Looking back at 2010, it was again not the perfect year for a lot of things in my life, but I’m still here in this world doing what I love and having had another year filled with great food.
But let’s get right to the point, shall we?
I started this post with what actually might have been my best meal of 2010 if not in the top 3. As you all know, our beloved Ben Bailly has recently left his post at Petrossian Café & Boutique to take over the kitchen of Fraiche in Downtown Culver City. However, back in January of this year, Ben had only been at Petrossian for less than a year but was doing wonderful things with the menu. Ben and I had been following each other for just a few months but what I especially loved about him was his presence on twitter. He was very interactive and tweeted a lot, and he seemed like a really great guy, so I didn’t hesitate to tell him we were coming in for dinner during the first week of DineLA. I was originally supposed to come with Felicia, Andee and Anisha, but after some traffic issues, it ended up being only me and Felicia.
The entire meal was fantastic and I don’t think there was one dish that I didn’t even remotely enjoy. Everything we had that night was delicious but probably our favorite dish was Ben’s glorious truffle mac and cheese. It was just… *sigh*
Honorable Mention – Bone Marrow at Church & State and Pork Belly at Road to Seoul.
February was a very busy month in terms of the food I ate. I took my one and only trip of 2010 up to San Francisco and the bay area, in which I made my way in and throughout town eating what I could, and I probably didn’t even hit half of 1% of what the city has to offer. I literally was all over the place, spending my 3+ days equally between the City, Berkeley, and South Bay/San Jose. While my entire trip was filled with great food, as I usually try to whenever I travel. However, one of the many highlights, if not THE highlight of the trip was having dinner at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse. For those of you who haven’t been or are familiar with Chez Panisse, they change their menu daily, as a sign of their commitment to put the freshest ingredients possible onto your plate. That evening, there seemed to a seafood theme throughout the menu, capped off by a grilled stripped bass with a black truffle sauce, celery root and sunchoke puree, chanterelle mushrooms, and braised escarole. That piece of fish might as well have been swimming when I arrived at the restaurant. You know the fish is fresh when it still tastes like the sea that it came out of. Not only was it obviously very very fresh, it was cooked PERFECTLY. Fabulous dish that could not have been executed any better.
Honorable Mention – Pork 2 ways at Gary Danko, Banana Cream Pie at Suzanne Tract’s Jar, and the Fried Chicken at Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley.
For those of you who know me, I may be Taiwanese, but I actually prefer down home American food. Burgers, pizza, chicken wings, steak, and sandwiches. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that March goes to none other than the Grilled Cheese and Short Rib sandwich from Joan’s on Third. I first learned about the sandwich when I received my February 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, with aforementioned sandwich immediately beckoning me on the front cover. I just about near drooled on the fresh magazine when I saw this bad boy. I made a mental note of it and luckily a few weeks later, was able to convince Andee to join me for lunch.
The sandwich was just as good as it looked and it was a perfectly harmony of the tender short rib, melted cheese, arugula, and onions on buttery toasted bread. It was so good that I was even contemplating getting another one to go. I have since converted a handful of people onto that sandwich, including 2 of the Boobs4Food.
Honorable Mention – Beef Noodle Soup at Won Won Kitchen in Temple City, and Thai Slaw Dog at The Slaw Dogs in Pasadena.
April was a relatively slow month for eating, at least compared to January and February, with the exception of the first of two trips to Ludobites 4.0 at Grams & Papa’s in Downtown Los Angeles. Chef Ludo Lefebvre is Los Angeles’ other beloved French Chef, and along with his wife, Krissy, they have made such a booming sensation out of Ludobites, having had 2 more successful runs this year as well as launch the LudoTruck. While every dish that evening was wonderful, my favorites were probably the squid carbonara as well as the foie gras croquet monsieur, which actually was not on the menu that night but Krissy sent a couple out as a thank you for letting her switch our reservation to make room for Gordon Ramsay and his party, who actually ended up being a no show anyway.
Honorable Mention – Carne Asada burrito at El Metate in Pasadena and the Taiwanese Pork Chop banh mi (and just about everything else there) at Starry Kitchen in Downtown Los Angeles.
Not to sound a little redundant, but I would have to say my best meal of May 2010 was again at Ludobites 4.0. Yes, I went a 2nd time. There were some dishes that were the same, but there were a few different ones, including a soft shell crab cornet. That was really good and probably could have eaten about 5 or 6 of those on my own.
Honorable Mention – Combination burrito with carne asada at Tonny’s in Pasadena, a return visit to Road to Seoul in Koreatown, and the Honey Pork at Daisy Mint in Pasadena.
June was actually a pretty good month as well. As for the best meal of the month, I feel it was a tie between dinner at Grace and the Hatchi Dinner Series with Walter Manzke at Breadbar in Century City. Dinner at Grace was in fact their final night of service at their Beverly Blvd. location, as they are scheduled to reopen in the rectory building of the Virbiana Cathedral in Downtown LA sometime in 2011. Well, that is the plan but we all know how restaurant openings go. I was fortunate enough to attend this dinner courtesy of Kevin and was joined by Mike, Darin and Diana. We all indulged in the Chefs’ tasting menu with wine pairing. One of the highlights for me that evening was the roast suckling pig with potato gnocchi, chanterelle mushrooms, white asparagus, and pork jus. Pork perfection.
The Hatchi dinner with Walter Manzke was great as well and offered a great variety as the theme of the menu took us around the world. As well, all of that food that night was just magnificent, but the highlights for me was the white corn curry soup with mussels and tapioca. Great depth of flavor and balance.
Honorable Mention – Lamb Pita at Bella Pita in Westwood and the Katsu Curry with Rice at Suehiro Café in Little Tokyo.
The highlight of July was probably the double cut pork chop at Bistro 45 in Pasadena. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with sautéed apples and a red wine reduction. I was trying to decide between this dish and another, and without hesitation, our server told me to get the pork chop. I personally love pork chops, so I’m so glad he told me to get it. Service at the restaurant was magnificent as well.
Honorable Mention – Sun-dried tomato, spinach, and artichoke pizza at Nonna’s Pizzeria in South Pasadena and the Nasi Bungkus at Simpang Asia in Culver City.
By far the highlight of August was when I went to Searsucker in San Diego, which is Chef Brian Malarkey’s (Top Chef Season 3) new restaurant. I am a big fan of Chef Malarkey and I love it down in San Diego, so I made sure I made time to go there for dinner. The space is massive but very beautiful and the food was great. The highlight was my main course, braised pork butt with bacon emulsion and peaches. The touch of thyme on the peaches was great and my pork was very tender and very flavorful, having been braised in a concoction containing both peach schnapps and peach brandy.
Honorable Mention – The ribs at Phil’s BBQ in San Diego
In what is one of the biggest landslides of a “margin of victory”, the highlight of September was my visit to Animal. Yes, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are speaking my language just simply with the name of the restaurant. My friend and I loved everything we had, but by far our favorite, as evidenced when we got a 2nd order, was the pork belly sliders. The pork belly was perfect melt in your mouth, and I loved the slaw. I am SOOO sad I don’t have a picture of that bad boy. Well, I think my friend has a picture of it on her phone, but she hasn’t shared… yet.
Honorable Mention – Sliced Pork Belly at Daikokuya in Monterey Park and the Cowboy Ribeye at Arroyo Chophouse in Pasadena.
October was another relatively slow month in terms of eating, but by no means does that mean that the pork burger at Wood Spoon in Downtown LA was a result of there being nothing better to choose. The pork burger was seasoned with a lot of pepper, but not overpowering, and topped with pickled cabbage. It was very tender and juicy.
Honorable Mention – Kimchi Fries from Frysmith
As we begin to wind down my 2010 recap, I look back again at almost everything I’ve eaten and at the places I’ve been to and I’ve noticed, at least for a lot of places I’ve been to, it’s been the year of the pork belly. I’ve probably already mentioned pork belly at least half a dozen times in this post, and I’ve got one more going under the month of December. But I digress.
November was highlighted by a trip to Joe’s Restaurant in Venice. I was invited to my first media dinner ever and was treated to a wonderful array of 11 courses from Chef Joseph Miller and Chef de Cuisine Kris Tominga. Everything was great and Chef Joe Miller and all of the service staff did a marvelous job taking care of us that evening. One of my favorites definitely had to of been the lamb sirloin, cooked to a perfect medium rare, served with a beet risotto and lamb ragout. Aesthetically, the dish was very red, but it tasted awesome.
Honorable Mention – B.L.A.S.T. hotdog at Doghaus in Pasadena
Though I technically went in November, it was close enough to December that I’ll consider this (yes, I might be cheating a little) as December. I find it only befitting that as I began this post with a meal by Ben Bailly, I finish it with another meal by him, but this time at his new employer, Fraiche Restaurant in Culver City. While everything he sent out to me that night (I did NO ordering whatsoever) was AWESOME, I can’t thank him enough for sending me out the truffle burger, which is only on the lunch menu. By that time I was incredibly full, but like a true warrior, I finished that burger and enjoyed every little bit of it. Oh man… I still dream of it sometimes. (full post to come soon)
Honorable Mention – Pork Belly Sandwich at Forage in Silverlake and Lamb Shank at Mo-Chica in Downtown LA.
And thus is my 2010 year in review. I hope to continue to have more great food memories in 2011 and I leave you saying Happy New Year and cheers, love, and good food in 2011!!
image courtesy of this