Holidays Home: 5 Tips to Pull It Off

Entertaining is stressful no matter what time of year. But throw in words like “Christmas” or “Thanksgiving” and your stress levels instantly double!

Holidays home are something that everyone dreams of but few people dare try to pull off. Too many people, too much food, and too little space can leave you feeling overwhelmed before the event is even here.

You can have your holidays home, with less stress. Just follow these five tips for making your home, a holiday masterpiece.

1. Plan Ahead

Procrastination is a recipe for disaster and stress when you are planning your holidays home. If you know you want to host this year, start planning early so that you aren’t overwhelmed by details that have been forgotten until the last minute.

2. Delegate

There is no rule that says just because you are hosting the holidays at your home, you have to prepare everything. Don’t even attempt to do it all!

The key to pulling of successful holidays home is to delegate responsibilities. Call Aunt Edith and tell her she is in charge of her killer mashed potatoes. Tell your mother to provide the beverages and your little sister to come up with party games. And don’t forget to assign a few of the boys to kitchen duty!

3. New Traditions

Everyone has at least one tradition that you simply must do each and every year. But, maybe you don’t pull off the tradition as well as your sister does, or you just don’t want to do it at all!

You don’t have to be tied down by years and years of the same monotonous activity. If there is something that you have been dying to try, from a new recipe to a new Christmas carol, whip it out. Chances are the rest of your family will be glad of a little change.

4. People Pleaser

Try as you might, you probably won’t be able to please everyone. That’s ok! There is always some family member who wants to stir the pot and cause trouble.

You probably already know who these holiday-offenders are. Just realize that it’s not you, it’s them! You can try to minimize the grumbling by really trying to give this person some responsibilities for the holiday affair. That way if things don’t reach their high expectations, at least some of the fault lies with them!

5. Happy Home

A big part of your holiday success lies within your home. If you feel comfortable and have plenty of room for all of the people, food, and activities that you want present at your soiree, you will feel much more at ease at the idea of inviting family and friends inside.

Maybe you are lucky enough to have such a home, or maybe you are in the market for a home that is more you.

House hunting doesn’t have to be a recipe for stress either. In fact, you can find thousands of houses for rent at RentalAds.com, so that you are sure to find the house that fits your needs. A house that is ready for all that the holidays throw at it!

5 Top Restaurant Apps to Use Tonight

top restaurant appsWhat new restaurant are you going to eat at tonight? Most days you settle on your same ol’ spot because you know it won’t disappoint.

But tonight you’re feeling adventurous and you want something new and exciting to tantalize your taste buds.

If you have a smartphone, finding a great restaurant is easy. All you have to do is download one of the top restaurant apps and your phone does the rest.

1. LocalEats

As its name implies, LocalEats highlights locally owned and operated establishments. You can search based on your city, nearby cities, or from your favorites. You can narrow down your search by browsing through the “Best Of” or types of cuisine.

Once you’ve settled on a restaurant, LocalEats gives you the location, price range, detailed descriptions, and comments. The price for LocalEats ranges from free to $2.99; depending on what smartphone you have.

2. Urbanspoon

You might feel more like you’re in Vegas than in your hometown when you use Urbanspoon. This restaurant app helps you choose a restaurant slot-machine style. All you have to do is specify your preferences, spin the wheels, and let Urbanspoon bring up recommendations. You can keep spinning the options until you find some that match what you’re looking for.

Urbanspoon shows restaurant details, price information, operating hours, reviews, and a map. It’s available for free on all smartphones.

3. Zagat

top restaurant appsZagat is one of the best sources for restaurants ratings, which is why it is also one of the top restaurant apps. Besides finding restaurant information, reviews, and GPS locations; Zagat helps you choose hotels, shops, and nightlife.

Zagat is a subscription service that costs $9.99 a year, regardless of what smartphone you have. However, by doing an iPhone jailbreak you can get the app for free. If you do end up paying for the app, it is a lot more affordable and convenient than paying for a printed Zagat restaurant guide ($16).

4. Foodspotting

Using a Google-powered map, Foodspotting lets you search for pictures of restaurants at their exact locations. You can search for restaurants using Nearby, Latest, and Best and then browse through the images and locations until you find one you like. When looking at a picture, you can choose to vote for it, nominate it, save it, or show your approval by clicking the “Great Find!” button.

Instead of writing comments, users snap pictures of restaurants or their new favorite food and share it with others using the app. Foodspotting is free for download on all smartphones.

5. Yelp

top restaurant appsYelp gives you user reviews and ratings of restaurants. It also provides you with information like accessibility, atmosphere, parking availability, location, and hours of operation.

Yelp is more than a restaurant app, it’s also a game. You can receive rewards for connecting with friends and family and checking in to locations. Yelp should be available on all smartphones.

More Info on the Top Restaurant Apps

Each of these restaurant apps should be available for purchase and download on most smartphones. If you have any problems downloading an app, you can talk to your provider or do an iPhone jailbreak to make it available.

Instead of choosing the same restaurant night after night, use your app to opt for adventurous dining more often. With one of the top restaurant apps in hand, choosing exciting, new cuisine is easy.

Fine Dining for the Olympics 2012

Here in late January, we are just a few short months away from the 2012 summer Olympics to take place in London, England.

Because I know that many people from around the world will be traveling to this venue to watch some of the top athletes in their sport compete to win gold for their country, I decided to find a restaurant in London (so it’s close to all the Olympic action) that looks not only delicious, but absolutely British to the core.

Our pick for best dinner in London has to go to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. I love the Dinner website! It has a modern dictionary-esque take on the concept of dinner, providing the part of speech (Noun), definition, and etymology (From Old French disner.

Let’s Talk about Food

My favorite thing about the Dinner menu is that it is all traditional English food. The appetizers sound positively medieval with names like Meat Fruit (from the 1500’s), Roast Marrowbone, and Rice and Flesh. If you get an appetizer, expect to spend about £15.00, or $23USD.

The main courses follow the same traditional English theme. I would go with the Hereford Ribeye, described as being served cooked in “Mushroom Ketchup, Red Wine Juice and Fries.” You can’t go wrong with a ribeye, right? If you want to go with something else, other choices are Powdered Duck, Spiced Pigeon, or Cod in Cider (yum!). The cheapest dinner is Braised Celery, a vegetarian option for £23.00, or about $36USD. The most expensive is the Spiced Pigeon for £33.00 or about $52USD.

The desserts look absolutely divine! A chocolate bar is on the menu, but it is made with passion fruit jam and ginger ice cream for £9.50 or $15USD. You can also choose from British Cheese (interesting dessert, no?), Lychee Frozen Ice, Brown Bread Ice Cream, or Taffety Tart. I would definitely go for the Brown Bread Ice Cream that comes from the 1830’s.

The Cost

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is a great deal for all of you fine diners out there. For all three courses, you can expect to leave paying around £55.00, which comes out to $87USD.

It seems like that is a great cost to pay for a genuine traditional British meal.

You can make a reservation online at the Heston Blumenthal website or call to speak with a member of their staff. All of the contact information is on their website.

Happy Dining!

Fine Dining in California’s Wine Country

There are few places in the United States can boast of the natural beauty and romance that is abundant in California’s wine country. As would be expected in an area that is famous for wine, there are also many fantastic fine restaurants that are that definitely fit the bill for fine diners out there.

Today, I am going to focus on one restaurant in particular that seems as though it would be a fantastic place to dine: Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg, California just of the Redwood Highway.

The fascinating thing about Cyrus Hotel is that it features either an 8-course dinner or a 5-course dinner.

When I looked over the 8-course menu, called the “Tasting Menu,” it had options like “Foie Gras Torchon with Quince,” “Roasted Lobster with Cauliflower Cream, Uni Emulsion,” and “42 Hour Short Rib with Potato, Mustard Greens and Crimini, Sauce Bordelaise.” In addition to these mouth-watering dinner selections, the Tasting Menu has 3 courses of dessert.

Like the 8-course menu, the Five Course Menu has very similar options, but the dishes you can taste are more limited.

For the Tasting Menu, you should expect to pay $135 per person, and for the Five Course Menu, expect to pay $108.

Not only is the food amazing, but as you would expect, the wine is reputed to be fantastic as well. There are 45 pages filled with hundreds of different kinds of wine from all over the world.

After looking over the wine menu, my eyes rested on a pretty impressive number. $6750. That is how much the Cyrus Restaurant’s most expesive bottle of wine costs.

On average, if you come eat at the Cyrus Restaurant, you should expect to pay around $300 for a bottle of wine. It is definitely possible to spend less than this, but from what I have seen $300 is probably the average.

One reviewer said of the Cyrus Restaurant:

“When people ask where I’ve had my favorite meal, this is it. Each one of the eight courses is exceptional beyond compare. Although the menu changes seasonally, it seems as though more often than not they will include the amazing bone marrow custard, pork belly, and short rib, which are all the best I have had in my short but well-fed time on earth.”

Another reviewer said that the Cyrus Restaurant was the “best restaurant in [the] bay area, if not country, bar none.”

So there you have it! If you happen to find yourself in California’s wine country hungry for a fine dining experience, try out the Cyrus Restaurant.

The Most Expensive Restaurant in the World

The Most Expensive Restaurant in the WorldWhen people think of the most expensive restaurant in the world, they most likely think of a grandiose building with many elegant decorations, live music, and delicious options for the meal.

What you would not expect, however, is for there to be no menu, no requests on cuts or doneness of meat, and no dessert.

However, as noted in Forbes Magazine, the most expensive restaurant in the world, Aragawa, does not have the usual characteristics of a fine dining restaurant.

Environment

The original location of this restaurant, which was the first steakhouse in Japan, was in the basement of an office building. There was no music, valet parking, or even windows.

However, since the original restaurant opened, it has since moved to Onarimon. The restaurant has moved to street level and now has distinguishable decorations, but still has no music or valet parking.

There are only six tables in the restaurant, making reservations extremely hard to come by. Despite the $300-$500 tab per meal, per person, the restaurant is usually full.

Menu

There is no paper or written menu at Aragawa. The waiters will verbally tell you your options. However, there certainly are not many.

You have the option of an appetizer or salad. You will then be served lightly toasted white bread with butter.

The Most Expensive Restaurant in the WorldThe restaurant only serves Kobe beef for the main dish. The options you do have include the grade (premium and super premium) or weight (12, 16, or 20 ounces). They do not ask you what cut of beef you want or how you would like it cooked.

The steak is seasoned with pepper, grilled, then served with only a side of mustard. The restaurant is known for having the juiciest, fattiest, and most tender Kobe beef. Despite the large price tag, many people find this to be worth it. Others argue that they will never return because it is far too expensive.

No dessert is served at Aragawa.

Kobe Beef

True Kobe beef can only be found in Japan. Kobe beef cows are raised in a very specific way. The average Kobe beef cow in Japan is treated better than most people. These cattle are massaged by hand daily, fed a bottle of beer, listen to classical music, go for regular walks, and are brushed. The idea behind this is that happy cows make tastier beef.

Aragawa has a relationship with a specific farm that they get all of their beef from, so customers know they truly are getting the best.

Kobe beef can be sold for up to $800 per pound, so many believe that the profit margin for the restaurant is very small.

Conclusion

If people are planning on dining at Arawga, they must make reservations well in advance and be willing to pay a pretty penny for their meal. Although this restaurant is popular among many people, others think it is ridiculous.
It is worth researching fine dining restaurants before you decide to attend so you know what you are getting yourself into.

What to Expect at a Fine Dining Restaurant

What to Expect at a Fine Dining RestaurantSome of you may frequent fine dining restaurants and know what to expect and wear. However, there are many people who have never experienced fine dining and wonder what they should anticipate when attending. This article is meant for people who are new to the fine dining experience.

In general, fine dining restaurants are small businesses. Most fine dining restaurants are not chain restaurants; they may only have one or two locations.

Fine Dining Menu

Menus at fine dining restaurants will almost always be very different from menus at traditional or casual restaurants. Because fine dining restaurants are usually attended on special occasions, most restaurant owners strive not to disappoint in selection or quality.

Fine dining restaurants will not feature a huge menu. They will most likely offer items that customers would not normally see at a restaurant. In fact, many fine dining restaurants offer prix fixe menus. This means the restaurant offers limited menus that change on a daily or weekly basis. The advantages to these types of menus are that owners can buy seasonal items at their peak of freshness and the chef can use his creativity to design dishes.

Fine dining restaurants are full service restaurants. The food portions will most likely be smaller than at other restaurants, but it will also be much more visually appealing.

Fine dining restaurants will only offer top shelf liquors. Most will also have an array of cognacs, brandies, and other after dinner drinks. Many times, actually, a wine will be paired with a specific dish.

Fine Dining Customer Service

When you attend a fine dining restaurant, you will quickly realize that customer service is much more attentive. The staff at fine dining restaurants will be heavily trained and most likely wear formal attire.

While all fine dining restaurants are a little different, it would not be out of the ordinary for servers to escort you to the table or restroom, crumb the table between courses, replace napkins if you get up from the table, explain menu items, and serve food directly to the plate already on the table.

You will find that no detail is too small at a fine dining restaurant.

Fine Dining Atmosphere

Decorations at fine dining establishments will have higher quality materials than you would find at casual restaurants. The restaurant will most likely use fine china, glassware, and flatware. The music of the restaurant will reflect the theme and the lighting will most likely be dim.

Some fine dining establishments may require a dress code. If the restaurant specifies to wear a jacket, men should do so. Women should then choose attire that is equal in dress as the man’s jacket. Other restaurants may be more casual elegant, so women may dress in fancy, but not formal, dresses and men in suits.

General Table Manners

Now that you know what to expect at a fine dining restaurant, you may review the following list of general table manners according to All Food Business:

-Sit up fairly straight
-Keep your elbows in
-Spread your napkin on your lap when you are seated
-Large dinner napkins are half folded
-Small napkins opened full size
-At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the plate
-Wait until all are served before beginning to eat
-Use the silverware farthest from your plate first
-Only cut one or two small pieces of meat at a time
-Always pass to the right
-Eat in small, slow bites
-Place used silverware on the dish to which it belongs
-Replace your chair after a meal
What to Expect at a Fine Dining Restaurant

6 Rules for Fine Dining

6 Rules for Fine DiningNo, you probably won’t use these tips and tricks at your niece’s 3rd birthday party or at the spaghetti house, but whether you’re a high-paid city slicker who is a frequenter on the gourmet scene or simply trying to prepare for a work awards banquet or high-class date, these rules are going to apply to you.

1. Soup and Pudding- While eating soup, your bowl should always stay on the table, never pick it up and slurp like you would your fruity pebbles on a Saturday morning. Soup spoons come in two shapes, one shaped like a bowl, the other like an egg. Do not slurp, and never put the entire spoon in your mouth–simply drink from the edge.

2. Knives and Forks- If setting a table, always remember that forks go on the left side of the plate while knives and spoons go on the right. If a table has been set with several of each utensil, it’s generally safe to move from the outside in. Begin with the sliverware furthest from your plate for the first course, and work your way in.

6 Rules for Fine Dining3. Body and Seating- If your table has no seating chart or place cards, wait to be seated by your hostess. The host always sits at the end of the table and his wife will sit to his right. Never sit in either of these two seats. When seated, always leave your feet firmly panted on the floor, sit up straight, and never put your elbows on the table.

4. Bread- Use your bread plate that should be displayed on the left hand side of your main plate. If there is no bread plate (and this may sound surprising), it’s acceptable to place your bread on the table next to your dinner plate. You should never put bread directly onto your dinner plate.

5. Conversation- Topics to never discuss at the table unless with a group you know very well: religion, politics, or sex. These subjects often spark controversy and are better shared over drinks at the bar or over coffee in your own home. Fine dining should always be a pleasant experience, do not ruin the dining experience of others by imposing your opinions on them while you eat. Also, it’s important to carry on coversations that everyone at the table can participate in. Save inside jokes, private conversations, gossip, and secrets for the playground please.

6. Fine Dining Dont’s:
-Don’t complain if you don’t like a certain dish
-Don’t blow on a dish to cool it down, wait for it to cool
-Don’t photograph the table (it’s isn’t classy)
-Don’t treat servers poorly
-Don’t overstay your welcome

With these simple etiquette rules and tips, no one will be able to tell if you frequent fine restaurants or if you usually go through the drive-through. Test yourself at a casual dinner sometime, etiquette rules can become quite the game.

Top 5 most expensive restaurants in America

  1. The French Laundry in Yountville, CA has an average check size of $957. The owner of this restaurant also owns the second most expensive restaurant in America. Their website states that “a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience… a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven’t been before.”
  2. Per Se located in New York City. Main chef and owner, Thomas Keller also is the owner of French Laundry. The average check size at Per Se will run you about $883. Per Se is the “urban interpretatoin of The French Laundry.”
  3. Michael Mina in San Francisco will cost you about $844 on average. It is described as”Japanese ingredients and a French influence.”
  4. Alinea in Chicago. The average ticket here is $736. In May of 2010 this restaurant was listed as number seven in a list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It was also in Chicago Magazine as the best restaurant in Chicago in a list of 40.
  5. Charlie Trotters is the fifth most expensive restaurant in America at an average check amount of $666. This restaurant is in Chicago as well. It was in third place on the list done by the Chicago Magazine in May of 2010. The owner recently said: “I do not want guests walking out of the restaurant feeling as if they over-indulged because of excessive cream, butter, and alcohol. I want them to feel stimulated and alert, knowing that they will be able to look forward to breakfast the following morning. Food doesn’t have to be rich to taste good.”

Aphrodisiac Deserts

Many foods are thought to be an aphrodisiac. According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration, goods that are believed to be aphrodisiacs may seem to work because the mind thinks they work. Nonetheless, with a “sexy food” you have nothing to lose.

Here are a few foods you can use to make aphrodisiac desserts:

1- Pineapples and Strawberries dipped in chocolate: Pineapples and strawberries are high in vitamin C and help to boost energy and elevate mood. Chocolate releases Phenylethylamine and Serotonin which are feelings of happiness and increased energy.

2- Fruitcake with Strawberries and Pine Nuts: Pine nuts are high in zinc, which is known as a male aphrodisiac.

3- Bananas and Whipped Cream with Cinnamon: Bananas are high in potassium and vitamin B with help to stimulate hormone production.

4- Cinnamon Buns: According to Dr. Alan Hirsch- the small of cinnamon is an aphrodisiac. Baking cinnamon buns will fill your home with the smell of cinnamon.

5- Honey and Vanilla Ice Cream: The smell of vanilla is also an aphrodisiac. Honey is known to increase levels of vitric oxide in the bloodstream which can also help to set the mood.

These are some fun desserts to try with your significant other this summer.

Smith & Wollensky

Does the tagline “You’ve Arrived” mean anything to you? If not, it will. Smith & Wollensky is a premier steakhouse where political figures, celebrities, and those who appreciate fine dining experience elegant food.

Smith & Wollensky is almost an elite restaurant, having only nine locations in prime cities. It was established in 1977 in New York. Now, the signature green and white building is known for luxury. The nine locations include the iconic restaurant in New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, Columbus, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.,  and Boston. An additional Smith & Wollensky is being built in another part of Boston this summer.

So what is the Smith & Wollensky claim to fame? Although the restaurant has been in several Hollywood flicks like “The Breakup” of “The Devil Wears Prada,” the food is more noteworthy. Smith & Wollensky is the only national steakhouse to dry-age and butcher on site.

Dry-aging is a process used to make meat more flavorful and tender. Smith & Wollensky places fresh beef in coolers for several weeks, usually up to 28 days. The top 2% cuts the restaurant uses dry-ages with near perfect marbling for intense flavor.

When it comes to lobster, they fly fresh fish in daily. Every side and pastry is made by hand daily as well.

To top off the experience, Smith & Wollensky has top honors from Wine Spectator magazine for excellence. The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence requires interesting selections, wide range of appeal, and appropriate to cuisine. Smith & Wollensky has some of the best wines the United States produces.

One of the intriguing qualities about this steakhouse is the dress code. For such a classy and quality restaurant, Smith & Wollensky encourages comfort above anything else. Some guests prefer suits, while others dine casual.

Overall, Smith & Wollensky’s is fine dining at its finest.