A sure sign that I ate ridiculously well in 2011—a dish of toro tartare and caviar made by Chef Masa Takayama didn’t even crack this year’s top ten. As another year comes to close, it’s become tradition to reflect upon where I’ve been and what I’ve eaten. It was a daunting task choosing my favorite savory dishes of the year, but after careful consideration and conferring with The Astronomer, I finally managed to whittle down the candidates. Without further ado, here are the ten best savory dishes that I ate this year…
Duck for Two from Eleven Madison Park in New York City, NY
Dry-aged for two weeks and roasted with honey and lavender, the Muscovy duck arrived at the table looking positively glorious. I’d never laid eyes on a more beautiful bird. The duck was served with a celery and rhubarb compote and a rhubarb puree. The meat was perfectly tender with a succulent ring of fat, while the skin was caramelized and crisp.
Smoked Meat from Schwartz’s Montréal Hebrew Delicatessen in Montréal, Canada
The hand-sliced meat was stacked tall between two slices of light rye bread with a bit of yellow mustard. The seemingly simple sandwich packed an impressive punch. The meat was flavorful, moist, and tender, while the bread was soft but sturdy enough to keep the meat in its proper place. Mustard, coleslaw, and pickles were just the tangy accompaniments needed to punctuate the wonderful smoked meat.
Preserved Pork with Wild Mushrooms from YunChuan Garden in Monterey Park, CA
The salty slices of Chinese prosciutto, coupled with the toothsome mushrooms, had my chopsticks coming back for more all evening long. The combination of jalapenos and dried chilies gave this dish a traditional spicy profile rather than a flavor dominated by Szechuan peppercorns like the other dishes we enjoyed at YunChuan Garden.
Tomahawk Chop from Jean Georges Steakhouse in Las Vegas, NV
The Angus 300 Australian Tomahawk Chop had a beautiful sear, while the well-marbled meat was juicy and so very beefy. The best part was gnawing on the huge rib alongside my friend and fellow blogger Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes. The meat is tenderest at the bone.
Totten Inlet Mediterranean Mussels from Steelhead Diner in Seattle, WA
The local waters must be laced with growth hormone because these babies were the plumpest things ever! The mussels were served in a most delectable Veracruzano broth with cured olives, garlic, onions, tomatoes, Spanish chorizo, serrano peppers, and cilantro.
Grilled Toro at Mori Sushi in Los Angeles, CA
The grilled toro, which was painted with Mori’s special soy sauce, tasted like the tenderest filet mignon. The Astronomer and I couldn’t get over how spectacular the flavor and textures were. Hands down, the most incredible piece of the night’s omakase.
Duck Tongues from Mai Xuan Canh in Saigon, Vietnam
The luoi vit Sapo, stewed duck tongues with chilies and lemongrass, came swimming in a bubbling brew so delicious that we ordered baguettes to sop it up. The tongues were served on the bone, which required a bit of maneuvering to extract. The texture of the tiny overhang was awesomely snappy and so very supple. I need more duck tongues in my life.
Beef Ribs at Coop’s West Texas Barbecue in Lemon Grove, CA
The highlight of the plate for both The Astronomer and me was the nearly foot-long beef ribs. The herb and spice rub, with its distinct rosemary essence, was totally enchanting. The meat, which had a nice crust and moist meat, came cleanly off the bone. No sauce necessary.
Menudo at Rico Menudo Estilo Guadalajara in Tijuana
The bowl of soup arrived loaded with tendon and tripe. Bill garnished it expertly with diced onions, fresh cilantro, dried oregano, and dried chilies. Served on the side were warm tortillas for dipping. The pieces of tendon and tripe were pleasantly chewy, while the broth was spicy and soulful. On this slightly chilly day, I could not have asked for a more perfect breakfast.
Pigtails at Night + Market in Los Angeles, CA
The fried pig tails, which were beautifully caramelized and incredibly tender, came dressed in a tangy, chili-laced vinaigrette. There wasn’t much meat on the bone, just a mouthful of deliciously fatty bits.
The Year in Delicious 2010: