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Best of 2012

January 30, 2013

(Surprised at all by the timing of this post? You shouldn’t be. We are talking about me after all. At least I got it in before the end of January!)

2012 was a spectacular year.

Whether I was gracefully sitting behind white linen dressed tables or squatting on a plastic stool on a dirty curb, the food I ate this year was absolutely and utterly spectacular. Sadly, pretty much none it has actually made it onto this blog, but my mind and stomach (and hard drive, since I did remember to take pictures!) remember the meals well.

Here’s a peek of it all…


The Food Ledger’s Best of 2012

(And now for the annual disclaimer: Blah blah blah…Only includes restaurants I ate at for the first time in 2012…Blah blah blah…Whatever. You get the point by now.)

Fine Dining Rocks My Socks

(Alinea’s truffle explosion. Note: Heed your server’s instructions. It actually will explode.)

  1. Alinea (Chicago) – When I first heard of Alinea’s tasting menu, it was described as either an eye-opening revelation or a completely pretentious bore. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can say it’s anything but the latter. The experience is novel and whimsical and simply a lot of fun! In retrospect, I think I was giggling like a school-girl during at least 50% of my meal. Worth every damn penny.
  2. Benu (SF) – How does Benu not have 3 Michelin stars? The fact that they were able to seamlessly morph the flavors of my Chinese childhood into precise, immaculately created courses – it boggles my mind. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so emotionally touched by a meal. Just amazing.

Hide Away in a Hole In The Wall

(I miss LA Mexican food.)

  1. Guisados (LA) – If you’ve figured out anything by reading this site, it’s that I’m a girl of texture. And, there’s no better textural bite than the gelatinous stewed chicarron and the hearty chew of homemade tortillas at Guisados. It’s places like this that make me miss living in LA.
  2. Chunju Han-il Kwan (LA) – Any place that servces budae jjigae – a soup made of kimchi, spam, hot dogs, ramen noodles, rice cakes and random veggies – must be a hole-in-the-wall. Get a pot of it roaring on a portable burner and one of Chunju’s enormous kimchi pancakes, and you’ll have enough food to easily feed a family of 4. (Note: We only had a party of 2. Oops!)

One Bite and I’m Yours

(If only all vegetable dishes tasted this good.)

  1. The Dutch (NYC) – Whenever I just want that little *something* – a burst of flavor to suppress an irresistible food craving – I just order one of their oyster sliders and I’m immediately satisfied. They really are the perfect bite.
  2. Northern Spy Food Co. (NYC) – I’ve figured out the secret behind why their kale salad is so freaking addicting: Hidden in between those healthy kale leaves and that sweet roasted squash is cheese. Lots of cheese. I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m just stating a fact. Also a fact? Northern Spy Food’s kale (and cheese!) salad may be one of my favorite salads of all time.
  3. Bon Chovie (NYC) – It’s one of my few must-go vendors at Smorgasburg…I could munch on their Jersey-style (head-on) anchovies all day.

I Can’t Live Without

(I always tell myself to order something besides their Umi No Sachi…Hasn’t happened yet though.)

  1. Sushi Yasaka (NYC) – Nothing’s changed since that last post; Sushi Yasaka is still my favorite sushi joint in the entire island of Manhattan.

Best Foodcation…Ever. Period.

(If I could eat the Lunch Lady’s noodles every single day, I would die happy.)

  1. Everything (Vietnam) – There’s something about being in a foreign country, walking into a restaurant (or in most cases, an open stall) where no one really speaks English, pointing at things without knowing exactly what they are and getting the most amazing food in return. I still don’t know half of what I ate in Vietnam, all I know is that every bite was comforting and unique and just completely delicious. If you ever get the opportunity to go yourself, eat at the places on the street – if you play the safe route and eat like a tourist, you’ll miss out on all that country has to offer (which is a hell of  a lot!).

Almost…But Not Quite

(The hangover breakfast of gods.)

  1. Avec (Chicago) – I’ve only been to Avec once but it’s clear to me that it’s basically the “good for any occasion” restaurant. Have company in town? Go to Avec. Want a nice dinner out? Go to Avec. The food was delicious, the prices were reasonable and the staff was incredibly helpful.  For example, when they didn’t have the bottle of wine we wanted on hand, they recommended another great one that was only a 1/3 of the cost. Wait, so you’re not going to price gouge me and really just want to make sure I have a great time? I’m going to Avec.
  2. Korzo Haus (NYC) – I love me a good veggie burger, and Korzo Haus has served me my favorite veggie burger to date. Now, as a disclaimer, that could be due to my addition of bacon to that veggie burger but hey! It’s still a veggie burger and still my favorite. Plus, they make their “ketchup” out of beets! BEETS!!
  3. Barney’s Greengrass (NYC) – When I’m hungover, like REALLY hungover, I always want Barney’s Greengrass. I don’t usually make it there (dude, it takes effort getting out of bed!) but I always want it nonetheless. Eggs scrambled with smoked sturgeon, an everything bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee = Protein, salt, carbs, fat and caffeine. Do you need anything else?
  4. Baco Mercat (LA) – I remember when bacos first appeared in LA on the menu at Lazy Ox; I was never able to get my hands on one back then because they always sold out! However, now that I’ve eaten one at  I see why – because huge, tender chunks of beef and fried hunks of pork belly stuffed between flatbread are delicious. There’s a fantastic spread of vegetable dishes on the menu too so, even if you aren’t a meat-lover, there’s going to be something that appeals to you!