January 2016 Restaurant Weeks: Dining Discounts in Your City

Did the holidays leave your wallet a bit light? You can still afford the delicious comfort of dining out this month, thanks to January 2016 restaurant weeks in more than 30 cities.

Equinox DC Papilotte

* Charleston Restaurant Week returns with special three-course lunches and dinners, from $22 to $49 per person through January 17th. Make a reservation.

* Restaurant Week South Carolina starts now. Book a table for gourmet prix-fixe meals through January 17th. Make a reservation.

* Sacramento Dine Downtown is on! Don’t miss three-course dinners for just $35 through January 16th. Make a reservation.

* Galveston Restaurant Week brings you the best of Texas for less. Save with $10, $15, $20, $25, $30, $35, $40, or $45 menus, January 9-23. Make a reservation.

* Providence Restaurant Week starts Monday. Enjoy $14.95 lunches + $29.95 or $34.95 dinners, January 10-23. Make a reservation.

* Pittsburgh Restaurant Week features steals on meals in Steel City, USA. Book for specially priced three-course menus and $20.15 specialties, January 11-17. Make a reservation.

* Visit Oakland Restaurant Week brings you dozens of delicious Oak Town dinners for $40 January 14-24. Make a reservation.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week is a must with $15-$35 lunches + dinners, January 15-30. Make a reservation.

* Kansas City Restaurant Week offers $15 lunches + $33 dinners, January 15-24. Make a reservation.

* San Diego Restaurant Week features two-course lunches for $10, $15 or $20 and three-course dinners for $20, $30, $40 or $50, January 17-24. Make a reservation.

* Center City District Restaurant Week is twice as nice with $20 lunches + $35 dinners, January 17-29. Make a reservation.

* Restaurant Week Columbus brings you several ways to take advantage of this special week with $20, $25, $30, $35 meals, January 18-23. Make a reservation.

* Restaurant Week Baton Rouge highlights $20, $25, $30, $35 dinners, January 18-23. Make a reservation.

* Clayton Restaurant Week has sublime suppers for just $25, January 18-24. Make a reservation.

dineLA Restaurant Week delivers 14 days of delicious with$15, $20 or $25 lunches + $29, $39 or $49 dinners, January 18-31. Make a reservation.Continue Reading

Mocktail Hour: The Best Booze-Free Mixed Drinks in NYC

If the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are one long party — filled with office fetes, a few too many holiday spirits, and just one more slice of pie — January is the hangover. Sometime in the midst of the third cookie swap of the season, the calibration shattered and excess became the standard. But the first month of the new year represents a fresh start in every sense, a time to reset the scale with healthier eating, extra trips to the gym, and, for some, cutting out alcohol. Whether you’re spending January atoning for all the gastronomic sins of the holiday season or have another reason to pass on the alcohol, these spots go beyond bland iced tea and club soda to offer the best booze-free mixed drinks in NYC worthy of the dishes they complement. We’ll drink to that.

Atera
Atera gets it. Bar Director Nick Duble explains that “for many people, enjoying a beverage pairing is just as essential to the overall experience as the food is” but he understands that the traditional wine pairing isn’t a fit for every guest. Enter the Temperance Pairing, created “to provide a non-alcoholic alternative that does not make people feel left out.” It’s hard to imagine feeling left out with cocktails that utilize ingredients and creativity to mimic the classics so sharply that the drinker might question how temperate these drinks really are. The Laurel Martini, for example, is made with cucumber and bay leaf and adds “a theatrical component to the pairing and increases its overall enjoyment.” Make a reservation at Atera.

Best Booze-Free Mixed Drinks in NYC

Gabriel Kreuther
New York magazine calls chef Gabriel Kreuther’s first solo restaurant, opened last summer, “the most elegant new boozehound destination in midtown.” (They, like many others, also recognized it as one of the year’s Best New Restaurants.) Luckily, even if you’re abstaining beverage director Emilie Perrier has some tempting picks. The fragrant Verte Light blends kale, green apple, mint, and coriander syrup while The Virgin Glory is inspired by the Morning Glory Fizz. The latter is typically made with Scotch, absinthe, and lemon for a hair-of-the-dog hangover helper, but Perrier’s version substitutes in Lapsang Souchong smoked black tea, fennel, and lemon for a similarly soothing, anise-flavored alternative. Make a reservation at Gabriel Kreuther.

Best Booze-Free Mixed Drinks in NYC

Riverpark
Highlighted as ‘Temperance Coolers’ on the menu, Tom Colicchio’s restaurant overlooking the East River features several seasonally-appropriate, alcohol-free choices. Bubbles is a blend of apple cider, cinnamon, lemon, and bitters for a festive, warming soft cocktail, perfect for pairing with the Berkshire pork chop or the pasta with Zucca (winter squash) and pumpkin pesto. Or, get your dose of Vitamin C with the Maiden Voyage, with pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, and Peychaud’s Bitters, and toast to a healthy new year. Make a reservation at Riverpark.

Best Booze-Free Mixed Drinks in NYC

Saxon + Parole
Non-drinkers won’t go thirsty at this stylish spot on the Bowery named after two famous racehorses. Among the six deliciously offbeat options, there’s the zippy Bell Pepper Lemonade with fresh red bell pepper juice, lemon, chili tincture, and Perrier, and the uniquely refreshing Garden Tonic with lime juice, celery bitters, celery juice, housemade tonic, and herbs, or with a little kick. (We’ll wait until February to request a splash of vodka in either.) Make a reservation at Saxon + Parole.

Best Booze-Free Mixed Drinks in NYCContinue Reading

Where to Tuck into Carbs + Comfort Foods in the Pacific Northwest

This month, we’re celebrating clean eats and comfort foods – because January. Whatever route you choose, you can be sure deliciousness abounds in both.

Baby, it’s cold outside. And since it’s going to stay that way for a few more months, these picks will get you through deep winter by warming you up from the inside out. Discover where to feast on carbs + comfort foods in the Pacific Northwest this winter.

Local 360 Café & Bar, Seattle, Washington
Local 360’s mandate is clear: to source the majority of its ingredients from within 360 miles of Seattle and to get back to a simpler, better way of cooking. “Our take on comfort food isn’t too modern,” chef Stew explains. “We’re more about what’s best rather than what’s new or innovative.” To that end, they offer comfort classics like fried chicken and waffles, where the meat (a skin-on chicken thigh, “God’s gift to fried chicken!” exclaims Chef Stew) is double-dredged and fried, and also apple fritters, which are basically fried, fruit-filled dumplings served with vanilla ice cream and bacon brittle. (Behind-the-scenes info alert: when Local 360 replaced the fritters with another apple dish chef Stew wanted to try out, the restaurant was inundated with phone calls and emails begging for the classic dish to be returned to the menu.) Vegetarians craving comfort food should opt for the Mushroom Bolognese, which features ground up portobello and shiitake mushrooms cooked with tomato paste and milk, which is the traditional method of achieving a thick, creamy sauce. Make a reservation at Local 360 Café & Bar.

Comfort Foods in the Pacific Northwest

Stonesedge Kitchen, Whistler, British Columbia
For chef Erin Stone, comfort food is about memories. Her versions, however, don’t quite resemble grandma’s take. Sure, there’s mac ‘n’ cheese on the menu, but Stone’s version includes roast duck — as does the filling shepherd’s pie. Craving something starchy? Then you need the Chicken Meatball Bowl with rice and coconut curry broth or the Woodsman Bowl (on the breakfast menu) which features arugula, squash, shredded venison, and poached eggs. “People are often too busy to cook these days,” Stone says. “But everyone needs something homey and comforting in winter.” Make a reservation at Stonesedge Kitchen.

Comfort Foods in the Pacific Northwest

Bell + Whete, Seattle, Washington
The thing not to miss at this Seattle gastro pub: the eggs benedict served on house-made English muffins. “Most people believe the baguette is the best example of ‘perfect’ bread,” explains chef Jenny. “But it’s actually the English muffin.” And hers are made with dough that has plenty of air bubbles, which result in cavernous nooks and crannies. Also a treat: her cinnamon-and-sugar-dipped sour cream donuts, which are fried to order and have a crispy exterior but a soft center. At dinner, don’t pass up the Belgian fries, which are fried in wagyu beef fat to give them a buttery taste without adding butter. PS: You’re welcome. Make a reservation at Bell + Whete.

Comfort Foods in the Pacific Northwest

Golden Beetle, Seattle, Washington
Chef Maria Hines is famous among adults for competing on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters, but she’s loved by kids for having a Mac ‘n’ Cheese Mondays, where they — and actually anyone — can design their own version. Start by picking a pasta (gluten-free or regular), add in a béchamel sauce (roasted garlic or spicy harissa are options), and complete with cheese (white cheddar? Smoked gouda? Check and check!). Include some bacon or lamb sausage and have it baked in the kitchen until the panko crust is crispy. Pro tip: This is the staff’s favorite night to work — so you know it’s extra good. Bonus: Chef Hines’ sister restaurant Tilth, serves up a waffle made from 100% sourdough (the sourdough “mother” was actually started a few years ago and is used in all their breads) accompanied by maple whipped cream and candied pecans. Make a reservation at Golden Beetle.

Comfort Foods in the Pacific NorthwestContinue Reading

Top Chef Winners: Where Are They Now?

Top Chef Pic

Season 13 of Bravo’s hit reality cooking series Top Chef premiered last month (and, after a brief holiday hiatus, the season returns with episode 5, “Big Gay Wedding” Thursday night) which made us wonder: What do winners do after taking home the grand prize? We took a trip down memory lane to catch up on all of the champions, way back to the first season in 2006.

A few learnings: More often than not, Top Chef winners go on to open their own restaurant (or two or three of them). Only three out of 12 Top Chefs are women, and some are more high-profile than others. Some have won James Beard Awards while others have found careers in television. Many have opened or are planning on opening fast-casual concepts.

Here’s an overview of Top Chef winners, then and now.

1. Harold Dieterle

New York native Harold Dieterle won the first season of Top Chef, set in San Francisco in 2006, after besting runner-up Tiffani Faison in the final challenge in Las Vegas. Following stints at Della Femina in the Hamptons and Red Bar and 1770 House in New York City, he worked as a sous chef at The Harrison, also in NYC.

After taking home the $100,000 prize, Harold became a New York City restaurateur. He opened his first restaurant, Perilla, in 2007, and three years later he opened a Thai restaurant called Kin Shop. Later he opened a third concept, The Marrow.

Sadly, none of Harold’s restaurants have stood the test of time. In October 2014, he said goodbye to The Marrow, and last month he announced he would be closing Perilla and Kin Shop as well. In an interview with Eater, he attributed his decision to the rising cost of doing business in New York, adding, “It’s gotten to the point where I’m not having fun and enjoying myself. I’m not saying I never want to return to the restaurant business, but right now, I’m feeling a little beat up and a little tired.”

Up next: Harold and his wife are expecting their first child in February, so he’s planning to take some time off. But he expressed interest in opening a fast-casual concept down the road.

2. Ilan Hall

Filmed in Los Angeles, season two was the first time we saw Padma Lakshmi — now a star onTop Chef and beyond — take over as host. Ilan Hall (also a New Yorker) beat Marcel Vigneron in the season finale in Hawaii, amid plenty of heated rivalry between the two contestants. (Fun fact: Ilan and Marcel studied at the CIA at the same time. Apparently they have since made amends.)

Ilan was a line cook at New York City’s Casa Mono before winning Top Chef. In 2009, he opened his first restaurant, The Gorbals, in Los Angeles, but it closed within a week — the county health department shut it down due to an inadequate water heater. Happily it reopened a couple of months later, and in 2014, he opened a second location in Brooklyn. The same year, he announced he would be moving the location of the L.A. restaurant and changing the menu to be almost entirely vegan (it hasn’t reopened yet).

Now, Ilan is the host of Knife Fight, another reality cooking show in which two cooks square off, preparing dishes using a few designated ingredients in just one hour.

Up next: This week, Ilan announced he’s shutting The Gorbals in Brooklyn, changing the concept and the name. Esh — Hebrew for “fire” — will serve Israeli-Middle Eastern barbecue.

3. Hung Huynh

Season three of Top Chef took place in Miami and ended in Aspen, where Hung Huynh, a Vietnamese-American chef, beat two runners-up: Dale Levitski and Casey Thompson. Hung cooked at Per Se and Gilt in New York and held the post of Executive Sous Chef at Guy Savoy Las Vegas before joining the show.

After Top Chef, Hung competed in the 2008 Bocuse d’Or USA contest, with the aim of representing the United States at the international competition the following year. He lost out to Chef Timothy Hollingsworth but went on open a number restaurants with the EMM Group — The General, Catch, Lexington Brass — helping the group expand globally.

After four years, he cut his ties with the group in February 2015, frustrated that he wasn’t “taken seriously by somewhere like the New York Times” working with the large business.

Up next: There’s no word on Hung’s next project, but he wants it to be national in scope. He added, “I think the direction is going toward much more simple and healthy fare. I think the direction is more casual and less expensive.”Continue Reading