As 2011 sputters to a close, it's time for a little retrospection of what has come to pass. I've done some serious dining. Some of the food I had was so good that I actually get misty when I describe it to people. Some of it, not so much.
What I've assembled here are the top ten dishes I had the presence of mind to photograph this year. If you click on the pictures they will expand to show you the big shot. Where applicable, I've posted a link to the blog entry giving you more details.
Strangely enough, I went through and picked out my favorites from all the items I shot pictures of in 2011 and they were all in fairly distinct categories. I didn't have to choose between favorites in the same category, which is nice.
Let's start with dessert first:
RJ Cooper, owner and chef of Rogue 24, sent this to our table towards the end of our 24-course tasting menu. The flavor combination here was astounding. Everyone in our party gushed.
Best Freebie on the Table
This is the truffled pop-over from Kevin Sbraga's eponymous restaurant in Philly. Crispy, tender, flaky, warm, and stinking of truffles. Don't get me started.
Best Counter Service Chicken
Outstanding Peruvian chicken is hard to find. A lot of it is good, but there are only a couple that are superlative. Super Chicken is the winner in the DMV. The customer service is great, the sides are not an after-thought as they are in most other places like this, and the chicken is so good it makes you drop the knife and fork and pick it up with your hands.
Best Appetizer....by far
Fiola, Fabio Trabocchi's restaurant in DC, is a quiet return to some upper-end dining. The bar can get lively, but I think of this place as a temple to this dish. This is all I want when I go there. Fois Gras, perfectly seared, over a buttery brioche. There was some fruity element and a balsamic glaze. This is not on the menu anymore, but I'm sure there will be another iteration of it there soon.
The person who created this occupies 20% of my top 10. Chef Mike Isabella. The is the sweet corn stuffed agnolotti which he was showcasing when the restaurant first opened. I've posted twice about this restaurant. The first was here.
Best Pizza. Ever.
It doesn't matter who I'm with or what else we're having: If I'm at Graffiato after 5:00pm I have to order one of the Countryman Pizzas. Here is a link to the second post I did about this restaurant when I had the pleasure of trying the tasting menu.
Best Comfort Food
Comfort food doesn't have to be Mac n' Cheese. That's American comfort food. Other cultures have comfort food too, and it doesn't have to be full of fat and cheese. Not that I'm knocking fat and cheese, but I loves me a #12 at Pho 75 on Rockville Pike. I checked my stats on Foursquare and Yelp, and I've been here, for this dish, over 40 times in 2011. Crazy. My neighbors and I live 10+ miles from this place, but we run into each other there. We like it that much.
Best Side Dish
I'm not sure how else to describe the Palak Chaat dish properly. Vikram Sunderam pulls together many flavor and creates this wonder at Rasika. I could go there, have a plate of this, and leave satisfied.
Best Cheese Course
I miss this dish, and the man who created it, Roberto Donna. I'm hoping to see him back at work somewhere soon.
The Budino Parmiggiano. This was a different presentation than the one in my original post, but it made a better picture. Sublime.
Best Home Cookin' Feature
As readers of my blog know, I sometimes take on a home cooking project and post about it. This was the tastiest adventure of the year. Shrimp and Grits, using a recipe posted by RJ Cooper on StarChefs. I made it for a party my wife was attending and this was the test run. Salty/creamy with layers of acid and flavor. One of my best, if I do say so myself.
It was a good year for food and restaurants in the DMV. 2012 should prove exciting as well. Please be sure to stay tuned for more posts on this and my other blog, POSmelson where I post information about the issues, tools, tricks, and technology behind and involving restaurants. As always, your comments, forwards, retweets, and emails are appreciated.
See you next year.