We Have a Winner! Reem Assil to Open Reem’s Arab Street Corner Bakery

We Have a Winner! Reem Assil to Open Reem's Arab Street Corner Bakery

Last spring we at OpenTable launched a contest to help one restaurateur fund his or her dream project. In conjunction with the release of our How to Open a Restaurant guide, we called on the restaurant community to tell us about the restaurant concepts they wanted to open and enter a competition to win our grand prize, worth more than $38,000 total. In August, after narrowing down the entries with the help of a trusted panel of New York restaurateurs, three finalists launched Kickstarter campaigns to raise money for their restaurant projects.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Reem Assil is the winner of our Restaurant OPEN 2016 contest! Reem raised more than $50,000 through her 40-day Kickstarter campaign — far surpassing our $35,000 goal — and is well on her way to opening the doors to Reem’s, her Arab street corner bakery in Oakland, California.

One of the greatest things about this competition was really to help me celebrate the evolution of Reem’s over the past year,” says Reem. “I’m really fortunate that I have a backing behind me and people who really believe in Reem’s and want to see it as an anchor establishment, the way I envision it.”

The dream of Reem’s was born in a street corner bakery in Beirut, Lebanon six years ago, when the scent of za’atar, yeasted bread and sweet orange blossom syrup inspired Reem to bring the Arab bakery experience to the Bay. She worked as a community and labor organizer for a decade before dedicating herself to a culinary career and is now part of the food business incubator program, La Cocina. Offering traditional Arab street foods combining traditional flavors and local, organic ingredients, Reem aims to nurture a strong, vibrant, welcoming community in her Oakland neighborhood.

The larger work I’ve had to do — and am still really excited about doing — is being the visionary and talking about the larger project of Reem’s,” she adds. “It’s not just a food establishment, but an anchor establishment that provides really good jobs for the folks living in the community and a space for people to gather and learn about Arab culture and history and politics in a way that nobody’s ever done before.”

To recap, here’s what’s included in Reem’s prize package: 

  • A 12-month subscription to OpenTable’s flagship Guest Center product, plus access to the world’s largest diner network and a credit on cover fees
  • A full set of professional All-Clad pans 
  • A set of 25 Hedley & Bennett aprons 
  • 25 annual memberships to the online content from Journee, a community for restaurant professionals
  • $15,000 cash to put toward your project

Read on for our full Q&A with Reem below!Continue Reading

The Waldorf Salad: History, New Twists on a Classic + a Refresh Recipe Contest

The Waldorf salad has a history almost as storied as that of its namesake hotel, and it is an enduring item on the menus at Bull & Bear Steakhouse, Oscar’s, and Peacock Alley at the Waldorf Astoria in New YorkDive into the salad’s delicious past and learn about new dishes and drink inspired by this sublime salad. Then, get details on the “California Walnuts Waldorf Salad Refresh Recipe Contest” happening on Pinterest for a chance to win $5,000 and a trip to New York City — and to have your recipe featured on the legendary Waldorf Astoria menu!

When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother kept a framed illustration of a Waldorf salad recipe on the wall of her cozy Bronx kitchen. Even though her picture dated back to the seventies, my younger self was surprised to learn the dish predated it by many decades. My nana, as we called her, never made me the apple-celery-walnut-and-mayonnaise salad in the picture, but when I first sampled a forkful of its crisp, cool, and creamy goodness at a restaurant, I was hooked, just like other eaters have been for more than a century. It reminded me of a sweet-ish version of another culinary stalwart I adore: the savory Olivier salad with its diced potatoes, carrots, peas, and — yep! — mayonnaise. Olivier salad dates from the mid-nineteenth century, and it’s entirely plausible that it inspired the Waldorf salad thirty short years later.

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Just three years after the Waldorf Hotel opened its doors in 1893 in its original location, and a year prior to joining with the Astoria Hotel (connected then by Peacock Alley), maître d’hôtel Oscar Tschirsky (1866-1950), known as Oscar of the Waldorf, invented the namesake Waldorf salad for its first-ever banquet. The recipe was also included in his cookbook published in the same year. The original recipe, written in a very Escoffier-esque way (pictured above). called for diced apples and celery dressed with mayonnaise. It apparently proved popular with the famed French chef, as he created his own version that, according to current Waldorf Astoria executive chef David Garcelon, included walnuts.

Since the superfood that is walnuts first added their crunch to this beloved salad, the dish has undergone several iterations in the 100 years it has been continuously served on all of the hotel restaurant menus. Garcelon says, “I believe it was my predecessor, chef John Doherty, who added black truffle and used crème fraîche in the dressing, as well as the combination of red and green apples.” Garcelon revisited the recipe again in 2012 — with care and caution. “My foremost concern in refreshing the recipe is that it is, by far, our biggest selling dish in every outlet. So I wanted to update it but not make a drastic change. Also, I think it is important to keep the foundation of the dish rooted in the original version,” he says.

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Tweet of the Week: Win a Supreme Trip for Six!

Do you want to win a trip for six? Of course you do! So does @BrassyLibrarian, who shared her Vacation Supremacy giveaway entry tweet. Here’s the deal: You and five friends fly out to the destination of your choice, stay three nights in swank digs, and indulge in delicious food and drink, all courtesy of AirBnB, UrbanDaddy, and OpenTable. Entering is as easy as sharing your email address and zip code; you can increase your chances of winning by sharing the contest with friends. This will also probably increase your chances of getting invited on the trip if one of those friends wins! Read more here. Then, enter here through July 29, 2013!



The Big (Grilled) Cheese: Enter Artisanal’s 3rd Annual Grilled Cheese Contest!

For your appreciation: The 2012 winning Artisanal Grilled Cheese — “Drunken” Raclette Grilled Cheese! Can you top it?

Are you a grilled cheese grillmaster? Does your version of this melted sammie melt hearts? If you think your grilled cheese recipe is the one recipe to rule them all, enter Artisanal’s Third Annual Grilled Cheese Contest! The winner will have her/his award-winning grilled cheese sandwich placed on Artisanal‘s menu, with 10% of all proceeds of the winning sandwiches sales being donated to the charity of the winner’s choice, receive a special five-course dinner for two in Artisanal’s private cheese cave, and an autographed copy of Chef Terrance Brennan’s book Artisanal Cooking.

To enter, like Artisanal’s Facebook page. It’s easy to enter, click here to submit your recipe: http://bit.ly/102uobw before Sunday, March 31, 2013, at 11:59PM EDT. Read the full submissions guidelines. Six finalists will be selected and announced on Facebook on Friday, April 5, 2013. Final judging will take place on National Grilled Cheese Day — Friday, April 12, 2013 — at The Cutting Room, just across the street from Artisanal.

Located in Manhattan, Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar has been regarded as a champion of hand-craftsmanship since opening its doors more than a decade ago. Offering the largest selection of exceptionally made cheeses, the restaurant is committed to honoring the traditions of cheese masters and offering guests a unique yet always approachable dining experience. Join them as they celebrate their passion by recognizing a dish that people of all ages can appreciate: the grilled cheese.

Enter today for a chance to win the title, terrific prizes — and some serious culinary bragging rights!