What’s in Store for Restaurants in 2015?

grains blog2015 is here, and it’s made us start wondering what the next year has in store for the restaurant industry. To find out, we gathered predictions from some of the most influential people in the business: chefs, restaurateurs, editors, and more. From menus and cocktails to service and technology, here are the trends they expect to see play out this year. Read on, then tell us in the comments: what are your predictions?

FAST CASUAL

“Star chefs known for the power of their personal vision will open up fast casual: Dave Chang, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, Josh Skenes, Jose Andres. We’ll be eating better burgers and vegetables, quickly.” — Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief, Food & Wine

By far, the most common prediction among industry leaders is a revolution of traditional fast-food restaurants, and a growing interest in casual, affordable dining from top-tier chefs.

As Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer tells us, “Everyone wants to be the Chipotle of (fill in the blank).” Author Ruth Reichl added that chefs are addressing a serious problem by offering affordable food in underserved neighborhoods. “I think that’s going to mushroom and they’re going to be really successful,” she notes.

COMPENSATION 

“I don’t know if this will truly be a trend, but my heart holds out hope for it: better pay for cooks.” — Francis Lam, food writer and judge, Top Chef Masters 

With some restaurants eliminating tipping and exploring alternative methods of compensation, fair pay continues to be a hot topic in the industry. Corney Burns and Nick Balla of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine tell us, “We see restaurants moving away from tipping, coming up with alternative ways to compensate staff.”

GRAINS

“I expect to see more awareness and discussion of monocultivar grains in the coming year. I was just involved in a film called The Grain Divide with such chefs and experts as Michael Pollan, Dan Barber, Chad Robertson, Marc Vetri, Sean Brock, and more regarding the benefits of small mills over mass-produced product and its effect on health and flavor profiles.” — Michael Tusk, Chef/Owner, Quince and Cotogna

In 2014, whole grains were popular on menus and cookbooks alike — and 2015 should be no different, as chefs rediscover a variety of heirloom and specialty grains.

“Rye was the big grain of 2014. I predict chefs will explore other grains for breads, pastas, and, especially, desserts.” — Izabela Wojcik, Director of House Programming, James Beard Foundation Continue Reading

Christmas Eve Dining: 15 Rave Reviews for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

bouill blogSure, we’re just now able to button our pants after last week’s indulgent Thanksgiving dinner and, yet, we’re already dreaming of more holiday dining. If you’re of Italian descent, or if you just LOVE Italian cuisine (which we know you do), you’re probably familiar with the Christmas Eve culinary tradition of the feast of the seven fishes. A delicious ritual that began in southern Italy, the feast of the seven fishes has ties to Catholicism and the practice of eschewing meat on Christmas Eve. Restaurants have embraced the custom, offering up gourmet spins on different fish dishes to diners on December 24. My family and I indulged at Oceana last year, and every bite was pious perfection. Find out what other diners had to say about their experiences with this fabulous holiday treat — and book your feast of the seven fishes reservations for Christmas Eve. More than just being delicious and festive, the meal is said to bring luck in the new year. 

Bar Eolo: Sicilian Kitchen & Wines, New York, New York: “Our family came here for the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve and had a delightful dinner. The seafood lovers in the family enjoyed it the most, of course, but everyone managed to find something to their taste. The recommended wine was delicious and reasonably priced and the restaurant was very festive with friendly service — a great evening!”

Bella Tuscany, Windermere, Florida: “Bella Tuscany has had consistently good reviews and they lived up to their reputation on Christmas Eve with both their full menu and the fixed price (or a la carte) feast of the seven fishes. The five-course menu included generous servings of lobster bisque, scallops, a seafood linguini course with mussels, clams, and calamari, and a main course of mahi mahi and super-sweet lobster tail. Bella finished the evening with tiramisu and the creativity, presentation, and preparation were all right on.”

Bimini Twist, West Palm Beach, Florida: “The family went to Bimini Twist to celebrate the feast of the seven fishes. The restaurant had a great selection of fish dishes. The service was unreal…perfect. We had a GREAT waitress, bolstered by other wait staff. This restaurant is a definite stop again when in the area.”

* Blue Water Grill, New York, New York: “Blue Water Grill was open on Christmas Eve, which was a godsend as I was hosting my family for the holiday. I reserved the table a couple days in advance, ensuring a spot. We ate in the main dining room, and it was great. Surrounded by other families celebrating the holidays, the overall ambiance was warm. The food was great and diverse. With traditional Christmas fare, oysters, sushi and even a feast of the seven fishes special, everyone in my family was happy.”

Cinghiale Osteria, Baltimore, Maryland: “With my mother-in-law in town, my wife and I booked for the Christmas Eve feast at Cinghiale, which was the executive chef’s interpretation of a Christmas Eve fish feast. The feast was seven courses of absolute perfection. It is rare to encounter seafood prepared to perfection with consistency; usually it is overcooked and rubbery, but every dish was absolutely perfect, from the oyster starter to the fish filet (with perfectly prepared melt-in-your-mouth calimari). We loved every second of it.”

Fiola, Washington, D.C.: “My husband and I celebrated his birthday (Christmas Eve) at Fiola for the second time. Their feast of seven fishes is MAGNIFICENT! We splurged and got the wine pairing. Our server (who we knew from Fiola and Poste) was amazingly knowledgeable of both the food (preparation, what made each dish unique) and the wine. She was always present when each course was served, to give an overview of the dish and why the pairing was perfect. We had a wonderful experience, and would highly recommend the feast and pairing for future Christmas Eves!”

Imperial, Portland, Oregon: “Christmas Eve dinner with good friends and a meal fit for the three kings. The traditional feast of seven fishes” needs to make it to the main menu, this was one of the best executed Cioppinos I’ve ever had with a sauce that begged for the house bread to soak it up. Few establishments truly enjoy being open on a holiday night, but the staff of the Imperial expressed only joy. This has become a new tradition with many more visits in-between. Well done, Imperial!”

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It’s the Great Pumpkin: 15 Rave Reviews for Gourmet Gourd

pumpkin blogForget artificially flavored pumpkin spice lattes (and don’t get me started on pumpkin ales!); this fall, it’s all about fresh pumpkin. A true superfood, pumpkin has almost everything an eater could want in a single ingredient — protein, fiber, carotenoids, flavor, versatility, and much more. It’s a variety of squash and it can be used dozens — if not hundreds! — of ways when placed in the hands of a creative chef. Diners who are partaking of the real thing are encountering deeply satisfying dishes that capture the essence of autumn in every bite. Find out what they’re sharing in recent OpenTable restaurant reviews. And, ICYMI, here is a picture of the world’s largest pumpkin.

* Dettera Restaurant & Wine Bar, Ambler, Pennsylvania: “My dessert was pumpkin stuffed doughnuts with salted caramel ice cream. The doughnuts were light, the pumpkin smooth with just the right amount of sweetness, and the ice cream was sweet and very caramel-y.”

* Eddie Papa’s American Hangout, Pleasanton, California: “We also shared the seasonal pumpkin egg rolls and would definitely order them again!”

* Floriana, Washington, D.C.: “The pumpkin jalapeno beignets were out of this world!”

* Grove, Grand Rapids, Michigan: “Dessert was pumpkin puree, graham cracker, cinnamon ice cream, and toasted marshmallows. Grove never disappoints!”

The Helmand Restaurant, Baltimore, Maryland: “Delicious starters, the kaddo bowrani baked pumpkin is not to be missed — perfect with the entree as a side for a contrast to the savory spices in the entree.”

Indaco, Charleston, South Carolina: “The pumpkin semifreddo were as tasty as anything we’ve ever eaten in Charleston.”

Mark’s American Cuisine, Houston, Texas: “Munchkin pumpkins made their seasonal debut this past weekend — which was great news for me as I have been a big fan of these lobster-stuffed goodies over the years that they have appeared on Mark’s menu.”

Pamir Restaurant, Morristown, New Jersey: “Wonderful eggplant stew, and delicious pumpkin kadu soup. A real treat from the Middle East. Kabobs were tasty, but the best were the pumpkin-filled turnovers.”

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Trending on Restaurant Reviews: Radishes

radishThe modest radish has gotten a raise in profile recently, thanks to creative chefs. A root vegetable that dates back thousands of years, the radish hasn’t been highly revered in American cuisine (see Wind, Gone with The) — until now . This speedy growing garden staple is a spicy, crunchy delight and has moved beyond mere garden marker and salad ingredient to stand-alone star of many dishes. One of my first fine dining experiences featured a tray of crudités that included some ruby radishes. I took a bite of one, and realized it was the second hottest thing I’d ever eaten (The first was a spoonful of Chinese mustard that my jokester brothers conned me into eating!). My tongue burned, I winced, and I didn’t touch a radish again for at least a decade. Now, my palate has expanded, and so has our choice of radish; beyond just the ubiquitous red radish, chefs have embraced many heirloom varieties, including black, French breakfast, icicle, and watermelon. In addition to showcasing the fresh flavors of raw radishes, this member of the cabbage family is being served roasted, coated in butter (Hello, NoMad!), grilled, on crostini, and in ice cream! Find out which restaurants have diners raving about radishes in recent reviews.

Aveline, San Francisco, California: “We split two desserts: one, dirt, made with radishes and oat ice cream, was stimulating.”

* Babbo Ristorante, New York, New York: “We had the tasting menu with wine pairings, and everything was delicious. My first roasted radish ever.”

The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis, Minnesota: “The food was amazing, even down to the crackers with radishes and salt before the meal.”

Cafe Spiaggia, Chicago, Illinois: “First, the outstanding food: ricotta with radish and asparagus served in a tiny jar with crostini — fabulous; roasted radish salad — great; pasta with garbanzo beans and pancetta, pork chop with polenta — both wonderful.”

Cucina 24, Asheville, North Carolina: “Great apps…..French breakfast radishes in garlic butter!”

Doi Moi, Washington, D.C.:  “The radish cakes were very flavorful and perfectly crispy and hot.”

Farmstead Grill, Baltimore, Maryland: “Chicken with salad — panko-crusted chicken on kale with marvelous dressing; slivered radishes on toast; rosemary multicolored carrots — swoon-worthy vegetables. Many excellent vegan and vegetarian options.”

Flyte World Dining and Wine, Nashville, Tennessee: “I love the idea of ‘farm to table’, but what the chef did with the local produce was unusual and delicious. The charred-radish salad made me rethink radishes.”

Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market, St. Paul, Minnesota: “The amuse bouche was a gorgeous bite of radish chip similar to a taco.”

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