Most memorable meals in 2011 (in no particular order):
Lola (Cleveland) – Thank you, Michael Symon for introducing me to crispy bone marrow and bacon ice cream.
Hong Cuc (Lowell) – Their Banh Mi sandwich is my top culinary find of 2011. I crave this sandwich, deep in my belly. It has even made me look forward to having to drive all the way to Lowell Court, just in anticipation for that first wonderful bite. At $3, there is no better meal for the money.
Fore Street (Portland) – Steve commented that I had a food afterglow. Just thinking back about that lovely evening, with the best mussels I’ve ever had, makes me smile.
Dumpling Café (Chinatown) – The exquisite soup dumplings, unctuous pork belly and soulful greens were all good enough that I recommended this restaurant to Mama Tsoi. That’s saying a lot.
My all-star list includes Il Casale (Belmont) and Gran Gusto (Cambridge). My meals there are consistently delicious and wonderful.
Herb Lyceum (Groton) - A fun, unusual concept: set meal and communal dining in beautifully renovated 19th century carriage house. I thought most of the meal was delicious; just make sure you and your dinner companion are okay with dining with strangers.
French Laundry (Yountville) – I can check 3 star Michelin restaurant off my bucket list. It’s hard to even know what category French Laundry belongs in; after all, I will never forget my meal there, but was also unable to live up to the expectations I had, so therefore it was also a disappointment. I’ll split the difference and make it an honorable mention; especially for the most superb service I’ve ever experience.
Bouchon Bakery (Yountville) – Eating the fresh bread and pastries in the parking lot with Brian and Mj in many ways surpassed the meal at French Laundry we had consumed the night before.
Sportello (Boston) – Lynch’s modern interpretation of a Italian diner won me over.
Black Hoof (Toronto) – lots of delicious animal parts, including an awesome duck mousse and a superlative tongue sandwich.
Spaetzle with ham, toasted hazelnuts, chanterelles, porcinis and comte at Foundry on Elm (Somerville) - This was comfort food elevated.
Chicharrones at 4505 Meats (SF) – it was like meat candy. I said to Brian that this may be my favorite bite of my whole San Francisco trip. He replied, “We spent over a grand on dinner and your favorite bite is a $4 dollar bag of fried pork skin?!”
House-made sauerkraut at Gallows (South End) – Who knew cabbage could be so good?
Chuleta Kan Kan at Raices (Old San Juan) - a phenomenal giant pork chop, rimmed with fried pork skin. What could be better?
Tonkatsu Ramen at Kenzo Ramen (Toronto) – the liquid pork chop broth was like a hug from within.
Gyro at Zo (Boston) – A simple delicious Gryo for $7.
Pizza at Antonio’s (Amherst) – The pizza lived up to its hype
Pizza at Max and Leo’s (Watertown) – Did the owner need to move an 8000lb oven all the way from Cali? Who knows? But the crust on their pizza was delicious.
Goat Biryani at Biryani Park (Malden) – complex, tender, flavorful and not at all gamey.
P.F. Chang’s – disappointment is putting it mildly, as I got so sick I passed out twice and vomited everything up.
English Grill at the Brown Hotel – The restaurant is a museum, living on its reputation. The famous “Hot Brown” was awful: the sauce was thick and gooey and the flavors didn’t work for me. There was bland chick and the famed Derby pie was also a letdown.
Basha Café – Back in July I wrote “Basha wins a nomination for the worst restaurant I’ve been to this year,” It’s still true.
M&M Ribs – It was on my to go list the last 2 years – the ribs were fine, but didn’t live up to the much hype reputation. Billy deemed them “soggy”
Five Horses Tavern – They win the “most offensive dish” award - The stuffing was truly an abomination, it was so burnt, it was array of chunks indistinguishable from charcoal. The kale was saltier than the fries and confit put together. It was utterly inedible.
I went to 10 restaurants on my 2011 list. There’s a ton of new ones to add.
- 75 Chestnut
- Angela’s Café
- Trattoria Toscana
- Salty Pig
- Sweet Cheeks
- 5 Napkin Burger
- Moroccan Hospitality
- Speed’s Hot Dogs