As 2007 gently creeps in most of us take some time to reflect on the past year's highs and lows. Last year I compiled a round-up regarding food trends in 2006. This year I think I'll begin the effort in a more personal way via an idea from Jen.
Best Foodie Hob Nob Experience: Attending this year's Gourmet Institute in New York as a prize winner for the December 2005 Gourmet Cook-the-Cover competition. I got to circulate with the editors and world-class chefs. At times exhilarating, other times competitive...what? you haven't eaten there? he's redefining that cuisine? exactly where have you been? But for the most part a whirlwind. I did however, develop a mad fancy on Michel Richard and Daniel Barber. They each reflect a part of my own philosophy toward food that a.) cooking for people comes from the heart and that you need a certain amount of play to create new ideas and b.) by caring about food and eating and growing organically and/or locally not only reflects place but is also sustainable for the environment. I also had the most elegantly tasty Bouley treat made from Cocoa Krispies hand made by the Pastry God himself. There's a lot more to tell here but I will need my notes and most likely wine.
Favorite New Cooking Tool: Mid-year I moved to a small in-law cottage with an IBK in Marin. Over the last six months I've had to seriously evaluate every tool for functionality and form. The bottom line is that everything should have two if not three functions. Up until Christmas the fave was the Mario Batali 5-piece prep bowl set ranging in size from 1/8 cup to 2 cups. Each has full and half-way marks on the interior and exterior for easy measuring. Mise-en-place is a must now that I am confined to a galley kitchen with a 30"x28" counter space. I can also if pressed eat from them and a fun lively color. Then at Christmas my sister gifted me with a Blomus Teastick. It's just dandy. Enough tea leaves to steep a cuppa and it functions as a spoon.
Best Ultimate Dining Sensation There is no contest here. Per Se. I dined with ultimate foodies The Carters. I'm unsure how they will define their best dining experience of '06 given that they ate at many top places including Cyrus. I opted for the Vegetable Tasting. Yes, yes I did--not only is it a true test of a chef's abilities but alas I'm a failure at the hardcore foodie stuffs--sweetbreads, foie gras etc. The evening was followed up with a waddle through the kitchen. I vaguely remember it. I have huge taste memories of the parsnip-vanilla soup, the hen-of-woods mushrooms and the black truffle mac & cheese. Really one of the most delicious evenings.
Best Glass of Bubbles East of Napa was found at the wedding reception of R&K this July at the Westport Rivers Winery. Clearly this was also a moment of realization that I wasn't the snob that I thought I had become. Madeline Kamman is a fan of their sparklers, ""They can't do this in California; many in France are not this good." Where have I been? If my legs were any indication I'm certain the mosquitoes must have been drunk by the close of the night.
Best Literary Feast on the Politics of Food goes to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. As anyone within earshot has heard me declare this year, 'if you care about the environment and food you must must read this book. After the spinach scare this year this book should be required reading in all high school science classes. The runner up in this category would be the dialog between Pollan and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.
Best Wild Food Taste has got to be the catching stripers off Cape Cod with the family. "Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will..." Wait, wait at the expense of a revisionist approach to the Old
WoMan & the Sea let's just say that catching fish is not easy. I went the distance and help the captain gut the fish. Now that felt all very Tony Bourdain and all but eesh what a mess. Dinner that night was braised striper with local tomatoes, on the grill with the smell of sea salt mxing with the heavy air of an incoming thunderstorm. Sometimes I ache for the Cape so much it startles me.
Best Tribute to a Signature Ingredient was rolled out in the form of the 2006 Oliveto's Truffle Dinner. The meal an extra special birthday gift for a friend who is well-deserving of a little special TLC. After being presented a small platter of many biancos we lingered and sniffed so heady, elusive and enigmatic. Stand outs from the menu (pdf) included poached salted farm egg with cardoons, celery, black trumpet mushrooms and fonduta valdostana and polenta farinata with Wild Boar ragu.
The Best Taco Al Pastor between Marin and Los Angeles was uncovered on Loop #2 last week at La Portranca in King City. After spending the holiday with family in LA I drove back North on 101 (vs. Loop #1 South on 1) stopping at over a dozen tacquerias. This place was fresh, bright and full of flavor just perfect on a rather gray, windy and cold day. Perfect for the chumparrado I ordered for dessert. A full report on the Christmas Coastal Taco Crawl is forthcoming.
There were many other highlights like those McIntosh apples from the Union Square farmers market; dinner at West in Vancouver; chocolate zuke cupcakes at Hollyhock and a lively at newly opened Cheese School of San Francisco. Also a big thanks to all of you who visit, leave comments and offer words of support...it's very much appreciated.
Akimashite Omedetto Gozaimasu...Felice anno nuovo...L'Shannah Tovah...Chuc Mung Tan Nien...Godt Nyttår...Happy New Year!