Cooking with Smoke and Direct Fire at Primitivo in the Garden District

What:

Primitivo @EatPrimitivo At this NOLA newcomer, our waitress explained that there isn't really a theme or nationality that guides the menu Primitivo, just a philosophy. That philosophy is to use local, seasonal ingredients and prepare them in some manner that involves their gigantic open-flame hearth. Smoke is the key to nearly every dish they serve here.

Where:

Off-the-beaten path between the Garden District and Center City 1800 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. New Orleans, LA 70113 [wpgmza id="289"]

When:

Perfect for dude's night out in NOLA.The decor has a masculine German beer-hall vibe with gothic calligraphy typography and distressed wood defining a majority of the aesthetic. Between the huge, hearty portions and very reasonably priced cocktails, this place was made for the bachelor party "nice-meal". While I do really like the place, I wouldn't necessarily tell NOLA first-timers to go on their first trip — there's plenty of other places in the city I think are more essential to go to first (see: Cochon, Commander's Palace, Red's Chinese, Compère Lapin, or Sylvain for example).

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There’s a Michelin Starred Chef’s Counter Hidden Inside of This Hot Dog Shop

What:

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs @BubbledogsKT A speakeasy-style high-end chef's tasting menu hides behind a curtain in the back of a hot dog shop.

Where:

SoHo near the Theatre District 70 Charlotte St. Fitzrovia, London W1T 4QG, UK [wpgmza id="299"]

When:

Based on the price point and difficulty of snagging a reservation alone, this definitely falls into the "Special Occasion Restaurant" category. Save this one for when you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or any other major occasion worth celebrating and spluging for.

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This Cozy, Neighborhood Cocktail Bar is Perfect at Any Time of Day

What:

Two Sister's Bar and Books @2sistersbar The best cocktail spot in Hayes Valley also just so happens to serve up incredibly delicious bar bites.

Where:

Hayes Valley 579 Hayes St. San Francisco, CA 94102 [wpgmza id="259"]

When:

Perfect for whenever you need a quiet bar and a great cocktail. It's an ideal date night spot, works really well for brunch as well, and is excellent for solo dining/drinking too.Their happy hour is also an excellent deal. Don't miss out on that extra special value Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 pm and Saturday or Sunday from 1 to 4 pm where you can snag $3 draft beers, $5 house wines, a $5 happy hour cocktails, or a $5 happy hour snack.

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Emeril Lagasse Still Has A Few New Exciting Tricks Up His Sleeve

What:

NOLA @NOLARestaurant One of three Emeril-owned restaurants in his hometown of New Orleans. The menu is full of Cajun classics, with plenty of unique twists to keep things interesting.

Who:

A first name is all he needs: Emeril. The dude is a legend and one of the major pioneers in food television. He has somehow managed to stay both very relevant and lovable over all of these many drastically different years.

Where:

French Quarter 534 St. Louis St. New Orleans, LA 70130 [wpgmza id="288"]

When:

Perfect for a cautious New Orleans first-timer's first foray into Cajun cuisine. The menu is quite accessible, but everything is still executed really really well. There's also plenty an experienced New Orleans eater can find to love at NOLA too.

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Impressive Cocktails and Fine Dining Small Plates with Filipino Flair

What:

1760 @1760SF A well-regarded, two-year-old, high-end restaurant that focuses on globally inspired tapas style small plates.

Who:

New Chef, Carl Foronda, has overhauled the restaurant's entire menu with dishes that include influences from his Filipino heritage.

Where:

Lower Nob Hill On Polk Street 1760 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 [wpgmza id="285"]

When:

Perfect for a date night or dinner with your parents.

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Experimental Meat-tastic Creations at Chris Cosentino’s Cockscomb

Break out the confetti and champagne!! It's a perfect ten! Chef Chris Cosentino knows exactly how to work his way into that soft spot in my heart. All it took was a few of his crazy, funky, zany, inventive, and downright delicious over-the-top meat-filled culinary creations. Yes, that's right — I'm giving this place my first and only flawless 10/10 review, so buckle up for a long one as I explain why I'm so obsessed.You may know of Chris from his many stints on food TV, but I've found myself uncontrollably drawn to him because he cooks only the kind of food that he wants to eat. With his cooking, there's no remorse for pushing people's palettes to the edge of fear. Fear? Yeah, most of his food utilizes all of the delicious miscellaneous organs and obscure cuts of meat that many other chefs won't even dare to work with that most people don't ordinarily choose to consume — frequently involving complete nose-to-tail dishes. Fortunately for me, I share his love for well-prepared organ meats.

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A Wild, Wacky, Happy-Go-Lucky Hot Doggery in NOLA

This is probably the most bizarrely happy-go-lucky place anywhere on the entire planet. On this day, torrential rain was falling from the sky, the shop's WiFi was out so the normal music source was unusable, and many of the ingredients had not and were not going to be delivered. But, that couldn't hold the Dat Dog staff down – it's not in their nature. In fact, from the moment I laid my eyes upon that gigantic, two-story, neon, multicolored building on New Orleans' Magazine Street, I knew there was something special about the place. I think passing through those Heinz mustard-colored doors functioned as a sort of portal to a comically super-happy alternate dimension.

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A Hot, New, Sexy, Southern Date Spot in the French Quarter

Let's face it. If you're in New Orleans, you're gonna end up in the French Quarter. Where you're there to take in the history or to check out the Bourbon Street madness – to drink a hurricane at Pat O'Briens or any of the other drunk-magnet bars – you're bound to end up there.Since you're definitely going to be there, you're gonna need to know of a few great places to eat. Despite it being a very touristy area, there are still many actually great places to eat. There are famed oyster halls like Acme, cheap eats classics like Central Grocery and Cafe Du Monde, and the many famous, super old-school, French dining parlors. But, you can still definitely choose wrong and end up with a really bad meal. If you want something new, exciting, and different, I've got just the place. This restaurant, Sylvain, is a hot addition to the French Quarter dining scene that's perfect for a civilized, sexy, date night full of great Southern food and cocktails.

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Vibrant, Authentic, & Upscale Thai at Kin Khao in Union Sq.

Kin Khao is a restaurant that's been on the tip of everybody's tongue from the moment it opened just over a year ago. Nearly everybody loves Thai food, but there is just something totally unique about the twists that Kin Khao interweaves to these regional classics that gets people buzzing. It's been written up in nearly every Bay Area publication – Hell, it's even been written up in the New York Times by Mark Bittman and was included as #6 on Alan Richman's 25 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015 in GQ. What could it be about this Thai spot that makes it so damned special?I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that both the chef and owner of Kin Khao have a pretty impressive food industry pedigree. Chef Mike Gaines spent a good chunk of time working at David Kinch's famed molecular gastronomy hot spot Manresa and the owner and restauranteur behind Kin Khao is a famed Bay Area food blogger named Pim Techamuanvivit whose passion for her Thai heritage guides the restaurant's concept. She also happens to be dating famed and celebrated Chef David Kinch who I'm sure has some tangential effect on the place. Yet somehow, with all of these compelling reasons to check this place out laid out in front of me, this was still only the first time I had gotten the chance to visit.

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Mike Winston’s Top 10 Best Cocktails of 2014

You guys know I eat a ton of food. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I'm also quite passionate about my cocktails. Some would even go so far as to call me a lush.Well, this year provided no shortage of impressive and outstanding cocktails (and obviously food as I've already recapped). And since the end of the year is rolling around, it only seems fair to look back and remember the best of the best cocktails as well. I've even inclcuded a list of ingredients for each drink recipe so you can try to whip them up for yourself at home... if you're particularly talented.Warning: there are some really obscure ingredients in a lot of these, a lot of them are rather complicated to concoct. Also, I don't have any of the proportions for the different parts... so good luck!

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