Jill + Joe Dobias of Joe & MissesDoe on Time off and Time Together

Working in New York City’s East Village, Joe and Jill Dobias, the team behind Joe & MissesDoe, have been in a relationship for 10 years, in business together for six and a half, and married for a year and a half. Joe is executive chef, while Jill manages the restaurant, including its acclaimed bar program. The restaurant is open six days a week, and the pair also operate JoeDough, a successful catering and events company. Like most restaurant couples, this doesn’t leave much time for – much.

Jill says, “Work is work for Joe and me, so even though we live together and work together, we don’t get to spend a lot of ‘couple’ time together. It’s important that on our day off we try to limit the ‘work talk’ and make sure we do ‘normal’ couple things like cook dinner, go out to dinner, and watch movies.”

When they find downtime together in their own Manhattan kitchen, the roles are reversed, with Jill stepping behind the burner. “I love to cook for Joe. He cooks for a living, and he totally appreciates when someone else does it for him. My favorite dish to cook for him is pork chops. It’s really funny because I’m a Jewish girl and I’m cooking the most treif meal possible. I didn’t grow up eating a lot of pork, so I guess I like the challenge. I get really creative, too, and make stuffed pork chops,” she shares with a laugh.

The pair are also sure to venture out to sample other notable restaurants in town. “Joe and I had an amazingly romantic meal at Upland. Chef Justin Smillie’s menu is outstanding. We ate at the bar at ten o’clock on a Monday night … and it was perfect.” Note to foodies: They give special shout outs to the live scallop dish and a chicken liver pasta.

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

Ken NorcuttThis 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 copyLike 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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Chef Charlie Palmer on Bringing His Take on Steak to New York City, Longevity, Luger’s + More

CP-BlogThis fall, chef-restaurateur Charlie Palmer opened Charlie Palmer Steak in the Big Apple, a much-welcomed addition to Manhattan’s midtown east neighborhood. Joining sibling Charlie Palmer Steak restaurants located in Las Vegas, Reno, and Washington, D.C., Palmer and his team are ready to wow savvy steak-loving New Yorkers with carefully sourced and deliciously prepared meats (and more). Renowned for his restaurants, hotels, and food-forward wine shops around the nation, he discusses the Charlie Palmer Steak menu, how his restaurant differs from the fabled Peter Luger, what’s in chef Matthew Zappoli’s signature cocktail sauce (sort of!), and diners’ longstanding love affair with the steakhouse in this exclusive Q+A.

You’re a native New Yorker and you opened your very first restaurant, Aureole, there. You have other locations of Charlie Palmer Steak around the nation — what made you decide to bring Charlie Palmer Steak to Manhattan at this point?

I’m actually from upstate New York, a small town called Smyrna, surrounded by farming communities. I opened Aureole in 1988 here in New York City, followed by Astra (which we just closed this year and are reopening as Upper Story in the next month), Kitchen 22, Kitchen 82, Metrazur, and more. So, I’ve long had a footprint and a place in New York City. We’ve been searching for the right location for a Charlie Palmer Steak in Manhattan for quite some time, and this one landed in my lap earlier this year.

Dating back to Peter Luger, the steakhouse feels like a very New York convention. What are the challenges of this market? What do diners expect from a New York steakhouse — and how do you deliver that?

It’s true. The steakhouse, or actually the ‘beefsteak’, has been a New York tradition since the 1800s. I think the challenges are numerous, but so are the successes. There are a ton of steakhouses in this town, so it’s about standing out, serving top quality beef, and providing the best service. My philosophy on steakhouses has always been different from the Luger format. I don’t want it to be a men’s club – I want it to be a place where men and women are both equally comfortable and the food goes beyond the beef — to really thoughtful, composed seafood dishes and hearty salads.

Why do you think we, as a nation of diners, have such a longstanding love affair with steakhouses? What is the ongoing allure? Continue Reading

Top Chef Season 12 Cheftestants Revealed

Mark your calendars and program your DVRs, food TV fans! On October 15, 2014, season 12 of Top Chef premieres. Set in Boston, Massachusetts, look for episodes taking place at The Bull and Finch Pub (aka Cheers), Fenway Park, and Plimoth Plantation, plus challenges centered around the first Thanksgiving, the inaugural Top Chef food festival, a fan appreciation meal in the Top Chef kitchen, and cooking for Boston’s police and fire departments. Last Chance Kitchen will also return, so even if your favorites packs their knives, they may live to compete another day. This season’s cheftestants are:

TC Season 12Doug Adams, chef de cuisine, Imperial, Portland, Oregon

Stacy Cogswell, executive chef, The Regal Beagle, Boston Massachusetts

Joy Crump, formerly of Woodfire Grill, Atlanta, Georgia

Ron Eyester, executive chef/owner, Rosebud, Atlanta, Georgia

Gregory Gourdet, executive chef, Departure Restaurant and Lounge, Portland, Oregon

Aaron Grissom, chef, Bow & Truss, Los Angeles, California

Adam Harvey, chef, Hometown Bar-B-Que, Brooklyn, New York

Melissa King, former sous chef, The Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, San Francisco, California

Rebecca LaMalfa, executive sous chef, Trenchermen, Chicago, Illinois

Mei Lin, sous chef, ink., Los Angeles, California

George Pagonis, executive chef/partner, Kapnos, Washington, D.C.

Michael Patlazhan, private chef, Brooklyn, New York

James Rigato, executive chef, The Root Restaurant & Bar, White Lake, Michigan

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