August Restaurant Weeks: Where to Dine for Less

Blog August Restaurant Weeks Casa Lever copyAugust is almost upon us — bringing with it even more summer restaurant weeks. We’ve rounded up where to dine for less in the coming month!

* Baltimore Restaurant Week lets you dine out more in B’more with $15 lunches and $20 + $30 dinners through August 2. Book a table.

* Howard County Restaurant Week has local flavor at fabulous prix-fixe prices through August 3. Book a table.

* New York City Restaurant Week has $25 lunches + $38 dinners at more than 300 restaurants, including Casa Lever (which will be offering its red beet tortelli with ricotta, spring English peas, Pecorino fondue, and raspberry-pickled red pearl onion, pictured), through August 14. Book a table.

* Hudson Restaurant Week brings $13 and up lunches + $25 and up dinners through August 7. Book a table.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week is cooking up $15.15, $25.15, $35.15 lunches + dinners, July 31-August 15. Book a table.

* COOLinary New Orleans has delicious two- or three-course lunches for $20 or less, three-course dinners for $39 or less, and all-new $39 or less prix-fixe brunches, August 1-31. Book a table.

* Houston Restaurant Weeks stretch for five delicious weeks of $20 lunches, $25 brunches, and $35 + $45 dinners, from August 1-September 7. Book a table.

* Miami Spice has sweet dining deals with $23 lunches + $39 dinners, August 1-September 30. Book a table.

* Center City District Restaurant Week in Philadelphia starts soon. Don’t miss $20 lunches + $35 dinners, August 2-14. Book a table.

* Downtown St. Louis Restaurant Week is your gateway to $25 dinners, August 3-9. Book a table.

* Pittsburgh Restaurant Week invites you to dine on three-course prix-fixe meals + $20.15 specialties, August 10-16. Book a table.Continue Reading

Lunch Break: Meet OpenTable Employee Brooks Hassig

Brooks Hassig headshot-medAt OpenTable, we’re always searching for ways to improve the dining experience for guests and restaurants alike. One of our biggest accomplishments in that area is OpenTable mobile payments. Brooks Hassig is part of the team that works on this feature that lets diners settle their checks with just a few taps. He hails from Seattle and Motor City, likes to drink some of his meals (in the healthful way, of course), and he’s a sucker for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Read on to meet OpenTable employee Brooks Hassig, learn about his picks for local food and drink, and discover what he’s digging into during his work day in today’s Lunch Break. 

Name: Brooks Hassig

Hometown: Seattle and Detroit

Job Title: Senior Experience Designer

What that means that I do at OpenTable: I help diners pay with their phones.

Years at OpenTable: 0.8  Alma mater: Western Washington University

I have not worked in a restaurant. (But I do like to eat at ’em!)

The food I can’t live without: PB+J sandwiches — I’m a simple man.

The one food I’ll never try: Hákarl — so gross!

My go-to drink or cocktail: Bundaberg Ginger Beer

The delicious dessert I refuse to share: Get your hands off my carrot cake.

My favorite thing about dining out is: Food/service/clean up

If pizza!!!!!!!! is on a restaurant’s menu, I almost always order it.

My last best restaurant meal was at: Le Sain Bol in Montreal

The restaurant I am a regular at: Samovar-Yerba Buena + Castro locationsContinue Reading

National Caviar Day: Indulgences for Every Budget

Caviar has been around for 250 million years, making it not quite as old as Earth itself, but one of our eldest delicacies. The first documented instance of caviar comes many millennia later, from grandson-to-Genghis Batu Khan in the year 1240, and it took nearly 600 more years for it to grow into the coveted culinary delight it is now renowned to be.  

Caviar is, typically, the roe, or eggs, of sturgeon, a fish with more than 20 species, many of whom we refer to by common names familiar to caviar fans, such as beluga. However, as our cooking cultures have evolved, chefs and home cooks have appropriated the idea of caviar, creating “caviar” out of everything from eggplant to black beans and corn (Yippee ki-yay for cowboy caviar!).

According to a Google Ngram Viewer query, it reached its pinnacle of popularity in 1986, right around the old “greed is good” days. But, caviar is still fashionable, and it isn’t just for folks born with a mother-of-pearl spoon in their mouths. A taste of the real stuff can be yours for a price that won’t break the bank. In honor of National Caviar Day, we’ve rounded up indulgences for every budget from 14 restaurants around the nation. PS: We’ll let you decide for yourself whether it pairs best with Champagne or vodka (Team Craig Claiborne, FTW, in my opinion).

Brennan’s of Houston, Houston, Texas
Executive chef Danny Trace adds elegance to his deliciously layered take on a favorite sport-watching snack with his blue crab and caviar nachos. Fire-roasted corn, Saint-André queso, alligator pear (a.k.a. avocado) mirliton pico de gallo, and lime crema rest on crispy chips — and the whole thing is crowned with an ounce of Petrossian caviar. Dig in for $100. You may not want to share, even if your team is winning.

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Catch, Santa Monica, California
How do you make lobster even more luxe? Add black truffle and California caviar, of course. That’s what executive chef Alberico Nunziata does (along with a bit of green apple for acidic balance) at this restaurant in Hotel Casa del Mar! The fresh, light shellfish is the perfect canvas for the rich flavors of these affluent ingredients. It’s yours for the eating at $23.[Photo courtesy of Hotel Casa del Mar]

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Faith & Flower, Los Angeles, California
Potato salad has its origins in European cooking, so it’s no surprise that the staple of homegrown picnics returns to its roots at Faith & Flower, one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants of 2014. The warm new potato salad from executive chef Michael Hung is made with a creamy grain-mustard vinaigrette and generously topped with trout caviar – for just $14.

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Found Kitchen and Social House, Evanston, Illinois
While many people seek out the extravagant beluga and osetra caviars, chef Nicole Pederson stays true to her mission of offering locally-sourced ingredients, serving 30 grams of beautiful American paddlefish ($44) and hackleback caviar ($55). Crème fraîche and toast points accompany each elegant and simple dish.

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L’Etoile, Madison, Wisconsin
The flavors are big and fresh in the premier dish of the $125 seven-course tasting menu at L’Etoile. James Beard Award-winning chef Tory Miller combines local Blue Valley Gardens asparagus with smoked trout, radishes, and cattail shoots, topped with hollandaise and decadent smoked trout roe, for a light-yet-indulgent first course.

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Mas (farmhouse), New York, New York
You need a line of credit to do a caviar tasting, right? Not at Mas you don’t! The appetizer menu is an affordable way to sample wild American malossol caviar with traditional accompaniments of toasted brioche, crème fraîche, and shallots. The paddlefish is $38 for ½ ounce portion + $76 for 1 ounce. Hackleback is $42 and $84, respectively. Or, sample the wild king salmon gravlax with paddlefish caviar, baby red beets, spring onions, horseradish crème fraîche, and an ‘everything’ tuile on chef Galen Zamarra’s tasting menu.

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Minton’s, New York, New York
Down-home ingredients meet uptown extravagance with chef J.J. Johnson’s roasted Okinawa sweet potato entrée with crème fraîche onion dip and paddlefish caviar. The roast-y root vegetable is the clear star, but the supporting cast has just the right amount of flash. Try it for $29. [Photo by Liz Barclay]

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Niche, Clayton, Missouri
Chefs Gerard Craft, the 2015 James Beard Best Midwest Chef, and executive chef Nate Hereford create their own caviar in this seductive egg amuse bouche. Missouri egg custard is made with Illinois maple and maple vinegar, roasted shitake mushrooms, and a trout “caviar” fashioned from strong smoked trout stock seasoned with housemade trout garum and set with agar agar to mimic the look and umami flavor of caviar. It is available as part of an eight-course tasting menu. [Photo courtesy of Greg Rannells]

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Petrossian Paris Boutique & Restaurant, West Hollywood, California
You can’t talk about caviar without mentioning the Petrossian name, which has been synonymous with caviar since the company was founded in Paris in 1920. Executive chef Giselle Wellman created a carb-y (yet delicate) caviar dish with housemade pasta, crème fraîche, chives, and caviar (of course!), garnished with Petrossian’s trademarked Caviar Powder. Order it at dinner for $22 for a half portion and $35 for a full plate.Continue Reading

NYC French Restaurant Week: Five Favorites to Feast On

In honor of Bastille Day on July 14th, French Restaurant Week kicked off in New York City on Monday, July 13 and runs through July 19th. Commemorating the start of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, Bastille Day is a national celebration in France. As the French have contributed so much to America’s culinary culture, and, in particular, New York’s, restaurants around the city are celebrating with delicious dining deals and dishes. Here are five favorites to feast on during NYC French Restaurant Week. 

The super-stylish Brasserie 8 ½ features a sweeping staircase, a sleek bar, and a mod, airy dining room with original artwork by Léger, Matisse, and others favored by the Louvre! Très French! With three courses for $35.78, diners can kick things off with a staple, such as steak tartare, and a choice of entrée, including the classic confit de canard. Whatever you choose to begin with, consider ending your meal with the pêche, or peach, Melba. This once-ubiquitous sweet treat deserves its own renaissance. Conceived by chef Auguste Escoffier (and inspired by his admiration for the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba) in the late 1890s, the medley of peaches, raspberries, and vanilla ice cream is served at Brasserie 8 ½ with an almond financier and toasted almonds. As the height of peach season hits, this is not to be missed.

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Le Cirque has built its reputation on sophisticated spectacle. Named for the French word for circus, it is the creation of Sirio Maccioni, who perfected his version of personal hospitality as maitre d’hotel at Manhattan’s elite clubhouse-to-the-stars Colony, which shuttered in 1971. Le Cirque attracted a similar bold-faced name crowd, thriving over the course of three locations in more than 40 years, providing doting service and refined dining to famous guests as well as your average Joes and Joans. Despite Maccioni’s Italian heritage, Le Cirque is decidedly French in its cuisine. The luxe $178.90 NYC French Restaurant Week menu includes a bottle of bubbly Champagne (natch!) and lobster salad, but it’s the closer of crackly, creamy crème brûlée that’s our pick for the coolest course.

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Perennial favorite Orsay, a classic Manhattan bistro that opened in 2000 whose lineage extends from the team behind La Goulue, which closed its doors in 2009 after nearly 40 years of foie gras and frites, describes itself as a work of art – and we couldn’t agree more. The décor, the high-backed banquettes with frosted glass, and the flattering lighting will transport you to Paris’s Art Nouveau age. Go for the multi-course $35.78 lunch – and order the elegant and artful skatefish. Delicate and healthful with its parsley, capers, and deceptively simple brown butter sauce, the dish is a staunch reminder of why the French seem to have such enviable physiques despite their gourmet appetites.

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