Best Stuff of 2011

30 Dec

OK, so it’s not a totally unique endeavor to create a “best of” list this time of year. Everybody and anybody creates lists of this and that for the New Year. And I wasn’t going to do one but became inspired by John Kessler’s (food writer crush) list of stuff he’s had this year. So I took a stab at selecting the best damn food I ate in 2011.

I applied a few basic filters in order to make some sense of the list.
1. It has to be easy on the taste buds. This means I probably gushed about it a lot. Duh.
2. A few dishes inspired me to try new foods or techniques in my kitchen.
3. You can’t get it anywhere else.
4. No place does it better.

Everything on the list doesn’t meet all the criteria, but all hit at least one category.
So here it goes. Behold my list of standout food and drink that I’ve shoved down my gullet this year… in no particular order (that would make it way too much work to rank order them).

Bottom line, this is some shit you need to eat. Period. End of story. Trust me on this.

Pork belly BLT – One Eared Stag
People ate a LOT of pork belly this year. It was the “in” ingredient among “in” ingredients. I certainly had my fair share. If I never see another pork belly taco or lettuce wrap, it will be too soon. But this right here is the truth. The best belly execution I encountered. Kudos to the One Eared Stag.

Pork Belly BLT - One Eared Stag

Insalata ala grilia – Cafe Lily
I had this salad and immediately wanted to add it to my repertoire of home dishes. It is now a much requested item at parties for family and friends. Mine, of course, is nowhere near as good as what they deliver at Café Lily, the hidden gem of Decatur dining.

Insalata ala grilia - Cafe Lily

Lamb Tongue and Heart – Cakes & Ale
Straight from the kitchen of Billy Allin, one of my top 3 favorite chefs around. The lamb heart and tongue…don’t turn up your nose…was creamy deliciousness like no other. I sincerely hope you let your taste buds out of jail once in a while and try something different.

Lamb Tongue and heart - Cakes & Ale

Soft Shell Crab Burger – Farm Burger
Soft shell crabs are with us momentarily. I got lucky and was treated to one of the last soft shell crab “burgers” served as the special at Farm Burger. If they had more, I would have had two more.

Soft Shell Crab Burger - Farm Burger

High West Whiskey
I am a whiskey drinker. My friends at The Iberian Pig turned me on to this new brand out of Utah. Oh my, they can make some good whiskey. It is now a staple on my bar. Try all variations – rye, double rye and white. The Rendezvous Rye is my favorite.

High West Rendezvous

High West Double Rye

Wild Heaven Beer
Here’s another for the drink category. Wild Heaven broke on the scene and stole my heart. And the brewery is in my neighborhood. I discovered it at The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and look forward to new brews. For now, the Invocation and Ode to Mercy will do.

Wild Heaven Beer

Date Cake – PushStart Kitchen
If you don’t know about PushStart Kitchen, you should. I’ve said it before. I’ll continue to say it. One day, you’ll thank me. Let me first say this dish is vegan. It was the best dessert I had all year. This is coming from a guy who normally passes on dessert. Let me say again, this dish is vegan. Zach Meloy is the shizznitzt in the kitchen!

PushStart Kitchen - date cake

Chocolate Dipped Bacon – Farmers and Fishers
My new love affair with everything bacon started here. On a business trip to Washington, D.C., I was enlightened by chocolate dipped smoked bacon. It was an appetizer meant for the table, I ate it all. My life was changed.

Chocolate Dipped Bacon

Grilled Lobster Tail – Rathbun’s
Each year in May I celebrate the anniversary of Rathbun’s restaurant… along with about 500 of my closest friends. For a small fee, I eat and drink to my heart’s content for about four hours (I usually only last about 2). The highlight of the day is the grilled lobster tail. If you’re lucky, and determined, you can get through the line twice. I will wait in the line if they had to go to Maine to fish the lobster, ice it down and walk it back to the party. It’s. That. Good.

Grilled Lobster Tail

Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream – Westside Creamery
Speaking of creative creamery, how could I not include this from Westside Creamery? Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream. Are you kidding me?! I think I actually shouted that when I saw it on the menu board of the WC food truck. I could eat it every day.

Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream

I challenge you, my Foodie Faithful, to make your “best of” list and think about how you’ve done food this year. Were you surprised? Did you share? Are you looking for more? If you answered no to any question, stick with me. I’ll show things. I’ll take you places. I’ll help you break that cherry so you can eat some really good shit. Happy New Year.

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