2015: A Retrospective of Bites

Well, we’re here in 2016, and before I post about my trip to India and other general musings on life, snacks, kale, Gisele and Tom’s (non) eating habits, and the like, I thought it best to review some of the tastiest things I ate in 2015. Without further ado and in no particular order…

1. Rice Salad at Thip Khao (Washington, DC)I’ve rhapsodized about this before–the crunchy slivers of pig’s ear, and the freshness of herbs, and spiciness that provided a gentle burn throughout. Truly so fantastic. Review here.

2. Pizza at Di Fara (New York)

Excuse the atrocious picture BUT, few things will drag one to the depths of Midwood, Brooklyn–this expertly made pizza will do it. The sauce (with tomatoes imported from Italy, of course) is probably the most incredible part of it, not to mention the owner who is in his 80s (above) and still touches almost every pie.

3. Beef & Bone Marrow Pie at Chi Spacca (Los Angeles)
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I kept hearing about this pie from my brother, and once I finally tried it, every expectation was fulfilled. It’s unctuous and flaky and super-savory all at once. Go get it, if you can.

4. Corn Arepas with an Egg (Medellín, Colombia)

I vividly remember saying, aloud, at the breakfast table “these are a revelation.” The sweet, slightly charred corn flavor and the rich egg yolk are just next level delicious. More here.

5. Fried Chicken “Coq Au Vin” at Convivial (Washington, DC)
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So, the picture doesn’t adequately display how fantastically tasty this dish was, but believe me it was. The rich winey sauce coated the fried chicken, it was so sinful and…now I’m ravenous.

6. Suckling Pig with Orange Sauce at Belcanto (Lisbon, Portugal)

The orange sauce (with a clove of roasted black garlic) and slightly ever so charred cabbage were perfect counterpoints to the crispy, caramelized pork. But, I also must mention that the potato chips seen in the top right corner were inside an edible bag. So yes, I just bit into the whole thing. Magical. Full Lisbon eating guide here.

7. Smothered Shrimp and Grits at Narobia’s Grits and Gravy (Savannah, GA)

I wish I could say we stumbled across this down home Savannah spot, but the truth is I’d been dying to try it for a few months, and the moment I knew we’d be heading to this Southern town, I insisted on going there. The smoky, smothered shrimp were so unbelievably fresh and sweet over luscious, creamy grits. Read more here.

8. Red Wine Braised Artichokes and Parmesan Custard at Vernick Food & Drink (Philadelphia)

Every year, I make at least one trip to Philly, and each time I’m wowed by the food. This dish, one of many at Vernick Food & Drink was so ideal to spoon up on a cold winter evening. Parmesan and red wine go together so well, of course, and I loved the interesting combination here. Full Philly writeup here.

9. Khmer Pancake at Ithaca Farmer’s Market (Ithaca, NY)IMG_9445Back for my college reunion, I made sure to re-live the massive amounts of eating I did in my four years. On weekends at Ithaca’s famed Farmers Market, I almost always ordered a Khmer pancake at the Cambodian stall. Filled with pork, sliced vegetables and vermicelli noodles, it’s absolutely one of my favorite bites this year, and perhaps ever. More here.

10. Pork Sausage with Coconut-Chile Sauce and Lychees at Rose’s Luxury (Washington, DC)pork-sausage-with-coconut-chile-sauce-and-lychees-940x600I’ve been wanting to try the notoriously impossible-to-get-into DC restaurant Rose’s Luxury for a year or two at this point, and on a rainy December night we got lucky. This dish was transcendental. Stirring all the ingredients together, you got the pungent red onion, ever so slightly spongy lychees, coconut froth, and meaty thai sausage. Want to make it? Here’s the recipe.

[Rose’s Luxury Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit]

I’m always hungry in Philadelphia…and I didn’t stop eating for 3 days.

As I’m currently focusing on freelance projects, I’m a fairly free agent—visiting friends and family and eating my way through the Eastern seaboard. This past weekend I went to the most underrated food town out there—Philadelphia, for some much needed time with Rachael, one of my closest friends, and the best food guide a girl could have. A born and bred Philadelphian, Rachael keeps tabs on the city’s great restaurant scene, while maintaining an impressive legal career and a very active social life!

Unsurprisingly, we had a marathon culinary weekend, starting with a lovely home cooked meal on Friday. After some green smoothies filled with mindfulness, and a Saturday morning yoga class, we rushed through the snow to Dizengoff, a “hummusiya” owned by one of Philly’s most acclaimed chefs, Michael Solomonov.
IMG_8672 IMG_8673They don’t do much, but what they do—fresh baked pita and hummus—is done expertly. I ordered the humus bowl with cucumber, which was stuffed with a spicy smoky paste. Each bowl is served with pickles, Israeli salad, and the perfect pita—crisp and mildly singed on the outside and soft, fluffy and sauce-absorbent on the inside.
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It only seemed right to follow up a somewhat virtuous meal (hummus is just vegetables right?) with a doughnut, because also it was snowing outside and plus I love doughnuts. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetNo justification necessary, I guess. We hit up Federal Donuts right across the street. Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWe ordered the aptly named “Hot & Fresh” with a dusting of vanilla sugar.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset I’m always more a proponent of the squishy Krispy Kreme-esque yeast-raised donuts, but these cakey creations were pretty delicious as well. They were, well, hot and fresh, not to mention crumblingly decadent and not too sweet. Federal also serves fried chicken with myriad glazes and toppings, and I plan on trying it on my next visit.Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

Seemingly endless snow and treacherous icy streets seemed reason enough to stay close to home, and luckily Rachael’s neighborhood offers a wealth of excellent eatery options in a close radius. We assumed the sub zero temps and constant threat of limb breaking would keep people inside their homes, but the restaurants and bars turned out to be hopping with people hoping to imbibe and consume themselves into warmth.

A long wait at Cheu Noodle Bar almost set us on our way towards the awesome Garces Trading Co (conveniently located below Rachael’s building) but we decided to wait it out, and thank god we did. This tiny hipster-y spot turns out some of the best Asian fusion (a category that usually gives me the creeps) I’ve ever had. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset The nightly dumpling special was Beef & Broccoli, so of course that was a must—as was the broccoli and Vietnamese sausage appetizer which Rachael, swami of excellent appetizers, insisted we order. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThe vinaigrette on the broccoli was sweet with a hint of spice, and the chunks of sausage kept me coming back for more. Crunchy peanuts added texture, and…well…I could eat this every single day. We shared a yaki soba with chorizo which didn’t have the depth of the other dishes, in addition to a glorious coconut curry noodle soup which was hearty, pungent and warming, but with freshness from crunchy beansprouts and herbs.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset We then rushed home—mindless movies and warm blankets awaited.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

When someone invites you to the buffet brunch at the Four Seasons, you go. When that someone is Rachael’s wonderful mother Vera, you go in even higher spirits. What followed was many courses of brunch cocktails, seafood in many incarnations, beef wellington, lamb, blueberry-chocolate chip pancakes…..You get the idea. I was too busy stuffing my face to take any photos, so this is a more adequate portrayal:

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Feeling like beached whales, we returned home on Sunday afternoon and remained horizontal for much of the day, until a brief sojourn to the gym in an effort to regain hunger for dinner. Yes, dinner. And not just any dinner—but a meal at Vernick Food & Drink, one of Philly’s finest. And it didn’t disappoint, not even a little bit.

Starting the meal with an amuse bouche of potato soup and a cheesy gougere felt very right.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Two raw fish dishes opened our meal—one an Asian inspired poke—with succulent cubed tuna and a sublime soy-based sauce. The arctic char crudo was more subtle but also terrific—particularly the crispy crunchy fish skin on top.IMG_8726 We were all suckers for the chicken liver toast which tasted as artful as it looked, topped with red onion chutney.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAn otherwordly parmesan custard laid below red wine braised artichokes—you can’t make this stuff up—which sat beside two expertly charred octopus tentacles made perky by little cubes of pickled fennel.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Did we stop there? Of course not! A nightly special of housemade spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and bottarga delivered as did peppery toasted cauliflower.IMG_8731 IMG_8729 Midway through the meal, the sounds of live jazz wafted up to us, perfectly complementing our dinner, and making us even more at home in this laid back temple to exquisite dining.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

On the recommendation of our lovely waiter, we ordered the roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce and coconut ice cream. Think sticky toffee pudding…gooey, bready with a caramelized flavor. A scoop of chocolate-crunch ice cream and a little glass of Madeira rounded out this fantastic close to my Philly weekend. Until the next time! I’ll just have to wait for my arteries to recover…

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Dizengoff
1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 867-0088
http://www.dizengoffphilly.com

Federal Donuts
3 Locations Throughout Philadelphia
http://www.federaldonuts.com/

Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-574-1099
http://philadelphia.garcestradingcompany.com/

Cheu Noodle Bar
255 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
267.639.4136
http://cheunoodlebar.com/

The Four Seasons
1 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 963-1500
http://www.fourseasons.com/Philadelphia‎

Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 1
267-639-6644
http://www.vernickphilly.com/