Anyway, it's really hard to narrow down my top 10 food memories since M and I went to so many great restaurants, and we ate so much good food. To give you an idea of what I was up against, it took me about 2 or 3 days to go through all of our food adventures. From there I was left with a list of 29 items from which to pick. A lot of great options were left off, and M even offered to expand our lists to 15, but that would have been the cheap way out.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top 10 (and yes, there is overlap with M):
1. Monte Alban (LA) - Mole Negro
This wasn't my first foray into mole sauce, but this was my first taste of real Oaxacan black mole. Monte Alban is a restaurant in West LA, and this also happened to be one of the first things I ate all year. Smokey, sweet, and amazingly tasty. After finishing the chicken and the rice, I ended up mopping up the excess sauce with the provided tortillas.
2. Jitlada - Khao Yam
Ah, the first overlap with M's list. Yet another early year delicacy to make the list. Not sure how much more I need to describe the Khao Yam as M has done a good job of it in her own list. Suffice it to say, if you're ever in LA, and you have a chance at visiting Jitlada, it is highly suggested that you take advantage of the opportunity.
3. Burmese Food Fair - Tofu Salad
2 in a row! M and I definitely have some similarities in our tastes. This is, quite possibly, our favorite dish here in NYC. Sadly, we can only find it at one of the few Burmese food festivals done yearly. Even then, there's no guarantee that they have it available since all of the dishes are home-cooked/prepared. I really do want to learn how to make this so we don't have to wait and get lucky at one of the festivals.
4. Olieng - Pla Pattaya
5. Marea - Ricci
M took me to Marea for my birthday this year. For once, we got to a restaurant before the major hype write up and subsequent month wait to get in. The meal itself was superb. Most people talk about their signature Fusili with Bone Marrow and Octopus (which I had), but the Ricci appetizer we had was the highlight of this meal for me. The Ricci is sea urchin on top of a crostini wrapped in lardo and seasoned with sea salt. It's a very simple sounding dish, but the flavors are unbelievable. The briny sea urchin paired with the richness of the lardo is exquisite. Marea certainly deserves the high praise and recognition it has received so far, and I would really love to go back and get more Ricci.
6. I Love Py - Chipa Guazu
Another overlap with M. We visited the Paraguayan bakery of I Love Py during our quest to eat the entire World Cup. Chipa Guazu is a corn pie filled with onions, eggs, and milk. It's mildly sweet from the corn, but it's also fluffy while still being dense. I really don't know how they manage that, but they do.
7. Patacon Pisao - Patacon
We first experienced Patacon Pisao at the 2010 Vendy Awards. A patacon is a Venezuelan sandwich filled with meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and a special mayo-based sauce with flattened, fried plantains used as the bun. Wow, simply awesome. It was so good that when we later heard that Patacon Pisao would be down at the Hester St market, we made a special trip down to visit even if it was a tad cold to be eating outside. These sandwiches are that good. Sadly they are located only up in Washington Heights and Elmhurst. There's a rumor that they'll be opening a store in the LES, and if that happens I'll have to put aside my hatred of hipsters and head down there often.
8. WD-50 - Cold Fried Chicken
I took M to WD-50 for her birthday this year. WD-50 is Chef Wylie Dufrense's avant garde restaurant. It's amazing how he and his staff can turn traditional dishes into adventures on every plate. There were so many dishes from this meal that I really liked, and it was really down to two dishes for this list. The Cold Fried Chicken ended up winning out after much deliberation, and it makes it to my top 10 list. I'm not sure how they "fried" this chicken, but it's served cold and full of flavor. It's accompanied by buttermilk ricotta whipped up to taste and feel just like mashed potatoes, caviar, and a honey tobasco sauce. I love fried chicken, but this was a revelation.
9. Cambrinus - Flemish Onion Soup
Cambrinus was the first restaurant we ate in when we arrived at Brugge. One of the biggest draws that I found was their extensive list of beer. When we sat down and looked over the menu and some reviews, we knew we were in for a treat. The menu was full of traditional Flemish, Dutch, and French recipes, and pretty much all of the reviews were favorable. Oh, and did I mention the laundry list of beers? I was in heaven. Now, I love French Onion Soup. I used to get it all the time when it was available. This Flemish version served at Cambrinus was just something else. From their menu: "Flemish Onion Soup with 'Oud Brugge' cheese and the beer 'Brugse Zot'". The aroma wafting from the mini-pot after removing the top was divine. The taste was even more heavenly. It's hard to describe just how good this soup was. Basically, take the best French Onion Soup you've ever had and multiply that by about 100, and you're getting to about how good this was. Cambrinus was one of the best restaurant experiences we had while in Europe so definitely go try it if you're ever in Brugge, and try one of their soups.
10. Shake Shack - Jelly's Last Donut Concrete
M and I love Shake Shack... a lot. It's bad enough that some of the cashiers there recognize me. But, we love their burgers and fries, and we love their custard. But out of all of the custards we've tried, all of the different concretes we've tasted, one stands out above all of the rest. Jelly's Last Donut is a Theater District location special concrete. It's made up of Doughnut Plant donuts, strawberry preserves, and cinnamon sugar spun into vanilla custard. I'm a donut-a-holic. No, not on the same level as Homer Simpson, but I loves me some donuts.