Shopping for Chefs: Trends + Numbers from the Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016 #PBFW

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016 kicks off on March 31 and runs through April 3, and offers guests the chance to take part in enjoy once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunities, cooking demonstrations, wine-paired luncheons and intimate dinners, elite wine seminars, and more. Continuing its reign as the premier food and wine event in the world, the festival will play host to 8,500 guests and feature 124 chefs, including Daniel Boulud (Daniel), Matthew Peters (Per Se), Joshua Skenes (Saison), Bryce Shuman (Betony), Stuart Brioza and Nicola Krasinkey (State Bird Provisions), Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood), and 250 distinguished winemakers. The Ment’Or Cooking Demo and Dinner alone will count 13 Michelin stars among participating chefs.

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As we look forward to this delicious event, we wondered about all the ingredients it takes to create these experiences. Enter Dorothy Maras, senior culinary event manager for both Pebble Beach Food and Wine and Los Angeles Food and Wine. Her job, in a nutshell, is to get the chefs there — and then get them whatever they want to ensure they can put out wow-worthy dishes and drink. From chef coats and credentials to itineraries and food equipment and disposables, Maras helps make it all happen. She and her team also source every ingredient, which is no small task when you’re talking about feeding almost 10,000 people. “It can be scary,” notes Maras. “Whatever you provide from growers has to be impeccable.”

This year alone, her team will stock up on a whopping seven to eight tons of food. That includes:

  • Two pallets, or 1,200 pounds, of octopus
  • 1,100 pounds of butter (900 salted, 200 unsalted, if you were wondering)
  • 480 pounds of cheese, 20% of which is of the blue or Roquefort variety
  • 300 pounds of berries
  • 300 pounds of carrots
  • 60 cases of Little Gem lettuce
  • 40 gallons of fish sauce
  • 22 cases of cauliflower

Before worrying about the quality and quantity of ingredients, however, she and her staff must be sure they understand what the ingredients are. With 35 years in the culinary industry, she’s no stranger to virtually anything, but with a roster of chefs from around the globe, there can often be language barriers. “What people call certain ingredients varies around the world. — as do measurements. Thank god for Google!,” she laughs. There are also at first-sight-misunderstandings, like the time a chef from the Caribbean put “1 kid” on a shopping list. “We all knew he meant a goat, but it was definitely funny upon first read.”

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Or when another asked for(ahemmerken, which turns out to be a spice, ICMYI. After a chuckle and striking at through their usual network of local growers and purveyors, they turned to Amazon. We typically source from within a 100-mile radius, but when a random request comes in, Maras admits, “Amazon is our friend.” Extreme requests can inspire growers to go to somewhat extreme measures. “We had a chef request cherry blossoms — only there weren’t any to be found on this coast.” She called a grower down south to make an inquiry and while he didn’t have any, he was able to clip them from a neighbor’s trees and overnight them, saving the day (or at least that chef’s dish).

As she’s been a part of the festival’s evolution over nearly a decade, Maras has had a front seat to the evolution of cooking. “It’s been fun to watch,” she says. “Everything old is new again.” Some hot trends Maras is seeing for 2016 include:

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Chefs are 86ing molecular gastronomy and too much fuss. “We’re seeing chefs utilizing a lot more heritage techniques, such as pickling and preserving.” Tweezers, too, are scarce. “Chefs are recognizing that people want food that is satisfying and substantial that doesn’t look like it was assembled with surgical tools.”Continue Reading

OpenTable Reviews Reveal Top 100 Hot Spots in America

After another long winter, we’re excited to unveil the 2015 Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in America. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

New restaurants made a strong showing in this year’s awards, including 42 that opened in 2014 and one as recently as 2015. The complete list features award-winners in 25 states and Washington, D.C., and includes Gato in New York, RPM Steak in Chicago, and Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. California boasts the greatest number of winning restaurants with 22, followed by Florida and New York with 13 each. Illinois and Texas have 11 and seven, respectively. Nevada has five winning restaurants, and Tennessee and Georgia have four. Louisiana, Minnesota, and South Carolina claim two winners apiece. Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, MissouriNebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. are represented as well.

Global fare menus are fashionable, with standout restaurants serving Asian, Basque, Korean, Latin, Mediterranean, Mexican, and Polynesian dishes, among others. American cuisine, sushi, and steak are also popular.

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The Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in America are generated from more than 5 million restaurant reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners between March 1, 2014, and February 28, 2015. All restaurants with a minimum number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then sorted according to a score calculated from each restaurant’s average rating in the “hot spot” category along with a minimum “overall” rating.

The complete list may be viewed at http://www.opentable.com/m/hottest-restaurants-in-america.

After the Earthquake: 15 Napa Restaurants Getting Rave Reviews

The oft-heralded short ribs at Bottega also await Napa diners.

Less than two weeks ago, a 6.1 earthquake struck the Napa Valley. Buildings were damaged and power was lost, and, as a result, the restaurant community was hit hard. According to an Eater article, damages to the area are estimated in excess of $1 billion, along with $100 million in economic losses. Fortunately, most eateries were back up and running within a day or two, and diners have come out to show their support, leaving gushing reviews from their experiences in the days since the quake. Because of the daunting (and continuing) losses, we hope you’ll visit Napa and wine country restaurants this weekend — and in the coming weeks — to help buoy one of the nation’s most important culinary destinations. Read some reviews Napa diners left this week, and book a table today!

1313 Main: “Napa has a new star: 1313. Outstanding food, service, and one of the best wine programs in the US. These guys know food, wine, and service, but, most importantly, hospitality. From the minute you walk in the door, you’re greeted by people that genuinely care about your dining experience. On top of that, the food looks, tastes, and is presented with care and respect.”

Angèle Restaurant & Bar: “We went for our 26th anniversary dinner and were so pleasantly surprised when they brought us each a glass of Champagne to toast. So sweet, and we loved our table by the window in the small intimate back room. The meal was wonderful, from the ahi appetizer to the duck confit and the scallops. Left feeling satisfied and happy. Thank you again and we will be back soon!”

Bistro Don Giovanni: “This was the best Italian I have had in Napa. Had fritto misto — fresh and not one hint of oil. Shrimp risotto was cooked perfectly, just like in Florence. Ravioli was heaven.”

Bistro Jeanty: “Anyone wanting to experience classic French cuisine without leaving the USA should go to Bistro Jeanty. It is as though somebody uprooted a French bistro in Paris and set it down in Yountville.”

Ca Momi’: “Since discovering Ca’ Momi last fall, it has quickly become our go-to spot when visiting Napa. Not only do you get to spend time at the lovely Oxbow Market, but the food and service at Ca’ Momi are always flawless! Definitely don’t miss their pizzas; their Margherita is a masterpiece, and I will forever dream of the ‘Bianco, Rosso & Verde’ pie. Divine.”

Celadon: “Only a week after the earthquake, Celadon made our visit to the Napa Valley a memorable experience! The food was tasty, the service amazing, and we will be back to dine again on our next visit to the Napa Valley!”

Cordeiros Bar & Grill: “With the earthquake, all of us in Napa have been a bit dazed, and more than amply confused. It is hard to determine in these early stages where restaurants are in the recovery process. I have seen Cordeiros Bar & Grill show up more than once on OpenTable; however, you get so used to your local haunts that you don’t venture out. Well, I am writing to say…venture out. Cordeiros was a huge surprise; everything from that atmosphere to the food was grand, and the service was outstanding.”

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OpenTable Restaurant Reviews Reveal #DinersChoice Top 100 Neighborhood Gems in America

gemsIn celebration of the local restaurants diners return to time and again, we are pleased to honor the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Best Neighborhood Gem Restaurants in America. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 19,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Highlighting eateries that contribute to the character of their neighborhoods, the complete list includes award winners in more than half the states in the nation and Washington, D.C., including Lucia’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in Minneapolis, Red Gravy in Brooklyn, and The Yellow Porch in Nashville. California has 24 winning restaurants sprinkled throughout the state, followed by New York with 10, and New Jersey and Pennsylvania with six each. Both Florida and Georgia have five honorees, while Massachusetts and Texas each boast four. Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington, and Washington, D.C., all have three winners, and the states of  New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and South Carolina have two apiece. Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Utah are also represented.

Although American fare is the most popular cuisine, Italian cuisine was a close second, with 25 restaurants specializing in dishes inspired by Lo Stivale, or The Boot. French fare is popular as well, as are seafood and southern menus.

The Diners’ Choice Awards for the Top 100 Best Neighborhood Gem Restaurants in America are generated from more than 5 million restaurant reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners between June 1, 2013, and May 31, 2014. All restaurants with a minimum “overall” score and number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration.  Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of qualifying reviews for which “neighborhood gem” was selected as a special feature.

Based on this methodology, the following restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, comprise the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award Winners for the Top 100 Neighborhood Gem Restaurants in America, according to OpenTable diners:Continue Reading