Food Choices

Everything You Didn’t Know About Backyard Barbecue in Texas

History is muddled where the word “barbecue” is concerned. We don’t know exactly from where it was derived, but many historians theorize that the modern word came from the Taino word “barabicu” which described their own sacred fire pits. We now know that the word was stolen by Spanish explorers as early as the 16th century and transformed into “barbacoa.” They used it to describe cooking done on a structure above a fire pit, similar to today’s notion of backyard barbecue. We stole it for ourselves less than a century later. (more…)

4 Great Gifts for the Caffeine Lover in Your Life

We’re all at least mildly obsessed with caffeine, but everyone has a friend who basically makes caffeine a staple of their personal brand. This means that they would probably be extremely happy to receive some caffeinated gifts at every occasion. Here are some ways to get creative.

Online Coffee Company Subscription

Many trends are driven by e-commerce and the capabilities we have online, which also opens up new gift-giving options within many industries. One of these industries affected is the coffee industry, which is good to know when thinking of coffee lover gifts. Moustache Coffee Club is offering monthly subscriptions where coffee can be delivered to your door. Some companies are already doing this for wine, but nothing compares to having the necessity of caffeine delivered straight to you.

Coffee fanatics would love nothing more than to be graced with a new coffee to try every month. E-commerce makes it possible for us all to be coffee connoisseurs with these monthly caffeine fixes.

Coffee Themed Gift Basket

An excuse to give a gift is an excuse to buy a bunch of coffee flavors, scones, and coffee flavoring for a gift basket. Caffeine fanatics will love the variety and thought put into a custom basket.

Some coffee fans like to try out different flavors or add-ins, but might not purchase these ingredients themselves. This gift basket is a good place to try out new flavors and fancy coffee accessories such as milk steamers or stirrers. A gift basket also is a great place to throw in a mug that matches the gift receivers personality, making this a personal and functional gift idea.

Tea-Themed Gift

Tea is a calmer caffeinated beverage to focus on and there are so many gifts in the tea industry that caffeine lovers will be obsessed with. Some companies have great branding for their teas and the amazing flavors to support the packaging. An example of a brand that makes great gifts is Tea Forte. The packaging is adorable and unique, which is even more reason to give it as a housewarming gift or a care package. Tea is comforting and when it’s cute, it’s even better.

Another way to gift tea is by finding a beautiful tea set. This will also set you up for future gifts, so this is a good idea for a tea-loving family member or friend. You can gift a tea set and then give them teas and extra accessories to go with the set as holidays and birthdays progress.

Gift Cards to Different Coffee Shops

Starbucks isn’t the only coffee shop out there. Buying gift cards to local coffee shops shows an attention to detail and gives the gift receiver a chance to see new places. Small gift cards to a variety of local coffee shops will allow them to explore their city and test coffees from around different areas. Gift cards might seem like an easy out in the unwritten gift giving book, but they can be thoughtful with the right idea in mind. Even just giving a gift card to their favorite coffee shop shows that you pay attention to their lifestyle and want them to enjoy their next few coffees on you.

In conclusion, the best gifts are the ones that allow your caffeine loving family members and friends to branch out and try new products, coffee shops, or tea brands. There are endless gifts in this industry that would make many gift receivers happy.

Foods of North Carolina

There are a lot of good reasons to visit a state like North Carolina. For one thing, the weather in a Southern state like North Carolina is typically warm and sunny. Winters can get cold, sure, but there’s very little snow. In Charlotte, the state’s biggest city, the average annual snowfall is less than 4 inches. There are Northern states that can easily beat that total in a couple of hours. North Carolina also has plenty of great, relaxing beaches to visit. But even if you don’t like beaches and don’t mind snow, there’s one other big reason to visit North Carolina, and that’s the exquisite Southern cuisine found all over the state.

Meats, Sweets, and More

The Tar Heel State has foods that can satisfy both your sweet and savory taste buds. Dunkin’ Donuts dominates the Northeast corridor, and the West Coast loves Starbucks, but in the South, Krispy Kreme donuts are the first and best option. Krispy Kreme opened its first location in Old Salem, North Carolina, so visitors shouldn’t have any trouble finding fresh-glazed donuts when they’re traveling through the state. Just make sure to get there early, since there’s often a line, and there’s nothing quite like donuts that are hot off the conveyor belt. If you’d prefer something with a little less sugar, you can go for some grits, but know that grits work best when they’re absolutely slathered with butter. Southern food is delicious, but it’s rarely mistaken for health food.

Once you’ve got breakfast out of the way, it’s time to consider having barbecue for lunch or dinner (or both). The kind of barbecue you can get will depend in large part on what part of North Carolina you’re in. There are two major types of North Carolina barbecue: Lexington-style and Eastern-style. Eastern-style barbecue is more common in the, well, eastern part of the state. The barbecue sauce is made with vinegar, and the meat can come from several parts of the pig. Lexington-style is sometimes referred to as Western-style barbecue because it’s more common in Western North Carolina. It has vinegar in the sauce, but it also includes ketchup or tomatoes. It’s got a sweeter taste than the vinegar-only stuff, and it’s also typically made only with pork shoulder. There are some definite differences, but experts say the two sauce styles have more in common than, for example, the sauces in Kansas City or Memphis. So if you’re not sure which style to pick, why not try both? It may require a bit more travel, but your mouth will thank you later. Whatever you pick, make sure to wash it down with a big glass of sweet tea.

North Carolina On a Diet

Of course, not everyone who visits the South can afford to go crazy every meal. Some people can chug Cheerwine and inhale barbecue until they step on their return flight, but other people have dietary restrictions. If you’re allergic to tomatoes, you need to make absolutely sure that you aren’t going to eat barbecue sauce with any kind of tomato product in it. If you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape, you may want to splurge a little without feeling like have to start from scratch once you return home.

This is where your smartphone will be a lifesaver. You can use your phone to look up restaurants and, in many cases, find detailed menus online. If you can’t find the information you need, then give the restaurant a call and ask because texting while driving is illegal in North Carolina. Using hands-free adapters, which can be found at multiple AT&T Stores in North Carolina, can also be helpful.  

Miami Is A Cultural Tossed Salad

If you think of America as a melting pot, then Miami is a tossed salad.

The term “American culture” is hard to define, and that’s because the culture was built by so many different peoples from all over the world. While we generally have English and Hollywood and baseball as common cultural bonds, America’s culture is really more defined by the individual trying to define it. You can go almost anywhere in America and find Italian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Asian restaurants, and good old-fashioned American hamburger joints. (more…)

What Food Do You Associate With Lawyers?

We give professions a favorite food based on the way we perceive them. When you think of a cop with a donut, you think of a beer-bellied traffic cop sitting in his cruiser harassing people for basic traffic infractions. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it’s also the fruit of knowledge–that’s why we give it to teachers. Whereas the donut is a sign of society’s lack of respect for one institution, the apple is its sign of respect for another. If that’s the way it works, then what food would society give lawyers? (more…)

Harold’s Famous Deli

Do you ever resist going somewhere mainly because people keep telling you that you “have” to go? That the food is so much better there than anywhere else? Everyone has heard about Harold’s New York Deli in New Jersey, with their, literally, foot-tall sandwiches and matzo balls that are larger than softballs. They compare it to Katz’s! Can you believe it? I don’t care how big the portions are, how can you compare any place to the number one deli in New York City?

Maybe I’m a little biased. Not Manhattan versus Jersey biased. But, on top of Katz having what everyone knows is the best pastrami on the planet, this is where they did the famous faking it scene in When Harry Met Sally: there’s even a plague on the table where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sat. Okay, so maybe it’s not just about the food, which is why I decided Harold’s deserved a chance.

I’d read somewhere that when you walk in you feel like you’re in that movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but I didn’t really get it. Holy cow! Hearing about and seeing pictures of the portions at Harold’s cannot prepare you for walking down the aisle and having patrons’ meals tower over you. It might even be a little frightening if the smells weren’t so tantalizing that all you can really think about is getting your hands on a menu and ordering one of everything!

Of course, the portions aren’t the only thing a bit daunting at Harold’s. Wait until you see the prices. Those huge corned beef and pastrami sandwiches were $60. The triple decker was a whopping $89! They may look and smell incredible, but when was the last time you remember weighing eating lunch or making your mortgage payment? The good news, once the faintness has passed, is that those sandwiches are meant to feed you and as many of your friends that are lucky enough to be with you. Harold makes sure you have loaves of freshly baked bread and a generous (surprise!) portion of slightly sweet and delicious coleslaw, as well as unlimited access to what is billed as “the world’s largest pickle bar”. If you love pickles, this is heaven! What’s more, there are no extra plate fees or upcharges for sharing. By the time you split the bill, not only will you be happily full and satisfied, but you will likely pay less than what you did some place that didn’t come anywhere close to being as good.

I guess on everyone’s first time, the pastrami (always my personal favorite) or corned beef just has to be ordered. How can you have regrets about ordering something that is so tender, so juicy and full of flavor that it simply melts in your mouth? Normally, you couldn’t. But Harold’s isn’t your normal place. The desserts, which are beyond huge, are said to be wonderful, and they certainly look it. The pancakes and homemade cheese blintzes are going to call to me until I find the chance to get there for breakfast. I adore BLTs and cannot wait to try Harold’s, which looks like it must have at least a pound of bacon on it. Even the matzo ball soup looks delicious, and I have never really been a fan.

Listen, to me: I sound like all of those people saying that you “have” to try Harold’s. Guess what? They were right.

Tourist Trap Restaurants That Are Good?

Manhattan residents tend to stay away from known tourist traps. Not only are they busy, but the food isn’t usually all that great either. Some destinations break the mold, though, and so we’ve compiled a list of tourist trap restaurants that are popular with everyone and serve great food to boot. Here are the best restaurants the city has to offer!

  1. Katz’s Delicatessen is known for its pastrami, and for good reason. If you live nearby, chances are you’ve come to expect a lot of hustle and bustle during the day. But come closing time, you know to sneak in as the crowds die.
  2. If you’re looking for some exquisite baked goods, head on over to Veniero’s Pastry. If you can get past the travelers, you’ll find tasty gelato, tiramisu, and sfogliatelle. Once again, your best bet is closing time.
  3. Everyone loves a French-style restaurant, and you’ll find the best at Balthazar. If you want to order food without waiting in line, ask for a seat at the bar. You’re less likely to get stuck behind noisy outsiders.
  4. Eataly is exactly what it sounds like: a place for traditional Italian fare. It’s not far from One World Trade Center, which is part of the reason it’s so popular with tourists. If you’re looking to Italian bread, cheese, pizza, or pasta, then Eataly is the place for you.
  5. Everyone loves a good cronut–except the suckers who have never tried one. It’s a specialized combination of donut and croissant, which is what all the tourists order. Those who have the advantage of living in the area can keep coming back to try the other items on the menu. They’re all amazing.
  6. Gray’s Papaya is popular with everyone. The Recession Special provides two delicious dogs and a refreshing beverage (flavored soda, anyone?). If you’re young and local, then you’ve probably ventured to Gray’s Papaya after a drink or four.
  7. If you’re in the neighborhood, then check out Nathan’s Famous for some exceptionally tasty hot dogs. It’s an experience you need to have.
  8. If you’re a carnivore, then you can’t miss the Peter Luger Steak House. You’ll find everything from the traditional fare such as a mouth-watering burger, to more elaborate offerings like slabs of bacon you won’t find offered the same way anywhere else.
  9. The Levain Bakery offers a simple selection of world-class cookies. They’re expensive, but the chewy gooey taste is well worth the extra cash.

NYC Dessert Bucket List

You’re in love with New York City for an endless number of reasons, but one of the highest on the list is its delectable selection of desserts. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent the night out on the town or you’re just looking for a slice of heaven from the comfort of your home (grab and go), NYC is the place to be if you love tasty treats. Here is a bucket list of our favorites!

  1. Holey Cream’s donut ice cream sandwiches are something you desperately need to try. Not only can you build your own donut, but you can also opt to turn the thing into a tempting ice cream sandwich. This isn’t something you’ll find done the same way anywhere else.
  2. If you’ve never been to the Dominique Ansel Bakery, now’s the time. Their milk and cookie shot is shockingly unique, and it’s a combination everyone already loves. It’s a cookie-shaped shot glass with milk poured inside. Be careful how you eat/drink this dessert experience, otherwise, it might get a little bit messy! Be prepared to wait in a long, long line.
  3. If you can’t decide between cookie or cookie dough, then Schmackary’s is the place for you. You’ll find cookie dough cookies, which are exactly what they sound like: cookies with cookie dough slathered on top.
  4. The milkshakes at Black Tap are probably the best looking dessert you’ve ever seen, and you’ll probably feel the gastrointestinal distress before you take your first bite. The milkshake is topped with every sugary candy you can imagine, from M&Ms to cotton candy to whole cookies.
  5. Take a trip to the Levain Bakery for a wholesome chocolate chip cookie that you’ll dream about for years to come. These gargantuan treats are perfectly gooey on the inside, and crispy on the outside: or as we like to say, perfect.
  6. If you’re in the mood for something a little more on the adventurous side, then check out the banana bread pudding cups at Magnolia Bakery. This establishment is famous for its array of mouth-watering cupcakes, but the pudding is something else that really sets it apart from the common fare you’ll find everywhere else.
  7. It’s hard to find a good macaron in the states, but Laduree knows how to get the recipe just right. Better yet, you can grab a box of cookies for home.
  8. If you can’t choose between a proper taste of French cuisine or aromatic Japanese flavor, then why not combine the two? At Eight Turn Crepe, you can try the traditional French crepe accompanied with exotic Japanese flavors. Then again, you can also just go with the usual topping like chocolate or strawberry.

NYC Food Bucket List

Whether you live in NYC or you’re just visiting, the city is home to some of the greatest chefs and best food the world has to offer–and you shouldn’t be quick to pass it up. If you’re in the mood for some great eats, then check out this awesome NYC food bucket list for some fresh ideas and places you may not have heard about through the grapevine.

  1. The Recession Special from Gray’s Papaya is a delicious double-dog like no other. It’s only about five bucks, and the topping has a distinct flavor with garlic and onions.
  2. If you’ve never had octopus, then it’s time to get adventurous. The grilled octopus at Taverna Kyclades is slathered with olive oil and lemon and is a lot more sumptuous than similar fare you’ll get someplace else.
  3. Try the pierogi at Veselka in East Village if you’ve never had them before. If the option is available, go with the short rib special.
  4. What’s life without dessert? The chocolate chip cookies available from Levain Bakery will leave your mouth watering both before and after. Just be prepared to stand in long lines to get your fix.
  5. The spicy cumin lamb noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods are a delicacy you won’t find anywhere else. The lamb-noodle combo is seasoned with no fewer than thirty different spices. Yum!
  6. If you’re in the mood for pizza, then you could do no better than grabbing a pie from Di Fara Pizza, where Dom DeMarco works his magic.
  7. If you want something a little different, then check out Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano. The crispy thin crust pizzas have been called the best in the world.
  8. If you’re looking for comfort food done just right, then try the Chicken Hash at 21 Club. If you’re in a different kind of mood, then knock a few back after your food is served.
  9. You can’t leave NYC without trying a slice of cheesecake from Junior’s. You’ve never had a dessert as sweet as this.
  10. If you’ve never heard of the cronut, then you’re in for something extra special. This croissant-donut offered by Chef Dominique Ansel in the Dominique Ansel Bakery is one of the most creative breakfast-desserts you’ll ever have the honor to taste.

Honorable Mention:

Everyone love Italian, and no food bucket list would be complete without Tra Di Noi’s Lasagna alla Bolognese. If you love meat and traditional Italian food, then this is the place for you.

Best Places to Get BBQ

What do Harley’s and barbeque have in common? We don’t usually associate motorcycles with pulled pork or baby back ribs, but it was at the annual Harley Rendezvous Classic motorcycle rally that the idea for the award-winning Dinosaur BBQ was birthed. Biker rallies, shows, and festivals are known for being a lot of fun, but the food choices have not always been the best. The Dinosaur BBQ founders decided to change that and spent five years traveling the motorcycle show circuit and perfecting what Good Morning America would say was the nation’s Number One BBQ. Eventually, they took their barbeque off the road and settled in Syracuse, New York.

Dinosaur BBQ is classic southern barbeque, which usually means that the main type of sauce has a vinegar base. The best places to get BBQ are often based on the sauce, which is what has traditionally distinguished the barbeque in one part of the country from another. There are four main types: vinegar and pepper, light tomato, heavy or sweet tomato and mustard.

Some say that what makes South Carolina barbeque so unique is the sauce; what is often called Carolina Gold, due to it being mustard based. Actually, though, South Carolina is the only state where you can find all four of the primary barbeque sauces in the same state, often on the same menu. What folks in the Palmetto State will tell you about their barbecue is that it is family-based. The smoking methods and the secret recipes for the sauces are passed down from one generation to the next. Maybe that’s why South Carolina has its own BBQ Trail that snakes around and across the entire state showing the location of more than 200 barbeque restaurants.  

Different techniques and different sauces make barbeque more than a menu choice; for many, it’s a passion. Popular barbeque restaurants all over the country consistently have such strong followings that the line is always out the door. Some of the ones you won’t want to miss if you are ever within driving distance include:

Murphysboro, Illinois – 17th Street BBQ – located in a town with a population of fewer than 8,000 people, this restaurant features cherry and applewood-smoked baby back ribs that Bon Appétit Magazine named “The best in the U.S.”

Lockhart, Texas – Black’s Barbecue, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market – making a pilgrimage to this small Texas town southeast of Austin is said to be a barbeque rite of passage. Well worth booking a room because all three places are legendary!

Memphis, Tennessee – Central BBQ – people in Memphis love their barbeque and have voted Central BBQ their number one pick 10 times. You don’t have to try the barbeque bologna on your first visit, but, whatever your choice, do not pass on having it topped off with the mustard slaw.

Austin, Texas – Franklin BBQ – Franklin BBQ may be one of the few things in life that can inspire the question “can something be too good?”. If you are willing to brave the three to five-hour wait in line for your turn, the reward will be what Bon Appétit named Best Barbecue Joint in America and about which renowned chef Anthony Bourdain said, “It is the best. It is the finest brisket I’ve ever had.”

Brooklyn, New York – Hometown Bar-B- Que – barbeque may have gotten a slow start in New York City but now that it has arrived, there are excellent choices, including this favorite in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Kansas City, Kansas – Joe’s Kansas City BBQ – the people of Kansas believe that the best barbeque in the world is found in Kansas and, while others may disagree, few of them will do so while eating at Joe’s. Started by Jeff and Joy Stehney winning a barbeque contest and eventually set up shop in a tiny neighborhood gas station and convenience store, the Stehney’s have Kansans continually lined up for ribs that are said to be “life-changing”.  

Our list is just the tip of the iceberg. Although we tend to have our favorites, Americans love to barbeque in all of its many different and delicious forms. Sometimes half the fun is seeking out and trying new places.