Election Drinks and Dishes: Red or Blue, It’s Up to You

Every four years, autumn shepherds the start of election season. As the leaves turn colors, so do cocktails and specials in restaurants around the country. In honor of that and National Voter Registration Day, we present election drinks and dishes that embrace the spirit of the campaigns and the candidates. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find many of these specials at restaurants in our nation’s capital.

SideBAR, New York, New York
This Union Square sports bar is game on with a couple of fun presidential candidate cocktails. They are: Hillary Clinton’s Secret Server, an Apple Martini which gives a nod to her stint as the Big Apple’s Senator but which also features blackberries because, well, you know. And, wait for it…The Donald Drumpf, a towering Apple Pie Punch (Amaretto, Sour Apple Pucker, and Goldschlager with gold flakes, and served in a Mr. Potato Head.) The cocktail is priced at $50 “because like Trump, it’s ‘huuge’,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. Oh dear. Make a reservation at SideBAR.

Election Drinks and Dishes

Del Frisco’s Grille, Hoboken, New Jersey
Del Frisco’s has debuted political burgers — The Donald and The Hillary — nationwide in its 21 restaurants “to give diners the chance to enjoy a couple of classic American burgers before moving to Canada.” Order The Donald and you’ll get a well-done prime beef patty (he’s known to order steaks well done), aged cheddar cheese, heirloom tomato, and Bibb lettuce on a gold bun served with a side of tiny pickles. The Hillary burger is classified — Grille guests can send an email to TheHillary@dfrg.com to receive burger details. Oh boy. Make a reservation at Del Frisco’s Grille.

Election Drinks and Dishes

FireLake Grill House, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The bar team here crafted a cocktail menu inspired by this year’s presidential mix: Feel the Bern, (Illegal Mezcal Joven, fresh lime juice, Sprite, and sriracha hot sauce). For the Republican presidential candidate “that always must have the last word,” FireLake came up with the Last Word, pictured, (J. Carver Grimm Farm Gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo, and fresh lime juice.) And, as a shout out to Ted Cruz being born in Canada, there’s the Maple Leaf cocktail with Evan Williams Bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup garnished with a cinnamon stick. Make a reservation at FireLake Grill House.

Election drinks and dishes

The Grill Room, Washington, D.C. 
Executive chef Frank Ruta of this D.C. politico favorite restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel has curated Red and Blue Plate prix-fixe lunch specials. A sampling: from the Red Menu, you’ll find the Texas-Style Pulled Pork Sandwich on Texas Toast. From the Blue Menu, check out the Maine Lobster Salad. And bartenders Cecilio Silva and Ismael Barreto crafted three election-themed cocktails to pair with the lunch specials — Thyme to Decide (gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and blackberries, garnished with a thyme leaf), The Green Card (vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and Blue Curacao, garnished with blueberries and lemon twist), and Pacific Blue (Mescal, honey, lime, ginger syrup and garnished with a lime wheel and basil leaves). There’s also weekly informal polling to see which cocktail gets the popular vote, too. Make a reservation at The Grill Room.

Election drinks and dishes

Lincoln, Washington, D.C.
This restaurant is a shout-out to Honest Abe, and if you cast your order for one of the presidential cocktails through Election Day, your sip preference will be tallied on a blackboard at the bar. The results of the cocktail voter poll are updated every Friday on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Drink choices include The Trump Tower, a smug twist on the classic Negroni with Earl Gre- Infused Absolut Elyx, Aperol, and Dolin Blanc. Hillary’s Inbox features nonclassified ingredients — Absolut Elyx, Drambuie, Blue Curacao, Orgeat syrup, lime juice, and soda. Make a reservation at Lincoln.

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Magical Mystery Tour: Behind the Scenes at Minibar by José Andrés

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“This is the part of the day most people don’t ever get to see,” says head chef Josh Hermias, as he ushers me into Minibar by José Andrés, the what-you-see-isn’t-always-what-you-get wonderland of molecular gastronomy and avant-garde cooking. It’s the shining crown jewel of the Spanish-born, James Beard Award-winning chef’s restaurant empire, which includes D.C. standard setters Jaleo, Zaytinya, and Oyamel, China Poblano in Las Vegas, Miami’s Bazaar Mar, and others.

On this late August afternoon, Minibar’s open kitchen, the counter surrounding it where will guests will sit that evening, and the semi-private dining area off to the side – dubbed José’s Table – are all ablaze with activity. (Not much can happen in the incredibly compact, unexposed back area of the restaurant, as there’s only room enough for a small counter, two ovens, an impressively tiny walk-in freezer, and the washing station). Approximately a dozen staffers are getting ready for tonight’s epic epicurean experience when 24 diners will enjoy a 26 to 28-course tasting menu. Hermias estimates it takes in excess of 140 man-hours just to make the six-hour dinner service happen. A crew of half a dozen begins working at 7AM; the last team member doesn’t go home until 3AM the following morning.

Clad in black aprons over white shirts, the cooks are currently prepping an array of components. Wending our way through the kitchen, we see chicken skins frying, chocolate eggshells being poured, and the legs of langoustines being snipped off with a small pair of scissors. One staffer shaves mounds of black truffles. Meanwhile, the orchids that decorate the space during dinner service rest in the window to get some light.

As we’re walking around, a cook presents Hermias and me with slices of super juicy watermelon to approve for use. The rosy wedges will be infused with tequila and Grand Marnier, and then served on a salt block. “It’s like a margarita,” says Hermias, who gives them the thumbs up, “but instead of a salted rim, your plate is the salt.”

A dry erase board catalogs all the work that needs to be done today: 30 marinated rabbits, 26 blowfish, 105 cauliflower leaves; the list goes on. A nearby chalkboard bears a quote from recently departed chef Michel Richard, “People love to get something that looks like one thing and tastes like something totally different. That’s truly magical.”

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It’s the Little Things: 10 Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities #hackdining

Michelin-level food, stellar service, or awe-inspiring settings can go a long way to creating a memorable meal. However, sometimes it’s the littlest touches that make the biggest impact. Here are 10 thoughtful restaurant amenities that help diners enjoy a next level experience.

Madison, San Diego, California
Situated in the trendy University Height’s neighborhood, the sleek Mediterranean eatery boasts a gorgeous cedar-lined patio. On evenings when the temperatures dip, guests dining al fresco can request one of the monogrammed fleece blankets. As they snuggle up, we recommend ordering another round of well-executed cocktails – such as the View From Above with rye and ancho chili liqueur – to help ward off the chill. Make a reservation at Madison.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, San Francisco, California
A lot of restaurants have valet parking. But this waterfront eatery is one of the few to offer free valet parking — for diners’ boats. The dock and dine perk allows waterborne guests to enjoy a seamless experience from the decks of their yachts to the restaurant’s patio. Make a reservation at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Besito, Burlington, Massachusetts
There are amenities galore at this Mexican restaurant. Little diners are given complimentary banana and avocado when they arrive, giving them something to nosh on while their parents peruse the menus. During the summer months, outdoor tables are stocked with sunglass cleaning wipes and treat/water bowls for dogs. And guests are sent home with still warm, freshly made churros at the end of their meal. The only perk we can’t guarantee is a besito (little kiss). Make a reservation at Besito.

Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities

Stars, Chatham, Massachusetts
Forgot your glasses at home, so now you can’t read the menu? Never fear, there’s an array of Moscot glasses on hand in a variety of prescriptions and styles. Once the menu is in focus, we recommend the butter poached lobster and the oyster stew topped with pork belly and caviar. Make a reservation at Stars.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Want tickets to the sold out Kanye West concert happening that night? Forget to bring flowers to your anniversary dinner? Looking to get into an exclusive speakeasy for post-dinner drinks? The in-house concierge can help with all these problems and more. Frankly, we wish they were available to tag along with us on all our nights out on the town. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.

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Visual Sugar Rush: 8 Pastry Chefs on Instagram to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Scrolling through your Instagram can give you a visual sugar rush. That’s because pastry chefs are using the  photo-driven app to show off their most dazzling creations, give diners a peek into the baking process, and hint at what sweet treats might be coming to their menus next. Here are eight highly accomplished pastry chefs on Instagram you should follow if you’re trying to figure out what delicious dessert to dive into next.

Scott Green, aka @chef_scottgreen, of Pavilion, Chicago

Before he got into pastry, Green attended fine arts school to study oil painting and ultimately received a degree in graphic design. His dexterity with composition, color, shape, and form are showcased in the drool-inducing photos he posts. “Different medium, different tools, same principles,” he says.

He shoots on a Nikon D3200 using a strobe light and holds his photo sessions in a storage closet in the hotel where the restaurant is located. “When my colleagues see flashes going off under the door, they know I’m shooting and they shouldn’t come in,” he says.

Rather than follow fellow pastry chefs for ideas, his feed is full of architects, textile enthusiasts, tattoo artists, and illustrators. “I don’t want to repeat what I’ve seen,” he says. “There are a lot of people who will shoot specifically for Instagram, but I want to just shoot pictures that I like.”

Pro Tip: “Be in tune with what your audience likes and doesn’t like. I don’t put savory dishes up. I don’t put up personal shots very often. It makes me cringe when I post a photo that doesn’t fit with that I do.”

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Chris Ford, aka @butterloveandhardwork, of THE Blvd, Los Angeles

“I want to kill it with every single post,” says Ford. “No filler. I’m not going to put a picture up if isn’t going to further me, my team, or the larger community of chefs. This attitude makes you push yourself further and harder.”

The self-taught shutterbug uses a Canon Rebel XSi to turn his pastries into Instagram stars. Occasionally, he snaps shots of his adorable French bulldog, Josephine. One of his most liked posts (nearly 6,000 hearts) features Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner. Along with Khloe and a film crew, they stopped by the hotel to score some of Ford’s well-loved cream puffs, which he topped off with edible pictures of Kanye and North. “Kris took my number, but I’m still waiting for the call,” says Ford.

We’re not sure what she’s waiting for, but we can’t urge her strongly enough to pick up the phone and call.

Pro Tip: “I shoot plated desserts from above, so you see the flow and the story of the dish. I want the viewer to see what I see.”

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Brian Mercury, aka @mercurybrian, of Oak + Rowan, Boston

You won’t see any selfies in Mercury’s feed. No rants and raves. No political posts. His pictures fall into two distinct categories: family and food. “I’ve got a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old,” says the chef. “If I’m not cooking, I’m home with them.”

He captures his baked goods and his little ones using his iPhone 6. His go-to method for scoring a sweet shot of his baked goods is to place it outside or near a bright window and shoot it over the top. Occasionally, he’ll place a plated dessert on dirt or in the grass to add a natural element with interesting textures. “Sometimes you have to add some whimsy or put something in the background,” he adds. “But sometimes getting a good shot is just dumb luck.”

Pro Tip: “I’m a huge fan of negative space, both on the plate and in the background. I like bright white plates that makes colors pop.”

pastry chefs on instagram

Alex Levin, aka @alexnlevin, of Osteria Morini, Washington, D.C.

There’s a cult following for Levin’s best-selling warm dark chocolate cake. If he posts pictures of it too often, the restaurant gets swamped with orders and he runs the risk of running out. So, he keeps his feed lively with a mixture of his other desserts and a backstage look at the life of a pastry chef. “I enjoy inviting people to see what I do,” he says.

He wants to get his followers’ salivary glands working overtime, their hearts pumping, and have their eyes pop out of their head. “It’s about being a source of temptation,” he says. “It’s supposed to be food pornography.”

As well as enticing viewers, Instagram is a way for him to be a part of a larger community and to get a glimpse of what his peers are doing in kitchens around the world. “I get excited when I see what other chefs are doing,” he says. “It’s inspiring.”

Pro Tip: “You have to be smart about using hashtags, so you don’t annoy people.”

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