In chronological order - MY TOP 10 (+ one) DISHES OF THE PAST YEAR!
(1) My Wedding Cake
As one of the most memorable and important days in a girl's life, my wedding meal was a definitely a meal to remember. But the cake itself was amazing. We enjoyed a slice at the wedding, enjoyed slices of the cake after the wedding (they placed slices up in our room!), and then a year later, we pulled the top tier of the cake out of the fridge (that we had carefully wrapped per our cake maker's instructions) and celebrated our first year together with bites of our cake (which was still delicious!!). Our cake was two different sets of flavors -- two tiers were vanilla cake with passion fruit mousse and the other two tiers were chocolate chambord -- chocolate cake with raspberry mousse and chocolate ganache. Amazing, just like our wedding :)
For the first part of our honeymoon, we went to beautiful Hawaii. One of the places that my family frequents when we visit Hawaii is Leonard's, so I had to take Mr. J there for breakfast (nearly every morning). Our favorite thing are the malassadas -- basically Portuguese donuts. Deep fried fresh by order, my favorites are filled with various tropical fruit custards. Lilikoi, mango, pineapple...mmm.
(3) Alan Wong's Soup and Sandwich
This past year, I was fortunate enough to have this dish TWICE. The first time was over our honeymoon as well. Alan Wong's is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the entire world. Located on Oahu in a non-descript building, Alan Wong's serves up delicious Hawaiian regional cuisine along with some of the best service. This is their "soup and sandwich" combo, served with their 5-course dinner. Chilled Vine Ripened Hamakua Springs
(4) Fresh Seafood on Morro Branco Beach, Brazil
This past September, I visited Brazil for the first time with my family. One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Morro Branco, a town/beach about 2.5 hours from Fortaleza, Brazil (for more details, see here!). The beach is known for its amazing sand cliffs... and should also be known for their seafood, right on the beach. The seafood was incredibly fresh... and CHEAP. We ate up this seafood platter with fried whole fish, prawns, lobster... and another plate of prawns. This couldn't be beat -- literally feet from the ocean, feet in the sand.
(5) Grilled Oysters at the Maryland Oyster Festival
Every year during the third weekend of October, oyster lovers come to Leonardtown, Maryland, for the annual Maryland Oyster Festival. This past year was our first year going (read more here!). The weather was gorgeous, perfect for a day at a festival. And oh my, oysters as far as the eye could see, cooked up in any way that you preferred. My favorites were these grilled oysters -- I never had grilled oysters before, but the taste was both fresh and smoky, with loads of garlic and a bit of hot sauce. Delish.
(6) The "Cheesesteak" at Jose Andres's Minibar
For my birthday this year, my family and Mr. J took me to MINIBAR, Jose Andres's version of El Bulli, and a fabulously whimsical adventure of food. I had been wanting to go for ages and we made this the year to go! I certainly owe everyone a full entry on my Minibar dinner. This was one of my favorite bites of the night -- the "cheesesteak" with barely charred slices of beef atop a mini hollow "baguette" that was filled with delicious cheese.
(7) Ginger Ale at the Kapiolani Farmers Market
One of our favorite places to frequent in Hawaii is the Farmers Market held at the community college on Oahu every Saturday. Their options for tasty dishes are endless, but one thing I keep coming back to is the FRESH GINGER ALE. This tropical drink is made to order by Pacfikool -- fresh ginger with pineapple... or lilikoi... This day was especially warm, and I remember clearly waiting with the growing crowd for my ginger ales. Definitely worth the wait. This is my dad holding the drink.
(8) The pork slider at Side Street Inn
I definitely owe everyone some entries about all my food eating this year in Hawaii. When we went in May, I tried all sorts of places I hadn't been to before. One of these places was Side Street Inn. My parents had been before and I had heard of it before as, of course, the local after hours hangout for the famous chefs in the area. I also remembered seeing it on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations." So my parents made it a point to take me there this trip. We got there on the early side to ensure little waiting. My parents had already picked out things they wanted to get again from the last time they were there, but this one dish caught our eye that wasn't on the menu before. The PORK SLIDERS. And...they...were...drool. Sandwiched in the buns that you would often get with Peking duck was moist shredded Kalua pork, with a slightly sweet sauce and a slice of pineapple. The flavors melded together into this fusion of sweet, salty, smoky, and just plain deliciousness.
(9) Negihama Tartare at Sushi Izakaya Gaku
After hearing much talk from my Hawaiian foodie friends about Sushi Izakaya Gaku, we also made sure to eat here while in Oahu. We wanted to try a number of the izakayas that have sprung up around Oahu (see my friend Steph's Where in the World Wednesday about Japan for more info on izakayas...) and this was at the top of my list. We quickly understood why Sushi Izakaya Gaku had such a following. The food was fresh, inventive, and memorable. The service was wonderful -- friendly, attentive, but not overbearing... and with a touch of aloha :) This was one of my favorite dishes (although hard to choose!) -- the negihama tartare -- a mix of finely chopped fish, mayonnaise, sambal, sesame oil, and a secret ingredient :) It is topped with tobiko and a quail egg. On the side, you're served sheets of seaweed/nori -- we took dollops of the fish and placed on sheets of seaweed, wrapped it up like a very mini burrito, and as you bite through the crunch, you experience a mix of flavors and creaminess.
(10) Uni at Sushi Izakaya Gaku
Also at Sushi Izakaya Gaku, I had my first experience with UNI. My mom is officially obsessed with uni and tries it almost any time a restaurant serves it to see how it measures up with past experiences. She took one bite of this uni and that day and since then, she has continued to say that this was the best uni she ever had. So of course, I had to try it. The uni (sea urchin) was completely different from what I expected. It has a custardy consistency and is sweet, salty, and incredibly delicate in flavor. Since then, I've tried it multiple times, and have been pleased with what I've had ... but I agree that they don't measure up to the uni at Sushi Izakaya Gaku.
(11) Homemade Barefoot Contessa Brownies
Finally, I was looking through my pictures of food from this past year, and was like, well, there must be something that I made that would make this list? I've cooked up quite a few dishes over the past year and although most of them were good, I wouldn' t rank them in the best of the year. Except for these. These brownies were ... simply the best brownies I've ever had. They were made as part of Barefoot Bloggers, a group that shares a mutual love for the Barefoot Contessa and cooks up two of her recipes every month. For the recipe and more info, see here! This was the first time I ever made brownies from scratch and I would use this recipe every time in the future. I brought them in to my office to share (so I wouldn't eat them ALL), and they were devoured within an hour. If you're ever in need for a chocolate overload, this is your ticket.
So there it is! I hope that you enjoyed the dishes... this was fun to go back and think about my food experiences from this past year. Needless to say, there were many dishes that were fantastic, but didn't make the list. I'm sure there are many that I didn't take pictures of, so they are somewhere in the recesses of my memory and will surface in the next few days. Many of my most memorable dishes also came from vacations and trips -- other meals that stood out were dinner at Gordon Ramsey's and Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza in LA. There were certainly memorable dishes that took place here in DC... and I certainly eat out my fair share in DC :) In particular, I discovered and heart the strawberry cupcakes at Baked & Wired, can't get enough of the chocolate ganache cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake, my recent discovery of Fojol Brothers food truck, my first time at Amsterdam Falafel... There are those places that I always go back to and this year, I'll make a more concerted effort to keep track of the dishes as they stand out to me. Here's to another year of good eats, good travels, and good times.