On the Menu: Chefs Share Dishes Inspired by Mom

Mothers love us, care for us, and, of course, feed us. Our earliest experiences with food are largely shaped by the caring folks who cooked for and with us as we grew up. Not surprisingly then, many chefs are using their menus to pay homage to the mothers who delighted them with homespun recipes, often using garden-fresh ingredients. In honor of Mother’s Day, chefs share dishes inspired by mom.

Sergio Emilio Monleón, La Marcha, Berkeley, California
Chef Sergio Emilio Monleón was raised California but in a Spanish household and he spent eight years in Madrid. His mother made paella all the time when he was growing up and hers is the inspiration behind the restaurant’s version of Paella Mixta, which features head-on prawns, chicken, chorizo, garlic, sweet peppers, saffron, and rice. Make a reservation at La Marcha.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Jesse Souza, Six Seven, Seattle, Washington
Executive Chef Jesse Souza says, “Spring in New England was always a time to shake off the long, dark winter and ready for the precious summer months.  My mother was and is partial to vegetables that are vibrant, bright, and bursting with the flavors of spring and early summer. She grew up spending summers in the garden, dousing sun-warmed tomatoes with fresh coarse salt. This flavor profile and garden-to-table ethic continue in Six Seven’s Heirloom Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella with Arugula Pesto and Sea Salt.” Make a reservation at Six Seven.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Jennifer Russo, The Market by Jennifer’s, Phoenix, Arizona
Chef Jennifer Russo shares, “Our spring lamb dish with potatoes and peas is an homage to my mother Gwen in so many ways. She has always had a garden and stressed the importance of cooking seasonally to me in my childhood. She’s also a health nut and would approve of my whipped cauliflower as an alternative to potatoes. And, of course, she’s very Irish and lamb is something she’s made for me since I was a kid.” Make a reservation at The Market By Jennifer’s.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Erik Lowe, Spaghetti Bros., San Francisco, California
With a name like Spaghetti Bros, you might assume spaghetti and meatballs are on the menu, and you’d be right. Sort of. Chef Erik Lowe makes several pasta dishes including Radiatori with Smoky Pork Sugo and Fermented Chili Oil and a scrumptious Spaghetti with Local Uni Butter, but his savory meatballs are of the Swedish variety. They are based on his grandmother’s recipe and served with plenty of lingonberry jam and crunchy bits of fried shallots. Make a reservation at Spaghetti Bros..

Dishes Inspired by Mom

William DeMarco, Crush at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
DeMarco, the property’s corporate executive chef, recounts,  “I have a lot of happy memories from spending time in the kitchen and learning how to cook from my Italian mother and grandmother. As any true Italian knows, Sundays are meant for pasta, and gnocchi has always been one of my favorites.” DeMarco’s classic Italian Ricotta Gnocchi at CRUSH does have some American influence; it’s served atop a pea puree and topped with braised short rib. Make a reservation at Crush at MGM Grand.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Todd Kelly, Orchids at Palm Court, Cincinnati, Ohio
Chef Todd Kelly says that growing up, his mom would make a slow cooked lamb on Mother’s Day. She prepared the dish with home-canned vegetables from the garden. Today, he recreates it for guests at the restaurant on Mother’s Day using many of the flavors his mom did. He rubs the leg of lamb with a paste of garlic, rosemary, and parsley, and then sears it and slow cooks it. The sauce is a simple red wine and lamb stock reduction finished with Dijon mustard. Preserved carrots, spring onions, Brussels sprouts, hedgehog mushrooms, and, if available, foraged morel mushrooms round out this spring offering. Make a reservation at Orchids at Palm Court.

Dishes inspired by mom

Rupesh Shetty, Inde Fusion, Scottsdale, Arizona
Fusion cooking allows restaurateur Shetty to combine flavors from his childhood with American influences. He says, “The shrimp and grits dish reminds me of growing up in Mumbai and experiencing my mother’s homemade shrimp curry and all of her incredible cooking. In keeping with our theme of the restaurant, we took a typically Western dish and infused it with a dash of Eastern flavor — so local comfort food meeting masala spice is like a hug from my mom.” Make a reservation at Inde Fusion.

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OpenTable Discover: App Redesign Helps Travelers + Locals Discover New Dining Experiences

In anticipation of summer travel season, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our redesigned OpenTable iOS app, enabling diners to more easily discover and book great dining experiences, from the hottest new restaurants to neighborhood gems.

The redesign features a new Discover tab, which allows traveling and local diners to discover more with a single tap by connecting them to new dining experiences, ranging from trending cuisines and popular restaurants to curated option such as “OpenTable Insider Picks,” which allows you to dine like a local even when you’re in another city.

OpenTable Discover

“Whether you’re landing hungry on the tarmac in a new city or planning a last minute date night in your local neighborhood, OpenTable wants to be the dining concierge in your pocket,” said our own Christa Quarles, OpenTable Chief Executive Officer. “Dining has never been more mobile and our new app experience helps diners discover the perfect restaurant to satisfy every occasion, mood and craving whether they’re at home or on the road.”

The content presented on the Discover tab factors in elements like availability, popularity, proximity and personal favorites. It enables quick visual browsing of categories to get recommendations that will satisfy any taste. The recommendations are especially handy for local diners eager to explore something new and for travelers hoping to sink their teeth into amazing culinary experiences. New categories in the Discover tab include:

  • New & Hot – Recently opened restaurants with high popularity scores
  • Most Popular – Restaurants with the highest popularity scores
  • My Favorites – Diner’s favorite restaurant list
  • Special Features – Restaurants perfect for every occasion ranging from romantic to kid-friendly
  • Near Me Now – Nearby restaurants with immediate availability
  • Dinner Tonight – Restaurants with availability that night
  • Editorial Picks – Restaurants nominated by local OpenTable Insiders and other industry experts.

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Playing with Fire: Backstage at Smokin’ South American Steakhouse Del Campo with Chef Victor Albisu

Washington, D.C., chef Victor Albisu has accumulated many accolades since opening the doors to Del Campo in 2013, including having his eatery named a Best New Restaurant 2013 by  Esquire, besting Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, and being named Chef of the Year at the 2015 RAMMYS. Go behind the scenes with dining scribe Nevin Martell and photographer Laura Hayes for a delicious look at one of the capital’s hottest — in more ways than one — restaurants. 

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Victor Albisu has always loved fire.

Growing up outside the nation’s capitol in Falls Church, Virginia, he and his Cuban grandfather, Paco, would grill in the dead of winter on a small Weber in the family’s backyard. They kept a cutting board and a knife next to their modest setup so they could slice off pieces of meat as it sizzled over the flames. If they were feeling particularly inspired during warmer months when the ground thawed, they would dig a pit to cook whole pigs or the deer his grandfather hunted.

Albisu got his first taste of kitchen life as a teenager by working at his Peruvian mother’s Latin market and butcher shop. “That’s when I started to fall for char,” he says.

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His passion for cooking kindled, he attended Le Cordon Bleu Paris, followed by a stint at the acclaimed L’Arpege. Returning stateside, he began ascending through the Washington, D.C. dining scene with increasingly statured positions at the Tabard Inn, DC Coast, Ceiba, Marcel’s, Ardeo + Bardeo, before he was appointed the executive chef of BLT Steak. There he began to earn attention, awards, and acclaim. Not only did the First Couple dine at the restaurant, but Michelle Obama became a regular.

During his tenure at the steakhouse, Albisu found himself being continually drawn back to his family’s food and its wider roots. “It’s like I didn’t have a choice,” he says. “The dishes just started coming out of me.”

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His specials began showcasing Latin elements, even as he explored Spanish culinary traditions during his travels. A meal at Asador Etxebarri in Basque country opened his palate to the possibilities presented by cooking with fire in its many forms – grilling, charbroiling, smoking, charring, and torching. He combined those techniques with the idea of a South American grill to create the concept for Del Campo, which he opened in D.C.’s Penn Quarter in the spring of 2013.

In the kitchen, Albisu is a calculated pyro, adding just the right amount of burning, blackening, smoking, and searing to his creations. On a recent March afternoon, he fired up five favorites showcasing his red-hot culinary style. Mackerel ceviche begins with halved lemons face down on the stovetop so they’re seared black. “When you squeeze them, the juice falls through this charred ‘membrane,’” explains Albisu. “It sweetens it, smokes it, and adds this over-caramelized flavor.”

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He smokes oysters by igniting a bed of thyme, rosemary, and oregano, and then combines their juices with lemon juice and crème frâiche to create the dressing that is spooned over slender cut slices of fish. Grilled avocado slices, gold-skinned bits of dry sautéed mackerel, and flash seared pickled Calabrian chilies finish the dish.

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Kalo Pascha! Top Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Did you miss the recent sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding in theaters? No worries —you can still celebrate some of the best Greek family traditions on May 1 during Orthodox Easter. Featuring not only healthy Mediterranean cuisine that’s vegetarian-friendly, but earthy, unctuous lamb rubbed with herbs and garlic, roasted, spit-fired or added to soups, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re Greek or not, make a new tradition with a taste of the Old Country at one of these delicious restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter dining.

Ouzo Bay, Baltimore, Maryland
The weeks leading up to Easter are a great time for Ouzo Bay to showcase their year-round signature dish of fresh whole fish during this period when most Greeks abstain from eating meat. But after the late-night mass the evening before Easter, the tables become boisterous with the spirit of community and celebration not only of the holiest of days but of the feast: whole roasted lamb, platters of lamb chops and shanks, family-style sides of fasolakia (braised green beans), gigantes (giant lima beans), spanakorizo (Spanish rice), horta (sautéed greens), and other roasted vegetables. Ouzo Bay offers its full dinner menu on Greek Easter Sunday with many of the same dishes and several traditional desserts to satisfy anyone whose sweet tooth wasn’t fulfilled by their Easter basket, including baklava, galaktoboureko (vanilla custard), and sokolatopita (chocolate cake). Make a reservation at Ouzo Bay.

Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Loi Estiatorio, New York, New York
Holidays are always about family in Greece, says Maria Loi, but none makes her smile more than Easter. “It was a special time for me because my father would let me help him roast the lamb and work with the meat, like one of the boys,” she said. “I want everyone to experience the same happiness and joy I do!” She brings smiles to the masses with the spit-roasted whole lamb she grew up making in Roumeli in central Greece. “The lamb from Roumeli is always better, as is the tsoureki (a traditional sweet Greek Easter bread) because of the flora in the region – everything tastes brighter, cleaner, and fresher, so much so that often people will seek to spend their Easter holiday with family in Roumeli. I was very lucky to have grown up there!” Some of her seasonal specialties include kokoretsi (lamb intestines wrapped around seasoned offal) and magheritsa (lamb offal soup), though Loi Estiatorio regulars can also enjoy her crowd-pleaser, the feta mac n’ cheese. “When I was growing up, we ate a very similar dish, and my siblings and I loved it,” Loi said. “When I came to the States, I saw how popular the American version was but also how rich and fattening it was. I thought to myself that I could make it better and healthier, with Greek olive oil and feta cheese … and I was right!” Wrap up your meal with her take on sokolatopitaMake a reservation at Loi Estiatorio.

Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Kipos Greek Taverna, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Most chefs wouldn’t embrace fasting, but for chef Giorgios Bakatsias it’s an important ritual and a tribute to his childhood growing up in Karpenisi, Greece, with his parents, brother Terry, and sister Olga, who now cook with him at Kipos. “Fasting cleanses the soul and your palate,” he says. “It’s not just a religious act but … [it] makes me able to distinguish and identify different flavors” afterward. Eggs play an important role not just for eating, but for play: each year eggs hand-dyed by Olga are used by diners to try and crack each others’ on Sunday. It is believed that the diner with the last egg will enjoy a year of good fortune. Terry’s rolo kima, a Greek Easter meatloaf, is stuffed with egg, as is the sweet braided tsoureki bread. And, the star of the show is savory roasted lamb with garlic, oregano, thyme, and olive oil. Make a reservation at Kipos Greek Taverna.

Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Pelekasis at Wink & Nod, Boston, Massachusetts
One of chef Brendan Pelley’s earliest food memories is the smell of slow-roasted lamb with garlic, so this season’s specialty of leg of lamb with horta (lemon-braised greens), lamb-fat-roasted potatoes, rosemary, garlic and herb puree is no surprise. Feeding four to eight people, Pelley’s $150 feast (prepared with 24 hours’ advance notice) is an homage to what his family ate on Greek Easter and his papou (grandfather), who helmed weekly Sunday lamb roasts. Pelekasis — Pelley’s original family name—is an exclusive pop-up inside Wink & Nod that is so popular its run has been extended through June. Make a reservation at Wink & Nod.

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