6) Grilled Calamari, Frances
Less than a month after opening, Frances nailed it. This particular dish was actually the first I had ever ordered way back in January, and the memory of it stuck with me for the entire year. With only 5 ingredients (squid, Rugosa squash, preserved lemon, currants, arugula), to me this dish represents the type of food served at this restaurant: uncomplicated, seasonal, well-executed, and incredibly flavorful. I was happy to see grilled calamari served without cannellini beans and capers, and Perello’s unique combination of ingredients was particularly thoughtful. The squash mirrored the texture of that type of bean but provided an extra layer of sweetness, while the preserved lemon almost functioned as a caper substitute, adding both acidity to the calamari and tartness to balance the squash. The play between sweet and tart was also found in the tiny currants, making it so that with every bite layers of sweet-sour-salty flavor unfolded in your mouth. Although I tried other incarnations of this dish (which varied with the season), this particular composition was the most impressive. You can read about all the other dishes from that night at Frances here.
5) Roasted Carrot Salad, SPQR
If you’ve been following my writing, you probably know that throughout the course of 2010 I’ve been completely in awe of SPQR and Chef Matthew Accarrino. Choosing my favorite of the entire year was almost impossible as it would be easy for me to fill ½ of this top 10 list with items from this restaurant. But, I think that it’s the balance and ingenuity found in Chef Accarrino’s Roasted Carrot Salad, which made the cover of the latest issue of Culinary Trends, that best represents this restaurant and this chef. While the idea of a roasted carrot may seem painfully simplistic to most, Chef Accarrino uses numerous techniques to bring out the different facets and flavors of the carrot, changing it from something mundane into a show-stopping appetizer. It made me realize just how luscious and truly delectable a simple carrot can be, and even inspired me to roast some carrots of my own. It also inspired me to order the same dish on 3 more occasions. You can read a more in-depth description of this dish here.
4) Spring out of Winter, Eleven Madison Park
The best meal of my life, the best dish of the meal: “Spring out of Winter” was the ultimate expression of contrast and balance in every aspect of the plate. Variations of asparagus were served alongside delicate pea shoots and baby peas, Jamon Iberico, shards of dehydrated almond milk, and creme fraiche ice cream (frozen by liquid nitrogen). The concept of creating a dish that embodies the differences of Winter and Spring was executed through the plays on contrast: simple, fresh flavors highlighted through complicated technique, warm and cold elements, plays on creamy and crunchy textures, and salty, savory flavors combined with the slight sweetness of ice cream. Imaginative, seasonally appropriate, technically challenging, beautiful, and delicious, this was truly a masterpiece of a dish. To read more about that dinner, check out my full account of that night at Eleven Madison Park.
3) Monkfish Liver Torchon, Benu
You know those rare moments where every element in a dish brings out nuances of the main component that would otherwise go unnoticed? You know those even rarer moments when the wine also brings out a flavor in the dish that would be lost without it? Where the primary component, the set, and the wine form a culinary trifecta? That was my experience with this dish. The battle that plays out in your mouth between salty and sweet, rich and refreshing, and creamy and crisp is epic and so compelling that after a 15 course tasting menu, I went back the next night to order that same dish a la carte. In a single bite I was transformed from someone who had never even heard of monkfish liver, to a monkfish liver fanatic with uncontrollable cravings. To read more about that dinner, check out my full account of my night at Benu.
2) Big Daddy Bowl, Hapa Ramen
This dish opened my eyes not only to how delicious real ramen is, but also to how thoughtful and complex it can be. Hapa Ramen’s Big Daddy Bowl goes beyond flavorful broth and perfectly-cooked noodles – it brings in a variety of ingredients that add subtle nuances, richness, and seasonality. Of all of the dishes on this list, this is the one that I have gone back to eat the most. There’s just something about the combination of the warmth, the spice, creamy slow-cooked egg, sweet squash, and fried fatty meat that keeps me coming back for more. You can read all of the details in my review of Hapa Ramen.
1) Chilled Eggplant Purée, Coi
For a couple of months it seemed like the only thing I wanted to talk about was Daniel Patterson’s Chilled Eggplant Purée (made from puréed eggplant, fresh pole and shelling beans, preserved lemon, cilantro, and tomato water gelée). I was honestly bringing it up in conversations with people who had absolutely no interest in the subject and could only respond by smiling and nodding. But I didn’t care, I wanted the world to know how incredible cold eggplant could taste. And I didn’t just talk about it, I chased it down as much as possible knowing that eggplant and tomato would soon be out of season and I’d be left with a void in my soul. Even after eating it 3 times in only 3 weeks, I was still blown away and craving more. You can read a full description of the dish here, but for me, this dish exemplified sophistication through simplicity and balance.
If you hadn’t heard, it’s the holiday season - a season synonymous with the word “indulgence.” Oh, and the word “drinking,” of course. For frequent diners and homebodies alike, ‘tis the season to throw down hundreds of dollars for that one special meal that just wouldn’t seem sane at any other time of the year. And, having recently indulged in things like foie gras, pink champagne, and extravagant chef’s tasting menus, there’s no denying that fine dining holds a very special place in my heart. But you know what also holds a special place in my heart? A damn good sandwich...Continue Reading
Below is my latest article for ScoutMob SF!
PBR, we can never get enough of it, right? I mean, there’s a reason it has an award ribbon on the can. We’re used to gulping them down three, I mean, one at a time, but the Mission’s B3 has found a way to use one of our favorite refreshments to make one of our favorite foods: onion rings. But there’s way more to the menu than just Pabst Blue Ribbon beer-battered onion rings. As Local Scout Kelsey Elliott explains, before you go anywhere else, go to B3.
Let's talk onion rings. I think we all know what we don't like: super greasy batter covering scalding hot onions that come out whole as soon as you take a tiny bite. Unfortunately, for the most part, this is the world of onion rings we live in...Continue Reading
It's obviously no surprise that I'm kinda, maybe, sorta, totally obsessed with cheese. I'm pretty sure that what we've labeled "cheese" in modern times was actually called "ambrosia" way back when Greek Gods ruled the land and had to eat something worthy of their status as, you know, gods.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to attend a Wisconsin cheese class at the Cheese School of San Francisco, hosted by non-other than the infamous Laura Werlin. Not only does she have a killer haircut, she's also kind of a big deal when it comes to cheese, and someone I've been following for some time. So, it didn't take more than a millisecond for me to gratefully accept their invitation...Continue Reading
Philz has completely ruined me. I used to be happy with a regular grande coffee from Starbucks. I used to pay $2, $2.50 max for a cup of coffee. I used to be ignorant and happy. But now that I know how incredibly delicious coffee can be, now that I know its true potential, there's no going back to the naive bliss I once had.
Now if I don't start every single morning with Philz coffee I'm a bitter, angry person. It sounds arrogant, but it's honestly become difficult to drink anything else. It's just too. damn. good....Continue Reading