The S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015

EMP Blog 1After releasing the 51-100 World’s Best Restaurants last week (and thus letting some chefs know their restaurants had slipped out of the top 50), S. Pellegrino announced its annual rankings of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. A decidedly international list, only one American restaurant cracked the top 10 – Eleven Madison Park (No. 5).

Other winners of note on OpenTable include Dinner By Heston Blumenthal in London (No. 7), Pujol in Mexico City (No. 16), Le Bernardin in New York (No. 18), The Ledbury in London (No. 20), Aqua at The Ritz Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany (No. 33), Quintonil in Mexico City, Per Se in New York (No. 40), Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York (No. 49), and The French Laundry in Yountville, California (No. 50).Continue Reading

Fondue or Fon-don’t: Does Melted Cheese Melt Hearts?

Fondue-or-FondontWe recently announced the winners of the OpenTable Diners’ Choice award for the Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants. Of the 50, a whopping 12 were Melting Pot restaurants, where fondue anchors the menus. Two other winners, La Fondue and Simply Fondue, are also, as you might have guessed by their names, fondue-friendly eateries. The Chicago Tribune‘s food blog, The Stew, picked up on our list’s fromage factor and ran with it, while the clever folks over at Eater didn’t want to give a shout out to these restaurants when they generously covered our list, saying, “[F]ondue hasn’t been considered romantic since Three’s Company went off the air.” The fact remains, however, that many diners find fondue to be the perfect mood food for a romantic evening.

What exactly is it that makes love bloom over melted cheese and other cook-it-yourself delights? We weren’t quite sure, so we reached out to our network of diners over Facebook and Twitter. Bulbul Gupta says, “Interactive food is always a great date dinner idea, interactive anything is very romantic — you learn to share early on and can easily feed each other with a one-foot distance without it getting overly mushy…perfect!” Diner Teresa Miller concurs, “The Melting Pot in Larkspur is VERY romantic. The location is in an old brick kiln with lots of low lighting. Cheese is comfort food, hence the reason why romance blooms when bellies are satisfied!” Jennifer Kaplan, also a fondue fan, says, “My husband and I do find it romantic. The lighting is low and the tables are reasonably secluded. We enjoy lingering over our dinner and find the food to be very good.” Ryan Mathus tweets, “I find fondue/Melting Pot cool just because it’s not your traditional meal and more hands on. It’s all about us.” Fellow tweep Jen Fairchild notes, rather poetically (or erotically?), “Fondue is steamy and hot and thick and creamy and good…just like love!”

Perhaps the best and not-at-all cheesy cheese story we heard comes from OpenTable diner Cara Couture of Charlotte, North Carolina. She writes, “My husband and I go to The Melting Pot any time we have reason to celebrate — graduation, anniversary, new job, a Friday night — but our favorite reason was to celebrate our engagement. In between the limo ride and the chartered plane trip around the city of Columbus, Ohio, my then-fiancé made dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot, where a bouquet of roses was at our regular table with a congratulations card signed by the restaurant staff. To this day, that remains the most romantic night of my life.” Sigh. My husband’s marriage proposal is looking more and more lame the more stories I hear like this one (a chartered plane?). But, I digress.

To find out if the people from The Melting Pot had any insights as to why their dining experience is so aphrodisiacal, we reached out to Chad Hornik, who owns several Melting Pot locations, including those in Richmond and Virginia Beach,  which were included on our Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants winners for 2010. Hornik says of his restaurants’ romantic appeal, “Dining with fondue creates an aura of romance. It’s a participation meal — you’re cooking, helping, talking. Even if the conversation gets awkward, diners can talk about the food.” Also, “The lighting is dim, and each table is designed to have its own intimate atmosphere. We even have curtains that block off some of our tables, and sometimes we have to knock before we enter!” The Melting Pot, though, is more than just cheese. Hornik adds, “The cheese is just the appetizer. It’s a relaxed four-course dining experience, and the desserts…well, dipping strawberries into chocolate is pretty romantic.”

Chad, you had me (and, most certainly, my chocoholic husband) at strawberries and chocolate. Perhaps a a trip to The Melting Pot will prompt a second proposal. And, yes, Curt, that means a second ring.

Bravo! 50 Best Italian Restaurants in the U.S.

Best-Italian-Restaurants-2009It’s almost impossible to think about dining out without thinking about Italian food. From pasta and brick-oven pizza to authentic regional dishes, the cuisine of Italy has become paramount to America’s palate.  While this Mediterranean country inspires a great deal of gastronomic tourism, you can find some of the most sumptuous and authentic Italian fare in your own backyard. No passport required.

We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2009 Diners’ Choice Awards for Best Italian Restaurants. Derived from more than 3 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for nearly 10,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list speaks to diners hungry for the delights of the epicurean empire that is Italy.

Winners can be found all across our nation, from Bari in Memphis to Boston’s No. 9 Park. Find a table at a top Italian restaurant near you today!