One whole year. A year since we started this little experiment of a blog, a year since we took our food game to the next level. Loyal followers of the blog have stuck with us since our ugly layout over at blogspot, and may have noticed a slight evolution in picture-taking (we're still figuring out how this thing works). With this post, we'll have put up 100 recipe posts and a 150 restaurant posts. Not too shabby for our first year.
In that year, we've switched coasts, moving from DC to LA. We've also made a lot of really good friends through blogging, and had a handful of mind-blowing meals, some great ones, some good ones... and a few duds.
But today, as we look back on 2010 - our first year of blogging - let's focus on what was great (like this seared foie gras from Proof in DC, below). Ready?
Best Unblogged Meals
Not every meal lends itself to being blogged. Sometimes toting a camera is inappropriate. Sometimes, you - err... forget said camera at home.
The former was the case when Angela toured through Chef Keller's 9-course menu at Per Se, and the latter was true when we found ourselves at DC's classy cafe Palena, sans camera. The fried marrow at Per Se blew Angela's mind and the Roast Chicken (crappy iPhone picture below) at Palena was arguably the best Mark had ever tasted.
Everyone knows the old adage, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, if you're a food-blogger and you don't take a picture of it... did you even eat it at all? When it's become your hobby to obsessively take pictures of everything you eat, the answer is sadly not as obvious as you might think.
Ah... a subject very dear to our hearts. Let's start with the runner-ups - our two favorite DC-area pizzerias: Taking the DC crown by a thin slice of pepperoni is 2 Amys (also unblogged) whose Neapolitan pies are almost perfect. Pizzeria Orso wasn't that far off, (Orso's meat-heavy Giamette below) with their volcanic brick-oven churning out pizzas almost identical to 2 Amys.
A New York trip enabled us to check out the pies (and super long lines) at Grimaldi's, but the real winner in 2010 comes from the birthplace of 'Apizza': New Haven, CT. At Pepe's we were treated to some of the finest, most perfect pizza we'd ever tasted. It wasn't just the best pizza we'd eaten in 2010, it was probably the best pizza we've ever eaten.
This section exists only because we were lucky enough to make a few summer trips to sunny Philadelphia in 2010. Mark posted not one but two extensive reviews of the best cheesesteaks in town. The winner turned out to be John's Roast Pork (below), whose steak sandwich is even better then the pork it built its namesake on.
Earning points for creativity is Jose Andres with Minibar's "Philly cheesesteak" (below), which has a clever and delicious spin on the Philly classic (the 'whiz' is in the middle!).
You can't have a 'hottest' section without a hat tip to the Thais. At Pa-Ord, Angela found out the hard way just how much spice can go into dish. The boat noodles at Pa-Ord were an easy choice for runner-up. More on them in a minute.
The winner was a concoction of our own, in which we loaded a curry with Ghost Pepper. The best part was that video-taped our friend eating an entire plate of the hot-as-lava curry:
While we have to give a nostalgic mention to our favorite DC burger franchise, Ray's Hell Burger, the winner was an easy choice. Oaks Gourmet's burger (below) comes stacked with black forest bacon, taleggio cheese, red onion, arugula and a jalapeno-pineapple compote. Burger chains, take note - this is how a burger should be done.
Our Los Angeles adventures have already made us huge fans of the sandwich shop around the corner, All About the Bread and its fresh baked, crispy-on-the-outside bread. But, aside from all the delicious burgers and cheesesteaks we've eaten this year, the best thing we ate between two slices of bread were the amazing Italian sandwiches (below) at Di Pasquales in Baltimore.
Best Cheap Eats
Nothing beats a great meal that doesn't break the bank. Any short list would have to include Vietnamese sandwich at the DC-area Bánh Mì DC Sandwich, the mouth-numbing mapo tofu at DC's Great Wall, the aforementioned sandwiches from Charm City's Di Pasquales, Ethiopian delicacies from Lalibela, a Luchador-themed taco shop in San Diego and delicious new-wave tacos from Los Angeles' very own Tinga Buena (below)... which, truth be told, aren't even that cheap compared to most taquerias. But this is our list, so be quiet.
Once again, a little Thai hole-in-the-wall just outside of Hollywood has stolen our hearts and left us our wallets. Not only did those spicy boat noodles (below) at Pa-Ord make an impression on us heat-wise, but entrees at this authentic Thai eatery are mostly $6 or $7.
A few desserts stand out above the rest. Osteria Mozza's trio of gelatos, the Tre Gelati Misti nearly stole the show from an already amazing dinner. The 'Kit Kat Bar' (below, left) was a memorable meal-ender at Michel Richard's Central in DC. And that's olive oil ice cream melting over the Chocolate Cream dessert (below, right) at DC's Equinox, but it's the chocolate and coffee granules that made it a textural treat...
But the big winner was a subtle dessert that achieved the impossible. This one got Angela, a notorious dessert-skipper with no sweet tooth, to fall in love with dessert. The bacon-seared pound cake at Eola combines an artful presentation with subtle savory flavors. Served over a delicious bacon anglaise, the pound cake is topped with berries, herbs and a cucumber-basil ice cream.
Best Meal At Home
We love to cook, too. And by 'we,' we mean 'Angela.' Mark has been on the receiving end of more home-cooked food then he deserves. They can't all be winners, but some meals have stuck in our minds longer then others. Take for instance Angela's Chicken Adobo (below), or that one time that the gnocchi turned out the way it was supposed to.
Angela's Beer Can Chicken (below) combined two things we're passionate about (poultry and beer) to great effect. And we may be trying to forget the finale of the show 'Lost,' but we won't soon forget the dorky-as-all-get-out 'Lost'-Themed Dinner we prepared for the final season's premiere.
But the most memorable meal may have to be our first foray into homemade pasta making, when Angela magically turned hours of frustrating labor into some of the best pasta we've ever had. Angela's Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butter and Sage (below) melted in our mouths. Sure, things tend to taste better when you've slaved over them yourself, but this is a dish I'd be happy ordering anywhere.
Favorite Restaurant Experience
Because it's not just about the food, sometimes service and atmosphere can contribute as much or more to the overall experience. It was pretty awe-inspiring just to be in the house that Ripert built at Le Bernardin and to experience seamless three-Michelin star service. At Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen (below) we discovered just how far a concept and environment could take an already great meal.
We left San Diego unable to talk about anything besides the fantastic food, service and experience we'd had at Whisknladdle, and had memorable experiences at Chef Byron Brown's Artisa Kitchen in DC and Thursday night Big Fat Greek Supper at LA's Papa Cristos.
But the ultimate dining experience this year was our trip to Jose Andres' Minibar in DC - a six-seat bar where a team of chefs concoct a series of dishes before your eyes with mind-blowing molecular technique. We enjoyed thirty courses in all, like the maki-style, rolled 'Guacamole' (below, left) or the 'Tzatziki' (below, right) created by dropping greek yogurt in liquid nitrogen.
Experience-wise nothing tops Minibar, whose food was still amongst some of the best we've tasted over the course of 2010. We also can't leave out Le Bernardin or Per Se. Other close-to-perfect meals, like our memorable trip to DC's Eola, just seemed to have the food-ordering gods looking out for us. We can't leave out our new favorite LA restaurant, Fraiche (Chef Ben Bailly's veal tartare below) after an incredible Christmas evening dinner with family.
But the big grand prize winner of the year goes to Komi, DC's top-rated restaurant for very good reason. Weeks of busy signals finally yielded a reservation, and our treat was a 20-course Greek-inspired menu, crafted by the masterful hands of Chef Johnny Monis. Komi doesn't allow pictures, but we still vividly recall every dish that - arranged in a journey that culminated with homemade pastas and a feast of slow-roasted goat shoulder - is still something we dream about.
Thank you all for sticking with us this year! We're looking forward to another year of eating great food and meeting wonderful people. 2011 is sure to be even better then 2010.