Out of This World: 12 Ways to Dig Into Potatoes, Inspired by The Martian

With the Oscars just around the corner, we’ve got movies on the brain. Nominated for seven of the coveted awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, has our vote. Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney — stuck on Mars and fervently plotting to survive long enough to be rescued, he (SPOILER ALERT) figures out how to grow potatoes on the previously barren planet. While Watney only gets to enjoy the fruits (or tubers) of his labor with salt or ketchup, his efforts inspired us to count the ways we love a good spud. Fried, baked, mashed, topped with cheese, or folded into pillowy gnocchi dough, potatoes are pure starchy pleasure. Below find some of our favorite ways to dig into a potato. Surely, The Martian would approve.

Marta, New York, New York
If you’re having trouble deciding whether pizza, potatoes, or pasta is the ultimate comfort food, head straight to Chef Nick Anderer’s Marta in Manhattan’s Martha Washington Hotel for your definitive answer. Marrying the best of all three, Patate Alla Carbonara is a white, thin-crusted pizza cooked on a wood-fire grill and topped with potatoes, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino, and egg, for an especially comforting and tasty iteration of the classic Roman Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. Make a reservation at Marta.

MARTA breakfast pizzas

Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
This contemporary neighborhood spot in D.C.’s West End turns 10 this year, and while their signature Handcut BDT Fries have been on the menu from the beginning, they’re revamping the recipe for the occasion. Russet potatoes are steamed, dried, seasoned, and mixed. The mashed result is molded onto a sheet pan, hand cut, and fried for a delightfully unique take on your average french fry — inside, a fluffy foil to the perfectly crispy exterior. A happy birthday, indeed. Make a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern.

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No. 9 Park, Boston, Massachusetts
With a few ingredients, gnocchi can be made relatively easily, but in the hands of chef Barbara Lynch, simple potato dumplings are elevated to legendary status. In a multi-step process, Lynch’s Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi start with made-from-scratch potato dough, which cover prunes that have marinated in Vin Santo. Forget pillows; this dough is as soft as a down comforter, lovingly wrapped around each sweet wine-soaked fruit. The dumplings are covered with a foie gras butter sauce and topped with slabs of seared foie gras and slivered almonds. Licking the plate might be frowned upon in this stately Beacon Hill spot, but we’re not here to judge. Make a reservation at No. 9 Park.

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Bird Dog, Palo Alto, California
The menu at this sleek Palo Alto bistro highlights the best of Japanese meets California cuisine. Broken into three sections, ‘raw’ offers fresh crudo, ‘protein’ features salmon and Wagyu beef, and ‘vegetables’ includes, among other thoughtfully inventive dishes, the Potato Terrine. Chef Robbie Wilson’s version features paper-thin potato layers topped with Tuscan kale, nori, preserved grapefruit, and a butternut squash puree for a dish that’s as beautiful as it is flavorful and comforting. Make a reservation at Bird Dog.

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Prime & Provisions, Chicago, Illinois
At this swank steakhouse in Chicago’s River North, the name says it all. The Substantial Baked Potato is stuffed with thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, and crème fraîche for an elevated take on the quintessential steakhouse side. Your porterhouse needs this potato. Pro tip: it’s colossal, so get one to share. Make a reservation at Prime & Provisions.

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The Breslin, New York, New York
Oh, your favorite French fries are cooked once? How quaint. At chef April Bloomfield’s Michelin-starred gastropub in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, the Thrice Cooked Chips are boiled first, then fried twice for the ultimate in crisp, chewy, salty goodness. They come alongside the excellent Chargrilled Lamb Burger, or order a batch on the side with cumin mayo for dipping. They’re what all fries aspire to be. Make a reservation at The Breslin.

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Stoked: 15 Restaurants for Delicious Fireside Dining in New England

Winter won’t release its grip on the Northeast just yet, but you can turn up the heat with fireside dining in New England. We’ve rounded up 15 places that’ll get you stoked for going out to eat when there’s a chill in the air.

Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
There’s typically a dog curled up in front of the fireplace at stylish Sea Glass, a restaurant in the Inn by the Sea just outside of Portland. The fireplace in the lounge is perfect for pets — and a chow of sustainable seafood fresh from Maine’s coastal water and local produce (lobster shrimp dumplings and scallops with risotto) is perfect for you. For your canine companion, order the Meat Roaf off the gourmet pet menu. Book a table at Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea.

Fireside Dining in New England

Bistro du Midi, Boston, Massachusetts
Channel Provence with chef Robert Sisca’s French-inspired menu (prior to opening Bistro du Midi, the chef worked at the celebrated Le Bernardin in New York City) and views of Boston’s Monet-esque Public’s Garden. The restaurant has a fireplace, oui, oui, and a menu that features French treats such as Bouillabaisse du Midi (saffron-scented broth, rouille, gruyere) and Foie Gras Terrine (chocolate foie gras truffle, macerated cherries). There’s also a proper selection of pates and charcuterie that practically demand you accessorize with a scarf before indulging. Make a reservation at Bistro du Midi.

Fireside Dining in New England

OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, Boston, Massachusetts
There are two fireplaces at this Back Bay restaurant in the Fairmont Copley Plaza. One is a double-sided fireplace that adds warmth to both the main and semi-private dining rooms, and another fireplace is located behind the bar. Best bets for cozy winter meals: The Charcuterie Board, New England Pot Roast (short ribs, horseradish potato puree, root vegetable, braising jus) and, for fireside brunch, the Breakfast Mac ‘n Cheese (smoked bacon, fried egg, buttery croissant crumbs) is a hearty hearth choice. Make a reservation at OAK Long Bar + Kitchen.

Fireside Dining in New England

Precinct Kitchen + Bar, Boston, Massachusetts
Surrender to a meal in front of the “great” fireplace in this repurposed Boston Police Headquarters, which showcases classic Boston cuisine with a thick accent on local and regional produce. Think Shuck for a Buck (dollar oysters daily from 4-6PM), New England Wellfleet Chowder, Seared Georges Bank Scallops, Sweet Maine Shrimp, and Maine Lobster Sliders. Make a reservation at Precinct Kitchen + Bar.

Fireside Dining in New England

Deuxave, Boston, Massachusetts
Deuxave serves modern French cuisine against a backdrop of its mood-setting gas fireplace and a menu that features treats like pan seared local scallops with parsnip frite, chanterelle mushrooms, pickled carrot, and pancetta salad with pepita aioli. Julia Child’s France meets Julia Child’s Boston. Make a reservation at Deuxave.

Fireside Dining in New England

CHOPPS American Bar and Grill at Marriott Boston Burlington, Burlington, Massachusetts
Chopps has a larger-than-life fireplace enclosed by glass in its Great Room, a communal setting with original art hanging on the walls and comfy nooks to create the perfect winter respite. Sip cocktails and savor apps like yellowfin tuna tartar, calamari and Maine lobster rolls. Make a reservation at CHOPPS American Bar and Grill at Marriott Boston Burlington.

Fireside Dining in New England

Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn, Camden, Maine
Cuddled in the Camden Harbour Inn, Natalie’s fireside nook menu features wintry whimsical items like the Winter Salad with dilly dally greens, beets, farro, and almonds, and Natalie’s Burger with pork belly, Brussels sprouts, black garlic, and Fresno peppers. Be sure to leave room for the Dutch Stroopwafel with housemade hot chocolate, black cardamom marshmallow, and carob-vanilla ice cream. Make a reservation at Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn.

Fireside Dining in New England

MET Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts
One of Newbury Street’s dining darlings, Met Back Bay has savory and sweet offerings to banish a chill. Along with the fabulous fireplace in the downstairs bar area, take advantage of Meatball Mondays and the Hot Chocolate experience (four mini sampling glasses that can be adulterated with Bailey’s or Amaretto). Make a reservation at MET Back Bay.

Fireside Dining in New England

Antico Forno, Boston, Massachusetts 
This North End restaurant serves up authentic rustic, Italian dishes like brick-oven pizzas, including the Salsiccia e Broccoletti (homemade Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, fresh homemade mozzarella and fresh cherry tomatoes). Between the cuisine and the fireplace, it’s as cozy as your nonna’s house. Make a reservation at Antico Forno.

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So You Want to Open a Restaurant? Download Our Free Guide + Enter for a Chance to Win a $38,000 Grand Prize

open a restaurant

Countless chefs, GMs, and other hospitality professionals have dreamed of one day opening a restaurant of their own. At OpenTable we’re fortunate to work with the best in the business, so we know the facts: opening a restaurant is hard work. It’s expensive, the legal regulations will make your head spin, and building a team you trust is an ongoing challenge.

We partnered with hospitality consultant Alison Arth to create How to Open a Restaurant, the ultimate guide to starting and growing a restaurant business. Alison spoke to some of the industry’s top groups and restaurateurs — including Union Square Hospitality Group, AltaMarea, Gavin Kaysen, and Aaron London — and compiled their tips and best practices (and occasional cautionary tales) into this definitive resource, which covers everything from raising funds to training a team. Download the guide here!

And aspiring restaurateurs, listen up: As part of this campaign, OpenTable is hosting a contest to help one restaurant industry professional fund his or her dream project. If you’ve been working in the industry and planning to open your own restaurant, we want to hear from you! Tell us about your background and concept, and you’ll be entered into a competition to win our grand prize, worth more than $38,000 total:

  • A 12-month subscription to OpenTable’s flagship Guest Center product, plus access to the world’s largest diner network
  • A full set of professional All-Clad pans
  • A set of 25 Hedley & Bennett aprons
  • 25 licenses to the online platform Journee, a community for restaurant professionals
  • $15,000 cash to put towards your project

We’ll narrow the applicants down to three finalists based on their entries, and those three folks will each start their own Kickstarter campaigns to raise a funding goal of $35,000. We’ll be cheering them on! The group that raises the most money will win the grand prize. Continue Reading

Spotlight on Detroit Dining + 7 Must-Try Motor City Restaurants

The Motor City is still in the early days of economic recovery, but the emergent Detroit dining scene shows imagination and plenty of potential.

Like the city itself, Detroit’s food culture is in transition. But this also makes it one of the most fascinating lenses through which to track the city’s economic recovery following decades of population drain, blight, and mounting debt and unemployment that culminated in its 2013 bankruptcy filing.

From the revival of fine dining and the explosion of pop-ups to the embrace of Michigan’s rich regional and ethnic cuisine and a fresh generation of multi-location restaurants, the Motor City’s dining scene is gaining notoriety on a national scale.

To dig a bit deeper, OpenTable caught up with one of its brightest young culinary stars, James Rigato. He is a native of Howell, Michigan, and the chef/owner of Hazel Park newcomer Mabel Gray Kitchen, chef/partner of award-winning The Root Restaurant & Bar in White Lake, and a season 12 competitor on Bravo TV’s Top Chef.

Detroit dining

“It’s a very opportunistic time to be a chef in Detroit,” Rigato says. “We have a captive and supportive audience. There’s definitely competition and camaraderie — all the good and correct ingredients for a food scene to emerge.”

At the same time, he says, the city’s culinary infancy and limited talent pool of 700,000 residents (down from its 1950 peak of 1.86 million) also place it at a pivotal point.

“Detroit has this intense industrial history and rich ethnic background tied to the automotive industry, plus the state of Michigan with four seasons, a huge quantity of fresh water and relationships to farming and hunting — it’s a unique blend that sets us apart from New York City, Los Angeles, or New Orleans,” he says. “We have all the criteria, but there hasn’t been a coordinated effort to communicate that out to the rest of the nation.”

His effort to draw attention to the state’s individuality and jumpstart the localization of its food economy is evident in his 43-seat restaurant in historic Hazel Park named for a folkloric Lake Michigan ghost. Mabel Gray’s daily-changing menu of Michigan-centric fare ranges from whitetail venison with winter spices and house rye stovetop stuffing to octopus a la plancha with herbaceous green coconut curry and beef-heart Reubens.

Mabel Gray

Of the oft-disparate seeming menu items, he says, “The street the restaurant is on (John. R Rd.) is known for Vietnamese and Korean food, but I’m also a four-hour drive from the middle of the woods where deer hunting is huge. That’s Michigan. I want to take the traditional flavors, local products, and the global influences Detroit has had and currently has and develop that as a regional cuisine.”

Where it all began

Many locals trace the start of Detroit’s restaurant resurgence to around 2005 when the Cooley family opened Slows Bar B-Q on a then-deserted stretch of historic Corktown. For Rigato, it began in earnest when celebrity chef Michael Symon opened the steakhouse Roast.

“That was the first restaurant that really popped downtown,” he says. “It was early as far as having a serious cocktail program. Plus, they were showcasing a national chef, and it really became an incubator for culinary talent.”

Roast’s kitchen produced Andy Hollyday (now chef/partner of seasonal small plates restaurant Selden Standard and 2015 James Beard semi-finalist) and mixology guru Travis Fourmont (now a corporate mixologist at Michigan’s largest liquor distributor, Great Lakes Wine and Spirits).

In addition to Selden Standard and Mabel Gray, the past year has seen some of Detroit’s buzziest openings — breakfast hot spot Parks and Rec Diner, Doug Hewitt’s hyper-seasonal Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, cocktail bar Standby, and the recently relocated Rock City Eatery — which all indicate a newfound “national relevance” for Detroit dining, Rigato says.

Strong roots

Still, some common gastronomic threads run throughout Detroit’s food scene. Aside from the contributions of the city’s multicultural population (Greater Detroit is home to the largest Arab-American population in the country and boasts some of the nation’s best Middle Eastern cuisine), it has seen the creation of a few signature dishes along the way that foster fierce loyalty (and sometimes fiercer debate), from square-cut, thick-crust Detroit-style pizza to Coney dogs, hot dogs on a steamed bun with meaty chili, mustard, and diced onions.

One of the key fine-dining fixtures through the decades for Rigato has been chef Luciano Del Signore who runs 13-year-old Bacco Ristorante in Southfield. He got his start working at his parents’ restaurant, Fonte d’Amore, which the Del Signores opened in 1968 in Livonia after emigrating from Eastern Italy. (Fonte d’Amore closed its doors in 2006.)

“Luc to me is kind of the Godfather,” Rigato says. “He’s still the guy at the stove, running great restaurants where you can get as good a plate today as 25 years ago.”

In some ways, Del Signore laid the foundation for what Rigato hopes is a bright future for Detroit’s food scene.

“I think your obligation if you’re going to cook, run restaurants, be a bartender or even a food writer here is you have to understand the sensitivity and infancy that Detroit’s food scene is in,” he says. “It’s important to hyper-focus every plate and give guests that experience that sets us apart. Great food and drink is a daily commitment.”

If you need further convincing that now’s the time to dig into Detroit, check out these seven new and old spots below.

The Root Restaurant & Bar
Tucked in a strip mall in a suburb of Detroit, The Root has garnered national acclaim for its hyper-seasonal, farm-to-table menu, and rising star chef James Rigato. A favorite for carnivores and vegetarians alike, The Root offers such locally inspired dishes as smoked meatloaf, vegan farro, and fennel with squash puree, and brunch favorites like chicken and waffles with Michigan maple syrup and housemade granola. Make a reservation at The Root Restaurant & Bar.

Detroit Dining

Bacco Ristorante
Chef Luciano Del Signore is something of a pillar of Detroit’s Italian dining scene. His 13-year-old upscale suburban Italian restaurant Bacco remains a date-night favorite, with handmade pastas like gnocchetti with wild mushroom ragu and squid ink pasta with langostino, classic entrées like branzino and veal chops, and a generous wine selection from Italy’s 20 wine regions. Make a reservation at Bacco Ristorante.

Detroit Dining

One of the early entrants to Detroit’s restaurant rebirth, Roast is a trendy steakhouse in the Westin Hotel where top-notch proteins — from aged steaks to meet creative sides like Brussels sprouts with walnuts and spinach and feta au gratin. Make a night of it with a thoughtful cocktail (each has its own backstory) or one of an oft-changing selection of wines and beers. Make a reservation at Roast.

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