The first episode of Season 7 of “Top Chef” opens in Washington, D.C. with the lovely Padma Lakshmi calling the nation’s capital “the city of idealists, visionaries and ruthless powerseekers,” and you can’t help but wonder if she’s talking about the town or the new cast. This batch of hopefuls includes the usual suspects: The Award Winner (Andrea Curto-Randazzo), The Big Deal (Kelly Liken), The Caterer (Jacqueline Lombard), The Dad (Stephen Hopcraft), The European (Alex Reznik), The Good Guy (Kevin Srbaga), The Hottie (Amanda Baumgarten), The Kid (Tamesha Warren), The Personality (Arnold Myint), The Quiet Threat (Tiffany Derry), The Sad Story (Timothy Dean), The Sass (Tracey Bloom), The Terminator (Kenny Gilbert), The Underdog (Ed Cotton), and some welcome new additions — The Instructor (Lynne Gigliotti), The Michelin Star (Angelo Sosa), and The Oddball (John Somerville — Sorry!).
The Quickfire Challenge isn’t anything groundbreaking, just another mis en place tournament that we’ve seen before. The chefs have to peel potatoes, brunoise onions, break down raw whole chickens into 8 pieces, and then cook a dish with these and other ingredients. The slowest chefs will be weeded out at each leg so that only four remain for the cooking portion. What’s really interesting isn’t the $20,000 at stake (which has Jersey Boy and aspiring homemaker Kevin drooling) but rather that most of the cheftestants clearly didn’t bother to brush up on the basics after they were cast. This kind of challenge is classic TC yet so many of these chefs struggle. Given, they have to peel potatoes with a paring knife and not a speedy peeler, but still.
Father’s Day is Sunday, June 20. Don’t let Dad spend his day standing at the grill! Say thanks for being a terrific father by treating him to a Father’s Day meal. Restaurants around the nation are offering up interesting perks for pops and moneysaving dining deals, so picking up the tab is painless.
* SOHO in Atlanta is putting on a “Low Down Lobster Boil” that includes corn, potatoes, andouille sausage and a salad for just $25.
* Dads celebrating in Chicago should check out Kinzie Chop House, where you’ll receive a complimentary drink flight and free dessert.
* In New York, Havana Central Union Square is offering a complimentary hand-rolled cigar.
* Philadelphia puts the free in freedom with Cork Restaurant. Fathers will enjoy a free rib eye steak when he dines with his family!
* San Francisco‘s Chaya Brasserie is serving a three-course brunch that includes bottomless draft beer and terrific views. Just make sure Dad’s not the designated driver.
* Frugal diners and sports fans will love what’s being offered at Sazerac in Seattle. For just $10, you can buy dad a burger, a beer, and a brownie while you watch the Mariners game.
* If Mom took your Dad out to celebrate in Washington, D.C. the night before, consider hitting up POV at the W Hotel for “Dad’s Hangover Washington Bellini Brunch.” At just $39, your father can get rid of a hangover (or work on another one), thanks to the bottomless Bellinis.
At OpenTable, we’re fans of all kinds restaurants. We love romantic restaurants as well as those that are good for groups. We love to find places where you can dine with your four-legged friends. And because we were all little foodies once upon a time, we’re glad there are terrific kid-friendly restaurants. But, not everyone thinks kids and restaurants go together.
While there are plenty of ways to make dining out with children a positive experience for all parties (including the people at the next table), some parents choose not to bring their kids to certain restaurants. Also, not every restaurant goes out of its way to accommodate children. Still, there are upscale restaurants in New York (though Eater NY would disagree) and London that embrace tiny diners, as well as many more all around the U.S..
Do you take your children to fine-dining restaurants? Do they enjoy it? Have someone else’s children ever marred your fine-dining experience? Weigh in here or tell us what you think on Facebook.
Recent trends and tips from the restaurant world…
* Some folks have had their fill of filament lights in restaurants. [The New York Times]
* The age of celebrity-chef worship continues… [Time]
* …which may explain why they’re turning down your special requests. [NY Post]
* Shark has jumped the shark in Hawaii. [Associated Press]
* New York City restaurateurs fear a bad grade from the DOH will cause their businesses to fail. [Gothamist]
* Laptops in restaurants leave a bad taste in some diners’ mouths — and some guilt on Michael Bauer’s conscience. [InsideScoopSF]
* Certain Manhattan hotspots only want hot waitstaff serving up hot plates. Lawsuit, anyone? [NY Post]
* You can now become a food snob in seven simple steps. [Salon]
* Clean your plate — or one chef will make you pay, literally and figuratively. [MSNBC]
Cigarette smoking in restaurants in the United States is all but extinct as is the case in the United Kingdom. However, cigar smoking is making a bit of comeback across the pond. A number of restaurants in the UK are going out of their way to accommodate diners who enjoy a post-meal stogie, either with enclosed smoking areas known as cosas (which stands for “comfortable outdoor smoking areas) or lounges. According to the Financial Times, 220 restaurants in Britain offer such spaces, many are selling cigars as well.
These spaces aren’t necessarily meant to encourage smoking, but rather to deal with the practical problems it creates. Restaurateurs grapple with smokers loitering outside entrances, forcing other patrons to walk through wafting smoke as they enter and exit restaurants. Cigarette and cigar butts dot sidewalks. Food falls cold as smokers dash in and out. Savvy industry professionals are tackling some of these issues with cosas and by embracing cigar smokers, who are some of their “best spending customers.”
Would you prefer that a restaurant create a cosa so you wouldn’t ever have to walk through a cloud of smoke in front of a restaurant? Is finishing a meal with a cigar more “culinarily acceptable” than a cigarette? Chime in here or join the debate on Facebook.
As the Gulf Coast oil disaster continues to wreak havoc on wildlife, food sources, and the livelihoods of thousands of people, you may be feeling helpless. While no one has all the answers on how to stem the dangerous tide, some of the nation’s top chefs and restaurateurs are stepping up to support the long-term restoration of the treasured coast — and they need your help!
During Dine Out for the Gulf Coast, which runs June 10-12, 2010, participating restaurants throughout the United States will set aside a portion of profits to help those directly affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Jimmy Gale, organizer of Dine Out for the Gulf Coast, “The short-term goal of The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, administered by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is to make emergency grants to nonprofit organizations helping the victims of the oil spill. The long-term goal of the fund is to address the long-term economic, environmental, cultural effects of the disaster, and strengthen coastal communities against future environmental catastrophes by investing in solutions. No administrative fees will be charged to the fund: all funds will be re-granted to the communities in need.”
The list of participating restaurants around the nation includes Blackbird, Chez Panisse Cafe, Print, Reef, Slanted Door, Zaytinya, and many more. Each restaurant will customize its own Dine Out for the Gulf Coast benefit program. Some restaurants will contribute a percentage of total sales for the day and others will donate the sales from specific menu items, while others will offer specialty cocktails with a dollar-value from sales donated to the fund.
To stand out from the crowd and please the most passionate foodies, many restaurants have focused their efforts on creating a signature dish, one that is singular in execution and gets buzzed about for any number of other reasons. It could be because of a blend of lavish ingredients (such as the db Burger at db Bistro Moderne), unique plating and techniques (such as the confit of Moulard duck “foie gras” at The French Laundry), or simply a hefty pricetag (for the $500 hotpot at Las Vegas restaurant Shaboo).
Chef Mark Ladner spoke with New York Magazine last month about the hundred-layer lasagne he conceived for Mario Batali’s Manhattan restaurant Del Posto. As soon as I read about it, I knew I had to try it. And, I am pleased to report that I enjoyed every single bite. I will admit that I didn’t count the layers — but that’s only because I was too busy eating them! While the dish appears laborious in terms of prep, it is, in truth, a wonderfully simple dish (which was a real relief as it was served in the middle of a seven-course tasting menu).
What over-the-top dishes have you dined on that have truly delivered? Have any not lived up to the hype? Share your stories here and on Facebook.
If you’re an OpenTable diner who lives or dines in Atlanta or Chicago, follow our local Twitter handles — @OpenTable_ATL and @OpenTable_Chi – for news on new restaurants, dining deals and discounts, and for a chance to earn free meals even faster. No, we’re not talking about 1,000-point reservations (although those help)! Next week, we’re kicking off Twitter Trivia Tuesdays on these local handles. If you’re a registered OpenTable diner who answers our trivia tweet correctly, you may find your OpenTable account 500 Dining Rewards Points richer.
Because OpenTable is all about dining out, trivia questions will be related to chefs, food, and restaurants (with a dash of pop culture). So, start following @OpenTable_ATL and @OpenTable_Chi to be part of our inaugural Twitter Trivia Tuesday a week from today — and be sure to join in the fun every week.