Fork Off: Shared Plates Etiquette #hackdining

Shared Plates Etiquette

“I’m from a large family of sharers. When one of my sisters married a non-sharer, she morphed into one herself. It was traumatic. It’s been 30 years, and we all still talk about it… Ironically, the fact that her husband was raised Catholic seemed less controversial to my Jewish family….”

Sharing meals with others can be a social rite that borders on primal. We naturally congregate around food — celebrating special occasions, conducting business (power lunches, anyone?), or simply gathering around the table with family to recap the day. Eating together — whether it’s two of you or 10 – is how we are wired.

Sharing actual food, however, is a whole other matter. A quick survey of diners reveals a near-polarized split between those who love communal eating and those who guard their plates for dear life. The former expect to collaborate on ordering and graze from as many dishes as the table can handle. The latter see it as a hygienically suspect invasion of personal space

One extreme view came from a self-proclaimed foodie, who volunteered, “I love sharing food. I once dumped a guy because he wouldn’t share.” When pressed about her rather extreme reaction to being denied a bite of her date’s entrée, she just shrugged and replied, “It’s a deal breaker…a true indicator of personality.”

When such birds of a feather flock together, how do they dine together? To find out, I pressed a crew of friends who explained their very clear-cut system for shared plates etiquette: “We have a group of five friends that go out for dinner two or three times a month. Each of us orders a different app and a main. When the dishes arrive, we take a few bites and pass the plates to the left. We all get to taste everything while leaving enough so that it makes its way back (with some left) to the original diner.”

While some people take it as their god given right to jab anything on their neighbors’ plates, the feeling is not always mutual. Here are some shared plates etiquette tips for navigating this potentially fraught terrain in good taste:

Exercise caution, and, when possible, choose your venue accordingly. If you are a sharer, don’t assume everyone else at the table will be as well. Ask before making plans that involve lots of plate passing. It’s generally safer to plan communal dinners with people you know well and who don’t mind your chopsticks invading their terrain. Don’t take your future mother-in-law for Ethiopian or Korean barbeque before you’re confident she won’t balk when you start pawing her dinner.

Be sensitive to those who don’t care to consume in the same manner as you. Don’t just leap in fork first and start picking away at your neighbor’s plate. Ask — and be sure to read body language. If, when asked to share, they pucker and deposit a forensics lab specimen-sized sliver of their chicken on your bread plate, chances are you are dining with a non-sharer. Don’t persist unless tormenting them is your objective.Continue Reading

Happy Appiversary: The OpenTable App Celebrates 7 Years with 7 Hours of Gifts


Join our lucky 7th Appiversary celebration! To celebrate the launch of the OpenTable app in 2008, we’ll be giving away gifts to seven winners in seven hours on November 17, 2015.

Here’s how to get enter for a chance to win. Launch the OpenTable app today between 9AM-4PM PT, and either book a reservation for any future meal OR, using the hashtag #Appiversary7, share a restaurant from the OpenTable app(learn how) on Twitter with @OpenTable. One U.S.-based winner will be selected at random every hour starting at 10AM PT. Winners will be announced on Twitter and other OpenTable social channels. In total, seven lucky winners will each receive a $100 OpenTable Gift.

Since their inception, OpenTable’s mobile platforms have seated more than 245 million people worldwide. In seven years, we’ve come a long way, with apps now available on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Appstore in multiple countries. And, exciting benefits are being added to our apps faster than ever before. We’re always cooking up lots of delicious app improvements, so we can delight diners even more.

You’re invited to get the free OpenTable app and join the celebration today!

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Top Chef’s George Pagonis Is Thankful for What Lies Ahead at Kapnos

Blog IMG_9941(F) copyGeorge Pagonis has always known Thanksgiving as a day of hard work. Growing up the son of Greek immigrants, he helped out in the kitchen alongside his parents and siblings at the family diner for most of the holiday. Only after the last customer was served would the family and a throng of visiting relatives sit down to eat. The table was loaded down with a mix of must-have, pilgrim-approved classics – roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing – and dishes favored in his parents’ homeland – dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), moussaka (a rich eggplant casserole), and roast lamb.

The Top Chef star and executive chef of the modern-minded Greek restaurant Kapnos still celebrates Thanksgiving with his family, who live in nearby Virginia. His mother, Mary, and his father, Tony, are first generation Greek immigrants. Both are from the small village of Skoura, just outside Sparta in the country’s southern reaches. “If you’ve seen movies set in Greece where the village has nothing but sheep, goats, chickens, and old ladies wearing black as church bells go off in the background, that’s what it is,” says Pagonis.

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However, Pagonis’ parents didn’t meet and get married until after they separately moved to New York City. Diners were a common business for Greek immigrants, so Tony got a job in one as a short order cook. When his brother opened a diner in Vienna, Virginia, Tony moved down to help him run it. He later opened his own in nearby Alexandria. The Four Seasons was a classic Greek diner. “The menu was an encyclopedia,” says Pagonis. “You could have a lobster tail, scrambled eggs, moussaka, baklava, and stuffed grape leaves.”

Starting around the time he was in middle school, Pagonis and his brother, Nicholas, worked as toast boys on the weekend breakfast shift. This was no small duty. The restaurant sat 300 people and there was a line out the door from 9AM until 2PM. Every egg dish came with toast, so the boys were putting out thousands of slices. Waiters would shout out orders, the boys would toss bread in the toaster, butter it up, cut it, and get the toasted triangles on the plates.

At the end of the shift, each server would tip them a few bucks. It added up. Pagonis would routinely take home $60, a small fortune for a sixth grader. “My parents took me to the mall and I bought whatever I wanted: video games, Starter jackets, Jordans,” he says. “Everyone else had to wait for their birthday to get that stuff, but I was like, ‘Eff it, I’ll buy it tomorrow.’”

Interested in learning more about cooking, he began standing on a milk crate by the chef, peeling carrots, chopping potatoes, whatever. “Anytime he needed anything, I did it,” says Pagonis. “I never said no.”

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Over the years, he learned how to make rice pudding, soups, and gravies, so, at age 14, he began working the line. When it came time to go to college, though, he left the diner behind, determined to pursue a career beyond the family business. He enrolled at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he earned a degree in business finance. Upon graduating, he applied for positions as a credit analyst. However, as he nervously sat outside one office waiting for an interview, supremely uncomfortable in his suit, he questioned his nascent career path. “I felt like an idiot,” he admits. “I thought, ‘This isn’t me.’”Continue Reading

House of Carts: 8 Restaurants Offering Tableside Service to Make You Feel Like a VIP

Why walk over to the bar, the kitchen, or the cheese display when it can come to you? Restaurants are now using carts to convey everything from cocktails and Champagne to entrees and the cheese course to their guests. The mobile filling stations allow staffers to give diners a show by accompanying their meal by crafting a top shelf martini, cracking open a clay-baked fish, or popping the cork on a rare bottle of bubbles for them. Here are eight restaurants offering exquisite tableside service, guaranteed to make you feel like a VIP.

Bourbon Steak, Washington, D.C.
Head bartender Torrence Swain created the Monkey Business tiki-inspired cocktail just so tipplers could enjoy a show at the table. Made with Monkey Shoulder Scotch and Drambuie, it’s served over ice with flame-kissed, brûléed banana and freshly grated nutmeg. Warning: if you enjoy too many, you may be inclined to start swinging from the chandeliers while loudly proclaiming you’re the king of the jungle.

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Charlie Palmer at The Knick, New York, New York
Legend has it that that Knickerbocker Hotel was the birthplace of the Martini. To honor that legacy, the restaurant offers a cart packed with all the components for the classic cocktail (available upon request or for special events). Expect to find a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten, dry and rouge vermouth, and orange and citrus bitters, as well as all the necessary equipment. (Ed. note: I seriously hope there’s a vodka option available.)

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Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westminster, Colorado
Echoing a traditional Native American cooking technique, rainbow trout is stuffed with lemon, thyme, and pungent epazote leaves, shrouded in cornhusks, and wrapped in clay etched with a fish drawing. After it’s baked, the pescetarian entree is wheeled to the table and cracked open for the guest.

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The Source, Washington, D.C.
On a foggy Sunday morning, there is no more welcome sight than this Bloody Mary cart coasting in our direction across the dining room. Choose from three options: classic, Chesapeake topped with Crab Louis Salad and horseradish panna cotta, or spicy Sichuan accompanied by pickled chilies. Then add your choice of celery, olives, and a slew of salts. Suddenly, our hangovers aren’t that bad after all.

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The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel, New York City
Paging 007, your Martini cart awaits! James Bond would choose between perfectly chilled Chopin Potato vodka or Ketel One while those who prefer gin can opt for either Tanqueray No. Ten or Plymouth. His is shaken, not stirred, of course, but you can go your own way. Licensed to thrill.

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