Wednesday, December 18, 2013

best bites of 2013... so far

Does it surprise anyone that my sweet husband suggested that I compile a list of my best bites of 2013 for the blog? Does it surprise you that he suggested it in August? Needless to say, I have been anticipating this post for a while and I think it's perfect for today's linkup. A little disclaimer, though: I am going to NYC before the end of the year so a few things may get removed in favor of things I try there. Actually, if nothing I have there makes the list, I will be pretty disappointed.

So here, in chronological order to the best of my memory are my best bites of 2013. Many of them are common enough dishes, but these showed me how great these dishes could be. Of course, everything is subjective and I could most definitely change my mind about any of it if you ask me tomorrow.

1) Bread plate with Anchovy Spread at Balena in Chicago: We went to Balena because its pastry chef was on Top Chef: Just Desserts and is from my suburb. The entire meal was delicious, but the standout was the anchovy spread that came with the elaborate bread plate (I believe there were five types of bread and three spreads). Neither of us typically like anchovies, but this was beyond amazing, to the point that we were eating it from the dish with a spoon to get every last bite. Salty, creamy, and rich, yum.

2) Coffee Ice Cream with Cocoa Nibs at Mindy's Hot Chocolate in Chicago: I heard about Mindy's from watching Food Network many years ago and wanted to visit if I ever got to Chicago. It's a tiny restaurant in a strip center. We were crowded at the bar and ordered ice cream when it was beyond freezing outside. But the ice cream was creamy as it should be, tasted like good chocolate, and the cocoa nibs added enough texture to take this beyond anything I have ever had before. I wish this was a franchise!

3) English Muffins with Herbed Lard at Oxheart: I got to enjoy this on my first ever trip to Oxheart, so I didn't know there was a bread course. When it was put in front of me, I wasn't interested. I hate English muffins and ew, lard is gross. But since the meal was expensive, I decided to give it a try and I think Andrew and I both locked wide eyes immediately on trying it. The lard was buttery smooth with a strong herb flavor. The muffins weren't like the ones in the bread aisle of the grocery store: the outside was almost fried and the inside was thick. The muffins were tiny- only slightly larger than a half dollar, and we had four. I could have eaten so many more.

4) The Papaya Salad at Vieng Thai: I have said so many things about Vieng Thai, but I love the papaya salad so much. It isn't something I would have ordered without a recommendation, but the combo of fruit with red pepper should be enough to interest almost anyone. Sometimes it's super spicy, but I love it the most when there is just a hint of red pepper and I can taste all of the components of the salad individually.

5) Vegetables at Underbelly: We went to Underbelly in late December or early January and ordered vegetables with fish sauce just to have something green on the table. They were fantastic. We went a few months later and ordered a roast that came with brussels sprouts. Normally Andrew and I both hate brussels sprouts, but upon trying these, we were fighting over them. They were roasted and amazing. We went to Underbelly again last week and the vegetables happened to be broccoli. We both hate broccoli but couldn't get over how good this was. I considered ordering a second bowl of it, but I had to save room for #6 on this list...

6) Caramel Popcorn Pot de Creme at Underbelly: I had this for the second time last week and it was as good as I remember. After chocolate, caramel is my favorite flavor. The creamy caramel custard is served in a small mason jar and topped with fried pieces of soft pretzel and vanilla ice cream. I love the textures of everything and the subtle popcorn taste in the custard, but honestly, the pretzel is my favorite part.

7) Cream Cheese Croutons on the Caesar Salad at Graffiato in Washington, DC: I visited Washington, DC by myself for work and was afraid of public transport, so I had to visit restaurants in walking distance of my hotel. Luckily, I was game for walking and the weather was beautiful because Mike Isabella (from Top Chef) had a restaurant fairly close by. I sat at the bar and had dinner alone for the first and only time in my life. I started with the Caesar and decided to go all out - I wasn't going to hold the anchovies, even though I wanted to. The star of the salad was the croutons. They were made from lightly fried cubes of cream cheese with the slightest crunchy outer layer. When I bit into them, they broke apart in a warm, gooey mess. I wish DC was closer.

8) Macaroni and Cheese at Pecan Lodge in Dallas: Full disclosure: my note about this was actually about the burnt ends of the brisket that were a special the day we visited Pecan Lodge, but due to a nice coworker of Andrew's, I have gotten to experience the mac and cheese more recently, so I'm including that instead. The mac and cheese is really thick but doesn't taste chalky. It has enough cheese to not taste like queso and green chiles added in for a little something extra. My favorite part has to be the bacon crumbled on top. I know that in the food world, bacon is becoming passé and too much of a good thing, but I still love it.

9) Blacksmith's Iced Coffee: Blacksmith is another favorite that I get to go to all the time. I hated iced coffee until I tried theirs this summer. It's dark and strong. I like to add two packets of raw sugar to it and a splash of milk but really, it's still good when my ratios are off. Now that it's cold outside, I have to force myself to get a hot drink. I crave coffee on a daily basis, but I crave this specific coffee as a special treat all the time.

10) Cloud 10 Creamery: Okay, this one is kind of a cheat. There are many components of things at Cloud 10 that I love, but I have never had them all in the same dish. I love the nutella with marshmallow ice cream. It actually tastes like nutella, not weak chocolate like so many nutella-flavored things taste like to me. I love the Cafe Sua Da ice cream - it's coffee ice cream but so much better. The coffee is less dull than other coffee ice cream. And of course, I love nutella powder. What's not to love? It's unique and it's tasty and it's the best banana split topping I've ever heard of.

So, those are some of my best food memories from 2013. Can't wait to see what makes 2014's list!

That's What She Read


  1. i should read this post when i'm NOT eating a bowl of shit. that means i'm sitting here eating a bowl of oatmeal and not enough brown sugar or cinnamon and plain oatmeal tastes like ass.

    the pictures above look divine. far from the ass i'm eating right now :(

    Vodka and Soda

  2. Okay I am here trying to do a juice detox today and there you are driving me crazy by posting about all sorts of yummy food! Rawr! That creamery is in Houston? Oh my goodness, I need to find it. And that caramel popcorn thing sounds like heaven.

    If I posted my favorite foods, it'd be stuff like... uh... yeah, I have no idea.

  3. I still think the Mac and Cheese sounds the best! I wouldn't mind trying the caramel popcorn dish though, anything with caramel is worth a shot!

  4. AHHHHHHHH I'm starving now. I will take one of each.

    I'm especially intrigued by the biscuits and lard. I've made english muffin bread at home, it's a lot more dense than the Thomas English Muffins. I bet I'd love that little bread course.

  5. Oh my gosh I'm so hungry now!

  6. ALL sounds so good! I always said that I could NEVER be anorexia... since I just LOVE to eat!

  7. I don't think I had a papaya salad until this year (in Doha) and I loved it. I need that mac and cheese, like, now. And Dallas is probably a place I could actually get to within the next few months...years?
    I still drink iced coffee in the winter/year round. I LOVE it too much and I'm too impatient to wait for hot drinks to cool down enough!

  8. Annnnnnd now I am starving!!! I need to come out to eat with you! You know what's up!

  9. Lunch can't come fast enough! The caramel popcorn and the Cloud 10 ice cream sound so good!!

  10. This is such a perfect post for you! I'd love to have a bowl of the mac and cheese and a bowl of the broccoli, with an iced coffee to drink with it all. Yum. :)

  11. Okay so there is a lot of yummy looking food in this picture (which I'm trying my best not to blame you for torturing me ;)). But for some reason that salad in the upper right hand corner just looks SO FREAKING appetizing to me right now. Oh, holy yum!!! Cream cheese croutons? Yes, please.

  12. I'm reading this right before I sit down for a veggie burger. I would so much rather have all of this on your list (including veggies!) than what I'm about to eat!

  13. All of this sounds SO good! I think my favorite food this year was the mac & cheese "bites" at our favorite local Italian restaurant! And it came with this sauce that was amazing! The restaurant changes menus seasonally though so unfortunately they don't have them anymore! :-(

  14. Thanks for the food porn! Now I'm hungry. That mac n cheese looks DELICIOUS!

  15. Everything in there looks
    so delish!

  16. wow this is impressive!! You made me hungry! :) Thanks for linking up!

  17. I love that he suggested this; it fits your blog so perfectly. You might want to do this every year! This post definitely made me hungry too lol

  18. Yum!! What a great post idea!

    Stopping by (a little late) from the link-up. :)


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