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Best of 2010


Pat
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I'm the worst person to start one of these threads, since I eat out less than most people and have a terrible memory. I'm also superstitious to some degree and we're nearly to the end of the year, so someone's got to do it :) .

Best in DC:

Tuna tartare, Proof

Smoked oysters, Chesapeake Room

Shrimp and noodle dish I don't know the name of, Masa 14

Best outside DC:

Lemon buttermilk pudding with huckleberry sauce, Rendezvous, Cambridge, MA

Rock Shrimp Tempura, Aka Bistro, Lincoln, MA

Various BBQ, Franklin Barbeque, Austin, TX

Gruyere popovers, Foreign and Domestic, Austin, TX

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Hm. Mine may be a little more drinks-focused, naturally.

Best in DC:

Anything with rhum agricole, Proof

Charcuterie board (with Dolin rouge!), Proof

Chicken liver mousse, Bar Pilar

"Spicy" Oyster soon-dubu-jjigae, Vit Goel

L'Abri de la Tempete "Terre Ferme" Gruit Ale (from Quebec), Churchkey

Best outside DC:

Burger, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA

Tasting menu w/beverage pairings, Journeyman, Somerville, MA

Baguette, Niedlov's Bakery, Chattanooga, TN

Soft shell crabs topped with crabmeat Yvonne, Galatoire's, New Orleans, LA

Pretty much everything, Cochon Butcher, New Orleans, LA

Cognac/Cocchi/Dolin rouge drink, Jessica Gonzalez, Death & Co., New York

"New York in the 70s", Maksym Pazuniak, The Counting Room, Brooklyn

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This year I did less dining out and fewer dining adventures than in the past, but the standouts I did have were:

Arancini, and the proscuitto & arugula piazza at Pupatella

Risotto with white truffle at CityZen

Oyster po-boy at Hank's (Old Town)

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Not all that many things have been memorable this year. Those that stand out would be:

Lobster Carpaccio - Corduroy

Fried pigs ears and testicles - Eola

King Crab Shabu Shabu - Sushi Taro

Lobster Bisque - Marcel's

Crab pasta - Casa de Sthitch

Mint Julep - Bar Uncommon, New Orleans

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I am also horrible at making these types of lists because I forget where I ate when, but here it goes anyway-

In DC:

Trummer's on Main- whole meal really

701- Quail appetizer

Pizzeria Orso- Diavolo Pizza

Againn (DC)- braised rabbit over grits

Thai Square- Pork Knuckle Stew

Elsewhere:

Hakassan in Miami

Neptune's Oyster in Boston

Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester

Hamilton's in Charlottesville where I had a great pork chop

I need to make a reservation at Casa de Sthitch, too bad that isn't on Opentable :).

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Mostly (way) out of town:

Margherita pizza at a tiny pizzeria in Naples near the waterfront

Fresh fish at Dante et Ivana near Tirrenia, Italy

The seafood and house wines at Cafe du Billy in Cinque Terra

The lobster pasta at Guscio in Genova

The seafood at Creuza de ma in Genova

The duk bo ki at any of the street concessions in Seoul

The veal at the Hilton at Schichpol Airport in the Netherlands (really! A real chef at a airport hotel. Whodathunkit?)

Grover's pot roast at Christmas

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An excellent annual ritual. half dozen here and half dozen away that come to mind without a ton of thought:

DC:

fish and chips @ Eammon's (Alexandria)

tofu pots @ Lighthouse Tofu in Rockville

chicken, gnocchi and caesar salad @ Palena Cafe

lobster roll @ DC lobster truck

risotto @ G3

sablefish @ proof

Outside DC:

hamachi tartare @ Redd in Yountville, CA

lobster roll and ipswich fried clams @ Neptune Oyster in North End, Boston

baguette, morning buns and gruyere croissant @ Clear Flour Bread in Allston, MA

ramen @ daikokuya, LA

fried chicken and waffles @ Le Pigeon, Portland, OR

pork belly cubano @ Bunk, Portland, OR (this may be America's best sandwich shop)

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Very little that was truly memorable this year. We didn't get out much, and most of it was pretty pedestrian.

Local:

The passionfruit dessert (creme brulee?) at Panino in Manassas

- the house made raviolis in curry sauce were pretty good too

Out of town

Everything at the Green Zebra, Chicago

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Mostly (way) out of town:

Margherita pizza at a tiny pizzeria in Naples near the waterfront

Fresh fish at Dante et Ivana near Tirrenia, Italy

The seafood and house wines at Cafe du Billy in Cinque Terra

The lobster pasta at Guscio in Genova

The seafood at Creuza de ma in Genova

The duk bo ki at any of the street concessions in Seoul

The veal at the Hilton at Schichpol Airport in the Netherlands (really! A real chef at a airport hotel. Whodathunkit?)

Grover's pot roast at Christmas

A dinner at a 20 or so seat restaurant in Genoa called Baldin that today, ten years later, still stands out. (fwiw, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187823-d1552152-Reviews-Baldin-Genoa_Italian_Riviera.html) This is the restaurant's website: http://www.ristorantebaldin.com/

Thousands of miles away and a decade more recent a dinner on Tuesday night at Chef Vola's in Atlantic City that, while night and day different, in its own way was every bit as good. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/473826?tag=search_results;results_list We have returned every year since I wrote this.

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I'm more of a variety seeker.

In DC, it was the Carpenter's Shelter benefit at the Birchmere, with about 25-30 restaurants bringing some of their best stuff. Then there was the DC Food Fight at the Reagan Building with some 60-70 restaurants dishing some incredible bites, including Lebanese Taverna's kibbee nayee....which I revisited six times.

Outside of DC, it had to be Sushi Sam in San Mateo, CA -- omakase all the way. I'll throw in the beef head quesadilla and the tongue taco at La Taqueria on Mission in San Francisco and the roasted marrow at 1-star Luce in San Francisco.

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D.C. Metro:

ARL - Taqueria Poblano, Lee Harrison, On the Rocks Margaritas & Steak Tacos Al Carbon - Great service!

Tandoori Nights - Chicken Vindaloo..kicked up a notch, Garlic Naan, Palak Paneer, Chana Masala

Rest. 3 - Pretty Much anything there with bacon on it! Spinach salad is one of my favorites.

D.C. Belgas - Good Frites

Corduroy - Cauliflower Soup & Some Great Tuna

Outside:

Austin - Garage Mahal - Indian Food Truck with a 20 person dragon bicycle that you can ride around town! BYOB.

Austin - Eastside Show Room, http://www.eastsideshowroom.com - Gastropub with kickA. cocktails

Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina(Just outside of Charleston) Red Drum - http://www.reddrumrestaurant.com/ - Everything here is amazing, good wine list too.

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DC:

Vadouvan Spiced Halibut, Proof

Bread Basket, Churchkey

Budino, Galileo III

Maine Lobster & Penne Cocotte, Adour

Bannoffee Pie, AGAINN

Hamachi Sashimi, Komi

Autumn Consomme, Palena

Risotto with Buffalo milk Parmesan cheese, Brussels sprouts and pine nut anchovy pesto, Tosca

Chestnut and potato gnocchi on a creamy Taleggio sauce with a ragu of Luganega sausage, Tosca

Pizze Giamette, Pizzeria Orso

Risotto with braised pork shank, Fuji apples, candied pecans, pomegranate seeds, Radius

Outside DC:

Goat Sausage wrapped in phyllo dough, Kouros Restaurant & Bar (Mykonos)

Bacon stuffed naan, Tabla (NYC) ( :) )

Whole grilled Dorade, Fisherman's Market (Santorini)

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I meant to write this seven months ago, but as so often happens, life got in the way.

It was Kavita's birthday, and I was determined to make it a special one for her - she'd had a rough year, and I was going to do everything I could to make her happy.

"When I was pregnant with Reyhan," she'd tell me, "I used to drive all the way to Fairfax to get a carryout order of Vinod's Chicken Chettinad." She's always insisted that he was the best southern Indian cook she knew.

Little did she know that twelve years later, some lunk would be sending chef Vinod a Facebook message, plotting her surprise birthday dinner.

"Chicken Chettinad with all the trimmings," I later said to him on the phone, "and whatever it costs, it costs."

"I'm going to put a couple other things for Kavita in there, too," he said.

So the afternoon of her birthday, I drove to Indique Heights to pick up my goodie bag. Both Vinod and Surfy Rahman were there, and after about fifteen minutes, they came out with the contraband. "I put a few lamb chops in, too," Vinod added. It seemed fitting that I paid in cash. I stowed the secret merchandise in my trunk, then drove to pick up the birthday girl.

I know of a beautiful park, right in the middle of a forest, with rustic cabins. I sought refuge there once, about ten years ago, when I took a one day mini-break from Karen's illness, and have returned several times since. It was a perfect venue.

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Champagne was opened immediately, and enjoyed on the porch as the autumn chill slowly arrived. As the sun was setting, I went to the car, got the surprise out of the trunk, and watched her eyes light up as she unwrapped each dish - it was all there, the Chettinad, sure, but also pudina paratha (which she asks for, as soon as she sits down, each time she goes to Indique), rice, raita - the works. And also, those lamb chops.

The problem with this cabin is that it has a cheap, 1950s-style electric stove that would have trouble even boiling water. When you eat out 360 days a year, you tend not to develop a superior cooking technique, so you have to make do with common sense and a prayer. "Hey, wait a minute," I said. "Let's try cooking this meal in the fireplace."

So I got the fire rolling, and all the food prepped (i.e., I opened the containers). Chicken Chettinad is an inherently ugly dish, especially in a carryout container, but these lamb chops? Ultra-marinated - cold, wet, sloppy - with a myriad of spices that were impossibly complex. And boy oh boy did they look good.

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I know how good they look in the pictures, but they looked even better in person, and their penetrating scent was downright Pavlovian. Plus, once the fire really got going, I took them off the flame and let the smoke become the primary cooking agent - they cooked with virtually zero bottom-generated heat for about thirty minutes - and the smoke took these lamb chops from being "unbelievably fantastic" to "one of the greatest things I've ever eaten in my life." I wish this picture did it justice, but it really doesn't capture the smoke roaring back into the pan.

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As good as the chicken was (and always is), a simple potato dish that Vinod threw together was even better. Everything was cooked on the fire, and eaten with our hands straight from the frying pan. We used the pudina paratha to pinch up the chicken and the amazing potatoes (which had cooked in the lamb juices). The lamb and the potatoes were a combination that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

The next day we took a hike and got hopelessly lost, (to the point where we started wondering if we were going to get out of the woods before dark).

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In 2010, I didn't travel much outside of a trip to Ireland, so my best meals were here in the DC area. I could go through my notes and come up with awesome dish after awesome dish, from all the best restaurants, but nothing, and I mean nothing, topped these smoked lamb chops. And I cooked them!

Happy birthday, Sidekika. smile.gif

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