Valentine’s Day is to dining out what New Year’s Eve is to drinking — Champagne, or anything else for that matter. As you may imagine, then, it’s been on our minds for quite some time. Even if it’s not yet on yours or you haven’t already made your reservations, we’d love your opinion on a few fun topics, including which celebrity you’d most like to dine with (if your s.o. weren’t available that evening, naturally).
Last night’s episode of Top Chef lacked a QFC — but it did deliver a double elimination. We checked in with Ed Cotton, Executive Chef at Plein Sud and one-time bee in Angelo’s bonnet, for his thoughts on what proved to be the deadliest catch for two cheftestants.
Thinking back to last week’s EC and this week’s intro, do you think Dale really only cooked 8 plates? Or 20? Or not nearly enough, as is being implied in this ep’s opener? Is Marcel way off base here? Can you — wait, strike that — SHOULD you win the challenge without fulfilling all the obligations of said challenge?
I’m not sure how many plates Dale served; I’m sure he made the proper amount. You always have to make the amount or you are in automatic danger of going home. Maybe he skimped a bit, but whatever he did the judges enjoyed — and that’s what counts. Marcel could be upset with him for a number of different reasons; when you’re in the kitchen and you see someone doing something that you think is shady and then that person wins, you’re going to get pissed. I really don’t know what happened in the kitchen and can’t say Dale cheated or Dale did this or that. So, if he won, he won.
When you’re dining out, do you like to sit in a clubby booth? Or, would you rather have someone slide your chair out than have to slide into a booth? Share your seating preferences with us.
The clever scribes on the OpenTable Spotlight team are at it again. They’ve rounded up a bunch of clues — along with some hunger-inducing photos — to help you figure out where our Spotlight will enable you to save. Offers arrive in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco on Tuesday, while Atlanta, Boston/New England, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. will be available for purchase on Wednesday. And, just like last week, tune in for a bonus round of offers on Thursday.
Use these clues and droolworthy pics to help make your best guesses, on the OpenTable Spotlight boards or on Facebook!
Atlanta: Family owned and operated, this beloved steakhouse beckons one and all to come enjoy the best steaks in Decatur.
Boston/New England: Set along Rhode Island’s stunning Providence Riverwalk, this popular restaurant serves world-class global cuisine to locals and visitors alike.
Chicago: Enjoy the warm atmosphere at this French gastro bistro on North Lincoln Avenue. Named in honor of the owner’s two children, this eatery blends contemporary French cuisine with an accessible American sensibility.
Denver: Enjoy gourmet grill fare at this Washington Park hotspot. Be sure to stop by on a Thursday or Saturday to enjoy the live music and vibrant crowd!
Los Angeles: Serving up group friendly tapas-style dishes, this Santa Monica restaurant creates a perfect fusion of East and West in every bite!
New York: Sip Merlot and people-watch at this award-winning international wine bar and American bistro in Midtown.
Philadelphia: A charming wine bar in Wilmington, Delaware, this eatery serves delectable small plates to pair with over 425 wines and 100-plus craft beers.
San Francisco: This historic restaurant in San Francisco’s Little Italy proudly holds the title of “Oldest Italian Restaurant in America.”
Washington, D.C.: A vibrant downtown eatery, this French-influenced café is the perfect escape from DC’s bustling business district restaurants.
In the most entertaining ep yet of this season’s Top Chef, the competitors take on Tom Colicchio in the Quick Fire Challenge and get a bit of Shanghai surprise down in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Ed Cotton, a season 7 finalist and executive chef at Plein Sud, weighs in on Tom Colicchio and dim sum.
The QFC brings out Tom Colicchio. Can you talk a bit about Tom? He seems very affable and cool, but when he’s got his judge’s hat on — or his chef jacket — he’s quite intimidating. And, what did you think of his speed?
I have always thought that Chef Tom Colicchio is one of the greats. I’ve been eating his food for years — even before living in New York. Chef Colicchio knows great flavors and has great technique. He is a cool guy and very down to earth, but VERY intimidating. He has built an extremely successful empire and runs his kitchens very well. In this episode, it was refreshing to see him cook and rock it out! He showed everyone that just because he is a judge doesn’t mean he can’t hang. He managed his time efficiently and had a plan. I think everyone was very impressed by his timing; I certainly was. Continue reading…
It’s happened to all of us at one point or another: You dine out with a group of friends and, while most choose modestly priced menu items, someone goes for the surf and turf with a side of foie gras. What’s a diner to do? Weigh in below!
Atlanta: Indulge your taste buds with decadent modern comfort food at this lauded chef’s unique, hip restaurant in the Old Fourth Ward district.
Boston: Host your next classic three-martini and/or power lunch at this award-winning steakhouse in Boston’s Back Bay.
Chicago: Paying homage to Demeter’s Roman equivalent is this Chicago spot, where diners enjoy a constantly changing menu that incorporates local and seasonal produce.
Denver: Named after the bustling taverns of Venice, this vibrant restaurant in Boulder boasts a stunning rooftop patio during the warm season.
Philadelphia: Elegant and unforgettable, this breathtaking restaurant rests on the banks of the Schuylkill River in one of Philadelphia’s most historic buildings.
Washington, D.C.: The spectacular dining room at this DC restaurant is almost as impressive as its delicious Bourbon Street Bread Pudding.
On Thursday, we’ll turn on another round of deals in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. And, if you’re looking forward to San Francisco Dine About Town, remember to enter our Dining Rewards Points Giveaway, which continues today!
It’s the 10th anniversary of San Francisco’s successful Dine About Town, which kicks off on January 15th! To celebrate this momentous and delicious occasion, we’re giving away 1,000 Dining Rewards Points each day on Facebook. To enter, Like our OpenTable page on Facebook and, after you make your reservation, write on our wall, “I just booked a table at (insert resto name) for the 10th Annual SF Dine About Town on OpenTable!” Over the next 10 business days, at the end of each day, we’ll award one diner 1,000 Dining Rewards Points. You can read more about the rules below. But, first, we talked with Lynn Bruni, one of the organizers of SF Dine About Town, to find out more about this much-anticipated event.
Congratulations, Lynn! Dine About Town is in its tenth tasty year. Can you tell us a little about the genesis of this event?
Dine About Town was developed by the San Francisco Travel Association (formerly the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau) in January 2002 to encourage more people to dine out and boost restaurant revenue after the tragedy of 9/11. The program was designed to provide locals and visitors with the opportunity to experience delicious cuisine from San Francisco’s top restaurants at an affordable price. The promotion has been highly successful since its inception, and in 2010, Open Table reported that more than $1.5 million in incremental restaurant revenue was generated through reservations booked on the online reservation systems. This does not include walk-ins or phone reservations, which we estimate brings that number closer to $3 million. Restaurants that have participated since the first Dine About Town promotion in 2002 include Ana Mandara, AsiaSF, B44, Cosmopolitan, E&O Trading Company, Fringale, Grand Café, Hornblower, Le Colonial, One Market, Scoma’s, and Silks.
How has the event — and San Francisco’s food scene — evolved over the years?
Originally, the event took place only once a year throughout the entire month of January. In 2006, based on demand and feedback from diners and restaurants, we changed the January event to a two-week period from the 15th to the 31st, and added a summer promotion which takes place every June 1–15. Additionally, in 2010 we moved from a 3-course to a 2-course lunch to encourage diners to participate more during the lunch period when three courses may seem too many.
San Francisco’s food scene is ever-evolving. Recently, there’s a proliferation of chef tables and communal tables, as well as late-night dining. The communal table concept has been around for centuries – strangers gather around a communal table to break bread and boundaries together. The age-old concept of sharing a table among strangers is suddenly hip again. Now many San Francisco restaurants are incorporating communal tables into their dining rooms.
What’s unique about San Francisco’s food culture?
San Francisco mixologists now play a part in menu creation to insure the ingredients in the cocktails pair well with those found on the chef’s menu. Food and wine pairing has been common for years but cocktails were usually a “before dinner” libation choice. Now, many diners choose cocktails over wine and the chef and mixologist must work together to make sure the pairings complement one another.
A cocktail is just a cocktail unless it’s in the hands of creative mixologists who use spirits, fruit, herbs, and sugar as pure alchemy. The refreshing results have made many mixologists celebrities in San Francisco, many whom have their own following. Some of San Francisco’s celebrated mixologists include Carlos Yturria (Absinthe Brasserie and Bar), Lisel Brunson (Amber India), Johnny Raglin (Dosa on Fillmore), Bryan Ranere (Foreign Cinema), Michelle Fawcett (Kuleto’s), and Brandon Clements (Spruce).
Are San Francisco’s diners and foodies ahead of the curve in any way?
Carnivores are back in fashion and meat has never been more popular. San Francisco butchers pay close attention to how humanely the animals are treated and this focus has led to specialization in cured meats in restaurants, especially salumi. At the Ferry Building, the culinary Mecca in San Francisco, Boccalone (Embarcadero) has opened a shop specializing in salumi, with attention to using all the parts of the animal. Its mortadela is an airy blend of pork, pine nuts, chili and cinnamon (although the exact recipe is a family secret). Other San Francisco restaurants making salumi include A16, Bar Bambino, Franciscan Crab, Perbacco, Zuni, and Zuppa.
Many restaurants and hotels, such as Epic Roasthouse, Spruce, and the Mandarin Oriental, are producing and bottling their own private labels, to reinforce branding and help develop partnerships with the nearby wine regions.
Do you have any restaurants that are new to the event this year?
New restaurants to participate in the January 2011 promotion include Comstock Saloon, Ducca, Georges Restaurant, Hana Zen Sushi & Yakitori Bar, Kuleto’s, La Terrasse, Marlowe, Mayes, Moussy’s, Skool, Sociale, and Velvet Room (Clift Hotel).
Do you have any tips for diners?
We definitely encourage diners to make their reservations early, as tables tend to book up quickly. And, dine often — if you’re an American Express Cardmember, you can dine 3x and get 3x rewards points with a registered Card. But, finally, don’t miss the celebration for the 10th year at our Launch Event on January 12 at City View at Metreon. Over 20 restaurants and wineries will be serving delicious tastes, and 100% of the proceeds benefit Meals on Wheels. Plus, guests can enter to win the ultimate foodie roadtrip in Acura’s Eat Your Way from SF2LA sweepstakes. Purchase tickets for this not-to-be-missed foodie event!
Thanks, Lynn. Diners, remember to book your San Francisco Dine About Town reservations now — and post, “I just booked a table at (insert resto name) for the 10th Annual Dine About Town on OpenTable!” on our Facebook Wall to enter to win 1,000 Dining Reward Points. Click “Read the rest of this entry” below for complete rules and regulations.
Just in time for the holidays, Chef Ed Cotton returns from a secret mission to weigh in on the most recent episode of Top Chef All Stars and a few of the eliminations that happened in his absence.
Welcome back, Ed! Are you shocked that we lost Jen and Dale L. (and Stephen — no shocker!) in your absence? I was really surprised that Dale went home.
Wow! It was the biggest shock when I found out that Jen was sent home! I did not see that coming, and Jen is a very talented chef. Having been in the competition before, I know all too well how important consistency is to success. You have one bad day and you go home. It may not always be fair, but you cannot please the judges all the time. I thought for sure Dale would have stuck around longer, but I wasn’t completely upset by his dismissal.
On behalf of everyone at OpenTable, we hope those of you celebrating Christmas have a wonderful day. And, remember, if you don’t feel like cooking, there are plenty of options for dining out. Check your city’s start page on OpenTable to find a restaurant near you.