As we ring in the new year across the globe, many are taking a moment to reflect on the past year as well. I am so grateful for an incredible year filled with delicious culinary discoveries, foodie adventures and some amazing people who have led/inspired/excited/included/joined me along the way.
Here is a shortlist of my 'best bites' of 2011 (I am sure I am forgetting something or other, but here goes):
Most Mind-Blowing Dishes I Almost Didn't Eat, They Were So Beautiful:
Who: Michael Cimarusti from Providence
Where: Los Angeles - Breadbar Ibaraki benefit
Why: So simple, yet so incredibly creative and beautiful
Who: Ludo Lefebvre
Where: Los Angeles - LudoBites 007
Why: Looks like Christmas morning (forest floor morning after snowfall, perfect and untouched by human hand), tastes like summer spa getaway
What: Miso-Sake Glazed Black Cod Taco, Wasabi Guacamole, Pickled Shishito Peppers
Who: Brock Kleweno
Where: Los Angeles - Yamashiro Farmer's Market (Seasonal) / Komida
Why: Fine dining quality fusion street food under $10! - amazing combinations of ingredients that are simply crazy delicious and addictive
Who: Sang Yoon
Where: Los Angeles - Lukshon
Why: Pork belly AND fried pig ear. Mix of savory/sweet/tart flavors and juicy/crunchy/crispy textures is incredible and instantly addictive. Makes me want to quit my day job and camp out in Culver City every day waiting for Lukshon to open for lunch.
Best Street Food Actually Served on the Street
Who: Sri Windsor Cafe
Where: Hollywood Farmers Market
Why: Takes your taste buds on vacation to Thailand without requiring air travel, every Sunday morning.
Best Things I Put in My Mouth That Were Alive Minutes Prior:
What: Chili / Black Pepper Crab
Who: Long Beach Seafood / Da Dong by Fatty Weng
Why: Unbridled, incredible flavors that miraculously do not overwhelm freshness and sweetness of the crab meat
What: Live Shrimp
Who: Budaoweng (DIY hot pot restaurant)
Where: Hong Kong
Why: These guys are gigantic, and so fresh they literally leaped out of their bowl before we could dunk 'em into hot broth to cook. Also, DIY hot pot was so much fun as a small group activity - and Budaoweng gets top points for presentation as well as high quality ingredients served in an upscale setting.
What: Port Wine Barrel Oyster Stew / Crab in Shaoxing Wine with Steamed Egg Whites
Where: Hong Kong
Why: Wine infused seafood!!!
Best Form of Fowl Play
Who: Yung Kee
Where: Hong Kong
Why: It's so perfect it's 'not fair' that it's so far away from LA. Fat/meat ratio and flavor - probably because the family roasts their birds fresh daily on the premises and have been doing it for generations.
Best 'Shrooms To Give Legal Foodie High
Who: 8 1/2 Taverna (now closed)
Where: Los Angeles - Studio City
Why: It's genius. Gorgeous truffle shaved thinner than paper, dropped over mascarpone fondue and mozzarella with shitake mushrooms on fluffy crust - one whiff and you lose all control of your senses. But the place has since closed - which is one of the reasons for this blog - I hope that in talking about incredible and lesser known places like 8 1/2 Taverna, that it will in some way, no matter how small, help keep good food from small businesses around.
Who: Scott Conant
Where: Los Angeles - Scarpetta
Why: One of the best polentas I've had in the city. Taken over the top with amazing mushroom sauce.
Who: Michael Young
Where: Los Angeles - Ombra
Why: Fresh shaved truffle over fresh made pasta. Lush risotto with an unexpected ingredient that works perfectly together. Pastas made beautifully and creatively. In the Valley. The authentic Italian way - according to an actual Italian staffer from Italy.
Best Food Event:
What: LA Weekly Gold Standard
Who: Jonathan Gold
Where: Los Angeles - Petersen Automotive Museum
Why: Best of LA from A-list restaurants to street food fare, as well as an entire aisle of wineries, handpicked by Pulitzer-prize winning food crtiic Jonathan Gold, who is probably the only person with enough pull to bring these purveyors together to offer unlimited samples for just $60 (general admission). This event was unpretentious, well organized, generous with samples and feels truly 'for the people' - had an awesome time, can't wait til the next one - love it.
Here's to more fabulous food discoveries to come in 2012.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!