Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Part 1: Spotlighting LongHorn Steakhouse's Seasonal Winter Menu Items

Have you ever wondered what goes into creating a dish for a national restaurant company? Well, I'm here today to give you a peek at what goes on behind the scenes when the chefs at LongHorn Steakhouse create the menu items that go on their seasonal menus. I was recently invited to chat with the LongHorn creative team, then visit our neighborhood location to try out some of the Peak Season and Chef's Creations on the Winter Seasonal Menu! Each season, a new appetizer, salad, side dish, dessert, and cocktail are created and offered for a limited time. According to Chef Josh Evans, Peak Season menu items focus on highlighting the best ingredients and flavors of the season. For example, this Winter they're focusing on hearty flavors and comfort food-inspired dishes. Chef Evans says that inspiration can be found anywhere. Chef Michael Sennich explained that the Chef's Showcase menu items are created to celebrate an individual chef's personal culinary creativity or inspiration. Each season, a steak and non-steak protein dish is featured. We had a great time sampling some of these new menu items earlier this week!

We started our meal with the Winter Brie Salad. It featured field greens, mandarin oranges, dried cherries, red onion, and crispy nuggets of fried brie -- all tossed in a tangy blackberry vinaigrette. We loved this salad! It was bursting with bright fruit-based flavors, and the melty brie bites were the perfect finishing touch.
Then, it was time to move onto the entrees. We decided to try both a steak and a non-steak option. Michael opted for the seasonal steak special, while I decided to give the seafood option a try. Both were fantastic and perfectly cooked!

Michael's entree was the decadent Blue Crab and Meyer Lemon Fillet. It featured a petite fillet served over grilled asparagus, then topped with blue crab and a rich Meyer lemon hollandaise. It paired perfectly with a loaded baked potato. I managed to snag one bite, and it was heavenly! The steak was juicy and tender, and it paired perfectly with the sweet crab and rich, tangy hollandaise.
I opted for the Blackened Salmon and Cheddar Grits, which I paired with a second side of Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. The salmon was spicy on the outside, and moist and tender on the inside. It was served over a bed of cheesy grits and topped with tart citrus butter sauce. The flavors all worked really nicely together. The risotto was creamy and chock full of sweet chunks of butternut squash. Luckily, we had just enough room left to share the seasonal dessert offering.
The Praline Pecan Butterscotch Pudding was a real winner -- rich and silky, perfect for sharing. The creamy pudding was topped with Makers Mark bourbon-caramel sauce and candied pecans. The caramel was positively luxurious, and the pecans provided nice texture to the dessert. We're not normally huge butterscotch fans, but we both gave this dessert an enthusiastic thumbs up! 

As part of this fun promotion, I also received a Seasonal Food for the Senses experience box from LongHorn Steakhouse. Inside of the large wooden box were many of the key ingredients that Longhorn chefs used to create the Winter Seasonal Menu, including: grits, candied pecans, sage, brie, butternut squash, and Meyer lemons. Also included was a bottle of the featured seasonal red wine and LongHorn Steakhouse's house-blend steak seasoning. I've had a lot of fun playing around with these ingredients in my kitchen this month! For the second half of this promotion, I'll be sharing an original seasonal recipe creation of my own next week featuring some of these flavorful ingredients. Make sure and come back here next Wednesday to learn more about the ingredients inside my experience box...and get a recipe that's perfect for the upcoming Lenten season. I have a hint for you: it involves shrimp and grits. You won't want to miss it...promise. I'll also be giving away a $25 gift card to LongHorn Steakhouse so one lucky reader can try the seasonal menu options too!

Disclosure: I received a Seasonal Food for the Senses experience box from LongHorn Steakhouse -- including a gift card  to sample the Winter Seasonal Menu at my local location -- to facilitate my participation in this promotion. All opinions expressed are my own.

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