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Best bites of 2011

Doesn't look like anyone's started a thread yet, so I'll bite.

List up to 10 new (to you) tastes plus a bonus out-of-town delight or two. Drinks allowed.

Here's last year's list: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/751261

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  1. * Josey Baker seed loaf
    * foie gras or merengue forest dessert at Atelier Crenn
    * eggplant parmesan sub at Uncle Dougie's
    * chocolate peanut ganache dessert at Commonwealth (or the applejack granita)
    * relleno blanco (turkey) at Mateo Granados' Cocina Latina
    * seaweed & pork soup from Namu
    * Easter bunny care package especially rabbit en moutarde from 4505 Meats
    * Lola blend coffee beans from Catahoula
    * borscht from Anda Piroshki
    * ricciarelli (merengue almond) cookie at Arizmendi Valencia

    Out of town: pastrami on rye at Langer's (LA), doubles with tamarind and chile sauce from Trini-Paki Boyz cart (NYC), San Remo cocktail at Scarpetta (NYC)

    439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

    Atelier Crenn
    3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

    Cocina Latina
    214 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448

    Uncle Dougie's
    2328 Bowditch St, Berkeley, CA 94704

    1. will probably revise, but upon initial thoughts....

      beets roasted in hay - coi
      shio ramen - santouka
      split eel - toyose
      creamed spinach - house of prime rib (probably ranked higher because it was such a recent memory, but so good)
      juhu beach club - wish i had written down what i had got, but so good....
      kibbeh burger at palmyra
      pork neck - yakiniq
      lamb/fig tajine - tajine
      cipolla/gruyere/pinenut/creme fraiche pizza at beretta
      pupusas - la santaneca

      4 Replies
      1. re: vulber

        lamb & fig tajine sounds amazing.

        I probably should have included the sesame peanut dessert at Nojo, but there's something about the place that rubs me the wrong way.

        1. re: Windy

          i didn't like the owner's recent tirade against yelp

          1. re: vulber

            Not sure it's a tirade: http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

            I was more irritated by the discussion on the same Chron blog about their bizarre reservation policy, which included charging a party for cancellation when fewer than 6 showed up (and ate). The grilled rice balls are good though.

            1. re: Windy

              I think it's reasonable for a restaurant that takes reservations only for parties of six or more to charge a cancellation fee if someone makes a reservation and less than six people show up. Though the "we won't seat you until all members of your party have arrived" policy is probably less likely to draw flak.

      2. Winter squash and pear soup at The Epicure Connection in Sonoma
        Summer tomatoes from Lonestar Organics farmstand in Sonoma
        Warm Christmas stollen from Gaumenkitzel in Berkeley
        Black-eyed peas, dandelion greens, arugula and four cheese turnover at Ponsford’s Place in San Rafael
        Coconut Macaroon at La Bedaine
        Leek and hazelnut quiche at La Bedaine
        Chocolate coconut pie at Petaluma Pie
        Nacatamal at Casa Latina in Berkeley
        Breakfast sandwich on sourdough at Java Jax in Vallejo
        Tres Amigos coffee at Catahoula Coffee

        Out of town:

        Leche con arroz atol by candlelight in Palin, Guatemala

        Whole garlic fried fish caught from fish tanks by formally dressed waiters in Cocales, Guatemala

        Pepperoni pizza from an underground restaurant at Lake Atilan, Guatemala

        Up a dirt road marked only by a Coca Cola sign, was restaurant at a posada open only two days a week for about three months a year. There is a custom built pizza oven. The owner scours the country for the best food in Guatemala, roasting his own coffee beans from specially selected growers. Everything was wonderful there.

        1. AQ toasted barley with Dungeness crab, mushrooms, and spruce
          Cesar (Shattuck) paella
          Champa Garden rice ball salad
          Etxebarri (Spain) Palamós prawns
          Husk (chef Sean Brock at Plum) Carolina catfish with cornbread purée, field pea & crawfish chowchow, and crispy pig ear
          Hibiscus salt cod bruschetta
          Little Star "Little Star" deep-dish pizza
          Little Yangon balachan
          Martin's West tongue "pastrami" butty
          Smoke Berkeley's brisket slider


          BaoNecci pizza
          Bar Tartine braised brisket
          Barbacco farotto
          Barlata jamon Iberico
          BN Ranch heritage turkey, salted and roasted
          Cotogna pizza with guanciale, ramps, egg, and pecorino
          Eddie Blyden's onion rings (when he was at Henry's)
          Galette 88 galette "basique"
          Great China steamed surf clams with an old white Burgundy
          La Cremaillère (Reugny, France) sour cherry clafoutis
          Lalola goat yogurt "cheesecake"
          Moody's (Truckee) steak tartare
          Mua burger
          NPA Sauvignon Blanc
          Oliveto red winter wheat penne alla bolognese
          Poquito tostado (Ecuadorean snack sort of like Corn Nuts)
          Tartine bread
          Tartine vollkornbrot rye rusk (Samin pop-up)
          Wood Tavern pastrami sandwich

          4 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            rice ball salad at Champa Garden and balachan at Little Yangon would have been on my list too if I'd remembered them. I got a container of balachan to go and put it on everything especially rice and eggs.

            You'd never tried Tartine bread before this year?

            1. re: Windy

              Best of 2011 is best of 2011. I don't give extra credit for being new or knock off point points for being as good as ever.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              Please tell more about the Palamos prawns.

            3. Namu: okonomiyaki
              Barbacco : farotto
              Barbacco : olive oil cake with peaches and orange creme fraiche
              Ippuku : crab cake
              Great china : double skin*
              Oasis market : various desserts whose names I forgot
              Bar agricole : roasted padron, gypsy, corno di toro, & jimmy nardello peppers with tonnato
              Nopa : pork chops*
              Pica Pica : yuca fries
              Navarro Gewurztraminer grape juice

              Cafe Habana in NY: cubano sandwich*
              Doughnut plant in NY: creme brulee doughnut*
              Marché du Vieux-Port farmer's market in Quebec: Olive fougasse

              *items I sought out based on CH tips. Thanks!

              1. I can never remember stuff like this, but a couple that really stuck in my mind:

                raspberry almond marzipan tartlett -- Bovine Bakery
                Diablita pizza -- East End Pizza

                1. A somewhat East Bay-heavy list, roughly in the order I ate each dish:

                  1. The "Meat Board" (charcuterie) at Rotisserie and Wine - The most beautiful charcuterie plate I can recall eating. This was during Jeremy Fox's brief stint at R&W.

                  2. Custard tart at Golden Gate Bakery - Finally made it over on a day when they weren't on vacation! Lived up to the hype.

                  3. Pastrami reuben at Wise Sons Jewish Deli - Delicious. Very much looking forward to the opening of their brick and mortar space.

                  4. Biscuit with slow-cooked egg and saute of morels and peas at Plum - I've said it once, and I'll say it again: I think Plum's weekend brunch may be the best in the Bay Area.

                  5. Fritto misto at Perbacco - Although I found the meal at Perbacco mostly underwhelming, those fried olives were a real revelation.

                  6. Gyutan misozuke (cold marinated sliced beef tongue) at B-Dama - Sadly, this wasn't a big seller, so the chef took it off the menu. In any case, the cold preps at B-Dama are all really interesting and delicious. Great, great place.

                  7. Summer cassoulet at Chez Panisse - Finally tried Chez Panisse. Wasn't disappointed.

                  8. Porchetta sandwich at Southie - the best of several great sandwiches I had at Southie.

                  9. Louisiana Crawfish roll at Pican - I'd had a craving for a lobster roll for the longest time...and we're a long way from Maine. This crawfish roll at Pican ended up being the only thing that totally hit the spot. Incidentally, I've found lunch and brunch at Pican to be a better value than dinner.

                  10. Kung-Pao Pastrami / Slow-cooked Pork Belly at Mission Chinese Food - Let the record show that I am a real live Chinese person, and I really enjoyed both of the meals I had at Mission Chinese Food. (I LOVED the pastrami the first time I had it; the second time I thought it was a bit heavy-handed with the Szechuan pepper. Meanwhile, each bite of the pork belly was a crispy, juicy, fatty morsel of delight, and the fermented/pickled pineapple was a great complement -- kind of a cross between gua bao and pastor).

                  Just a little bit further afield: the carnitas and amazing green salsa at Taqueria El Grullense, in Salinas (thanks, Melanie, for the tip).

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    What did you think about the potatoes in the kung pao pastrami?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      The potatoes are one of my favorite components. A nice surprise too -- the first time I didn't even realize it was potatoes I was eating at first.

                    2. re: abstractpoet

                      have you had the pastrami at deli board? i haven't been to wise sons, but deli board is currently my benchmark

                      1. re: abstractpoet

                        We really liked Plum's brunch, but it appears (from the hrs & menus on the website) they've stopped serving brunch and are dinner only now. It was pretty dead the few times we went.

                        1. re: drewskiSF

                          That's a damn shame. Makes sense, though, given the fact that it's a new chef who probably wants to do his own thing, plus the fact that Plum's brunch service never really caught on as you say.

                          Strange--it's not even as though their brunch menu was so adventurous or expensive relative to other places. But I guess for brunch most folks just want straight-up comfort food? So you could always walk in to interesting places like Plum or Camino, but then Bette's is like a 45-minute wait on weekends, and even Luka's across the street is always hopping on Sunday mornings despite serving vastly inferior food. And now it looks like Sea Salt has really dumbed down what used to be a pretty interesting (and consistently excellent) brunch menu.

                          1. re: abstractpoet

                            I doubt it had anything to do with the chef, the numbers probably just weren't working out. Plum dropped the late night hours as well, though Plum Bar next door may be open later.

                      2. Blueberry-lemon-cornmeal scone - Vanilla Moon Bakery, San Carlos
                        English Muffin egg sandwich - Model Bakery, St. Helena
                        Date cake (orange scented/candied orange?) with caramel sauce - A16
                        Pork and beans breakfast - Golden West
                        Artichoke hearts and fava bean salad - Chez Panisse Cafe
                        Grilled Devil's Gulch Ranch rabbit and chicken - Chez Panisse Cafe (loved the chicken, rabbit not so much)
                        Panna Cotta - Perbacco

                        Oven roasted pig face - Girl & the Goat, Chicago
                        Beluga lentil salad - AOC, L.A.

                        1. - Caesar salad with slowcooked egg at - Alexander's Steakhouse in SF.
                          - BBQ at Gorilla BBQ in Pacifica. Links, Brisket, Ribs
                          - Frito Pie w/ Pulled BBQ Pork at Smokey J's BBQ, how have I never had this before?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nicedragonboy

                            Almost forgot about the Mendocino Uni Flan that I had at Fifth Floor early in the year.

                          2. Darn it, I struggled to think of BA top 10. Most interesting tastes for me this year were not from BA:
                            Atelier Crenn walk in the forest & amazing dessert diorama
                            Burritt Room bourbon punch - who knew a punch bowl could be so much fun?
                            Fava di carpino - homegrown, but plants from Flatland
                            Ippuku bacon wrapped mochi
                            Juhu Beach Club holy cow
                            Mr & Mrscellaneous pink squirrel
                            Nojo chawanmushi
                            Piccino affogato
                            Ventian Cafe nam kao
                            Haribo fruity frutti
                            Copenhagen: Aammann's jersey ox tartare, Emmery's tebirkes
                            Portland: Pok Pok fruit vinegar drinks

                            1. I just moved here in September, but I wanted to participate. Here’s my list:
                              Pork bahn mi from Saigon Sandwich
                              Pork bone ramen at Kirimachi
                              Brussel sprouts at Barbacco
                              Spicy scallop roll at Okoze
                              Duck confit basteeya at Aziza
                              Lamb shank at Kokkari
                              Tahitian vanilla ice cream at Humphrey Slocumbe
                              Pork belly bun at Chairman Bao
                              Sisig taco with egg at Senor Sisig
                              Special roasted turkey sandwich at Fredy’s Deli

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: debbie421

                                Barbacco's brussels sprouts fried in duck fat with anchovies, capers, and red wine vinegar are a brilliant invention.

                                "I consider the discovery of a new dish, which excites our appetite and prolongs our pleasure, much more important than the discovery of a star. We can always see plenty of the latter."—Monsieur H… de P…

                                1. re: debbie421

                                  3 months is plenty of time, at least based on your (low fat) list.

                                  We tried to get the pork ramen at Kirinmachi today but they had run out by 2.

                                  1. re: debbie421

                                    "Pork bahn mi from Saigon Sandwich"

                                    I finally caught up with this one, and it was a revelation. I finally get the craze. Every other Bahn Mi I'd had was an imposter. Now if I could find a version of Pho to help me understand that one.

                                  2. A modest list this year, mostly lunch-centric.

                                    Feijoada at Rio California
                                    Tuna sandwich with hardboiled egg and olive at Southie
                                    Steak tartare at Southie
                                    Porchetta sandwich from the Porky cart outside of Plum (discontinued)
                                    Diablita pizza at East End Pizza Co.
                                    Kim Chi Stew at Bowl'd
                                    Pa-jeon (Korean scallion pancake) - Pomelo
                                    Szechuan beef tendon at China Village
                                    Puntarelle with garlic and anchovy at Dopo
                                    Mussels w/ Pernod, cream, shallots and shoestring potatoes (along with Classicist Manhattan(s)) (after swim workouts, immediately counteracting any health benefits) at Sidebar

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: 10foot5

                                      10foot5, did you also try the porchetta sandwich at Southie?

                                      I liked the one from the Plum cart too, but found it a bit inconsistent (the aioli was only plentiful enough and garlicky enough for my liking the first time -- though I know others preferred it less garlicky). I only had Southie's once, but thought it was just great. Greasy as all get out, but so satisfying.

                                      1. re: abstractpoet

                                        I did try the porchetta at Southie but for whatever reason it didn't make an impression on me. Maybe I was distracted that day.

                                        I tend to get the seafood sandwiches and the veggie sandwiches at Southie - they are so good I don't feel the need to spend the calories/cholesterol inherent in the meat options.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            Oh, but it was tasty. But perhaps overkill for all but the most fat-loving of diners.

                                        1. re: 10foot5

                                          10foot5--have you had the mussels w/Pernod and cream at A Cote? If so, how would you compare the Sidebar version to the A Cote version? I'm a longtime, ardent fan of the A Cote version and would be glad to know of another place doing something like it.

                                          A Cote
                                          5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                          1. re: jillyju

                                            I HAVE had the mussels at A Cote and I remember loving them, but that must have been 8 to 10 years ago so I can't really compare the two.

                                            That said, you won't go far wrong trying the ones at Sidebar. Even if the preperation differs they are still very good.

                                            1. re: 10foot5

                                              Thanks--I will check them out. Mussel eating would be a good full-time hobby.

                                        2. pansotti @ farina
                                          pizza margherita @ una pizza napoletana
                                          porchetta sandwich @ roli roti
                                          lobster roll @ sam's chowder house
                                          al pastor burrito @ el farolito in oakland
                                          'ancient method' shark fin soup @ r&g lounge
                                          maguro cubes topped with uni @ sawa

                                          out of town:

                                          smoked yellow fish and crab roe noodles @ tin heung lau in hong kong
                                          omakase @ 7chome kyoboshi in tokyo
                                          tasting menu @ joel robuchon in vegas

                                          1. Martinis at Cotogna. Buffalo knows cocktails.

                                            Burrata at Roscioli (Rome). Transcendent. The cheese is from Andria. Roscioli adds some dried tomatoes on the side. Grated nutmeg brings out the flavor.

                                            1. Went over 10 and in no particular order:

                                              Broken rice salad at Vientian

                                              Goat cheesecake and malfatti at Bellanico

                                              Secret breakfast or Vietnamese coffee at Humphrey Slocombe

                                              Bay leaf ice cream on a sesame cone at Tata's Organic

                                              Kim chee jeon at Jong Ga House

                                              Chile relleno at Tacubaya

                                              Maduros and tostones at Sol Food (San Rafael)

                                              Smoked jalapeño sauerkraut juice shots from Farmhouse Culture at JLS on Sunday

                                              Leek stuffed pancake and handmade sesame noodles at Shan Dong

                                              Fish and 1000 chile soup at China Village

                                              Hai Yeung at Ton Kiang

                                              Pork Belly Taco at Cosecha

                                              Vientian Cafe
                                              3801 Allendale Ave, Oakland, CA 94619

                                              1788 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                              Jong Ga House
                                              372 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                                              4238 Park Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602