Friday, December 31, 2010

M's Favorite Food Memories of 2010

Here we are, at the end of 2010. This year has been such a blur and the year in food has been no exception. It was so hard to pick out 10 top food memories from the year because there has been so much good food! A lot of things got left off the list that were good, including Shake Shack in its entirety. I think overall that has been one of the more significant food events of our year, since it opened in our neighborhood, making it easier for us to enjoy all the monthly custards, special concretes and special events like the entire Shacktoberfest menu. With something like that missing the list, what made it for me (A's list to come)? Here are my favorite 10 food memories of the year, in random order:

1. Waste em All burger from Grill Em All truck

The Food Network's Great Food Truck Race filmed its finale in NYC over Memorial Day weekend. We went down to the Union Square area to check it out, trying the two finalists - Grill Em All truck and Nom Nom truck - both from LA (we had been to Nom Nom in LA earlier in the year). We tried 2 different burgers from Grill Em All but my favorite (and one of the better burgers of the year) was the Waste Em All - topped with cheddar cheese, beer soaked onions and jalapeno peppers. The burger was definitely memorable (along with the yummy fries in truffle salt), and this also makes the list because we got to watch the filming and the end of the show before it aired, which was lots of fun.

2. Haribo smurfs

In the train station in Antwerp, Belgium, I found this bag of Haribo smurfs (smurfen, schtroumpfs). I haven't been able to find it anywhere else since then - not in Brussels, not in Brugge, not in the States. As soon as I tried the berry flavored smurfs, they shot up to the top of my favorite candy list. Unfortunately they're so hard to find. If you have any idea where I can find them, please help!

3. Patacon Pisao

When the Vendy Awards came around in September, one of the contenders we were really looking forward to trying was Patacon Pisao. They're usually far uptown (although they also have a place in Queens) so we had never tried them before. We tried the patacon sandwich (two flat green plaintains instead of bread, with chicken, ketchup, queso frito, lettuce, tomato and special sauce). It was delicious. We couldn't wait to get another one so we tried at the sh*tshow that was the Grub Street Food Festival where the line went in both directions, didn't move and there was no room to walk because of the mob scene (not their fault). After that failure, we ventured down to the Hester Street Fair on a different weekend they were there and had a patacon sandwich each. I got chicken again and it was quite delicious. They're opening a new location soon. I can't wait.

4. Veggie pancake from Pancakes! Amsterdam

We really wanted to try Dutch pancakes while in Amsterdam and Pancakes! Amsterdam seemed like a good choice. Dutch pancakes may look big but they're quite thin and filled with toppings so they're not that heavy. Our first pancakes there were so good that we decided while there that we would try to come back again the next day before leaving Amsterdam. I loved my veggie pancake the best - it had mushrooms, spinach, onions, tomatoes and pine nuts. Healthy and delicious!

5. Hazelnut dacquoise at the Bar Room at the Modern

Back in 2005 or 2006, I went to the Modern for an interview lunch. For dessert, I had the dacquoise. It was so good that it stuck in my head years later as one of my favorite desserts ever (along with Lahaina Grill's Iao Valley lime tart, Brasserie's frozen chocolate souffle from 2003, Perilla's cranberry apple cobbler, maybe a couple of others - since I'm more of a savory person, I can actually make a short list of favorite desserts but absolutely cannot do that with savory food). I remembered it being like a crispy upscale candy bar. When we saw the dacquoise on the bar room menu, the choice for our 6 month wedding anniversary was simple. I had the dacquoise for dessert and it actually lived up to the memory and my expectations.

6. Khao yam at Jitlada

Jitlada was a definite on our LA places to go list. We heard that their Thai food was excellent and being lovers of Thai food, we had to try it. We were not disappointed. If you love spicy food, you will also not be disappointed because they do not tone down the spicy dishes and just serve them as they should be.

We had so many good things there but my favorite was definitely the khao yam (rice salad). Khao yam, a Southern Thai specialty, consists of jasmine rice, mango, green beans, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chiles, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, bean sprouts, coconut and dried shrimp. This was one of those dishes where after you eat it, the only thing left to say is, wow, when can I have it again? Unfortunately for us, we cannot find it anywhere other than Jitlada and we live across the country from Jitlada! While there, I was googling khao yam looking for places in NYC ... and google sent me links to posts about Jitlada. Oh well. A must for our next trip to LA.

7. Fish Soup at Cambrinus

We got into Brugge, Belgium late in the evening after spending the entire afternoon in Antwerpen, so we ventured somewhere close to our hotel for dinner. Cambrinus was a great find, and confirmed our feeling that we were really going to like Brugge (and we did). It was a bierbrasserie, with a huge beer menu and so many food options. The portions of the entrees were huge. This was also where I learned that in Brugge apparently people love spaghetti bolognese. My plate of it was so gigantic that neither of us could finish it.

But even better than the spaghetti bolognese was my appetizer - the best fish soup I think I have ever had. The menu said it was fish soup with "rouille" (spicy garlic sauce). I don't know how to explain how good it was, but it was so tasty and comforting. It came with two pieces of garlic "bread" which were also delicious.

8. Tofu salad from Burmese Fun Fair

There aren't many options for Burmese food here in New York so we get our "fix" during the various food fairs they hold during the year (usually in the summer). The tofu salad is one of our favorite things. We get there early to make sure we can get some before they run out, but the problem is that I want more in the days after the food fair and it's impossible to get. It's really that good and the flavors are so unique. This tofu salad was for a fundraiser in Woodside earlier this year.

9. Beef and bernaise from wd-50

If you know me, it might be shocking to have a dish in the top 10 with beef in the title considering how little red meat I eat (and also to have a burger on the list with it). But it's wd-50, so nothing is really what it seems. It was such a dilemma for me deciding between this and the cold-fried chicken, but in the end this was the one that surprised me most with its flavors, its creativity and its complete difference from what I thought it would be. And it was so tasty. Instead of beef with a bernaise sauce, it was bernaise gnocchi topped with caramelized shallot paste in a beef broth and accompanied by snow peas. Amazingly good.

10. Chipa guazu from I Love Py

We previously talked about I Love Paraguay, the Sunnyside bakery with some of the only Paraguayan food we could find in NYC. Chipa guazu gets a spot on this list because it was delicious from the first bite and it also represents everything we wanted out of our World Cup challenge. We got to try something new for us while learning more about the country and its cuisine. To me, the World Cup is not just about soccer/football, but about coming together, understanding one another and learning about the rest of the world in one of the few true moments of togetherness. Our Paraguayan lunch trip did this in so many ways. Not only did it have great new food, but I got to put my shaky Spanish to use, tried the chipa guazu on a recommendation from someone actually in Paraguay, and got to spend lunchtime surrounded by Paraguayan folks watching deportes on TV. The World Cup was also one of the main motivators to us finally putting this blog together so it holds a special spot on this list. (After all, at least one spot had to go to something we ate from the World Cup challenge!)

I can't wait to see what delicious food 2011 will bring. What were your favorite (or top or best) food memories of 2010?

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