Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Trade Secrets


Tips on dining in and dining out

Compiled by Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Required reading

Six friends, who all work in publishing and live in New York, are the Cooking Club, and they've published their second book, The Cooking Club Party Cookbook (Villard; $19.95). After years of hosting parties, celebrating life events and cooking together, they have lots of recipes and advice for entertaining.

This book contains a year's worth of event-related recipes and ideas. From a Chinese New Year's dinner to a Mexican fiesta, a summer picnic, Derby Day party and an afternoon tea for a baby shower, these are fun, not formal.

The friends also share drink ideas, decorating tips, lots of color photos and a breezy, can-do attitude. Getting together with girlfriends is always fun, and here are 12 good excuses.

We tried it

Almost everyone who saw the non-refrigerated package of Jack Link's pre-cooked ground beef had more or less the same reaction: Yuck.

I did, too. It is going to take time to get accustomed to shelf-stable packaging for things that used to need refrigeration: things like milk and beef. But we no longer think twice about juice boxes, even milk boxes. Tuna in a foil package is a great invention.

So I kept an open mind and tried Jack Link's fully cooked Mexican-flavor ground beef, and everyone who tried it had the same reaction: Yuck.

I made chili with it, which would seem to be its obvious use. When I make chili, I like to keep the meat in fairly big hunks. This had a finely ground texture that gave away its processed origins. It might be a good product to take camping or backpacking because it has no waste, and is light-weight. People who have only a microwave to cook in might find it useful. But I don't think it's ready to replace fresh-cooked meat.

Available at Wal-Mart Supercenters; nationwide launch to follow. Suggested retail: $3.49-$3.99.

From the Book

Steps to take toward having a successful party:

• Find a reason to throw a party

• Don't over-plan.

• Have a co-host - or five

• Find a space, any space

• Create a guest list - size doesn't matter

• Don't stress

• Set the mood

• Document the event

• Make use of the ready-made

• Choose dishes that you can prepare ahead

• Think about making the prep part of the party

• Celebrate - as often as possible: Sure, it's easier to celebrate when you've got a newly engaged friend who needs to be hazed with a karaoke bachelorette party, or another who's on the precipice of motherhood. But what's kept our club together for more than six years is that at the end of a cold, wet trek below Houston Street on a blustery New York night, there's the warmth of a dinner with friends.

The Cooking Club Party Cookbook

Taste Combo of the Week

Spice cake and cheese

I had the urge to make fresh gingerbread the other day when it seemed like it was finally fall. We had it for dessert with a hot lemon-butter sauce. But there was plenty left for breakfast, so I had it again with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. There's something about the warm spices, molasses and subdued sweetness of the gingerbread that sets the perfect backdrop for the bite and richness of the cheese. It's similar to the classic combination of apple pie and cheddar.

We tried it

Almost everyone who saw the non-refrigerated package of Jack Link's pre-cooked ground beef had more or less the same reaction: Yuck.

I did, too. It is going to take time to get accustomed to shelf-stable packaging for things that used to need refrigeration: things like milk and beef. But we no longer think twice about juice boxes, even milk boxes. Tuna in a foil package is a great invention.

So I kept an open mind and tried Jack Link's fully cooked Mexican-flavor ground beef, and everyone who tried it had the same reaction: Yuck.

I made chili with it, which would seem to be its obvious use. When I make chili, I like to keep the meat in fairly big hunks. This had a finely ground texture that gave away its processed origins. It might be a good product to take camping or backpacking because it has no waste, and is light-weight. People who have only a microwave to cook in might find it useful. But I don't think it's ready to replace fresh-cooked meat.

Available at Wal-Mart Supercenters; nationwide launch to follow. Suggested retail: $3.49-$3.99.




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Trade Secrets

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PLANNING AHEAD
Get to it!
Best Bets: What's on TV tonight