Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fabulous Chrismahanukwanzakah (I'm a firm advocate of celebrating everything, as more holidays = more friends, food, and fun drinks!) and a fabulous start to 2016. As per usual, I spent the first two weeks of my winter break pretending as though I don't actually have any work responsibilities; however, the time has come to officially stop pretending that I don't have a mile-long to-do list (boo!). Not only do I need to put the finishing touches on the classes I'm teaching, but also, I need to prepare for the classes I'm taking.... 2016 will be a year of change, starting with enrollment in a second master's degree program!
Before I dive headfirst into my big plans for the year, I thought I would take a look back at some of the foodie highlights of 2015. I know I say it every year, but 2015 was truly an epic food year! As I declared the summer to be my season of saying yes to whatever came my way, I managed to make a nice dent in my must-visit restaurants list, as well as discover an abundance of new spots. Along the way, I also met a group of fabulous people who share my same passion for food (and who don't get annoyed when I take 20 photos of every dish!). In addition to food and friends, there were definitely some other awesome standout moments of 2015: I was granted tenure (finally!), I purchased my first new car in 15 years, and through a random radio contest, I won an opportunity for Mario and I to meet Lenny Kravitz (OMG, he smelled like rainbows and sex!). Overall, it was a pretty good year. :-)
In no particular order, here are 15 of my favorites from 2015:
Pumpkin Cabinet Pudding stuffed with chocolate chips and covered with warm oozy caramel (from Sweet Mandy B's). This pudding was most definitely everything that's good about desserts all wrapped up into one perfectly amazing little tower of goodness!Crispy Catfish Tacos, topped with cayenne remoulade and, as I mentioned on Instagram, some of the tastiest vinegar slaw I've ever had (from Luella's Southern Kitchen). The cornmeal coated catfish was crispy and without the greasiness that often plagues fried fish, but still moist and flakey in the middle. Paired with the creamy remoulade and sharp vinegar, these catfish tacos stood out from every other version I've had in the past.
SmokeShack: cheeseburger with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and ShackSauce (from Shake Shack). While I had previously chomped my way through Shake Shack's menu, this was my first time trying the smokey, sweet, and rich SmokeShack burger. The newest burger to hit their menu is most definitely their best!
Sweet Potato Pie Sundae with sweet potato ice cream, pecans, caramel, coconut, and marshmallows (from Cone). This perfectly constructed, gooey sundae made all of my fall dessert dreams come true!
Seared Diver Scallops with sweet potato-chile puree, purple potato chips, grilled Nichols Farm apples & grilled carrots (from SIP). This dish was *exquisite*! The scallops were so juicy & tender, and the sweet potato-chile puree was ridiculously addictive. The dish was topped with this delicious sweet and spicy sauce, accented by crunchy chips... whew. Really, the flavors of this dish were just so on point - I would return to SIP based on these scallops alone!
Frog Legs marinated in buttermilk and Sriracha and fried in a honey Sriracha sauce with Thai bird chilies (from Presidio). While not currently on their regular menu, this is another rave-worthy dish that is a must-try! The meat was crisp and perfectly seasoned with a nice amount of sweet heat that built quickly.
Royale with Cheese, made with prime beef, American cheese & house pickles, served on a brioche bun (from Presidio). This burger was named one of the best new burgers in the city for a very good reason (and not just its fun nod to Pulp Fiction). Really, sometimes all you need is a simply prepared, perfectly cooked, mouth-watering juicy burger that is bursting with flavor!
Salmon Rolls with crispy sushi rice and chipotle aioli (from Pump Room). These amazing little bites of sushi heaven were so fantastic that I had go back multiple times for more! And yes, my subsequent experiences with this perfectly seared crispy rice and smooth, buttery salmon were all just as fabulous as my first time.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae with candied peanuts, popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce (from Pump Room). This was the crème de la crème of desserts for me (i.e. the dessert I still haven't been able to stop thinking about!)
Ahi Tuna Tostadas with watermelon, Thai chili, avocado, crema, cilantro, and lime (from Summer House). My goodness, where have these exceptional little bites of heaven been all of my life?! I absolutely love watermelon paired with tuna and this dish did not disappoint. Sweet, spicy, creamy, crunchy, tangy... these fresh tuna tostadas had it all!
Mussels con Chorizo with tomatillo sauce and epazote (from Crīo). Not only are these slightly spicy and bold mussels my favorite appetizer at Crīo, but also, they're my favorite mussels in the entire city! Pro tip: don't skip over the swoon-worthy chorizo-laden broth at the bottom of the pot!
Dragon Fire Maki: shrimp tempura topped with salmon, super white tuna, tobiko, green onion, spicy mayo, and unagi sauce, then baked and served warm (from Koi). I'm sure all the sushi purists out there would turn up their noses at this roll, but I fell hard for this delicious dish! This rich and totally messy roll was the epitome of everything that is good about Americanized sushi. Trust me when I say that you need to sop up as much of the unagi sauce as possible - there's so much deliciousness!
Bouchot Mussels, finished with pernod, fennel, and fine herbs (from Pierrot Gourmet). These mussels were so incredible that I surreptitiously kept inching the bowl away from my dining partner and closer to my side of the table so that I could sop up as much of the crazy addictive juices as possible with the crusty country bread. If I hadn't been in public, I easily could have tipped the bowl into my mouth in order to get every last drop. It really was THAT good!
Seared Octopus with fennel pollen, smoked paprika, and the sweet, slightly smoky sunshine sauce (from Pierrot Gourmet). The octopus was perfectly seared (there's nothing worse than rubbery octopus!) and the bright, citrusy sauce enhanced the tender meat. I could easily think of a long list of ways to use that sunshine sauce - not only was it delicious, but it was a surprising flavor that I've never seen paired with octopus.
House Blend Beef Burger with Greek spice blend, cheddar, avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickle, truffle aoili, ketchup, and mustard on a split top bun (from Butcher & the Burger). OMG. From the very first bite, I was hooked! My burger was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of spice and slathered in the positively addicting truffle aioli (aka crack sauce)!