Chili’s Latest Restaurant Concept: A Review

 

 

 

chilis-Before-After.png

Courtesy of: http://www.graphicdesign.com/article/chilis-rebrand-locations-nationwide/

 

IF YOU HAVE BEEN to Chili’s restaurant new concept – a new or remodeled Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant lately, you have undoubtedly noticed a difference between the exterior and interior design of Dallas-based Chili’s today versus  the Chili’s restaurant we once knew.

THE EXTERIOR OF Chili’s latest restaurant scheme (1,400 locations) resembles Italian fast-food chain Fazoli’s (230 locations), headquartered in Kentucky, while the interior of Chili’s latest restaurant design appears to be a sibling to the ever-boring (and also Texas-based)  Cheddar’s restaurant (60 locations.)

IT IS HARD TO fathom that the interior and exterior of Chili’s restaurants have reached such a mundane existence.  However, the new design concept, implemented as early as 2011, is seemingly here to stay.  We had hoped that the latest rebranding campaign was simply a test and would not be forced upon all existing Chili’s restaurants, yet, that does not appear to be the case.  Both old and newly installed Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurants are (yawn) looking more like a jazzy I-Hop — pancakes not included.

NORMAN BRINKER, founder of Chili’s, definitely had more exciting things in mind when he started the Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant franchise.

IN THE 1970′s, when Chili’s first hit the scene, food servers carried up to eight wicker baskets holding either a burger (such as the tempting “Verde Burger”), Buffalo wings, or “Freds” (Chili’s lingo for fried mozzarella cheese sticks) on a single extended arm.  Sure, it was schtick, but the sheer audacity of handling a customer’s food with such wild abandon drew patrons in.

GUESTS WERE likewise awed by the infamous ability of a Chili’s foodserver to carry up to 6 mugs of cold beverages in a single grasp – no small feat, as back in the day, those mugs were made of solid glass; not plastic, like many mugs used today (beer, however, is still delivered in glass mugs at most Chili’s.)

WHILE RETIRING the stylish flair of serving food reflects a more cautious era, what has happened to the fun and enthusiastic interior of Chili’s restaurants?  Where are the terra cotta planters shaped like fish, turtles, and goat-like creatures?  We miss the Saltillo tile floors and Mexican cantina-style table tops in addition to the funky lamps hanging over each table.

ALTHOUGH a few framed, candid photographs of folks are still on display at a few Chili’s location, posters depicting the famous Terlingua Chili Cook-off are almost non-existent.

ADDITIONALLY, gone are the unique items filling decorated shelves throughout the restaurant.  Yep, no more “funk shelves,” as those jam-packed ledges of nostalgia were called by those in the know.  It seems the days are gone when patrons could dine while gazing upon antique cowboy boots, Braniff model airplanes, radios and cameras of days gone by, bowling pins, and a six-pack sized, wooden flying monkey painted in festive colors.

WHILE WE ARE dismayed at the route Chili’s restaurants are taking with appearance and atmosphere, we are also disheartened at the direction Chili’s menu is heading.

CAN YOU SAY CHEESE? Chili’s 2014 restaurant menu contains an awful lot of food dripping in cheese.   Cheese sauce, cheese blends, bleu cheese crumbles, shredded cheese — it is too much cheese to mention.  We are blowing up like a puffer fish just thinking about it.

THE VISUAL’S on Chili’s latest menu are also jarring. Why are there so many enlarged photographs of food? Does the franchise really think that people cannot figure out what they are ordering based on a reasonably detailed description of items listed on the menu?

OUR LAST FEW VISITS to Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant revealed that perhaps the menu at Chili’s is designed the way it is because the food servers are not aware of precisely what is in each menu item.  After all, who could remember all of those different kinds of cheese?  With the dumbed down, “here’s a giant picture” menu, the food server does not have to educate the customer, when asked, about what they are ordering because, supposedly, the enlarged photos help the guest “see” menu offerings.  As a result, the effectiveness of the food servers at Chili’s appear to be greatly reduced; which is a shame as the food server was once known Chili’s greatest asset.  Where else could you learn exactly what was on a Frisco Salad (which is no longer on the menu – - but it was delicious).

WE VISITED OUR LOCAL Chili’s a few days ago and asked the food server just 2 questions about items on the menu.  Unfortunately, he did not know the answer to either question: “What kind of cheese is in the queso dip,” and, “How much does a regular Margarita cost?”

ALTHOUGH ECONOMICS must surely explain the dumbing-down of their interior, it is difficult to understand why the menu at Chili’s has become so complicated and laden with heavy fare such as Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad, Potato Skins, and a Hatch Chile Cheeseburger.

OUR LATEST VISIT to Chili’s will not be our last. We will continue our typical once-a-year visit just to see what is going on.  If you have never visited a Chili’s restaurant, hurry and get to one soon before its charm is entirely eradicated.  And do yourself a favor — skip the queso dip, it’s schlock.

 

 

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Mad Housewife Wine: Yes, We ARE Mad

 

 

  Mad Housewife Label Vintage 2003

MAD HOUSEWIVE wine bottles carry a label picturing a 1950′s-to-1960′s-inspired gal looking peeved or somewhat pensive.  The lady in question does not look MAD, but, perhaps she should.

    We were a little ticked off ourselves after pouring a glass of Mad Housewife cabernet sauvignon. What we discovered was red wine that resembled ripe grape juice with a kick.

We don’t mind vintners such as Rainier Wine Company, producers of Mad Housewife wine, taking a stab at the humorous-wine-label approach that has become popular of late, (“Bitch” wine, for example —  at a store near you.) However, if you are going to have a cutesy name like Mad Housewife, the goods should deliver.

We know it is a jungle out there and wine makers have to create eye-catching labels the public will gravitate toward.

But, please fill those bottles with wine so delish that we would write about it in glowing terms; otherwise, we just feel wine punk’d.

Per their website, if you are in the Manteca, California area, sample Mad Housewife wine gratis,  “in theDelicato Tasting Room in Manteca, CA. Open 9:00am to 5:30pm daily.

Additionally, do not heed a word that we have said; we are half-drunk on Mad Housewife wine.  Or, are we?

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Polly-O Wins For “Best Ricotta Cheese”

 

 

 

 

Polly-O Natural Cheese  Polly-O Ricotta Cheese – a subsidiary of Kraft Foods

Congratulations to the winner of our “Best Ricotta Cheese” category: Polly-O brand ricotta cheese.

You may think that anyone can whip up a delectable dish of lasagna simply by following the recipe on the back of a lasagna pasta box.  Wrong!

  Barilla Lasagne pasta

What those handy directions on the back of dry lasagna pasta don’t tell you is which brand of ricotta to use.  Common grocery store ricotta fail to deliver the supreme taste and texture of Polly-O.

Polly-O is creamy and delicious enough to eat right out of the container! Use it for stuffing dates (see recipe below) or filling pasta such as ravioli, and even as a topping for toasted bagels.  Create desserts using Polly-O that include cheesecake, cannoli’s (see recipe below), and Tiramasu.

Classic Cannolis recipe Photo courtesy Kraftrecipes.com

Classic Cannolis Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 container  (32 oz.) POLLY-O Original Ricotta Cheese
  • 3/4 cup  powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp.  vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp.  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup  miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 cannolis shells

Preparation:

  • Mix ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until blended. Stir in chocolate chips; cover.Refrigerate 30 minutes. Fill shells with cheese mixture. Serve immediately – - or cover and refrigerate until ready to consume.

Tip: Fill cannolis shells by spooning ricotta mixture into pastry bag fitted with wide tip or scoop into a zipped plastic sandwich bag and cut an small opening in one bottom corner with scissors. Pipe into shells.

DATES STUFFED WITH CHEESE & WRAPPED WITH BACON

Medjool dates

 

Ingredients:

  • 10 Medjool dates
  • 3 oz. Polly-O ricotta cheese blended with  3 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
  • 10 slices slightly cooked bacon (Jennie-O brand turkey bacon is a tasty alternative to regular bacon)

Directions:

  • Split one side of Medjool date lengthwise and remove pit. Stuff with 1 tsp. Polly-O ricotta cheese and Gorgonzola blend.
  • Wrap bacon strip around date and secure with toothpick. Place under oven broiler. Turn once to ensure even cooking and drain well before serving warm.

Find other date recipes at http://www.southfloridagourmet.com/site/whats-cooking/on-food-a-wine/908-oh-how-i-love-my-dates-.html

   Stuffed Dates: Bacon meets dates

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Make a fruit tray or serve a fruit platter that looks good and tastes great

 

 

Did you volunteer to bring a fruit tray to a party? Don’t worry, we’ve got fabulous tips about how to create a fruit tray that looks great and tastes delicious

Scooped-out pineapple or cantaloupe halves look scrumptious when filled with a variety of fresh fruit. Slice off a small portion of the bottom of the pineapple or cantaloupe so that it sits level and place it on a decorative plate (which you can pick up for a dollar or two at most dollar outlets.) 

While making a fruit tray LOOK good is desirable, it is how the fruit TASTES that is most important.

  • GO SEASONAL when putting together a fruit tray – use only fruit that is ripe and ready to eat

   Lychee fruit

  • THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX and consider a TROPICAL FRUIT tray using Thai-inspired fruit such as lychees, star fruit, watermelon, dragon fruit and  mango [visit your local Asian market for great finds on unique fruit]
  • DON’T FORGET TO AIM FOR small, whole fruit whenever possible, including:
  1. Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
  2. Melons such as cantaloupe or honeydew – use a melon-baller to make fruit scoops that are fun to eat
  3. Grapes of all shades (seedless, of course) – Look for “champagne” grapes, which are tiny grapes that are as sweetly tasty as they are unique
  4. Forget about serving apple or pear slices — they will turn brown quickly
  5. Include dried fruit. Banana chips and dried apricots are ideal and will get gobbled up.
Other tips:
  • Provide toothpicks for spearing fruit
  • Include a small dipping bowl for guests to enjoy with their fruit, such as Truvia© brand crystals, which taste deliciously like sugar yet are made with stevia
  • Small fondue pots filled with melted chocolate are a good match for fresh fruit, as are chocolate fountains
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Attack of Chip Woman & Bag of Potato Chips

 

LET’S pretend that you are famished and have not eaten in 3 days.  You are sitting in an empty room at an equally empty table.  A man walks in and offers you a bag of cookies or a bag of potato chips with the caveat that you may choose only one bag.  Which would you select?  The bag of potato chips or the cookies? If you reply, “Neither, I would choose broccoli,” then a pox upon you.

SERIOUSLY, though, I wish illness upon no one.  In fact, I myself had quite a scare yesterday.  You see, yesterday I had an attack…a potato chip attack; and I am still reeling with remorse.  More on that in a minute.

MUCH like driving a car without GPS, * made a maneuvering error in the grocery store yesterday:  I went down the “chip aisle,” or as I like to call it, “Pandora’s Box.” And yes, I bought a bag of potato chips.  Salt & vinegar chips, if you must know.

WE ALL know that it is okay to indulge in potato chips every now and then, and everything in moderation, blah-blah-blah.  However, when it comes to a sinfully crunchy bag of chips, the word “moderation” holds little meaning for me.  Why snack on a single serving of 12 chips (120 calories) when you can snarf down half a bag of potato chips (calorie total unknown).

YOU probably think that I am remorseful and full of self-loathing because I ate SO MANY chips yesterday, don’t you?  Perhaps you believe that I am consumed with guilt for my gluttony.

IF SO, you are incorrect. The root of my regret lies in…French onion dip.  No potato chip feast is complete without French onion dip.  If you have never been blessed enough to enjoy this evil-good combination of foods, don’t start now or you could end up like me, greedily opening a bag of potato chips on the way home from the grocery store.  Darn, it’s hard to drive when you’re dipping a potato chip into dip.

BUT, I digress; my self-disgust lies with the fact that I bought “Fat Free” French onion dip.  Why in the heck did I destroy my date with snack royalty by purchasing fat free dip?  Perhaps I was subconsciously planning to eat the entire bag of potato chips and was looking for caloric redemption.

FAT free dip, for those who are not condiment-savvy, tastes like Elmer’s glue with seasoning; it’s not worth buying and certainly not worth wasting a chip-fest on.

SO, take it from me, my chip-eating brethren.  Enjoy your fried morsels of potato goodness with  full-on, sour-cream based French onion dip.  If a love like this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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Best Trail Mix is Ginger Zinger by Safeway Select

 

Safeway Select Trail Mix Virtually sodium free and packed with roasted nuts and dried fruits, the best trail mix is Ginger Zinger by Safeway Select (also sold at Tom Thumb grocery stores).

What makes Ginger Zinger the best trail mix?  A few things: Nuts are roasted and include the delightful hazelnut/filbert in addition to roasted almonds, walnuts, and dried blueberries, cranberries and cherries for sweetness.

The dried, sweetened ginger included in Ginger Zinger trail mix is scant and barely detectable but it flavors the entire concoction with a taste-bud pleasing experience that lifts this trail mix above others

Another reason why the best trail mix is Ginger Zinger by Safeway Select: no candy (such as M&M)’s, no sesame sticks, and virtually no salt

Nutritional Info. Per 1/4 c. serving: 150 calories, 10g fat (1g sat fat/0 g trans fat). Zero cholesterol, 1% DV sodium, 14g (5%) carbs, fiber 2g, protein 3g, vitamin E 15% DV.

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Pro Super Lube in Allen, Texas STINKS at 711 E. Main Street

 

Pro Super Lube, Allen, TX    Check out this review of terrible customer service by Chris, the manager at Pro Super Lube in Allen, Texas at 711 E. Main.

“I had a nightmare experience at Pro Super Lube at 711 E. Main in Allen, Texas June, 2014.  A mechanic at Pro Super Lube finished my oil change then slammed the hood shut. Oops, he forgot to remove the DRILL that he left under the hood to use for removing my air filter. ”

“The mechanic never said a word and we drove off. Way to own up to his negligence. Fortunately, my 12 year old son was standing outside during the oil change and saw the incident. Son told me about it as we drove away and I stopped the car in a parking lot and got out to take a look.  My hood was bent and the drill bent one of the large hinges that shuts the hood.”

“I immediately returned to Pro Super Lube on East Main in Allen and spoke with Chris, the manager.  He told me that he would take my hood off and try to “unbend” it. While that offer was certainly creative, I said, “No, thanks, I’ll just have my insurance take care of it,” to which Chris replied, “You can’t do that, when you signed your receipt, it states that all repair work must be done by one of our body shops and I will drive your car there to get the work done.”  What a lie.”

“The story gets worse. I told Chris no way was I going to let him “drive my car to one of their body shops”. I asked for the insurance information and name of the owner. Chris told me, “I can’t give you that information,” and he refused to provide me with any further information. I had to pay $250 deductible to get the hood and hinge repaired – it’s kind of dangerous to drive around with a hood that isn’t properly latched. ”

“My insurance company could not get anyone at Pro Super Lube to provide the name of their insurance company.  I am out $250 because of the negligence of a mechanic at Pro Super Lube — talk about an expensive oil change. If you visit Pro Super Lube, ask them about the story of the lady with the blue Honda Pilot and inquire about how they handled the situation.”

 

http://www.yelp.com/biz/pro-super-lube-allen?hrid=HaBe7pgcCyBt_7TEhfkDPg

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Easy Lobster Bisque Recipe – SO Delicious!

 

Use this easy lobster bisque recipe and assemble ready-made ingredients for a homemade-tasting lobster bisque that is easy to make and SO delicious!

Homemade Tomato Bisque Soup- www.foodreviewsandrecipesforum.com

Easy Lobster Bisque  www.foodreviewsandrecipesforum.com

You will need:

  1. One cup prepared lobster, preferably from tail and claws, cut into 1-inch pieces
  2. 1 can Campbell’s tomato bisque soup plus 1/2 can water
  3. 1 /2 a box of Swanson’s reduced fat recipe cream starter (in the soup aisle)
  4. 1 c. vegetable broth
  5. Dash black pepper
  6. 1/4 c. white wine (Chablis or other mild wine)

IMG_1632

Method:

  1. 1.  Blend all ingredients together (except for lobster and pepper) and bring to a low simmer for 20-minutes.  Add more broth as needed.
  2. 2.  Add lobster and simmer for 10-additional minutes.
  3. 3.  Pour into serving bowl and top with a dash of black pepper.
  4. 4.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top, if desired.

We used 1 small, prepared lobster on sale from our grocery store which yielded 1 c. lobster meat.

 

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Bagel of the Month Club – Review 2014

 

 

You have heard of fruit of the month clubs and coffee of the month clubs, but did you know about New York Bagel of the Month Club?

“It’s the water,” is what you hear many a New Yorker say when they are asked why New York bagels are so much tastier than bagels made elsewhere (most New Yorkers say the same thing about a slice of genuine New York pizza — and we wholeheartedly agree.)

We recently discovered Bagel of the Month Club online because our North Texas area is bereft of a truly good bagel — trust me.  In our case, it’s nice to be able to order something as a delicious breakfast item when having overnight guests (who love the special touch, by the way.)

   Bagel of the Month Club prices can be a bit steep for the casual consumer, but one of their delivery packages would be an ideal choice for New York companies wishing to woo business plus an exciting selection for folks outside the U.S. who are curious about genuine N.Y. bagels. 

Additionally, a soldier stationed away from home or American citizens staying abroad would similarly find a genuine New York bagel a slice of heaven.

Let’s face it – - when it comes to living outside of the Big Apple, a good bagel is hard to find.

How do you like your bagel? Toasted or not? Sliced or whole? Cream cheese or lox? Grab that tub of cream cheese and let’s get to schmearing. View offerings from BOMC at http://www.bagelofthemonthclub.com/new-york-bagels/

Love this concept, Bagel of the Month Club!

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Wolfgang Puck’s 560 – Review 2014

 

   Atop the iconic Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas, glowing with thousands of lights in the evening sky over the Dallas skyline, sits a restaurant named for the height of the tower that houses Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Five Sixty.  Positioned within a large, orb-shaped edifice with a rotating room that provides diners with a 360 degree view of the Dallas skyline, Wolfgang Pucks’ Five Sixty restaurant looms romantically over the city as a destination for gourmets and food plebeians alike.

The Asian-inspired restaurant at 300 Reunion Blvd. opened to great local fanfare and has remained a consistent hot spot since inception.  The modern interior provides visual impact while the ambience is elegant and soothing.

While braised beef ribs and some chicken-centric items are on its menu, 560′s offerings are heavy on the seafood including sushi, sashimi, and for example, crispy Maine lobster & shrimp spring rolls with “honey ten-spice sauce”.  Other unique offerings with Wolfgang Puck-flair include pork-belly pot stickers with dried cherries, black vinegar, and chili oil in addition to the popular, “Salt and pepper calamari”.

Two bars within Wolfgang Puck’s 560 provide a more casual dining experience and diners can save a few dollars Mondays-Thursdays from 5-7 for happy hour prices on the Izakaya menu.

We like the Chef’s 7-Course Tasting ($135 per person/$200 with wine).  With prices like this, we reserve our visits for special occasions.  If you do go, dress up a little bit (men are required to wear collars) in order to meet the dress code.  Additionally, we suggest you leave small children at home to insure the pleasure of other guests as they pony up the big bucks to enjoy dining out in a beautiful setting with beautiful food.

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