Beyond the Pie: 9 Apple Dishes + Drink for Fall Dining

We recently marked the birthday of John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed.” Chapman’s devotion to nature as a nurseryman, conservationist, and educator is said to have extended not only to apples but to animals and insects as well. But he is most famous for his propagation of apple trees across the Midwest. Yet, despite Chapman’s September birthday, October is when apple-eating (and cider-sipping) season really kicks into high gear in the U.S. and apple dishes dot the menus at restaurants across the nation.

In the interest of finding as many ways to eat delicious autumn apples as we can every day (and not just to keep the doctor away), we’re looking beyond the pie to showcase nine apple dishes and drink for fall dining.

Orchard Apple and Bleu Salad at Relish, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Crisp and tart, apples pair perfectly with creamy cheeses and leafy greens. Take, for example, the Orchard Apple and Bleu Salad at Relish in the PHL. This salad combines fresh, seasonal apple slices with assorted lettuces, blue cheese crumbles, candied walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette. Sweet, tangy, crunchy, and healthful, this creation hits all the right notes.

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Warm Caramel Apple Crepe at Suzette’s Creperie, Wheaton, Illinois
For me, nothing tastes of autumn (and Halloween!) quite like caramel apples. Suzette’s Creperie raises the bar on that food memory in a serious way with its Salted Caramel Apple Crepe. Sautéed apples are topped with warm salted caramel sauce and pecans, then wrapped in a handmade crepe and served with a dollop of whipped cream. Oh, man. Or, rather, oh, Suzette!

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Green Apple Slaw at Valley Tap House, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Apples brighten up the taste of this otherworldly coleslaw. And, what better toothy condiment to slather on your burger and kick things up a notch? The signature burger at the Valley Tap House in the appropriately named Apple Valley, Minnesota, features a delicate topping of green apple slaw, as well as grilled portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Italian truffle cheese.

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Apple Cider Doughnuts at White Mountain Cider Company, Glen, New Hampshire
No cider mill worth its apples is complete without the warming comfort of fresh, hot apple cider doughnuts. Thankfully, at White Mountain Cider Company, you can channel your inner Homer Simpson (“Mmm, doughnuts!”) with their Warm Cider Donuts and Ice Cream plate throughout the year. Turn up the volume on the deliciousness with a hit of rich caramel sauce.

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5 Top Restaurant Complaints + How to Prevent Them from Ruining Your Meal #hackdining

It’s happened to all of us. You’re out to dinner and something goes wrong. Maybe it’s something minor like the server accidentally bringing you a Chardonnay instead of a Chablis. Or perhaps it’s a bigger issue that threatens to derail your entire evening. No one wants to spend good money to have a bad time. So, how do you confront these problems to rectify the situation and ensure you have an enjoyable experience? From overdone steak to underwhelming service, we look at five top restaurant complaints along with tips from hospitality experts for preventing them from ruining your meal. 

Young people eating lunch in a bright modern restaurant, a waiter is serving hot food. Natural light.

You’re seated at a table you don’t like.

It’s by a drafty door, so you keep feeling a chilly breeze. Or it’s next to the bar, which is particularly loud that evening, and you want to have a quiet date night. For whatever reason, the table just isn’t right for you.

Speak out immediately, advises Jonathan Crayne, the senior captain at Marcel’s in Washington, D.C. “You have a chance to save your night or ruin your night,” he says. “Just remember you’re never going to be happy if you spend the evening thinking, ‘Maybe we should have moved.’”

If you feel uncomfortable asking for a new table, use this graceful line from Antonella Rana, co-owner of Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in New York City. “I’m so sorry; you work here and you are used to this beautiful space,” she says. “However, it’s my first time and I truly would like to have the best memory of it. I don’t feel so comfortable at this table, could you bring me to your favorite?”

As they say, flattery will get you anywhere – including the best seat in the house.

The guests near you are behaving inappropriately.

There’s a couple next to you in the middle of a loud, profanity-laced breakup. Or the parents at the next booth brought their two-year-old son to dinner and he wants nothing more than to be a human catapult, so mushy French fries keep landing on your dinner plate.

It’s definitely not your job to police the situation. Sit tight and flag down a server or the manager. “We don’t want guests going to another table; that’s our job,” says David Fascitelli, general manager of Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C. “We would like to intercede and make the situation right.”

Rana has another tactful line to use when you get the eye of a staffer. “Unfortunately I have a terrible ‘teacher’ syndrome,” she says. “Could you please help us and quiet this chaos next to our table before I do so myself?”

Your dish isn’t prepared properly.

The steak you requested medium rare is well done and your dining companion’s salad is packed with the tomatoes he asked the kitchen to hold. How do you politely send the food back?

“People are worried about making the chef upset or looking like they don’t appreciate his or her food,” says Fascitelli. “But the chef wants to make it right, too.”

Being open is your best bet. “It’s very easy to over-salt something,” says Crayne. “We sometimes don’t know it’s happened until we’re told. So, don’t hesitate to send something back.”

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Almost Famous: 5 Southern Chefs to Watch

It used to be that the majority of America’s most talented chefs were all cooking in New York City kitchens. But today you can eat in almost any city in the country, from Pittsburgh to Orlando, Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, and find skilled, revolutionary chefs worth their salt — especially if you choose to dine in the South. With the country’s most historic (and easily most storied) cuisine and a slew of accomplished chefs pushing the envelope as they marry tradition with innovation, Southern food has never tasted so good. Here are five Southern chefs to watch.

Raleigh’s Cheetie Kumar of Garland
James Beard winner Ashley Christensen may have put Raleigh on the culinary map, but Cheetie Kumar, the guitar player for Birds of Avalon and the mastermind behind Asian hotspot Garland, is keeping the City of Oaks on every foodie’s radar. Far from passé fusion, Cheetie dishes up authentic Korean plates (don’t miss her Heritage Farms pork shoulder rice bowl with housemade kimchi pickles and daikon-collard slaw, topped with a fried egg) alongside Indian specialties (the turmeric-yogurt glazed cauliflower spiked with curry leaves, chiles and cilantro packs an incredible flavor punch), all made with local Southern ingredients. [Photo by Tierney Farrell]

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Charleston’s Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh
Sean Brock and Mike Lata get most of the national attention when it comes to Charleston restaurants (and for good reason), but three-time James Beard semi-finalist Jeremiah Bacon, who helms the kitchen at The Macintosh, is making diners take notice. Bacon has a knack for fusing local, in-season ingredients with avant-garde-yet-approachable techniques, resulting in one-of-a-kind dishes (did someone say grouper charcuterie seasoned with bologna spices?) that will linger on your taste buds long after your meal.

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Houston’s Luis Roger of BCN Taste & Tradition
Diners have been flocking to Houston for a taste of James Beard winner Chris Shepherd’s Southern-meets-Asian creations, and with good reason. Stay for chef Luis Roger’s exemplary haute cuisine at Houston’s hottest Spanish destination, BCN Taste & Tradition. Bona fide bites of boquerones (pickled anchovies) are served up in an intimate villa setting, alongside Barcelona classics, such as green peas sautéed with prized Ibérico ham and crispy artichokes, decadent foie gras terrine, and buttery lobster bouillabaisse.

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Atlanta’s Zach Meloy of Better Half
Though Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene have been on the top fine dining restaurant lists for more than a decade, they’re not exactly affordable options (though they are worth it, if you can spring for the splurge). So when you’re craving the same level of food (read: precision, finesse, creativity, passion, and quality) and want to avoid spending your monthly mortgage on dinner, head to chef Zach Meloy’s unassuming, but big on delivery Westside restaurant, Better Half. Exclusively serving prix-fixe menus (available in three-, five- and nine-course tastings, priced at $35, $55 and $75, respectively), Meloy’s food—he rarely cooks the same dish twice—is fresh and thrilling, always with a profusion of contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures. [Photo by Rebecca Stanley]

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Nashville’s Brian Baxter of Husk
When Sean Brock brought his legendary Husk restaurant to Nashville, the city’s restaurant scene exploded with excitement. But as all multiple-location restaurants go (especially those with a celebrity chef like Brock), it’s the lesser-known, but no-less-talented kitchen crew who runs the day-to-day show. Here, chef de cuisine Brian Baxter—he’s been with Brock on-and-off since 2008 at McGrady’s—mans the stove, cranking out Southern-to-a-T plates of hominy griddle cakes with pimento cheese and chipped beef, crispy chicken skins in white BBQ sauce, and Carolina catfish and okra in a West African peanut sauce.

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Are you already a fan of these up-and-coming chefs? Let us know here or on FacebookG+InstagramPinterest, or Twitter

Kate Parham Kordsmeier is a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications, the Atlanta Expert for, and the author of Atlanta Chef’sTable: Extraordinary Recipes from the Big Peach. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Unbridled Restraint at Kajitsu: A Carnivorous Chef’s Vegan Table

As we continue to celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month and our recent awards feting the 52 Best Restaurants for Vegetarians in America, we’re pleased to highlight Kajitsu, another winning restaurant. Serving shojin cuisine, chef Hiroki Odo discusses his journey to preparing #vegforward fare in “Unbridled Restraint at Kajitsu: A Carnivorous Chef’s Vegan Table.”

Blog kajitsu-30 copyWhile the idea of visiting a Michelin-starred vegan restaurant steeped in centuries-old Buddhist tradition elevated to the highest form of Japanese cuisine may give one reason to expect an exceptionally rigid atmosphere where diners are to be judged on every click of their chopsticks, Kajitsu, in the age of chef Hiroki Odo, stands in stark contrast. No doubt, Odo is very serious about his craft, committed to pleasing each customer who walks into his establishment. He is also far from being a conventional purist — and far from finished outdoing himself.

The shojin cuisine that Kajitsu specializes in ties back to the 12th-century Japanese Buddhist temples where vegetarian meals were prepared for the monks who lived there. The word shojin (“devotion”) refers to the conviction of the monks in upholding their values. Kaiseki refers to the sublime preparation and presentation of these dishes. Kaiseki, in its modern sense, is the Japanese analog to the French haute cuisine, the apex of Japanese culinary arts, with origins in traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which also hails from Buddhist tradition.

But enough about historical context. That the kaiseki dishes at Kajitsu are vegan is almost beside the point. Through careful, painstaking techniques, much of which happens long before any customers arrive, Odo and his team extract and enrich profound flavors from simple plant-based ingredients. Flavors that equal the well-seasoned stocks and sauces one can far more easily render from meat and bones.

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“I’m not even a vegetarian,” Odo confesses. “I like fried chicken and hamburgers. But what I do at Kajitsu is special because it is all prepared within the limitations and respect of traditional Japanese shojin cuisine. It is those very limitations that motivate me to create dishes that will delight and surprise my customers.”

To do this, Odo draws upon his extensive training as a young cook at restaurants in Kyoto, where kaiseki was developed. Moving to Kyoto after culinary school was for him the equivalent of a student of French cuisine seeking an apprenticeship in Paris. Kyoto would provide an opportunity to work with the very best chefs, albeit in a trying and sometimes harsh environment complete with a strict hierarchical order and a sense of discipline in which Odo thrived.

Odo says he enjoyed the rigorous teamwork, even when the conditions were almost brutal. Sleeping in dormitories with half a dozen workers sharing a room, working long hours, sleeping as little as 2 to 3 hours a night was both physically and mentally demanding. But cooking gave him a creative outlet with near instant gratification.

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“In high school, I had trained to become a carpenter,” says Odo. “But constructing a house or a building takes a long time to complete whereas, with cooking, the results can be enjoyed almost immediately. So, I went to culinary school.”

But like many in his industry, Odo would not find that gratification quite so instantly. “At my first job after school, I did nothing but wash dishes and clean house,” Odo remembers.

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He soon followed a mentor to the Michelin two-starred restaurant Wakuden in Kyoto, working as sous chef and learning what it would take to satisfy the highly demanding tastes of his clientele. “It was difficult,” says Odo. “People in Kyoto take their food very seriously, and they will tell you right to your face when they don’t like something.” That close interaction proved critical to Odo’s developing his skills. And today it is what keeps him firmly grounded in the present. “I watch my customers eat,” says Odo. “Not just what they eat, but how they eat it. Are they taking their time? Are they smiling? Are they appreciating the presentation? All of this helps inform me so that I can shape the flavors of the next dishes to suit their tastes.”

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When asked about the American taste for Japanese food, Odo demonstrates a democratic worldview. He acknowledges that American diners tend to favor richer flavors and more vibrant textures than their Japanese counterparts, and he finds ways to accommodate them. He garnishes his Full Moon Black Sesame Tofu with not only lily bulb but also powdered olive oil and cacao nibs to add depth and crunch. Does he consider these concessions? “No,” says Odo. “Every person’s taste is different. For me, this is just another challenge to take on. I want to cater to and meet the expectations of my customers. I enjoy that.”Continue Reading