World's Hottest Chili Pepper Is So Spicy It's Lethal

Human beings have always tried to expand our borders, go further than the last, and essentially be better and bolder. Take for example, the race to space, America vs. Russian intelligence for the moon. Advances in science and civilization have always been about competition.

Food is no stranger to these sort of gatherings and competitions. For years humans have gone head to head against each other to see who could eat the most, the fastest, and now we have added taste. I’m not entirely sure when we became obsessed with eating spicy food but at one point, I think we took it too far.

I am not referring to the spicy food that comes in light sauces like BBQ or salsa. I am talking about the tongue numbing, roof of your mouth burning, forget about having taste buds ever again- kind of condiments that really leaves you wondering, was that really worth it?

Long gone are the days where a simple hot dog eating contest would suffice this void that spicy chili peppers have now filled. In the spirit of keeping things new and exciting there is a small population of people brave enough to put their mouths through this sort of… torture. But even they have to draw the line somewhere, and this newfound KILLER chili might be it.

I say KILLER because I mean it quite literally, this chili pepper is so hot it could very well murder you. This chile, dubbed Dragon’s Breath, puts the previously “hottest chili ever” and it’s cousin the habanero to damn shame. Cultivated by one Mike Smith in North Wales, Dragon’s Breath, ranks a whopping 2.48 million on the Scoville scale. The Carolina Reaper, is measured at 2.2 million. And if you’re anything like me and have no idea what those numbers mean- military-grade pepper spray is measured at a cool 2 million.

OK, maybe you don’t scare easily with numbers, maybe you’re more of a visual learner- not a problem. Dragon’s Breath is in fact so hot that it has not been consumed by any human mouth yet because that 2.48 million amount of capsaicin could torch your airways, causing them to close up and you’d go straight into anaphylactic shock, so yeah just picture that.

Just in case you thought chilis were made solely for human consumption, let me be the first to disappoint you, Dragon’s Breath was created to help aid anyone who may be allergic to anesthetics. According to Smith, the pepper is literally so hot it can be used to numb the skin. Scientifically speaking, this is a breakthrough for chili cultivation, so we have that to applaud.

Delectable Discounts for Dallas Restaurant Week

Want an amazing meal for an even better deal? Dallas Restaurant Week begins today, and from August 7 - 26 restaurants are offering great prix fixe plates throughout the city. Check out the 23 Renzell restaurants participating below, and click the link to make a reservation today!  

Happy dining! 

Bulgarian Feta and Pomegranates at Canary By Gorji for restaurant week

Bulgarian Feta and Pomegranates at Canary By Gorji for restaurant week

Bargains for Boston Restaurant Week

Looking for good food on a budget? Boston Restaurant Week is here, and from August 6-11 and August 13-18, restaurants all over the city are offering delicious prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for an amazing deal. Check out the 8 Renzell restaurants participating below by clicking the links and make a reservation today! 

Happy dining! 

Sportello's tagliatelle for Restaurant Week

Sportello's tagliatelle for Restaurant Week

Delicious Deals for NYC Restaurant Week

Dying to try a Renzell restaurant, but need to save money? Good news - NYC Restaurant Week has officially begun. From now through August 18th, you can choose from almost 400 of the best restaurants in the city, offering three-course prix fixe dining deals for both lunch ($29) and dinner ($42). Check out the 17 Renzell Restaurants participating in Restaurant Week below, and click the link to make a reservation today! 

Happy dining! 

Tune In For Free Music

Complete a survey for any two of the restaurants on the list below between August 1 and August 15 and earn a FREE month of Spotify Premium.* You can click on each restaurant below for more details, to make a reservation, or to take your survey!

Happy Dining!


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“Vegan” Is The New Black: A Look Into The Fastest Growing Food Movement In The World

In the last few years a new trend in cuisine has taken over the way chefs cook, the way they choose ingredients, and ultimately how all of us eat. It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet choice but veganism is the new black. Some people wonder why? Why change the way humans have lived for thousands and thousands of years? Well, ultimately it’s because we are civilized enough to know better.

Source: Minimalist Baker.

Source: Minimalist Baker.

Bringing a vegan to dinner used to be a huge annoyance for anyone at the table, specially the chef, who for years largely considered vegan sort of a joke for fine dining. However, like with most things, time has made vegan cuisine not only more popular but delicious. We are currently in this revolutionary way of cooking that maybe - just maybe vegan dishes can taste similarly, if not better, than their traditional counterparts.

This has mostly affected the food industry because of the cruel treatment of animals and intensive factory farming to get what chefs need, the people demand, and at the large consumption that we gobble it all in.

Source: Diet. 

Source: Diet. 

Chefs do agree on one thing, a succession of global issues have plagued animal and fish production, such as bird flu, mad cow disease, cancer links with cured meats and links between some animal fats and heart disease. Not to mention the dangers of foie gras production, excessive hormone use in feed and over-fishing. All these things have decreased the quality of meals they prefer to serve.

One country is really leading the race on turning over for the new vegan leaf on foods, Australia. That’s right, the land down under is officially the third fastest growing market in the world for vegan foods. Vegan-labelled food was valued at $135.9m in 2015 but it has since exploded to $153m in 2016, according to research by Euromonitors International. A big part of that has to do with those choosing to first cut off all dairy products from their diet.

Source: The Journal. 

Source: The Journal. 

Another big part of that increase in value has to do with a new found demand in plant-based cuisine. Top restaurants throughout the world have moderated their menus to offer a new range of variety for those vegan or vegetarian. In the U.S. Eleven Madison Park, Del Posto, Beyond Sushi, and Blue Hill, in Italy the famous Osteria Francescana, have all been happily dishing out new and creative menus for the trend. At Momofuku Nishi in New York, David Chang’s meat-free burger that looks, tastes, and even bleeds like meat. 

Europe is even jumping on the bandwagon, in London the raw vegan menu at Nama in Notting Hill, is all the new rave, Vanilla Black has a vegan fine dining menu crowds seem to flock to, and the vegan degustation at Lyle’s in London’s East End is incredibly popular.

Source: Fine Dining Lovers. 

Source: Fine Dining Lovers. 

Even the fancy chefs in Paris have accommodated their lavish meals to better serve the vegan/vegetarian diet. 3 star Michelin rated L'Arpège and it’s chef Alain Passard, have announced a sort of “golden age of vegetables” in France. Alongside Passard, chef Alain Ducasse have spawned vegetable driven menus, which is a big deal considering how they can’t let go of using butter and therefore not fully vegan. But the point is they are trying!

Source: Peta. 

Source: Peta. 

It is, however, another city in Europe that capitalizes on all that is vegan, Berlin. There are reportedly 80,000 vegans living in Berlin and the city does well to satisfy the hunger of all of them. One way to look at it- 10% of Berlin’s population says, “Hold the bratwurst sausage.”

As good as this all sounds for eating out and not being that complicated vegan person at the table, we also have to consider those of us who are too busy for every meal to be a great vegan delicacy prepared by a famous chef. Good news is, in Australia, vegan fast food is also picking up traction and gaining popularity. Companies such as Subway, Domino’s, Nando’s and Go Sushi have began offering vegetarian and vegan menu options. And for those who like to cook at home and want to learn how to prepare vegan dishes, there are shops solely dedicated to your needs. No more looking at confusing labels, long lists of ingredients, and spending hours in the grocery store avoiding the deli department.

Source: Fine Dining Lovers. 

Source: Fine Dining Lovers. 

Shops such as The Cruelty Free Shop offer a number of products to cater to any one’s vegan/vegetarian needs. The company currently only has stores in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, offering more than 3500 vegan products, including 50 vegan cheeses for sale. One thing that really stands out from this trend is that people who aren’t exactly tied to the lifestyle or diet of being a vegan will buy vegan products solely because they are stated as such. Seems like vegan is the new black.

 However, unlike most trends, this one comes with a cause. Yes, it may seem like going vegan is simply the cool new thing to do but when you really break it down, the more people that hop on this trend the better. Unlike other trends when too many people do it and we grow tired of it, this one is here to stay because people are starting to care. More research, and therefore understanding, of the environmental cost of meat production, including its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and the issue of agricultural run-off, have made this trend irresistible.

Just Keep Spinning

Complete a survey for any four of the restaurants on the list below between July 16 and August 15 and earn a FREE SoulCycle class.* You can click on each restaurant below for more details, to make a reservation, or to take your survey!

Happy Dining!


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Coast to Coast, Korean Cuisine Is Coming

From David Chang’s Ssam Bar Burritos to his Nike collab, Korean food has become the newest food trend we can’t get enough of. Although there are variations in vibe and experience, there is an undeniable rise of Korean restaurants aspiring to offer their guests elements of a traditional, family-style cuisine.

In order to provide the full Korean barbecue experience, chefs will grill the meat table-side or allow the patrons to barbecue it themselves. Restaurants such as Chosun Galbee in Los Angeles and Trove in Seattle pride themselves not just on their delicious food, but on the quality of the experience as well. And at Parachute in Chicago, your attitude is considered part of the experience: “If you are grumpy, pouty, crabby or just plain mean, this may not be the place for you. We look forward to serving you with all of our hearts and a smile.” It’s all about sharing a quality meal in a quality atmosphere.   

Cote, New York. Photo by: Eater.

Cote, New York. Photo by: Eater.

In addition to grilling together, diners are encouraged to eat family style, sharing multiple dishes with each other—the way many Korean chefs grew up. Simon Kim, co-owner of recently opened Cote in New York, said in an interview with Eater that his true inspiration comes not from the chefs around him, but from his grandparents. Kim along with many other Korean chefs are fulfilling their dreams by opening restaurants in which they showcase their interpretations of Korean cuisine. Among them is the married couple, Rachel Yang and Seif Chirichi, who started Relay Restaurant Group in Seattle. Their four Korean inspired restaurants Joule, Trove, Revel, and Revelry, each differ in vibe and menu, so you can get whatever Korean cuisine experience you are looking for!

Trove, Seattle. Photo: by Alex Garland.

Trove, Seattle. Photo: by Alex Garland.

Many of these Korean restaurants continue to expand their horizons by offering places for guests and chefs to have unique experiences. Relay Restaurant Group’s Revelry preserves the basics of their other restaurant, Revel—characterized by comfort food and a happy atmosphere—yet, with a more extensive cocktail menu, longer hours, and late night snacks. Similarly, Cote in New York is opening a secondary space below the restaurant, called Undercote, which will have fun lights, music, and drinks. In an interview with Eater, Kim describes it as their “playground” that will offer “Korean street food on steroids,” an attractive option for patrons looking for a fun atmosphere to enjoy exciting food and drink.

Each chef may have a different history, yet they all share the common aspiration to offer great hospitality and an authentic, genuine experience. The great food is just a bonus! Korean cuisine has been around forever, yet it’s exciting to see it reinvented and become increasingly popular in the states. So, what’s next for Korean cuisine? Only time will tell, but make sure to check out Hanjan and Jungsik as well.

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Meet The Man That Has Only Eaten At 3 Star Michelin Restaurants Since 2004

If you ask any professional foodie what their dream job would be, they would probably tell you they are already living it. But what tops that? Well, professional foodie, Andy Hayler can tell you. Given that his experience has been enough to deem him worthy of a guest seat on the judge’s panel on the U.K.’s MasterChef: The Professionals. With his extensive resume you can’t really be surprised.

Source: Business Insider Australia. 

Source: Business Insider Australia. 

Back in 2004, Andy was traveling all over Europe for work, and like many businessmen he had time to kill between meetings and such. So Andy decided to properly expand his palate and only eat at 3 Michelin stars rated restaurants. It was then that the hobby of being a foodie became an obsession for the former general manager of Information Management at Royal Dutch Shell.

Of course at the time this was a feasible goal given that there were only 49 restaurants at the time and all located in Europe. In 2012 that number doubled when 102 restaurants were rated with the prestigious 3 stars- since 2016, there are 111. Everywhere from Hayler’s hometown of London to Asia, Japan, North and South America, and Australia are all home to fabulous dining experiences that Andy tries his best to keep up with.

Source: Business Insider Australia.

Source: Business Insider Australia.

Andy is now a food critic for the Elite Traveler and reviews restaurants for them and his own personal website, Andy Hayler’s Restaurant and Hotel Guide. Andy does not judge his dining experiences lightly either, he gives them a fair review and has a strong opinion on whether or not the establishment deserves the high regard. Of course he isn’t completely prejudice, Andy also has dined at 2 and 1 star Michelin restaurants, and according to him the ratings all have to do with the food not the decoration.

“There was a myth among chefs that you had to have incredibly expensive glassware, the best crockery, and they’d invest in all these things. But over the last 10 years, you’ll see restaurants where they are not the grandest restaurants and still have three stars. It’s just the best food on the planet. If it gets three stars, it should be a pinnacle of cuisine. And when you take the best of those three-star restaurants, it is.”

However, per Andy there are different levels within the 3 star rating, there’s the bottom of the category, which in his opinion- which really deserve only two stars, there’s the upper segment, which are the ones that absolutely deserve the 3 stars, but in the middle… Well, I’ll let Andy describe it.

“In the middle you’ve got some very good food, but they’re not quite as good as the ones at the top. I think a place like Schloss Berg in Germany or Alinea in Chicago would be in that upper class. Those are the ones to me that really stand out.”

Source: Business Insider Australia.

Source: Business Insider Australia.

No matter the rating they may have in common, Michelin star restaurants differ from each other throughout the world, and according to Andy Hong Kong is really taking over the brand right now. It was a sushi restaurant in Tokyo with a secret location in a multi-story car park that took him the most by surprise, Sushi Saito.

“You literally walk in and walk past the barrier, and there’s what looks like a janitor’s closet to the right. You walk through that door and you’re suddenly in the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo. It only has seven seats, and it’s been rated #1 in Japan for ages. I’d go back there more often if I could get a reservation.”

However, he thinks that it is Germany that has the strongest Michelin establishments in the world. Sadly, the place where Andy has had “the best meal ever” was a restaurant named Jamin in Paris, but it has since been closed. His second pick is Ledoyen, which is also in Paris, Andy claims there’s a dish there named spaghetti but the name does it no justice.

 

Source: Business Insider Australia.

Source: Business Insider Australia.

Like many foodies, Andy dines at his own expense, which obviously does not come cheap. The most expensive meal he has ever had was at a New York based restaurant named Per Se, a wine pairing dinner experience there costs about $800 a head. The amount he spends a year depends on how many establishments he decides to visit, prices vary all over the world.

Andy isn’t one to shy away from the kitchen, when he isn’t eating glorious meals and having the best dining experiences in the world, he likes to cook and like many of us, loves a good pizza. However, you won’t find any frozen meals in his fridge.

Need A Ride?

Complete a survey for any two of the restaurants on the list below between July 9 and July 31 and earn a $15 Lyft coupon code.* You can click on each restaurant below for more details, to make a reservation, or to take your survey!

Happy Dining!


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Impress Your Guests With These 15 Cookbooks

Dying to try some Renzell restaurants in other cities? Lucky for you, many of our restaurants have cookbooks that allow you to try to cook some of their incredible dishes at home. Below are 15 cookbooks from Renzell restaurants: 12 that we already love, and 3 that we can’t wait to see!

Del Posto (New York)

Del Posto (left); @delposto (right)

Del Posto (left); @delposto (right)

Impress your guests with this decadent dessert spread.

Get it here.

 

Battersby (New York)

Battersby (left); @battersbybk (right)

Battersby (left); @battersbybk (right)

You’ll never have to crave Battersby’s pollack with white asparagus and sabayon ever again with this cookbook.

Get it here.

 

Mission Chinese (New York)

Try your hand at Mission Chinese’s iconic chilled lamb dumpings with tehina and lamb geleé.

Get it here.

 

The Publican (Chicago, September 19, 2017)

The Publican (left); @publicanchicago (right)

With this cookbook, you won’t need to sit at The Publican’s communal tables to enjoy their famously delicious food.

Get it here.

 

Benu (San Francisco)

Benu (left); Benu (right)

Benu (left); Benu (right)

Your guests will surely be asking for the recipe for these simple but utterly satisfying Lobster Coral Xao Long Bao.

Get it here.

 

Atelier Crenn (San Francisco)

Atelier Crenn (left); @atelier.crenn (right)

Tired of your regularly prepared meat? Try Atelier Crenn's elegant foraged flower and herb topped wagyu.

Get it here.

 

State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, October 24, 2017)

From simple (or at least, less intimidating) dishes like avocado filled with toasted buckwheat to intricate poppyseed beef tongue pastrami pancakes, State Bird Provisions’ new cookbook will be sure to teach and impress.

Get it here.

 

Gjelina (Los Angeles)

Gjelina (left); @gjelinarestaurant (right)

Impress your guests with this tasteful marinated anchovy, fennel & Fresno chili. Bon appetit!

Get it here.

 

Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)

Mozza (left); @osteriamozza (right)

Mozza (left); @osteriamozza (right)

You can now finally make that exquisite baby kale salad with smoked egg, crouton, and caper vinaigrette.

Get it here.

 

Crossroads (Los Angeles)

Crossroads (left); @crossroadskitchen (right)

Never forget the 4 p’s: porcini, parsnips, pearl onions, and port.

Get it here.

 

Lark (Seattle)

Lark (left); @larkseattle (right)

Lark (left); @larkseattle (right)

Experiment with this tasteful burrata with cipollini agrodolce, radicchio, and pomegranate.

Get it here.

 

Rasika (DC, October 10, 2017)

Rasika (left); @rasikarestaurant (right)

Rasika (left); @rasikarestaurant (right)

Level up your appetizer game with these tandoori starters.

Get it here.

 

Miller Union (Atlanta)

Miller Union (left); @millerunionatl (right)

Miller Union (left); @millerunionatl (right)

Stop drooling over this beautiful nettle and ricotta ravioli and start making it!

Get it here.

 

Zahav (Philadelphia)

Zahav (left); @zahavrestaurant (right)

Zahav (left); @zahavrestaurant (right)

Take a stab at making these crispy potatoes with kale chermoula and saffronella cheese.

Get it here.

 

Vedge (Philadelphia)

Vedge (left); @vedgerestaurant (right)

Vedge (left); @vedgerestaurant (right)

Replicate this delicious vegetarian spread to impress both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Get it here.

 

Never be without your favorite dishes again! Get these cookbooks in your kitchen as soon as possible--your guests will be patiently (or perhaps not so patiently) waiting.

Win A Renzell Tote & Hat!

June Promotion: $500 Travel Card!

The Next Big Food City Has Cannabis Dinners

Denver has long been on the tips of foodies’ tongues when discussing the “next big food city,” but the Mile High City may now be able to officially claim that title. With four James Beard Award nominations this year and a surprising—or maybe not so surprising—penchant for innovation, the Denver dining scene is about to explode.

Source: Frasca Food & Wine. 

Source: Frasca Food & Wine. 

Holding its own among even the most pretentious foodies, Denver is home to a number of award-winning restaurants such as Frasca Food & Wine, Rioja, Mercantile Dining & Provision, and Acorn. here is no shortage of dining options in the Mile High City, which ranks eleventh in restaurants per capita (222.73 restaurants per 100,000 residents) and second in breweries per capita (7.85 breweries per 100,000 residents).

But the real magic of the Denver food scene lies in its ability to evolve quickly and without a hindering sense of vanity. Unlike bigger and more established food towns, Denver isn’t tied down by a sense of convention or expectation, allowing them to trade in the pomp for a more offbeat, authentic, and creative food scene.

Denver’s temperate climate, and it’s setting on the edge of the plains, makes its farm to table ethos more a product of its environment than of picking up on the prevailing trend. Restaurants continue to partner with local farmers and vendors to serve up meals to a growing demographic hungry for a locavore environment.

Denver is surrounded by rural farmland, enabling restaurateurs and chefs to easily source their ingredients. At Panzano in downtown Denver, executive chef Elise Wiggins has partnered with nearby Bear Mountain Ranch, which gives her entire animals rather than specific cuts. Some places take the farm ethos even further: Chef Max MacKissock—now at Bar Dough—started his own farm while at The Squeaky Bean.

While Denver’s restaurants still seek sustainable ingredients, the food world has begun exploring a new trend, which Denver has more than fully embraced: Pot dinners.

Source: Mason Jar Event Group (Lisa Siciliano, Dog Daze Photo).

Source: Mason Jar Event Group (Lisa Siciliano, Dog Daze Photo).

A little over three years ago, Colorado implemented the legalization of recreational marijuana. This past November, Denver residents voted to allow weed in restaurants and bars. With, ahem, the approval of the neighborhood. This new law permits a BYOW (bring your own weed) scenario, but top chefs are starting to employ the legalization in more creative ways outside the confines of their restaurants.

Source: Blackbelly. 

Source: Blackbelly. 

Elaborate weed dinners are the next big thing in Denver dining. Chef Hosea Rosenberg, Top Chef winner and owner of Boulder’s Blackbelly empire, has hosted several of events with Mason Jar Event Group. On the event website, the dinners are described as “an evening of lux cannabis culture, dining, music and the finest offerings of the Colorado High Life.” For each, Hosea creates an incredible gourmet menu, complete with marijuana pairings, in various forms. Mason Jar Event Group also works with Chef Jamey Fader of Lola to put together these events.

While a vibrant food scene is nothing new to Denver, the legalization of pot has finally given it the attention it deserves. Compared to the extravagant innovation and competition in cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, Denver has often been overlooked by the larger food community. But the city’s creative adoption of pot has made Denver a destination for foodies. It  has become a sort of new frontier for food innovation.

You Had Me At Hello

Hospitality is something you only seem to know when you feel it. It’s difficult to articulate. Less than a third of the high-end restaurant experience is spent actually eating, which is why hospitality is so important. Restaurants are not in the food business, they are in the hospitality business.

Waiters and smiles and someone to help with your coat are all part of the bigger picture (hospitality is, after all, in the details). Personal connections with guests are imperative to fostering hospitality, but it isn’t just one or two interactions; it’s an atmosphere. But nothing drives the overall ethos more than a perfect hello.

A post shared by Atera Restaurant (@ateranyc) on

Here's what a few restaurants had to say about saying hello and goodbye to their guests:

Saying Hello

“So many things can happen during that first exchange. A simple hello can not only convey appreciation but it can show the guest that we are there to attend to your needs from the moment they walk.  Are you on a time crunch? Is there a special need for seating that you have?  A birthday or special occasion you want us to recognize?  If our welcome message is attentive, warm and with dedication to your visit, the more comfortable the guest can be in truly asking for what they want out of the experience.”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

“Every guest that walks in the door is unique and we want to provide them with a unique experience. It’s more important for our staff to greet each guest in a way that matches the experience they’re expecting.”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

“It is always important to greet with a smile and welcoming atmosphere no matter what time in service or how busy the restaurant might be. We always try to vary our greeting and to personalize the experience. We have a number of regular guests who we like to welcome back to the restaurant or greet by name. We may acknowledge that someone has noted a special occasion for the evening as part of the greeting, for example letting them know that we have a nice table set up for their anniversary.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

“At the best restaurants a good greeting is expected. Ironically, it often times often goes unnoticed. But people will always remember a bad greeting.”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

“That first impression, and a great greeting, is absolutely critical to the identity of a restaurant. It shows we understand how to set a tone for the experience: you will be appreciated, welcomed, cared for, and your presence cherished by the staff. That first impression indicates that the restaurant has created a culture of hospitality that will be evident in every interaction throughout your meal.”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

Source: Monsieur Benjamin. 

Source: Monsieur Benjamin. 

All About the Feels

“A welcoming message is more about imparting a feeling than information. I am inviting them in, and letting them know I am receptive to whatever they want to tell me about what they are looking for in their dining experience, whether a quick bite at the bar, or a leisurely multi-course dinner.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

"We have a very small crew and we spend a lot of hours together. We are super comfortable with each other and within our restaurant. It is the same five people working the floor any given night. The bond we share and our familiarity in our space make it really natural for us to welcome guests to our home.”
--Matthew Abbick, general manager, Atera (#1 in hospitality in New York)

“When someone seems genuinely happy to see you, and projects warmth and personal care from the very first interaction, it really sets the tone for the whole experience—you are immediately reassured that you will be well taken care of. Conversely, a negative first impression can be incredibly difficult to shake off, even when followed up by excellent service in the dining room.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

“We always try to remember is that each greeting or welcome message can be interpreted very differently depending on the guest. Being flexible and reading the guest can help.”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

“Giving a consistent approach to each guest is really important to how we operate.  We are in the business of creating regulars; which can mean once a year or 5 times a week.  We want your first impression to be our appreciation and enthusiasm for your visit, as if you were coming over to a friend’s house or, in the case of Acanto, like you were visiting your Nonna who is just so happy to welcome you into her home and her kitchen!”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

"Michael Stein our DJ/Doorman is awesome with remembering our regulars' favorite bands, wedding songs, etc. He times them into his playlists and is standing by at that moment when they recognize their tunes with his warm smile that says 'this one is for you'.”
--Mattew Abbick, general manager, Atera (#1 in hospitality in New York)

A post shared by Acanto (@acantochicago) on

Adios!

“How a guest leaves is an indicator of the overall experience, which drives return visits. Someone who responds to our goodbye with their own enthusiasm and thanks is someone we may likely see again. And it is important to punctuate the meal with a final goodbye and thanks, whether from their server as the guest gets up, or the host or manager as they get to the door.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

“Any restaurant can grill a good hamburger, cook some pasta, or make a salad, but it is the staff and the experience which brings people back time and time again. We hear from our guests on a daily basis that they love coming back because of how they feel when they enter and how they talk about the experience when they leave. It’s a culture that we have created in our restaurants from our owner to our bussers and everyone in between.”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

“It goes without saying that if a guest leaves feeling extremely happy and comfortable they are more likely to return. Some of this is out of the control of the restaurant—someone may simply be having a bad day—but there's always an opportunity to turn things around and change someone's experience!”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

Music Is Food For The Soul

A restaurant’s soundtrack and make or break the dining experience. And it’s more than just the volume (although blaring techno while trying to converse with your fellow diners can totally ruin a meal). The music sets the mood, changes the mood, and further immerses you in your dining experience. It can even affect the taste and smell of your food and make diners stay longer and spend more.

As part of our “vibe” ranking, here is what the top ranked restaurants had to say about their soundtrack:

 

On Creating a Unique Soundtrack

“The playlist that we've compiled highlights the diverse cultural history of Brazil, touching on musical movements within the country as well as the places from which those movements draw influence.”
—Ziyad Asrar, Beverage Director, La Sirena Clandestina (#11 in vibe in Chicago)

“When it comes to curating playlists, you want to make sure everyone listening has a good time and feels the vibe. Our playlists create a lively environment every day.”
—Bruce Finkelman, Managing Partner, Dusek’s Board & Beer (#13 in vibe in Chicago)

“Our soundtrack is set up to create a sexy and festive vibe with music spanning many genres.”
—Veronica Beckman, Co-Owner, Tanta (#12 in vibe in Chicago)

“We want to create a great atmosphere for our guests. We like the music to create good energy and vibe but not take over the experience. Our current playlist is extremely eclectic and not too heavy handed in any one genre, rather blending genres to create a similar feeling and sound.”
—Erin Phillips, Boka Restaurant Group Operations and Education Director, Momotaro (#5 in vibe in Chicago)

“We try to put the guest experience first and foremost in our minds—rather than our own subjective musical preferences—because the last thing the music should do is challenge or alienate guests. We strive to avoid those annoying earworms that can really kill a dining experience, and instead aspire to create an atmosphere that is familiar sounding, yet just obscure enough that it provokes curious pleasure.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole (#9 in vibe in San Francisco)

 

On Specific Genre Choices

“Moving from Brazilian psychedelia, Tropicalia, pop, samba and jazz of the 60s, 70s and early 80s to similar music that was being made in Africa and the US in those eras creates a pretty stimulating environment for everyone in the restaurant.”
—Ziyad Asrar, Beverage Director, La Sirena Clandestina (#11 in vibe in Chicago)

“We have a soundtrack with music spanning many genres, including Latin house, salsa, jazz, deep house, and afro-Peruvian. The playlists were all curated by some of the best Chicago DJ's who are experts in these genres. They start the playlist with more down-tempo grooves that set the mood for a relaxing atmosphere then the songs slowly pick up in tempo as the night progresses. That up-tempo of more festive songs allow our customers to have more fun and stay and drink a bit more.”
—Veronica Beckman, Co-Owner, Tanta (#12 in vibe in Chicago)

“Music in our restaurants is very important to us. We like to mix it up: electro-funk, up- tempo, down-tempo, rock and roll, and electro trip hop. It makes for good ambient atmosphere. It adds to the experience but doesn't overwhelm it. Some songs with few vocals allow for good conversation and energy. We have some songs people can recognize but we try to steer away from anything too pop or mainstream.”
—Erin Phillips, Boka Restaurant Group Operations and Education Director, Momotaro (#5 in vibe in Chicago)

“We try to play complete albums as much as possible and string them together in such a way that the tempo of the music will mirror the flow of reservations in the dining room as well as the volume of bar business.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole, Trou Normand (# in vibe in San Francisco)  

“We tend to rely heavily on uptempo Jazz, Latin, and Caribbean music as well as Soul and R&B in order to create an unobtrusive and enjoyable dining experience. We have a couple simple, yet firm rules: no indie-rock before 10pm and no charted Motown. Heavy treble guitar sounds don't reverberate well in our cavernous industrial space especially when there are also a lot of voices in the room. Soul and R&B tend to have more bottom end, which plays better off the hard surfaces of the space. By deliberately eschewing charted hits, it forces us to dig a little deeper to find those hidden gems that can be just as enjoyable. The Eccentric Soul compilations by the Numero Group are especially good at delivering on that familiar, yet obscure aesthetic. Similarly, record labels like Ace & Kent Records in the UK, Bear Family in Germany, and Norton Records in NYC, reliably put out these killer comps with great sound quality.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole (#9 in vibe in San Francisco)  


On Influencing Consumer Behavior

“It’s all music associated with a good time!”
—Bruce Finkelman, Managing Partner, Dusek’s Board & Beer (#13 in vibe in Chicago)

“I find customers energy and excitement levels are elevated when we play slightly unfamiliar, danceable, interesting music. People can either tune it out , enjoy the experience, or really pay attention and potentially discover something they may continue to listen to later. The goal is to maximize the experience they have while drinking and dining.”
—Ziyad Asrar, Beverage Director, La Sirena Clandestina (#11 in vibe in Chicago)

“The songs slowly pick up in tempo as the night progresses, and that up-tempo of more festive songs allows our customers to have more fun and stay and drink a bit more.”
—Veronica Beckman, Co-Owner, Tanta (#12 in vibe in Chicago)

“I try to embed subtle cues, or shifts, into the playlist each night, which I hope will influence guest behavior in subliminal ways. Nowadays I make sure that the music shifts every hour. It might go from a crooner like James Carr to a more upbeat Jamaican Ska, or we'll shift from The Kinks or The Stones into The Mighty Hannibal. At midnight, when we have last call, we cue up a more dramatic shift from something like a Rare Funk 45s compilation to Dick Curless singing Gospel Country, which usually gives stragglers the hint it’s time to go home.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole (#9 in vibe in San Francisco)

 

The Ultimate Mini Playlist

Five restaurants give a taste of their soundtrack. Check it out!

Q&A with Chef Curtis Duffy of Grace

Source: grace-restaurant.com.

Source: grace-restaurant.com.

At Grace, the constantly evolving seasonal menu—described as “thoughtfully progressive”—is an expression of Chef Curtis Duffy’s experience and personality. The menu is broken up into two options: “flora”, for the herbivore-inclines; and “fauna,” for those who want more protein. Duffy’s focus on flavor over technique and high quality ingredients has earned Grace three Michelin stars and countless other awards and recognitions, including the top spot in Renzell’s 2018 Chicago Preliminary Rankings.

We were able to catch up with Chef Duffy and find out his favorite dish to cook and the meaning behind “Grace.”


 

Renzell: Let’s start at the beginning. What was the first dish you learned to cook?

Chef Curtis Duffy: When I was young, I used to make Cream of Wheat for breakfast.

R: Describe your ideal food day.

CD: Breakfast - Steel cut oats w/ peanut butter, banana on the side
Lunch - usually I have a protein shake on my way into work
Dinner - grilled chicken or salmon with broccoli

Source: grace-restaurant.com.

Source: grace-restaurant.com.

R: What inspires you to continue to create new dishes?

CD: The ingredients. We are a restaurant that continues to evolve. The ingredients push the menu forward.

R: Do you have a favorite ingredient to work with?

CD: Coconut, kaffir lime, and fennel are some of my favorite ingredients that I am working with right now.

Source: grace-restaurant.com.

Source: grace-restaurant.com.

R: Do you have a favorite dish to cook?

CD: Grilled cheese, for my daughters.

R: How did you come up with the name of the restaurant?

CD: The definition of Grace is what we wanted to give our guests which is refinement, elegance, gracefulness. It is what the restaurant stands for.

 

Want to try Chef Duffy’s creations for yourself? Book an evening at Grace!

The Pros Spill On Cocktails

We asked top-ranked cocktail spots to spill some insider secrets. Read on to find out how they create the perfect cocktail list and find exciting ingredients. And, since spring is finally here, we also found out about some seasonal cocktails!

From Tanta, #2 in cocktails in Chicago: "Floral and slightly effervescent, La Guapa mixes locally distilled CH lavender-infused gin with lemon, rhubarb and sparkling rose for a light, food-friendly spring cocktail." Source: Tanta. 

From Tanta, #2 in cocktails in Chicago: "Floral and slightly effervescent, La Guapa mixes locally distilled CH lavender-infused gin with lemon, rhubarb and sparkling rose for a light, food-friendly spring cocktail." Source: Tanta. 

On Crafting The Perfect Cocktail List:

“A great cocktail list starts with knowing where you shine. We are known for elevating the classic and familiar flavors of Mexico’s regional cuisines and spirits by adding a ‘Topolo Twist.’ Our guests know their palate will be challenged, delighted, and satisfied by our cocktail program.”
--Jeff Walters, Beverage Director, Topolobampo (#1 in cocktails in Chicago)

“Having a selection of well balanced cocktails that appeal to both serious cocktail drinkers and cocktail newbies is key.  Also, I think the availability of thought out, interesting non-alcoholic cocktails are the sign of a great cocktail list.”
--Kyle Pepperell, GM, Boka (#5 in cocktails in Chicago)

"The key to a great cocktail list is a respect for fresh ingredients. One must experiment and brainstorm, but also make sure to let the individual parts shine. Simplicity over extravagance.”
--Leo Schneeman, GM, Upholstery Store: Food and Wine (#12 in cocktails in New York)

“The highest goal I set for menus is uniqueness. For example you can get a Manhattan riff anywhere- whiskey-and-amaro cocktails abound. I prefer to shy away from that and other ubiquitous styles of cocktail and try to represent something exciting that the guest can only get at my bar.”
--Patrick Brennan, Bartender, Spiaggia (#3 in cocktails in Chicago)

“We balance out shaken, stirred, brown spirits, clear spirits, citrusy, spicy, etc.  Just as in the food, it’s all about the flavor first.  The list is serious, but it has a playful feel to it and we want guests to have fun with it.  Our goal is for everyone to be happy with what they are drinking.”
--Michelle Biscieglia, Beverage Director, Blue Hill (#9 in cocktails in New York)

“I do a slow roll-over change to our cocktail menu rather than one sweeping menu change per season. Right now my method is to replace each cocktail as soon as we come up with something much more exciting!”
--Patrick Brennan, Bartender, Spiaggia (#3 in cocktails in Chicago)

 

On Seasonality:

“Seasonal changes absolutely drive interest in our cocktail program.  Regulars come in again and again knowing that the list will be different, or they can get a sneak peek at what the bartenders are working on.”
--Kyle Pepperell, GM, Boka (#5 in cocktails in Chicago)

“We strive for change when we sense it's time and when we have concocted the right cocktail, regardless of the season. In this sense, newness is the drive. On the other hand, with each season change, we certainly aim to capture the "feeling" in the glass.”
--Leo Schneeman, GM, Upholstery Store: Food and Wine (#12 in cocktails in New York)

“We try to match the mood and feel of each season in our cocktails.  In the winter, we featured darker cocktails that are boozier and fuller.  Our spring menu is leaning more towards lighter cocktails that are aromatic and refreshing.”
--Kyle Pepperell, GM, Boka (#5 in cocktails in Chicago)

“Spring always brings some of my favorite flavors. Rhubarb starts the season and plays quite well with agave spirits. Strawberries at their peak are my all-time favorite fruit. The fresh herbs and flowers are great for syrups, garnishes, and tinctures.”
--Jeff Walters, Beverage Director, Topolobampo (#1 in cocktails in Chicago)

“It’s generally about the mood of the season… until something runs out.  This is probably our biggest issue.  We test and try a new cocktail, and then the ingredient that we loved too much isn’t available any longer.  When this happens, we have to look to what’s coming next.  All seasons have phases. Spring onions, ramps, asparagus and rhubarb all come in over a couple of weeks.  We lighten it up in the spring and then have richer cocktails on in the winter.  We make our own sweet vermouth seasonally as well so that when we add it into cocktails, it also aligns.  Ultimately, it’s always a waiting game to see what mother nature brings us, and when!”
--Michelle Biscieglia, Beverage Director, Blue Hill (#9 in cocktails in New York)

“This spring I'm trying to incorporate lots of flowers and herbs. Chicago had a long and rainy winter so I think we all need some color.”
--Patrick Brennan, Bartender, Spiaggia (#3 in cocktails in Chicago)

“Spring is the most exciting time for me. I’m itching for it already.  We always first look to the kitchen and the green market.  Everything at the market will turn to 300 shades of green so quickly.  We have a forager at Stone Barns who frequents the market, but also brings us some unique and interesting ingredients from Stone Barns.  As roots, veggies, herbs and fruits start to trickle in,  we will already have several ideas in mind.  We’re still waiting for that first pop of green this year, and then it’s full speed ahead!”
--Michelle Biscieglia, Beverage Director, Blue Hill (#9 in cocktails in New York)

 

On Finding Unique Ingredients:

“New and interesting ingredients are all around us. I find inspiration in pulling out flavors I find to be particularly unique and interesting from both sweet and savory dishes. Isolating those particular notes that you find intriguing in food can then be translated into any number of cocktails, syrups, infusions, tinctures, etc.”
--Jeff Walters, Beverage Director, Topolobampo (#1 in cocktails in Chicago)

“I always keep an eye out for new and interesting ingredients. I tend to pick up new spices from ethnic markets, seek out ingredients that I read about in books (for example, I'm reading one about perfume right now—ever had a frankincense cocktail?), and, of course, liberally borrow ideas from other bars. Last fall I had a cocktail with activated charcoal at Cindy's in Chicago. For the next month I was feverishly shaking charcoal into all sorts of concoctions!”
--Patrick Brennan, Bartender, Spiaggia (#3 in cocktails in Chicag0)

“An ingredient often captures our attention at the Union Square Greenmarket. Then, we play around to find the perfect companions of liquor, bitters, and other components.”
--Leo Schneeman, GM, Upholstery Store: Food and Wine (#12 in cocktails in New York)

“The ingredients on our cocktail list must be written in a way that sells the drink. It must seem novel, exciting, enticing and a little mysterious, while at the same time remaining accessible to the uneducated drinker by not relying on arcane brand names. When I read a menu I want to be excited to try all of the cocktails!”
--Patrick Brennan, Bartender, Spiaggia (#3 in cocktails in Chicago)

“We all do what every restaurant professional does: We spend all of our money on food and drinks on our days off.  We get inspired by other restaurants. We go to the greenmarket in Union Square and see ingredients that may be new to us.  We travel and get excited by other cultures.  Every time one of us tastes something new, we bring back an idea to the restaurant and try to figure out how to incorporate it someway into a component of a cocktail.  We experiment by making infusions and syrups. We test and taste and usually 3-4 new cocktails will emerge.  Even if the cocktail doesn’t make it on the list,  then we have something different and exciting off-list to play around with for guests.”
--Michelle Biscieglia, Beverage Director, Blue Hill (#9 in cocktails in New York)

How To Make Your Restaurant Influencing And Attractive

Two things that commonly attract customers towards restaurants are its food and interior. Food predominantly is the prime ingredient while we are in the restaurant but the interior is also the main element that attracts people. Restaurants are not just to cater people but to make them feel comfortable, refreshed and depression less. In an infographic created by Industville, you will assimilate some crazy details about restaurant design and how they are developed keeping great deals in mind.

Most restaurants are colored in ivory, beige, white or pale yellow, because these colors induce comfort and a relaxed feeling, encouraging customers to stay for longer period. This type of behavior modification is not limited to color. There are many such attributes which help evoke emotions of people, such as lighting, music, and acoustics. Additionally, smell is a key asset which will help you increase footfall in your restaurant.

The infographic we present here describes these assets quite clearly and might help aid your future design decisions. Have a look at these dos and don’ts from Industville.

April 2017 AmEx Promotion

Complete a survey for any four of the restaurants on the list below in April and earn a $500 AmEx Travel Savings Credit. You can click on each restaurant below for more details, to make a reservation, or to take your survey!

UPDATE: Earn 3,000 points for each survey of the restaurants below taken after April 13!

Happy Dining!