So you’ve finished your Thanksgiving dinner and you’re finally sick of turkey leftovers. It’s time to get out there and hit the great new restaurant that just opened in your hometown or wherever you’re spending the holidays. (FYI: Aol Travel knows the hot restaurants in cities around the U.S.)
Wherever you go, remember that there are appropriate ways to behave. And there are horrible ways to behave, as highlighted in this Montreal Gazette story by two Montreal-area restaurant servers. Among other things, they urge:
11. There actually is such a thing as a stupid question.
Can I get the burger for cheaper if I don’t want onions?
Client: What beers do you have on tap?
Server: Guinness, Molson Ex, Rickard’s Red and Heineken.
Client: Do you have Samuel Adams?
Client: Why is our food taking so long?
Server: Because you ordered a steak well done and it’s only been six minutes.
Banning cell phones in restaurants is becoming more common, as diners who constantly use their phones to chat or document their meals can be a distraction to other customers. A Brooklyn restaurant is taking things to the next level by banning talk altogether, piloting a “silent dining” event in which no one speaks for a 90 minute meal. Last month there were 17 diners at Eat participating without words in the first of what may become a monthly event, and after a chance to inform servers about allergies, there was total silence. The managing chef was inspired by silent meals at a monastery he visited in India. The restaurant serves only organic local food, with all furniture and decor also made by local artisans.
Is this a welcome concept, or just another gimmick in dining?
A San Francisco restaurant is often silent, but it’s not a gimmick, it’s run by a deaf couple with a some hearing-impaired staff. Patrons can communicate in sign language, or like many of us do in foreign countries, by pointing and writing. Owner Melody Stein wants Mozzeria to be known for its pizza, not as a deaf restaurant, and they have many repeat customers both hearing and deaf.Dining in the dark has been a trend for awhile, with restaurants in the U.S. and in Europe promoting an experience of eating without sight. Many of the restaurants employ blind waiters who are trained in serving sighted customers who are plunged into a pitch black restaurant or blindfolded. The idea is to heighten the other senses, but the reality can be more terrifying than tantalizing.
Like your steak with a side of vertigo? For a thousand bucks or so apiece (plus catering costs), you and 21 friends can be hoisted up in the sky on a crane to try Dining in the Sky. Started in Belgium and France, the table can be rented all over the world.
A truly moveable feast was hosted on a New York City subway for 12 diners. Waiters served six courses at stops between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the MTA was not amused, but no one was arrested or fined for the meal.
Would you try any of these unusual meals? Share your experiences in the comments.
Walk through any food court or eatery in Japan and you’ll find yourself face to face with walls of plastic food. These displays are designed to show potential diners exactly what they’ll receive if they order a particular dish, from the portion size to the ingredients right down to the little garnishes. They’re helpful for foreigners who can’t decipher Japanese menus but even the locals have come to depend on the fake food when eating out.
These sample meals have always had an uncanny realism to them – and now we know why. It turns out these plastic food replicas were borne out of a more scientific art form. The original maker of fake food started out creating models of human organs and diseases, with the realistic plastic replicas aimed at helping doctors study illnesses. Pretty soon, restaurants came knocking on the artisan’s door – despite it’s unappetizing origins, they figured fake food was the perfect way to familiarize country folk with the unique fare city restaurants had to offer.Like most things in Japan, the plastic samples don’t come cheap, especially since the food samples are modeled off real dishes and created for each individual restaurant. A life-like plate of plastic sushi or a heaping bowl of fake spaghetti sell for around $100 each, although budget-conscious restaurants can rent their fake food for about $6 a month.
The sample-making company says they haven’t been able to get the concept to take off in the Western world… after learning the less than appetizing story behind the samples, we’re not sure they ever will.
Do you like the idea of plastic food? Do these samples help you pick your meal or are they are turn off?
It’s an old tradition here in Europe: sit down for a meal and at the center of the table is a little bottle of olive oil for using on your bread and other food. In the finer restaurants you’ll often get a dipping bowl too.
Now the Guardian reports that the European Union has banned serving olive oil in anything but sealed, throwaway containers. The EU says this is to stop fraud, claiming some restaurants substitute cheaper olive oil than what they advertise, a bit like how some bars put cheaper brands into their top-shelf liquor bottles. In fact, few restaurants actually advertise which olive oil they’re serving.
The new move is also supposed to improve hygiene, although of course it will increase the amount of trash restaurants produce.
Several newspapers are lambasting the move, saying it’s pointless meddling by a bloated bureaucracy that should be tackling the economic meltdown. The move has already passed, however.
So the next time you go to Europe, your authentic local meal will be a little less authentic.
At home there’s the backyard garden, the local co-op farmers market and the stash of homemade pickles, but on the road, what’s a food-loving locavore to do? Track down a farm-to-hotel of course.
Hotel restaurants aren’t normally at the top of the list of a traveler’s places to eat, but sometimes time and efficiency leave you eating at the dining room on the first floor of wherever you’re staying, especially if you’re a business traveler. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the food you’re getting comes from close by?
At a visit last winter to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada, Ms. Driscoll said she was happy to discover a French fries dish called poutine, made with Alberta beef, that was served in the hotel’s lounge. “It gave me a unique feeling of a sense of place,” she said. “Local foods give you a great feeling of culture in a very short period of time, especially when you’re traveling on business.”
But it’s not just specialty and boutique hotels that are taking on the trend. Hyatt Hotels Corporation started a food initiative last May that requires that its chefs at about 120 hotels in the US, Canada and Caribbean incorporate at least five local ingredients in their menus; “local” being defined as within 50 miles of the hotel location.
That doesn’t make the entire restaurant a hub for locavores, but it’s certainly a start.