Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dining experiences of 2010

I wanted to reflect on some of the incredible meals of 2010. A few years ago I got sucked into the 25 things of me on facebook but instead of writing random facts of my life, I focused on meals.
Every now and then I go back through the list and recognize that I am fortunate and have eaten some amazing meals. It sort of inspired me to consider my top five of 2010. I even considered doing a decades top list, but in reality, I would have a hard time thinking about 2000-2002. Sort of like the Dark Ages, I think.
It is hard to whittle down the list of awesomeness to five. It is difficult since I have had many lovely dining experiences this past year.
However, if asked, this is how it would work out.
Top 5
How to Cook a Wolf--Seattle--February
Bouchon--Las Vegas--December
Restaurant Martin--Santa Fe--May
Of course there are others that should be in the top five but based on dining companion or some other small factor, they were edged out.
Restaurant Martin is one of Martin Rios's places in Santa Fe, NM. I visited Santa Fe in May and convinced my friend, Melody, to check out this place and Max. I liked Max, but we were the only diners and the bottle of wine I ordered was cooked. After I explained that to the server and requested a different bottle of wine, he either didn't believe me or care. Frustrated with the service is why Max was not included on my list. The food was excellent, though.
I liked Restaurant Martin for the food and the family aspect. While I waited for Melody to arrive I chatted up a little girl. She was the chef's daughter and mentioned that she loved helping with the desserts. She told me that she had made some of the desserts the previous day. It was endearing, I guess.
We shared wine and ate the orzo pasta, chile mac and cheese and scallops--I think. Santa Fe is a food haven--Geronimo, Cowboy Cafe, Pasqual's, O Eating House, La Boca, Horseman's Haven, etc...too many options. I try to go there twice a year. 2010, I made it.
Bouchon. Well, I heart Thomas Keller and as much as I love the French Laundry, I have only dined there once due to availability. It is a rarity to dine there more than once a year unless you either have a hook-up or a lot of cabbage to spend there. I like to spread my trips around and dine other places, too. Still, I can always enjoy Bouchon--either in Napa or Vegas. This year, I dined in Vegas, post-marathon with Shari, Brett and Pete. The extravaganza began with champagne, the cheese and charcuterie board. Pete ordered the roast chicken, Brett tried the steak Bouchon and Shari and I shared the scallops. I insisted on sides (typical). Mac and cheese, brussel sprouts and squash. The meal was enjoyable and special since I had completed the Vegas Marathon and still felt euphoric.
How to Cook a Wolf is located in Seattle, the Queen Anne District. Shari and I spent Brian's celebration dinner there. First, though, we illegally drank Matthews Wine on the Pier near the Pike Market. A cop rolled up and I felt, for sure, that we were going to get a citation for open container. My mind always goes to the worst possible scenarios.
We sat at barside and enjoyed the eclectic atmosphere and food--hamachi crudo salad and pasta with pork and cauliflower. I enjoyed the dishes and dessert and raved about the coffee. Sometimes, that is all it takes, for me, to love a restaurant. The coffee factor.
Plus, that dinner was special for us. We were celebrating Brian's life, his love of food and friendship. Wherever I am, for the rest of my life, dinner on 2/28 will forever be in my top 5 yearly list.
Zu Zu, Napa Valley. Tapas delight! Post Healdsburg Half marathon, some wine tasting, World Series Game 3 at Russian River, and multiple laughs, we (Goddess, Sara Jo and Sipper) walked to Zu Zu. Initially, I had wanted to celebrate our victory at Bouchon but they were booked solid til 10:30. I knew that that was no longer an option for dinner. And, we would have had to hire a driver to get us to and from Yountville which also wasn't inviting. I checked out Zu Zu, called to make sure that we didn't need reservations and sold the idea to my friends. It worked. That was a meal. I think we tried everything on the menu. It was awesome. Basically, we created our own courses, accompanied with wine and b.s.'d the entire experience. A truly fantastic experience with special friends. I hope we can meet up, again, do a 1/2 Marathon and find another fantastic restaurant. I know that I loved the octopus, chilaquiles and flat iron steak.
My top experience of 2010 occurred at Daniel, NYC. First of all, I met him, right when I walked into the bar area. He was gracious, sweet and approachable. He offered me a cocktail and so I tried a white cosmo which was garnished with an orchid. Exquisite.
The food was amazing. My friend, Mark, is the pastry chef. My experience quadrupled as a result of him working there. I toured the restaurant and got a behind the scenes look at what it would be like to work there.
I met Daniel--did I mention that? And, when I asked for the bill, it had been taken care of. Talk about freaking awesome. I loved the cranberry lychee dessert. Pretty to look at, too. I would love to return to check out more the food options. That dining experience was incredible.
I think of all of my other meals--fresh lobster in the Bahamas with Shar, Erik and Simon that they had speer fished. That definitely rates as a wonderful experience. Or, my entire weekend in Napa with the girls. Any of those meals could have been on my top list because we all, equally, enjoyed the food/wine/conversation.
Or, when Jan visited me in Denver. For once, I acted like a tourist showing her the Botannic Gardens, Red Rocks, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Broadmor and not to mention the food we ate while she visited.
Did you notice that I didn't mention one restaurant in Denver which is also a tragedy. I think I talk about Elway's, Solera, Fruition, ad nauseum and so I didn't include them in my official list. But, in reality, they are special places in my life that I frequent regularly and am rarely disappointed with the experience. I have joined Steve and Pocketsize on numerous occasions and had splendid food and conversation.
I didn't even consider Mexican restaurants. That is tragic, too....when I travel out of the country or stateside, that is the first food that I crave. I love chips and salsa.
I know there are things that I left out in considering this list, but feel confident, that these were the right decisions. Food continues to be a huge factor in determining travel, for me. 2011 intrigues me and what I discover along the course of that year. I know that I will be heading to Belize in February and Italy, in May. I have never been to that mecca of food/wine, but cannot wait to experience it for myself.
Any suggestions on must do places are appreciated. I am travel friendly and willing to try just about any food genre as long as there is wine available. Enjoy your day and stay warm.....I am off to enjoy lunch with Sara Jo. Hoping that wine is in my future.....

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