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

elvis tartine
Eating House

beef crudo
Momofuku Nishi
New York

farm egg baked in celery cream
Miller Union

foie gras and truffle macaroon
Osteria Francescana

sheep’s milk gnocchi
Jockey Hollow
Morristown, NJ

passionfruit semifreddo
Contra @ Gramercy Tavern
New York

carolina gold rice

Xiao Bao Biscuit

snap pea sushi
New York
pike quenelle

nam tok beans
Kin Khao
San Francisco

spicy tuna toast
New York

ko egg
Momofuku Ko
New York

general tso fried chicken
Chaan Teng
New York

Charleston, SC – 6/12/16 – Two Boroughs Larder

It is incredibly sad to be writing this on the day that Two Boroughs Larder is closing.  I suppose it is fitting that this was my last meal of a great birthday weekend.  I am happy to have visited once and can’t wait to see where Josh Keeler ends up.

TBL charcuterie – pickles, mustard, country bread
Seasonal lettuce – benne seed tahini, meyer lemon, bread crumb

Confit new potato – slow roasted carrot, bordelaise, shallot

Carbonara – bucatini, Neuske’s, english pea, calabrian chile, mint


Charleston, SC – 6/11/16 – Leon’s Oyster Shop, Edmund’s Oast and Peninsula Grill

Leon’s Oyster Shop
We arrived at Leon’s focused on a few dishes from our menu preview. But as I finally am getting to this blog update looking back on the menu I realize that I would love to have absolutely everything right now.  I was trying to overdose on peel ‘n eat shrimp this trip and at least in my mind it cancelled out the calories of delicious fish fry.  And no, one can never ever have too many hush puppies.

Peel ‘n eat shrimp, old bay, comeback sauce

Hush puppies, honey butter

Char-grilled oysters, lemon, parsley, butter, parmesan

Leon’s fish fry, mixed fry with condiments, hush puppies and pea salad

Kale salad, butternut squash, pepitas, currants, charred lemon, ricotta salata

Edmund’s Oast
If you are a beer drinker and end up in Charleston Edmund’s Oast is definitely a must do.  Super interesting beers and I still can’t get over how good the PB&J was.  It sounded kind of terrible, and I was incredibly skeptical, but it was fantastic.  The PB&J flavor was there but so subtle as was the yeasty flavor of bread.  Of everything I had on this trip, that beer was one of the most memorable.

“Gin Joint” style jerky

Pickled vegetables

Beef tartare, tonnato sauce, celery, charred toast

Cauliflower, fresh sheep’s milk cheese, calabrian chile

Peninsula Grill
Following dinner we raced to Peninsula Grill to have a slice of their famous coconut cake before they stopped serving food.  I am always skeptical of heavily lauded baked goods and generally am never that impressed.  But this cake was insanely good.  If I had not exhibited any self control I could have easily finished it (and it was enormous).  I am likely ruined for coconut cake forever.

Charleston, SC – 6/10/16 – Xiao Bao Biscuit, Bar at the Spectator Hotel, the Ordinary and the Belmont

Xiao Bao Biscuit
After several hours of very warm biking around Charleston we made our way to Xiao Bao Biscuit for lunch.  The Okonomiyaki lives up to the hype and is completely fantastic.  But the pork candy takes it to another level entirely.  This stuff is absolutely addicting.  I have no idea how it is made, but why is nobody else doing this?  Brilliant.  Our other dishes were delicious but admittedly overshadowed through no fault of their own.

Okonomiyaki – Japanese cabbage pancake with pork candy

Pad Kra Pow – minced beef, beans, thai chili and basil over rice with farm egg

Bo Bo Ji – Sichuan style chicken, cilantro, scallion & peanut salad over rice with a roasted sesame flavored sauce

Bar at the Spectator
We stayed at the Spectator hotel which I cannot say enough good things about.  The rooms were absolutely lovely and the service top notch.  Addressing guests by name always makes one feel special and was done in such a warm manner that you immediately felt that you were friends with the entire staff.  Room service breakfast was included in the room rate which I thought was a great touch especially as the rates did not seem inflated to compensate and the choices were perfect.  Butler service was also provided to all rooms and upon arrival our first butler David took my dress to be steamed and returned not only with my dress, but with a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate my birthday.  I would have been quite happy to move in and cannot imagine staying anywhere else in Charleston.

The bar is beautifully decorated and I had read glowing reviews prior to the trip.  The cocktails were indeed quite good  And as Bravo’s Southern Charm is one of my many guilty pleasures, I was excited to see that Gentry bourbon actually exists and was on the menu.

The Ordinary
I’m still kicking myself for not choosing this for my actual birthday dinner.  The Ordinary is housed in an old bank building and it makes me so happy when these structures are re-used.  It was my mission to overdose on shrimp this weekend and so it makes an appearance here.  An all seafood dinner which at the end of day 2 of Charleston summer temperatures was exactly what I wanted to eat.  And a first for me with wahoo crudo which was a lovely dish.  Unfortunately I have forgotten the ingredients in our desert but that seems bound to happen to me at least a few times per trip.

Ordinary Hawaiian Rolls, Sea Salt Butter

Peel & Eat Shrimp
Jumbo Lump Blue Crab, Grapefruit, Avocado

Wahoo Crudo, Corn, Summer Truffle

Black Bass Ceviche, Avocado, Cucumber

Steamed Snowy Grouper, Porcini Ragout

The Belmont 
A perfect nightcap at the Belmont.  Despite the bouncer outside we only had to wait a few minutes to get inside with seats at the bar.

Charleston, SC – 6/9/16 – Artisan Meat Share, the Darling Oyster Bar and the Gin Joint

Artisan Meat Share
I am not sure that there could have been a more perfect birthday lunch.  I could eat pickles, peas and any sort of charcuterie every day and it would never get old and these versions were fantastic. Midway through dinner I was kicking myself for not just coming back here!


Pea and peanut salad, green goddess dressing
Bread and butter pickles

Darling Oyster Bar
I should have known better than to pick a relatively new spot for my birthday dinner.  I think Darling Oyster Bar has potential and I can’t say that we disliked anything.  However the tuna poke was completely devoid of any flavor and the grapes a strange component.  But one of my biggest pet peeves transpired when the majority of these dishes were brought at one time and wouldn’t fit on our small 2-top table.  I did not care at all in what order these items arrived.  However there is no excuse for a server not being able to course them out.  I shouldn’t have to juggle plates and inhale last bites just to make room on the table.

Shrimp cocktail

Hush Puppies – Geechie Boy corn meal, sorghum butter

Tuna Poke – white grapes, shoyu, sesame seed

Shrimp & Grits – cheddar grits, crispy brussels, country ham, fennel

Snapper Ceviche – fennel, Cara Cara orange, lime, coriander

The Gin Joint
Certainly this was a must-do stop in the middle of Negroni week!

White negroni and birthday desserts!