SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar’s Ken Norcutt Talks #DinersChoice Win, Rave Reviews + Pappy Van Winkle

 SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bars Ken Norcutt Talks #DinersChoice Win, Rave Reviews + Pappy Van WinkleThis week, OpenTable announced the 2014 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Restaurants in America. Perched atop the list is SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar, a revelation that surprised Ken Norcutt, chef-owner of the restaurant, but one which he chalks up to consistency in service, creativity of cuisine – and experience. Located in the tiny-yet-tony resort town of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, SeaBlue has been open for a decade. Norcutt is a lifelong restaurant professional. He says, “I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 14 years old, doing one aspect or another, from busboy to server to bartender to working back of the house to doing banquets. I’ve always had two jobs, and a restaurant was always my second job.”

He began working behind the bar at SeaBlue in 2007, and by the next year, he had purchased the restaurant, revamping its concept and energizing its wine and cocktail programs; the wine list recently earned a 2014 Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence. Initially, SeaBlue served tapas-style cuisine, with a shallow menu of just 10 items or so. Norcutt wanted to up SeaBlue’s game, and so he upped the menu, greatly expanding it with an array of USDA prime steaks and wagyu cuts. He also serves seafood, with a strong emphasis on local product. New in the past year are oysters. Norcutt estimates he shucked almost 20,000 this season. They are sourced from Virginia – pungoteagues and olde salts – and North Carolina and are complemented with seasonal mignonettes and savory sorbets. “I also do an oysters Rockefeller with applewood smoked bacon, braised spinach, a little panko, and a béarnaise aioli on top, and they’ve been very popular. I think most of my regulars say it’s the best oysters Rockefeller they’ve ever had,” says Norcutt.

SeaBlue Cheese copy SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bars Ken Norcutt Talks #DinersChoice Win, Rave Reviews + Pappy Van WinkleLike most of this year’s other Diners Choice Award-winning restaurants, SeaBlue has embraced the artisanal cheese boom, serving a cheese course selected from a rotating inventory of 20 wheels of carefully curated cheeses from around the world that are aged in house. The artful plates, which are accompanied by jams, jellies, nuts, local honeys, and aged vinegar gastriques, have drawn recent attention from Cheese Connoisseur magazine. Norcutt’s latest cheese crush is Shropshire. Made from cow’s milk, Shropshire is semi-soft and similar to Stilton despite its orange-y hue. “It really stands out on the plate – and it’s the perfect blend of the saltiness of a blue cheese and the sharpness of a cheddar. And, we balance that all out by serving it with fig vincotto,” he notes.

North Myrtle Beach has, according to Norcutt, just 15,000 or so permanent residents, but in tourist season, that number swells considerably as 15 million visitors swarm the small beach town. He observes, “Historically, the emphasis in Myrtle Beach dining has been about buffets and chains, and that’s what has allowed SeaBlue to stand out. It is one of only about four or five restaurants that are really trying to change the scene and source from local farms as much as possible.” As the area grows in popularity as a vacation destination, its food culture is growing, too. “There’s a climate change here when it comes to the culinary scene. You’re seeing the buffets and the feeding troughs closing and these new places, like Fire & Smoke gastropub, opening.”

In a field of more than 20,000 restaurants, Norcutt was shocked and elated to find his establishment in the top spot. “When [OpenTable account manager] Page Stokes emailed me last Friday, I think I cried a little bit,” he admits. “We were just hoping to get into the top 100 again this year. And when she said we were the number one restaurant, I was speechless. I’m so glad people reviewed us and said how much they enjoy it here. We’re just a small little restaurant in a small little town; we do what we do and hope everything falls into place. It’s such an honor to be in the company on that list.”

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OpenTable Reviews Reveal #DinersChoice Top 100 Best Restaurants in America — Top 10 Ranked

As we cheer the end of another year of delicious dining, we are pleased to celebrate the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America and highlight the Top 10 honorees. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Top 10 Best Restaurants in America, in rank order, include:

  1. SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar – North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  2. Sushi Nakazawa-Sushi Bar – New York, New York
  3. Fearrington House Restaurant – Pittsboro, North Carolina
  4. n/naka – Los Angeles, California
  5. St. Francis Winery & Vineyards – Santa Rosa, California
  6. Ski Tip Lodge – Keystone, Colorado
  7. Twenty Eight Atlantic at Wequassett Resort – East Harwich, Massachusetts
  8. Kai – Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort – Chandler, Arizona
  9. The French Room – Dallas Texas
  10. Highlands Bar and Grill – Birmingham, Alabama

The Top 10 Best Restaurants in America are as diverse as our appetites, from intimate and sleek newcomer Sushi Nakazawa with just 25 seats to the lively, perennially revered 124-seat Highlands Bar and Grill. What they all share is an unmatched level of consistency and attention to detail, which can be found in their superior service, careful sourcing of local ingredients, and commitment to excellence and hospitality.

Lauding both recently opened as well as longstanding restaurants that feature everything from à la carte to intricate tasting menus, the complete list includes award winners in 32 states and Washington,D.C., such as Eleven Madison Park in New York, Laurel in Philadelphia, and Saison in San Francisco. There are 35 repeat winners from 2013, eight of which again cracked the top 10, and 65 new honorees.

New York has the greatest number of winners with 12, followed by California and Florida with eight each; North Carolina and Pennsylvania with six apiece; and Oregon and Texas earning five each. Illinois has four, and Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia all have three winners. Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Tennessee, and Washington have two award winners apiece. Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin are also represented.

Dinner-only restaurants dominate the list, with 59 winners. While American fare restaurants are most popular, the eclectic array of cuisines on the list includes global, Hawaiian, Italian, Japanese, seafood, Thai, and vegan. More than 25 percent of honorees indicate they offer gluten-free options.

While new restaurants make a strong showing with 14 opening in 2014, including vegan eatery Modern Love, well-established restaurants performed remarkably well: 25 winning restaurants are more than 20 years old. Approximately twenty percent of the list includes restaurants located at a property of historical significance.

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#Hellastorm Affecting San Francisco: Please Call to Confirm a Restaurant Is #OpeninSF

San Francisco is experiencing severe weather and some areas are without power. While most restaurants are open for business, due to the intense nature of the storm, we encourage diners to phone restaurants to confirm reservations until conditions improve.

We wish everyone affected by this storm a safe few days.

Christmas Eve Dining: 15 Rave Reviews for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

bouill blog Christmas Eve Dining: 15 Rave Reviews for the Feast of the Seven FishesSure, we’re just now able to button our pants after last week’s indulgent Thanksgiving dinner and, yet, we’re already dreaming of more holiday dining. If you’re of Italian descent, or if you just LOVE Italian cuisine (which we know you do), you’re probably familiar with the Christmas Eve culinary tradition of the feast of the seven fishes. A delicious ritual that began in southern Italy, the feast of the seven fishes has ties to Catholicism and the practice of eschewing meat on Christmas Eve. Restaurants have embraced the custom, offering up gourmet spins on different fish dishes to diners on December 24. My family and I indulged at Oceana last year, and every bite was pious perfection. Find out what other diners had to say about their experiences with this fabulous holiday treat — and book your feast of the seven fishes reservations for Christmas Eve. More than just being delicious and festive, the meal is said to bring luck in the new year. 

Bar Eolo: Sicilian Kitchen & Wines, New York, New York: “Our family came here for the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve and had a delightful dinner. The seafood lovers in the family enjoyed it the most, of course, but everyone managed to find something to their taste. The recommended wine was delicious and reasonably priced and the restaurant was very festive with friendly service — a great evening!”

Bella Tuscany, Windermere, Florida: ”Bella Tuscany has had consistently good reviews and they lived up to their reputation on Christmas Eve with both their full menu and the fixed price (or a la carte) feast of the seven fishes. The five-course menu included generous servings of lobster bisque, scallops, a seafood linguini course with mussels, clams, and calamari, and a main course of mahi mahi and super-sweet lobster tail. Bella finished the evening with tiramisu and the creativity, presentation, and preparation were all right on.”

Bimini Twist, West Palm Beach, Florida: ”The family went to Bimini Twist to celebrate the feast of the seven fishes. The restaurant had a great selection of fish dishes. The service was unreal…perfect. We had a GREAT waitress, bolstered by other wait staff. This restaurant is a definite stop again when in the area.”

* Blue Water Grill, New York, New York: “Blue Water Grill was open on Christmas Eve, which was a godsend as I was hosting my family for the holiday. I reserved the table a couple days in advance, ensuring a spot. We ate in the main dining room, and it was great. Surrounded by other families celebrating the holidays, the overall ambiance was warm. The food was great and diverse. With traditional Christmas fare, oysters, sushi and even a feast of the seven fishes special, everyone in my family was happy.”

Cinghiale Osteria, Baltimore, Maryland: ”With my mother-in-law in town, my wife and I booked for the Christmas Eve feast at Cinghiale, which was the executive chef’s interpretation of a Christmas Eve fish feast. The feast was seven courses of absolute perfection. It is rare to encounter seafood prepared to perfection with consistency; usually it is overcooked and rubbery, but every dish was absolutely perfect, from the oyster starter to the fish filet (with perfectly prepared melt-in-your-mouth calimari). We loved every second of it.”

Fiola, Washington, D.C.: “My husband and I celebrated his birthday (Christmas Eve) at Fiola for the second time. Their feast of seven fishes is MAGNIFICENT! We splurged and got the wine pairing. Our server (who we knew from Fiola and Poste) was amazingly knowledgeable of both the food (preparation, what made each dish unique) and the wine. She was always present when each course was served, to give an overview of the dish and why the pairing was perfect. We had a wonderful experience, and would highly recommend the feast and pairing for future Christmas Eves!”

Imperial, Portland, Oregon: ”Christmas Eve dinner with good friends and a meal fit for the three kings. The traditional feast of seven fishes” needs to make it to the main menu, this was one of the best executed Cioppinos I’ve ever had with a sauce that begged for the house bread to soak it up. Few establishments truly enjoy being open on a holiday night, but the staff of the Imperial expressed only joy. This has become a new tradition with many more visits in-between. Well done, Imperial!”

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OpenTable’s Website: Re-designed, Re-architected, Re-imagined

In 1998, we introduced diners to a brand new concept – booking restaurant reservations online. A lot has changed since then, though our website design has remained largely the same.

While the site has served us well over the years, it was time for an update. Today, the team at OpenTable is excited to launch a brand new web experience. Over the last several months, our team has been hard at work building new technology and designs that enhance the way diners discover and book restaurants on OpenTable.com.

The new site delivers a cohesive experience for diners who use OpenTable on the web, tablet, and mobile phones. It looks forward, with a scalable and flexible architecture to make it easier to introduce new features to enhance the overall dining experience. Our new search interface supports neighborhood, address, or specific restaurant names all in the same place, which means less clicking around. The design places new focus on the restaurant, bringing forward the content that inspires booking the perfect table. And after you make a reservation, we’ve made it easier to invite others and share.

Redesign OpenTable’s Website: Re designed, Re architected, Re imagined

We hope that those who have used OpenTable for years and those who have just discovered us enjoy the new site. We will be hard at work from here on out to continue to make it the best place to visit for that perfect night out.

We are always eager to hear from you, and please let us know how we can make it even better.

 Jocelyn Mangan is Senior Vice President, Consumer Product Management. 

Support #NoKidHungry on #GivingTuesday + Donate to Our Annual Bake Sale!

It’s Giving Tuesday, and it’s our fourth fabulous year of holding an annual bake sale in support of No Kid Hungry. The avid home bakers who work at OpenTable have been knee deep in flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and more in preparation for this day of making and consuming mass quantities of divine sweet treats — all for a good cause!

Every cookie sold and every dollar donated can make a huge impact. One dollar can help provide a hungry child with 10 healthy meals, and $46 can help connect a child to meals all year long. Peep some pictures of our bake sale in action, and please donate to help No Kid Hungry end childhood hunger. Together we can bake a difference!

The Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry, presented by Domino® Sugar and C&H® Sugar is a national fundraising initiative that encourages people to host bake sales in their communities to help end childhood hunger. Donate now.

 

Give the Gift of Fine Dining on Cyber Monday

OT Gifts Give the Gift of Fine Dining on Cyber MondayHappy Cyber Monday! As you shake off the turkey-tryptophan sleepiness and turn your attention to gifts for your loved ones, we invite you to give the gift of deliciousness with OpenTable Gifts on this click-and-gift day! Available in 30 cities across the nation and good at more than 2,000 restaurants, OpenTable Gifts are a great fit for anyone on your shopping list.

You can choose the restaurant and the amount or just select the amount you’d like to gift and let your lucky recipient pick which restaurant to redeem it at. It’s that easy!

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Thanksgiving Restaurant Reservations: Last Minute Deals + Offers

tday deals blog Thanksgiving Restaurant Reservations: Last Minute Deals + OffersIt’s Tuesday and Thanksgiving is Thursday (!), but it’s not too late to find the perfect table for your celebration. Honestly! Just visit our local Thanksgiving pages to find details on special menus, pricing, and additional offers — and book your reservation. To pique your interest, we’ve rounded up a sampling of offers, from value-driven to extravagant, as well those that are a bit different. 

Atlanta:
A bit less: Flat Creek Lodge — Kids eat for just $12 (and adults for $28) at this extensive and affordable Thanksgiving Day buffet.
A bit more: Southern Art — For $67 per person, diners can tuck into a full brunch buffet featuring Southern Art specialties, Thanksgiving carving stations, and a briny seafood display.
A bit different: Rosa Mexicano – Serving Thanksgiving with a festive Mexican twist, Rosa Mexicano has slow-roasted Yucatan turkey and turkey enchiladas topped with cranberry-orange salsa on the menu.

Boston:
A bit less: Seasons 52 — A tasty Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings is yours for just $26.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids.
A bit more: Rialto — Treat yourself to a sumptuous dinner at this Boston favorite. $120 for dinner with wine pairings. Children under 12 dine for $35.
A bit different: Grill 23 & Bar — In addition to the regular menu, this restaurant has an awesome offbeat take on a four-course Thanksgiving dinner for $72, which includes sweet potato chowder, Little Gem Caesar salad, coffee-brined turkey, and pumpkin brûlée.

Los Angeles:
A bit less: The Stinking Rose — Get four-courses of garlicky goodness at this traditional Thanksgiving dinner for $34.95. Plus, enjoy no corkage.
A bit more: Mr. C Beverly Hills – Sup on all of your Thanksgiving favorites with elegant accompaniments, including lobster bisque, butternut squash ravioli, chestnut stuffing, and more for $85 per person.
A bit different: AKASHA – You’ll be thankful for their annual pie buffet for dessert alone. Plus, fish and vegan options are available and it’s just$65 for adults and $35 for kids under 12.

Miami:
A bit less: Prime-Del Ray Beach — Have your turkey and eat it, too, for just $24.95 at this traditional, three-course Thanksgiving feast.
A bit more: Bistro One LR-Ritz Carlton – There’s something for everyone with a raw bar, tapas, grill, desserts, and more, plus unlimited Champagne and mimosas from 2-8PM. $125 for adults and $45 for kids.
A bit different: The Bazaar by José Andrés at SLS Hotel South Beach – Celebrate Thanksgiving this year through the culinary vision of José Andrés with distinct dishes such as sous vide breast, confit leg with traditional gravy, or a deconstructed pumpkin pie.

Minneapolis:
A bit less: Mallard’s on the St. Croix — For $23.95, diners get a traditional Thanksgiving dinner served family style, with turkey, ham, and all the side dishes, plus a dessert bar. And, every seat has a lovely view of the St. Croix River.
A bit more: Woolley’s Steakhouse – Don’t miss their famous Champagne Brunch, with chef stations, carved New York strip steak, turkey, and ham, plus a tuna bar, oysters, and seafood and the best of breakfast, lunch, and dinner — all for $39.95 for adults and $14.95 for children.
A bit different: Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse – Change things up this year with 16 cuts of delectable fire-roasted meats, Brazilian side dishes, and more for $49.50.

New York: Continue reading…

15 Rave Reviews for Thanksgiving Dining

Tday reviews 15 Rave Reviews for Thanksgiving DiningWhen you’re talking about food, the best predictor of the future just might be the past. Find out what awaits you on November 27th with this look at what last year’s Thanksgiving Day diners had to say about celebrating the holiday at restaurants around the nation. From the fabulous cuisine, hospitality, and leftovers (Yes, leftovers!) to the fact that none of these savvy celebrants had to cook or clean up, their experiences were amazing across the board. 

Briarhurst Manor, Manitou Springs, Colorado: ”Best Thanksgiving buffet!!!! We not only had turkey, but also duck, pheasant, lamb, oysters, and the most delicious sides and desserts. The food was plentiful and felt more like a large party than a typical buffet! I would recommend this 100%.”

Brick & Bottle, Corte Madera, California: ”My husband and I could not have asked for more at this year’s Thanksgiving feast. The buffet tables were never crowded and always full of fresh, delectable dishes. All of the staff members were exceptionally friendly and festive, and every course was a delight. Thank you, Brick & Bottle, for making our Thanksgiving wishes come true; we’ll be back!”

Chez Moi, Chicago, Illinois: ”We ordered from the prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu, and our food was so good that we shall definitely return to try dishes from the regular menu. Our waiter was wonderful: friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. Even though we had many options for the holiday, we chose Chez Moi because of the chef, whose cooking we regularly sampled when he had been at the former Bistro 110. His pumpkin soup is the best I have ever enjoyed. Everything about this restaurant makes me want to return as soon as possible!”

Columbia Restaurant, Celebration, Florida: ”My son, two grandchildre,n and I loved our Thanksgiving experience at Columbia Restaurant. The waiter was absolutely perfect, from his manner with the children to his impeccable service. The meal more than met our expectations, and there was no stress over the kids not wanting traditional Thanksgiving fare. An absolute winner to us, and we will return. We made the best choice for a family Thanksgiving on vacation!”

Driskill Grill, Austin, Texas: ”Old west luxury enveloped us as we moved from the bar to the dinning room. The gracious staff helped us feel comfortable throughout the two-and-a-half hour dinner. The five-course Thanksgiving meal was filling and replete with the right holiday flavors. The kale salad started us off crisply and paved the way to the beet and goat cheese terrine. The rich pork belly, perfectly prepared, came next. I opted for the turkey roulade while my daughter had the black-rimmed, red interior beef tenderloin. Finally the Driskill version of a pumpkin pie escorted us to the end of our dinner. Can’t wait to get back to try their regular menu.”

Founding Farmers, Potomac, Maryland: ”We went for the prix-fixe Thanksgiving dinner, and we were blown away. The food was delicious and so plentiful that we both brought home doggie bags. Our waitress was THE BEST!!!!!!!! She was super friendly and warm, very helpful, and yet never hovered too much. She made it such a festive, fun experience!”

Mihoko’s 21 Grams, New York, New York: ”We came to 21 Grams for Thanksgiving dinner and we shall return for other celebration dinners in the future. The menu is so creative, and the fusion is perfection. The flavor balance is delicate and precise. Don’t miss a pre-dinner cocktail, we shared a “Vogue” which was smoky and delicious and since the staff knew we planned to share the drink it was served in two glasses. Such a lovely touch of class. The staff is very friendly and knowledgable. We had a really good time, and never felt rushed.”

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10 Reasons to Dine Out on Thanksgiving

TDay Dinner 10 Reasons to Dine Out on ThanksgivingWe fancy ourselves foodies here at OpenTable, and while many of us know our way around the kitchen, we’re huge fans of dining out on Thanksgiving Day. No shopping, no dirty dishes – no problem. Plus, no tipsy people passed out on your sofa for hours (or is that just my family?). But beyond those obvious perks, here are a few more reasons culled from at-home Thanksgiving dining disasters that will convince you to put yourself in the hands of culinary professionals and celebrate the holiday at a restaurant.

1. Dressing not typically served in a used neti pot at restaurants.

2. While onion, lemon, and carrots are often used when roasting a turkey in a restaurant kitchen, gravel is not.

3. Turkey is not presented, to quote Neneh Cherry, raw like sushi at restaurants.

4. You can trust that your mashed potatoes are, in fact, mashed potatoes – and not baby food.

5. Delicious housemade gravy will run all over your turkey rather than down the drain.

6. Your dinner is far less likely to be lost at sea

7.eaten by a dog,

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