Tag: fine dining (Page 1 of 8)

Bjorn Koch - 5 of the Best Restaurants in California

5 of the Best Restaurants in California

Dining out in California is always a wonderful experience as the state is well known for both its gourmet and informal cuisine. If you are looking to try out some delicious food in this state anytime soon, then there are a number of dining options that you can keep in mind, to go and have a good meal at.

The Bazaar

The Bazaar in Los Angeles is a wonderful place to go to if Spanish food is what you are fond of eating. This is an Iberian restaurant, and it is often perceived as one culinary theme park as well.

There are many different areas that you can choose from when you enter the restaurant in order to be able to sit and dine at. SAAM is quite famous and refers to a semi-hidden part of this restaurant which is popular for its multi-course menu.

The Bazaar also features a section known as the Bar Centro where you can get to try out some delicious Turkish food as well as steamed buns with avocado and sea urchins.

La Taqueria

La Taqueria is a popular dining destination in San Francisco which you can visit if you are fond of typical Mexican fare like tacos. While its food is more highly priced than most other taco bars in the city, it is well known for its rice free burritos that can be enjoyed with grilled carne asada.

Bar Tartine

Bar Tartine is a good restaurant to visit in San Francisco as well. It is situated in the heart of the city and is known to offer special foods like blood sausages, avocado, and beet salad. It also features bread that is manufactured at the Tartine Bakery, a sister company to the restaurant.

Mission Chinese Food

If you are fond of eating Chinese food, then Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco is worth a visit. It is owned by a Korean native and is known for cumin lamb breast and Kung Pao Pastrami among other tasty dishes.

The Bouchon Bistro

The Bouchon Bistro in Yountville is a lovely French bistro where you can expect to dig into some perfect traditional French fare. It is situated in the Napa Valley and serves some delicious food like steamed mussels, profiteroles, steak frites, salt cod beignets, and shellfish platters.

There are indeed quite a few excellent gourmet dining destinations that you can dine at while exploring sunny California.

LSI Keywords – Steamed Mussels, Shellfish Platters, Steamed Bun with Avocados, Tartine Bakery

 

The Best German Food in Boston

bjorn koch german food

This isn’t the only blog out there featuring the best German food in Boston–not even close. There have been plenty of other guides written about where to get a giant bratwurst and sauerkraut or spätzle–some push hard for one place over another. All of these online guides are noteworthy and at least warrant a quick browse. But what makes this guide different isn’t what restaurants are included, but who is the one writing it.

 

Bjorn Koch grew up in Germany, he moved multiple times during his youth around the country, learning to love everything the country had to offer. When he moved to the United States, Bjorn chose Boston, Massachusetts. Now you can see where this is going–why Bjorn’s take on this issue might lend a bit more credibility–Koch spent his youth in Germany and his adult life in Boston.

 

Bjorn Koch knows a thing or two about food and dining, a thing or two about Germany, and a thing or two about Boston. So now he’ll tell you a thing or two about where to find the best German food in Boston proper.

 

Audubon Boston

If you’re looking for a more laid-back dining experience (not everything has to be upscale) with some quality German food, look no further than Audubon Boston. Located just a short distance from Fenway Park, Audubon Boston features a wonderful variety of German foods at reasonable prices. Also known for their extensive cocktail list, Audubon is a great place to go for a pork schnitzel sandwich and cocktail or two.

 

Jacob Wirth

A mainstay on most “best of Boston” lists, and for good reason–Jacob Wirth is a premier German restaurant that can tout some incredible food and a rich history. The restaurant first came to be in 1868 and remains to this day, serving a mouth-watering array of both German favorites as well as American dishes. Can’t decide what to get? I don’t blame you, but I will suggest the sampler platter that gives you a taste of Germany from a comfortable, old-school dining experience.

 

Bronwyn

Though this list is in no particular order, nor is it numbered, there is a reason that Bronwyn is listed last here. Despite being one of the newer establishments in the area, Bronwyn is doing everything right: it features some of the most authentic and best tasting German cuisine in Boston. With a friend or feeling particularly hungry? Order the Königsteller and undo your belt while you try to consume over two pounds of pork shank, frankfurter and sauerkraut.  

 

Tech Is Improving Our Dining Experience

We live in the epicenter of the information age. With cellphones in all of our pockets, tablets and laptops in our bags and a bluetooth headset in our ears, virtually unlimited levels of information and communication are at our fingertips no matter where we are. With the seemingly ubiquitous nature of technological innovation, it’s only natural that the tech space has found its way to our dinner tables.

While the cliche of telemarketers only calling you when you’re sitting around the dinner table with your family may be on its way out due in part to technology, the reaches of new tech have extended past your dinner table and into communal ones.

 

Improving Speed and Accuracy

You’ve placed your order with the waiter, made some specific–though not egregious or cumbersome–requests and adjustments to your order, and now you’re waiting. As you grow hungrier and hungrier, you notice your waiter bringing out your food on a silver platter. Finally.

Swirling some of the linguini onto your fork, you notice something.

It’s a mushroom.

You requested no mushrooms.

Mistakes like these have become issues in restaurants–accuracy for orders is paramount to the success of a restaurant and the experience of its patrons. Technology, though, is helping to improve this first step as much as possible.

In stark contrast to hand-written tickets, no longer can an order become missed, a “no mushrooms” note be misread, or an added note ignored. With kitchen-facing tablets and computer screens, placing orders and ensuring accuracy has never been as fast or as easy as it is now.

 

Tracking Made Easy

Utilizing platforms like OpenTable, restaurants are more easily able to track what’s going on in the restaurant before them. Reservations are easier to manage and schedule, open tables are quickly and efficiently tracked and the experience for potential diners is improved tenfold.

Past just tracking tables and orders, tech has made it easier for restaurants to track their own inventory of items–now you’ll know ahead of time what is and what is not available for ordering.

 

Convenience

Though you probably won’t be paying with your phone at an upscale establishment just yet, many eateries do allow services like Android Pay or Apple Pay to be utilized for speed and convenience when placing orders. Similarly, small businesses have turned to hardware like Square to accommodate the ever-changing landscape of paying for your meals.  

Putting the Fine in Fine Dining

bjorn koch fine dining header

I’ve written a lot on this site about upscale dining and culture to the point that it almost seems as though I’ve covered just about everything. From the dos and don’ts of fine dining to the recipes you can make at home, BjornKoch.org has played home to many a fine dining blog post.

Many times on this site I’ve detailed the intricacies of fine dining. Diving into the topic allows for exploration on a micro scale, looking at where to eat, what to eat and what to do in different countries. But still BjornKoch.org is missing something–something on the macro level.

What is it, exactly, that makes a fine dining experience a fine dining experience? What makes upscale upscale? Is it just the price? Is it the atmosphere? The service? The variety (or lack of) food?

In essence, a little of everything goes into this, so here’s a bit about each.

Atmosphere

What’s the first thing you’ll undoubtedly notice when you set foot in any restaurant? Think about your senses: there’s the smell of the food, the sounds that are swirling around you and the appearance of the restaurant.

These are the factors that make up the overall atmosphere of an upscale dining experience. The patrons will more than likely be dressed nicely and be speaking in relatively hushed tones–fine dining restaurants are not places for the loud, raucous conversations you’d have in a TGI Friday’s or something of the sort. It’s difficult to put into words, but the overall demeanor of the restaurant staff, your fellow diners and their actions help to create an upscale atmosphere.

The Price

The eye popping prices of most upscale dining entrees are what many people first consider when they’re thinking about giving fine dining a shot. And while huge prices for entrees are expected at most establishments, it’s important to note that the price is a reflection of everything else on this list: the service provided, the atmosphere, the food and the upscale dining experience as a whole. Charging $45 for a burrito at the food truck outside of your office wouldn’t turn it into an upscale restaurant.

The Service

Most restaurants make it clear that your waiter or waitress is there to serve you. They’ll introduce themselves by name, pop in every 20-25 minutes to ensure you’re enjoying the meal and let you know that they’re there for refills of your Pepsi.

At an upscale restaurant, the servers do their best to remain unnoticed. They swap out your silverware or refill your glasses of wine without you even noticing. Providing everything you need to ensure that you’re fully serviced while remaining in the background is one of the most alluring aspects to fine dining.

The Food

Finally. This is the bullet point you’ve undoubtedly been waiting for. When you’re eating out, you’re probably not doing it for the atmosphere, the service or the prices. Those are additions; pieces of the puzzle that make up the fine dining experience. But the overall picture–the reason you’re dining out in the first place is for the food. And upscale restaurants know how to deliver if you’re hungry.

Upscale dining food separates itself in both selection and quality. The foods featured on the menu are often locally sourced and unique offerings that aren’t found elsewhere. They’re chef specialities and dishes that are original, often changing and most importantly, delicious.  

Cocktails & Mixed Drinks for Upscale Dining

bjorn koch drinks

A lot of pressure is put into crafting the perfect meal when you’re out at an upscale establishment. Of course the cooking and preparation is handled by an experienced and well-versed chef or team of chefs, but you’re the one that has to place the order after all. Looking over the long list of options available, each promising to hit your tastebuds in such a way that it will instantly become a meal you’ll never forget.

But once you’ve made your decision the hard part is over…or is it?

Far too often is the offer of what to drink with your meal forgotten. Wines are the obvious go-to, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for a glass of red or white; sometimes you’re feeling like a cocktail will better hit the spot.

Here are seven must-have cocktails that epitomize class and are great additions to your next meal out.

Manhattan

A classy drink named after a fantastic borough of New York and garnished with a cherry traditionally, if there’s one drink to try at least once make it a Manhattan. Mix together whiskey, sweet red vermouth, and a dash of bitters.

Margarita

A great option if you’re dining at a nice Mexican restaurant, margaritas should be your go-to option. Fresh lime juice, triple sec and tequila make a surprisingly smooth cocktail that you can enjoy with your favorite Mexican dish. And don’t forget the salt!

Whiskey Sour

Many people see whiskey as the drink of a man’s man. I say it should be everyone’s drink (in moderation, of course). Don’t quit on whiskey if you’re not much of a sipper–try a whiskey sour. Skip the prepackaged mixes, instead combine lemon or lime juice, sugar, and some nice whiskey.

Gin and Tonic

Quick and easy with two ingredients (not counting ice). Toss a few cubes into a glass, pour some gin, pour some tonic (the ratio is up to you, 1:1: or 1:3 seems to be the general consensus). Garnish with a wedge of lemon or lime for a nice touch, and you’re set.

Martini

Gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters combine to form a classic that is worthy of James Bond’s attention. There’s a reason that a martini is the drink of choice for those like 007–shaken or stirred it’s sure to ooze class.

Bloody Mary

The choice of brunch-eaters everywhere, the strong, bordering on overpowering ingredients of a Bloody Mary mix and match well enough that, somehow, they complement one another perfectly. Tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, Tabasco sauce, salt and some lemon are the main players in this classic.

Old Fashioned

With a name like Old Fashioned this drink was destined to become a long lasting classic. Put a sugar cube into an old fashioned glass and douse it with some bitters and a bit of water or club soda, muddle it, stir it, add an ice cube and some whiskey and you’re set.

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Dining Upscale

 

For most people, high-class dining is not something they do on a regular basis. It may happen once every so often, or you may be thrown into a professional situation that entails fine dining and you’re nervous about what the exact etiquette is. Maybe you’re meeting a significant other’s family for the first time at a high-class restaurant and you want to make sure you don’t make a serious mistake. In this post, I’ll list some of the most common mistakes to avoid when dining at a high-end restaurant.

Misplacing and misusing your napkin and utensils

 

It’s common to have various plates, glassware, and utensils when dining at a high-class restaurant. You can look up diagrams that show where different wine glasses or plates will be located at your place setting. A simple tip is to work from the outside in when using utensils. When you’re done eating, place your utensils on your plate, which you should also do if you pause eating; don’t set them back down on the table. The same goes with your napkin; keep it placed on your lap and when you’re done with your meal, set it to the left side of your plate. Also remember to dab, not wipe, your mouth.

 

Dressing inappropriately

 

While the normal view is that anything goes as far as attire is concerned, this concept does not apply to business or formal dinners. Most, if not all, high class restaurants have a specific dress code, which usually requires suits, or at least dress shirts, for men and a dress or suit for women. A good rule to follow for what to wear to a high class restaurant is to not wear anything you wouldn’t wear for a job interview.

 

Placing items on the table

 

Again, with the current culture, people always carry cell phones and various other items that they’re connected to constantly. In a more casual restaurant, this behavior may be acceptable (though it’s generally a good rule to not use your phone at all when you’re eating with other people), it’s definitely not acceptable at a high class restaurant. Keep your purse, wallet, keys, phone, glasses, and whatever else off of the table. It’s distracting and looks untidy.

 

Not planning payment

 

This mistake is especially important to be aware of if you’re the hostess. Usually, etiquette dictates that the person who invited everyone else pays for the meal, though you may choose to split the checks. At particularly high class restaurants, you’ll be expected to provide your credit card beforehand, so be aware of this detail, especially if you’re paying for the entire meal. It helps to avoid any post-dinner awkwardness.

 

Food mistakes

 

Common etiquette rules to remember are: chew with your mouth closed, eat slowly, and don’t put too much food in your mouth. It’s also important to wait to begin eating until everyone else is served and to know how to eat the food in front of you. It’s a good idea to plan ahead what you’d like to order and make sure you’re comfortable with the food, such as having to crack a crab’s shell or a meal with different garnishes. It’s also completely acceptable to send back food if it isn’t cooked properly, but remember not to be gracious toward the waiter and not make a scene.

Dining Etiquette Around the World

Fine Dining Bjorn Koch

Eating out at a restaurant in the United States is a fairly straightforward affair. Assuming you’ve been to a restaurant before, you likely know the etiquette that surrounds an evening of being waited on at a nice restaurant. And while the rules do change slightly when you’re dining at an upscale establishment rather than your local Ruby Tuesday, the fact of the matter remains that, in America, dining out has a set of rules that you’re expected to follow.

The problem is, those rules aren’t the same when you leave the United States. In fact, they differ pretty strongly country to country. Here are a few different areas of the world that don’t abide by the USA dining laws, and some suggestions on how you should act should you find yourself dining out there.

Japan

Dining Etiquette:

You’ve likely heard this before, but forget the rules that your parents taught you about slurping your food should you find yourself in Japan. Slurping your noodles into your mouth shows your appreciation for the meal.

When you’ve eaten all the noodles or solid foods from a bowl with your chopsticks (which you should never leave crossed or lick during the meal), drink the broth straight from the bowl.

Paying and Tipping:

Do not feel compelled to split the bill–the one who organized the meal often pays, and doesn’t leave a tip.

China

Dining Etiquette:

The same general rules for chopsticks in Japan as seen above also hold true for China. In addition, do not waive the chopsticks around or move them erratically. Control and poise are keys, particularly in business settings, which are a common task to hold over meals.

Additionally, don’t refill your own glass, instead refill your neighbor’s and don’t hold back on your belches (unless in a business setting)

Paying and Tipping:

As in Japan, tips should not be left, and many restaurants have no tipping policies and will reject any offers.

Germany

Dining Etiquette:

If you want the glass of water that Americans have become accustomed to receiving at every meal, you’ll have to ask and it more than likely won’t be free. And if you show up at an even marginally crowded restaurant, don’t expect to get a table by yourself. Sitting with strangers and sharing a table is considered the norm in Germany.

Paying and Tipping:

You should be expected to tip your server somewhere in the realm of 5-15%. Five is on the low end of what’s acceptable. However, very much unlike what is often done in America, don’t leave your money on the table–give it directly to your server.

Best Countries for Upscale Dining

Bjorn Koch upscale dining

On this website you’ve seen me write time and time again about foods you need to try from various countries, eatiers that you should visit in your city, state or country, and the authentic dishes you should try around the world.

This might be the end all and be all of cultural fine dining blog posts on BjornKoch.net. It won’t, of course, be the end of the blog posts on here, you can expect me to write about dining whenever I can moving forward–but this might be the most all-encompassing piece I write on international cuisine.

Here are the five countries with the best food around the world.

India

1.2 billion people cannot possibly be wrong. India’s food is unique in its composition and overall makeup, combining a wide variety of flavors to appease all audiences. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and curries are some of the most popular dishes from India, which is also famous for its fantastic vegetarian dishes given the fact that many Indians do not eat meat.

USA

It’s hard to name a top ten foods list without mentioning the USA. Notable, the USA is the only country on this list that isn’t necessarily widely regarded for its original food, but for its spins on other countries’ cuisines.

The USA is famous for its multicultural makeup, which has allowed it to blend a wide range of international foods into one cultural epicenter. Perhaps more interestingly, the USA has put its own spin on international foods (think pizza, tacos, hamburgers), taking hugely famous international food and Americanizing it.

France

Dining upscale has a few almost mandatory aspects to it; when we think of an upscale dinner party we often think about wine and cheese. It just so happens, then, that wine and cheese are two of the edibles that France is most famous for. On top of them, the croissants, macarons, fine breads and a widely ranging spread of chicken and beef dishes make French cuisine one of the best in the world.

Mexico

Often lambasted for being the same ingredients (tortilla, meat, cheese) spread out across a number of dishes, eating authentic Mexican is incredibly hard to beat. Despite that notion, there is quite a bit of variety found in real Mexican food, from the sauces that go into each dish to the preparation and presentation, each of which intensely modifies the dishes’ overall flavors.

You might bump Mexican to number one if you’re a fan of spicy foods, as most of the world’s chilis come from Mexico, particularly the very spicy ones. Worked into a number of dishes, sometimes the pain of stuffing a few jalapenos or habaneros into your mouth is worth it for the flavor compliments.

Italy

When you think of Italian food you probably think of freshness. Italian food is often not overly complicated or difficult to prepare, but one taste of an authentic Italian dish will show you how little that matters in the grand scheme of things, Fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and breads are staples of Italian cuisine. The food is so wide ranging–from marinara to alfredo, from pizza to gelato–that it’s difficult to cover it all and not drool on my keyboard.

Five States and Their Defining Foods

Traveling and food are an intertwined, intersecting pair of interests of mine that I often find myself experiencing at the same time. When I travel, I sample the local cuisine regardless of how exotic it is or is not. There’s nothing like visiting the heart and birthplace of a dish and tasting an authentic version yourself. It always–always–blows imitations out of the water.

Regardless of where I’m headed–across the ocean, across the state or across the country, food will continue to be a huge part of traveling for me. And it should be the same way for you.

Within the United States are, of course, 50 states. Most everyone knows that, but what not everyone knows is that within each state is a signature dish, sandwich or local delicacy that you’re best off trying on your next visit. Here are five states with the most recognizable and most delicious foods that you should indulge in on your next visit.

Louisiana–Gumbo

If you’ve been to Louisianna before, you know that the state is known for its cajun creole inspired seafood dishes. In New Orleans you’ll likely find a good bit of jambalaya, but statewide, gumbo is a must-try. The base vegetables of celery, onions and peppers with stock, a meat or seafood and a variety of seasonings, spices and other ingredients combine to form a fantastic southern dish.

Maryland–Crabs/Crab cakes

The popularity of Maryland crabs comes from the method in which they’re cooked. Instead of simply boiling blue crabs with little to no spice, Maryland has made famous the method of utilizing Old Bay and a variety of spices to bring out the flavor of the crabs. If cracking is too much work for you, Maryland crab cakes are a fantastic substitute in Maryland.

Illinois–Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

You’ve probably tried deep dish pizza before, but unless you’ve been to Chicago, you haven’t really tried deep dish pizza. The chunky tomato sauce, the heaps of cheese and the perfectly cooked crust makes eating authentic Chicago-style deep dish an experience that every human on earth should try at least once in their life.

Pennsylvania–Philly Cheesesteak

A classic example of something that you can get just about anywhere in the world, but probably shouldn’t. Visiting just about any pizza place in America, you’ll find a menu item that will likely read “Philadelphia cheesesteak.” If you want a real Philly cheesesteak, avoid this. Philly cheesesteaks should be eaten in Philly. Avoid tourist-based spots like Pats and Genos, and opt instead for Dalessandros or Steve’s. My final recommendation: cheese whiz and onions. Not exactly upscale, but certainly delicious.

Massachusetts/New England– Clam Chowder

You had to have seen this coming. As a Boston resident, filling up with a bowl of clam chowder, particularly on a chilly evening, is hard to beat. Thicker than most other chowders because of its creamy base, New England clam chowder is a must-try when you’re in the area. And, by the way, to the locals it’s chowda’.

 

Tasting Table: Cooking Perfect Porkchops

Our friends at Tasting Table have turned out a great video for cooking the perfect pork chop every time. I’ve already reviewed in the past how to cook the perfect steak and how to order it at a restaurant (if you want a good steak, that is). But pork chops are a whole other ballgame, so to speak.

Cooking pork isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it’s well worth the payoff in the end; few things can beat a perfectly cooked, juicy cut of pork. Similar to what you’d expect cooking steak, cooking a piece of pork for just a bit too long can result in a dry piece of meat–the enemy of what we expect when we indulge in pork chops.

Tasting Table recommends four key aspects to cooking a good pork chop:

  • choose one with about a one inch thickness for optimum flavor and juice.
  • Get a cast iron skillet, if you don’t already own one.
  • Use oil before you use the butter. The oil is great for searing the chops to begin with, while adding the butter later helps add to the flavor.
  • Shoot for a medium finish on the chop.

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