2010 was a very good year in food. After complaining about how monotonous the restaurant scene was getting, a new generation of restaurants started cropping up.
The year started out with a lot of sophisticated lunch sandwiches, but my regular rotation (when away from my office) included: sandwiches and chicharrones at Kitchenette, panuchos rice and beans at Poc Chuc, local flavor lamb or spicy boiled beef at Panda Country Kitchen, tripe tacos at Tonayense Taco Truck, burger at Mission Burger, a cheese slice at Arinell’s, and a margherita pizza or porchetta sandwich at Starbelly.
Spring kicked off with a trip to New Orleans, a great food town. Across the board, I found the chefs in nola cooking proudly putting their personal stamp on their menus with an eye, or at times just a wink, to local traditions. I loved the local pride and the general food loving nature of the town. The road trip from New Orleans to Atlanta was good fun, loading up on fried chicken, grits and bbq. As much as I enjoyed it, the heaviness of the food took some getting used to. Several of the places I tried made Paula Deen look like a health food nut. I adapted. In Alabama, I most remembered the smoked chicken sandwich with white bq sauce at Saw’s BBQ in Homewood. It was something I’d never tried and made perfect sense because it paired of smoky flavor and horseradish. The refined southern style of Highland’s Bar and Grill in Birmingham also stood out. In Tuscaloosa, I enjoyed the shack-like bbq joints, if mainly for the atmosphere. Though, to be fair, the experience might’ve been overshadowed by my off the charts sugar high from downing liters of sweet tea. (Followed by a precipitous sugar crash forcing me to pull over for a roadside nap.)
Although I had many excellent meals during that road trip, the one that will always stay with me is a certain rack of pork ribs and brunswick stew at Fresh Air BBQ in Macon, Georgia. Something about the balance between sour, smokey and sweet was just perfect for me –hands down my favorite American style bbq. (A late summer trip to Park’s BBQ in LA ended up as my favorite Korean style bbq.)
There’s too much more to say about the rest of 2010, including Turkey, NY, and Hawaii. I’ll try to come back to this later. I don't have time to make this list shorter, but here are my current highlights of 2010:
- Wood Fired Oysters at Cochon, New Orleans
- Shrimp and Oyster Po'Boy at Domilise's, New Orleans
- Freshly Shucked Oysters at Casamento's, New Orleans
- Smoked Chicken Sandwich w/ White BBQ sauce at Saw's BBQ, Homewood, AL
- Rack of Pork Ribs and Brunswick Stew at Fresh Air BBQ, Macon, GA
- Pullman's Plank and Shrimp Grits at Watershed Restaurant, Decatur, GA
- Pickled Shrimp in a Jar at Abattoir, Atlanta, GA
- Pork Belly w/ grilled kimchi at Park's BBQ, Los Angeles, CA
- Grilled Octopus, Chorizo and Chow Chow at Animal, Los Angeles, CA
- Chickpea stew from the tiny shop next to the bus station in Demre, Turkey.
- Kofte at Kofteci Huseyin, Istanbul, Turkey
- Büryan Kebap and Chicken Pilav in a Pastry Shell at Siirt Seref Buryan Kebap Salonu, Istanbul, Turkey
- Beef at Eleven Madison Park (and tasting every item on their menu), New York, NY
- Liang Pi at Xian Famous Foods, New York, NY
- Compressed watermelon at Commonwealth, SF
- Cooking Club (Lunar NY, What a Gas, Sound of Music, Diwali, Pizza Wars)
- Braised Cauliflower, Leeks in a vinaigrette at Plum, Oakland, CA
- Toroniku Ramen #7 at Santouka Ramen, San Jose, CA
- Jonathan Kauffman returning to SF.