Frank Bruni did it, Jonathan Kauffman did it, now, it’s my turn. A countdown of the culinary kind, a remembrance of meals past. Most of what shows up on my list are firsts for me. Rillettes, caviar, hamachi; culinary treats I’d never tried before, and oddly, pork.
My top meals/plates of 2007.
1. Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York
On a quick trip to New York last month for my dearest and oldest friend’s 30th birthday Momofuku was the prime focus. For her birthday dinner we, and a couple other friends dined at Momofuku saam and it was amazing, but my favorite of the two is the noodle bar, where Erin and I fed our souls on a cold cold New York day. The rich pork-y broth was chock full of shredded pork, kimchi, and sliced ddok. Fine carrot strings nested upon the top gave the dish a classy presentation, but once pushed into the soup it tasted everything jjigae should but more refined. Just writing about it leaves my stomach and taste buds searching for a cheap NYC ticket on Orbitz.
2. Christmas Eve set menu at Tilth, Seattle
Christmas Eve dinners of my past were always a grand affair. Mother would let Jamie and I choose the menu (usually stuffed shells and King Crab Legs), we would get dressed up, and drink sparkling apple cider out of champagne flutes. Kevin also had a strong Christmas eve tradition with his family of a stone soup, if you will. This year we went out on a limb and celebrated out. Kevin made the reservations, a set menu at Tilth, celebrating the Spot Prawn. The procession, Spot Prawn Bisque with fennel, shallot, fines herbs, and spot prawn row was served table side and a contender for favorite course, Arugula Salad with truffle vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts and Parmesan shavings, Duck Leg Confit with spot prawn salpicon, napa cabbage charcuit and potato puree, and finally Theo’s Chocolate Pot de Creme with cardamom chantilly and smoked fleur de sel
3. Columbia Wine Makers Dinner, Meritage, Redmond
My parents helped Kevin and I celebrate our anniversary early with a wine maker’s dinner at Meritage in the Redmond Marriot. The meal was fantastic and you can read the whole description here, but my favorite was the first course, a piece of Hamachi sashimi, in a vanilla butter with micro greens and osetra caviar. It was my first time tasting many components of the dish, the micro greens, the hamachi (which has the texture of butter) and the osetra.
4. Korea meets France, my first meal at Coupage, Seattle
When I read both reviews of Coupage in the Times and PI, I knew I had to go, Korean food with a French twist. With all the fancy pants food I ate in Korea never once did I see an upscale western twist on Korean food. My main course, short ribs were succulent and fork tender the star of the show was a wild mushroom bibimbap. Flash sauteed shiitakes, oyster and cremini mushrooms rested atop shredded napa cabbage tossed in a truffle vinaigrette finally seated on a bed of perfectly cooked short grain rice. A shot of spicy chili paste raced out from the side, while half Quail’s eggs crowned the plate off. It was dramatic and tasty, and most importantly gave me direction in my own style of cooking. For months after arriving back in the states I knew I wanted to recreate Korean meals at home but in a more visually appealing and refined way. Thanks Coupage.
5. Anniversary dinner at Crush, Seattle
Though Kevin and I celebrated our five years of marital bliss in Walla Walla, Kevin’s dad, mom, and grandmother helped us celebrate at Crush a couple of weeks later. I remember deciding it would be a good idea to order a couple of small plates, goat cheese hazelnut tart topped with arugula tossed in a truffle vinaigrette and squash ravioli, but hands down Kevin’s dish was the winner. A trio of pork, and a hallmark of the Crush menu, The Three Little Pigs with Baby Beans & Cider Sauce Tenderloin, Crepinette of Shank, Laquered Belly. Pork Belly. Is there anything better?
But the piece de resistance was the after dinner chocolates, with a special message for Kev and me. Can I get a “Awwwwwwwww.”?
After a week of overpriced and oversized tourist food at Cabo stallwarts such as Edith’s and Mi Casa, Kevin finally took me to a little taco stand where we feasted on carnitas until our bellies were swollen and lips stained red from the picante sauce. They were my first and I will never forget them.
7. Deer meat carpaccio at Peder Oxe in Copenhagen, Denmark
When you only have 14 hours in which to explore a city (and 10 of those being the hours in which most things are closed) you can’t be too choosy about where to go and what to see. Best to chose one area and hit the ground running. Thus was our experience in Copenhagen which landed us at the doorstep of Peder Oxe, a Danish/Global/Organic restaurant. Normally I wouldn’t order a plate of raw meat for dinner, blame it on the jet lag or that I had never tried deer meat before, but I went for it and was pleasantly surprised to find a loin of dear meet cooked medium rare and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds topped with juicy cow berries, dill, parsley, toasted walnuts and olive oil. Hurray for deer.
8. Dinner at Saffron, Walla Walla
Kevin and I marked our Anniversary (are you sensing a theme here?) with a weekend in Walla Walla which I have not posted about yet (saving it for a slow February I guess). Walla Walla is Washington’s darling of wine regions and is home of the state’s best, Cayuese, Leonitti, Buty, a’Maurice, just to name a few coming outta of here. For the longest time, 26Brix was the head honcho, but newcomer Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen has stolen the show. We chose a shower of small dishes, but by far my favorite was the beef cheeks, deliciously fork tender meat, similar to short ribs. In this picture you’ll see Kevin’s favorite, the calamari.
9. Pork Rillettes, Lark, Seattle
I had big hopes for my dinner at Lark, but was disappointed to say that it didn’t live up to my expectations. Our dinner was good and nice, but nothing left me raving or craving to go back, with the exceptions of the pork rilletes. Plain, honest, and reaping with pork flavor they were creamy smooth and best eaten on their own, sans bread or cracker.
10. My After Christmas Dinner on December 27, Bellevue
Because the grandiose Christmas and Christmas Eve dinners of my past I dearly loved are now gone I decided to have my own fancy pants dinner in the style of my mother. Through she made us clean the house top to bottom along with her and my father, wash our hands and change our clothes (no jeans and tshirts), I loved the luxurious feel of the tablescape, dining wear and my absolute favorites the crackers.
I set the table for six the night before, decorating with cedar and holly branches. My plates were from last year’s Tord for Target collection. The menu: Shaved fennel, blood orange, and pomegranate salad with butter leaf lettuce and peccorino in a meyer lemon dressing. Homemade crab tortellini with a scallion poppy seed butter. Roasted pork loin with apples, caramelized onion and rosemary sauce. And finally homemade dense gingerbread cake with eggnog creme anglise and candied cranberries. For all the money and time spent on the meal it was worth it all. Entertaining for friends in the style of my family was both a gift to myself and others.
1. Cayuse, Vigonier
Drank at Lark with our so so dinner. Our waitress was tres impressed with our B.Y.O.W. as were we (thanks mom and dad-PS Lark has a very low corkage fee!)
2. White Port and Tonic
A drink we had at the Bellevue Whole Foods Spanish wine tasting. Very refreshing and not too expensive. White port runs about 12-14 bucks a bottle.
3. Barrel tastings at Beaux Feilds, Willamette Valley Oregon
This was the first barrel tasting I had ever participated in and what a difference a few years in oak make. My first couple glasses were terrible, highly tannic and acidic, I nearly spat them out at the server rather than in the spitton. Finally I asked someone what I should be looking for in these young wines. Balance.
4. a’Maurice Voigoier,
Drank with our meal at Saffron, it was citrus-y with tropical hints of papaya and pineapple. Amazing.
5. Yellow Hawk, Sangiovese
On our first night in Walla Walla we hit up the bar at 26Brix, I had a cocktail (a very faux pas thing to do according to the guy next to me) but Kevin had a glass of what has become our favorite everyday drinker (not that we can really afford that). Smooth and balanced it goes with near everything from a large Pagliacci Brooklyn pizza to herb roasted chicken.
6. Tamarak Cellers
Out at the wine makers ghetto in Walla Walla (the old militaty airport compound converted into wine maker studios) we first tried these pack a punch wines. Plus I got to pretend to crush crapes ala Lucy and Ethel.
7. Japanese Plum Wine and Soda with a twist of lime
Kevin’s work mate Carolyn introduced us to this easy summer cocktail. Mix one part Japanese plum wine and one part soda water. A new twist on the summer sundowner.
8. Port, Wineglass Wineries, Yakima Valley
The Tasting Room at Pike’s market is where Kevin and I first tried this port. Usually we both find port cloying and too sweet, but this wine, rich with bing cherry and chocolate is how to settle down with a wet Washington winter.
9. Taru Sake
Kevin and I love Umi Sake House down in Belltown. Sake novices, the waitress pointed us toward this medium body hibuscus perfumed sake (available at Uwajimaya for about 14 bucks).
10. Columbia 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
Saving the best for last, my parents unearthed two bottles of this 15 year old wine from the garage earlier this year and gave one bottle to Kevin and I. I have never aged wine, in fact it, wasn’t until this year that I even bought bottles that could be aged. Most of what we drink is ready now, but this Cabernet Sauvignon was awe inspiring, the way the wine transcended stages from sweet to a savory mineral finish. It gave us both hope and inspiration for laying down a couple bottles, one, a Leonetti merlot and the other, a Beaux Frers Pinot Noir.
What are your tops for the year?
Happy New Year!