2011 was a great year! In particular, my son “Lexicon” was born and I founded Yowza!culinary + concepts. It was an exciting year, both personally and professionally and was punctuated with copious amounts of great food. In honor of New Year’s Eve, I’ve created a collage of sixteen of the tastiest foods I ate in 2011. The truth of the matter is, there really should be other items included on the list, but due to poor lighting and my overwhelming desire to eat hot food, I have missed many food picture opportunities. It will be my New Year’s resolution to remember to take proper food pictures before I eat and to use my fancy new DSLR rather than my shaky/unfocused iPhone 3GS camera. Missing items from the best of 2011 include the chicken wings and “everything pork” at Pok Pok/Whiskey Soda Lounge (PPX), my first taste of Northern Divine Caviar, the sablefish dish at Hawksworth and the late night margherita pizza at Nostrana (PDX).
1) I don’t know what it was called, but the warm salad of eggplant, mushrooms, fresh herbs and toasted rice flour at Maenam was unique and delicious. Bright, earthy and perfect, this dish was the highlight of my first meal at Maenam and I look forward to my next meal there.
2) The 4 course live Alaskan King Crab dinner at Yan’s Garden has become an annual tradition for my family and “The Godfather and The Girl.” Such stunningly fresh and clean crab flavor and due to its proximity to home, Yan’s is our favorite local Chinese restaurant.
3) At the end of summer, I attempted to create an approachable, but special burger that would satisfy my burger desires. In turn, I came up with “The Burger;” house ground chuck/short rib, cooked sous vide, soft sesame bun, aged cheddar “cheez whiz,” crispy prosciutto, compressed tomato, romaine lettuce and my secret sauce. Add seared foie gras for “The Burger Royale.” Yowza!
4) Live spot prawns while spot prawn fishing with the boys from Organic Ocean. I’ve had lots of raw spot prawns in my life, but nothing compares to their taste and texture straight from the trap. You just can’t get them any fresher.
5) A plethora of sea urchin nigiri sushi right at the opening of the local sea urchin season. Unbelievable! We were at Sushi Town with two other couples and unexpectedly were treated to the year’s freshest and finest uni. I love uni.
6) The Deluxe Makunouchi Bento Box at Kingyo was outstanding. 10 different dishes, with rice and miso soup for $16. Was every bite amazing? No, but what a fantastic variety and what a wonderful lunch overall.
7) My Mom’s homemade dumplings are always a special treat when my “parental units” come to visit the “grand-kiddos” and us. A combination of prawns, a touch of pork and simple seasonings = perfectly delicious. Mom’s dumplings are my favorite.
8) The Reggie Deluxe at Pine State Biscuits (PDX) probably took a few years off my life, but it was worth it. An amazing biscuit, fried chicken, fried egg, cheese and sausage gravy. Yowza! I think I might try and duplicate this at home.
9) The bacon maple bar at Voodoo Doughnut (PDX) was stellar. A yeast doughnut with maple icing and crisp bacon. Is everything better with bacon? Yes. Lineups around the clock at this Portland hot spot is completely unfathomable to me, but killer doughnuts.
10) 10 pieces of sushi from Maruwa; I don’t even remember what they were, but the chef/owner made them special for me and they were wonderful. I skipped out of dinner service around 9pm and went for sushi at Maruwa by myself; it was an enlightening experience.
11) The Jamaican beef patties straight from the oven at The Patty Shop was life changing. I was their first customer of the day and I was rewarded with amazing and hot beef patties. Flaky pastry, tasty filling and plenty of childhood memories.
12) The Gargantuan Feast at Cora’s makes the list, not because it’s the best breakfast I’ve had in 2011, but because of all the fond memories it awakes and I just love a good meat-y, egg-y, greasy “brefix.” Who doesn’t?
13) Geoduck clam sautéed with three kinds of mushrooms; one of our favorite dishes at Yan’s Garden and at “Lexicon’s” one month birthday party, it was spectacular. Despite the appearance of geoduck, it’s easily my favorite mollusk to eat.
14) Some crazy Taiwanese hot dog/sticky rice deal that “Monk” and I shared at the Richmond Night Market. It was tasty and definitely something I have never tried before, but the reason it makes the list is because it was a last-minute date, and one of the very few occasions in 2011 that Monk and I had a chance to spend together without “Jazzy” or “Lexicon.”
15) Half beef/half tendon Taiwanese beef noodle soup at No. 1 Beef Noodle House. I’m no beef noodle expert, but on this particular day, this meaty, beefy bowl of noodles caved my whole head in and blew me away.
16) Dinner at home; beef tenderloin, popovers, baked potato, assorted vegetables and red wine gravy. I eat a fair amount of steak and usually it’s rib eye. On this particular day, I cooked some beef tenderloin en sous vide (my first filet of 2011) and it just melted in my mouth. Combined with my killer popovers and Fairview Cellars wine, it was one of my favorite meals of the year.
2011 was pretty tasty and I’m hoping 2012 will be even tastier. All the best and Happy New Year! Cheers!