Share the Love: The Best Foods to Share on a Date #datenight

You’ve put together a dashing outfit, carefully chosen a restaurant, and requested the most romantic table in the place. To pull off the perfect date night, though, you need to order wisely. Sharing the right dish with your sweetie can help create a memorable meal and give you something to reminiscence over on future evenings out. Here are 17 of the best foods to share on a date.

Arnaud’s, New Orleans, Louisiana
Your date is guaranteed to heat up with the arrival of the bananas foster. Rich with butter and cinnamon, then liberally doused with dark rum and banana liqueur, the bananas are ablaze to create a show-stopping dessert.

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Barton G. The Restaurant, Los Angeles, California
Here’s a decadently nostalgic way to kick off a romantic meal: Lobster pop tarts. Maine-sourced clawboys are pocketed inside phyllo pastry with Gruyere and a Pernod mornay sauce accompanied by Tabasco hollandaise and tarragon aioli for dipping. [Photo by Christina Peters]

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Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, Healdsburg, California
Caviar is one of the most extravagant aphrodisiacs in the world, but it’s worth every penny. These black pearls come from California white sturgeon and are accompanied by egg yolks and whites, chopped shallots, crème fraîche, lemon, and brioche toast points. Even if you don’t get lucky, you’ll still enjoy this indulgence.

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Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, Tysons Corner, Virginia
This towering tribute to the bounty of the sea includes Maine lobster, eight shrimp, eight oysters, and jumbo lump crab. Try not to clash claws with your dining partner as you zero in on your favorites.

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Fig & Olive, Washington, D.C.
Get down to the meat of the matter with this 36-ounce Painted Hills Farm bone-in ribeye with a jus reduction béarnaise. It’s served tableside with roasted micro potatoes and your choice of two sides, such as golden beets, and sautéed kale and shallots. Then you can tear into it like a politer, less-oiled-up version of Khaleesi and Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones.

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FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Not to be cheesy, but fondue is classic date fare. This version boasts five kinds of fromage and comes topped with tomato-basil relish. Dip in the triangles of grilled flatbread, while you get cozy with your dining companion. And, yes, it’s totally fine if you feed each other bites. In fact, it’s encouraged.

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Food, Wine & Co., Bethesda, Maryland
There are fewer phrases that make our hearts thrum more than “chocolate soufflé bread pudding.” You order this decadent dessert for two at the beginning of the meal, because it takes half an hour to bake. The molten core is half dark chocolate and half milk chocolate, and it’s finished off with a warm cognac sauce.

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J&G Grill, Bal Harbour, Florida
The über-luxe black truffle is an A-list aphrodisiac. Here the fancy fungi are showcased atop a thin crust pizza with Fontina cheese and locally grown organic greens. Now that’s amore!

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Lunch Break: Meet OpenTable Employee Brooks Hassig

Brooks Hassig headshot-medAt OpenTable, we’re always searching for ways to improve the dining experience for guests and restaurants alike. One of our biggest accomplishments in that area is OpenTable mobile payments. Brooks Hassig is part of the team that works on this feature that lets diners settle their checks with just a few taps. He hails from Seattle and Motor City, likes to drink some of his meals (in the healthful way, of course), and he’s a sucker for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Read on to meet OpenTable employee Brooks Hassig, learn about his picks for local food and drink, and discover what he’s digging into during his work day in today’s Lunch Break. 

Name: Brooks Hassig

Hometown: Seattle and Detroit

Job Title: Senior Experience Designer

What that means that I do at OpenTable: I help diners pay with their phones.

Years at OpenTable: 0.8  Alma mater: Western Washington University

I have not worked in a restaurant. (But I do like to eat at ’em!)

The food I can’t live without: PB+J sandwiches — I’m a simple man.

The one food I’ll never try: Hákarl — so gross!

My go-to drink or cocktail: Bundaberg Ginger Beer

The delicious dessert I refuse to share: Get your hands off my carrot cake.

My favorite thing about dining out is: Food/service/clean up

If pizza!!!!!!!! is on a restaurant’s menu, I almost always order it.

My last best restaurant meal was at: Le Sain Bol in Montreal

The restaurant I am a regular at: Samovar-Yerba Buena + Castro locationsContinue Reading

National Caviar Day: Indulgences for Every Budget

Caviar has been around for 250 million years, making it not quite as old as Earth itself, but one of our eldest delicacies. The first documented instance of caviar comes many millennia later, from grandson-to-Genghis Batu Khan in the year 1240, and it took nearly 600 more years for it to grow into the coveted culinary delight it is now renowned to be.  

Caviar is, typically, the roe, or eggs, of sturgeon, a fish with more than 20 species, many of whom we refer to by common names familiar to caviar fans, such as beluga. However, as our cooking cultures have evolved, chefs and home cooks have appropriated the idea of caviar, creating “caviar” out of everything from eggplant to black beans and corn (Yippee ki-yay for cowboy caviar!).

According to a Google Ngram Viewer query, it reached its pinnacle of popularity in 1986, right around the old “greed is good” days. But, caviar is still fashionable, and it isn’t just for folks born with a mother-of-pearl spoon in their mouths. A taste of the real stuff can be yours for a price that won’t break the bank. In honor of National Caviar Day, we’ve rounded up indulgences for every budget from 14 restaurants around the nation. PS: We’ll let you decide for yourself whether it pairs best with Champagne or vodka (Team Craig Claiborne, FTW, in my opinion).

Brennan’s of Houston, Houston, Texas
Executive chef Danny Trace adds elegance to his deliciously layered take on a favorite sport-watching snack with his blue crab and caviar nachos. Fire-roasted corn, Saint-André queso, alligator pear (a.k.a. avocado) mirliton pico de gallo, and lime crema rest on crispy chips — and the whole thing is crowned with an ounce of Petrossian caviar. Dig in for $100. You may not want to share, even if your team is winning.

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Catch, Santa Monica, California
How do you make lobster even more luxe? Add black truffle and California caviar, of course. That’s what executive chef Alberico Nunziata does (along with a bit of green apple for acidic balance) at this restaurant in Hotel Casa del Mar! The fresh, light shellfish is the perfect canvas for the rich flavors of these affluent ingredients. It’s yours for the eating at $23.[Photo courtesy of Hotel Casa del Mar]

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Faith & Flower, Los Angeles, California
Potato salad has its origins in European cooking, so it’s no surprise that the staple of homegrown picnics returns to its roots at Faith & Flower, one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants of 2014. The warm new potato salad from executive chef Michael Hung is made with a creamy grain-mustard vinaigrette and generously topped with trout caviar – for just $14.

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Found Kitchen and Social House, Evanston, Illinois
While many people seek out the extravagant beluga and osetra caviars, chef Nicole Pederson stays true to her mission of offering locally-sourced ingredients, serving 30 grams of beautiful American paddlefish ($44) and hackleback caviar ($55). Crème fraîche and toast points accompany each elegant and simple dish.

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L’Etoile, Madison, Wisconsin
The flavors are big and fresh in the premier dish of the $125 seven-course tasting menu at L’Etoile. James Beard Award-winning chef Tory Miller combines local Blue Valley Gardens asparagus with smoked trout, radishes, and cattail shoots, topped with hollandaise and decadent smoked trout roe, for a light-yet-indulgent first course.

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Mas (farmhouse), New York, New York
You need a line of credit to do a caviar tasting, right? Not at Mas you don’t! The appetizer menu is an affordable way to sample wild American malossol caviar with traditional accompaniments of toasted brioche, crème fraîche, and shallots. The paddlefish is $38 for ½ ounce portion + $76 for 1 ounce. Hackleback is $42 and $84, respectively. Or, sample the wild king salmon gravlax with paddlefish caviar, baby red beets, spring onions, horseradish crème fraîche, and an ‘everything’ tuile on chef Galen Zamarra’s tasting menu.

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Minton’s, New York, New York
Down-home ingredients meet uptown extravagance with chef J.J. Johnson’s roasted Okinawa sweet potato entrée with crème fraîche onion dip and paddlefish caviar. The roast-y root vegetable is the clear star, but the supporting cast has just the right amount of flash. Try it for $29. [Photo by Liz Barclay]

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Niche, Clayton, Missouri
Chefs Gerard Craft, the 2015 James Beard Best Midwest Chef, and executive chef Nate Hereford create their own caviar in this seductive egg amuse bouche. Missouri egg custard is made with Illinois maple and maple vinegar, roasted shitake mushrooms, and a trout “caviar” fashioned from strong smoked trout stock seasoned with housemade trout garum and set with agar agar to mimic the look and umami flavor of caviar. It is available as part of an eight-course tasting menu. [Photo courtesy of Greg Rannells]

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Petrossian Paris Boutique & Restaurant, West Hollywood, California
You can’t talk about caviar without mentioning the Petrossian name, which has been synonymous with caviar since the company was founded in Paris in 1920. Executive chef Giselle Wellman created a carb-y (yet delicate) caviar dish with housemade pasta, crème fraîche, chives, and caviar (of course!), garnished with Petrossian’s trademarked Caviar Powder. Order it at dinner for $22 for a half portion and $35 for a full plate.Continue Reading

When Restaurants Google You, Is It Creepy – or Cool?

Here’s something you may or may not know: Many of the best restaurants in the world research their guests online prior to a shift, with a view to learning something that will help them give those diners truly personalized, exceptional hospitality.

We were curious how people might feel about that, so we decided to ask U.S. OpenTable members, “When restaurants Google you, is it creepy or cool?” More than 6,000 chimed in with their responses, which led to the following interesting findings:

“Creepy” trumps “cool”

While many people aren’t bothered by the notion of being Googled by restaurant staff, the number of people who consider it “creepy or intrusive” outweighs the number of people who think it’s a good thing.

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Many of the 5 percent who answered “other” seemed baffled by the notion. “Not sure about that. What will they really get?” wondered one respondent. “Too much of a ‘Big Brother’ feeling,” commented another. “These must be expensive restaurants!” reasoned a third.

Diners in some cities are more creeped out than others

When we looked at the data by metro area, we saw a fair amount of variation. The most relaxed about this practice were our diners in Dallas, which was, in fact, the only city where those who think it’s a good thing (34 percent) outweighed those who consider it creepy (23 percent).

Meanwhile, respondents from cities farther north (think Boston, Chicago, and Minneapolis) were a lot more suspicious of being researched by a restaurant at which they were about to dine.Continue Reading