Thursday, March 31, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bravo! Cucina Italiano

Name: Bravo! Cucina Italiano
Location: 950 Lifestyle Center
Whitehall, PA 18052
Hours: Monday-Thurs, Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday- Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Atmosphere: Bravo Cucina Italiano is located at the Whitehall mall in the outside mall portion and consists of a very large dining space and side patio. Right inside the doors, customers are greeted by dim lighting and a cozy, loud atmosphere. The bar is located right near the front of the restaurant and consists of a massive countertop and multiple high-top tables for people to dine at or just enjoy a drink. The main dining room is large with booths running down the center of the room and round tables surrounding it. There is also a side room separated by French doors, usually kept open, which has a few bigger tables and could be used for large parties looking for a more private dining experience. The kitchen is open and customers can see the chefs busily preparing their meals only feet from their table. The interior consists of black and white fabrics and classic Italian wall décor. The outdoor patio has multiple tables covered by a large awning to protect customers from the weather. While the restaurant is large, it still has a feeling of coziness and warmth.

Score- 5

Service: I would say the service at Bravo is good, but almost too good. Our waitress was very attentive and constantly refilled our waters and our bread basket as soon as we ran low. She honored our special requests and was highly accommodating. Once we got our food however, she was slightly overbearing and annoying. Before we had even tasted our food she was asking if everything was okay and, multiple times during the meal, she would interrupt our conversation to ask if everything was alright. While some people may enjoy this type of attentiveness, I found it distracting and annoying.


Food: The food at Bravo is outstanding! Every time I go to dinner here I try something different and I am never disappointed. Obviously Bravo is an Italian restaurant so the menu features Italian classics as well as some more American-style dishes. Even before looking at the menu, customers are given a bread of focaccia and sun dried tomato oil for dipping. Every time I go to this restaurant, I eat multiple baskets of this. The dinner menu includes Primi items (appetizers) such as Calamari, Crispy Mozzarella Ravioli, Bruschetta with Mushrooms and Boursin and Flatbread Roma. There is also a Insalata and Zuppa section featuring Caesar Classico, Bravo Chopped Salad, Grilled Salmon Salad, Italian Wedding Soup and Lobster Bisque. The menu also provides a variety of pizza, pasta, house specialties, fish dishes and meat dishes. My favorite appetizer is the Bruschetta with Mushrooms and Boursin, its so delicious! I also ordered the Grilled Chicken Marsala, another good dish but very simple. The dessert menu offers Tiramisu, Crème Brulee, Gelato, Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding and Torta Di Cioccolata. My friends and I dine here often and every time we order something new and never leave unsatisfied!

Bravo offers lunch, dinner, dessert and brunch.

Score- 5

Pricing: Bravo is mid-range in terms of price. Appetizers range in price from $6 to $12, pizza and pasta costs around $12 while house specialties, fish and meat dishes cost anywhere from $11 to $20. I ended up paying around $26 for the Bruschetta and the Chicken Marsala. Although the prices are a little steeper than other Italian restaurants in the area, it offers a greater variety and better dishes in general.

Bravo sincerely deserves just that! I recommend this place for any occasion; however, during the springtime it is especially nice to dine outside on the patio.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Industry Trend: Flaxseed

Industry Trend: Flaxseed

You may notice in both the grocery aisle and in many health-conscious recipes, the addition of a new ingredient in various bread or wheat products. Flaxseed has grown in popularity as people look for ways to increase their fiber and protein intake. Besides these nutritional benefits, it has been found through research and testing that flaxseed can decrease the severity of diabetes, decrease the growth of prostate tumors, benefit those fighting breast cancer and act as a natural laxative.

What It Is: Flax is a plant native to regions ranging from the eastern Mediterranean to India and is harvested for both its seeds and fibers. Various parts of the plant are used to make fabric, paper, dye, medicines and hair dye as well as a source of linseed oil, which can be used as a nutritional supplement.

Flaxseed comes in two varieties; brown and golden. Although they vary in color, these two types of seeds have generally the same nutritional make up, the only difference is that the yellow seeds have a lower level of omega-3 fatty acids due to its different oil profile.

Flaxseeds contain high levels of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are attractive to health-conscious people. One hundred grams of flax seed (3.5 oz.) contain 27.3 g of fiber, 18.29 g of protein, 255 mg calcium, 1.55 g sugar and 42.16 g of fat.

Who Might be Interested: This nutrient-packed seed is said to help reduce cholesterol levels, especially in women. Recent studies also suggest that flax helps prevent against breast, colon and prostate cancer. The omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed inhibited tumor growth and occurrence. Also, the lignans in flaxseed protect against cancers that are hormone sensitive by blocking enzymes involved in hormone metabolism and by stopping the growth and spread of tumor cells.

Omega-3s also help prevent cardiovascular disease by protecting against plaque buildup in the arteries and by keeping white blood cells from sticking to the inner lining of blood vessel walls. These seeds also lessen the severity of diabetes through stabilization of blood sugar due to the lignans.

Anyone with a risk of developing breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes or high cholesterol should consider adding flaxseed to their diets. These seeds also help with the digestive tract so people who suffer from irregularity may also be interested in the supplement.

Doctors suggest that pregnant women should not add flaxseed to their diet during pregnancy.

Availability: Flaxseed can be purchased at large grocery stores like Whole Foods or Wal-Mart, GNC, and multiple places online. 

Cran-Orange Muffins

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped 500 mL
1/3 cup granulated sugar 75 mL
1 tbsp. orange rind 15 mL
¾ cup orange juice 175 mL
2 cups all purpose flour 500 mL
1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
½ tsp. baking soda 2 mL
½ tsp. salt 2 mL
½ cup ground flaxseed 125 mL
¾ cup granulated sugar 175 mL
1  egg 1  

Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).
Spray or lightly oil muffin tins.
In one bowl combine cranberries, 1/3 cup (75 mL) sugar, orange rind, juice and egg.  
In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ground flax and ¾ cup (175 mL) sugar.
Combine cranberry mixture with flour mixture, just until blended.
Fill baking tins half to two thirds full.
Bake 10 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.  Remove and cool on

Yield:  12 servings
Serving Size:  1 muffin

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe Review: Cherry Crisp

Recipe Review: Cherry Crisp
Makes 6 Servings

1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling
½ cup all-purpose flower
½ cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup melted butter


Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish or six 3.5 ramekins. Pour pie filling into the dish or ramekins, and spread evenly.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix in melted butter. Spread over the top of pie filling and sprinkle with chopped nuts of your choice.

If using ramekins, place them on a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Allow to cool 15 minutes before serving.

Ease of Preparation: This recipe is as simple as they come.  The ingredients are very simple to find and the directions are straightforward. Because this recipe calls for canned cherry pie filling, any hard work usually included in pie or crisp making is removed making it only about a 10-minute preparation process. This recipe would be perfect for a quick, throw-together dessert when you just need that sweet treat after dinner. Also, if you’re cooking with children or are a beginner baker, try this!

Quality of Recipe: I don’t have any complaint with the quality of this recipe. The ingredients are simple, the directions short and easy and the ending product is simple yet very tasty. I chose to cook the crisp for 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes in order to get a darker brown on the crust and for the cherry pie filling to bubble up and caramelize.

Taste: This crisp is delicious and would be even better accompanied by vanilla ice cream!  The cherry filling thickens and mixes with the crunchy, browned topping and the contrast of textures is really good. Also, the topping is sweet and buttery while the filling is tart and juicy which mixes to create a great taste in your mouth.

Restaurant Review: 1741 On The Terrace

Name: 1741 On The Terrace
Location: Hotel Bethlehem
437 Main Street

Bethlehem, PA 18018
Hours: Dinner daily 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
         Sunday Brunch 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Atmosphere: Whether your attending the restaurant for the Musical Sunday Brunch or for a fancy dinner, the atmosphere is cozy, yet spacious and open. During the day, sun shines in through the floor to ceiling windows surrounding the dinning room and at night, the twinkling lights lining the streets of North Bethlehem glitter the restaurant. The walls are made of exposed brick and the floors; hardwood. The overall vibe of the restaurant is very “old Hollywood” and makes any occasion seem special.


Service: The service at 1741 on The Terrace is outstanding. Not only is the staff polite and courteous, but also very friendly and accommodating. I enjoyed our waitress because she was personable yet still formal enough that the night felt special and fancy. The dishes were properly spaced so that just as I was hungry, my dish appeared. Not once did I feel rushed and not once was I looking for my next dish. Also, I have attended large group events at the restaurant and the staff was just as accommodating and attentive. The four-course service at the event was nicely paced as well and the service was not affected at all by the large crowd.


Food: The food served during the Sunday Brunch is impressive; however, the food served during dinnertime is less impressive. Sunday Brunch consists of a variety of stations including a cold food table, salad bar, egg and omelet station, sweet breakfast item table, meat carving station and a dessert table. Although the food is produced for the masses, it is all very flavorful, fresh and constantly replenished. The dinner at the Terrace is good, but not great and definitely not worth the price. The dishes are all very traditional and plain and not anything overly tasty or unique. Salads and Soups include Spinach & Arugula salad, Caesar Salad, Lobster Bisque and Pea Soup. Main courses include items like Grilled Lamb Chops, Sautéed Grouper, Roasted Chicken, Fillet Mignon and Grilled Ahi Tuna. Starter courses including soup and salad were all very small and unsatisfying; however, the dessert was great! I ordered a chocolate torte cake, which was outstanding and my favorite dish of the night.

Score- 4

Pricing: Nothing at this restaurant is inexpensive. Soups and Salads range from $9-$16 while main courses range from $20 -$46. As I stated above, the quality of the food does not match the price and the dishes are far too simplistic for the amount charged for each. The atmosphere greatly outshines the quality of the food during dinner; however, this is a delicious and beautiful Sunday brunch destination.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Industry Trend: Deli Flats & Bagel Thins

Industry Trend: Deli Flats and Bagel Thins

As people become more carbohydrate and calorie conscious and as fad diets popping up all over suggest we stop munching on sandwiches encased in bread, and burgers supported by buns, bread and baked goods companies have had to re-assess their products. Pepperidge Farm and Thomas’ English Muffins are two of those companies. They have created solutions for those who still want to enjoy bread and the idea of a sandwich, but without the unnecessary calories and carbohydrates. Pepperidge Farm developed Deli Flats and Thomas’ English Muffins created Bagel Thins to replace the traditional morning treat weighing in at a whopping 270 calories.

What It Is: Deli Flats are thin, flat, bun-looking pieces of bread that only contain 100 calories! One slice of traditional Pepperidge Farm wheat bread consists of 100 calories while 2 full slices (usually used for a sandwich) of bread contain 200 calories. Besides a cut in calories, these little rolls are packed with 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Deli Flats are available in Soft 100% Whole Wheat, 7-Grain, Whole Grain White and Soft Honey Wheat.
Bagel Thins, recently created by Thomas’ English Muffins, are a great alternative to the bulky and calorie-packed traditional bagels many people grab on their way out the door to work or school. These innovative replacements contain only 110 calories, 0 mg of cholesterol, only 1 gram of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. The bagels are sold in packs of 8, 16 or 24 and come in 100% Whole Wheat, Cinnamon Raisin, Everything and Plain.

Who Might be Interested: These new products are really for anyone! These days, most people are trying to cut calories and carbohydrates in any way they can and this is an easy and satisfying way to do so. Deli Flats and Bagel Thins allow you to still enjoy baked bread products but without the guilt or weight gain caused by full-calorie slices of bread or bagels. Many people can live without bread on their sandwich, buns on their burgers or bagels with their coffee but for those who cant, these two products are perfect! Deli Flats might be popular with moms who are looking for a nutritious, healthy alternative to doughy white Wonder Bread for their kid’s lunches. Bagel Thins are great to grab, smear some peanut butter on and run out the door whether it be to work or school. 
Availability: These two products are on most large grocery store shelves including Wegmans, Path Mark, CostCo , etc. You can also order them online at


Interesting Fact: Einstein Bros Bagels has also added a bagel thin option to their menu. Customers can order these new additions plain, with cream cheese, as a breakfast sandwich or as bread for a lunchtime sandwich. They come in Plain, Honey Whole Wheat or Everything and range from 140-150 calories compared to their 260 calorie-packed traditional bagels.
Bethenny Frankel, star of The Real Housewives of New York, is a staunch supporter of Deli Flats and has included them in a few of her weight-conscious, healthy recipes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recipe Review: Ooey-Gooey Peanut Butter Brownies

Recipe Review:
Ooey-Gooey Peanut Butter Brownies

¾ cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup butter or stick margarine, melted and cooled
¼ cup fat-free milk
1 (18.25- ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow crème
½ cup peanut butter chips


1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine ¼ cup condensed milk, butter, and next 3 ingredients (batter will be very stiff). Coat bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Press two-thirds of batter into prepared pan using floured hands; pat evenly (layer will be thin).
3. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Combine ½ cup condensed milk and marshmallow crème in a bowl; stir in chips. Spread marshmallow mixture evenly over brownie layer. Carefully drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over marshmallow mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Makes 2 dozen

Ease of Preparation: This is not a quick or easy recipe. Not only does it require multiple steps, it requires very precise cooking times and constant attention. Although the ingredient list is basic and short, the process of combining the items and baking them properly is not. The brownie batter is boxed which allows for easy preparation; however, it very sticky and dense and must be patted down into the bottom of the pan. This is tricky because the batter clings to your hands and doesn’t spread easily. This part must be cooked for 10 minutes and then the marshmallow mixture is added on top; however it sinks into the cooked brownie and causes a mess. Overall, this recipe was fairly frustrating and not enjoyable to make.

Quality of Recipe: The recipe was average I would say. For the amount of work and time that this recipe takes, the final product is nothing special. Also, the cooking times for the various aspects of this dish are slightly off and I think the recipe should allow time for the various layers to cool. By doing this, the mess I mentioned before would be avoided.

Taste: The brownies ended up tasting like normal chocolate brownies with a hint of peanut butter. I would suggest adding actual peanut butter to the batter to infuse the brownies with more flavor. I enjoyed the taste of these treats; however, they were nothing special and were slightly less satisfying than boxed brownies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Restaurant Review: Mama Nina Foccacheria

Name: Mama Nina Foccacheria
Location: 546 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018-5858
(610) 867-9802
Hours: Monday-Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday- Thursday 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Atmosphere: Mama Nina’s is a tiny restaurant located on the North side of Bethlehem. The restaurant offers outdoor eating right on the sidewalk for nice Spring and Summer nights, and offers cozy and somewhat cramped dining indoors. The sidewalk is covered in black wrought-iron chairs and tables and is dotted with large pots of greenery and flowers. Inside, tables are squeezed in at every angle and booths outline the walls. Murals cover the ceilings and Italian décor is utilized throughout the place. Overall, Mama Nina is quaint and cozy and the perfect atmosphere for a hearty Italian meal.

Score- 4

Service: The restaurant does not honor reservations so on the weekends, be prepared for a wait. Mama Nina’ is BYOB, although each guest above 21 years old receives a free glass of wine. Once you do get a table however, the service is fairly quick and your food will be in front of you in no time. The owners, Nino and Mama Nina are very accommodating and stop by tables often to see how your meal is. I wouldn’t suggest bringing a large group to Mama Nina because the restaurant just isn’t built for bigger parties. The large crowds during the weekend make this place very loud and not the best place for a romantic date or a business dinner. I suggest coming during the week for those types of occasions and coming with a few friends on the weekend.


Food: If you hadn’t figured it out yet, Mama Nina is a traditional Italian restaurant offering a huge selection of dishes. Salads include Fresh Mozzarella salad, Mama Nina’s salad, Antipasto, Boccocinni salad and Caesar salad. Pasta dishes range from classics like Spaghetti with meatballs, Baked Ziti and Penne Alla Vodka to Chicken Marsala, Chicken Parmesan over pasta and Chicken Fantasy. The menu goes on to offer seafood dishes, hot heroes, cold subs, Philly steaks, stuffed rolls and slices and gourmet personal pizzas. Before placing your order, the waiter will bring a plate of garlic-saturated rolls. These things are addicting but you are sure to clear out any room after eating just one! I chose the Chicken Parmesan served over spaghetti. The plate came to the table and I was immediately overwhelmed with its size; however, I was able to finish both massive chicken breasts. This dish was outstanding and, even though I ate enough for three days, it was worth it.

Score- 5

Pricing: Mama Nina’s is very decently priced. Entrees do not exceed $12 and can cost as low as $6. All of the portions at this restaurant are huge so you are definitely getting more than enough for your money. For one Penne Alla Vodka and one Chicken Parmesan, our bill rang in at around $20.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Industry Trend: Cake Pops

Industry Trend: Cake Pops

In the past year, a variety of twists on traditional desserts have been popping up everywhere. From shot glass sized tiramisu to designer cupcakes, bakers have started getting creative. Recently, cake pops have emerged to deliver consumers little bites of sweet treats.

 What It Is: Not only are these cakes delicious, they are artistic masterpieces and can be sold separately or as part of a whole bouquet. Flavors include classic vanilla or chocolate, red velvet, carrot cake, mint chocolate, peanut butter cup, raspberry chocolate, Oreo, toasted coconut, zesty lemon and more.

The cake pops are usually coated in milk or white chocolate and then dipped or rolled in a variety of toppings including sprinkles, nuts, marshmallows, coconut or chocolate chunks. They can also be created into fun shapes and images including seasonal favorites like Easter chicks, footballs, ice cream cones, teddy bears, snowmen and others. Each pop is a mini masterpiece!

Who Might be Interested: These little bites are perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. Like the mini desserts I wrote about before, these pops are the perfect sweet treat satisfier without the large quantities of calories in a full slice of cake. These would be perfect for parents looking to satisfy their kid’s need for sweets but without overindulgence or the danger of a sugar high.

Also, cake pops are available to order in bouquet and can be shipped all over. These arrangements are the perfect surprise to ship for a birthday, a thank you or just for fun. The bouquets could also be put out at a superbowl party, a wedding or any other celebration for guests to nibble on.

Availability: Cake pops are somewhat new to the dessert industry so they are most easily found online.  Starbucks has also recently started selling three flavors; Rocky Road, Birthday Cake and Tiramisu.

Also, recipes are available online so you can create these little bites at home!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Industry Trend: Anti-Energy Drinks

Industry Trend: Anti-Energy Drinks

We are all familiar with the increasingly popular energy drinks on the market like Red Bull, Monster and Amp; however, there is a new trend beginning to reveal itself, the anti-energy drink. Many college students have starting taking melatonin pills to sleep better at night, sleep longer after pulling an all-nighter or just to knock them out after a long and stressful day. Beverage companies have picked up on this and created a drink that is said to “relax” and “chill you out.”

What It Is: There are a few different variations of the drink containing a variety of different natural ingredients. Some common ingredients include melatonin, kava, valerian root, rose hips and passionflower. These are all naturally occurring; however, the drinks are so new that there have not been substantial studies on the health effects or side effects of these beverages. The FDA has not approved melatonin because it is not recognized as "generally safe.".”
Some of the popular drinks are Drank, Slow Cow, Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda, Unwind and Malava Novocaine. Makers of these drinks guarantee consumers a relaxed feeling, much like the feeling after a beer or a mixed drink but without the impairments of being drunk. A more controversial versions of this form of drink is Canna Cola, marijuana infused soda. Although this beverage will only be sold in medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and eventually California, the product has been met with criticism.
Critics of both Canna Cola as well as the other relaxation drinks say that the beverage too closely mimics the street drug concoction, "purple drank," a mixture of codeine cough medicine, Jolly Ranchers and Sprite. Many people say this will serve as a gateway drug for young high school or college students. Makers of these drinks have responded back by saying that anti-energy drinks are a safe alternative to drugs and alcohol use and abuse.

Who Might be Interested: Because significant health and nutrition studies have not yet been conducted, the only basis for who might be interested is strictly based on the relaxing effects of the colas. The product is being marketed to high school students and is being stocked near college campuses. Also, makers of these beverages are targeting business people who, after a long day of work or a stressful meeting, want “chill time.” Due to the stress-relieving affects the cola is said to have, I would say we all might be interested in that at least at some point!
In regard to Canna Cola, only those with permission/prescription to use medical marijuana are able to purchase the drink. It offers an alternative way to get the medicine you need.
Availability: Anti-energy drinks are available for purchase online mostly; however some stores like Walmart and small convenience stores have started carrying it.