Thrillist’s Ways to C.Y.A.: Last-Minute Tips for Men on Valentine’s Day

Thrillists Ways to CYA Thrillists Ways to C.Y.A.: Last Minute Tips for Men on Valentines DayLast year, many diners booked their Valentine’s Day reservations on OpenTable in the week leading up to the big day. And the guys over at Thrillist wouldn’t be surprised if most of those last-minute bookers were men. According to Ben Robinson, senior editor of the site that specializes in uncovering the best of your city’s food, drinks, gear, services, entertainment, travel options, and events, “Unlike women, men are inherently lazy, negligent, and terrified to think they know who they’ll be buying a lobster dinner for three weeks from now; naturally, they assume all other men are just like this as well.” But, says Robinson, “There are always some guys who brazenly break ranks and actually book Valentine’s Day reservations before 5:00pm on the 14th, but the rest of the men need help, and OpenTable’s there to rescue them.”

While OpenTable can help rescue dinner, we can’t take care of every aspect of a creating a successful Valentine’s Day for you and your girl. Fortunately, Robinson, who has been with Thrillist for three years, is sharing his “Valentine’s Day You-Know-What Savers” for every man without a plan.

1. Tailored Music. Robinson raves, “This service is incredible! They actually create a custom love song for your lady that’s totally personalized for her and even comes in a special CD package with the lyrics. The only way you could ruin this one is by trying to sing it yourself.”

2. Chocolate Nation’s Chocolate Concierge. He recommends these chocolates with a personal touch, saying “These guys take info on your special woman, such as hobbies and culinary likes and dislikes, and turn that into a bespoke box of chocolates pulled together from some of the finest chocolatiers in the country, who even make specialty chocolates if your girl is kosher, vegan, or just really committed to fair trade.”

3. The Ultimate Rose. Robinson recommends saying it with flowers — really, really big flowers! He advises guys, “These cartoonishly oversized roses range from three to six feet long, meaning they make up for all the times you forgot to get her flowers. Actually, that’s not true at all.”

4. Call Me Casanova. “Casanova never lets you forget another must-gift day. Just pre-set what you want to send to your main squeeze, from flowers to jewelry, when you want them to send it, and they take care of the remembering. You can also have them send pre-penned love notes stuffed in bottles — you just have to pray she’s forgotten your handwriting,” he adds.

Valentine’s Day Twitter Limo Giveaway: Tuesday’s Giveaway Tweet of the Day

Yesterday, we started giving away one limo a day, courtesy of Limos.com, and the contest runs through Friday, February 12, 2010. To enter to win, just follow @OpenTable on Twitter and tweet back your response to our giveaway tweet of the day. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of each day and announced the next day over Twitter.

Today’s tweet of the day is…

Tweet your Valentine’s Day celeb dream date + #otvdaylimo to win today’s limo giveaway: http://bit.ly/9Eo4U5

I’d like to dine with Roger Federer (not more than my husband, though. No, really. Well…maybe. Sorry, honey!) so my response (if I were eligible, and I’m still not) would look like this:

Roger Federer + #otvdaylimo

Read more about giveaway rules and regulations here, and stay tuned as we announce Monday’s winner later today. Good luck!

Valentine’s Day Twitter Limo Giveaway: Giveaway Tweet of the Day

As you know, we’re giving away one limo a day, today through Friday, February 12, 2010, courtesy of Limos.com. To enter to win, just follow @OpenTable on Twitter and tweet back your response to our giveaway tweet of the day. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of each day and announced the next morning over Twitter.

Today’s tweet of the day is…

Tweet your #valentinesday #restaurant + @opentable + #otvdaylimo to win today’s limo giveaway! http://bit.ly/9Eo4U5

I’m dining at SHO Shaun Hergatt, so my response (if I were eligible, and I’m not…sniff!) would look like this:

SHO Shaun Hergatt @OpenTable #otvdaylimo

You can read more about giveaway rules and regulations here. Good luck!

Dining Out on Valentine’s Day Is Twice as Nice in 2010, Survey Says

Dining out on Valentines Day 2010 Dining Out on Valentines Day Is Twice as Nice in 2010, Survey SaysOpenTable diners are enjoying twice as many dining options for Valentine’s Day this year, thanks to February 14 falling on a Sunday. According to a recent online survey of nearly 1,000 diners, just as many people are choosing to eat out on Saturday, February 13, in honor of Valentine’s Day as are dining out on the actual holiday. This doubles your odds of dining out at the restaurant of your choice. And, if you factor in Friday night or doing brunch on Sunday at a hotspot…well, you can do math!

In terms of who’s dining with whom, the survey revealed that more than 63% of respondents will be dining out with a partner during this romantic weekend. In good news for foodies who aren’t picking up the tab, 85% expect to spend at least as much as they did in 2009. Multi-course menus, here we come!

We also learned that while Paris may be the city of lights and love, 33% of Valentine’s diners are seeking out Italian cuisine most of all this year — though French cuisine is a close second at 29%.

The factors that contributed to a really romantic dining experience included a private table (28%), exceptional service (16%), and a beautiful view (13%). Most respondents didn’t care about candlelight (5%) or soft music (2%), calling into question two longtime courtship clichés.

Do any of these statistics shock or surprise you? Let us know here or over on Facebook.

And, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to win one of five Valentine’s Day limo giveaways.

Top Vancouver Restaurants for Medal-Worthy Meals

Top Vancouver Restaurants for Medal Worthy Meals Top Vancouver Restaurants for Medal Worthy MealsHeading to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics? Get a competitive advantage over your fellow foodies with the scoop on 10 top restaurants serving meals as memorable as the games.

1. Araxi. Araxi has been satisfying Whistler diners for nearly two decades, but the name may be familiar to fans of Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen.” Featured on the fiery show, Dave Levey, the winning contestant, is now cooking behind the line under the expert tutelage of James Walt. Forget the fanfare, though, and go for the farm-fresh, seasonal food, their impressive wine cellar, and the stellar service.

2. Bearfoot Bistro: Known among foodies far and wide for it’s regional and seasonal menu, the Bearfoot Bistro boasts a Champagne bar with a frozen ice rail and live piano music as well as an award-winning chef. Melissa Craig is renowned for her New Canadian cuisine, served up in a romantic setting. Watch for unique ingredients: Caribou, anyone?

3. Bishop’s: Fresh seafood and local meats keep locals coming back to Bishop’s in Kitsilano regularly – as do the staff. Owner John Bishop and maitre d’ Abel Jacinto are known for their hospitality while executive chef Andrea Carlson brings her love of gardening into the restaurant’s kitchen with sustainable foods. Try the Yukon Gold potato soup to warm you up and whet your appetite.

4. The Cannery Seafood House. An institution of the Vancouver dining scene since 1971, The Cannery is set to close on March 27, 2010 – forever. Don’t miss your last chance to sample the delicious dishes at this scenic stand-by that’s situated in the Port of Vancouver. Come for the amazing sunsets and stay for the ocean-friendly seafood and deep discounts on wines of all prices from the restaurant’s impressive cellar.

5. db Bistro Moderne. Restaurateur/renowned chef Daniel Boulud brings his brand of casual culinary magic northwest from New York to Kitsilano. Traditional bistro fare, such as coq au vin, populates the menu alongside locally inspired dishes. Don’t miss the famous db Burger (sirloin filled with braised short ribs and black truffle).

6. Five Sails. Operated by husband and wife team of Chef Ernst Dorfler and Gerry Sayers, Five Sails has a view to kill for and cuisine to match it. A favorite of OpenTable diners, the restaurant is very vegetarian-friendly, but you’ll also find plenty of meat dishes, including fallow deer, on the menu.

7. Lumiere. Another restaurant with Daniel Boulud’s imprimatur on it, Lumiere literally has something for everyone. Upscale sister to db Bistro Moderne (which is adjacent to Lumiere), Lumiere has a variety of menus to please varying palates and wallets, from small plates and a seasonal prix-fixe for just $65 to vegetarian tasting menu and a specially created grand tasting experience. Lumiere seats just 45, so reserve early.

8. Maenam. Maenam boasts a terrific Thai menu and a pedigreed chef, Angus An, who worked with and was inspired by David Thompson, the renowned chef of Nahm in London, the only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in the world. Authentic dishes, such as stir-fried halibut cheeks, are served up in a casual setting with prices that won’t break the bank.

9. Market by Jean-Georges. Jean-Georges brings contemporary American cuisine to Vancouver. The restaurant itself is as dimensional as its menu, with an intimate and approachable café with a fireplace, a heated outdoor seasonal terrace with city views, a welcoming bar, and a sophisticated fine-dining room. Choose your own culinary adventure, starting with which section you dine in and whether you order from the raw menu, small plates, or sumptuous main dishes.

10. Rimrock Café. Two fireplaces set the mood at this cozy yet upscale Whistler restaurant. A favorite of locals, Rimrock’s menu features oysters served seven different ways, seafood specialties, and buffalo, caribou, and venison entrees. The wine program is paramount to Rimrock’s success. Oenophiles will enjoy the can’t-miss lit cellar that holds more than 320 labels from around the world.

Fondue or Fon-don’t: Does Melted Cheese Melt Hearts?

Fondue or Fondont Fondue or Fon dont: Does Melted Cheese Melt Hearts?We recently announced the winners of the OpenTable Diners’ Choice award for the Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants. Of the 50, a whopping 12 were Melting Pot restaurants, where fondue anchors the menus. Two other winners, La Fondue and Simply Fondue, are also, as you might have guessed by their names, fondue-friendly eateries. The Chicago Tribune‘s food blog, The Stew, picked up on our list’s fromage factor and ran with it, while the clever folks over at Eater didn’t want to give a shout out to these restaurants when they generously covered our list, saying, “[F]ondue hasn’t been considered romantic since Three’s Company went off the air.” The fact remains, however, that many diners find fondue to be the perfect mood food for a romantic evening.

What exactly is it that makes love bloom over melted cheese and other cook-it-yourself delights? We weren’t quite sure, so we reached out to our network of diners over Facebook and Twitter. Bulbul Gupta says, “Interactive food is always a great date dinner idea, interactive anything is very romantic — you learn to share early on and can easily feed each other with a one-foot distance without it getting overly mushy…perfect!” Diner Teresa Miller concurs, “The Melting Pot in Larkspur is VERY romantic. The location is in an old brick kiln with lots of low lighting. Cheese is comfort food, hence the reason why romance blooms when bellies are satisfied!” Jennifer Kaplan, also a fondue fan, says, “My husband and I do find it romantic. The lighting is low and the tables are reasonably secluded. We enjoy lingering over our dinner and find the food to be very good.” Ryan Mathus tweets, “I find fondue/Melting Pot cool just because it’s not your traditional meal and more hands on. It’s all about us.” Fellow tweep Jen Fairchild notes, rather poetically (or erotically?), “Fondue is steamy and hot and thick and creamy and good…just like love!”

Perhaps the best and not-at-all cheesy cheese story we heard comes from OpenTable diner Cara Couture of Charlotte, North Carolina. She writes, “My husband and I go to The Melting Pot any time we have reason to celebrate — graduation, anniversary, new job, a Friday night — but our favorite reason was to celebrate our engagement. In between the limo ride and the chartered plane trip around the city of Columbus, Ohio, my then-fiancé made dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot, where a bouquet of roses was at our regular table with a congratulations card signed by the restaurant staff. To this day, that remains the most romantic night of my life.” Sigh. My husband’s marriage proposal is looking more and more lame the more stories I hear like this one (a chartered plane?). But, I digress.

To find out if the people from The Melting Pot had any insights as to why their dining experience is so aphrodisiacal, we reached out to Chad Hornik, who owns several Melting Pot locations, including those in Richmond and Virginia Beach,  which were included on our Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants winners for 2010. Hornik says of his restaurants’ romantic appeal, “Dining with fondue creates an aura of romance. It’s a participation meal — you’re cooking, helping, talking. Even if the conversation gets awkward, diners can talk about the food.” Also, “The lighting is dim, and each table is designed to have its own intimate atmosphere. We even have curtains that block off some of our tables, and sometimes we have to knock before we enter!” The Melting Pot, though, is more than just cheese. Hornik adds, “The cheese is just the appetizer. It’s a relaxed four-course dining experience, and the desserts…well, dipping strawberries into chocolate is pretty romantic.”

Chad, you had me (and, most certainly, my chocoholic husband) at strawberries and chocolate. Perhaps a a trip to The Melting Pot will prompt a second proposal. And, yes, Curt, that means a second ring.

Valentine’s Day Limo Twitter Giveaway: Follow @OpenTable for a Chance to Win

OpenTable Valentines Day Twitter Limo Giveaway1 Valentines Day Limo Twitter Giveaway: Follow @OpenTable for a Chance to Win Do you want a limo to whisk you and your date to and from dinner on Valentine’s Day? All it takes is a tweet! Beginning Monday, February 8, 2010, at 9:00AM EST, OpenTable is taking to Twitter to give away five limousines, courtesy of Limos.com, to five lucky diners, in honor of Valentine’s Day.

To enter to win, follow @OpenTable on Twitter and watch out for our giveaway tweet of the day. Tweet back your reply and stay tuned. One limousine will be awarded to one entrant, chosen at random, for five straight days. Winners will be announced the following day on Twitter.

Read the official rules and regulations below, and get ready to ride in style on the most romantic day of the year.

follow bird us c Valentines Day Limo Twitter Giveaway: Follow @OpenTable for a Chance to Win


OpenTable 2010 Valentine’s Day Twitter Giveaway
 TERMS AND CONDITIONS

1. Introduction: OpenTable, Inc. is offering the 2010 Valentine’s Day Twitter Giveaway (“Giveaway”).  NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING.  VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. Eligibility: The Giveaway is open to U.S. residents twenty-one (21) years of age or older at the time of entry.  Employees of OpenTable, Inc., and their immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of such persons, are not eligible to enter the Giveaway.  Entrants must have a Twitter account and follow @OpenTable on Twitter.

3. Giveaway Period: The Giveaway begins at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (“PST”) on Monday, February 8, 2010, and ends at 11:59 p.m. PST on Friday, February 12, 2010, and consists of five (5) separate Prize Periods; one (1) Prize Period per day.

4.  How to Enter: Once per day during the Giveaway, a Valentine’s Day related question will be posted on the OpenTable blog and tweeted by OpenTable.  To enter the Giveaway, visit www.twitter.com/opentable and follow @OpenTable for information on rules and to receive the Valentine’s Day related questions.  Entrants will be required to respond to each question via a tweet.  Limit one (1) submission per person per Prize Period.  Non-winning entries will not be rolled over into subsequent Prize Periods; you must enter each drawing separately.

5. Drawing: At the close of each Prize Period one (1) winner will be randomly selected from among all eligible entries received. OpenTable’s decision is final and binding in all matters relating to the Giveaway.  Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received per Prize Period.  Potential winners will be notified by a direct message to the Twitter account which submitted the entry, and will request your name, phone number and email.  If there is a dispute as to who is the potential winner, OpenTable will consider the potential winner to be the authorized account holder of the Twitter handle used to enter the Giveaway.  If a potential winner is unreachable, OpenTable may award the Prize to an alternate entrant.

6. Prize: Five (5) winners will each receive a four hundred dollar ($400) credit from Limos.com.  The credit must be used within one year of issue, is valid only where Limos.com provides service and may be subject to certain terms and conditions.  OpenTable will not be responsible for any loss, liability or damage arising out of the winner’s acceptance or use of the prize.  Prizes are not transferable.  No cash or substitutions of prizes may be made, except by OpenTable in the event that the prize cannot be awarded for any reason, in which case, OpenTable will provide a prize of equal or greater value.  All taxes, fees and surcharges on prizes are the sole responsibility of winner.  The winners will be required to execute an affidavit of eligibility and a media release from the date of notification or an alternate winner may be selected.

7.  Conditions: OpenTable is not responsible for lost, late, or unintelligible entries, lost connections, miscommunications, failed transmissions, other technical difficulties or failures. OpenTable reserves the right to terminate or modify this Giveaway at any time in the event of any intervention with the Giveaway beyond the control of OpenTable. In such event, OpenTable reserves the right to select winners from eligible entries received as of the termination date. Entrants agree to indemnify OpenTable and its affiliated and subsidiary companies from and against any and all claims and liabilities arising out of or in connection with this Giveaway.  By entering this Giveaway you agree to the use of your name and likeness and entry for promotional purposes, without payment or compensation to you (except where prohibited by law).

8. Governing Law: This Giveaway shall be governed by and interpreted under the laws of the State of California, U.S.A. without regard to its conflicts of laws provisions. The Federal and State courts located in the county of San Francisco, California will be the exclusive venue for any disputes under this Giveaway, and all entrants hereby consent to the personal jurisdiction of those courts for such purposes.

9.  Winners List: To obtain a list of winners send a self-addressed, stamped envelope by March 1, 2010, to:  OpenTable, Inc., Attn:  Marketing Department-Valentine’s Day Giveaway, 799 Market Street, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103.

10.  Sponsor: The sponsor of this Sweepstake is OpenTable, Inc., 799 Market Street, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103. Continue reading…

Create a Great Valentine’s Day: Tips from Michael Fazio, Concierge to the Stars

Valentines Tips From Michael Fazio1 Create a Great Valentines Day: Tips from Michael Fazio, Concierge to the Stars

On Valentine’s Day, more than most days, you’ve got to get romance right. And that starts with planning a seamless night. Michael Fazio, whose book Concierge Confidential will soon be published by St. Martin’s Press, says, “Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest restaurant nights of the year. The people who fare the best are the ones who know how to navigate the terrain like a pro and how to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by the amateurs.”

If you don’t want to look like an amateur on this special night, use these exclusive tips from guest-blogger Fazio, cofounder of Abigail Michaels Concierge, providers of a vast repertoire of concierge services to nearly 40,000 New Yorkers.

1. Select the right spot.

A great date for your Valentine’s Day starts with selecting the perfect restaurant. To find the perfect place for you and your date, answer these same questions I ask my clients when they seek my help in selecting a restaurant for them:

* Given the many definitions of what could be considered romantic, what do you visualize as the perfect setting for your date?

For some, the perfect restaurant is overflowing with luxury and opulence. For others, the perfect restaurant is a tiny little spot with checkered tablecloths and wicker-covered wine bottle candleholders. And for others, it might be the newest, hippest, and hardest to get reservation.

* How much time do you want to spend dining?

On Valentine’s Day, many restaurants replace their regular menus with special multi-course, prix-fixe menus. On OpenTable, you can find this by looking under the “Valentine’s Day/Romantic Dinners” tab on your city’s start page or by looking under “Deals and Offers” on a restaurant’s profile page. If you’re a foodie who favors the prix-fixe menu, consider an earlier reservation as a multi-course, prix-fixe meal tends to take time.

* What’s your budget?

The best way to ruin a nice evening out is to experience sticker shock. Review the menu on OpenTable, which you can view on a restaurant’s profile page. The “$$$$” measurement is always a reliable base, but it doesn’t hurt to consult the menu and wine list so you know before you go.

* Are you open to trying something different?

Take advantage of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to be daring and have a new culinary experience. You don’t have to stretch your palate to the extreme, but exploring a new cuisine together can be quite fun. I still have amazing memories from my night dining on a floor pillow, under a tent in a Moroccan restaurant in the heart of NYC.

2. Get a little extra attention.

Make use of OpenTable’s “Special Requests to the Maitre D’” section when booking your reservation for a little extra love from your hosts for the evening. Yes, the restaurants read the comments, and I love to use this space to send compliments and express how much my clients are looking forward to dining at their restaurant. Set yourself apart by establishing a profile as being a fan. No one wants to disappoint a fan!

3. Make it special with flowers.

You can order flowers to be sent to your table right on OpenTable when you book your reservation. Everyone may stare as your bouquet arrives, but they’ll be wowed by the special gesture you made for your date. If flowers aren’t in your budget, stop by the restaurant earlier in the day with a card and ask the staff if they can insert it into your date’s menu when you arrive.

4. Couldn’t get a reservation? Try, try again!

My newest “can’t live without it” tool is the OpenTable Mobile App. The reason is simple. Restaurants’ reservation inventory shifts on a regular basis due to changes and cancellations. Ironically, the premium reservation times are often the ones to change. With an OpenTable Mobile App, you can check and re-check availability several times a day, wherever you are. It’s also a great tool for last minute reservations.  In my recent experience using this mobile app, I was originally unable to find availability at one of the city’s new hot spots. Deciding to “wing it” about 30 minutes before I wanted to dine, I snagged a prime reservation that wasn’t available the many times I tried previously.

5. Plan a pre- or après-dinner activity.

Before or after dinner, visit a museum or take a walk on a scenic street. Or, book a private car or limo to pick you up at the restaurant and take a drive down memory lane past your first home or the place that you first met.

Whatever your plans involve, just remember that the most important part of the date is spending time together. Have a sense of humor about it, and don’t get intimidated by the pressure of a special night like Valentine’s Day. Remember, if it all goes wrong, the best way to spin it into a positive is to laugh, knowing you’ll have a memory to last a lifetime.

Finally, keep in mind that Valentine’s Day dining can be a nice brunch, lunch, or even just a dessert date. Whether you start your celebration on Friday the 12th or Sunday the 14th, savor each flavor and enjoy the experience!

Visit Abigail Michaels to learn more about Michael Fazio and Abigail Michaels Concierge’s services.

Well-Reviewed: Baker and Banker; Beacon; Birch and Barley, and Other Restaurants That Don’t Start with a ‘B’

Recent restaurant reviews from the news…

  • Beacon in Los Angeles gets high marks for its fusion burgers from Damon Gambuto at A Hamburger Today. [Serious Eats]
  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel hates all of the 555 beers served at Washington, D.C.’s Birch and Barley (because he hates all beer), but he loves the food. [The Atlantic]
  • Victoria Pesce Elliott has an uplifting dining experience at South Beach’s Solea. [Miami Herald]

Molecular Gastronomy Goes Mainstream in Manhattan

Molecular Gastronomy Goes Mainstream in Manhattan Molecular Gastronomy Goes Mainstream in ManhattanWylie Dufresne has been playing with his food à la Dr. Frankenstein for years, and while not all restaurants embrace his methods, many elements of his brand of molecular gastronomy have seeped into mainstream dining in the Big Apple. The New York Post reports on Dufresne, chef-owner of wd-50, Dave Arnold, resident mad scientist at the French Culinary Institute and its restaurant L’Ecole (who regularly  blogs about his “experiments” at the FCI), Michael Laiskonis, pastry chef at Le Bernardin, and George Mendes, chef-owner at Aldea, on their use of “meat glue” and other ingredients more likely found in a laboratory than your kitchen cupboard.

Are you a fan of molecular gastronomy’s transformative powers? Or do you prefer more traditional ingredients and techniques?