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2012: Year in Review

Most memorable meals in 2012 (in no particular order):

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (Memphis) – The words can not describe the tender, moist, flavorful meat and pictures can not capture the shatteringly crisp crust. I loved their fried chicken so much I went back the very next night for a chicken wing chaser, after dinner.

Primo (Rockland) - The amuse bouche was a lobster bisque that tasted like liquid lobster gold. Steve’s pork saltimbocca was packed with flavor. I had a bite and my first thought was, “this was a happy pig. If it’s possible to taste joy in meat, I think this is it.”

Zahav (Philly) – The meal was a magical night of foods and flavors I had never experienced before, including warm Turkish hummus and hot laffa bread. I still dream of the whole-roasted lamb shoulder. It involves a 4 day cooking process of brining, smoking and roasting and is finished with a pomegranate glaze. This lamb was truly extraordinary, so moist and succulent.

My all-star list includes Peter Luger (Brooklyn), Antonio’s (Amherst), Hong Cuc (Lowell), Highland Kitchen (Somerville) and Craigie on Main (Cambridge). My meals there are consistently delicious and wonderful.

Honorable Mentions:

Island Creek Oyster Bar (Boston) - Lobster roe noodles, perfectly cooked halibut and the Rosemary Honey biscuit was on Saveur Magazine’s top 100 list of 2012.

555 (Portland) - Our “three-day marinated hanger steak,” had an excellent char and was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The coffee soufflé was light and airy, but could have used more intense coffee flavor. The bread basket was excellent. Steve enjoyed a generous pour of wine and my cocktail was sweet and bubbly

Sweet Cheeks (Fenway) – Easily the best biscuit I’ve had this year; it was tall, fluffy, crispy, flaky and tender all at the same time and the whipped honey butter was the perfect accompaniment. My pork belly was rich; fatty and unctuous, but in an excellent way.

La Laiterie (Providence) – The service was so slow and neglectful, I gave up on dessert, but we had extremely delicious seafood and the best bread basket I’ve encountered this year.

L’Impasto (Cambridge) – It’s a small, neighborhood Italian restaurant serving delicious homemade food at reasonable prices. Sadly, since my visit, they have gotten rid of the pizzas and raised all their prices.

Barbuzzo (Philly) - The salted caramel budino was my favorite dessert of the whole trip. I realized later that I had ripped out the recipe from Bon Appétit months ago

Best Discoveries:

Hungry Hungarian Paprikash grilled cheese at Melt (Cleveland). It consisted of roasted chicken, dumplings, Paprikash sauce, and provolone. It was so delicious and unusual, that I went twice to try more of their unusual offerings.

B’stilla at Moroccan Hospitality Restaurant (Malden). An outstanding dish of shredded chicken and ground almonds, spiced with cinnamon, ginger and cardamom, wrapped in flaky phyllo dough, finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. I loved the blend of the sweet and savory, the warm spices mixing with the sweet nuttiness of the almonds.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (Iceland) – It’s a famous 77 year old hot dog stand by the harbor serving what’s been called the “best hot dog in Europe. While I’m writing about Iceland I should mention Skyr. It’s referred to an Icelandic yogurt, but technically, it’s a very soft cheese. It is thick; a similar consistency to Greek yogurt. I loved the pear flavor and started every morning with pear Skyr with granola.

Boston Super Dog (formerly known as Speed’s) - The most massive hot dog I’ve ever seen, weighing in at ½ lb and 8 inches long. It’s a behemoth. The hot dog was delicious, but I feel like in all fairness, it’s not reasonable to call it a hot dog. It’s really a sausage, a really delicious sausage.

Peppermint mocha ice cream at Restaurant Iris (Memphis) - Steve declared it the best ice cream he has ever had and that he was tempted to “go Zelda on the bowl,” (Zelda is my lovable cocker spaniel).

Moshari souvlaki at Zaytinya (DC) – The grilled veal breast was so tender and bursting with flavor. It came in a lettuce wrap, topped with tzatziki.  I wished I had a whole order to myself.

Falafel at Amsterdam Falafelshop (DC and Somerville) – I loved it in DC and was beyond thrilled when they opened a 2nd location in Davis Sq. I love topping my pita with garlic cream, garlic parsley and roasted eggplant.

Reading Terminal Market (Philly) – So many options including outstanding home fries at Dutch Eating Place and DiNic’s signature roast pork with provolone and broccoli rabe sub.

Sicilian pizza at Micucci’s (Portland) - This was the best Sicilian pizza I’ve ever had (sorry, Umberto’s). The dough was amazingly tender, almost pillowy, but with a pleasant chew. The sauce had a perfect touch of sweetness and I inhaled my piece in seconds.

Garlic oil at Pizzeria Regina (North End) – I finally got to the original location. It was there that I discovered the garlic oil, a deadly concoction of minced garlic and chili flakes submerged in red tinted oil. I want to bath all my food in this oil.

Smorgasburg (Brooklyn) – A giant “food flea market” where my top choices were a blood orange donut from Dough, Landhaus’s outrageously good grilled maple bacon stick – smoky, sweet, salty, and unctuous all at the same time and I discovered the glory of lamb BBQ, which I’ve never had before. The pulled lamb slider at Mighty Quinn’s was tender, smoky and delicious.

Crispy Chicken Hearts at Doowee & Rice (Somerville) – I love these crispy nuggets of offal goodness. If you can forget the fact they are hearts, you would too.

Biggest disappointments:

Chocolate Bar (Cleveland) – A restaurant all about chocolate sounds awesome, until I realized that we had inadvertently found ourselves in the ugly love child of Godiva and the Cheesecake Factory. Shutter.

Alcenia’s (Memphis) - This was the worst meal of my Memphis trip. The food was horrible and the service worse.

Happy’s (Fenway) – Maybe I shouldn’t have gone so soon after it opened, but they promised boozy milkshakes and an amazing pastrami sandwich, neither of which were on the menu. I asked about them and got, “sorry, we are still working on the recipes,” as a reply. We inquired about the oysters, but they were out of those as well. The 1-lb meatball I’ve heard so much about? It’s a Tuesday only special, sorry.

Geno’s (Philly) – I only had one cheesesteak during my 10 days in Philly. That’s one more than I should have had. I thought the meat was fine, but the bread was awful and I really can’t stand cheese whiz, even if it is the “classic” way to have it.

Gelateria (North End) - I ordered a scoop of hazelnut and it was awful. The texture was a combination of icy and spongy. There was barely any hazelnut flavor; like they used the water from washing the hazelnuts instead of the actual nuts. At $5 for a small, it was absurd.

M3 (Somerville) – I was so excited about more southern soul food in my life, but a 40 minute wait for over fried entrees, Velveeta mac and cheese, soggy and inedible fries, and a biscuit that reminded me of the biscuit-in-a-can you buy the dairy aisle is inexcusable.

JM Curley’s (Downtown Crossing) – I should have gotten the burger as the fried chicken was awful. I didn’t like the breading, it was mealy and overly seasoned, not to mention on the edge of burnt. It came with watery sweet tea, an undercooked biscuit and 5 sauces that I didn’t like. I’m sure that “Doritos Cool Ranch” ranch sounded like a good idea, but the execution was poor. I won’t even go in to how gross the fruit punch sweet and sour sauce was.

For 2013:

I went to 8 restaurants on my 2012 list. 2013’s list has many new restaurants.

  1. YumeWoKatare
  2. Painted burro
  3. Giulia
  4. West bridge
  5. Journeymen
  6. Puritan & Co
  7. Belly wine bar
  8. Clio/Uni
  9. Angela’s Café
  10. Trattoria Toscana
  11. Salty Pig
  12. 5 Napkin Burger
  13. Myers & Chang
  14. Meadhall

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