Narrowing down a year’s worth of eating to 5 memorable morsels is a challenging task.
Sure, I loved the teeny oyster sandwiches at the Dutch — just like most other food bloggers in New York — and yes the lamb tacos at Empellon are delicious. But what makes a single bite stand above the rest over the course of an entire year? I’m the first to admit that atmosphere, company, service, and many other factors influence the pleasure of a meal. So admitting that, here, in no particular order, are my best 5 meals of 2011.
Kitchen 1540 The organic beet salad with pistachio brittle and crumbled Valdeon cheese was my favorite dish of the year. It may have helped that this dish converted me to the pleasure of beets, that I interviewed Chef Paul McCabe and learned how he makes the dish, but even discarding these details, this is one incredible salad. I would happily cross the country to San Diego just to start the day with Chef McCabe’s lemon ricotta pancakes, nosh on the beet salad by the pool for lunch, and see what he has up his seasonal sleeve for dinner.
Souvlakerie Tucked between fancier restaurant options in Costa Navarino is Souvlakerie, a casual spot with appealing outdoor seating serving traditional Greek souvlaki. During my October harvest trip to Greece I sampled many wonderful morsels — too many — but what stands tall as the best bite of my trip is grilled lamb chops with rosemary. I actually had many more than one bite of these medium rare chops, so perfect and simple when paired with grilled pita bread, a fresh Greek salad, and smoky eggplant salad.
The Spotted Pig A memorable morsel sears itself so deep in your memory that you want it again. And soon. That’s what the burger at the Spotted Pig does. This might not be a surprising pick, but every time I sit down for April Bloomfield’s chargrilled burger with Roquefort and shoestring fries — on that perfectly grilled-on-all-sides bun — I’m in a happy place. Add in a couple pints of Old Speckled Hen and I’m in a very happy place. That’s what food in a gastropub should do. Whenever a burger craving strikes, this is the first burger in New York to pop into my head.
The Living Room The Maidstone hotel in East Hampton is home to the Living Room restaurant. Opening up the menu displays a commitment to the Slow Food movement, as diners can see and read details about the farms and dairies that supply the restaurant. Whether you believe in the food philosophy or not, the results are delicious. Grilled Berkshire pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree was one of the most divine moments of my dining year, and following just behind are the pork rillette ravioli and the Swedish Smorgasbord.
Locanda Vini e Olii This year I explored Brooklyn while writing restaurant reviews for the new Clean Plates 2012 Brooklyn guide. One of my favorite meals came from Locanda Vini e Olii. While I expected the often-raved about grilled duck breast to be sensational — and it is — there were many other dishes that I loved as well. A simple plate of pasta has a nourishing, powerful quality to me, and the black pepper pici with roasted onions, grana padano, and tarragon is one of my favorite plates of pasta in the city.
What were my favorite meals last year? Take a look back at my 2010 round-up of favorite culinary moments.
Happy eating in 2012!
Photo Credit: Burger at Spotted Pig by AdamKuban on Flickr