Tips for throwing the best BBQ on the block

post-oak-red-hotsMay is National Barbecue Month, and we at Artizone are more than ready to get the party started. Is there anything better than cooking outside? As the weather warms up, you don’t have to worry about heating up your house when you move your meal prep outdoors. Plus, there’s just something primordial about cooking over a fire. Why not make a party of it?

But there’s more to a great cookout than just throwing another burger on the grill. Here are some Artizone-approved tips for planning the perfect cookout.

First, think about entertainment. We know you’re here to talk food, but hear us out: A few fun lawn games such as badminton or bocce ball will help your guests work up an appetite, which will make them even more appreciative of the spread you’ve got planned for them. If it’s a kid-friendly cookout, you can’t go wrong with some Super Soakers or water balloons. Just be sure to warn parents ahead of time so they can bring extra clothes for their little ones, and be sure to have plenty of towels on hand.

Set the mood. Sure, paper plates and Solo cups will get the job done, but presentation really makes the experience. Festive melamine plates are a step up from disposable dishes, but it won’t be a tragedy if one gets broken. Be sure to have good lighting for when it starts to get dark, such as tiki torches, fun lanterns, festive Christmas lights and a few Citronella candles to keep mosquitos at bay.

Think outside the bun. Burgers, brats and hots are great, but they also can be a bit—dare we say it—basic. These days, anything goes when it comes to grilling. For example, you might take inspiration from National Mediterranean Food Month and grill up some fish and kebobs. Can’t quit the burger? Mix a little feta, spinach, green onion, basil and oregano into the ground beef for Greek-inspired sliders.

BigForkBrandsSausageTop if off. Good toppings also are an easy way to elevate an entree. Set up a selection of nice cheeses, plain and flavored mayonnaises, gourmet mustards, flavorful relishes and chutneys and veggies such as tomatoes, onions, avocados, peppers and cucumbers.

Picking sides. Side dishes are crucial to rounding out a meal. Watermelon, sweet corn, various salads, baked beans and chips and salsa are classic barbecue accompaniments.

And at Artizone, we have no shortage of artisans who have just what it takes to make your next barbecue.

If you’re in Dallas, try Luscher’s Post Oak Red HotsHirsch’s Specialty Meats and Holy Cow Beef for your meats; Big Al’s Texas RubsBentley’s Batch 5 Barbecue Sauces and Daddy Rex’s BBQ Sauce for rubs and marinades; Josie’s Gourmet Potato and Pasta Dressings and The Festive Kitchen for sides; and Dallas Fine Wine & Spirits Shop and Green Grocer for beverages, including local craft beers.

In Chicago, meanwhile, you’ll want to check out Big Fork BrandsBuedel Fine Meats & ProvisionsGepperth’s Meat MarketRed Meat Market and Paulina Market for meats; Green Grocer for sides; Big Bang Pie Shop and Auntie Vee’s Cupcakes and Desserts for desserts; and Bodega Ramos and Green Grocer for drinks.

Posted in Auntie Vee's, Bang Bang Pie, Bentley's Batch 5, Big Al's Texas Rubs, Big Fork Brands, Bodega Ramos, Buedel Fine Meats & Provisions, Chicago, Daddy Rex's BBQ Sauces, Dallas, Dallas Fine Wine and Spirits, Food Products, Gepperth’s Meat Market, Green Grocer Chicago, Green Grocer Dallas, Hirsch's Specialty Meats, Holy Cow Beef, How-to & Tips, Josie's Gourmet Potato & Pasta Dressings, Luscher's Post Oak Red Hots, Meat & Seafood, Paulina Market, Red Meat Market, Specialty Items, The Festive Kitchen | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amber’s picks for May

What do green tea, garden seeds, waffle mix and bacon rub have in common? Well, they’re all offered by Artizone’s artisans, they’re all ready to be delivered to your door and—most importantly—they’re all on the list of Amber’s Picks for May! Check out this months’s assortment of must-have items pulled together by Artizone’s own VP of Market Operations, Amber Dietrich.

Grow CocktailsFirst on the list are Backyard Safari Company’s ready-to-grow garden offerings. If you love a good craft cocktail, The Cocktail Garden offers all you need to grow cocktail herbs in an adorably decorated recycled egg carton. The kit includes six varieties of heirloom seeds for garnishing your libations: thyme, lavender, Thai basil, mint, lemon balm and blue borage. Your package also contains cocktail recipes, wooden plant ID stakes, instructions and a pencil to mark the stakes. Just add water and set it in the sunlight!

Would you rather cook with your herbs than drink them? Try the Herb Garden, which comes with basil, parsley, chives, oregano, thyme and sage. Or if you’re in the mood for some spice, pick up the Salsa Garden, which comes with all you need to grow your own salsa ingredients.

But not all of Backyard Safari Company’s products require a green thumb. Their ready-to-use Chicken Rub with Lemon Zest and Garlic and Seafood Grilling Herbs with Rosemary, Lemon and Dill will make your next home-cooked meal taste restaurant-quality. Or just use their Dinner Tonight White Bean Chili, Black Bean Tortilla Chili or Burger seasoning mixes for a fresh take on familiar meals.

Second on Amber’s list is Sencha Naturals Green Tea, a line of green teas offered by America’s Got Palate. Sencha Naturals’ Dragonfruit Green Tea Plus C Immune Support blends tangy dragonfruit and acerola cherry with coconut water to make an invigorating, thirst-slaking glass of iced tea, which should come in handy as summer heads our way. The Original Green Tea Latte with Organic Matcha is Sencha Naturals’ classic blend, which inspires seasoned tea lovers and newbies alike to reach for a healthy cup of green tea whenever the urge strikes. Why not? It’s good for you!

Bacon RubSouthern Culture Artisan Foods, Amber’s third pick for May, takes Southern comfort foods into bold new territory. Just a sprinkle of their Original Bacon Rub adds a sweet and spicy glaze with the smoky saltiness of bacon to anything you might be grilling up this summer.

If you’re more of a breakfast person, Southern Culture’s lineup of pancake and waffle mixes will take your lazy weekend breakfasts to the next level. These are no ho-hum flapjacks—the Berry Cobbler Pancake and Waffle Mix comes with organic cobbler crumbles, strawberries and blueberries. You’ll reach the same level of dessert-for-breakfast nirvana with the Peach Cobbler, Apple Cobbler, Banana Pudding and Bourbon Salted Pecan varieties. Go ahead—serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We won’t tell!

Posted in Amber's Picks, America's Got Palate, Backyard Safari Company, Dallas, Food Products, Sencha Naturals Green Tea, Southern Culture Artisan Foods, Specialty Items | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lior’s spicy picks for May

Lior and WineReady to bring the heat? We thought so. Luckily for you, Artizone founder and COO Lior Lavy has a few culinary recommendations that show that spice is nice.

First, there’s FarmedHere’s local organic micro greens. FarmedHere uses unique vertical growing technology to grow its produce indoors at urban facilities. By keeping its fruits and veggies away from insects, diseases, pesticides and other environmental challenges, FarmedHere is able to ensure that everything it sends out is 100 percent USDA organic. And because the company distributes only locally, it eliminates much of the carbon footprint typically associated with trucking food from farm to grocery. These micro greens include radishes and mizuna, which give it a peppery kick.

With grilling season upon us—May is National Barbecue Month, after all—you’ll want to take stock of what condiments you have on hand to top those bratwursts and hotdogs. Lior recommends the Stone Ground Mustard from Kelley’s Gourmet, a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. No time to fire up the Weber? No problem. The spread goes just as well on your favorite sandwich.

La CriollaAnd if you’re a fan of sweet, succulent strawberries, which currently are in season, you’ll want to pick up a shaker of La Criolla’s Fruit Seasoning. Made with chili peppers, salt and natural lemon, it’s a spicy complement to your favorite fruit. You can also mix it with cream cheese, yogurt or sour cream for an unbelievably tasty dip.

Finally, there’s the 2012 Côtes du Rhône La Grange de Piaugier, available from Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe. 2012 was an especially good year for France’s Côtes du Rhône region, so there’s no need to wait before enjoying this red blend. “The picks of this month are all colored by spices,” says Lior. “I’ve decided to complement the selection with a wine that has an edge and a nice spice to it as well. Open it up, grill up something tasty and enjoy.”

Hey, we’ll drink to that.

Posted in Chicago, FarmedHere, Kelley's Gourmet, La Criolla, Lior's Picks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The delicious health benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Vegani Gourmet_Mediterranean PlatterDreaming of a vacation to the Mediterranean? We can’t bring you the sun and sand, but we can bring you the flavor. May is National Mediterranean Food month, and we’re ready to celebrate it at Artizone.

What’s not to love? Juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, spicy oregano and smooth, velvety olive oil—whether you’re enjoying a hearty pasta dish or a light salad, these flavors are sure to please. And, as it turns out, a Mediterranean-inspired diet can yield big health benefits.

During the 1950s, the Mayo Clinic kicked off an epidemiological study that famously became known as the Seven Countries Study. Over the course of 50 years, researchers examined the relationship between diet and lifestyle and risk for coronary heart disease and stroke for people living in the United States, north Europe and the Mediterranean. People living in the Mediterranean—particularly those on the island of Crete—were found to have the lowest risk for heart disease. This surprised the researchers because study participants living in other regions tended to be higher income, and thus presumably had access to more healthful foods and better health care.

But when you look at what the study participants in Crete were eating, it’s pretty easy to see why they did so well. Most meals were plant-based, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. The typical diet also included plenty of fish rich in omega-3s and a moderate amount of dairy. Instead of butter, heart-healthy olive oil was the favored fat. Salt was largely eschewed in favor of herbs and spices. But the diet wasn’t all work and no play; a moderate amount of red wine was A-OK, too.

In addition to eating well, study participants living in Crete got regular exercise and made a point to enjoy their meals in the company of friends or family. So the traditional Mediterranean diet was more than that—it was a lifestyle.

Years later, researchers would find additional benefits to the Mediterranean diet, including decreased risk for diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Med. TrioWant in on the goods? With the Mediterranean diet, eating well is easy. Some ideas:

  • Get your protein from plant sources whenever possible. Beans and lentils are inexpensive and versatile.
  • Think of meat more as an accompaniment rather than the star of the show. Try topping a salad with a few strips of grilled chicken, or toss some diced prosciutto onto whole grain pasta.
  • Add more fruits and vegetables. The greater the variety you take in, the more nutrition you’ll get. Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, cabbage and arugula are especially rich in vital nutrients, and purple and orange fruits such as pomegranates, figs, grapes, apricots, peaches, nectarines and cantaloupes are fantastic sources of antioxidants.
  • Retain as many nutrients as possible. Many fruits and vegetables lose nutrients when you cook them, so try enjoying your veggies in soups or stews that make use of the cooking water. Or better yet, eat them raw whenever you can.
  • Eat seafood at least twice a week. Tuna, salmon, herring and sardines are especially good choices because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish such as mussels, oysters and clams also are good for brain and heart health.
  • Be smart about dairy. You don’t want to take in too much, though sheep and goat cheese, which tends to come from pasture-raised animals, has more beneficial fatty acids than other dairy products.

And, of course, look to Artizone for Mediterranean-inspired favorites.

If you’re in Dallas, you’ll find delicious meals and snacks such as Holy Ravioli’s Mediterranean Lasagna, a casserole made with roasted eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes; pita bread and hummus in wild flavors such as spicy avocado, Sriracha and organic kale pesto from Green Grocer; and Chef Stephanie’s Mediterranean Trio, a salad combo of tabbouleh, marinated chickpeas and cucumber-feta salad.

And in Chicago, you’ll find Vegani Gourmet’s Mediterranean Platter, a healthful, protein-packed meal that includes quinoa tabbouleh, Mediterranean hummus, Middle Eastern carrots and corn chips; Brookhaven Marketplace’s quinoa, olives, stuffed olives, bruschetta and feta; sea salts and capers from Green Grocer; and eSutras Organics Greek seasoning, a flavorful spice blend that can be used as a rub on chicken or fish or added to pizzas, popcorn, pasta, salads and any traditional Greek dish.

Posted in Brookhaven Marketplace, Chef Stephanie, Chicago, Community, Dallas, esutras, Food Products, Green Grocer Chicago, Green Grocer Dallas, Holy Ravioli, How-to & Tips, Specialty Items, Vegani Gourmet's | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May artisan of the month: TJ’s Seafood Market

halibut_filletArtizone is focused on fish this May, so naturally we’ve chosen TJ’s Seafood Market as our artisan of the month! Whether you’re looking for sea bass, salmon or sushi-grade tuna, seafood should always come fresh from someone like Jon Alexis, owner of TJ’s Seafood Market.

TJ’s started back in 1989, when it was owned by a pair named Tom and Jim—hence the name TJ’s. The market built up a loyal following, which included Jon Alexis’ parents. When Tom and Jim retired, Alexis’ parents bought the store and built it up for a while before passing it on to their son.

“My parents got so sick listening to my crazy ideas of how I wanted to grow the business that they sold it to me in 2009,” said Alexis.

Now thriving as Dallas’ go-to seafood resource, the market recently teamed up with Artizone to make 69 seafood selections available for convenient home delivery. Whether you need East Coast oystersrainbow troutgulf shrimp or Alaskan halibut, it’s available online and ready for quick drop-off at your door through Artizone—but only after it’s been selected and deemed worthy of the market’s good name by TJ’s staff.

And because seafood is all they do at TJ’s, you know you’re getting the highest quality fish and seafood available. The market only buys small quantities of fresh seafood daily with the intention of running out, and their expert staff is trained to not only prepare your seafood, but also give cooking tips and help customers make educated choices about their seafood purchases.

“What sets our fish apart from the rest is, first and foremost, freshness,” Alexis said. “We buy highest quality wild or sustainably farmed seafood and only sell it at peak freshness. And in an industry rife with fraud, we operate with one hundred percent transparency in our labeling.”

king-salmon-filletsAlexis says that TJ’s Famous Cocktail Shrimp and TJ’s Home Smoked Salmon number among his most popular items. As far as raw seafood goes, the current season influences what’s rushing out the door, but right now it’s Alaskan Halibut and Wild Pacific King Salmon.

As for what TJ’s product Alexis himself enjoys most? “Without a doubt, our Famous Cocktail Shrimp is my favorite,” he said. “We buy the best shrimp money can buy, and do it the right way: hand-peel and hand-clean every single shrimp. At Christmas, that’s literally a ton of shrimp. It’s tedious and laborious, but it’s the only way to do it right.”

“We are so lucky to have multiple generations of loyal customers, and now there are more ways than ever to enjoy TJ’s,” Alexis said.

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