Sunday, January 3, 2010

2009: The Edible Memories

Ok, ok, so just about everyone has weighed in on their favorite meals/dishes/restaurants of 2009, mostly focusing on South Florida.  Even the New York Times' acclaimed critic, Frank Bruni, offered his two cents.  That doesn't mean that I can't be a "me too" and post my favorites.  So there.

Without further ado, my most memorable meals/dishes/experiences of 2009:

  • $1.00 tacos from little taco trucks in Playa del Carmen, Mexico was a great way to start the year.  They were also the only food in Mexico that I didn't have to remind myself, "Yes, this tastes awful but you're gonna need it for a base to sop up the alcohol."
  • BBQ chicken on the beach sand in Quepos, Costa Rica.  This was possibly the best bbq chicken I've ever tasted in my life.  My cousin, Andy, and I loved the hot sauce too and sat on a bench picking these chickens down to the bone while sipping on an Imperial.  
  • Attending "Dinner in Paradise" as part of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival was an awesome experience.  A cocktail hour and a tour of Paradise Farms followed by an incredible meal prepared on the farm itself using local ingredients.  Dining under the stars far removed from bright lights of the city of Miami made for a great memory, one that I hope to repeat this year when I fly my mom down and take her as her Christmas present.  I definitely recommend checking out one of these dinners if you haven't already.
  • Parts, lots of them.  2009 was not an "awful" year but rather an "offal" year for me and the dish that really got me going was the Crispy Pig Head at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.  It's first incantation was my favorite, served with some acidic greens (forget exactly what they were) and an awesome mustard sauce.  It was so good I ordered another one immediately afterwards.  Other fond offal memories: the tripe & pork belly stew and pig trotter terrine at Abattoir in Atlanta (thanks to Ed @lax2mia for the tip), the roasted marrow bones at Holman & Finch in Atlanta, the ankimo sushi @ NAOE in Sunny Isles and Tsukushinbo in Seattle, WA,  the tripe tacos in McAllen, TX, the grilled Deep Creek Ranch beef tongue with white corn puree, salsa negran manchego, and fried egg, the calves liver dish (I forget all the details but it was damn good), and the grilled sweetbreads w/ lemon fregola at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, and the char grilled primed aged spinalis and the braised tripe risotto we had at our inaugural Cobaya Dinner at Talula. Oh, and all things pork belly, of course.
  • The creation of the Cobaya group.  It started as some small talk while waiting for the valet and the next thing I knew The Chowfather and Frodnesor had already started making moves to make this thing a reality.  Chefs cooking what they want without the confinement of a set menu and diners ready to eat anything, anywhere.  The inaugural Cobaya dinner at Talula, hosted by Chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo and Sous Chef Kyle Foster was pound-for-pound my favorite meal of 2009.  It's been great getting to know everyone in the group and talking serious eats and recommendations, many of which I've met up with on separate occasions for beers, bbq, and more.  I have a good feeling that 2010 will push the bar even higher.
  • The culinary creations of Chef Kurtis Jantz and Chef Chad Galiano, the first knife-wielding chefs I ever trusted.  These guys are a huge part of the creation of the Cobaya group.  The launch of Paradigm: The Test Kitchen brought together a group of 11 strangers known only by their posts on the Chowhound Florida boards, none of who realized they would soon be doing this quite frequently as a group and growing in size as well.  The very core of the Cobaya mission statement has many Paradigm qualities to it that we experienced at that first meal, one that combined the chefs culinary prowess with some of their showmanship to turn the gathering from a dinner into an experience itself.  It reminded me (and possibly Chowfather too) of Daniel Boulud's After Hours show in that aspect.  Since then, I've enjoyed incredible dishes from Chef K and Chef Chad - prawn dogs, sanpei mussels, smoked salmon gel film as "lox", chorizo ice cream(!!), sous vide lobster w/ melted St. Andre (my new favorite cheese), chicken livers crisped with Trisol, blind quail, amazing gumbo, and a grilled green onion dip that could end wars (or start them if one side ran out!).  I've learned a lot about food and how it's prepared from these guys and their passion for food is definitely contagious.
  • My traditional family lobster & clam bake continued strong this year and still serves as the one meal that I look forward to each year starting on January 1st.  Gone was the raw bar this year but the picnic benches were still stacked with paper trays filled with lobsters and steamers for all to disassemble by hand, dunk in a butter bath, and devour.  Nothing beats friends, family, and good ol' fashioned New England seafood at the beach in Rockport.
  • The pizza crawl to determine Miami's best pizza pie that lasted 4 rounds was a lot of fun.  It also amazed me how the group was so laid back when it came to pie selection and paying the tab.  I've heard calls for other crawls but I'm under the mindset that pizza and beer are the only two crawls that make sense.
  • Friendships formed on a foundation of food.  Throughout all the dinners, tweets, chowdowns, and crawls I was fortunate enough to meet some really cool people and form some nice friendships.  Best gastronomic wishes for 2010 to @djkmia, @mango&lime, @ktchnintvwr, @frodnesor, @lax2mia, @thechowfather, @jmdsmiami, @zillamonster (twitter names), and all of the other great people I had the pleasure of dining with.
  • The quail hunt and the Blind Quail BBQ that followed was a great way to close out the year.  Having my cousin take me on my first quail hunt with dogs and all was one of the best times I've ever had and a truly awesome experience that I hope to repeat in 2010. The barbeque to make use of the bounty was, as Peter Griffin would say, "freakin sweet".
With all that said, I'm looking forward to seeing what 2010 will bring to the table.  Hopefully more great Cobaya dinners, a resurrection of restaurant life in the Grove, bars that have an actual menu listing all of their spirits, more success for local talented chefs, and more delicious dishes for me to consume with a smile.


paula said...

Nice recap and thanks for the shout out. You're right that we have several choices in common in what made 2009 for us in terms of food. Can't wait for what 2010 brings.

paula said...

PS: Love the new header. My eyes are slowly getting used to the white and red text on black. :)

SteveBM said...

Yeah, the title font and post title font should be rage italic but I guess if your computer doesnt have that in its system it doesnt read. My pc at home shows the right font but at work it shows some other font even tho the HTML is correct. Oh well.

Is white type on a black bkgrd really that hard to read? Thats the 2nd comment Ive got on that. Doesnt seem to bother my eyes at all. I wanted a black background because of the pic in the header White would look lame I think.

paula said...

It takes a little adjustment when you first look at it but it's not hard to read. I see how the picture would look better on black. On my computer, the blog title is in italics but not the post title. Still looks fine.