The Best Things We Ate in 2015

At The Daily Meal — no surprise — we like our food
Contributor
tuna

Bridget Creel

Seared tuna with shredded vegetables and glass noodles; from The Bakery in Mal Pais, Costa Rica

We're a hungry bunch, always ready for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and rarely known to refuse a snack, sweet or savory, when it appears. We eat a lot of ordinary, every-day food, like bagels, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, ribs — and also sometimes something fancy, be it caviar or sushi or a really great steak. We have vegetarians on our staff, and healthy eaters; we also have a few people (they know who they are) who will eat, and draw genuine pleasure from, almost anything. We also travel a lot, whether it's going home to the family for holiday weekends or heading off on some adventurous trek or other on vacation. Our menu, in other words, is immense. 

Throughout the year, we keep track of the things we particularly enjoy eating, often writing about them, but at the least remembering them and adding those memories to our culinary education. And around this time each year, we ask our staff to share with readers what dishes they particularly liked in the course of the previous 12 months. Proving that our editors are a well-traveled bunch, we've cited dishes enjoyed everywhere from Singapore to Cairo to Norcross, Georgia‚ as well as our hometown of New York City, of course. Some of these dishes are not easily reproducible — they involved private meals or special events or once-only combinations of ingredients — but many of them are. Even those that aren't, we hope, will perhaps offer some inspiration.

Here, then, are the best things some of our editors ate all year

Colman Andrews, Editorial Director

Charred leeks with hazelnuts and brown butter at Burnt Ends in Singapore. I loved everything about this restaurant — the buzzy atmosphere, the fires roaring in the big cast-iron ovens and glowing under the grills, the irresistible menu, the quirky wine list. Maybe my favorite of all the dishes I had was this one: leeks seriously blackened in the fire, stripped of their burnt skin, chopped, and sauced with brown butter — called beurre noisette, hazelnut butter, in French for its color — enhanced with actual chopped hazelnuts. Heavenly.

Cheese and onion pie at The Three Fishes in Mitton, Lancashire. This part of England is famous for, among other foods, its savory pies. This one, at one of the Ribble Valley pubs run by chef Nigel Haworth, is simplicity itself: a shortcrust pastry filled with melting bits of onion and lots of gorgeous Lancashire cheese.

truffles

Colman Andrews

Frisée aux truffes at La Beaugravière

Frisée aux truffes at La Beaugravière in Mondragon, not far from Avignon in the Rhône Valley. Guy Jullien, the owner–chef of this modest-looking hotel–restaurant off the Route Nationale, is one of France's great truffle specialists, and when he shaves his black diamonds over a perfectly dressed curly endive salad, he doesn't stint. Of course, the thing costs what dinner for two would run at a casual Manhattan restaurant, but it is just extraordinary.

Snipe and woodcock pithivier, prepared by chef Ross Lewis for my birthday dinner at his Chapter One in Dublin. Pieces of these rich-flavored little game birds enclosed in a glazed puff pastry case, moistened with truffle sauce, added up to a memorable birthday centerpiece indeed. This is the kind of cooking that gives "old-fashioned" a good name.

Swiss chard enchiladas at El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs, Sonoma County, California. What a way to eat your vegetables — organic local chard inside freshly made tortillas (from freshly made masa), with a tomato–habanero salsa, a drizzle of crema, and a scattering of cotija. One of the many reasons why this roadside treasure is a must whenever I visit Northern California.

Abigail Abesamis, News Editor

sushi chef

Abigail Abesamis

Sushi Nakazawa in New York City

Mackerel nigiri, Edomae style, as part of chef Daisuke Nakazawa’s omakase menu at Sushi Nakazawa in New York City. Nakazawa’s food is delicious in itself, with the choice of ingredients and expert preparation, but the opportunity to interact with him and taste the pieces of sushi he prepared moments after it left his expert hands made a truly delicious meal taste even better.

Tortilla española at an unnamed café in Madrid. The flavor of the first authentic tortilla española I'd had in three years, at just an ordinary place somewhere in the city, brought back memories of my travels in Spain, my host mom when I was a student in the Spanish capital, and the experience of living in and adapting to a foreign country for the first time.

Vanilla-glazed mini-doughnuts at the Doughnuttery in Chelsea Market in New York City. Unlike any doughnuts I’ve had before, these adorable and delicious little things, made fresh right in front of you, are like heavenly bits of funnel cake.

Angela Carlos, Cook Editor

crab

Flickr / T.Tseng / CC BY 4.0

Crab and Ice at Grace in Chicago.

Crab and Ice at Grace in Chicago. This is a crab dish that has a sheet of sugar across the top that you break to combine all the components. It is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever eaten.

Fried chicken and collard greens at Colonnade in Atlanta. This is my favorite fried chicken. It's always crisp, it's always hot, and it's never greasy or bland — enjoyed with a side of braised collards, there really isn’t anything better.

Bridget Creel, Healthy Eating Editor

acai bowl

Bridget Creel

Juice Generation, New York City

Açaí bowl from Juice Generation, New York City. The base of this dish is a smoothie, which is made with fresh fruit and frozen açaí berries. The toppings included nuts, coconut flakes, blueberries, banana, and almond butter. I discovered this when I wanted to have something more filling than a smoothie for breakfast.

Lobster at Camden Harbor Inn, Camden, Maine. After attending Vinfest 2015, I had the pleasure of sitting down with chefs from all over the world for a lobster lesson. I learned that every part of the lobster tastes very different and that you may need someone strong to help you crack it open!

The entire cuisine of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. My days in Playa Santa Teresa consisted of fresh fruit, shaved vegetables, homemade pasta, grilled fish, and a lot of sauvignon blanc. Usually when I go on vacation, I feel sluggish after but all the food in this town was so fresh and flavorful. It's no wonder Costa Ricans are the happiest people in the world!

Joanna Fantozzi, News Editor

Foie gras-stuffed roasted whole chicken at the NoMad, New York City. I was surprised I liked this dish, simply because I am usually "meh" about foie gras, but this pricey specialty was so artfully prepared and the chicken itself was so incredibly juicy, that it's no wonder it's one of the best-known dishes in the city.

bread soup

Joanna Fantozzi

Eataly (New York City)

Bread soup with olive oil-poached cod served at an Eataly (New York City) cooking class by Moreno Cedroni, the owner–chef of Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigalia, near Ancona, and several other restaurants in Italy. I have to admit I was skeptical at first: fish on top of bread soup? What? But this was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The finishing touch of the cod-mayo sauce drizzled on top of the tender, flavorful fish really made the dish stand out.

pancakes

Joanna Fantozzi

Two Door Tavern in Brooklyn

Red velvet pancakes from Two Door Tavern in Brooklyn. Simply put, the best, most indulgent brunch dish I have ever tasted. The three large red velvet pancakes arrive topped with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar and cream cheese frosting, of course.

Hayden Field, Travel Editor

Ful medames, at home in Cairo. When I was visiting Cairo’s Maahdi neighborhood for two weeks this summer, my friend Nagat’s mother made us ful usually once a day. It’s a simple but delicious dish of fava beans with spices, eaten with bread as the utensil.

Enchiladas from El Torero in Norcross, Georgia. I've sampled Mexican food everywhere I’ve ever traveled, but El Torero remains the place responsible for the very best enchiladas I’ve ever had. The flavors are blended perfectly, alongside perfectly cooked rice and beans.

The Guac Burger at By Chloe in New York City. This burger from Bleecker Street’s new vegan restaurant has a black bean-quinoa-sweet potato patty, which is combined with guacamole, onion, corn salsa, tortilla strips, and chipotle aioli, all on a whole-wheat bun. Legendary.

Lindsey Gaterman, Drink Editor

The vegan mac and cheese at New York City's By Chloe. I’m not sure if I loved it so much because it tasted just like real mac and cheese, or if it’s because I didn’t feel sick afterwards (like you usually do when you indulge in too much comfort food). With cashew cheese and shiitake bacon, it resembles the real thing, but it’s still refreshing and light. How do they do it?

Kate Kolenda, Restaurant and City Guide Editor

A simple heirloom tomato salad, served to me and my mother at her birthday dinner at Benoit in Midtown Manhattan, totally stopped us both in our tracks. The fruit was sourced from the Union Square Farmers Market, and it completely refreshed us on that muggy July evening.

eggs

Kate Kolenda

Il Gattopardo

The uova all’amatriciana at Il Gattopardo, across the street from the Museum of Modern Art, serves an awesome brunch in the breathtaking space that formerly housed Aquavit. I’m a huge fan of guanciale, and the just-right spicy tomato sauce in this dish, into which eggs are nestled, is chock-full of porky guanciale goodness, and there’s toast on the side. I’d start every day with this dish if I could.

Brown butter toast topped with squash and made-in-house-that-morning mozzarella at Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. While he was still cooking there, the now-former head chef served this to me. I swooned so hard I almost fell off my bar stool.

cocktail

Kate Kolenda

Stanton Social on Manhattan's Lower East Side

The Notorious F.I.G., a cocktail at Stanton Social on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Not only is it a clever moniker, it’s also totally delicious — Bulleit Bourbon, fresh fig, pear-cinnamon syrup, and fresh lemon.

The carnitas taco at Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The restaurant is inside a tortilla factory, and while the space has the least number of “frills” I’ve ever seen (it’s lit with blue neon lights and the dining area is technically in the factory), it also serves incredibly fresh tortillas, which in turn makes their tacos way better than most of the others I’ve had here in my hometown.

Dan Myers, Eat/Dine Editor

tacos

Dan Myers

La Taqueria in San Francisco

The carnitas and steak tacos at San Francisco’s legendary La Taqueria. Seriously, I didn’t know that tacos could be this good. They were simple and perfect. Transcendent, even. A great taco is all about the meat, and the meat here is as good as it gets.

pork sandwich

Dan Myers

DiNic’s in Philadelphia

The roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone from DiNic’s in Philadelphia. Like La Taqueria, it completely lived up to the hype, and this very well might be the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

gnocchi

Dan Myers

Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lambs Club in New York City

Gnocchi made from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm potatoes, with brown butter, sage, and a pile of shaved Burgundy truffle from the October tasting menu at Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lambs Club in New York City — rich, comforting, and mind-blowingly delicious.

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