Dining with Your Mother-in-Law: Mother’s Day Etiquette Tips for Diners from Expert Lizzie Post

Depending on geography — and whether or not you hit the awesome mother-in-law jackpot, Mother’s Day can fill some people with a bit of anxiety. The vast majority of special requests associated with OpenTable restaurant reservations are filled with warm notes asking for a flower or some other gesture or accommodation for “my lovely mother-in-law.” However, there are more than a few of you who seem to be anticipating the day with the same zeal one might reserve for a root canal. A few of the standouts:

“It’s my first Mother’s Day with my new mother-in-law, so I’m trying to impress her.”

“Wife, mother, and mother-in-law will be there. Please help me keep them happy.”

“Have a stiff drink waiting for me because I am going to be with my mother and mother-in-law.”

“Bringing my mother and mother-in-law in for Mother’s Day – yes, I’m a saint!”

We checked in with expert Lizzie Post, cohost of the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast on American Public Media, for Mother’s Day etiquette tips for diners, so you’ll be ready to navigate even the thorniest of situations that could arise on May 10th.

Seat yourself strategically. As a first line of defense against any drama, Post says, “We always suggest strategic seating. Remember, this is your mother-in-law; this is your husband or your wife’s parent, so having them sit next to each other is a perfectly fine way not just to buffer it, but to allow them to have some time close to each other that, depending on where you live, they might not get very often.”

Shrug off any criticism toward your parenting skills, but… If your kids need distractions to make it through the dining experience and that doesn’t sit well with your mother-in-law, don’t take it personally — but do take it in. Post notes, “When I am out to dinner with a friend and their child comes along, it is nice to have those moments when their kid is focused on something else and we can chat. But, I am also an etiquette expert, and I’m going to come down hard on the side of you need to raise your kids in a way that you spend time at home preparing them for what going out to dinner is like. I do not expect a two-year-old to sit through an entire meal for an hour and a half, but I would expect an eight year old to get through that. So, you have to think developmentally.” Also, consider going old school when designing distractions. “Oftentimes what you’re dealing with when you get judgment from a grandparent is the child’s use of a cell phone. Your parents did the exact same thing — except that it was coloring books and small toys. So, I would suggest bringing something along that isn’t quite so criticism friendly from people of that generation. Try a small coloring book, instead,” she says.

Come prepared with polite conversation. In a perfect world, all of our dining experiences would be focused on the delicious food and warm hospitality, but sometimes conversations can veer to sensitive or unsavory topics. Post reveals, “We had people start talking at a lunch the other day about horrible deaths, and I lost my appetite over it. I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.'” When there was a break in conversation, Post seized the opportunity to steer things in a more lighthearted (and appetizing) direction. She says, “I just said, ‘Well, this is a totally different subject, but I’d love to hear about…,’ and I picked something that was a more upbeat conversation topic and redirected things that way – and I had back-up questions ready to go.” If it really becomes problematic and the subject matter isn’t appropriate for the kids at the table, she says, “It’s okay to say, ‘Hey, I’m just getting a little uncomfortable and I’d love to talk about something else.’ and then have something else to go to. You can say, ‘I know you and James just saw a new movie. Why don’t you tell us about it?'”

Be proactive, but not too prodding. If you observe that your mother-in-law has an issue with an order or seating during the meal, try to gently resolve the situation – emphasis on the gently. “You have to poke and prod a little bit. Ask if she’d like a different plate or table. And always say, ‘Hey, restaurants are really keen on getting you what you, want so it’s going to be no trouble to them to get you something better and it’s totally fine. What we care about is that you have something you enjoy.’” If she resists and says no, it’s best to just drop the issue. “If you force it upon her, that might get even more uncomfortable.”Continue Reading

Introducing the OpenTable Food Crime Corrector: An Exciting New Way to Dine

At OpenTable, we are committed to putting power back into the hands of our diners. In the past, diners had no means to deal with poor dining etiquette from their meal companions.

However, technology has now provided us with the tools we need to have a smooth dining experience. Introducing, the OpenTable Food Crime Corrector.

How It Works

When you witness a food crime being committed, open up the OpenTable app and select the Food Crime Corrector. Select the level of offense, and a Food Crime Corrector will respond with the appropriate retribution. All you have to do is sit back, and relaxContinue Reading

20 Culinary Questions with Editor Amy Strauss of Philadelphia’s The Town Dish

Amy Strauss Brooklyn FleaAmy Strauss is the Editor in Chief of TheTownDish.com, a network of sites focusing on the food and dining scene in the greater Philadelphia area including its sumptuous suburbs — and beyond! An OpenTable member since 2008, she lives in Downington, Pennsylvania, where she can enjoy the best of Philadelphia proper as well the amazing hyper-local fare being served in surrounding towns. You can share in her eating experiences by following her on Twitter at @amy_strauss.

1. What are some of the best qualities of the Philadelphia dining scene? Living in the Philly suburbs, I’m fork-deep between quick-tripping into my local (and booming!) food city to experience the newest restaurant or escaping into my immediate backyard to discover the next well-deserving-of-the-spotlight chef. There’s potential everywhere, and where the Philly food scene stands, it’s eclectic and bold; it’s welcoming and honest. I’ve been around the nation and, although I may be biased, Philly is the best food city.

2. Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? For a casual weeknight, I’m hitting the bar. In the suburbs at Station Taproom for first-rate pulled pork sandwiches and craft beer or Tired Hands Brewing Co. for a cheese plate and one-off sour beer, and in Philadelphia, Starr’s Fette Sau for smoky, tender brisket and sharp bourbon drinks. For a “special” occasion (can’t that count as every day?), BARSAVONA or Zahav.

3. If I come to the PHL, where must I dine? In the Philly suburbs, any of these will rock your palate and provide an unforgettable dining experience: Junto (elevated PA Dutch BYOB), Nectar (Asian fusion with locally sourced sensibilities), Avalon (rustic Italian), Majolica (inventive, modernized American BYOB), Restaurant Alba (refined Northern Italian), Amani’s BYOB (local-focused), Taqueria Feliz (hip Mexican), and Bolete Restaurant (farmhouse-inspired). In Philly city proper, Serpico, Sbraga (eat the fried game hen!), High Street on Market, Vernick Food & Drink, Petruce et al., Avance, and Stock.

4. Last best restaurant you dined at? Just last night, I visited Fitler Dining Room, the newest concept from the talented gang at Pub & Kitchen. The happy hour was exceptional, with small bites like a vertical heirloom tomato salad constructed on buttery brioche and dressed with Rogue Creamery Blue. Being a bar that’s strictly beer and wine, they get impressively creative with their limited cocktails. For example, the Campobello Retreat features white wine that’s infused to taste like gin (it does!) and is finished with a fragrant splash of elderflower liqueur. It’s sharp and fun; I immediately wanted another.

5. Restaurants you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt, Quealy Watson’s Hot Joy, and Noma.

6. Favorite city for dining outside your own? Since part of what we do is travel for food, here are my favorite Town Dish trip destinationsAustin, Texas for Qui, Olivia, and Franklin Barbecue;  San Francisco, California for Mission Street Chinese and Saison;  Chicago, Illinois for Blackbird, Girl & the Goat, Publican, Publican Quality Meats, and Pequod’s PizzaPortland, Maine (especially in summer!) for Central Provisions, Eventide Oyster Co., Pai Men Miyake, and David’s Opus 10Atlanta, Georgia for Abattoir, West Egg Cafe, and Cakes & Ale; and New York City (of course) for The Breslin, Momofuku, and Alder.

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? Nashville! Seattle! Aspen! Charleston! San Diego!

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? There’s nothing more wholesome than rustic Italian, and few and far between are doing it by the book and significantly well. I’m also always surprised with what newcomer chefs are doing with mod-American cuisine, particularly those who are scouting local gardens and throwing together fresh ideas and compositions unlike those seen before (example: Ella’s American Bistro, Majolica).

9. Small shared plates, tasting menu or app/entrée dessert? Tasting menus — always a home run! It’s the best avenue to fully experience a chef’s skill sets and where they execute their most creative dishes.

10. Dish you can’t resist ordering when you see it on a menu? I’m 100% Pennsylvania Dutch, so its in my blood to never resist regionalized, classic foods of my heritage. If I spy elevated soft pretzels, house-made pickles, hand-cut egg noodles — I got to stick to my stick-to-your-ribs gun and consider them mine! Fork and Junto put forth killer interpretations of the classics. Snack-wise, you know if a chef’s throwing deviled eggs on their menu, they’re going to be good. Same goes for hand-cut pappardelle — I usually need that.

11. Have you ever done a bang bang (a la Louis C.K.)? If not, what’s the greatest # of courses you’ve eaten in one restaurant siting? Working as a food writer and reviewer, bang bangs are a regular part of your week! My current course max (at one restaurant) is 14 — but that’s not to say I threw in the napkin. I’d adventure into the 20s. Dare me!

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20 Culinary Questions with Washington, D.C., Food Writer Nevin Martell

IMG_8718Nevin Martell may be a New York native, but he’s made himself very much at home in Washington, D.C., over the last decade, and he definitely knows how to dine like a local. A freelance food and travel writer, Martell is the author of the recently published travelogue-memoir Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. He is a sucker for foie gras and truffles and has been an OpenTable member since 2007 — as well as a super-adventurous eater since birth. He says, “Traveling the world, I’ve gotten stoned on kava in Fiji, eaten tree frogs in the Dominican Republic, and noshed on grasshoppers in Mexico. In the spirit of adventure, I’m always willing to try anything. I’ve always wanted to eat on Easter Island, so if anyone is looking for a culinary story on the most remote point in the world, let me know!” You can follow his gourmet exploits at NevinMartell.com and on Twitter @nevinmartell

1. What are some of the best qualities of the Washington, D.C., dining scene? Over the last several years, D.C.’s restaurant scene has started growing at an explosive rate. New eateries are popping up every day and everywhere. Despite the fierce competition, the dining community remains tightknit, supportive, and highly collaborative. That goes for the food writers in town as well.

2. Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? It’s hard to become a regular when you’re always trying new restaurants and eating out on assignment. However, I have become a common sight at G by Mike Isabella, La Mano Coffee Bar, and Republic.

3. If I come to D.C., where must I dine? Rose’s Luxury, Rasika, Little Serow, Toki Underground, and Blue Duck Tavern. A sandwich at Woodward Takeout Food or Stachowski’s is highly recommended. If you’re willing to drive, The Inn at Little Washington, Bryan Voltaggio’s VOLT, and The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm are all worth the trip.

4. Last best restaurant you dined at? The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Tarver King is equal parts chef and artist, so his food is as beautiful and creatively constructed as it is delicious.

 5. Restaurants you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? In reality, this wishful list is hundreds of restaurants long. However, here are some highlights: The French Laundry, Alex Atala’s D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, Sushi Mizutani in Tokyo, L’Arpège in Paris, Momofuku Ko in NYC, and Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon.

6. Favorite city for dining outside your own? New York City. Also, Clinton, New York, because that’s where my mother lives and I have the softest spot in my heart for her cooking.

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? Tokyo, Casablanca, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? This is the Sophie’s Choice of questions for a food writer! I can’t possibly pick a single cuisine.

9.  Small shared plates, tasting menu, or app/entrée dessert? I love to simply let the server know my preferences and let the chef go to town.

10. Dish you can’t resist ordering when you see it on a menu? Sticky toffee pudding.

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