Chef — and recent James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist — Michael Solomonov is a busy man. He is the chef behind the CookNSolo restaurant group based in Philadelphia, which includes the beloved modern Israeli restaurant, Zahav, Percy Street Barbecue, and more.
We caught up with the chef to get a behind the scenes look at a typical Saturday.
8:00 a.m. Wake up
9:00 a.m. Saturday mornings mean swim class with my son, David. He’s a happy four-year-old and he’s a ninja in the pool.
10:00 a.m. While David’s in class, I check in with my sous chefs at Zahav. FaceTime is a game-changer, especially since we change the menu almost daily now – which I love – so a good Saturday morning rap session with the kitchen starts the day of service off right. We check out what we have in the walk-in and discuss potential moments to be had throughout the evening.
11:00 p.m. After swim class, David and I head to Spice C at 10th and Cherry for hand-drawn noodles. This place is the best at what they do. My son calls it “Buddha soup and noodles” because there’s a large Buddha statue that lives right by the door.
12:00 p.m. I drop David at home and head to Zahav. Living in Old City right near the restaurant is clutch – not only because I can easily pop home to see my family, but because Old City also happens to be my favorite neighborhood in Philadelphia.
12:15 p.m. Time to work on Dizengoff #2. We’re opening so soon inside Chelsea Market in NYC, and we’re adding new hummus toppings and salatim (Israeli-style salads) to the menu (plus Shakshuka every day, as opposed to just on Sundays in Philly). Israeli cuisine is so intrinsic to Dizengoff chef Emily’s cooking, and she’s working hard to source as many ingredients as possible as local to New York as possible. So she and I have a progress check-in (though I have complete confidence that she could rock the menu on her own).
2:30 p.m. Exercise has become incredibly important to me over the years. Zahav is located right near the Ben Franklin Bridge, so I’ll often run the bridge to get my head in the game for the night ahead.
“There is no beauty without some strangeness.” — Edgar Allan Poe
Under the cold there was, in fact, gold. This week, on a snowy evening in Philadelphia, OpenTable gathered with foodies, lifestyle contributors, and local influencers and chefs Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau of venerated plant-forward restaurant Vedge and Greg Vernick of new American favorite Vernick Food & Drink for Frost and Bloom, an unlikely Valentine’s Day soiree that is part of Connected, our series of talks and gatherings that bring together the restaurant and tech worlds with food, drink, and local culture.
Seeking a deeper and unconventional connection to the notion of love, we set out to dig deep within the chill of winter for true connections — to food, to drink, and to one another, turning the holiday and its all-too-often saccharine associations on its head. Drawing inspiration from mavericks such as Saint Valentine, Chaucer, and Spenser, Philadelphia’s storied The Mask and Wig Club was given an enchanting costume of winter blooms and evocative artwork from Nitsua, Kyle Huff, and Conrad Benner, curated by OpenTable brand director Cort Cunningham, and the intrigue kicked off at 6:30PM with food and drink to mirror the mood dreamed up by these top chefs and Vedge beverage director Ross Maloof.
We shrugged off the chill of the evening within the warm confines of The Mask and Wig Club as hearts were gently melted with intoxicating piano music, and we sipped one-of-a-kind creations from Maloof that embodied the spirit of the evening, including the Cupid Makes Me Retch with vodka, chocolate, espresso, beet, and rose water rinse, and the non-alcoholic Pickpocket, forged out of plum, Meyer lemon, thyme, citrus, and club soda. Guests scooped up cards with quotes about love in all its many forms as they nibbled on sexy bites from Landau and Jacoby, such as smoked hearts of palm on crostini, jerk spiced carrots with rutabaga “fondue”, celery root “cacio e pepe” with fregola and black pepper, and crispy sunchokes with black garlic buffalo sauce and celery leaf ranch.
The festivities later moved upstairs, where DJ duo Maggs Bruchez raised the temperature in the room, laying down the PHL’s best beats. Chef Vernick and his team headed behind the burners for the second half of the subtly sultry evening, serving a trio of savory dishes featuring flavors designed to delight the senses, from salt cod and semolina croquettes with saffron cream and avocado crostini with spicy radish to tuna poke complemented by macadamia nuts and sweet soy and spicy veal meatballs swathed in ancho chili caramel served on appropriately dagger-like toothpicks.Continue Reading
We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the deliciousness of the past year than by unveiling the 2015 100 Best Restaurants in America and highlighting the top 10 honorees. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Top 10 Best Restaurants in America, in rank order, include:
- St. Francis Winery & Vineyards – Santa Rosa, California
- Mama’s Fish House – Paia, Hawaii
- Kai-Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort – Chandler, Arizona
- Halls Chophouse – Charleston, South Carolina
- Sushi Nakazawa-Sushi Bar – New York, New York
- Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Pocantico Hills, New York
- Acquerello – San Francisco, California
- n/naka – Los Angeles, California
- Daniel – New York, New York
- Vetri – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Like the list as a whole, the Top 10 Best Restaurants in America emphasizes revered restaurants that place a premium on striving for perfection, from Mama’s Fish House, which opened its doors in 1973 to n/naka, which opened in 2011. Each honoree provides fare and hospitality that consistently earn rave reviews and attract repeat diners, even though the concepts are quite diverse, including the non-traditional dining experience that is the sublime food and wine pairing experience at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. Its idyllic vineyard setting, six-course menu tailored to compliment specific wine vintages and varietals, and unique value have helped St. Francis build quite a following and earn the number one spot for the second time in three years (scroll down for an inside look at St. Francis). Four of this year’s Top 10 were also present on the 2014 rankings.
Highlighting restaurants with experienced chefs behind the burners, the complete list features honorees in 28 states and the District of Columbia and includes Acquerello in San Francisco, Eleven Madison Park in New York, and Vedge in Philadelphia. California and New York have 16 winning restaurants each, followed by Pennsylvania with 8, Texas with 5, and Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Virginia with four apiece. Colorado, Florida, and Ohio boast three winners each, while Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington all have two. Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington, D.C. are also represented.
Established restaurants handily dominated the list; just three winners opened in the last year. Approximately a quarter of the eateries were established within the last five years, and many are more than 20 years old, with at least 14 having been in business in excess of 30 years, including perennial Manhattan favorite La Grenouille, which dates back to 1962. Overall, there are 39 repeat winners from last year’s list. While American and French fare proved overwhelmingly popular, restaurants serving globally inspired fare also made their mark. Multi-course, prix-fixe meals and chefs’ tastings abound, with almost half offering either one or both. The vast majority identify as fine dining restaurants, offering dinner service only, with some even indicating a jacket or formal attire is required. You can read more about the top trends at the 2015 100 Best Restaurants in America here.Continue Reading