10 Raves for Chili on National Chili Day

Texas Red Chili BlogYippee ki-yay, It’s National Chili Day! I like to think of chili as a relative of cassoulet, a dish which sparks as much debate among French chefs and home cooks as chili does among pretty much everyone in North America. Blame the various styles, such as green chili, Texas red, and Cincinnati, as well as the array of so-called ingredients people swear by, from coffee, chocolate, and peanut butter to beer,  pickle juice, and sriracha for the culinary quarrels — not to mention the beans vs. no beans issue. However it’s prepared, though, chili is beloved on a national scale. Despite its reputation as a cornerstone of summer cook-offs, chili reaches its highest greatest popularity in the winter months, according to Google Trends.

As we celebrate this soul-warming dish on its special day, read on for some raves about chili of all flavors and styles at restaurants around the U.S.

* American Cut, New York, New York: “Some of the highlights were lobster chili — spicy, sweet-flavored lobster. Had to resist eating the rest of the sauce with toast to save room for the rest of the meal.”

* Beatrice & Woodsley, Denver, Colorado: “Everything I had was superb — kudos to the chef! The pulled pork green chili was excellent; who knew that a pickled egg would add so much flavor? A new addition to my recipe.”

* Chili U, Libertyville, Illinois: “Despite the name, this place has a lot of non-chili items, and several very flavorful vegetarian choices. We love the idea of ‘build your own’ chili dinner (you choose the extra ingredients for the base and toppings to be added to 4 choices of chili) and the unique chili recipes in the ‘we make’ part of the menu, especially the Thai shrimp chili.”

* District Commons, Washington, D.C.: “The Texas chili was true Texas chili without beans. The side plates of onion, sour cream, and cheese made it possible to tailor the add-ons to your liking. The tiny star-shaped cornbread was creative and visually delightful.”

* Food 101, Atlanta, Georgia: “If you get a chance to go while the restaurant is celebrating its 15-year anniversary, be sure to try the prix fixe menu. My companion did and she was treated to a lovely short rib chili topped with cilantro cream, not to mention fall-off-the-bone ribs. And, I can’t end without mentioning the perfectly portioned, delicious biscuits and slightly sweet cornbread. I’ll be going back!”

* Grillstone, Scotch Plains, New Jersey: “The oysters were excellent. The sushi appetizer was phenomenal. The Angus chili was mesmerizing.”

* Kenny’s Smoke House, Plano, Texas: “Wow!! The brisket chili and jalapeño cornbread are amazing. Might have just ruined chili any other way for me.” Continue reading…

And the Award Goes to…: #DinersChoice Winners for Best Restaurants Collect Their Trophies

Late last year, we revealed the winners of the  2014 Diners’ Choice Awards for the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America, and since then, we’ve been busy traveling around the nation to present the honorees with their engraved All-Clad awards in person.

“We are so honored and humbled by this acknowledgement from OpenTable Diners” said co-owners Ariana and Andres Fernandez of Ariana in Bend, Oregon. “Making sure our customers have an exceptional meal with incredible service is our mission at Ariana and we are so very pleased our customers feel that and have responded with such high praise.”

It is our great pleasure to once again highlight these amazing culinary professionals — and to provide them with a rare opportunity to take a break from their busy days in front and back of the house for a well-deserved pat on the back. Diners, meet some of your winners, and book a table at one of these top restaurants today!

The team behind Altius in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, accept their award.

Ariana and Andres Fernandez of Ariana in Bend, Oregon.

Owner Van Nolintha of Bida Manda Restaurant and Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina.

General manager Jason Kozlik of The Cellars in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Executive chef Colin Bedford, executive sous chef Tom Whitaker, and sous chef Thomas Card of Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, North Carolina.

Chef Jacques Francois of L’Auberge Chez François in Great Falls, Virginia.

Michael Cappitelli, manager of  Herons in Cary, North Carolina.

The team at La Mer at Halekulani in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Chef Roland Liccioni of Les Nomades in Chicago, Illinois.

Chef Niki Nakayama and team at n/naka in Los Angeles, California.

Chef Pierre Gagnac and general manager Nona Roberts of Ocean in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Owners Amy Reticker and Taylor Pederson of Red Hill Station in San Francisco, California.

Owner Paco Vargas with the chef and general manager of Rudy & Paco Restaurant & Bar in Galveston, Texas.

Owner Lil Lacassagne of Saint Jacques French Cuisine in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Chef Daniel Schurr, general manager Nicolle Roberts, and event director Marilynn Akers of Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Chef-owner Ken Norcutt and bar manager Tracy Smith of SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Chef-owner Cindy Wolf with co-owner Tony Foreman of Charleston in Baltimore, Maryland.

Owners Sal and Gina Speziale and chef Antonio of Ciao Osteria in Centreville, Virginia.

Chef-owner Thomas Henkelmann of Thomas Henkelmann-Homestead Inn in Greenwich, Connecticut.

#MyFoodieValentine Giveaway: That’s a Wrap!

Valentine’s Day is behind us (although you might not know it based on the amount of chocolate we’re still consuming), but before we bid a fond farewell to the most romantic day of the year, join us as we fete the My Foodie Valentine giveaway winners.

We received thousands of entries on Instagram and Twitter, ranging from pictures of delicious dishes to charming photos of the favorite foodie in your life. Congratulations, Danielle ThomasJhomalys MoranSharon GoughLauren SpinelliRosa NaranjoMarco Maurício MalkomesKwadwo BoatengLiliana SoileauChristina Copeland, and Lisa Nguyen.

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Thanks to everyone who entered, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Google+Instagram, and Twitter for future giveaways.

2015 James Beard Foundation Awards Restaurant + Chef Semifinalists

JBF Awards LogoOscars, schmoscars! Here at OpenTable, we’re all about the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards. This week, the James Beard Foundation released their list of semifinalists for nominations. Click here for a full list of nominated chefs, restaurants, and restaurateurs, including the extensive regional nominations. The final nominees will be revealed on March 24th. Winners will be announced on May 4th at the awards ceremony, which is being held in Chicago for the first time ever. Congratulations to the semi-finalists (and to you, too, Windy City denizens) — and best of luck to all those who have made it this far.

Nominated restaurants include:

Best New Restaurant
Abe Fisher, Philadelphia
Alden & Harlow, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Bâtard, New York, New York
Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, Las Vegas
Cosme, New York, New York
Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, South Carolina
Fiola Mare, Washington, D.C.
The Grey, Savannah, Georgia
Lusca, Atlanta, Georgia
Maude, Beverly Hills, California
Parachute, Chicago, Illinois
The Progress, San Francisco, California
San Salvaje, Dallas, Texas
Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Townsend, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Outstanding Restaurant
Acquerello, San Francisco, California
Bacchanalia, Atlanta. Georgia
La Belle Vie, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
Bluestem, Kansas City, Missouir
Canlis, Seattle, Washington
Fore Street, Portland, Maine
Fork, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Greens Restaurant, San Francisco, California
Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
Per Se, New York, New York
Spiaggia, Chicago, Illinois
The Spotted Pig, New York, New York
Vidalia, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Service
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OpenTable Seats a Record Two Million Diners in a Single Day

Chef and shift manager conversing after a mealWe are pleased to announce that OpenTable seated more than two million diners around the globe on Valentine’s Day, making it the highest volume day in our company’s history. Approximately half of the diners seated on Valentine’s Day booked via their mobile devices.

“It’s exciting to play a key role in helping more than two million diners around the globe find the perfect restaurant for Valentine’s Day,” said our own Matt Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of OpenTable. “Valentine’s Day is one of the most important, operationally-intensive days for our restaurant customers, and we’re incredibly proud to be an ingredient in the joy they bring to their guests on February 14th and throughout the year.”

Approximately 45 percent of these diners booked their reservations during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, and more than 10 percent booked on Valentine’s Day, the day diners consulted OpenTable at a peak rate of 400 searches per second.

New on OpenTable Mobile: Review Restaurants on Your iPhone for the First Time

If you’re an OpenTable diner with an iPhone and the latest version of the OpenTable mobile app, you can now review restaurants in real time right from your phone. The days of trying to remember whether you ordered a flat iron or flank steak the night or the week before are over. You no longer have to wait until you get back in front of a computer to share your experiences; now you can start writing your review as soon as you’re done dining.

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To begin crafting reviews on your iPhone, be sure you’re running version 8.3.0 of OpenTable on your iPhone. Launch the app, and then select ‘Profile’ in the upper left corner of the screen. Scroll down to view ‘Past Reservations’ and click on ‘Write A Review’ – and start sharing your thoughts with the restaurant and your fellow diners.

Download the free iPhone app today. And stay tuned for this exciting new feature on Android.

Culinary Couple Lee Chizmar + Erin Shea of Bolete Make the Most of Mondays

bolete photoWhen you blend two hospitality professionals with one successful restaurant and fold in two children, you’re not talking about a recipe that yields a ton of time for romance. Still, chef Lee Chizmar and general manager Erin Shea find ways to connect whenever they get the chance.

The owners of Bolete in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Chizmar and Shea opened their restaurant in 2008 to a steady stream of accolades, and the acclaim has kept them busy ever since. Shea says, “Honestly with a restaurant and two kids under four, there isn’t a lot of room left for reconnecting. We have Mondays off together and try to make sure that we spend that as a family, leaving date nights to few and far between. Romantic for us is if I stay awake long enough to make a sandwich for my husband and share a bottle of wine.  Literally a turkey sandwich.  I know it isn’t glamourous, but it is life right now.”

Uncorking a bottle of wine — and arguing its merits — is a common way Chizmar and Shea sneak in quality couple time. “We will often open a great bottle of wine, even if it isn’t a special occasion. We actually have very different tastes in wine (he is a California boy and I love old world), so great debate and conversation often go into these late night wine dates.  And, really, us both being awake is the special occasion,” she says.

Before starting their family and opening the doors at Bolete, Chizmar and Shea, a couple for the last nine years, dined their way around the northeast. “When we were first together, all our free time was spent enjoying food and drink. In Boston, we would go out to eat every night after work. And, pre-kiddos, we spent a lot of time traveling to New York when the restaurant was closed.” Prune is a perennial favorite of the pair. “The food is so delicious and simple,” notes Shea. They also enjoy discovering different restaurants in Philadelphia. Chef Chizmar’s recent birthday was spent at Townsend. “The cocktail program there is a standout, and I highly recommend heading to their bar for a drink and a snack.”

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In the Mood: What to Drink While You Dine on Valentine’s Day

At Cinghiale-Enoteca, owner/sommelier Tony Foreman + his staff invite wine drinkers to sign the special bottles they’ve ordered. There are thousands displayed.

Step away from the Chardonnay. Put down the pinot noir. Think outside the bourbon. That is an order. Seriously, though, you’ve carefully thought through Valentine’s Day dinner, picking an amazing restaurant with the perfect menu for you and your date; don’t stop there. You can make the 14th extra special with an unforgettable beverage experience that is anything but everyday. Eric Arnold, a wine and spirits expert and author of First Big Crush: The Down and Dirty on Making Great Wine Down Under, a book about a novice’s winemaking experiences in New Zealand, shared his four must-try picks to sip this Saturday.

Amaro
“The spirit that was once the afterthought downed by tired waitstaff and line cooks in Italian restaurants has suddenly become hip – and it was long overdue. Sort of a lighter, more nuanced version of herbal liqueurs such as Fernet-Branca, Amaro is slightly sweet but ever so alluring. Usually consumed after dinner, but certainly appropriate before the appetizers, Amaro never fails to bring a smile to a first-timer’s face.”

Vintage Champagne
“It’s perfectly normal if you’ve sipped a glass of Yellow Label Veuve, Moët, or Mumm and wondered what all the fuss is about. Vintage Champagne – all the grapes were picked in the same season, and a year is visible on the label – is an entirely different experience, especially if the bottle is upwards of a decade old. Vintage Champagne sometimes is a little lighter on the effervescence, but all those extra years of cellar aging make the wine richer in texture, fuller in flavor, and multidimensional in character. These are also the bubblies you can drink right through an entire meal, as these Champagnes tend to pair better with a wider range of foods.”

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10 Extra Special Valentine’s Day Special Requests

With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, we’ve been thinking about special requests a lot. A LOT. Our data team has been crunching data. We’ve been looking for trends. And, we’ve been sifting through years of requests, looking for our favorites. Some are heartfelt, some are desperate cries for help, and some are deliberately cheeky — and they’ve all left us hoping the restaurants were able to fulfill these requests (particulary #1 — we sincerely hope you survived, dear diner!).

1. “Can you make it extra romantic and nice? A booth will be preferable. My girlfriend is a bit on the crazy side, and I would like to spend Valentine’s Day without getting screamed at. PLEASE HELP ME SURVIVE VALENTINES DAY!”

2. “If at all possible, we’d like a waiter with a ponytail/longer hair and/or accent.”

3. “Draw a puppy on a piece of paper and leave it on the table!”

4. “I want to get lucky with my girl tonight :)”

5. “A free meal for being so darn good looking!”

6. “I am sending my girlfriend here along with one of her friends. I am in Iraq right now and would like you to accept my credit card for this dinner.”

7. “[Female name, redacted] is breaking up with [male, name redacted].”

8. “No requests, but we’re just five ladies without dates on Valentine’s Day. Feel free if you’d like to give us chocolates or glasses of wine to fill our hearts with love.”

9. “I’m asking my date to prom, and I’m bringing cupcakes that say ‘me’, ‘you’, and ‘prom’ on them. Could our server or the manager bring them out as a special desert? Please and thank you!”

10. “Tell Libby she smells like Amish turkey.”

The Duo Behind Dai Due in Austin Share Their Favorite Shareable Dish

t.j.fall2014(2)Dai Due opened in 2014, but its origins date back to 2006. The restaurant takes its name from the Italian adage, “Dai due regni di natura, piglia il cibo con misura,” which translates to “From the two kingdoms of nature, choose food with care.” Naturally, then, choosing food with care is the mantra at this popular Austin eatery and butcher shop specializing in the hyper local. Having built a solid reputation and loyal following over eight years as the Dai Due Supper Club and Farmers’ Market, the newish brick and mortar location in the Cherrywood neighborhood of Austin is keeping culinary couple Jesse Griffiths and Tamara Mayfield super busy. Happily, their dedication has paid off: Dai Due was just honored by the Austin Chronicle, being named First Plate Top 10s by both Brandon Watson and Virginia B. Wood and included on the Chronicle’s 2015 Top 100 Restaurants. Open six days a week, Dai Due occupies much of Griffiths and Mayfield’s time.

When they have time to cook at home together, Mayfield says, “It’s always roast chicken.” Together for a decade, she says that they also enjoy sharing a bottle of wine. “If we are doing wine, our favorite would be a bottle of Gigondas (that is what we were drinking when Jesse proposed at Chez Nous in Austin.).

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