We love everything about spring, from the first seasonal vegetables that grace our plates when we dine out to the warmer weather that means al fresco eating is in our future. On top of that, we’re looking forward to another round of restaurant weeks in cities across the country. Try a new restaurant, visit an old favorite — or both — during a restaurant week near you.
When you blend two hospitality professionals with one successful restaurant and fold in two children, you’re not talking about a recipe that yields a ton of time for romance. Still, chef Lee Chizmar and general manager Erin Shea find ways to connect whenever they get the chance.
The owners of Bolete in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Chizmar and Shea opened their restaurant in 2008 to a steady stream of accolades, and the acclaim has kept them busy ever since. Shea says, “Honestly with a restaurant and two kids under four, there isn’t a lot of room left for reconnecting. We have Mondays off together and try to make sure that we spend that as a family, leaving date nights to few and far between. Romantic for us is if I stay awake long enough to make a sandwich for my husband and share a bottle of wine. Literally a turkey sandwich. I know it isn’t glamourous, but it is life right now.”
Uncorking a bottle of wine — and arguing its merits — is a common way Chizmar and Shea sneak in quality couple time. “We will often open a great bottle of wine, even if it isn’t a special occasion. We actually have very different tastes in wine (he is a California boy and I love old world), so great debate and conversation often go into these late night wine dates. And, really, us both being awake is the special occasion,” she says.
Before starting their family and opening the doors at Bolete, Chizmar and Shea, a couple for the last nine years, dined their way around the northeast. “When we were first together, all our free time was spent enjoying food and drink. In Boston, we would go out to eat every night after work. And, pre-kiddos, we spent a lot of time traveling to New York when the restaurant was closed.” Prune is a perennial favorite of the pair. “The food is so delicious and simple,” notes Shea. They also enjoy discovering different restaurants in Philadelphia. Chef Chizmar’s recent birthday was spent at Townsend. “The cocktail program there is a standout, and I highly recommend heading to their bar for a drink and a snack.”
Forget 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.”
In celebration of our country’s progressive food and dining culture, we are pleased to honor the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Fit for Foodies Restaurants in America. 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.
Newer eateries rule the list, with the majority of winners opening in the last three years. More than 20 were founded in 2012 alone, while 15 launched in 2013, and six debuted as recently as 2014. Also, 14 of the honorees have women as executive chefs. American fare is overwhelmingly popular, but French and Italian restaurants are common among the honorees. Other popular cuisines include Japanese, Spanish, Middle Eastern, modern European, tapas/small plates, and vegetarian.
Showcasing restaurants with unique menus, easygoing ambience, and passionate chefs who have a “source local, cook global” approach, the complete list includes award winners in 29 states, including Aviary in Portland, Odd Duck in Austin, and Vedge in Philadelphia. Restaurants in Portland and Philadelphia collectively account for almost 25 percent of the list. California has the greatest number of winners with 14, followed closely by Oregon and Pennsylvania with 13 each. New York has eight honorees, while Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington all have five, and Illinois has four. Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas each have three winning restaurants. Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, and Virginia, respectively, have two award winners. Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin are also represented.