How Do You Open a Restaurant in Manhattan? Practice, Practice, Practice.

Opening a restaurant anywhere takes a lot of, well, everything, really. Talent. Vision. Faith. Blood, sweat, and tears. And, oh yes, money. Opening a restaurant in the dining mecca that is Manhattan takes a lot more of all these things. Thankfully, for us diners, there are lots of folks who want to do it, despite the obvious hurdles.

Driven by a passion for creating amazing food and experiences, Felipe Donnelly and Tamy Rofe are among New York City’s aspiring restaurateurs. Advertising pros by day, they are taking a decidedly different, new-school approach to making their dream a reality, via Worth Kitchen, where they host intimate dinners for the growing number of fans they’ve carefully cultivated through social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook. Not yet an actual restaurant, Worth Kitchen’s smaller dinner parties are free of charge but by invitation only. However, this husband-and-wife team have already pulled off their first open-to-the-public pop-up dinner, and another is on the calendar for March 17th.

I dined with them last night, and I look forward to the day that Worth Kitchen is on OpenTable. Check out our slideshow and interview with the founders, after the jump.

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Chef Ed Cotton Talks Top Chef, Target and Elmo

Best Judges Ever Chef Ed Cotton Talks Top Chef, Target and Elmo
Best. Guest. Judges. Ever.

Some of our favorite contestants are fading fast as the all-star season of Top Chef winds down. Plein Sud Executive Chef Ed Cotton, a season 7 finalist, checks in with OpenTable again to dish on last night’s action.

Hey, Ed! So, we’ve got some friends here from the street. Sesame Street, that is. Who is your favorite muppet?

My favorite muppet is Ernie. I’m not sure why, but I thought he was cool. He used to collect bottle caps, and as a kid I would go around looking for bottle caps just like him. When I would come home with some, my mother would tell me they were “dirty” and to “stop picking things up off the ground.” So my bottle cap collection did not go that far.

Well, mother knows best! I love a perfect oatmeal cookie — but the best cookie I make is actually a ginger snap! What’s your favorite cookie to eat — and what’s the best cookie you make?

I don’t eat a lot of cookies or sweets, but I do like sugar cookies, once in a blue moon.  The best cookies I ever made were the ones that come from a box that are pre-made and frozen. If you saw my pastry skills on Top Chef when I was in the finale? Not the best display.

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Dining Poll: Should You Have to Ask Your Server to Pass the Salt?

Should Restaurants Serve Salt Dining Poll: Should You Have to Ask Your Server to Pass the Salt?
Unfortunately for Angelina Jolie, the movie 'Salt' didn't prove nearly as popular as the mineral form that's often -- but not always -- found on dining tables.

You can probably divide the world of diners into two groups — those who consider a salt shaker or a small dish of kosher salt as important as a fork and those who rarely salt their food. I’m not as addicted to salt as, say, my friend Michele (who often salts before tasting, a practice that drives me absolutely batty!), but I’ve been known to salt my steak (and my bread, too, which sounds weird but is actually really tasty!).

When I’ve had to ask for salt at a restaurant, the assumption on the part of several servers has been that there’s — Gasp! — something wrong with the food (No, just my palate, thankyouverymuch.). I wonder, then, should salt automatically be served to avoid such exchanges — or not? At a certain level of restaurant, is it wrong to ask for salt? What do you think? Take our poll and weigh in!




OpenTable Spotlight Offers Arrive in Minneapolis; Secrets Are Live!

SS SF 021511 OpenTable Spotlight Offers Arrive in Minneapolis; Secrets Are Live!
Squash your hunger with this half-priced dish served at tomorrow's Spotlight restaurant in San Francisco.

Already done snacking on your Valentine’s Day candy? Chew on this! Tuesday’s deals are set to shine in Los AngelesNew York, and San Francisco, while Wednesday brings seven Spotlight offers out in AtlantaBostonChicagoDenverPhiladelphiaWashington, D.C. — and Minneapolis, the newest Spotlight city. Can you figure out if your favorite restaurant is among this week’s picks?

* Atlanta: Savor innovative sushi rolls and colorful cocktails at this Atlanta hotspot which celebrates Japanese cuisine in a sleek and alluring environment.

* Boston: Wholesome, organic fare and a soothing atmosphere create the ultimate down-to-earth dining experience at this cool Cambridge bistro.

* Chicago: Enjoy timeless Italian cuisine at this romantic Chicago restaurant, famous for its popular table located within a refurbished elevator shaft.

* Denver: Visit this precious restaurant on Pearl Street to sample classic and modern Indian cuisine in an elegant setting.

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Chefs + Restaurateurs Share Sexy Recipes for Romance on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, OpenTable diners. In honor of Cupid and his bow, we polled chefs and restaurateurs about their picks for the most sensual dishes they would serve to put diners in the mood on this most romantic day. Check out our exclusive video with advice from Manhattan’s Zac Young (Flex Mussels), Derek Koch (MPD), Manuel Trevino (Lavo), Maximo Lopez (Wall & Water), and Johnny Santiago and Jim Chu (Jo’s).

Other chefs around the U.S. also weighed in…

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George Clooney + Eva Mendes Top Celeb Dream Dates; PDA OK on Valentine’s Day

Clooney George Clooney + Eva Mendes Top Celeb Dream Dates; PDA OK on Valentines Day
When contacted that OpenTable diners voted him most popular celebrity dream date, George Clooney was speechless (That's what "No comment" means, right?).

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we wondered if you couldn’t be with the one you love, which celebrity you’d love to dine with. In a new survey, OpenTable diners revealed that top celebrity dream dates include George Clooney, Eva Mendes, and Oprah Winfrey. Clooney was the most popular choice for women diners, snagging 44% of the votes, while Mendes is male diners’ top pick (35%). Winfrey, idol to millions of women, proved her influence as the third most popular pick for female diners overall, finishing behind Ryan Reynolds. With their smoldering good looks, it’s easy to see why Clooney and Mendes are the most desired dinner dates, but after 25 years on the air, Oprah Winfrey feels like every woman’s best friend, and who wouldn’t want to share a meal and girl talk with a close confidante — or someone who might give you a show on the OWN network?

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Chef Ed Cotton Weighs in on the Top Chef All Stars’ Star Turn on Jimmy Fallon

Top Chef Season 8 Fallon Birthday.jpb  Chef Ed Cotton Weighs in on the Top Chef All Stars Star Turn on Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon draws on his experience blowing his lines on SNL to help him blow out his birthday candles.

Chef Ed Cotton is back in the kitchen at Plein Sud in Manhattan and back with OpenTable, sharing his thoughts on the latest episode of Top Chef Season 8.

Fondue! At OpenTable, our most romantic restaurant lists always include fondue places and we get a bit of ribbing over that. I love it, tho’ — especially at Artisanal! What are your thoughts on fondue? Is it romantic? Have you made it?

I love fondue! I actually just purchased a fondue set for my house from Staub Cookware. I worked at a restaurant in Boston called No. 9 Park, and we used to have a gorgonzola cheese fondue with grilled leg of lamb that was marinated in black olive paste, served with a side of brioche croutons. That was a great dish! Fondue is romantic, but you have to be smart about what you serve and pair it with. And, now I want fondue; thanks a lot!

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Best Wishes to Thursday’s Winner of the ‘Pimp My Valentine’s Day’ Giveaway!

Thursday Winner 300x199 Best Wishes to Thursdays Winner of the Pimp My Valentines Day Giveaway!
Cory and Candace Baitz will enjoy a very presidential and romantical Valentine's Day, thanks to OpenTable, Limos.com, and Photoshop.

OpenTable and Limos.com are so sad (in a Carol Burnett kinda way) that our four-day giveaway has come to a close, but we are VERY glad to extend sincere congratulations to Cory Baitz (and his lovely wife Candace) of Chicago, Illinois, for winning Thursday’s OpenTable + Limos.com ‘Pimp My Valentine’s Day’ Giveaway prize package. Mr. Baitz will receive a $200 AMEX gift card plus a limousine ride, courtesy of Limos.com.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our giveaway with Limos.com. Happy Valentine’s Day, and be sure to look for more opportunities to win as we celebrate the many holidays of 2011!

Restaurants Are the Place to Celebrate Valentine’s Day, According to New Survey

Valentines Day 2011 Dining Survey Restaurants Are the Place to Celebrate Valentine’s Day, According to New Survey
Diners are in the mood for romance and restaurants this Valentine's Day.

A new survey of OpenTable diners revealed that restaurants’ popularity is on the rise as a destination on and around February 14, with nearly 90% of respondents planning to dine out. While a lot of us will be dining out on February 14th, nearly a third of folks are going to spend Saturday celebrating.

Speaking of spending, deep feelings yield deep pockets, especially in Washington, D.C. Nearly 90 percent of respondents nationwide plan to spend more or about the same amount as last year with 58 percent planning to spend $100 to $200 — and 12 percent plan to spend more than $200! However, of the diners who said they plan to spend more this year than last, the highest percentage of respondents hailed from Washington D.C. (25 percent), followed by Baltimore (24 percent) and Miami (23 percent). In other words, if you’re in the market for a fellow foodie whose idea of a great date is a great meal, you now know where to look.

While 70 percent of diners planned to book comfortably ahead of time, nearly 19 percent will wait until this week. If you’re one of these diners who are still searching for the right restaurant, check out our Diners’ Choice Top Ten Most Romantic Restaurants lists in a metropolitan area near you. You can also research specials and menu details for February 14 at www.opentable.com/valentines to find one the perfect place.