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!
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?
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.
Everyone at OpenTable is pretty proud of our mobile apps, but we also love lots of other apps (except for Angry Birds — or is that just me?). We reached out to a few of our restaurant partners and chefs and asked them to share the apps they find most appetizing.
Epicurious: Chef Michael Mina, the creative force behind such well-respected restaurants as Bourbon Steak and XIV, picks this recipe-oriented app. “Epicurious for iPad is a neat application for the home cook and it is organized nicely,” he notes.
Shazam: Restaurateur and man about town Johnny Santiago, who, along with Jim Chu, runs Jo’s in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, counts on Shazam to help set the mood at his establishment. Santiago reveals, “I’m always thinking about playlists for the restaurant. Whenever I hear something great or that I’ve forgotten, I Shazam it and save it to a list of songs that make the ‘must add’ list.”
Twitter: Everybody’s favorite personality on Top Chef Just Desserts (Sorry, Yigit!), Zac Young is currently flexing his muscles as Executive Pastry Chef for the two Flex Mussels restaurants (downtown and uptown) in New York City. He says, “My favorite mobile app right now is Twitter. I finally figured out how to use it, and I’m kind of #obsessed.” PS: Follow Zac!
Units: Ryan Hardy, the busy Executive Chef at the elegant Montagna at The Little Nell in Aspen says, “Chefs are constantly converting units – liters, centigrade, grams, etc. The Units app is in use every day on my phone.”
What are you favorite apps – food-related and otherwise? Join the conversation here or on Facebook.
Christmas may not be coming any earlier, but this week’s Spotlight offers are. We’ve got opportunities for you to save 50% in nine different cities. Perfect stocking stuffers for the foodies in your life, Spotlight Offers are terrific way to keep your holiday gift budget in check.
Atlanta: Serving dynamic and inspired Pan-Asian cuisine, Silk Asian Steak & Seafood invigorates the palate and awakens the senses. Executive Chef Kochi Chiba gives classic Asian flavors a modern twist with a menu that consistently delights and surprises. The stylish dining room and lounge complete the experience for a meal that will leave you enchanted. Buy $40 for $20!
Boston: Inspired by the Roman Goddess of the Harvest, Ceres Bistro at The Beechwood Hotel celebrates the seasons by serving a fresh, evolving menu that highlights the cycle of its sources. A true farm-to-table experience, Ceres Bistro sources products from local purveyors whenever possible. The bistro is open seven days per week for casual fine dining during breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves a late night menu in the bar. Indulge in the harvest and revel in the unmatched service and hospitality at Ceres Bistro. Buy $50 for $25!
Chicago: Escape the Chicago chill and bask in the warm flavors of the Mediterranean at Nia. Serving delicate and flavorful small plates, Nia’s menu takes classic Mediterranean ingredients and updates them with a modern flare. With daily specials that incorporate local, seasonal produce and a selection of homemade sausages, cured meats, artisan cheese and antipasti, Nia’s leaves no stone unturned in its quest to provide a truly exceptional dining experience. Buy $50 for $25!
Denver: Revitalize your senses at Jimmy’s in Aspen. Proudly serving “fierce American food,” Jimmy’s is the go-to place for satisfying foods that are sure to leave you smiling. Savor high-quality steaks and seafood or munch on comfort food favorites such as mac n’ cheese and meatloaf. With a live blues band on Friday and Salsa Saturdays, it’s easy to see why Jimmy’s is a local favorite. The comfortable, community atmosphere and ‘something for everyone’ menu is ideal for an outing with family and friends. Great for ski bums and bunnies. Buy $50 for $25!
Do you book restaurant reservations during the day? Or, are you a night owl? Do you reserve tables using an OpenTable app while you’re surfing your sofa on weekends — or while you’re standing in front of a restaurant? Let us know your favorite time to make dining plans in today’s poll.
Chef Ed Cotton is still on a special secret assignment this week, but, once again, we’re fortunate to have a guest chef correspondent lending a hand. From the second season of Top Chef Masters, Chef Carmen Gonzalez joins us! Chef Gonzalez shared exclusively with OpenTable that she is currently the national chef ambassador for BACARDI rums. She will appear as a guest on an upcoming episode of Top Chef All Stars that you won’t want to miss!
David Chang is in the house. Have you dined at his restaurants? He’s very talented, but I rather dislike the trend he’s been swept up in — of anointing of new chef-kings. What do you think of this trend of people treating chefs as though they’re the second coming?
Yes, I have dined at David Chang’s restaurant, and he is extremely talented. The idea of chef-kings reinforces how important your reputation is in this business. In my opinion, chefs should be praised for their talent and cuisine, not the “awe” factor. One of the biggest concerns that I have right now is that people are going to culinary school for the wrong reasons. They may be able to cook well and have raw talent, but, realistically, not everyone is going to end up on Food Network or Top Chef. The chef-kings are great to aspire to…but at the end of the day you just have to cook good food.