I'd have to say the best dish I ate this year is a toss-up between two sandwiches and a hot dog. The first is a signature dish of the famed Le Comptoir in Paris, their croque monsieur. Available with either the classic French ham or smoked salmon and caviar, this sandwich oozes with expertly melted cheese and the ideal ratio of fillings to buttery bread. The second is a Shake Shack hot dog (arguably one of the best in New York City), topped with cheese sauce and sport peppers (pictured) — an "off the menu" item. Last, but not least, is the lobster roll from Pearl Oyster Bar in New York City — a true model of sandwich perfection.
Next year I'm looking forward to indulging in a meal at Del Posto, mainly to sink my fork into chef Mark Ladner's 100-layer lasagna.
My favorite meal from 2011? Farmer's Feast at Blue Hill Stone Barns at the peak of the September harvest. I love the tomato burgers, and they brought out this gluten-free bread that had us all swooning. My favorite dish was the fresh farm egg, which was perfectly tender, cooked white with a golden molten yolky center. I believe it was served with mushrooms (pictured). Oh, it was amazing.
Next year I'm looking forward to going back to Il Cantinori for their veal milanese — so good. They've been shut because of a fire for about two months now, though.
The best thing I ate last year would have to be this amazing risotto I had at The Lion in New York City. It was with zucchini flowers, squash, ricotta salata, and had an egg yolk nestled right in the center. It was so simple, though divinely intense in flavor, especially with the ricotta salata. A close second is the wild rice, pepper, and herb-stuffed whole branzino at Le Souk that was also fairly basic, but so bold in taste with all of those Moroccan spices.
And as for this year, I have been wanting to try Buvette’s croque madame (pictured) like it’s no one’s business. Something about the idea of prosciutto instead of ham in this sandwich kills me.
The best thing I ate this year was the toro sushi (pictured) at Sushi Gen in Los Angeles. (It’s a dish, not a meal, but I sat at the sushi bar so the meal consisted of a ton of mini orders.)
The dish I'm most looking forward to eating next year is a chicken biscuit from Pies 'n' Thighs in Brooklyn, N.Y.
As far as 2011 goes, the best thing I ate comes from a weekend in Las Vegas in October, when I was invited to dinner at BARMASA where, blessedly, the menu was pre-set by Masa himself. His uni risotto with white truffle (pictured) and toro tartare with caviar are fighting for top spot of the best meal I’ve eaten all year, so I’ll let them share the honor.
I’ll be in Peru for New Year’s Eve this year and in my neurotic and excited research, I’ve read story upon salivating story about the amazing food. Of course, I can’t wait for fresh ceviche at holes in the wall and bright pisco sours, but I’m really looking forward to traditional causas (Peruvian potatoes with chile, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and served with shrimp, quail eggs, and tomatoes), cuy (guinea pig), and deep fried “truffles” filled with bittersweet dark chocolate at Astrid y Gastón.
The best dish I ate this year was the oyster pan roast at The John Dory Oyster Bar in New York City (pictured). Although not new to the scene, it was new to me this year — a dish that had been on my wish list since the restaurant reopened, and once I finally had it, a dish so good I was furious at myself for not having tasted it sooner. Rich, creamy, buttery, decadent — all those overused food descriptors, the pan roast has them in spades. And you just know, those fat, plumped-up oysters sitting at the bottom of the bowl, soaking it all up, have never had a better gig.
As far as the dish I'm most looking forward to in 2012, this summer I have a trip planned to one of my favorite food cities: Florence. In lieu of taking the easy (albeit honest) road and simply saying “I’m looking forward to eating everything,” I’ll single out the Bollito sandwich at Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale — a no-frills boiled beef sandwich dressed simply with jus and all the spicy pepper trimmings in good crusty bread.
For my favorite dish of the year, I would have said the revelatory pepperoni pizza I had when I finally made my way to Di Fara before those recent health code violations, or maybe the marrow bone with chimichurri at Animal, or the Spam fries at Maharlika. But, perhaps, the most intense taste memory of the year was the bak kut teh I had at Ya Hua on my last night in Singapore. I’d already eaten four meals that day, but the peppery bowl of spareribs and broth checked all my boxes: surprising, comforting, accessible, unique, satisfying. I couldn’t get enough.
New Orleans is a food odyssey that I’m almost embarrassed to say that I haven’t been on yet. There are so many restaurants — August, Cochon, Mother’s — and foods — beignets, crawfish étouffée, po’ boys — to cover. The one thing that I particularly lust after is the original muffaletta from Central Grocery (pictured).
I ate a lot of wonderful food in 2011, but I just had a dinner so remarkable that I'm tempted to call it my best meal of the year. The occasion was the Alex's Lemonade Stand benefit, in an event space above Barbuto in Manhattan. An astonishing array of chefs — Bloomfield, Colicchio, Vetri, Bradley, Samuelsson, Phan, Waxman of course, and many more, each cooked for a table of ten. "My" chef was Nancy Silverton of Mozza in L.A., who fed us exquisite burrata made moments before (it needed nothing more than alittle sea salt); denseorecchiette cloaked in an intense sausage-chard sauce, denser than the one at left, with seasoned breadcrumbs (the poor man's parmigiano in southern Italy); and slices of gorgeous rare beef rib chops with a charred salty crust so good I wanted to lick it off, along with a jungle of crisp, bitterish greens. I could have eaten three helpings of each, and probably did.
In the year to come, I hope to be able to sample some of Moreno Cedroni's "susci" outside Ancona, on Italy's eastern coast, and some good roasted goat in Monterrey.