How to Dine Like a Restaurant Critic #hackdining

How to Dine Like a Restaurant CriticSo, let’s get this out of the way. Being a restaurant critic can be pretty hard work. You can put away the tiny violins, and let’s pause for the laughter to die down.

Yes, of course, it’s terrific fun, and you sometimes want to pinch yourself for actually getting paid to dine, but the responsibility of a restaurant critic, in fact, goes well beyond just chomping down a meal and writing something about it. The point is, a thoughtful critic is mindful of the fact that he/she is ultimately passing judgment on some else’s hard work and recognizes the impact their verdict can ultimately have. This is no small responsibility. A good review can help launch a successful restaurant; a bad one, though, can be devastating. It’s not something to take lightly.

Following are eight tips for how to dine like a restaurant critic on a review.

1. Choose wisely. Ideally, you want to pick a restaurant that takes you out of your comfort zone. Don’t go to a place you’ve already been to a million times. Try something new, so you can approach the experience with a fresh point of view. Among the options you might consider: type of cuisine, price point, location, innovative formats (e.g. Japanese-Jewish fusion? Dessert only?), as well as the presence of a celebrity chef.
Advice: Be adventurous with your restaurant reservations.

2. Do your homework. If you’re tackling a cuisine that’s new to you, a bit of research about culture, ingredients, and preparations can go a long way and make for a much richer experience. This can help you gain a better sense of what some of the must-try dishes are and provide you more confidence when ordering. Also, if there are specialties that require advance notice (e.g. Peking Duck, suckling pig), better to know before you get there.
Advice: Read up on the restaurant and the style of cooking before you go.

3. Allow the restaurant a grace period. While it’s tempting to want to evaluate a new place right away, you typically want to give the kitchen a bit of time to get its sea legs. In theory, a restaurant should be fully ready for customers from the day it opens its doors to customers. In reality, it can often take time to properly train a newly staffed kitchen, iron out wrinkles in service, and refine dishes.
Advice: Do yourself (and the restaurant) a favor, and wait three to six weeks post-opening for the dust to settle.

4. Use discretion. A critic — whether a blogger or a writer for a major publication — should function as an advocate for the “everyman.” I literally imagine myself as a stand-in for my readers. When dining for a review, you ought to receive the same treatment as anyone else in order get and to give a fair and balanced assessment of the occasion. It certainly can be nice to get VIP treatment, but that doesn’t likely mirror what the typical diner will experience.
Advice: Don’t announce that you are writing a review, and never ask for free food in exchange for a review. That pretty much disqualifies your ability to be impartial.Continue Reading

Hot Dog Day: A Dozen Delicious Must-Try Haute Dogs #nationalhotdogday

The hot dog is America’s unofficial summertime dish. Whether you’re grilling by the pool, out in the wilderness on a camping trip, or enjoying a baseball game, it’s almost certain some franks will be involved. But as we know, not all weenies are created equal. Chefs are now taking the humble hot dog to a whole new level by handcrafting every component – from the link and the bun to every type of condiment and topping imaginable. In honor of National Hot Dog Day, we present a dozen delicious must-try haute dogs from top restaurants.

The Arsenal at Bluejacket, Washington, D.C.
You might feel like you’re hanging out with your Polish relatives. Executive chef Kyle Bailey fires up kielbasa on his outdoor grill, then tops it with plenty of red peppers and onions. As your uncle Piotr is fond of saying, “To jest pyszne” (Translation: That’s delicious). [Photo by Marissa Bialecki]

Blog Arsenal Photo Credit Marissa Bialecki (2) copy

Bouchon, Beverly Hills, California
We love pretzel buns so much we’ve been known to compose haikus to them (Sample: Pretzel untwisted/Chewy, salt flecked brilliance/Tastes best with mustard). Here one of the brown rolls holds a prime chuck, apple wood-smoked hot dog crowned with cornichon relish and Dijonnaise sauce.

Blog Bouchon Dog 2 copy

Bourbon Steak, Washington, D.C.
This ain’t your average hot dog. Executive chef Joe Palma handcrafts this showboat from A5 Wagyu and pork, and then finishes it off with mustard, relish, and a side of duck fat fries. Simply glorious.

Blog Bourbon Steak copy

DBGB, New York, New York
This hot dog has a French accent. A housemade beef frank is shoehorned into a brioche bun then topped with sautéed onion, julienne radish, frisée, and pickled veggies. We say, “Oui, oui!”

blog dbgb_51 copy

Del Campo, Washington, D.C.
Chef-owner Victor Albisu puts his spin on the choripán, a South American street food classic. His version features a spicy chorizo link loaded up with pulled pork, red cabbage slaw, and sweet pickle salsa criolla. It’s best enjoyed with a glass of the smoked pineapple-laced pisco punch. [Photo by Greg Powers]

Charred food

Dirt Candy, New York City
There’s no mystery meat in these broccoli dogs. Two of the verdant stalks are smoked, grilled, and quickly sautéed before they’re tucked into toasted buns. Condiments include broccoli kraut, mustard-vinegar sauce, and micro broccoli. Eat both and you’ve just consumed 800% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Seriously.

Blog Broccoli Dog 1 copyContinue Reading

Picky Eater’s Paradise: Restaurants to Please a Crowd #friendsgettogether

You’ve been there before. You’re planning dinner with out-of-town guests and you have to find a venue. You don’t know everyone’s personal dietary restrictions or preferences, and, more important, you don’t have time to make inquiries. You just need to find a place that is going to serve delicious food that will satisfy each guest – a tall order given the number of possible considerations there are around what people choose to eat.

You’ll want to steer clear of single-cuisine (or single-dish!) restaurants, but fusion and seasonally focused eateries typically have expansive menus that can both satisfy the finicky and wow the adventurous. To help you plan a get together with any number of picky eaters, here are five types of restaurants to please a crowd.

The Dazzler: FT33, Dallas, Texas
The menu is a head-turner, but the first thing that will catch your group’s collective eye is the restaurant itself. The Dallas Design District darling has a modern, rustic feel with a crisp open kitchen and a farmhouse-meets-industrial design aesthetic. Chef Matt McCallister creates artistic dishes featuring fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s personal garden as well as local purveyors. The oft-changing menu is broad and exciting — think chicken liver and onion sausage with potato porridge and black truffle, and smoked potato with maitake, pictured. The chef’s tasting menu, available Tuesday through Thursday with advanced notice, will create long-lasting memories for you and your out-of-town guests.

Blog FT33 - smoked potatoes, maitake, chile kewpie mayo, savory herbs copy

The Casual-Yet-Cool Catch-All: Fig Tree Café-Hillcrest, San Diego, California
A quick glance at the menu for Fig Tree Cafe reveals a cornucopia of offerings that includes short ribs, pork belly, pork chops, pizza, ravioli, jidori chicken, crispy eggplant, and much, much more. The short-rib flatbread, pictured, and meatloaf hash are persistent favorites in this relaxing venue with a fresh-air vibe. Gorgeous boards of cheese and charcuterie will whet your appetite for more, and a broad list of drinks both soft and hard will rejuvenate your group any time of day. Try one of the antioxidant juice shots (açai, mangosteen, or goji) or a flight of all three! Or, throw caution to the wind and settle in with a pomegranate Bellini or strawberry mojito.

Blog fig-tree-shortrib-flatbread copy

The Hotspot with the Broad Menu: Essex, New York, New York
From oysters and tacos to veggie burgers and seared ahi tuna, pictured, this Lower East Side Sunday brunch favorite has the goods and the space to make your group meal a winner whatever day of the week it is. If you’re a drinking crowd, you’ll want to hit their wallet-friendly happy hour for $1 oysters and half-price drinks Sunday through Friday.

Essex RestaurantContinue Reading

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.

Blog Arnaud's Bananas Foster copy

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]

Blog Barton G. LA - Lobster Pop Tarts Photo Credit - Christina Peters copy

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.

Blog Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen's Caviar copy

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.

Blog Eddie V's - Seafood Tower copy

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.

Blog cote_de_boef1 from Fig & Olive copy

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.

Blog Grilled Artichoke Five Cheese Fondue copy

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.

Blog Chocolate Souffle at Food, Wine & Co. 2 copy

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!

Blog Black Truffle Pizza J&G Grill copyContinue Reading