Favorite dishes of 2016

I started with more than 60 and have narrowed it down as much as possible. In no particular order here are my top dishes of 2016, whatever ‘top’ means on any such lists. Largely these dishes are not representative of my favorite meals of 2016 and many are from what I would consider casual restaurants. They may not all be the best dishes technically but are the dishes that I could eat every day and often have cravings for. In the interest of fairness of I have disqualified the Au Cheval burger, the Humm Dog, Black Truffle Explosion, and Oysters & Pearls as well as all bread courses.

balsamic, truffle, artichoke
Luskus with Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs
New York

osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
Alinea
Miami

elvis tartine
Eating House
Miami

beef crudo
Momofuku Nishi
New York

farm egg baked in celery cream
Miller Union
Atlanta

foie gras and truffle macaroon
Osteria Francescana
Modena

sheep’s milk gnocchi
Jockey Hollow
Morristown, NJ

passionfruit semifreddo
Contra @ Gramercy Tavern
New York

carolina gold rice
Roister
Chicago

okonomiyaki
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Charleston

snap pea sushi
Olmsted
New York
pike quenelle

nam tok beans
Kin Khao
San Francisco

spicy tuna toast
Wildair
New York

ko egg
Momofuku Ko
New York

general tso fried chicken
Chaan Teng
New York

San Francisco – 9/8/16 – Tartine Manufactory

After driving in endless circles to find parking, and then waiting in line to enter, I was cutting it very close to make my flight.  I forgot to take a photo of the menu and pretty much inhaled my lunch.  But it was absolutely fantastic and should be your go-to spot if you don’t need to deal with parking and especially if you live in the neighborhood.  The salad contained all of my favorite ingredients and even when I was full I could not bear to leave any of the delicious bread.

San Francisco – 9/4/16 – Kin Khao and the Progress

Kin Khao
Months later I wish I could rewind and do over this day.  I love everything about Kin Khao and would be quite happy to eat here on every single trip to San Francisco.  There are few places where I eat past the point of being full because I literally cannot stop.

Pak Pow – lager, appleton reserve rum, allspice dram, ginger, lemon, nutmeg

Nam Tok Beans – ayocote morado beans tossed isaan-style with lime, chili, rice powder, light soy, shallots, scallions, mint, cilantro

Som Tum Papaya Salad – spicy chili lime fish sauce dressing, green beans, cherry tomatoes, dried shrimp, peanuts

Pad Kee Mao – spicy stir-fried drunken noodles with ground pork, rice noodles, garlic, birds eye chili, onions, bell peppers, holy basil

Khao Mun Gai – chicken fat rice, ginger-poached chicken, served with pim’s secret sauce and a cup of chicken broth

The Progress
It took me far too long to get to the Progress.  As I knew I would, I loved everything about it.  The space is gorgeous, service is fantastic, and all of the food as excellent as expected.  But now I a torn and I see Progress/State Bird double dinners in my future.
(Apologies for the caption-less photos which is what happens when it takes me too long to update this blog.)


melon with sesame & dukkah, zucchini bread with pickled carrot creme fraiche, fried pickles with buttermilk & smoked hot sauce, claim cocktail with avocado & seven pepper cracker

pig’s head charcuterie, korean melon, fish sauce & chiles

hog island sweetwaters, yuzu pickled local nori






San Francisco – 9/3/16 – in Situ, Aaxte, Louie’s Gen-Gen Room and Lord Stanley

In Situ
I have to admit that when I first read about in Situ I didn’t get the concept at all and I really had no interest in going.  A restaurant based on reproducing dishes of various chefs from around the world seemed almost like a fad.  But I wasn’t considering the setting and when I finally visited it all made perfect sense. In Situ is located in the SF Museum of Modern Art and it is actually the absolute perfect museum restaurant as it is own museum of rotating dishes from famous chefs and restaurants around the world spanning decades.  The dishes themselves are classic and are faithfully reproduced.  Now I just need to dig back to that old photo of the Clove Club chicken.


Buttermilk fried chicken & pine salt – Isaac McHale, The Clove Club

Summery warm tomato & basil tart – Michel Guerard, Les Pres d’Eugenie

Ketchup fried rice – Roy Choi, LA Son

Aaxte
As our first stop of the evening we sadly had to limit what we ordered.  But I will definitely be back for a full dinner.  An adorable place, excellent service, and some shrimp that I could eat everyday.




Louie’s Gen Gen Room
I didn’t have time to try Lilhio Yacht Club on this trip unfortunately but did have a chance to check out this recently opened subterranean cocktail spot below it.  The space is adorable and the drinks bright and refreshing.  The abbreviated food menu contains a large number of waffle options.  A strange choice I initially thought but they were far better than I expected.




Lord Stanley
It was quite late by San Fran standards by the time we reached Lord Stanley and I felt badly that they allowed such a late reservation as we were the last table seated.  I don’t think I really appreciated how good this dinner was until the next day.  The vegetable preparations are really fantastic and refreshingly different.  The eggplant accompanying my lamb was hands down the best I have ever had.  It has never been one of my favorites and was completely transformed.  I”m looking forward to a return trip for the tasting menu.  Indeed one of the best new restaurants in America!


Onion petals with sherry vinegar

Grilled trumpet mushrooms, garlic and almond

Wagyu beef tartar with chanterelle and summer truffle

Sweet potato with shemeji, horseradish creme fraiche and nasturtium

Lamb loin and belly with charred eggplant, black olive and lemon

San Fran – 10/10/14 – Kin Khao & State Bird Provisions

Kin Khao
I have read so much about Kin Khao recently that I was initially puzzled to arrive for lunch to an almost empty dining room. My first thought was ‘I guess I didn’t really need a reservation.” But of course it turned out that all of the tables were reserved and San Fran just starts lunch a bit later than I do running on EST. For being in a somewhat strange space in a strange location I loved the quirky decor which contributed to an ultimately homey atmosphere. The perfect amount of heat in each dish…the kind that makes you unable to stop eating. I must get back for the wings!

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Som Tum papaya salad – shredded papaya, green beans, cherry tomatoes, dried shrimp, garlic, peanuts, lime, fish sauce

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Blistered green beans in XO sauce

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Pad Kee Mao – spicy stir fried drunken noodles with ground pork, rice noodles, garlic, bird’s eye chili, onions, bell peppers and holy basil

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Khao Soi Gai – northern style chicken curry broth, egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, and spicy chili oil

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After stops at Mikkeller Bar and Smuggler’s Cove….

State Bird Provisions
If I lived in San Fran I’m afraid that this blog would be half State Bird as I would be there every week. It’s so much fun that you don’t want to leave (which makes it even more impressive that they can turn tables at regular intervals). Thankfully I had some help on this trip so I could order more. But I still left too full to order an amazing sounding lamb dish (I am seriously full if I can’t eat lamb!). I started out trying to keep a list of all of the passed dishes but just gave up because I just wanted to enjoy the experience instead of documenting it. I think I may have missed a few pictures as well.

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Pancakes

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Toasts – chanterelle and pickled local anchovy

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Butter clam ‘picatta’

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Rose geranium ‘ice cream’ sandwich, chocolate cardamom ganache, pistachio and ‘world peace’ peanut muscovado milk

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If there is a more unassuming and gracious chef than Stuart Brioza I have yet to meet him. Thank you Ryan Anderson for the truly fantastic hospitality! Looking forward to what’s next at The Progress!

San Fran – 7/20/14 – Bar Agricole, Humphry Slocombe, Flour & Water

Bar Agricole
The only disappointment of the weekend was missing out on Bar Agricole’s cocktails. I woke up with migraine induced nausea so terrible that I didn’t know how I would possibly make it to brunch. I forced myself out and thankfully rallied but a Radler seemed to be a better idea for an upset stomach.

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Avocado and beets with goat cheese and seeds

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Baked eggs with black eyed peas, house-cured ham, wild spinach and goat cheese

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Humphry Slocombe
As it just happened to be National Ice Cream Day I needed no further justification for an afternoon ice cream! I’m not sure that there could be anything better than bourbon ice cream.

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Flour & Water
I waited in line but unfortunately lost our first table as my friends were stuck in traffic. How convenient that Trick Dog was right across the street while waiting for them to arrive! It all worked out perfectly and I had plenty of time to make it to the airport. I wish I had gotten the name of the absolutely lovely hostess who texted me updates on or new table.

Heirloom tomato panzanella with cucumber, mozzarella Di bufala & basil

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Grilled stone fruit with herbed ricotta, salsa verde, purslane & pistachio

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Corn cappelletti with honey & chocolate mint

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Pork cracklings with calabrian chili aioli

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Pici which braised rabbit, gypsy pepper & prosciutto soffrito

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Pomodoro – heirloom tomato, fior Di latte, garlic & basil

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Salsiccia – pork sausage, Calabrian chili, capers, lamb quarters

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Chocolate budino with espresso cream & sea salt

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Zucchini cake with fried squash blossom, chantenay carrot & gelato di bufala

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Seasonal gelato

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San Fran – 7/19/14 – SPQR, State Bird Provisions, Trick Dog, Wilson & Wilson

SPQR
After a morning walk up and down a few hills I kept walking the whole way to SPQR for lunch. I so rarely eat pasta that I appreciate it even more when I do and this was delicious. Of note, there were more solo diners here for lunch than I have ever seen at any other restaurant. We actually outnumbered the 2 and 4-tops. I know it’s not a good thing for the restaurant’s bottom line, but I did love seeing it. Even though I’m quite comfortable dining alone, there are still moments when I feel like a complete outcast.

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Sweet carrot and lentil salad, medulla date and vadouvan curry crema

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Buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and spigarello broccoli

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State Bird Provisions
I had a moment after I had been waiting in line for about 45 minutes when I was seriously questioning my sanity. I hate waiting in line. Perhaps one too many times of trying to be in the front row of a general admission show. I’ve only waited at a restaurant twice before, oddly both for pizza, Di Fara and Pizzeria Bianco. The former I barely remember as we were so hungry by the time we got our pizza that we would have eaten cardboard and so totally inhaled it without even tasting it. And the latter is my absolute favorite pizza in the US so it was well worth the wait.

If I lived in San Fran I think I would be at State Bird once a week, line and all. Hands down this was the most fun I’ve ever had dining alone. I never even picked up my book. The dim sum concept is just fantastic when so well done. It’s a bit like gambling in that you don’t know if you should take the 1st dish that comes around, or hold out for something you may like better. At first I wished there was a list so I would know how many choices there would be and strategize appropriately (actually there is a list online but I wasn’t sure how frequently it changed, etc). But I quickly realized that being surprised made it so entertaining. Next time I do need friends just so I can try more. In the end I only ordered 2 things from the actual menu but saw so much leaving the kitchen that I wanted to be able to eat. Lastly I think it takes a certain personality to work in this type of concept and everybody here had ‘it’ in spades.

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Shrimp ‘Louie’ bean salad

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Guinea hen dumpling

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Garlic bread with burrata

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Air dried beef with chili juice, rice powder & garlic chips

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Smoked trout-avocado chip & dip

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CA state bird with provisions

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Yeasted butter cake, sing old tomato caramel & peaches

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Trick Dog
Thankfully not everybody went to Tales of the Cocktail!

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Coit Tower – Rittenhouse rye, raspberry, thyme, lemon, cider

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Dragon Gate – campo de encanto acholado pisco, muscat, Szechuan pepper, lemon, ginger, egg

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Wilson & Wilson (in Bourbon & Branch)
Even better than a basement speakeasy is one with a password. I’m still trying to figure out what I said to get myself labelled as a scotch drinker! I needed you dad.

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