly”) but overall she has been extremely lucky with the support she has received, especially from other women, some of whom own their own business or come in specifically because it is a female-run business. For Ashley, it’s the relationships that she’s cultivated that have made the business so rewarding for her and that have also made the business so successful.

Blank Slate Group Photo

Ashley takes her time training each and every employee, personally sitting down with each person to explain how and why the business got started and allowing them to understand each part of the business and how it works. For her, it’s very important to take time with the onboarding process and “set each person up for success”. The personal touch is what makes her a unique and valued business owner- five of her staff members have been with her since day 1. Which is impressive in an industry with such high turnover. The solid relationships with her dedicated staff and regular customers allowed her to open Blank Slate Tea this past April, a passion project for her as an avid tea drinker. Ashley designed the space to be fun and girly and Instagram-friendly (which is where she says a huge chunk of her business comes from) as well as an event space, where they can host private events such as baby showers and bridal showers, without having to close down the café, which is just two doors down from the tea shop.

Being husband and wife as well as co-business owners is difficult for some people but Ashley says that she and Zach have varying strengths, which is actually an asset for the business. Zach is the “down and dirty operations guy” that can solve a problem without hesitation while her PR/Marketing/social media skills, attention to detail and charisma have allowed her to create a mission-driven business with its own unique personality. Coming from an extensive food and beverage background, Zach is also a great support system for her, since he’s more comfortable dealing with the ups and downs of the industry. He keeps her calm, even during insane periods of stress and anxiety, reminding her to trust the system she’s put in place and to just keep chugging along. In a business that relies on relationships with customers and staff that they seem to have mastered, it’s also the relationship between Ashley and Zach that makes Blank Slate a refreshing dining experience that fits every taste.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

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Healthy Alternatives to Conquer Your Caffeine Craving

You just hit it. The 3 o’clock slump. We all know it- the fogginess, the headache, the irritability and the desire to stop all of the work that you’re in the middle of, put your head on your desk and just take a nap. Trust us, we understand! But when you sprint out of your office to get a latte or a frappuccino or a macchiato at Starbucks or Dunkin or your preferred coffee vendor, you may get a temporary jolt of energy but you’re actually causing harm to your body in the long run.

Coffee itself isn’t bad. Since it contains caffeine, which is a stimulant, it can increase energy levels, improve memory, enhance brain function and break down body fat. It’s also the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. and can help protect against various diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and liver cancer. However, it’s when we add sugar and syrups to our coffee that we add in calories and fat and create a need for more sugar. Added sugar is one of the most highly addictive ingredients in the modern diet. When we consume added sugar, dopamine is released in our brain, creating a “high” that our body registers as a reward, causing it to crave more. As we give our bodies more and more added sugar, it builds up a tolerance and releases less dopamine, which causes us to consume more of it to experience the same “high” as before. Unlike natural sugar found in fruits, veggies and proteins, added sugar can cause weight gain, increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer and actually drains your energy faster, because it causes only a temporary spike in blood sugar that drops soon after. Which is why every day at 3PM, your craving for sugar will hit again and you feel the need to quench it with a sugary coffee, creating a vicious cycle of highs and lows.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 200 calories (50 grams) of added sugar each day. Although too much sugar can be harmful, it’s still necessary to give us energy to keep our bodies and brains moving. But every once and a while, we all need a boost. Between work, families, friends.. we all have reasons why we don’t get as much sleep as we should or would like to. So next time you’re feeling the slump, instead of ordering that PSL (which contains 50 grams of sugar aka the amount you’re allotted for one day!), try out one of our suggestions below! It will still give you the caffeine boost that you need, without comprising on the added sugar.

Green Tea: Although green tea has a lower caffeine content than coffee, it will still give you the boost you need without making you feel wired or jittery. It also has a lot of health benefits- it’s high in antioxidants, helps to boost your immune system and decreases the risk of diabetes. The best part about green tea is that most coffee shops sell it and it’s also easy to find green tea bags in your local grocery store to make it on your own!

Matcha: Matcha is a type of stone ground Japanese tea that comes in a powder form. Unlike other green teas whose leaves get steeped in hot water, matcha is created from actual tea leaves that have been ground up. Again it doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee, but it helps with memory and focus while still being energizing. However, matcha does have a naturally bitter taste so some places will sweeten the powder with added sugar. If you’re interested in matcha, make sure that the tea you’re getting is a good quality matcha.

Unsweetened Iced Tea: Fresh brewed tea is high in caffeine and rich in antioxidants, making it one of the best alternatives to coffee. It helps reduce the risk of stroke and improves heart and gut health. The great thing about unsweetened iced tea is that you can sweeten it naturally (if needed) by adding sugar substitutes such as honey or lemon, which will make it less bitter as you get used to the taste.

Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate has only a small amount of caffeine in it, but it’s a good substitute if you find that you crave the sweetness of coffee more than the coffee itself. Rather than reach for a sugary drink or dessert, dark chocolate is a good way to curb the craving because it also reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and is rich in nutrients.

Black Coffee: If you love the taste of coffee and just can’t avoid it, simple black coffee can always be a fall back option. As we mentioned above, it can increase energy levels, improve memory, protect against a number of diseases and is high in antioxidants. So if you want to keep the coffee taste, try cutting out the added sugar, syrups, milk and cream. That way you’re getting the natural benefits of the coffee and, of course, the caffeine.

 

 

Resources:
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202.php
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee#section1
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coffee-good-or-bad#section9
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-ways-to-make-your-coffee-super-healthy#section4
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar#section8
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/experts-is-sugar-addictive-drug#2
https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/best-coffee-drinks-starbucks-menu
http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-healthiest-sources-caffeine/
https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/DGA_Cut-Down-On-Added-Sugars.pdf
https://www.earlytorise.com/7-natural-caffeine-sources-arent-coffee/
https://hellogiggles.com/news/caffeine-alternatives-coffee/
https://www.health.com/nutrition/what-is-matcha
0 comments on “Tom Birchard: Owner of Veselka”

Tom Birchard: Owner of Veselka

This is Tom Birchard, the owner of Veselka, and the son-in-law of Wolodymr Darmochwal, the original owner who founded the East Village landmark in 1954. Although their menu is now full of rich, authentic Ukrainian and Polish dishes, when the store was first purchased by Wolodymr, it operated as a candy store/newsstand with a small lunch counter and a limited menu of soup and sandwiches. It wasn’t until Wolodymr asked a few women from the neighborhood to come to the store at night and cook him some simple, homemade Ukrainian dishes that the newsstand began to evolve into a restaurant. These dishes were supposed to be for Wolodymr to eat as he worked but he began sharing them with customers and then, when he noticed how much they loved them, he began selling them. And the menu that Veselka is known for today was born.

Wolodymr always had an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in the food industry. He was a middle manager at an agricultural co-op in Ukraine before World War II started and he and his wife were forced to flee to a displaced persons camp in Germany. After the war ended, they were re-settled in New York and moved to the East Village because it was a predominantly Ukrainian neighborhood. A lot of people from Ukraine and Poland had settled there after World War I and had established banks, churches, coffee shops, etc., creating a community reminiscent of the homes that they had lost. Both Wolodymr and his wife started working menial jobs when they arrived in New York but in this new home he saw an opportunity to become an entrepreneur. He had always wanted to own his own business and had management experience in food, so when he saw the small shop on 2nd Avenue for sale, he took the little money he had saved and bought it.

Tom was introduced to Wolodymr, Veselka and the East Village in 1966 by Wolodymr’s daughter, Marta, who he had met at a frat party at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and would later marry. Although he didn’t know anything about the East Village or Ukrainian food, he immediately fell in love with the neighborhood’s energy and diverse people as well as the ethnic food that was an intrinsic part of his new family. Tom began working for Wolodymr and saw the potential to turn Veselka into a larger operation. They purchased one of the adjoining storefronts on East 9th Street and made it into a dining room, working together closely before Wolodymr’s sudden passing in 1975. After his death, Tom took over the business and ran it as a diner/luncheonette until they were able to do a major expansion in 1996 and turned Veselka into the East Village institution it is today.

As Veselka has expanded over the years, Tom has made sure that they keep the traditional feel of the restaurant, keeping the original tin ceiling and wood paneling, so that customers don’t feel like the character of the establishment has been lost. For him, it’s been the most challenging part of the business but he understands the importance of balancing the old and the new, because so many customers can trace some part of their heritage back to Eastern Europe and have a strong emotional connection to Veselka and the style of food that they serve. Which is why it’s also important to him to be respectful to the original recipes that he says get more and more popular each year. The homemade, traditional Ukrainian and Polish dishes that his father-in-law started off serving (beef stroganoff, borscht, stuffed cabbage, pierogis) are still the best selling items on the menu, all of which are made from scratch. They have a team of 4 full time Polish and Ukrainian grandmas making pierogis by hand 5 or 6 days a week, making 1,500-2,000 pierogis a day and 2,500-3,000 a day during the holiday season. According to Tom, one of the best compliments that they consistently get is “your food reminds me of what my grandmother used to make”.

Veselka has become a refuge for many, for its inclusive atmosphere and for it’s simple, honest, filling, good food that they work very, very hard to create. And that is the charm of Veselka- it blends generations of people together, capturing the essence of Eastern Europe in a modern setting: the heart of New York City. It was founded to be a piece of home for a displaced, immigrant community and continues to be one today for customers that are looking for a connection to their ancestors. Even more so, it has become a melting pot, serving customers from all walks of life and employing an incredibly diverse staff of Ukrainian, Polish, Bangladeshi, American, Tibetan, Latin, Mexican and Ecuadorian men and women. With over 100 people working there around the clock (Veselka is open 24/7), it has become a big family, where, regardless of where you come from or what language you speak, everyone gets along, becomes friends and feels at home. 

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “Fall Parties You Can Host at the Office!”

Fall Parties You Can Host at the Office!

It’s party season, people! We have officially entered the period of time during which parties and events start happening more and more frequently to celebrate holidays, cultural events, work anniversaries, the new year… you name it, a party is being planned. And personally, we’re pretty stoked about it! What’s better than getting away from your desk for a few hours during the day or after work and enjoying free food and/or drinks with your team?! Nothing. Cause it’s fo free.

But since Halloween is usually the first big party to plan and it’s still more than a month away, we didn’t want you to feel like you had no reason to celebrate right now! There are plenty of ways to liven up the office this season and we’ve got some awesome suggestions to keep your team happy at work.

Keep it culturally relevant. All of the best parties (that we know of) usually have a theme. Whether it’s a holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve) or a cultural event (St. Patrick’s Day, the Oscars, the finale of the Game of Thrones) a theme gives you an idea of what to expect at the party. Focusing the theme around cultural events that are happening in the U.S. or around the world during that time is a great approach because it makes the party more interesting and exciting! People don’t really know what they’re gonna get when they show up, which makes it different from the other parties they’ve been to for years before. Here are our top picks for themes that are culturally relevant right now:

Okoberfest: This German festival runs from September 22nd to October 7th so you have two weeks to get your pretzels, bratwurst and potato pancakes together and prost with some German beer!

Office Tailgate for Monday Night Football: Luckily football is around for about 5 months so there’s no time limit on this party! And Monday Night Football is a great way to get your team hanging out together on a week night at the office (while they enjoy some wings and sliders and chips and guac of course).

Comic Con: Comic Con comes to NYC from October 4th to the 7th! Break out your favorite super hero shirt (or costume) and host a viewing party at your office of the best superhero/action movie from this year. Have your team vote on the choices in the weeks leading up to the party and reveal the winner that night!

It’s all about the bars! Another great way to get your colleagues away from their desks is with any type of “build your own” bar. Build your own is more exciting than a standard lunch or happy hour because you get to be creative and interact with your coworkers as you each make your own designs or dishes! Also, everyone can customize their own meal or drink based on their own tastes, so no one will feel excluded or that there isn’t an option for them. Below are examples of some of our favorite fall-themed bars that you can set up at your office:

Hot Apple Cider Bar: There’s nothing better than a hot drink as the weather starts getting colder. Class up your hot apple cider by adding a cinnamon stick, caramel, or any spice like cloves, nutmeg or ginger! You can keep this virgin or spike with bourbon, whiskey or rum for happy hour 🙂

Top Your Own Chili Bar: Chili is a great option because it can be made with or without meat so you can have an option for vegetarian and meat eaters. Spoon chili out into a bowl and mix in a variety of toppings: shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, crushed tortilla chips, salsa.. the possibilities are endless!

Popcorn Bar: Pop those kernels and mix in literally anything that your heart desires: M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. Make it cute by using some old school popcorn boxes or bags!

Make it for a good cause. We know we said that free food/drinks is the best way to get attendance at a party but sometimes the best way to get your team to come together is to give them a mission and to raise a little money! Using your free time to help others is an uplifting experience that will also bond you as a group. And there are so many worthy causes that need our help! Whether you want to host a fundraiser at the office with all of the proceeds going to a specific cause like Breast Cancer Research (October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month) or donate to a local charity or soup kitchen, hosting a event that creates a positive impact on your community is an amazing action that will make your party matter on a much larger scale.

Board Game Tournament: This is a simple and cost effective way to raise money! Have a few people in the office bring in their favorite board games and charge $10 for each person to participate. Create a bracket so that the schedule is easy to follow and people can play throughout the day. Use a small part of the participation fee to reward the winner with an Amazon or Starbucks gift card and donate the rest!

Trivia Night: Similar to the board game tournament, you can charge a participation fee, but instead of playing alone, have your office create teams of 3 or 4 people (each person paying their own fee)! All of the teams will play at the same time and win points based on every correct answer. The winning team can get a small reward or a “free work from home day” that can be used whenever they want. The rest of the money can be donated to a charity or cause of your office’s choosing.

Canned Potluck: Host a potluck lunch/dinner with your team and have them bring a dish that they made to share, along with a canned good/boxed food that can be donated to a food bank in your area after the meal is over! The team meal will create bonding time for your office and will provide support to local charities that need help, especially around the holiday season.

 

0 comments on “Adam Wile: Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Distilled NY”

Adam Wile: Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Distilled NY

This is Adam Wile, one of the co-founders of Distilled NY and the Director of Operations at the Tribeca restaurant. Distilled NY was the brainchild of CEO, Nick Iovacchini, and his cousin, Shane Lyons, who had spent years in the food industry and were ready to take a leap of faith and start their own restaurant. They wanted to “redefine the public house”, make every guest’s visit as enjoyable as possible and to create a place where you would feel surrounded by friends as soon as you walked in. So that’s exactly what they did. They reached out to friends who they knew had worked at other people’s restaurants and had an idea of how they could do it better, which is how Adam got involved.

Adam started his food career cooking meals for himself as he was growing up but really found his love for it in college when he realized that he liked to feed his friends and see their reactions to the food that he made. After college, he was planning to go to law school but still had the idea of being a chef in his head. So, prompted by his father to make sure that he knew what he was getting himself into and that was confident in his choice, he spent the summer working in a kitchen. Although he knew nothing, got yelled at constantly and ruined a lot of dishes, he absolutely loved it and decided to pursue his dream. It was while he was working as a cook at Momofuku Noodle Bar that he met Shane Lyons and Noah Millrod, one of the other original founders, and they all became friends. So when Shane and Nick came up with the idea for Distilled NY in 2012, both Noah and Adam came on board.

The group of friends immediately started raising capital and doing tastings to raise awareness about the business (they even did a pop up for Bravo TV, Top Chef Kitchen) but then Hurricane Sandy struck NYC and things got tough. They were flooded twice during the hurricane, the first time with 4 1/2 feet of water and 2 feet of water the second, causing them to have to move all of their kitchen equipment into their dining room and cutting a huge chunk out of their restaurant space. Rather than give up on the restaurant, they problem-solved and for the next few months during the holiday season, they operated as an event space to keep the business going and make sure that the lights stayed on. And it worked. 

Distilled Chef

In June 2013 they officially opened their restaurant and they focused on differentiating themselves by creating a menu that was the best version of the items that their customers were familiar with: burgers, wings, steak, even popcorn. They concentrated on making a dish different from what you might be used to eating but just as delicious and enjoyable. And they’ve succeeded the past 5 years by learning to listen to customers about what works and what doesn’t and by recognizing when it’s time to reinvent their menu.

As Adam says they “gave it the old college try”, because none of them had opened their own place before Distilled NY. But this group of friends has created a space that’s exactly like what they envisioned: a comfortable place where you’re among friends; where you feel like you can just hang out and escape what’s going on in the outside world with some drinks, some laughs and some amazing food. And it’s not only due to their menu and their welcoming staff, it’s also due to the kitchen move that almost made them close their doors. The open kitchen and the general open layout of the restaurant makes it feel like you’re at a friend’s house and they’re throwing a dinner party where you can watch them cook from your seat. It’s a unique and memorable dining experience that has made Distilled NY a staple in their community and has also allowed a group of friends to accomplish what they set out to do: make people happy for a living.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “Fall-ing in Love with Grain Bowls this Season!”

Fall-ing in Love with Grain Bowls this Season!

It’s fall in NYC, which means it’s time for comfy sweaters, pumpkin spice everything and heartier meals! And we’ve got the perfect recipe to keep you warm all season long, without making you feel like you’re getting ready to hibernate!

Our fall grain bowl recipe combines the best of summer and fall: it provides light and healthy ingredients that fill you up but don’t give you the heaviness that you might feel with soup or stew. It also gives you the chance to incorporate some of those autumn veggies back into your diet: sweet potatoes, kale, cabbage, etc., that you may have forgotten about during the summer. The recipe is best served warm and only takes about 45 minutes from prep to plate, so it’s ideal if you’re looking for an easy meal on a chilly afternoon or evening. Also, if you’re into food presentation, the colors in the dish make it as appetizing for your eyes as it is for your stomach! See for yourself by checking out our Instagram highlights: @foodtoeat! Happy eating!

BYO Fall Grain Bowl

Recipe serves 4-6

You’ll Need:

2 cups lucinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale or black kale)

2 cups spinach

2 cups escarole

2 cloves minced garlic

2 bags Uncle Ben’s brown rice (or any instant brown rice or grain)

2 sweet potatoes (large)

6-8 carrots

1 head purple cabbage (small)

1 package of chicken tenderloins (large, at least 10-15 pieces)

olive oil

garlic powder

onion powder

paprika

chili powder

salt

pepper

First step is to roast your veggies in the oven while you prepare the rest of your ingredients! Preheat the oven to 425 and cut your sweet potatoes into 1/2-1 inch cubes. Place in a large bowl and coat with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and toss. Line a sheet pan with tin foil and spray with non-stick baking spray. Transfer sweet potato pieces onto lined sheet pan and spread evenly to bake. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Once your sweet potatoes are in the oven, begin cutting your carrots into 1 1/2 inch pieces (or smaller if you’d like). Repeat the process that you did for the sweet potatoes. Place in a large bowl and coat with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and toss. Line a sheet pan with tin foil and spray with non-stick baking spray. Transfer carrots onto lined sheet pan and spread evenly to bake. Bake for about 25 minutes at 425.

Next, prepare your pulled chicken! Remove chicken tenderloins from package and rinse. Place on paper towels to remove the moisture, pat dry. Season chicken with 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of paprika and 1 teaspoon of chili powder. If you have it, heat your cast iron skillet on medium/high heat. If not, a regular non-stick skillet works as well! Place seasoned side of chicken down on skillet first, then season the other side. Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. Place on plate and let cool. Once cool to the touch, shred chicken with your hands and toss with your favorite BBQ sauce (we used Stubbs BBQ Sauce).

Once your chicken is done, move onto your greens and cabbage! Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add in 1 large clove of minced garlic. Add in lucinato kale, spinach and escarole (feel free to use just one type of green or your favorite green if you don’t want all 3) and saute for 3-5 minutes. Once the greens are wilted, remove from heat and set aside in a bowl. Cut cabbage into quarters and then into thin slices. Repeat the process that you did for your greens. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add in 1 large clove of minced garlic. Add in sliced cabbage and saute for 3-5 minutes. Set aside in a bowl until you’re ready to build your grain bowl!

The final step is to create your grain! We love Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice because you simply add water and microwave. However, you can use your favorite grain as your base. We suggest brown rice, farro or quinoa!

Once all your ingredients are ready, combine in a bowl and enjoy! Pro tip: top with pumpkin seeds for an added crunch!

 

0 comments on “Alma Selmanaj: Owner of To Spiti”

Alma Selmanaj: Owner of To Spiti

This is Alma Selmanaj, the owner of To Spiti, a restaurant that she opened with her husband in 2015 after emigrating from Greece to the United States. Alma grew up in the food industry, working in her family’s restaurant in Greece for most of her life. So it was only natural for her that after arriving in the U.S. she began working in a restaurant before deciding to open her own Greek restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, using the recipes that were passed down through both her and her husband’s families.

The business is family run. Alma and her husband are the only two full-time employees so their days are long. As Alma says, they work “two days in one”. They wake up at 5AM every day to begin cooking the food for that day’s catering orders, do deliveries until 12 or 1PM, rest for a few hours and then return to the store at 5PM to get ready for their dinner rush. From 7PM until 12:30AM they are constantly serving customers on their way home from work or on their way out to the bars nearby. Once the last customer is served, they clean up for 30-45 minutes and then drive 30 minutes to their home, usually getting home around 1/1:30AM.

IMG_1929

The most challenging part of running her own business is being responsible for every part of the business. She is the cook, the delivery person, the social media manager, the accountant.. the list goes on and on. She deals with so many different things on a daily basis that she says a lot of the time she forgets to eat, because she’s busy running from one delivery to another or back to the store to start prepping for that evening. Another tough part of being a restaurant owner? “You cannot sleep”. With so many different areas of the business to be in charge of, Alma says she doesn’t sleep more than 4 or 5 hours a night, even on a rare day that they close the store for a day off.

However, as much as being a restaurant owner is a “tired job” (as she says), she likes it too much to stop. She has always liked to work and is used to the fast pace of the food industry. And for Alma and her husband, all of their hard work pays off when a customer tells them how delicious the food is or how great the catering presentation looks. When that happens, she says, it erases how tired she is, because she loves making customers happy.

When asked if she would ever considering closing the storefront to focus on catering and give herself a break from the long days she works, Alma simply replied, “No, no, it’s my job, there is no other job. This is me.”

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “September Vendor of the Month: Jaa Dijo Dom”

September Vendor of the Month: Jaa Dijo Dom

September is here and it’s back to the grind, people! But don’t be too upset! Jaa Dijo Dom is our Vendor of the Month for September and this amazing African food is the perfect way to boost office morale if your team is feeling some real post-summertime sadness! Jaa Dijo Dom’s focus on good, healthy eating and it’s commitment to providing the most authentic African food, even sourcing it’s peppers and herbs directly from Africa and grinding them in house, will turn a lunch meeting into a meal you will never forget!

Don’t miss this opportunity to taste the delicious food they will only be offering to FoodtoEat clients during the month of September! Check out the menu below and email us at catering@foodtoeat.com today to book your next office meal with Jaa Dijo Dom!

Entrees:

Malawian Spiced Chicken Curry 

Bobotie

Senegalese Fish Yassa

Lentil Dhal with Vegetables (V)

Chickpea, Eggplant and Mushroom Tangine (V)

Vegetables and Sides:

Coconut Rice (V)

Charmoula Potatoes (V)

Chakalaka (V)

Mango Couscous Salad (V)

Tomato and Green Pepper Salad (V)

Charles from Jaa Dijo Dom

Charles Chipengule is the owner and chef behind Jaa Dijo Dom! He was born and raised in Botswana, Africa and growing up he always had a passion for food and loved to cook. After graduating high school, he was able to save up just enough money to open a breakfast food stall, which helped him fund his technical college and culinary courses. However, due to the dire economic conditions in Botswana, Charles eventually had to permanently close down his breakfast stall and after a lot of hard work and perseverance, was able to emigrate to the United States.

After arriving in the U.S, Charles worked at various restaurants and took culinary classes in New York to pursue his cooking dream. It was during this time that he was inspired to open Jaa Dijo Dom (an African name that means “a place to eat”) with the idea of bringing together the various cuisines of African nations to a wider audience. He wanted to share the food that he grew up eating and took the time to select the best dishes and flavors from different countries to create a diverse and flavorful dining experience. All of the unique entrees and sides that he creates have been handed down through generations and are currently being prepared all over Africa on a daily basis.

Since the beginning, Charles’s goal has always been to “create a place where all nations can taste the cuisine from all over Africa” and while doing this, he places a top priority on each customer’s dietary preferences and restrictions. But more than anything else, Charles has created a unique brand and amazing food whose goal is to “leave you satisfied and begging for more”, which it certainly does!

 

 

0 comments on “The Best Beach Foods to Celebrate LDW: We’re Shore of It!”

The Best Beach Foods to Celebrate LDW: We’re Shore of It!

Labor Day Weekend 2018 has (unfortunately) arrived much sooner than expected. Which means that we only have a few days left to enjoy the sun and the sand, because there’s no better place to say “so long” to summer than at the beach! But don’t show up empty-handed! We’ve come up with some of our go to beach foods that go perfectly with the salt water. So whether you’re snacking, eating dinner or just enjoying a few good drinks, you’re ready to take on LDW with the perfect fare to share with your friends and family!

Breakfast

The first thing that you want to keep in mind with any food that you’re bringing to the beach, is that it will inevitably get sandy (dun, dun, dun). So we recommend bringing food that can be wrapped, especially for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, bagels and egg sandwiches are always good options and, if you’re buying for a group, both are easy things to get in bulk for a relatively cheap price. If you know that some of your friends or family are healthier eaters, include some sliced fruit or individual yogurts if they have them!

Snacks

Pretzels, chips and popcorn are easy beach snacks because they’re crowd-pleasers and almost every store has them. So if you happen to forget to pick up that dessert that your mom asked you to bring…. you can always pop into a convenience store and avoid getting yelled at for not bringing anything. But if you’re trying to step up your snack game, chips and guacamole, hummus and pita or a charcuterie board are great ways to impress at a party or make your beach day a little fancier. The charcuterie board will take more effort than chips and guacamole or hummus and pita, since you can get those items at a store (if you don’t want to make your own guacamole or hummus) and a charcuterie board will require more arrangement on a platter or cutting board. But showing up with a unique snack, or any snack really, is always appreciated at the beach!

Lunch

Wraps and sandwiches are pretty common beach lunches because, as we mentioned, they can stay in the tin foil and out of the sand. Plus they’re easy to hold or eat from a plate in your lap. They’re also a great option because they don’t take much prep work! Bread, wraps, protein, cheese, lettuce, tomato, condiments… that’s all you really need if you’re meal prepping before the beach. And everyone can customize their own! If you’re short on time, calling a local deli and picking up a sandwich or wrap platter is an efficient way to take care of lunch and make sure that there’s a bunch of variety for your group to choose from.

Dinner

Wraps and sandwiches can always work for dinner as well but if you’re able to set up a table on the beach to create a buffet later in the day (hopefully the seagulls will be gone by that point), some of our Labor Day faves are obviously burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, grilled veggies and grilled corn, if you have access to a grill. If not, skewers are a great way to prepare a protein beforehand, cook it and then serve it room temp later in the day when it’s time for dinner! You can do steak, chicken, shrimp and caprese or assorted veggies for vegetarians. Pasta salad, grain salad and green salad are great side dishes that can also be served room temp and go great with pre-cooked items or with food fresh off the grill.  Of course, if you don’t feel like cooking or leaving your spot on the beach, there’s always our favorite fall back option: pizza! Order a few pies from your local pizzeria and have them delivered to you on the sand. This is a great way to enjoy a casual dinner on the beach and, seriously, who doesn’t like pizza??

Drinks

Sangria is always our go to choice for beach drinks! Not only does the fruit in the drink make it feel more tropical, it’s also one of the easiest drinks to create, especially in a large batch. You don’t need a blender and it takes little more than 6 or 7 ingredients to make (depending on the recipe you follow): red or white wine, fruit (apples, oranges, peaches, strawberries), lemon, lime, brandy, schnapps, sugar and club soda. Here’s a recipe we love for white sangria! However, something else that we recently discovered that could be a unique addition to your Labor Day party is fireball peaches! Again, these are super easy to make since you’re simply soaking the peach slices in fireball overnight but if you’re not a fan of whiskey, these definitely aren’t for you. If you want to try them out, be sure to make a lot since these fun treats will go quick!

 

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Lettuce Tell You About Our Asian Chicken Wraps

ROMAINE CALM!!!! We know you’re dying to learn more about our Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps and we’re here to tell you that they’re as delicious as they look and creating them is a breeze. With minimal ingredients, you have a healthy and flavorful meal in less than 20 minutes. 

As usual, the lettuce wraps can be customized to fit your needs: served with or without rice; chicken, beef or tofu as the protein; and topped with hot sauce or keep it plain! It’s up to you! And unlike the lettuce wraps you’re getting from a restaurant, you know exactly what’s going into the wraps that you prepare: only simple ingredients that you can feel good about. Served hot or room temp, these wraps are perfect as a meal prep lunch option or pretty enough to serve to guests if you’re hosting a happy hour! Whatever you prepare them for, these Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps are always a hit!

Asian Ground Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Recipe serves 4

You’ll Need:

1 lb ground chicken

2 teaspoons olive oil

5 tablespoons hoisin sauce (we use Soy Vey hoisin sauce with garlic)

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (we use low sodium soy sauce)

1-2 teaspoons sriracha (optional)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon honey

2 large cloves of garlic minced

1 tablespoon of ginger minced

3 scallions sliced

1 pack of baby portobello mushrooms chopped

1 large head of bib or romaine lettuce

1/4 head of thinly sliced purple cabbage

pepper

Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Add scallions and ginger to skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Add ground chicken and mushrooms to skillet and season with black pepper, to your preferred taste. Use a spatula to break down the chicken into crumbles and cook for 3 minutes. Add in minced garlic and cook until ground chicken is fully cooked through. While chicken is cooking, combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar, sesame oil and honey in a bowl and whisk together. Once the chicken is cooked through, pour sauce on chicken mixture and mix well (for a stickier sauce, add more hoisin sauce). Serve warm chicken in a lettuce wrap and top with fresh sliced scallions, thinly shaved purple cabbage and sriracha for a little kick!

Want to make this meal more filling?! Add brown rice to the lettuce wrap before topping with scallions, cabbage and sriracha or serve it on the side! We suggest Uncle Ben’s 90 second brown rice. 2 bags should be good to serve 4 people!

 

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The Top 10 FoodtoEat Favorites for Team Lunch Outside the Office

Team lunch is a perk that we suggest all offices get in the habit of doing on a weekly or monthly basis! Not only does it improve your office culture by bringing everyone together, it also provides an avenue for collaboration between departments that can give birth to new projects, solutions to existing issues and re-invent outdated processes. We advocate for it so much so that we even do it ourselves! Every Thursday our team gets together, orders lunch from a restaurant that we love or want to try and discusses everything and anything from work to our personal lives to the most recent Cardi B clapback on Instagram.

However, work can stressful and overwhelming for everyone and sometimes just getting out of your office can give you that reset that you need to renew your focus and handle tough situations. Which is why every once and a while, if we need a pick me up during a tough week or if we’re celebrating a birthday or a big work anniversary, we’ll take team lunch out of the office, venturing to a restaurant to get some time away from our desks! Although going out to lunch may be a normal occurrence for different people in your office, getting the whole team together and sitting down for a meal is a simple way to make each person feel valued. Even if it’s only once a quarter or twice a year, getting away from your desk for an hour or two and interacting with co-workers outside of your office walls can foster a sense of community within your office and keep up morale!

Based on the lunch ventures that we’ve gone on as a office, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 favorite restaurants to go to for team lunch! All of them are great for a group (some more than others depending on the size of your group) and, of course, the food is delicious! Check out some of our favorites below!

1. The Smith. This restaurant is on the pricier side but the food quality is always good and every meal is delicious. There’s always a great atmosphere with friendly staff who are willing to give recommendations if you’re stuck between a burger or pasta. We love the Midtown location because when the weather is nice, they’ll open the doors in the front so you can people watch while you dine. Also, this location is crowded but big enough that when you walk in with a group, you can usually combine a few tables to fit everyone in your party.

2. Carmine’s. This place may get a bad reputation for being too touristy because it’s better known location is in Times Square but being in business almost 30 years, they must be doing something right! This restaurant is awesome for a group because it’s strictly family style Italian, which means you can order for about half of your group and everyone will still get fed (depending on their appetite..) and the food is great as well! You can make a reservation for up to 20 people, which is a huge plus, but both locations do get very busy during lunch and dinner so we highly suggest making a reservation before stopping in. 

3. Blockheads. Blockheads has 5 locations throughout NYC so you’re never too far away from one (unless you’re in the West Village… sorry!). But the best part about this casual restaurant is it’s pricing. $10 lunch for an entree and a soda?! You just can’t beat it. The food isn’t gourmet but it is filling and definitely worth the visit. However, the restaurant does get pretty packed because of their awesome lunch/happy hour deals, so it might be hard to sit down if you have a bigger group. 

4. Westville. Westville is notorious for being crowded, since their tables always seem to be very close together,  which can be frustrating when you’re with a group. But the healthy options make it a fan favorite with our office. The menu is on the pricier side for a casual place but their focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients make it worth the few extra dollars. This place is also well-known for their market veggies and salads, so it’s a great place to try if you have a lot of vegetarians on your team.

5. The Park. The Park is a little more expensive in regards to lunch prices but the ambiance is really what you pay for here. Seating is available in both the main room and the garden, both of which are beautifully decorated; especially the garden where birds will be hanging out in the trees that are nestled every few feet in this enclosed space. As an added bonus, the food at this restaurant is varied and delicious, which makes it even more enticing! However, they cap the size for dining in these areas at 24 people and under, so if your office is 25 or more, this isn’t the best option for a big group.

6. Ippudo. Ippudo is one of the best ramen places in NYC, which is why it had to make our list, despite the fact that this restaurant doesn’t take reservations and the space is pretty limited. The restaurant recommends only a handful of people per table so a smaller team is ideal. However, the service here is always great. The staff is very friendly and welcoming and the food comes out pretty quickly, so even if you do have to wait for a table, your waiting will be rewarded with their insanely delicious noodles and broth! If you don’t have time to wait for a table at one of their locations, Ippudo recently launched Kuro-Obi (the quick service ramen bar), which is their “take out ramen recipe”, available at the Urbanspace on Lexington and 51st Street or the Urbanspace on Vanderbilt and 45th Street. The Urbanspace locations provide much more room for your team and allow you to experience Ippudo’s amazing food in a more comfortable setting.

7. Shake Shack. There are many Shake Shack locations throughout NYC but the one in Madison Square Park is the best for groups because it has so much seating available! Even if you can’t sit in their designated seating area, there is plenty of room on the grass for a team of any size because everything is outside at this location. Combine the space with the drool-worthy burgers, fries and milkshakes that they serve and you’ve got your office’s favorite spot for a cheat meal! Although this isn’t a sit down restaurant, it still ranks high on our list because it’s great food that isn’t too expensive and an interesting option for your team to try together.

8. The Bonnie. This Astoria hot spot is a little bit outside Manhattan but worth the trip for it’s delicious bar food and outdoor seating. It’s quieter than most places in Manhattan so taking over an area in the back with a larger group shouldn’t be a problem. The menu isn’t as extensive as we’d like it to be but everything we’ve tried has been amazing. The only downside is that it’s only open for lunch during the week on Fridays, 12 – 4PM. So you might be required to make it a late lunch and stay for their happy hour, which starts at 3PM, and try their wide array of beers and cocktails!

9. The Frying Pan. Technically this isn’t a restaurant… it’s actually a historic lighthouse that was built in 1929. But it does have a kitchen on board that creates delicious small plates, street eats, burgers, salads, fries, and of course, traditional fish & chips and lobster rolls for customers to order and enjoy a table! Because you can order at the counter and then sit down, this is a great place for a group to get a bunch of tables together and enjoy the beautiful views this spot offers. Again, it’s not a sit down restaurant so the vibe is a little more laid back but it tends to get pretty crowded the after work crowd descends so it’s better to go early and leave early. Also, disclaimer about The Frying Pan: it sits at Pier 66, on the water. So if you have any team members that get motion sickness or don’t do well on boats, we don’t suggest trying this out!

10. Roberta’s. Would this list even be complete without a staple pizza spot?! Roberta’s in Brooklyn has the best of both world with indoor and outdoor seating to be as formal or relaxed as you’d like. The indoor area has an option for group dining with a prix fixe menu that centers around family-style portions. However, it’s only available Monday-Thursday at 11AM, 12PM or 1PM. If you’re looking for something cheaper and more laid back, you can order from their take out counter next door and eat at the picnic tables outside which are first come first serve. To avoid half of your team standing, it’s better to get there early and take over a few tables! Or, if you can’t get to Brooklyn, Roberta’s pop up at the new Urbanspace on Lexington and 51st Street does the trick, although it lacks the hipster ambiance that the real location provides.

 

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August Vendor of the Month: Vien

August is here and we’re really committed to soaking up the remaining summer months! Which is why we’re keeping our clean eating kick going with our August Vendor of the Month: Vien!

Famous for it’s BYO bowl that includes a variety of healthy bases, clean proteins, unique garnishes and delicious sauces, Vien has recently launched their new plate menu, which mixes their well known entrees with some new sides and salads, designed with love by their team! With this new plate menu package you get a choice of one protein, one grain or salad and one side to create the meal that’s perfect for you. Mix and match until you’ve tried them all! Vien’s ability to create healthy items that are delicious, refreshing and fun makes it a new meal every time!

Choice of One Protein:

Roasted Lemongrass Chicken

Pan Roasted Ginger Hanger Steak

Turmeric Roasted Tofu

Slow Cooked Heritage Pork

Choice of One Grain or Salad:

Brown Rice

Jasmine Rice

Seasonal Green Salad

Shredded Cucumber and Carrot Noodle Salad

Choice of One Side:

Green Papaya Salad

Kale Salad

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli

Honey Roasted Heirloom Carrots

**Please note: 15 person minimum required for catering orders**

Vien Store Photo

Vien was founded in 2013 as a casual Southeast Asian eatery with healthy and delicious hawker-inspired street fare. A focus on fresh ingredients and authentic tastes, Vien strives to bring the vibrant colors and exotic flavors of the countries in Southeast Asia (such as Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, etc.), to New York City.

Every part of the food creation process at Vien is focused around four key principles. 

  1. Food should be healthy and delicious.
  2. Every dish should be balanced and only use the highest quality ingredients.
  3. Love our customers and respect our neighbors.
  4. Cultivate sustainable relationships with the local food community and our purveyors.

From the person cooking the food in the restaurant to the person delivering the food to your office, these principles are the groundwork for everything that Vien does: the food, the service and the relationship with it’s community. Guided by these key principles, Vien stands out from its competitors by creating purposeful, mission-driven food that has made its mark on the West Village.

Now, Vien is preparing for the beginning of a new journey with the launch of their second location in Manhattan, opening in Midtown this month! We’re so excited to see this local business thrive in a new market and feed the inhabitants of Midtown Manhattan!

 

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Healthy Meal Prep at the Office

It’s hard to keep yourself on a healthy routine, especially during the summer months when the warm weather is constantly calling you outside to all of NYC’s amazing restaurants. With all of the delicious foods that we love to indulge in being available to us 24/7, it gets difficult to maintain a balanced lifestyle when it comes to food. However, it’s important to feed your body the nutritious foods that it needs and that keep you energized during the workday. The best way to make sure that you’re getting the sustenance that you need and to avoid unhealthy foods is to meal prep! The task may seem daunting at first but once you make it a part of your regime and get into the habit of meal prepping, it will make creating meals and eating healthy quicker, easier, more enjoyable and your body will thank you for it!

Make a Schedule: It’s important to be realistic about your schedule and figure out how many days a week you’ll hold yourself accountable to prep the meals that you’ll be eating at the office. If you know that you’re usually on the go on Fridays, focus on meal prepping Monday-Thursday and bringing options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks that you can eat at your desk. Pick one a day a week that you’ll go grocery shopping (we suggest Saturday or Sunday) and plan out your meals for the entire week so that you know exactly what you need when you go. Dedicating a specific time each week to get all your shopping done will keep you from getting overwhelmed and is much easier than trying to plan something out for the next day.

Our Suggestions for Healthy Meals: Every person has different tastes in what they like to eat and how they like to eat. Some people love a big breakfast in the morning and a small lunch and others skip breakfast altogether and go straight to a heavier lunch. We’ve found that skipping meals only makes us hangry, so we suggest prepping breakfast, lunch and 1-2 snacks throughout the day to keep you feeling full. However, it’s important to find what’s right for you and customize your meal prep based on your preferences! Below are some ideas of healthy foods we’ve found that are really easy to transport to the office and store in a fridge or at your desk until you’re ready to eat!

Breakfast: Oatmeal; Yogurt Parfaits; Green Smoothies; Overnight Oats; Fruit Salad; Egg Frittatas; Whole Wheat Breakfast Wraps; Avocado Toast; Breakfast Grain Bowls

Lunch: Quinoa with Grilled Chicken and Veggies; Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry; Lettuce or Whole Wheat Wraps; Salad; Brown Rice or Quinoa Bowls; Assorted Bean and Veggie Salad (no greens); Sweet Potato or Zucchini Noodles; Salmon with Lentils and Veggies; Chickpea Pasta Primavera

Snacks: Hummus and Veggies; Hard-boiled Eggs; Fruit; Nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts); Granola Bars; Dried Fruit; Roasted Chickpeas; Trail Mix; Whole Grain or Veggie Crackers; Air-Popped Popcorn; Almond Butter with Fruit or Veggies; Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds; Granola; Dark Chocolate 

Keep Yourself Hydrated!!!!: One thing that we do suggest that is crucial to a healthy lifestyle is keeping yourself hydrated! The recommended amount of water that you drink per day is eight 8 oz glasses or about 2 liters, which most people don’t drink! Drinking water is the best way to get rid of waste in your body, help your body burn calories and keep you feeling full. People often confuse thirst with hunger and start snacking when their body is really craving water, since our body depends on water to survive. Drinking water during and between meals will make you full faster and keep you full longer. If you don’t want to be chugging water all day, green tea is another great option for keeping yourself hydrated between meals. It has a bunch of antioxidants and nutrients that your body craves and also improves brain function!

Think Outside the Box: The best thing about meal prepping is that you can get creative with the meals that you make. If you really love a specific fruit or vegetable, check out some recipes that include it so that you can find other ways to incorporate it into more of your meals! Interested in making zucchini noodles as a pasta replacement for lunch?! Research how it’s cooked and give it a shot! There are so many different ideas available to you for healthy meals that you can test out and see what you like or don’t like! You don’t want to get bored with the same meals day after day so be committed to trying out new foods that are delicious and still good for you!

Be Kind to Yourself: Even with your meal prep schedule and your best intentions, there will still be days that you just need pizza or tacos or fries for lunch. And then there will be some weeks where life/work gets really crazy and the meal prep just ain’t gonna happen at all. And that’s okay! A healthy meal prep also includes a healthy mindset, so it’s key to learn to accept when you slip up and move on from it rather than beat yourself up. Treat each individual meal or snack as a clean slate and a new opportunity to get back on your plan. But remember that you know your body and what it needs, so splurge every once and a while so that you don’t ever feel like you’re depriving yourself of something that your body wants. Be proud of the hard work that you put into your meal prep and allow yourself those cheat meals that you need! With food, it’s all about creating the balance that works best for you!