Cheers to Shrimp Cocktail: 12 Takes on the Classic

Ah, the iconic shrimp cocktail. Especially popular in the 19th-century, one theory has it that the dish was served in a cocktail glass because of the ban on alcoholic drinks during the 1920’s Prohibition. Like Prohibition, the days of limp shrimp with a side glop of ketchup and a few tears of tasteless iceberg lettuce are long past. Today, the dish, which typically stars on appetizer menus, has evolved to eye-candy shrimp cocktails with sassy sauces and whimsical presentations. Here are 12 creative takes on shrimp cocktail that would make Forest Gump’s’ Bubba especially proud.

St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, Indiana
Funny for a restaurant located in a landlocked state that it’s the shrimp cocktail that put this steakhouse on the map — in fact, it is the only appetizer on the menu. “People come from all over the world to have the shrimp cocktail,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. Named The World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail, it stars four jumbo shrimp served with the restaurant’s spicy, signature cocktail sauce. The local restaurant, which opened in 1902, shares its secret for what makes its shrimp cocktail so sought-after — pssst, it’s the shaved-daily horseradish (the restaurant typically goes through 5,760 pounds of horseradish a year, or 15 to 20 pounds per day). In fact, the shrimp cocktail has been deemed one of the world’s spiciest dishes. Pssst — another secret, you can now buy a bottle of the sassy sauce for bloodies at home. Make a reservation at St. Elmo Steak House.

shrimp cocktail

Legal Harborside-Floor 2, Boston, Massachusetts
Time to chill. Legal Seafood’s flagship restaurant presents its Shrimp Cocktail in a hollow ice globe. A hole is poked in the orb so the succulent shellfish can be placed inside. The sphere eventually melts, of course — all good things must come to an end, after all. Make a reservation at Legal Harborside-Floor 2.

shrimp cocktail

Todd English’s bluezoo, Orlando, Florida
Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel doesn’t Mickey Mouse around. The Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller is a “deconstructed shrimp cocktail served in a glass tube that is consumed by creating a vacuum with your hand and sucking the contents into your mouth.” Note: The dish isn’t on the current menu but it is offered at the hotel’s annual food and wine festival and will likely be offered on an upcoming menu, according to a spokesperson for the restaurant. Make a reservation at Todd English’s bluezoo.

shrimpo cocktail

Coasterra, San Diego, California
Order the Cóctel de Camarón and you’ll get a California twist on the classic Mexican shrimp cocktail — fresh Mexican white shrimp tossed with avocado, chopped romaine lettuce, and housemade Baja sangrita. The dish is served in a tumbler with a guajillo chile salt rim and accented with corn tortillas and cilantro garnish. Make a reservation at Coasterra.

shrimp cocktail

Herons, Cary, North Carolina
Chef Steven Greene serves an elevated shrimp cocktail designed with chilled shrimp, mango salad, mint, and mango chili sauce. Greene sources shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, which are quickly poached in a court bouillon (broth of mirepoix, lemon, white wine, and bay leaf.) The mango salad is a mix of diced mango tossed with picked mint leaves, picked basil leaf, cilantro, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, and scallion. And the mango chili sauce is a bewitching blend of mango puree and a Thai chili sauce. Make a reservation at Herons.

Shrimp Cocktail

Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, Florida
Josh Thomsen, the executive chef of this five-star diamond resort restaurant, along with chef du cuisine Manlee Siu present a Poached Wild Florida Shrimp Cocktail on the menu, which stars lemon caviar, beet, and horseradish sauce. First, the shrimp is butterflied and gently poached in shrimp stock. Next, the shrimp are chilled, sliced, and topped with faux lemon caviar and garnished with a tomato-free beet ketchup-horseradish sauce. Make a reservation at Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.

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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

Pim Techamuanvivit on Kin Khao, Starting with What You Don’t Know + Breaking the Mold for Thai Cuisine

Pim Techamuanvivit grew up in Bangkok and has been an internationally renowned tastemaker with stints as a food blogger, author, and jam maker. But her greatest achievement to date may be as an award-winning restaurateur in San Francisco at Kin Khao. Opening its doors in 2014, Kin Khao (which literally means “eat rice”) quickly earned a well-deserved Michelin star. Here, she speaks with contributor Amy Sherman about her journey into the hospitality industry, her much-lauded, flavorful fare, and future plans for her acclaimed eatery. 

Pim Techamuanvivit

What prepared you most for being a restaurateur?

Everything prepared me! I’m not self taught; I learned from everybody and stole from everybody. Cooking Thai food is just cooking. What gave me the confidence was jam making. I was cooking for friends and family, and they loved it. And then when I made jam, it was so well received. So I thought, “Maybe I can try this.” It gave me the confidence to go professional. I’m a much better Thai cook than I am a jam maker. Also, I have something to contribute. I really feel like I have something to contribute to the conversation. It’s not just me; I’m a link in a very long chain. I don’t want the flavors I grew up on to disappear.

When I decided to get serious about it, I sat down and started a list of things I didn’t know — that was probably the smartest thing. There were things I knew nothing about, like running a professional kitchen, then I just worked my way through it. So it became like my road map.

It’s easy to look at a restaurant and think it’s so easy. People think it’s like having a dinner party every day when really it’s about putting trash bags into cans into every day.

Was finding the food you want to eat the motivation behind the restaurant?

Yes! You know, a lot of chefs, they are motivated by wanting to feed people. I like cooking for friends, but it’s more about wanting to feed me! I want the food to be available to me and others. I’m from Bangkok so I was exposed to food from everywhere. The menu is not really all Eastern or Southern Thai. I don’t understand why people aren’t making the food I want to eat.

Are there particular things that you find to be the most frustrating about being a restaurateur?

Having people think of it as not valued. For instance, why is my rabbit curry $32? It is because it’s almost an entire rabbit in a bowl; where else can you get that? At Saison, maybe. It feeds several people. There’s a lot of work going into it. The quality compares to any of the best restaurants. So, it’s disheartening. There are 29 ingredients in the Massaman curry paste — made from scratch. That’s the part that I struggle with. At the same time, I am sticking to my guns. This is how I’m going to do it. Our average check average is $40 or so per person. That includes drinks and food! Because we’re Thai, people don’t value it. I have to make peace with that.

Pim Techamuanvivit

What dishes are you most proud of on your menu?

It changes, but right now, all of the curries, because it’s so hard to get them right. I remember before we opened, I talked to distributors for things like fish sauce with lists with curry pastes. I told them I was making my curry pastes from scratch. They were shocked because it’s difficult and hard to get consistent. Thai ingredients are not standardized, such as chiles and lemongrass. If you ask my kitchen, they will say the curry station is the beast. It’s hard to get right. Everything we do is something we want to get right.

Why do you think so many Thai restaurants follow a formula of serving the same dishes?

A lot of Thai restaurants are not opened by people with culinary training in the cuisine; they are immigrants who want to open businesses. They are constrained by what they think people want. They think the “American taste” is going to keep them in business. Another constraint is what people value in ethnic cuisine. People think ethnic food has to be cheap. So they are constrained by that. You can’t do things from scratch, you can’t buy good ingredients if you are trying to be cheap. So they buy cheap prepped food. But you see it changing with some restaurants using good ingredients and better techniques. We are breaking the mold. I wanted to see if I could make it economically viable.Continue Reading

Spring Soldiers: 11 Amazing Asparagus Dishes to Order Now

Asparagus might be the quintessential spring vegetable — and one of the earliest. Thick stalks or thin, asparagus makes an early appearance and is a perennial gift that keeps on giving to growers year after year. Succulent or tender and crisp, asparagus can play both supporting or starring roles, depending on the plate. Its versatility lies in its capacity for complementing a wide range of flavors, which is why you’ll find it featured in everything from salads and soup to pizza and sushi. Check out these amazing asparagus dishes to available right now at restaurants across the nation.

O Ku, Atlanta, Georgia
O Ku sushi offers traditional as well as modern and creative specialty rolls including some with seasonal ingredients such as the Lobster Temaki. Three buttered lobster hand rolls each come with a rainbow of green asparagus, finely shredded red beets, and a sprinkle of black volcano salt. Make a reservation at O Ku.

Asparagus Dishes

Indaco, Charleston, South Carolina
Easygoing asparagus also pairs particularly well with sweet creamy cheeses. Chef Kevin Getzewich of Charleston’s beloved rustic Italian eatery Indaco artfully arranges burrata with pickled strawberries, grilled and shaved asparagus, asparagus aioli, and a dusting of housemade granola. It’s a stunningly beautiful dish with modern Southern accents. Make a reservation at Indaco.

Asparagus dishes

Fig and Olive, West Hollywood, California
Inspired by the cuisine of the French Riviera, Fig and Olive adds asparagus to their spring menu in several different dishes. The Primavera Risotto made with Arborio rice features fresh green asparagus along with green peas, pea shoots, parmesan, garlic, and shallots. It’s fresh, healthful, and comforting all at the same time. Make a reservation at Fig and Olive.

Asparagus dishes

Volta, San Francisco, California
Chef Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin’s latest restaurant features modern French and Scandinavian flavors and occasionally deconstructed classics. The Hearts of Palm & Asparagus Salad is a solid example; it’s a seasonal dish of smoked salmon with blood orange and fried shallot sauce vierge. Make a reservation at Volta.

Asparagus dishes

La Pecora Bianca, New York, New York
Recently opened La Pecora Bianca features wholesome seasonal dishes made from locally sourced ingredients including this very Italian-inspired vegetable dish. Fresh asparagus is served with watercress, soft-boiled egg, pine nuts, and lemon ($12). Make a reservation at La Pecora Bianca.

Asparagus dishes

Brezza Cucina, Atlanta, Georgia
Jonathan Waxman’s Brezza Cucina offers eggs for brunch, sometimes on pizza and sometimes with pasta. But a current favorite is the charcoal grilled fresh asparagus paired with fried eggs and smoked salmon and topped with salsa verde. It’s a fresher approach to breakfast than Eggs Benedict but strikes some of the same savory notes. The dish changes seasonally and sometimes includes prosciutto rather than smoked salmon. Make a reservation at Brezza Cucina.

Asparagus dishes

Yebo Beach Haus, Atlanta, Georgia
This hot new restaurant in Buckhead offers South African flavors with an American flair. Biltong, a type of dried cured beef (think jerky!) accents the Shaved Asparagus Salad with heirloom tomatoes, radish, and poached egg for a combination that’s at once herbal, juicy, snappy, and lush. Make a reservation at Yebo Beach Haus.

Asparagus dishesContinue Reading