2012 goes down in Gastronomy history as the tastiest year yet. There were trips to Vegas, Chicago, Boston, and the coast of Maine early in the year. When summertime rolled around, we whisked my mother away on an epic trip to London and France in celebration of her 60th birthday. Just as soon as the plane from Europe touched ground at LAX, I delved head first into an extraordinary book project that had me gorging all over Los Angeles County, uncovering and documenting the very best of what the city has to eat.
It’s gonna be damn difficult to top this Year in Delicious in the future, but I’m more than willing to try. Without further ado, here are the 10 best savory dishes that I ate this year…
Meat Fruit from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, England
Dipped in a paprika-tinged gelatin mixture at precisely 27 degrees Celsius, the chicken liver parfait looked identical to a mandarin orange. From the stem to the leaves to dimples on the peel, every detail was spot on. While the chicken liver parfait looked like a piece of citrus, it tasted like the silkiest foie gras torchon ever, with the faintest trace of orange. How the kitchen transformed chicken livers into foie gras is a mystery to me, but damn, we were all thoroughly impressed.
Escargots dans la Coquille from Les Terrasses de Corton in Burgundy, France
The escargots dans la coquille came smothered in a triple-punch of garlic, parsley, and butter. We had a ball spearing the snails with the tiny forks and removing the fleshy coils from their shells. Knowing that escargots are a Burgundian specialty, I held off on eating any while in France until we were officially in the region. These tender and buttery morsels were worth the wait!
Charcuterie and Cheese Platter from AOC in Avignon, France
Heaps of pork rilettes, a slice of gelatinous headcheese, thick cuts of salami, and beautiful cheeses of all stripes—stinky, runny, blue, hard, and creamy. Best of all were the sausages embedded with Roquefort. Served in tandem with this spread to shame all other spreads were snappy cornichons, salted butter, and bread. This, paired with several glasses of chilled white wine, was pure heaven.
Cow Pie from The Mall Tavern in London, England
Beneath the flaky pastry was a savory stew of tender beef, pearl onions, and mushrooms. While the filling was damn spectacular, what made this pie the dog’s bollocks was the beef bone in the center stuffed with marrow, breadcrumbs, and parsley.
“The Chronic” from Mom’s Burgers in Compton, CA
A double patty situation with thick-cut bacon and a fried egg in addition to the regular cast of toppings—shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped white onions, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, and a slice of tomato. The bun is of the squishy commercial variety, while the meat is hand-formed and well-seasoned with salt and coarse-ground pepper. Griddled on a flattop, the patty is cooked through and beautifully caramelized. The Chronic’s flavors and textures come together like few others can, flooding each mouthful with cheesy, savory, and tangy satisfaction.
Steamed Lobster from Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster in Harraseeket, ME
The freshly cooked lobster was served with boiled potatoes, melted butter, and a claw cracker. Taking a cue from his lobster-loving parents, The Astronomer started with the claws and worked his way down. After a bit of effort, he was rewarded with a beautiful morsel of claw meat. Dipped in warm butter, the lobster tasted like a decadent dream.
“Dry” Phnom Penh Noodles from Phnom Penh Noodle Restaurant in Long Beach, CA
Each bowl is layered with springy rice noodles, tail-on shrimp, porky odds and ends, fried garlic, and fresh cilantro, and served with a hefty hunk of stewed, tender pork for gnawing. The restaurant’s signature dish was wholly spectacular with its extraordinary garlicky hit that permeated every noodly strand. The proteins were plentiful and prepared with care. We spooned on the broth as we saw fit, making sure not to dilute too much of the bowl’s flavor.
Goat Liver Mousse from Girl and the Goat in Chicago, IL
Served alongside the smooth and pleasingly funky spread were freshly baked crumpets, pickles, smoked pear and spicy pineapple relish. While I liked the the mousse quite a bit, it was the warm and crispy-edged crumpets that stole the show. Crumpets make a fine vehicle for sweet, savory, and musty.
Kway Chap from Pailin Thai Cuisine in Hollywood, CA
A murky noodle soup with a broth reminiscent of boat noodles, but less spicy and quite possibly more funky. The odds and ends swimming in the soup made every bite a treat. There were cubes of deep-fried tofu, congealed blood, a hard boiled egg, livery bits, pork rinds, scallions, slices of beef, and fried shallots. Best of all were the tightly coiled rice sheets; I’d never experienced noodles quite like these.
Veau, tomates, faisselle, amandes from Le Chateaubriand in Paris, France
The slices of veal were practically raw with just a light sear around the edges. Complementing the unfailingly supple meat were snappy raw almonds, fresh milk cheese curds, the juiciest summer tomatoes, and fennel fronds.
The Year in Delicious 2011:
The Year in Delicious 2010: