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Friday, April 27, 2012

Selecting the Best Foodservice Equipment Leads to Success

When it comes to food service equipment, you've got to choose the very best. There are a number of ways making an educated choice can help you; ultimately, though, the choices you make affect how successful your business is. Let's take a look.
Restaurant equipment, such as slicers, ranges, and refrigerators are the backbone of any busy kitchen. Selecting the best you can afford translates to greater efficiency and better quality, which in turn leads to greater customer satisfaction. Everything is connected!
The same can be said for kitchen supplies; without efficient tools that function properly, kitchen staff cannot do their jobs effectively. For example, a cheap knife doesn't work nearly as well as a properly weighted and balanced chef's knife does, and a slippery cutting board can't hold a candle to quality boards like the Safe-T-Grip cutting board. Simple things really do make a difference, even when it comes to such items as disposables - the right plastic wrap, for instance, can help your kitchen operate much more smoothly. 
Tabletop items make a real impression on your customers, telling them that you care about every aspect of their visit to your establishment. Selecting flatware and dinnerware that looks appealing and feels sturdy enhances the customer experience, saying just as much about quality as the food you serve does.
Whether you run a restaurant, bar, or other establishment, or if you are involved in the catering business, you need quality foodservice supplies you can trust. You also need great prices on all the things you use every day, plus, you need a quick and simple buying experience that allows you to focus on the work you really love. Offering the very best in brand-name restaurant and foodservice supplies, plus outstanding customer service and superb pricing, we make it our mission to help you succeed.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Product Feature: Polar Pete Snow Cone Machine

Polar Pete Sno-Kone Machine at

Fun, funky, and completely unique, the Polar Pete Snow Cone Machine features a grinning white polar bear garbed in a bright blue scarf, with arms outstretched in welcome. In his left hand, he holds a stack of paper cones ready to be filled with shaved ice and flavored syrup; his right hand serves as a portal for ice ready to be shaved and added to his clear tummy, which allows hot, thirsty customers to see the shaved ice that's calling their names. A favorite wherever he goes, Polar Pete is the perfect addition to your concession stand and one of our most popular pieces of Concession Equipment. Let's take a closer look at just what makes him so special.
Pete is Durable.
While Polar Pete is definitely good looking, he's also quite a tough cookie. The Polar Pete snow cone machine is manufactured of scuff resistant, yet lightweight polymer material, plus he is equipped with a commercial grade motor that blasts ice into delectable frosty bits. He comes with a two-year parts warranty. Pete is built to meet the harsh demands placed on Restaurant Equipment.
Pete is Popular
Polar Pete is designed to attract attention, and he does just that. Anytime merchandising is important, Polar Pete gets right to work, attracting kids of all ages, encouraging repeat business, and increasing profits. He is almost three feet tall, so he's easy to see, even from a distance.
Pete is Easy to Operate
Polar Pete runs on a standard 15-amp plug, and he's super easy to use, so even if you have kids involved in a fundraising effort, they can help make snow cones with Polar Pete's assistance. 
Pete is Perfect
Most of us can't say this about ourselves, but Polar Pete is just perfect. A customer favorite in the Sno-Kone Machines and Supplies arenas, here at Cook's Direct, he's perfect for party rentals, he's an outstanding addition to fair, carnival, and circus concessions, and he is perfectly at home at any other event or gathering. Give the Polar Pete snow cone machine a chance - he won't do you wrong!
Not sure about adding Snow Cones to your Concession stand offering?  Let us help with some Easy Tips to Set up your own Sno-Kone Business

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Set Up Your Own Sno-Kone Business

Photo credit: Elite Private Parties

Snow cones are super popular, plus, they are incredibly profitable. People of all ages love them, and why not? They are fat free, and they can be made sugar free. They're superbly refreshing, easy to enjoy with just one hand, and snow cones are fun to enjoy. If you are interested in having fun and making a profit by setting up your own Sno-Kone business, you'll need some supplies, beginning with a snow cone machine of your own.
There are several different types of snow cone machines available at different price points. One of the most popular is called the Polar Pete - shaped like a friendly polar bear, this machine attracts attention wherever it goes. Others include large capacity machines and even hand-cranked snow cone machines that don't require electricity for operation, so they can go anywhere. The more economical Snow Cone machines cost only a few hundred dollars to start, although some of the best models can cost a little more than a thousand dollars. Still, when you stop to think about the number of snow cones you can sell in the space of just a single afternoon, you'll see that an investment like this is certain to pay off very quickly.
Snow cones are a very simple treat, and the supplies you'll need to start up your own snow cone business are simple, too. First of all, you'll need a cart unless you already have a booth or other location set up. Second, you'll need paper cones to hold the shaved ice and syrup and possibly a stand for the cones, and third, you'll need little straws for sipping up the tasty, refreshing goodness from the bottom of the cones. Finally, you'll need napkins.
Offering a variety of flavors and color combinations, and sending your customers out into the crowd with good-looking snow cones is a sure way to draw attention. With just a few basic supplies, you can start raking in the profits and provide a valuable service.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fun Facts about Snow Cones

                                                                               Photo credit: Simmon Party Rentals

You probably remember enjoying colorful, refreshing snow cones when you were a kid, and if you have kids, you probably enjoy providing them with the same frosty treat - as a kind of excuse to enjoy one yourself, maybe! As it turns out, snow cones, Sno-Kones, Hawaiian shave ice (yes, it's shave - not shaved), and Snow Balls have quite an interesting history. Here are some fun facts about snow cones.
Ancient Japanese people enjoyed making snow-based desserts that are a lot like the snow cones we enjoy today. They sometimes used snow, but they would also use a device like a grater to grate big blocks of ice into frosty treats to be enjoyed on hot days.
If you love Italian ice and want to offer it, be sure to add the flavoring to the ice itself (which you'll need to make) instead of adding flavored syrup like you would with a regular snow cone.
Last but not least, rainbow snow cones are fun for kids and adults alike, and just as sprinkles and other toppings are popular additions to ice cream cones, they're great on top of snow cones, too. Chocolate sauce, popular little candies like Nerds, Pop Rocks, Skittles, sprinkles, and other delightful little goodies are great additions to snow cones. 
You can buy ready-made snow cone flavorings, or you can make your own flavors with a simple syrup base. If you're setting up a snow cone stand, make sure you create interesting names to go with your flavors - no matter what they are.
Another name for this higher end treat is granita. Any way you say it, it's delicious and profitable.
Not all snow cone flavors are sweet. Some people enjoy sour or savory flavors, like dill pickle, of all things. While this is popular in South Texas, it's unheard of in Lebanon, where Catholic teens are given snow cones as a treat just before they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Last but not least, rainbow snow cones are fun for kids and adults alike, and just as sprinkles and other toppings are popular additions to ice cream cones, they're great on top of snow cones, too. Chocolate sauce, popular little candies like Nerds, Pop Rocks, Skittles, sprinkles, and other delightful little goodies are great additions to snow cones. 
You can buy ready-made snow cone flavorings, or you can make your own flavors with a simple syrup base. If you're setting up a snow cone stand, make sure you create interesting names to go with your flavors - no matter what they are.

Choosing the Right Disposable Flatware Makes all the Difference

When it comes to disposable flatware, you can either settle for flimsy, substandard plastic flatware that will snap the second a customer applies pressure, or sturdy, appealing flatware that functions properly and offers some additional benefits at the same time. If you have ever been on the receiving end of plastic ware that delivers headaches and not much more, then you know just how important making the right choice is. After all, it's pretty hard to enjoy eating when every bite you take involves needless struggle. Let's take a look at some of the most innovative and appealing disposable flatware on the market.
If you want to make a great impression and enjoy the convenience of disposable flatware all at the same time, look no further than WNA Reflection flatware. It looks just like real silverware, plus it has a sturdy feel in the hands. With the strength to stand up to everyday dining tasks like cutting foods and piercing meats, and offering great looks in the bargain, this flatware is surprisingly economical. An outstanding choice for anyone who offers catering services or high end takeout, this plastic flatware is great for special occasions or any time appearance matters.
Recyclable Plastic Flatware
For a long time, all one could do with plastic flatware after using it was to throw it away, all the while feeling the specter of guilt hovering overhead. Now, many brands of plastic flatware are recyclable, including some economy brands like FSE disposable flatware. 
One of the most exciting new plastic ware options is compostable or biodegradeable flatware. It looks and feels just like regular disposable flatware, but it is compostable. In fact, it will break down in a properly maintained compost system within the space of just 100 days, after which it can be added to a garden or flowerbed for healthier soil and a greener future. That's something all of us can live with.
As you can see, no matter what your needs, there is disposable flatware to suit. With affordable options that provide dependable service, you're sure to find exactly what you need when you shop with us when it comes to disposable flatware or any other type of catering disposables.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tips for Making the Best Rice with Your Rice Maker

As long ago as 2,500 BC, rice was a staple food for many people throughout the world. Today, rice continues to be a favorite, whether it is eaten plain or transformed into culinary marvels such as sushi or cozy rice pudding. Long ago, people had to put a lot of work into making their rice; today, thanks to the rice maker, perfect rice is easier than ever to make. Here are some helpful tips for getting the very best performance possible from your rice cooker, whether you are making ten cups of rice or making sixty cups of rice.
First, it's important that you understand how rice makers work their magic. It's pretty easy - boiling water is transformed into steam that is ultimately absorbed by dry grains of rice, puffing them up to perfection while maintaining the optimal temperature. The temperature itself is one of the keys to success; you never end up with under or overcooked rice when you use a rice maker.
Second, it is crucial that you measure out the proper amount of water to get the right texture. Some types of rice require more water than others, so be sure you follow the package instructions to the letter. After all, years of testing has gone into that product information. Don't forget to wash the rice before you use it! This important step is usually listed on package instructions, but it's often overlooked. Washing rice removes excess starch, ensuring you get great results.
Third, remember to fluff your rice after you have cooked it. This helps ensure any excess moisture is redistributed, and it helps to distribute any seasonings you may have added as well. Use a large fork to accomplish this; some rice makers, like the Panasonic rice maker, come with suitable forks included.  A rice napkin can make it easier to transfer the rice from your rice maker to your serving plate or bowl too.  A traditional Rice Paddle is also made to stir rice and serve rice and handles the rice delicately and not damage the fluffy grains.
After that, all you need to do is present the rice beautifully - your customers are sure to appreciate the extra effort!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Having a Hot Dog - Hawaiian Style!

Call it a hula dog, puka dog or a Hawaiian style hot dog; whatever you do, make sure you try this new and fantastic way of enjoying hot dogs. Combining the savory, salty deliciousness of the classic hot dog with exquisite toppings inspired by the flavors of the Hawaiian Islands, these hot dogs are taking concessions everywhere by storm. Let's take a look at just what makes Hawaiian style hot dogs so fantastic.
image courtesy of Attractions Magazine

Fruity Sauces
Travel to the Hawaiian Islands, or visit an island style restaurant, and you're sure to encounter some delicious fruity sauces that make outstanding use of tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and passion fruit. In Hawaii, you'll find these sauces on fish and meat, and served beside breads, too - now, more increasingly, you'll find them adorning hot dogs. While the concept of a fruity sauce on top of a hot dog, or inside the toasted bun,  might seem a little odd at first, once you have a taste, you'll be hooked for sure.
Hula Sauces
Hula sauces are spicy, and they are meant to meld the sweet flavors of the fruit with the savory taste of the hot dog itself. While some Hawaiian hot dogs come with sauces that combine fruit and spice, offering separate hula sauces and fruit sauces allows customers to dress their dogs to taste. Popular hula sauces incorporate such ingredients as hot peppers and garlic, and they are meant to be slathered on top of hot dogs just before the fruit sauce is added. 
Use the Best Ingredients for Even Better Customer Satisfaction
While you already know that you ought to be loading your hot dog machine with the best franks available, you might not have considered that providing your customers with the best buns available can increase satisfaction and drive repeat business. With Hawaiian hot dogs, a big part of the attraction is in the sauce, so using robust bread is important. Add nice disposables, like hot dog bags, post-consumer content napkins, and compostable disposable flatware to present an eco-conscious look and feel that evokes true Hawaiian style, and you'll be all set. Get ready for profits!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Make the Right Impression with Gourmet Display Items

Chip Tier with Stand from Gourmet Display

We all want the foods we offer to provide our customers with a positive impression overall, and while taste and texture certainly do matter, so does presentation. Imagine working your hardest to produce a beautiful array of foods, only to hand them over to your customers on paper plates, or simply line them up on a buffet line - such presentation just wouldn't do your culinary creations justice! That's why selecting the right Gourmet Display items makes such a difference in catering, banquet or to creating the right restaurant atmosphere. No matter what type of cuisine you specialize in, it is important to remember that the dining experience begins with the way food looks, just as much as it begins with the aromas that greet customers when they walk through the front door.
Multi-tier displays, like risers and stands designed to hold several bowls or trays, add shape and texture to your tables or to your buffet, and serving dishes in unique shapes and colors showcase foods beautifully. Ice sculptures add excitement to any culinary display, and placing them on the right kind of stand, like an ice carving pedestal,  helps to highlight their shapes and display them appropriately. If you already have a collection of bowls and platters you love, and if you want to highlight them while adding interest to your display, high metal risers can help you do just that.
Presenting single serving items in ecologically friendly wooden cones is a great way to enhance your buffet while maintaining perfect portion control, and using mirrored columns adds an entirely new dimension to your display, reflecting lights, shapes, and colors beautifully. Even the way you present beverages makes a difference; for example, serving juices from shapely pitchers with ice cores helps keep them cold without diluting them.
You work hard to produce quality foods, and you spend long hours building your image and increasing customer satisfaction. Choosing the right Gourmet Display items helps you to present a perfectly polished look, ensuring the dining experience is both enjoyable and memorable.

Important tips for Setting Up a Portable Bar

It's springtime!  With the weather turning nice and June - the top month for weddings - just around the corner, I wanted to highlight our recently released article "Cook's Direct Offers Important Wedding Planning Tips for Setting Up a Portable Bar."  While it's geared toward weddings, a portable bar is a great addition to a Graduation Party, Father's Day celebration or any other outdoor event you've got planned. 

Choosing a portable bar requires some thoughtful preparation.  You want to consider how many guests you're expecting, how much space will there be at your location, the overall style or theme of the event and, of course, your budget. 

Portable bars are available in a wide variety of materials, styles and with a range of features.  Additionally, you need to consider functionality.  Some portable bars, like the Cambro Mid-Sized Economy Portable CamBar offers you a 7 Bottle Speed Rail, Ice Sink cover, Waste Water Bin, and it's ideal for bottle, can or mixer service.  You should also take a look at the Carlisle Maximizer Portable Bar which is also suited for the bottle, can or mixer service, and offers you a variety of finish choices to work with any decor. If you are looking for increased functionality and the ability to use 5-gallon soda canisters then the Cambro Large Complete Premix CamBar is your solution.  Other options in portable bars from Cook's Direct include the Geneva Party Pleaser Portable Bar which features elegant yet durable styling with it's laminate over stainless steel construction. Or if you're looking for the ultimate choice to create a truly distinctive presentation, you will want to look at the Mahogany Bon Chef 5100 PMSC Portable Liquor Bar with post mix system. 

Bringing the bar outside, or in a foyer or lobby area will allow your guests the freedom to move around, mingle more and enjoy the special atmosphere that you've worked so hard to create for your event.  You'll also gain flexibility in your location because you can open up the area for guests to circulate in by not overcrowding a single bar location.  Finally, you and your guests can enjoy the outdoors if you like by bringing the bar outside.  What ever your needs for your event, there is a portable bar that will enhance your special event.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quick Tips on How to Set Up a Hot Dog Stand Fast!

People love hot dogs - it's kind of a fact of life. One of the fastest ways to turn a profit for your concession stand, nonprofit group, or even for your school fundraisers is to set up a hot dog stand. All you need are a few simple and basic items, good quality hot dogs and buns, some condiments, and a few supplies, and you'll be all set. Here are some tips for setting up a successful and profitable hot dog stand.
First, you need a place to operate, and that might be a concession stand that is already in operation, or it could be as simple as a cart or other mobile display that is suitable for the venue you're working out of. 
Second, you need a way to keep hot dogs fresh and hot, which is where the hot dog machine comes in. You can choose to use a European style hot dog machine that steams the dogs, or you might prefer a roller-type hot dog machine that slowly roasts and rotates the hot dogs. There are a number of different kinds of hot dog machines available, and many are priced quite competitively so even a small organization can afford what will end up being the backbone of the business. Start small if you have to - you can always upgrade once you start to see profits! One consideration is that some of the better hot dog machines are equipped with bun warmers - people love getting a great hot dog in a warm bun.
Third, you'll need a few very basic concession supplies in addition to the hot dogs, buns, and condiments, like ketchup and mustard, that you plan to offer. Hot dog bags or trays are a necessity, and so are napkins; if you plan to buy condiments in bulk, remember condiment dispensers. Try coming up with a great name for your business, and offer something different, like Hawaiian style hot dogs, and you'll be raking in the profits in no time, flat. 

Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 8 September 2004

Fun Facts about the Hot Dog!

In honor of yet another home opener in Chicago - this time for the Chicago White Sox, I wanted to talk about one of the best foods of baseball!  There's something fantastic about hot dogs - easy to eat and delicious with a number of condiment toppings, this simple food is a favorite with people everywhere. Here are some fun facts about hot dogs that are sure to put a smile on your face.

Hot Dog from Cook's Direct, Restaurant Supplies Chicago

National Hot Dog Month
While Japan holds the world's record for the longest hot dog ever created (60.3 meters), at Tokyo's Akasaka Prince Hotel, the food is still a favorite with Americans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce designated July as National Hot Dog Month, with about 150 million dogs being eaten nationwide during that month alone. In case you're curious, Americans eat about 20 billion hot dogs annually.
Baseball and Hot Dogs
Baseball fans consume over 26 million hot dogs each year - enough to circle the bases about 36,000 times. A favorite at stadiums everywhere, hot dogs, fresh from hot dog machines designed to keep them at the perfect temperature, are fun to eat. The Texas Rangers recently unveiled a two-foot long, one-pound hot dog designed for 2-4 people to share.
Toppings, Anyone?
Among kids, the favorite hot dog topping is ketchup. Among adults, it's mustard. Other favorites include relish, chopped onions, chili, and cheese.
Hot Dogs in Space
While we doubt the astronauts have hot dog machines, they do get to enjoy hot dogs in space. NASA sends these tasty treats on Skylab missions, and they were enjoyed on Apollo moon flights and Space Shuttle flights.
Hot Dog Etiquette
Use a spatula or tongs to grab hot dogs from the hot dog machine; piercing hot dogs with a fork causes them to lose their juice. In addition, remember to dress the dog, not the bun - put wet toppings like ketchup and mustard on first, then add chunky toppings like onions, relish, and cheese. It's preferable to enjoy these treats straight from your hands - you might get funny looks if you use a fork - that is, unless you're enjoying a gooey chili dog. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 Tips for Caterers - Bringing the Bar Outdoors

No matter what the occasion, you can bet that an outdoor party is certain to be even more festive and enjoyable when a bar is added. There's no need to install a permanent bar, though; all you need to do is bring the bar outdoors! With new portable bar solutions that roll easily over such terrain as grass, gravel, and concrete, adding a bar to any outdoor occasion is now easier than ever.
Pour Out the Profits
Most of us enjoy a cool, relaxing drink from time to time, and when we're spending time enjoying ourselves, we're more than happy to pay for our favorite beverages. Adding a bar, fitted with the right bar supplies,into areas where people tend to congregate can help increase your company's profits - whether you operate a hotel or convention center, or if you provide catering services. Making drinks more accessible draws customer attention and increases the likelihood that they'll purchase their favorite drinks. Next up, let's take a look at a few of the most popular portable bar options. 
A Bar for Every Occasion
No matter what the occasion, you can find a bar that works perfectly for you. For example, bars by Cambro are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and resistant to the kind of damage that can occur anytime you transport a piece of large furniture. The Geneva Party Pleaser bar is also very nice, offering a slightly more upscale look and a little bit more interior space than some of the most economical models, and for the ultimate in portable bars, look no further than the Carlisle Maximizer for upscale portability that lends itself perfectly to black tie occasions as well as less formal affairs. 
Whether you need to add a bar to a lobby area, bring beverages to a poolside location, or roll out a full bar for a catered outdoor event, portable bars offer great solutions and bring in the profits like nobody's business.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How durable are the Vollrath Colored Double Wall Serving Bowls?

So our friends over at Vollrath decided to have a little fun and make a point at the same time.  They've got a new video out to demonstrate just how durable the Vollrath Colored Double Wall Serving Bowls really are.  At the same time, they are introducing the video viewing public to their hometown baseball heroes - the Sheboygan A's

For your entertainment and to really communicate just how durable the colored finish on these bowls is, Vollrath created a video showing a couple of the Sheboygan A's stepping up to the plate and sending some double wall bowls flying! You can view the video directly at on any of the web pages for the Vollrath Colored Double Wall Serving Bowls - just click on the video icon at the bottom left of the product image. 

We love the line of Colored Double Wall Insulated Serving Bowls from Vollrath and think they're a must have in any banquet and catering supplies inventory.  You can your punch to your buffet with these vibrant colored, insulated serving bowls.  There are ten colors in all: bright orange, red, yellow, pretty orchid, deep forest green, purple and navy, white, rich ruby or black.  You can also choose square or round shapes, in a variety of sizes:
Round .75 qt.
Round 1.7 qt.
Round 3.4 qt.
Round 6.9 qt
Round 10.1 qt
Square .75 qt
Square 1.8 qt
Square 3.2 qt
Square 5.2 qt
Square 8.2 qt

Not only do these bowls look great, but the innovative double wall construction acts as an insulator to maintain proper food temperature for hot or cold foods and keeps the bowls from sweating due to condensation.  Easy-to-use, no preheating or chilling is required.  And the heavy-gauge, stainless steel bowls are durable and long lasting - even if they're hit with a baseball bat - and won't affect the color or taste for your food. 

To learn more about how the Vollrath Double Wall Insulated Serving Bowls work take a look at the diagram below:

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Can You Say About a Steam Table Pan?

Turns out, there's a lot that you can say about a steam pan table. A staple of the restaurant supply inventory, steam table pans, also called hotel pans, are the workhorses of food service kitchens of all kinds, these pans are most often made from varied levels of chrome, nickel and steel, and come in a number of different sizes for custom configurations. While there are some very economical steam table pans on the market, these often don't offer years of steady performance; they can become dented or discolored easily, and their edges are often prone to damage that renders them basically useless. So, what should you look for in steam table pans? Let's take a closer look.
Gauge indicates a pan's heft, with 22-gauge being the standard. Lighter and heavier gauge pans are available - the lower the gauge, the heavier the weight. 
Reinforcement and Shaping
Reinforcement along the edges, plus shaping at the corners for easy pouring are two aspects you should look for. One of the nicest pans on the market, the Vollrath Super Pan V, offers excellent performance in this area, making the pans stronger and more efficient. While they do represent a bit more of an initial investment, these pans are built to last almost indefinitely, making the extra cost worthwhile.
Good Looks
If your steam table pans are always kept in the back of the house, appearance doesn't matter quite so much as it does if they're used for buffet service. If looks matter, be sure to choose polished, stain resistant stainless steel steam table pans and beautiful black nonstick steam table pans for a neat, attractive appearance that blends seamlessly with the rest of the decor. Additionally, if you try the Vollrath Super Pan Super Shapes, you can create a variety of looks for your buffet and make quick and unique changes between day parts.
Accessories and Functionality
While we've talked a little bit about functionality here, there are some accessories that can be added to your steam table pans to increase their function and make them even more useful. For example, things like false bottoms, solid lids and slotted lids help improve both appearance and function. 
Last but not least, look for quality, like the Vollrath Super Pan V. The better the pans, the longer they'll last. Ultimately, choosing quality ends up translating to better economy over time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sweet or Savory? 2012 Taste Trends for Your Waffles!

Waffle bars are all the rage; whether you're planning a party or if you operate a food service operation of some type, you can't go wrong with a waffle bar. Start with a high quality commercial waffle maker like the Waring WW150 or the Equipex GES waffle maker, then add toppings to create interest and excitement. If you've never looked beyond standard toppings like warm maple syrup, toasted pecans, strawberries and whipped cream, or other "standard" toppings, it's time to put on your thinking cap. At their hearts, waffles are a form of bread. Hot and delicious, they lend themselves beautifully to a number of topping options, and once you start thinking about what to offer, the sky really is the limit. Following are just a few fantastic ideas for topping your waffles in both sweet and savory style.
Sweet Toppings
Think cold ice cream, cinnamon sugar, honey butter, and fresh fruits; warm apple or pear compote, sweet homemade jams and jellies, and even apple butter are wonderful sweet toppings. Add butter, sour cream, and whipped cream cheese to the bar for contrast. Remember that getting hard butter to melt into waffles evenly can be difficult, and soften yours before setting it out; or, add whipped butter using a mixer or blender for light, easy, and even melting. 
Savory Toppings
For casual brunches, try adding such delights as bacon, sausages, cheeses, and eggs to the waffle bar; think Eggs Benedict on top of waffles for a wonderful take on a classic favorite. For the gourmets in the group, thinly sliced smoked salmon or lox, just a little sour cream, and chopped chives can be heavenly. Add a carving station and offer your guests shaved honey ham or even sausage gravy can be great additions, depending on who is dining.
Other waffle bar favorites include nut butters - peanut butter, cashew butter, or almond butter - and delights like Nutella or even lemon curd. Whether your tastes run more toward marmalade or marmite, you can create a fantastic waffle bar everyone will rave over.  
For the restaurant that is looking to build up their business in the breakfast segment, a waffle bar with a beautiful display using a variety of condiment jars, racks and condiment caddies can be just the enticement your patrons need to test out a new day part as well as lunch and dinner. Add in a juicer to provide fresh fruit juice and a cereal dispenser to really get customers interested. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Chicago Cubs Opening Day! What's on the menu at the ball park?

Today is the Chicago Cubs Home Opener - and everyone at Cook's Direct; well everyone except the Sox fans in the office, is excited to get the season started! Baseball in Chicago is big, after all, we've got two major league teams to follow.  Join us for the Crosstown Classic someday and you'll understand what team loyalty looks like as never before.  And with two great, and very different, stadiums to choose from going to the game is always a fun time.  We love our baseball teams and the experience of sitting outside at a baseball game. And since our season usually ends around playoff time we maximize what time we do have.

I've never gotten to experience any east coast parks, but I was on the west coast when San Francisco got a new park, and the buzz around the garlic fries was everywhere.  I think as a park, they really upped the expectation fans had of Ball Park fare, so in honor of opening day - I did a little research into the top ranked Ball Park foods, and here they are:

#1 - hands down - it's the Hot Dog!
No matter what part of the country you're in, the when you go to the ball game they'll be selling hot dogs like no place else.  Granted a Chicago Style dog is different than what you'll find watching a Yankee's game from what I understand, but it's still a hot dog and it's number one.  And who doesn't remember getting a hot dog as a kid at one of your first games, steamed with a warm bun, rolled up and bought from a vendor walking through the crowd!

#2 - Peanuts - get you're Peanuts here!
These salty little wonders can be bought inside the park or you can bring your own - but the act of yelling for a bag of peanuts and having them tossed in the air to you, over the heads of several other fans, is all part of the experience.  They go great with beer, which isn't on our list but that's only because it's a beverage, and is there anything like sitting at a game with a bag of peanuts?

#3 - Nachos
Another salty dish, but these come drenched in cheese or salsa or both - whatever your preference.  Nachos are a perfect treat on a summer night and for those cooler evenings, you can add a little heat with some jalapenos on side.  What a treat! At some parks, you'll get the prepackaged nachos and cheese combo, but I personally prefer the kind where you get the nachos separate and with a nacho cheese dispenser and warmer on the side to cover your chips with as much cheese as you like. 

#4 - Ice Cream - ideally in souvenir baseball helmet bowl!
They're called the boys of summer and when it gets late in the season the heat can really get turned up - especially in the bleachers, for the day games of course.  Need to cool off?  Try some cold ice cream in a souvenir helmet - how cool is that?  If you're an ice cream fan, and most of America is, I've got the scoop for you - it's a heavy duty 10 oz ice cream disher! Pick up some of those little helmet dishes featuring the logo of the boys of summer in your town, bring the TV and your friends together out on the deck - and it will be almost (not quite) like being at the ball park.

#5 - Cracker Jack
With a history that dates back to the 1800's, not to mention a Chicago factory and that features the Cracker Jack sailor boy as a large neon sign, Cracker Jack has been a staple at baseball games - major league or little league for a long, long time.  And who doesn't look forward to finding out what their prize is?  If only more things in life came with a prize!

#6 - The Soft Pretzel
The soft pretzel, like a hot dog, can vary park to park as far as they way it's served and your choice of dipping sauces.  Some places offer you just a slightly salted pretzel that comes straight out of the pretzel warmer, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and best shared with a friend, depending on your appetite! Other parks offer you warm cheese, spicy mustard, even some marinara sauce or hot cheesy spinach dip on the side.  Whatever your preference, the Soft Pretzel is a taste treat to be savored at the game. 

#7 - Popcorn
Not only for the baseball game, but any social event, Popcorn is always a popular choice.  Families can share a large box of popcorn, or individuals can have their own personal sized popcorn bag.  You'll find that adults and kids alike love popcorn drenched in hot butter with a little salt or for those looking to keep things light, not so much butter.  And while hot Popcorn at the baseball park it's quite the same as it is at the movie theater - it can definitely hold it's own in the great snacks to be enjoyed while watching a game.

Welcome to baseball season!  from all the Cub fans here at Cook's Direct - Go Cubs!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A big thank you to Jaymark Group for a great product demonstration - our Blodgett experts!

We recently had a product demonstration and cooking event at Jaymark Group- our manufacturers representatives who carry a variety of vendors including Blodgett.  Participants from Cook's Direct, restaurant supply Chicago, included members of our sales team, merchandising team and bid team.  Everyone at Cook's had a great time and they all came back pretty satisfied - both in the steaks they ate and with the insight they gained about the products.  We thought we'd share some pictures of the day and comments from out team! 
John S. from merchandising department let us know that in this shot Jim Heffernan is showing the Cook's team the easy use of the Blodgett oven and demonstrating how simple the features are to use!

Ronnie D, territory manager for the Midwest, is holding up the pan of steaks for Mike L, territory manager for the West, to grill to perfection on the MagiKitch'n char broiler!  I think this was by far the team's favorite part of the demonstration.
Brian K, in National Accounts, is happily diving in the Blodgett Hydrovection oven to retrieve some perfectly prepared shrimp!

The team is getting a closer look at the MagiKitch'n Grill.  Brian R, in merchandising, commented  "The most valuable information I received form the training, is the value of a chrome plated griddle from Pitco/MagiKitch'n.  The chrome plate makes the griddle so easy to clean and brings a front of the house look to the back of the house."

Tim S, from out bid team, adds " Great demo on how easy it is to filter your fryer oil on-the-fly with a Pitco Soltice System" and closed with this sentiment "deep fryers and a soft-serve machine - what else could you ask for!"

We had a really great day and appreciate a day of hands on product demonstrations and fun provided by Jaymark!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Where are the best French Fries in America?

As I was looking through the 'news' today, I have to admit that an article titled America's 15 Best French Fries from the Daily Meal caught my eye!  Even thought they're called French - something as tasty, and deep fried to boot, has to be American.  First, as already called out, they are deep fried.  They are also made from one of America's most prevalent crops, potatoes.  They are also the perfect pairing with ketchup which is America's favorite condiment, although this may be a chicken and the egg relationship.  Finally, ask anyone that's eaten fast food anytime in the last 12 months - who's fries do you prefer; McDonald's or Burger King? and you typically get a very quick, no nonsense, answer.  French fries manage to inspire a lot of loyalty too.

So what are the components to the perfect fry? Things to consider are the crunch when you bite into them followed by a soft, fluffy inside - cooked through, but neither raw or overdone.  That crunch is also part of having a crisp enough fry that it will hold up to being dipped in ketchup, or for you francophiles (like me), a little mayonnaise.  A soggy fry does no one any good and is a waste of oil.  There's also color - a light golden brown wins hands down.  For those of us in foodservice, if the fries are too dark, you usually need a better filtration system for your commercial deep fryer, or you need to change the filter or the fryer oil or both!  All of these tasks have their challenges and expense involving fryer filters, fryer clean out equipment, fryer oil disposal and more.

But back to the question at hand - where are the best French Fries in America?  Here's the list of the top 15 according to The Daily Meal:
1.   Pommes Frites — Balthazar, New York City
2.   Schmaltz Fries with Malt Aioli — The Harrison, New York
3.   Chips — Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper, Alexandria, Va.
4.   The Fry Plate — Palena Café, Washington, D.C.
5.   Steak Fries — Le Tub, Hollywood, Fla.
6.   Sea Salt and Black Pepper Fries — DMK Burger, Chicago
7.   French Fries — Edzo’s Burger Shop, Evanston, Ill.
8.   Fresh-Cut Fries — Pike Street Fish Fry, Seattle
9.   Jonesy’s World Famous Fries — Jonesy’s EatBar, Denver
10. French Fries — Absinthe Brasserie and Bar, San Francisco
11. Belgian Fries — Frjtz Fries, San Francisco
12. Herbed Fries — Tavern, Los Angeles
13. Matchstick Fries — Father’s Office, Los Angeles
14. Monk’s Frites — The Publick House, Brookline, Mass.
15. Idaho Potato Fries — Boise Fry Company, Boise, Idaho
Sorry, McDonald's and Burger King didn't make the cut...but to see why all these were on the list, you can check out the slide show from The Daily Meal, just be prepared to be very hungry afterward!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Maintenance Tips for your Pizza Supplies

I have some great tips to share related to the care and use of Pizza Supplies.  These tips are courtesy of American Metalcraft.  They should help you to get a longer and more productive life out of your favorite pizza making supplies

Wood Pizza Peels and Serving Boards
First, wood pizza peels and serving boards should never be soaked in water.  They do need to be seasoned or sealed with oil.  To seal, you just need to wipe a food safe oil like mineral oil on the peel surface.  A properly sealed peel is less likely to pick up unwanted odors, food particles and moisture.  If your peel warps, leave it overnight with the warp facing up and it should flatten out.  Additionally, you'll want to avoid leaving peel on a hot surface as this will increase the probability of warping.

Pizza Trays and Pans
Tin Plate Pans should be seasoned before use and may need periodic re-seasoning.  Tin plate darkens as it is used, and it will also rust if  it's refrigerated, soaked in water or left unseasoned in a damp environment.  With tin plate, you need to wipe it dry immediately after washing.  To season tin plate pans, wash in warm soapy water and quickly dry, then you need to brush oil on the inside and outside of the pan and bake it to a golden dark brown.  When seasoning your pans, bake at regular times and temperatures that you will be using when you cook with them.  Keep in mind that some pans need a second or third coating before being fully seasoned.

Hard Coat Pans are made from heavy weight aluminum.  Hard coat anodizing is a synergistic electro-chemical process converting the surface of soft aluminum into a harder aluminum oxide which is a dark color with a hard finish that won't flake off.  However, the aluminum underneath is soft and with repeated use, the pan will soften and if you scour it clean it will thin.  Also remember that hard coat pans do not have a non-stick surface and must also be seasoned.  To season a hard coat pan, first wash and dry the pan thoroughly.  Wipe oil on the inside and outside surface and allow the oil to soak into the pan surfaces for at least a half hour.  Then bake the pan at the cooking time and temperature that you will be using when you cook foods in the pan.  Do not over-bake the pan and do not wash off the excess oil, rather just wipe it out.  The oil residue and any additional oil added before baking makes the pan stick resistant for foods.  Don't put these pans in the dishwasher or use any chemical solutions on them and always be sure to use only detergents and cleaners that are made specifically for aluminum.

I hope that you find these tips helpful and that they extend the life of your favorite pizza supplies.  We also have a useful video on our customer favorite - The Old Stone Oven Pizza Stone video.  Our customers love the Old Stone Oven Pizza Stone and we're big fans of it ourselves.  The video features use and maintenance tips for pizza stones to go along with the pizza pan and pizza peel tips above.