Saturday, September 5, 2015

Beyond the Bull not for the average person looking for a “retirement” meal --- restaurant reviews not for the faint of heart

As a chef educator and a restaurateur, I have been bombarded over the past several decades with reviews of my food, wine, service, décor, uniform, restroom cleanliness, and even choice of radio stations, not to mention parking facilities, lighting and level of noise.  Some reviews have been stellar, some not.  But, I have never been subjected to the level of inaccurate, inexperienced, uneducated and irresponsible restaurant reviews such as those that have occurred over the past several days for my newest restaurant known as Beyond the Bull in Seneca, SC.

I wouldn’t normally speak out about this sort of thing because, reviews, whether good or bad, don’t make or break a restaurant in terms of profitability.  And I doubt that they will have a long term impact on the success of Beyond the Bull.  But, they do have an effect on the morale of the people who work at those restaurants, those who are dedicated to providing the best service, ambience, and food possible to their guests.  Yes, I use the word “guest”, because that is what you are in our eyes.  It is our home, and we want to provide you with the most hospitable experience we can while you are there.  After all, we are in the business of hospitality. 

Beyond the Bull is not an ordinary restaurant.  We serve alternative proteins with original dipping sauces.  Our sides are preferred to be served at room temperature, not hot and overcooked.  We use lime, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cider vinegar, lemon, herbs and seasonings that are unfamiliar to many.  We do not serve fried foods, nor do we use packaged ingredients from bottles, cans, bags or boxes, sugar, flour or heaps of salt.  If you are looking for a cheap retirement meal, like the latest reviewer, go to one of the other 79 restaurants in the Golden Corner.  

Please consider that when you decide to write a restaurant review, we read them, and yes, we do take them personally.  There are bussers, cooks, dishwashers, hostesses, servers, chefs, bartenders, and owners who work at a very, very difficult job, most often for minimum wage, doing what they love --- trying to make each guest feel at home.   Hmmm, maybe it is time for someone to build a platform to post guest reviews.  You know, guest difficulty, number of allergies in the party, drunkenness and level of vulgarity, big tipper, no tipper, the perfect guest, the wannabe chef, how many ways to split a check, how many “on the sides”, how many "off menu" requests  --- just thinking! 

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef AngelaB

P.S.  If you really like a restaurant experience, please take the time to put it in a review.  Everyone needs to hear how good they are once in a while.  


Sunday, July 12, 2015

What’s new at Beyond the Bull, Seneca (Keowee) ---

Blueberry bbq lamb spare ribs, cucumber coolers, cooking classes to begin July 20, and a celebration of the “plant” as in plant based diet --- a six course fixed price dinner for our vegan friends, a once in a lifetime event to take place on Sunday, July 26 beginning at 5:00 PM.  Call 864 508 1254  to reserve a seat at our vegan table or a place in the class, an introduction to preparing "smart" food.    

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Themed Dinners Continue to Spring To Life In The Upstate

It’s not just here’s the menu, take the order any more.  Themed dinners have been making their way across the upstate from Greenville to Central and now to the Golden Corner of South Carolina with the recent reopening of Beyond the Bull (Tableside) which moved from downtown Central to an abandoned property on Rte. 188 in Seneca, nearby the Lake Keowee communities.   If you are a Facebook follower of Beyond the Bull, then you already know of the trials and tribulations encountered while taking over an abandoned nursery and vacant restaurant---taking it back from the most recent occupants, a family of skunks, termites, spiders, rats, mice, beavers and grease, lots of grease.  But, after 87 days of renovations, cleaning, painting and disaster clean up (a failed fire suppression system), Beyond the Bull is back and continuing its tradition of monthly themed dinners which previously sparked a wave of similar venues in nearby Anderson and Pickens counties.

Chef Bell, executive chef and owner of Beyond the Bull, like other forward thinking restaurateurs, is now taking on the role of educator in today’s restaurant environment, offering new dining experiences to a more savvy and diverse diner as well as the home cook enthusiast.  Dinners pairing wine with classic Italian and French cuisine are being replaced with whiskey, cigar, craft beer and farm to table pairings as well as multi-course dinners with single food themes such as a five course feast starring several varieties of in-season tomatoes at their peak or regional themes showcasing foods that are not necessarily local, such as Texas Dorper lamb and wild boar or Maine lobster, blueberries and clams.

Although it is absolutely essential to the success and longevity of local food producers, and to our long term health, from a fine dining point of view, serving farm to table severely limits dining choices.  “As a chef and restaurant owner, I feel like I am short changing my guests if I do not stretch their palates and give them a taste of something out of the ordinary”,   says Bell.  “In my establishment there is a menu to which I must adhere, a standard menu on which my guests can rely to be consistent time and again, so breaking out a themed dinner now and then fuels my artistry and satisfies my desire to educate my guests.” 

Diners and home cook food enthusiasts are generally limited to ingredients that are available at the local grocers or online.  It takes a great leap of faith or fortitude for a nonprofessional cook to order a pound of baby octopus, a whole rabbit or sea cucumbers without ever having eaten them.  Even though there are videos galore available on the internet that show how to prepare everything from an antipasto to zucchini flowers, the world wide web  will never provide them with the aroma, flavor or texture of the ingredients properly prepared by a professional chef.  The themed dinner provides the opportunity for guests to expand their food and beverage experience as well as a chance for chefs to prove they are multi-dimensional.

Themed dinners in the upstate are generally pairings of five courses ranging from $ 45 to $ 150 depending on the venue and ingredients, and most are small, intimate gatherings.  At Beyond the Bull, Chef Bell is leading the way in the Golden Corner with a monthly offering, the third or fourth Sunday of every month.  The venue is small, limited to 40, and casual enough so that if a guest wants to take a break and stroll outside to the fire pit, explore the grounds or just sit on the deck and sip some wine for a breather, he can.  And, he just might meet the chef out there, taking a break as well. 

Will they catch on?  “Our first dinner held on December 23, 2012, the theme of which was the Feast of the Seven Fishes, was a resounding success”, says Bell, “so now we are already planning for our third Feast of Seven Fishes in Seneca, on December 23, 2015”.  Other more recent dinners are planned for June 28, Bison, Boar and Beer No. 3 (a six course pairing of wild game and craft beer beginning with a limited edition IPA from Anderson’s Carolina Bauernhaus Ales) and July 25, a celebration of Maine, which of course stars 
Homerus Americanus, popularly known as the Maine “lobstuh”.    Other themed dinners planned for later this year will include an homage to the BBC Two Fat Ladies, as well as a collaboration with local farms, the best of the best.   

For more information on upcoming events go to or call Chef Bell at 864 508 1254.  Chef Angela Bell is the chef owner of Beyond the Bull, an eat smart kitchen located at 8095 Keowee School Rd., Seneca.  In addition to her culinary duties at The Bull, she is a culinary instructor and food writer.  Her latest book, GOOD FOOD BAD FOOD, a how-to of anti-aging gastronomy is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Here we go again --- bison, boar and beer no. 3

Just because we moved, doesn’t mean we can’t continue with old traditions.  On June 28 we are offering our third wild game and craft beer dinner pairing. 

What’s the same --- same chef, same owners, same eclectic, smart and well prepared food.

What’s different --- happy servers to bring you the food, china, glassware, linens, stainless flatware, outside deck dining, nursery surroundings, ponds, onsite parking, an awesome AC system and a lot more seating. 

But, because we like to keep these dinners small, casual and intimate, we will continue to limit the seating.  Details are on the menu.

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef AngelaB

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It’s time to spill the beans about the Bull---

Click on the video.  In 1 minute 40 seconds, you will know where to go!

What’s different about Beyond the Bull Tableside? 
Good bye, Central.  Hello, Seneca! 
Tableside service, food brought to you by experienced, knowledgeable and friendly servers
Real china, real glassware, flatware and real cloth napkins
Expanded wine selection
A lot more seating, both inside and out
Convenient parking
A private dining room for special meetings and moments
A brand spanking new HVAC system!
Solitude, walking paths and a pond or two

What’s the same about Beyond the Bull Tableside?
The owners
The chef
Craft beer
Fixed price dinner pairings and special events like Thanksgiving Toys for Tots, Feast of Seven Fishes and Wild Game and Craft Beer dinners
Anti-aging gastronomy
The food, glorious, delicious food!

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef AngelaB
P.S.  Ticket sales for the pre-opening party will begin next week.  Seating limited to 40.  Watch for details and a menu to be posted soon at

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Food for farmed fish---food for thought!  

Five years ago, when I first conceived the idea behind the food that we serve at Beyond the Bull, I had no idea how hard it would be to find the ingredients to use in preparation.  For those of you who are new to Beyond the Bull, our menu consists of real food, menu items such as braised free range North Carolina bison, wild caught North Atlantic sea scallops, and hunted Texas wild boar with sides, salsas and dipping sauces like roasted sweet potatoes, ratatouille, Brussels sprouts and rapini, chimichurri, cucumber yogurt, salsa verde and blueberry ginger sauce.  It seemed to me at the time that it should be an easy task to source ingredients that were fresh and natural, avoiding artificial ingredients, grains and sugar.  After all, shouldn’t those ingredients be more available and cost less since they would not have the added costs or time to reach the market associated with processing, enriching and manipulation by humans?  But, that is not the case.

In preparation of reopening at our new location at the end of March, sourcing fresh, natural (and as local as possible) ingredients has been one of my top priorities, from center of the plate proteins to produce, it is becoming a challenge to find real, unadulterated food, to be ordered and delivered consistently for preparation for service at Beyond the Bull. 

Local first
Although it should be our goal as humans to eat only food that is locally produced, that goal is not attainable, at least not in the commercial food service industry.  In order for that to happen, all restaurants would have to be what has come to be known as farm or fork to table.  That means no standardized menus, what is available, is what you get---no more Chipotles in Maine, no more Red Lobster in South Carolina (which might not be a bad thing). 

Since Beyond the Bull does have a standardized menu, which is what most Americans want, it has been a challenge to find local suppliers of protein or produce who have an efficient customer order system, consistent delivery and pricing.  Consistent quality of local ingredients has never been an issue, but a busy executive chef with a food budget must be able to place an order through a text, online ordering system or by email, and receive the goods as promised, on time and at the agreed on price.  This is the final barrier that once removed will allow local producers to compete.   

Truth in labels
Where the food comes from and how it is produced is on the label, right?  No.  Even the most recognizable purveyors of food, the well known broadliners, have misleading, incorrect and missing labels on the food they deliver.  Venison on the label could mean elk or deer.  Origin can mean where it is processed and not raised or where it is raised and not processed such as chicken that is raised in America, sent to China for processing and returned to the U.S. market for consumption---or maybe not! 

Market price and availability
The price of real food is higher than that of processed food and there is less of it available.  Why?  The profitability on processed food is higher, the cost is lower.  Producers want to sell more processed foods for bigger profits.  More Americans choose the cheaper form of processed food over the more expensive form which means demand is higher for the processed food.  Since there is less demand for real food, consumers have to pay more and the supply is limited.  For example, as a restaurateur, frozen winter squash is cheaper than fresh squash, and it is available year round.  But, frozen squash is processed with additives, therefore, it can’t be sourced as an ingredient for use on the menu of Beyond the Bull.

Animal proteins
Sourcing animal protein has been the most difficult task of all.  Americans like meat and fish.  In order for a restaurant to succeed as a business, meat and fish must be included on the menu.  The menu at Beyond the Bull excludes beef and pork (the least expensive) as center of the plate protein for many reasons, one of them being animal feed.  So what does that leave?  It leaves any animal that is fed its natural diet or is allowed to roam free---bison, grass fed lamb, wild caught fish, cultured (in open water) shellfish and wild harvested shellfish, rabbit, duck and quail if fed a natural diet. 

You will notice that farmed fish is excluded.   In my opinion, farmed fish is one of the biggest hoaxes played on the American public and a precursor to the eventual extinction of wild fish of any kind.  Trout, salmon, perch, tilapia, tuna, and sturgeon---all living in pens, no longer feeding, now being fed.  Fed what?  They are being fed anything from animal waste to commercial feed that includes wheat, soy, corn, and chicken by-products.  They are fed meal made from smaller fish which is depleting the ocean of herring, anchovies and the like and often need antibiotics to rid them of disease.    

You can find hundreds of articles online that document the diseases, parasites, escapes, reduced nutritional value, toxicity, negative impact on wild fish habitats and even suffering of farm raised fish.  But that is not what this blog is about.  Beyond the Bull has chosen to exclude farmed fish from the menu for two reasons:  First, we don’t consider farmed fish to be a natural food if it is being raised on fish feed unless the feed consists of the ingredients in their natural diet, which it does not. 
And second, I recently tried a sample of farmed Atlantic sturgeon to find out why one of the marketing talking points for this farmed fish is that it is the “pork” of the sea.  Well, now I know.  It cooks like pork, looks like pork, smells like pork, has the texture of pork and is tasteless like pork.  You are what you eat.  I think we will stick to wild caught until there is no more!

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef AngelaB

P.S. We will be announcing the location and opening date of Beyond the Bull---Tableside soon, I promise.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

When an “A” is not good enough---  

Two years ago when Beyond the Bull, Central,  received its first inspection from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control  (SCDHEC) food safety inspector, I was bursting with pride to have received my first “A”, a grade of 100, as perfect as you can get, in South Carolina for food safety.  As a long time culinary educator and ServSafe food safety instructor, I took it to mean that I was doing everything right---everything that was necessary to keep my customers safe from food borne illness.  The grade of “A” displayed on the window meant just that. 

Fast forward two years including six months of searching for a new home for Beyond the Bull---just what does that grade mean?  Not much!

Although it is admirable that SCDHEC has recently adopted the FDA 2013 Food Code Model (in part), what does it matter if there is no one to execute or enforce it?  What good does it do to pass a law or adopt regulations if it is not possible to execute or enforce it?   

In my search for a new home for the Bull, from Liberty to Townville, Anderson to Salem, I have personally toured 27 kitchens in the upstate in Clemson, Central, Anderson, and Seneca, all currently operating restaurants in the upstate, all with the SCDHEC “A” on display at the entrance and this is what I saw:

No Food Safety Training
When servers scoop ice with glassware, the chef plates raw lamb, the dishes smell like soapy water, servers wear latex gloves to protect themselves from “germs”, there are stalactites of ice hanging from the entrance to the walk-in, inoperable kitchen exhaust fans, opened containers of food left after service and back doors propped open, you can be sure that there is no food safety training going on there.  Unless you have an overactive immune system, stay away.  What grade was on the door?  Answer:  “A”.

Handwashing sinks
The number one most effective way to ward off noro virus and hepatitis as well as a host of pathogens that cause foodborne illness is handwashing.  Most of these restaurants had handwashing sinks, but what good does that do if there is no soap or single use towels?  What grade was on the door?  Answer:  “A”.


Time and temperature abuse
Leaving the bacon on the steam table from breakfast to lunch along with sauce and soups in unrefrigerated containers from lunch until dinner results in what is referred to as time and temperature abuse.  That means time for pathogens to reproduce from a few to millions---time for them to make you sick.  What grade was on the door?  Answer:  “A”.

Personal hygiene
Managers who sit in the back of the kitchen and smoke, cooks wearing piercings, chains and bracelets, long beards, uncovered heads, dirty aprons, no aprons, blue fingernail polish, dirty baseball caps, what more can I say?  What grade was on the door?  Answer:  “A”.

Food contact surfaces
Sticky tables, dirty glassware and utensils, no sanitizing solution--- What grade was on the door?  Answer:  “A”.

I worked hard to earn my culinary degree and worked harder to become Servsafe food safety certified.  I work diligently every day to provide a food safe environment for my customers and train my employees to do so as well.  With a score of 100, I earned the “A” designation that was displayed at the entrance to the Bull in Central and will do so again at our new location.  But, when my “A” is the same “A” that is displayed at these other restaurants where food is NOT safe, what is the point?   When the food inspector tells me that the follow up inspections consist only of taking temperatures of prepared food stored in the cooler or held on a steam table, what is the point?   

It is about time that the FDA 2013 Food Code was adopted, but now it is time to enforce it.  I want my “A” to mean something! 

To check up on your favorite restaurant and see how “safe” the food is go to

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef AngelaB

P.S.  For those of you who are following our progress, we have found not one, but two possible future locations for Beyond the Bull---the first  in Seneca, near the intersection of Rtes. 183 and 188 and the second in Clemson on Rte. 93.  Our final decision will be made next week so stay  in touch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Truth in Menus---not so much in the golden corner   

As a restaurant owner/manager, you have the right and obligation to  represent your food in the most attractive way--- in such a way as to entice customers to make choices that benefit your bottom line.  But, in addition to the obligation to the business, there is an ethical and legal  obligation to your customer.  For that reason, we have Truth in Menu laws, much like the truth in advertising laws with which we are all familiar. 

As part of every culinary curriculum across the U.S. there is a class that teaches menu management.  Yes, we are taught how to graphically create a menu, but that is a very small part of one chapter of a very large textbook.  So, what is in the rest of the book?  With the menu as the hub, we are taught how to plan and execute the business model based on that menu---the food, service and concept in that menu, everything from kitchen and front of the house design, to human resource requirements, ingredient sourcing, food preparation, to cost control as well as sanitation and safety.  Unfortunately, there is little or nothing about truth in menu.  Perhaps that is why there are so many Untruths in Menus, here in the Golden Corner of South Carolina. 

The purpose of Truth in Menu laws is to protect the consumer---to ensure that the food is represented in such a way that what the customer gets is what the customer expects.  For example, if a menu item is described as gluten free, then it MUST be that.  If the cooking method is described as char-grilled, then it cannot be pan fried.  If the price is $ 9.00 for one dozen mussels, then there MUST be one dozen mussels served.  If it specifies, Prince Edward Island (PEI) Blue mussels, then it must be one dozen, PEI Blue mussels.  Do you see where I am going with this?

During our hiatus from Beyond the Bull, and on our quest to find a new location, we have spent a great deal of time eating out, mostly to see how our competitors do it, but sometimes to consider purchasing the business or equipment.  So we get to see a lot of horrifying kitchens as well as unsafe practices.  But, what disturbs me the most is when I am the customer and I have to pay for something that is NOT what I expected.  Although I would like to list the restaurant name, address and all of the specifics in each of the examples that follow, my business ethics got in the way and prohibited me from doing so.  I am certain that in some cases, the menu is not meant to mislead, as certain as I am that in some cases, it is. 

On the other hand, I feel an obligation to blow the whistle on behalf of my fellow diners in the Anderson, Clemson and Seneca areas.  So here is my list of the most frequently published untruths from some of the most popular menus in the area.  The next time you see one of these, you might want to ask the server for the truth in the menu:

Food ingredient source
This is perhaps the most often published untruth on local menus.  From a well established downtown Anderson fast casual restaurant, local ingredients are promised, but not delivered.  Produce suppliers do not deliver “garden fresh” tomatoes, eggplant and basil in October.  In Clemson, a popular fine dining restaurant claims their starter mussels are from Prince Edward Isle---not!  They are Chilean cultured, yummy, but not PEI.  FYI, Beyond the Bull serves Chilean rope cultured mussels as well, but we are proud of them and don’t lie about it.

It is understandable that sometimes in order to provide a standardized menu, a restaurant has to source ingredients from away.  At BTB we strive to keep a consistent menu selection in order to protect our guests from disappointment.  If South Carolina farmers grew Brussels sprouts, we would buy them and make the claim that they are local.  But, our Brussels sprouts come from farms in Santa Cruz, California.  With our modern transportation systems and refrigeration, they are pretty good! We’re proud to serve them and don’t try to fool our customers into believing they are buying something they are not getting.  

Item name
If I order a menu item that is called roasted lamb lollipop, I want ground lamb on a stick, and I want it roasted.  But this fine establishment in Anderson served me mini lamb chops, with grill marks---what?  Call it what it is!

Made from scratch
Made from scratch or house made, is harder and harder to find in restaurants these days with the ease of use offered today by major restaurant food suppliers.  Revenue wise, it is sometimes more cost effective for a restaurant owner to buy it already prepared.  But, buying frozen pizza dough which is then turned into a pizza “pie” is not from scratch, nor is crème brulee from a box, to which you add milk and bake, or a dessert cake made from a package mix to which you add eggs and oil then sugar coat with frosting to which you add flavoring, or soups and sauces to which you add stock from a box, or frozen produce with additives to ensure “freshness”.  Scratch cooking means from  fresh ingredients, produce, meat and fish, rice and dried beans from start to finish.  At BTB, all menu items are made from scratch, even our salad mix is made by us from fresh heads or bunches of greens, stocks, sauces, soups, dressings, sides, all from scratch as are our signature pot de creme desserts.   

No one should make this claim on a menu unless it is proven by a dietician and documented.  Yet the word “healthy” is used somewhere on half of the menus I have read in the last three months.  Not only is it most likely an untruth, but it can be a harmful claim to an uninformed consumer with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.  

Grilled or roasted
Last month we dined in a restaurant in Ram Cat Alley that offered a grilled fish selection.  What I expected was grill marks from a char-grill.  What I got was a blackened fish cooked on the flat top, basically fried in a butter flavored oil.  An order of roasted lamb came out as a chop with grill marks, a grilled chicken breast was roasted and an order of wilted greens were steamed or boiled. 

Fresh frozen is not fresh!  This is an especially common untruth applied to seafood products.  In case you haven’t notice, The Golden Corner of South Carolina is not on the coast.  Unless it was flown from the dock to the restaurant, it is not fresh.  That is not to say that there is anything wrong with fresh frozen.    And in my opinion, fresh frozen at sea will beat fresh in quality, texture and flavor.  Even on the coast, if it’s not from a day boat, it ain’t fresh, folks.   

Farm to table
Farm to table, local, fresh, sustainable, all have different meanings, but to most consumers, they may as well be synonymous because most consumers think they are getting food right from the farm without any middle man or additives.  Advertising your restaurant as farm to table simply because you use local suppliers is an untruth.  Farm to table only exists where the food ingredients, basically protein and produce, are farmed, processed and prepared for dining---from the farm to the restaurant table.  How many of those are in the Golden Corner? 

Buyer beware!  The next time you dine out, read the menu with a new perspective and ask your server for the truth.  If you are like me, I work hard at making a living and if I am buying a dozen steamed-in-lager, farm-raised littleneck clams from South Carolina, with house made heart healthy cocktail sauce, don’t serve me less than a dozen, boiled in salted water, wild littlenecks, with ketchup (not healthy) to which you add bottled lemon juice concentrate and horseradish sauce from a jar.  And if you do, I am not paying for it!

EAT SMART, and speak up, America!
Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef AngelaB

P.S. For those of you following Beyond the Bull, we have narrowed our search for a new location to two, both in Clemson---stay tuned!