Happy Halloween! Are you spending the day snacking on candy and spooky confections, basking in the glory of a sugar rush? Do you stick to your usual consumption of sugary, chocolate-y yummies, enjoying a bite here and there? Or, are you like me — lacking a real sweet tooth and not at all tempted by sweet treats (Halloween-inspired cocktails are another story, however!)? Weigh in on our poll.
A year ago, Hurricane, or Superstorm, Sandy and all her wrath took aim at the Northeast, affecting millions of people and thousands of businesses. Acqua at Peck Slip, located down off Manhattan’s Seaport, was one of many restaurants that suffered severe flooding and extensive damages. Unlike some of their less fortunate counterparts in the neighborhood, Acqua at Peck Slip was able to reopen quickly and continues to thrive a year later, despite losses due to Sandy and continuing challenges in the area. We spoke with General Manager Niki Berti, who reflected on the damage, rebuilding, and being back in business at Acqua at Peck Slip.
There was a bit of warning before the storm. Remind me, what steps did you and your staff take to prepare?
We did everything. We taped the windows and bought sandbags to put in the front, and, obviously, that was useless. The hurricane started, and water started flowing — from the sewers, from sinks, from drain holes, from the toilet. Eventually, the river overflowed, so no matter what we would have done, it would have been really bad.
Before it was a street, Peck Slip was a boat slip (Ed. Note: It was filled in in the mid-1800’s.), and we are now on a landfill. A block west is Water Street, where the water once started. It’s kind of ironic then that the water stopped at Water Street. It took back what we took from it.
The damages were extensive.
The basement was fully flooded, and we had a lot of food and wine that was lost, about $30,000 worth. Then, all the equipment and fixtures – fridges, ice boxes, freezers, the stereo, computers, ipads, ipods, POS system — were gone. The bar. The electrical system. That was the water line (see photo below).
What was the recovery process like?
When we were first here after the storm, there were no lights, no electricity. The smell of mildew was terrible. But, we were very, very lucky. The staff helped us demolish the place. We had a company come in and bio-clean it, because this was filled with sewer water. So, everything was completely disinfected. Next, the City came to measure and do whatever they had to do. Finally, we could go on and rebuild.
A lot of the businesses that were destroyed were owned by corporations, and that meant that they were waiting on insurance money to come through before they started rebuilding. A year after Sandy, those businesses are now finally starting to reopen. In that way, our landlord on that way was very helpful. He said, “Just build.”
What was working with the City like? And how about finding the funds to reopen?
The City was very helpful because they were able to grant us loans at a low interest rate. We also have to thank Goldman Sachs for that, I must say. They gave us a lot of loans. Also, thanks to NYC Business Solutions and Robert Walsh, who gave us $35,000 in grants. It’s still a fraction of everything, but it is very helpful.
And, with what I thought was an extremely generous and smart social rebuilding campaign, you raised funds, offering folks who donated a gift certificate for the amount they gave. How successful was that?
A lot of restaurants were asking for money, but we didn’t want to just ask for money outright from customers, so we thought this was a good way to reach out to the folks who knew us, liked us, and wanted us to come back. For customers and friends who pitched in, those donations became gift certificates. Some diners didn’t even want to redeem them. One customer donated $500 and insisted he didn’t even want a gift certificate. With 144 people giving, we wound up raising close to $7,000.
You’d set an initial goal to open within 30 days. Did you meet that?
We opened five weeks and four days after the storm.
Were you able to hold on to your staff while you were rebuilding?
We were able to keep all the staff, except two.
How did the ongoing perception about the Seaport area being so damaged hurt or help you in the months after reopening?
* We’re toasting the winners of the 2014 Diners’ Choice Awards for the 100 Best Wine Lists in the U.S. Find out which lists are the most sip-worthy!
* Speaking of sip-worthiness, we asked the winning sommeliers to share the best values on their lists. Find out which bottles have the most bang for your buck.
* The San Francisco 2014 Michelin stars have been awarded. Did your favorite Bay Area restaurant get a celestial nod?
* Help fight hunger in Boston. Purchase tickets to the Lovin’ Spoonfuls Ultimate Tailgate Party on November 10.
* Voting for the Charlie Awards is open. Vote for your Twin Cities’ food favorites and purchase tickets to the ceremony on November 17.
* Are you heading #BacktoBoulder for UC Boulder’s homecoming game? Head to the Beehive for special deals on drinks and meals.
* Trending on recent OpenTable restaurant reviews? Kohlrabi.
* Delaware Dines Out is on. Book now for $15 lunches and $30 dinners, October 21-27.
* Richmond Restaurant Week winds down this weekend. Order up $25.13 three-course dinners, October 21-27.
* Taste MTL is set for November 1. Choose from three courses for three prices — $19, $29, and $39 — in Montreal through November 11.
* Newport Restaurant Week comes to New England in November. Don’t miss $16 lunches and $30 dinners, November 1-10.
This sweet tweet from diner Amy (aka @NoMeatballs) made our week! We’re so very glad to power your dinner reservations. But, we have to ask, Amy — why no meatballs?
If you’ve ever belonged to a CSA program, you are well-versed in the joys of kohlrabi. It’s a popular offering from growers, as kohlrabi is super-easy to sow and sort of foolproof when it comes to pests. A cool-weather crop and member of the cabbage family, it is fast growing and hearty. It’s also delicious and, you guessed it, nutritious. Low in calories, and high in fibers and phytochemicals, kohlrabi is also a wonderful source of vitamin C. While your average bear may be stumped as to how to treat these squat, alien-like vegetables, chefs are not! They’re taking these unique-looking gems and dazzling diners with soups, slaws, salads, and more. Find out what diners are saying about kohlrabi.
* A16, Oakland, California: “Highly recommend the house-made made pastas and the kohlrabi salad to balance all of the richness of the main dishes. The fried capers on this salad where great.”
* Cascina Spinasse, Seattle, Washington: “Every dish my wife and I had was drop-dead delicious. Started with eggs scrambled with lobster mushrooms cooked in prawn butter and the kohlrabi and watermelon radish salad — outstanding!”
* flour + water, San Francisco, California: “The pastas are all house-made as are the pizzas. For appetizers, we shared the braised octopus with melon and kohlrabi. Very refreshing and delicious. ”
* Girl & the Goat, Chicago, Illinois: “Kohlrabi salad was over the top, about the best salad I ever had.”
The University of Colorado at Boulder is getting ready for homecoming weekend, as is Boulder restaurant the Beehive. Tomorrow, on Saturday, October 26th, the Buffs will square off against the Arizona Wildcats — and hungry diners will be cheering on their team at the Beehive. The Beehive specializes in feel-good, fun food from area farms, and they’ll be serving up seasonal specialities to help fuel up football fans and alums as they root for their team.
The festivities kick off early at 4PM with bar specials until 6:30PM, including $5 Moscow Mules, Margaritas, and Beehive Goodness, $5 house wines, $3 local craft beers, and special snacks from $2-$6. And, naturally, they are serving a full menu in the dining room.
Book your table at the Beehive for Saturday now, and get ready to catch a bit of Flatiron Fever!
In honor of the 2013 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Wine Lists, we’re wondering about sommeliers and wine service. If a restaurant has a sommelier and I’m ordering a bottle of wine (which is pretty much a given!), I always confer with her/him. Sure, I know what I like. However, putting oneself in the hands of a skilled sommelier always adds the elements of education and surprise. I’ve often tried wines I wouldn’t have necessarily zeroed in on, and, time and again, they have all been within my budget. Are you like me when it comes to consulting with a wine professional on your order — or do you prefer to go it alone? Weigh in on our dining poll.
There are many metrics that go into creating a standout wine list, and one is, absolutely, value. We asked sommeliers at several of the 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winners for Top 100 Wine Lists restaurants to reveal the best values on their wine lists.
* Alexandria Cubbage, Head Sommelier, Veritas, New York, New York: “One of the best values on the Veritas wine list is the 1995 magnum of Stony Hill Chardonnay for $275. It represents a great value because this wine delivers the complexities and layered subtleties of fine Burgundy with the fruit character of Napa Valley at a fraction of the cost of fine Burgundy. Stony Hill made its first vintage of Chardonnay in 1952, and continues to showcase the longevity with which well-made wines from Napa Valley can attain. This bottle is also special because it is in magnum form and is available on the Veritas wine list from Park B. Smith’s personal wine collection. It is a rare treat to have this wine on our list.”
* Harley Carbery, Director of Wine, Aureole, Las Vegas, Nevada: “Hirsch, Bohan Dillon, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2011 for $85 a bottle. The wine is a wonderful, true expression of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, it shows as well as many wines twice as expensive, and is always a crowd pleaser.”
* Katelyn Peil, Wine Director, Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Woodinville, Washington: “Although there are a lot of great values to be found on my list, for me, an especially great value is found in the Catena Malbec from Vista Flores, Argentina. This wine is 100% Malbec from vineyard sites that are found at over 3,000 feet elevation. It is structured and complex, and really over delivers for a price point of $42 on our list. It is my goal to build a value-centric list while representing the many wine regions of the World in addition to being paired with the wide variety of foods offered at Purple Café and Wine Bar.”
* Branden Bidwell, Wine Director, Wine Cask, Santa Barbara, California: “The ‘best value’ on our list is a tough question. We focus mainly on local, Santa Barbara County wines and because of our good relationships with most of the local producers on our list, we like to think that all of our Santa Barbara County selections are a great value. If I have to pick one, however, it would be the Margerum ‘M5′ Rhone varietal blend. Doug Margerum is a fantastic winemaker, and this is a terrific value. We offer the wine by the glass, and our guests love it and often buy bottles to take with them.”
* Edgar Poureshagh, Certified Sommelier/General Manager, 3Twenty Wine Lounge, Los Angeles, California: “The best value on the list is our collection of wines with significant age that are still reasonably priced. I love serving wines that are ready to drink, and when I can find wines (like aged German Rieslings and Spanish Rioja of superlative quality) that I can serve at a reasonable price, it lets me offer our guests a great wine experience, without the exorbitantly high cost often associated with fine wines.”
* Kristin Jonna, Owner/Certified Sommelier, Vinology, Ann Arbor, Michigan: “I think one of our best values currently would be the Protos Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero! Delicious, depth of character for only $36 a bottle.”
As the grape harvest continues at the nation’s vineyards, we are pleased to announce the 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Restaurants with the Most Notable Wine Lists. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Featuring talented sommeliers and lists to impress any oenophile, the winners span 27 states and include Canlis in Seattle, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Veritas in New York City. Home to the nation’s most renowned vineyards, California accounts for 21 honorees, followed by Maryland with eight winners and Florida, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington with five apiece. Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas restaurants each boast four winning restaurants. Michigan and Nevada both claim three winners. Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, and Tennessee each have two winning restaurants. Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin restaurants are also represented. American fare restaurants had the greatest number of winners, followed by those serving Italian and tapas/small plate cuisines.
OpenTable is pleased to highlight the honorees in the MICHELIN Guide San Francisco 2014. Thirty-eight restaurants are included, with two Bay Area restaurants receiving the Michelin three-star level, the highest recognition in the culinary world, and seven achieving two Michelin stars. Twenty-nine restaurants earned one Michelin star, with one new addition for State Bird Provisions.
Being included in the respected MICHELIN Guide is a sign of excellence and quality. In the U.S., San Francisco is one of only three cities where Michelin publishes an annual guide. The others are New York and Chicago. The MICHELIN Guide New York 2014 was published October 1, and the MICHELIN Guide Chicago 2014 will be released on November 13.
Congratulations to all the recipients, including:
One Star: Acquerello, All Spice, Ame, Auberge du Soleil, Aziza, Bouchon, Boulevard, Campton Place, Chez TJ, Commis, Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Keiko à Nob Hill, La Folie, La Toque, Luce, Madera, Madrona Manor, Michael Mina, Plumed Horse, Solbar, Sons & Daughters, SPQR, Spruce, State Bird Provisions, and The Village Pub.