We Partied Our Aspen off at Jimmy’s Bodega with Don Julio Tequila!

Like all good foodies, we headed to Aspen for the annual Food & Wine Classic. While we were there, we took the opportunity to fete a few of our restaurant-industry friends.

On Friday night, OpenTable joined with Don Julio Tequila to celebrate the opening of Jimmy Yeager’s Jimmy’s Bodega. The new sibling to Aspen hotspot Jimmy’s, Jimmy’s Bodega is a seafood and raw bar restaurant serving wine, bottled cocktails, and Mezcal, with chef Bryan Nelson behind the burner. There were delicious eats from chef Nelson and his crack culinary team, and refreshing signature cocktails, courtesy of Don Julio Tequila, including the sangrita green with cilantro and pineapple, a strawberry basil paloma featuring Don Julio Reposado, and an Anejo old fashioned.

Guests include chefs Barbara Lynch (Menton) and Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger), the Union Square Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer, La Caravelle Champagne founder Rita Jammet, and Eater editors Raphael Brion, Hillary Dixler, Paula Forbes, Kat Odell, and Andra Zepelin. Take a peek at the action by clicking through our exclusive slideshow below, courtesy of photographer Katrina Smith of The Smith Design.

 

Dining Poll: Is Bacon in a Dish Well Done or Overdone?

Bacon is the so-called trend that always waxes and never seems to wane. What started out as a revived appreciation has yielded a cornucopia of culinary offerings ranging from the whimsical (Bacon ice cream!) to the weird (Bacon vodka! Ed. note: Ewww!). And, the weirder: Days ago, a restaurant unveiled its all-bacon burger. But, is bacon getting too big for its britches? A backlash may be building if this Eater interview with Southern chef and eschewer of bacon John Currence is any indication. Currence notes, “Everybody went bananas for bacon. It was an easy thing. If you were cooking and didn’t have any sort of real ability at all but wanted to illustrate something through the Southern lens, you’d throw bacon at it, no matter what.”

What’s your position on bacon? Mainstay or culinary crutch? Weigh in on today’s poll!


Chef Watch: Scott Conant Heads North; Joey Campanaro Heads West; Charlie Palmer Refuses to Head to San Francisco, and More

* The Boston Herald spotlights local chefs Oscar Alvarez of Via Matta and Guillermo Machado of Lala Rokh along with Shelley Som, general manager of Beacon Hill Bistro, who have worked their way to the top at some of Boston’s top restaurants. [Boston Herald]

* José Andrés (The Bazaar by José Andrés, Zaytinya) talks about his diligent path to success. [Washington Post]

* Joey Campanaro, who has wowed downtown Manhattan diners at The Little Owl and Market Table as well as opening-any-minute and much-buzzed-about Kenmare, may be setting his sights westward. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Scott Conant (Faustina, Scarpetta) may bring his Miami and Meatpacking district masterpieces north to Toronto. [Eater]

* Executive Chef Joel Dennis has moved on from Adour Alain Ducasse. [Eater NY]

* It’s “Cribs: The Chefs Edition” as Florian Hugo, executive chef at Manhattan’s Brasserie Cognac (and great-great-great grandson of author Victor Hugo), shows off his family’s stylish Upper East Side digs. [New York Post]

* Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood) isn’t resting on his laurels, including the four stars from Michael Bauer or the two from the Michelin Guide. [Grub Street San Francisco]

* New York’s fabled Plaza Hotel is getting a new chef in the way of Willis Loughhead (formerly of Country) to oversee its soon-to-reopen restaurant Palm Court. [Eater NY]

* Charlie Palmer (Charlie Palmer at The Joule) enjoys San Francisco entirely too much to open a restaurant there. [Grub Street San Francisco]

* Like the kitchens featured on “Kitchen Nightmares,” Gordon Ramsay (Gordon Ramsay) has gotten a bit of a nip/tuck. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Buddakan NY executive chef Lon Symensma is leaving his post to do hands-on culinary research in Southeast Asia. Nice work if you can get it! [Eater NY]

Fondue or Fon-don’t: Does Melted Cheese Melt Hearts?

Fondue-or-FondontWe recently announced the winners of the OpenTable Diners’ Choice award for the Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants. Of the 50, a whopping 12 were Melting Pot restaurants, where fondue anchors the menus. Two other winners, La Fondue and Simply Fondue, are also, as you might have guessed by their names, fondue-friendly eateries. The Chicago Tribune‘s food blog, The Stew, picked up on our list’s fromage factor and ran with it, while the clever folks over at Eater didn’t want to give a shout out to these restaurants when they generously covered our list, saying, “[F]ondue hasn’t been considered romantic since Three’s Company went off the air.” The fact remains, however, that many diners find fondue to be the perfect mood food for a romantic evening.

What exactly is it that makes love bloom over melted cheese and other cook-it-yourself delights? We weren’t quite sure, so we reached out to our network of diners over Facebook and Twitter. Bulbul Gupta says, “Interactive food is always a great date dinner idea, interactive anything is very romantic — you learn to share early on and can easily feed each other with a one-foot distance without it getting overly mushy…perfect!” Diner Teresa Miller concurs, “The Melting Pot in Larkspur is VERY romantic. The location is in an old brick kiln with lots of low lighting. Cheese is comfort food, hence the reason why romance blooms when bellies are satisfied!” Jennifer Kaplan, also a fondue fan, says, “My husband and I do find it romantic. The lighting is low and the tables are reasonably secluded. We enjoy lingering over our dinner and find the food to be very good.” Ryan Mathus tweets, “I find fondue/Melting Pot cool just because it’s not your traditional meal and more hands on. It’s all about us.” Fellow tweep Jen Fairchild notes, rather poetically (or erotically?), “Fondue is steamy and hot and thick and creamy and good…just like love!”

Perhaps the best and not-at-all cheesy cheese story we heard comes from OpenTable diner Cara Couture of Charlotte, North Carolina. She writes, “My husband and I go to The Melting Pot any time we have reason to celebrate — graduation, anniversary, new job, a Friday night — but our favorite reason was to celebrate our engagement. In between the limo ride and the chartered plane trip around the city of Columbus, Ohio, my then-fiancé made dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot, where a bouquet of roses was at our regular table with a congratulations card signed by the restaurant staff. To this day, that remains the most romantic night of my life.” Sigh. My husband’s marriage proposal is looking more and more lame the more stories I hear like this one (a chartered plane?). But, I digress.

To find out if the people from The Melting Pot had any insights as to why their dining experience is so aphrodisiacal, we reached out to Chad Hornik, who owns several Melting Pot locations, including those in Richmond and Virginia Beach,  which were included on our Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants winners for 2010. Hornik says of his restaurants’ romantic appeal, “Dining with fondue creates an aura of romance. It’s a participation meal — you’re cooking, helping, talking. Even if the conversation gets awkward, diners can talk about the food.” Also, “The lighting is dim, and each table is designed to have its own intimate atmosphere. We even have curtains that block off some of our tables, and sometimes we have to knock before we enter!” The Melting Pot, though, is more than just cheese. Hornik adds, “The cheese is just the appetizer. It’s a relaxed four-course dining experience, and the desserts…well, dipping strawberries into chocolate is pretty romantic.”

Chad, you had me (and, most certainly, my chocoholic husband) at strawberries and chocolate. Perhaps a a trip to The Melting Pot will prompt a second proposal. And, yes, Curt, that means a second ring.