9 Signature Dishes: Edible Icons You Must Not Miss

On rare occasions, a dish transcends the tides of time, the trifles of trends, and sometimes even its inventor to become icons in their own right. Each of these nine signature dishes is a must-order if you’re lucky enough to dine at the restaurant where it was created.

Apple Pie, Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
The recipe for this all-American dessert has remained unchanged since chef Brian McBride debuted it in 2006 even though he ultimately left the restaurant. Granny Smith apples sweetened with plenty of brown sugar and cinnamon spiced are enclosed in a butter-rich crust. The big-enough-for-two puck-shaped pie is baked in the wood-burning oven, giving its exterior a golden glow. The flavors evoke autumn, but the spot-on finale is good at any time of year. Make a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern.

Signature Dishes

Chicken for Two, The NoMad, New York, New York
James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Humm always found roasting chickens a conundrum because white meat and dark meat cook at different rates. To get the dark meat of the legs to the right level of doneness, you have to overcook the white breast meat. So he came up with a clever solution. After guests are presented with the whole roast bird – a bouquet of herbs nestled next to its legs and a beyond decadent foie gras and black truffle brioche stuffing piped under its crackly golden skin – it’s taken back into the kitchen. There the legs are sautéed separately with mushrooms and shallots for just a couple minutes more to ensure they’re done correctly. All the attention to detail adds up to a perfectly cooked dish. Make a reservation at The NoMad.

Signature Dishes

Lamb Carpaccio, The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia
There are a number of dishes on chef Patrick O’Connell’s menu that could be considered classics at this award-winning gourmand’s redoubt in the Virginia countryside – from the Tin of Sin starter to his clever re-imagination of a butter pecan ice cream sandwich. However, his carpaccio of herb-crusted baby lamb loin served with half scoops of Caesar salad ice cream and brioche croutons may be his most quintessential. Sweet, savory, earthy, and elegant, it’s absolutely unforgettable. Make a reservation at The Inn at Little Washington.

Signature Dishes

Unicorn, Pao by Paul Qui, Miami Beach, Florida
Paul Qui’s cuisine takes its cues from the Philippines, Japan, Spain and beyond at his luxe Miami gastro destination, which debuted earlier this year. However, the Top Chef winner’s standout dish, which has already garnered enough raves to make it an icon, takes an equal amount of inspiration from the $6 million gold-leafed unicorn sculpture by Damien Hirst on display in the dining room. The cleverly conceived Unicorn features tongues of uni on grilled sweet corn pudding (get the name now?) along with touches of sake aioli and arbol chile. Its showstopping presentation in an upside down spiny sea urchin makes it infinitely Instagrammable – if you can stop yourself from immediately taking a bite. Make a reservation at Pao by Paul Qui.

Signature Dishes

Roasted Pig Face, Girl & the Goat, Chicago, Illinois
This well-loved dish from the Stefanie Izard – winner of a James Beard Award and Top Chef – is exactly what it says it is, and yet its flavors are much more complex than the name implies. A pig head is cut up, its meat seasoned with cilantro, lime zest, coriander, salt, and pepper. Rolled up into a log, it’s braised until nearly gelatinous. Two rounds baked to order in the wood fired oven are used to sandwich a thicket of crispy potato sticks. A sunny-side up egg goes on top and there are crisscrossing drizzles of sweet maple gastrique, perky cilantro oil, and tangy tamarind vinaigrette to deepen the flavors. Make a reservation at Girl & the Goat.

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Lobster Season: 11 Shell-icious Dishes to Dig Into

Summer may be over, but it’s not too late to get in on peak lobster season. While we won’t turn down lobster any time of year, new shell season is the best time to eat it — that time of year where lobsters who have outgrown their shell trade up to the next size. When they shed the old shell, they have a bit of room in the new one, which is taken up by salt water that marinates the meat and helps make it both saltier and a bit sweeter. The meat is also more tender, allowing seasoning in dishes to penetrate it more. The season varies each year but includes September and October, and sometimes stretches into November. To take advantage, we’ve rounded up some of the best, most creative lobster dishes from across the country. Bib up and dig into lobster season.

Lobster Roe Noodles, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Boston, Massachusetts
You’ll want to eat your weight in oysters at this hotspot near Fenway Park, but save room for the Lobster Roe Noodles, a pasta made with lobster roe and topped with a rich red wine and veal stock-based sauce with braised short rib, grilled lobster, oyster mushrooms, and Pecorino cheese. Make a reservation at Island Creek Oyster Bar.

Lobster Season

Maine Lobster Diavolo, Quality Italian, New York, New York
This lobster isn’t only spicy — the tomato pepper sauce is made with piquillo peppers, roasted and pickled — it’s flamed tableside with chili-infused vodka. Hot! Make a reservation at Quality Italian.

Lobster Season

Estilo Puerto Nuevo Lobster, Playa Amor, Long Beach, California
At this casual waterfront restaurant, chef Thomas Ortega has created a menu of Mexican-style seafood dishes, including this Estilo Puerto Nuevo Lobster, which is griddled in clarified butter and served with rice and beans and fresh flour tortillas. Make a reservation at Playa Amor.

Lobster Season

Lobster Roll Croissant, Union Fare, New York, New York
This is a lobster roll with a New York twist — lobster salad made with mayo, sriracha, and Old Bay seasoning is served atop a toasted everything bagel croissant. Make a reservation at Union Fare.

Lobster season

Lobster Roll, Hinoki & The Bird, Los Angeles, California
At this fusion restaurant inspired by the Silk Road, the lobster roll gets an international twist. The lobster is dressed in a green curry aioli accented with Thai basil, and the roll gets its dramatic black hue from charcoal powder. Make a reservation at Hinoki & The Bird.

Lobster Season

Lobster Curry, Crave Fishbar, New York City, New York
This red Thai curry is full of charred red onion, Japanese eggplant, Thai apple eggplant, bamboo shoots — and the meat of a whole lobster. Make a reservation at Crave Fishbar.

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Who Owns a Dish? A Discussion with Chef Stuart Lane of Spinasse

Who Owns a Dish? A Discussion with Chef Stuart Lane of Spinasse

On an episode of Chef’s Table, Netflix’s docuseries that follows prominent chefs, Grant Achatz recalls a discussion he had with chef Thomas Keller while he was a young cook at The French Laundry. Achatz had created a cantaloupe and caviar gelee dish for the restaurant’s tasting menu and chef Keller liked it and wanted to add it to the menu.

Before incorporating the dish into the menu Keller asked Achatz a question: “If this dish goes on the menu it becomes a French Laundry dish; are you okay with that?” Achatz said yes, as any young cook would, proud of creating something that his mentor deemed worthy enough of serving in his restaurant. The dish was added to The French Laundry’s tasting menu.

Every single restaurant dish starts as an idea from an executive chef or a line cook, who then works on creating that dish. In most kitchens, dishes don’t reach the menu until line cooks, sous chefs, or the executive chef taste the dish and add their opinions. It’s like editing a rough draft of an article. After everyone weighs in, the original chef or line cook that came up with dish makes changes based on the feedback and the process repeats itself. Once the dish is approved by all parties it’s added to the menu or run as a special for the night. That dish is the final draft, the one that gets published and added to the menu.

Except, in writing, finished articles usually include the name of the writer somewhere on the page. On menus, dishes are not credited to the cook who may have originally came up with the idea — instead they’re all lumped under the executive chef’s name. So, who really owns a dish? And in the case of signature dishes that become an important part of a tasting menu (a la Grant Achatz at The French Laundry) who can claim ownership?

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Menu Jargon Confounds Diners: Top Misunderstood Menu Terms Decoded

Top Misunderstood Menu Terms

Can’t tell shiso from yuzu? Don’t know a gougère from gochujang? You’re not alone. As culinary trends evolve (or stage a comeback), the terms diners are finding on menus can be confusing and impact how they order at a restaurant. A recent online survey conducted by Harris Poll revealed many diners believe some restaurant menus are more confusing than they need to be (29%), are concerned that ordering a menu item made with an unfamiliar ingredient will ruin their dining experience (56%), or feel they will be wasting their money if they don’t enjoy their meal (74%).

The survey findings also revealed several menu terms that more than half of diners do not know the meaning of, and inspired the OpenTable design team to work with illustrators to create a visual Menu Jargon Decoder to demystify the visualization, meaning, and pronunciation of confusing menu terms, including okonomiyaki, bibimbap, piri piri.

The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll in March 2016 on behalf of OpenTable, found that an overwhelming majority of diners (91%) say they are more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with if it has additional menu features. Diners also indicated that the future for digital menus may be bright with more than half saying photos of the menu items (53%) or a glossary of menu terminology (30%) would make them more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with.

Additional findings include that nearly 2 in 5 (37%) of diners choose a restaurant based on how familiar they are with the items listed on a menu. When diners encounter a term they didn’t understand on a menu, most (67%) have asked the waiter to explain what it is, but some (42%) have asked fellow diners at their table if they are familiar with the term. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) ordered a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient or term as a challenge to experience something new. Men were more likely than women to do so (21% vs. 14%, respectively).

According to the survey, at least half of diners say they do not understand the following menu terms in ranking order:Continue Reading