The Best Things I Ate in 2012: Part I
I’ve been fortunate to eat many amazing meals and dishes in 2012, including diverse and exciting fare from my travels throughout the year. In tribute to 2012, I am counting down my favorite bites and most memorable meals from January to December.
Tired from the flight, but very giddy to be in Paris, the first almond croissant I ate in the city was phenomenal and exactly what I needed at the moment I ate it. I’d heard to not be put off by the number of these bakeries around the city because their breads and pastries were legit, so when I saw one when we were looking for somewhere to get a breakfast pastry while out walking, I popped in and out and felt incredibly pleased and impossibly Parisian while I ate my croissant on a busy street corner.
Bistro Europa, owned by the talented husband/wife duo, Steve and Ellen Gedra, is one of my favorite restaurants in Buffalo or anywhere. My husband and I love going for a late night dinner especially, and this year we enjoyed a little late night feast including our usual favorites and a giant spicy scup special that I still think about. Also, I did my usual routine of stealing my husband’s steak frites between bites and finished the meal with Ellen’s sticky toffee pudding.
This summer, I was pleased to receive an invitation to attend an underground supper club known as Omakase Buffalo. The menu for this afternoon feast was a deep south inspired bill of fare, including hors d’oeuvres, entrees and desserts, seasonal punch style cocktail and locally brewed craft beers. We enjoyed fried chicken, collard greens, cole slaw, corn on the cob, slow smoked pork (a whole pig) with barbeque sauce, a huge slab of corn bread drizzled with butter and honey, and several kinds of chocolate and pecan pie inspired dessert bars. The communal dinner party was a wonderful chance to meet new people and get to know some friends better too. What a delight to be included!
There’s a bit of a debate surrounding the best macarons in the world. I’ve had quite a few I adore, including Sarah Walley’s macarons (now retired), and in Paris I chose to head to Pierre Hermé over Ladurée, thanks to recommendations from Sarah and others. The flavor selection was beautiful: caramel with fleur de sel; milk chocolate and passion fruit; hazelnut praline; creme brulee; rose, vanilla and clove; aniseed and saffron; vanilla and basil; pistachio; chocolate and lime. I selected and ate an entire (little) box of them! The rose, vanilla and clove was so unique. The vanilla and basil was so sophisticated. The pistachio was classically delicious. I savored them throughout the day and I loved each one differently.
This summer, we enjoyed back to back wonderful dinners at these two gems in Rehoboth Beach with the whole family. What’s better than eating amazing fresh fish and oysters, paired with expertly prepared local produce after a day on the beach? The Back Porch Café is an old favorite and Henlopen City Oyster House is a new place we’ve added to our dining routine in Rehoboth, so it was fun dining at them one night after the next while on vacation and appreciating their differing menus and atmospheres.
A Big Fuss is a fabulous fundraiser for an area farm which brings chefs and foodies together to celebrate and raise funds for a worthy cause. There’s always glorious food, but this fall’s event left me with a lingering craving. The banh mi prepared by Chef Bruce Wieszala of Carmelo’s was phenomenal. Featuring crispy and tender T-Meadow Farm pork belly and tête de cochon on a crunchy baguette with simple and flavorful accompaniments. It just worked so well. I wish I could eat one every week.
In June, Chef Mike Andrzejewski, known and loved for SeaBar and Cantina Loco, invited me to dine at his newest restaurant, Mike A at Hotel Lafayette. I was excited for what I knew would be an innovative, delicious and thoughtful meal. The dishes I still remember vividly: Wagyu beef tartare, truffled yolk, watercress leaves, toasted pinenut; foie gras torchon, pickled strawberry, spiced maple; and seared scallop, black olive, Spanish chorizo, fava bean; and veal loin Oscar, king crab, béarnaise espuma, green asparagus; #9 grade Australian purebred Wagyu beef strip steak, watercress, black garlic, tomato. Click here to see my blog post about that meal. I have to say, I enjoyed it even more than the tasting menu experience in the restaurant, although that was delicious nonetheless.
The formality of this restaurant trumped all others we dined at in Paris, but it was lovable in its seriousness. Everything we ate was delicious and artfully presented. The lardo amuse bouche was unbelievable. I truly couldn’t believe the taste. I thought I’d had high quality lardo before, but wow… And then the frog legs (first picture above) were a delicious start to our meal. Breaded little bites, served with a dipping sauce of sorrel and nettle cream. We ate an incredible tasting menu, and then, the food just kept coming. Of course. The pistachio dessert (pictured) was divine. It was a tart duo, one side incredibly smooth and creamy pistachio filling, and the other a salty whole nut studded creation. It was served with a bowl of plumb sour cherries, and I was so full, yet couldn’t tear myself away from it. The cheese cart wheeled around and the smell of that glorious stinky cheese will knock you off your fancy cushioned chair. Then they wheel around yet another giant case and it is filled with…wait for it…homemade candies! Truffles, bon bons, marshmallows, chewy candy, hard candy, soft candy, you name it, it was incredible. Imagine all your favorite candies, deconstructed and made by a classy and talented pastry chef. Then coffee and tea service. Five hours later, I was floating out of there with a big smile on my face when the hostess stopped me to ensure I received my parting gift: special fleur de sel, which is apparently the one they use in the restaurant. I’m still savoring my little pouch of it.