Where They Ate in 2010, Part II: The Ensnackening

A couple weeks ago, Gadling published a large-portioned round-up of where authors, eaters, travel and food writers had their most memorable eating experiences in 2010. It was such a popular feature, I couldn’t help but ask for seconds. After all, consuming a list of memorable eats with the eyes is about the next best thing to devouring it with our mouths.

I put out the call to some more of my favorite food-loving writers and got just as tremendous and exciting a response as the original round-up.

So, without further adieu, in no particular order, here is the sequel: where they ate in 2010, part II: the ensnackening.

• J. Maarten Troost
Author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Getting Stoned with Savages, and Lost on Planet China

–Roast chicken in Amritsar, India. I had just spent a week balancing my chakras in an ashram in northern India (think lentils three times a day), and so to suddenly have before me a succulent chicken prepared in the Punjabi manner… well, I dont think I’ve ever enjoyed eating a sentient creature as much as I did that day in Amritsar.

–Far Western Tavern, Guadelupe, California. Continuing with the meathead theme, I tend to appreciate meals that reflect a sense of place. Now imagine a place where early-20th-century Wyoming seamlessly transitions into modern Mexico, toss in a dash of the surreal (the movie set of Cecil DeMille’s epic Ten Commandments is buried in the nearby sand dunes), and what you have is the Far Western Tavern, complete with cow hides, pinquito beans, and epic steaks.

–Emergency Cioppino. Last Christmas, my 84-year-old grandmother graced us with a visit. She is an excellent chef. She is also Czech. For the Christmas Eve meal, I’d decided to showcase my own culinary chops by preparing a goose. My grandmother thought this would make for an

excellent meal. Pleased, I set up doing the prep work as my grandmother offered helpful tips. “I think you’re going to like this, “I’d said with a hopeful smile. “Oh, I won’t be eating this,” she
replied as she measured the carraway seeds. “You know that Czechs only eat fish on Christmas Eve.” Long silence, followed by a mad dash to the commercial wharf in Monterey where I vacuumed the contents out of the industrial fridges and fish tanks, rushed back home and made, if I do say so myself, a mighty fine Christmas Eve cioppino. Indeed, it was so yummy that we’ve decided to make it again this Christmas.

• Michael Bauer

I have three new places worth talking about.
–Prospect that offers high style food in high style surroundings at reasonable prices. It’s the first Nancy Oakes of Boulevard spinoff. The chef is Ravi Kapur who has been cooking with her for eight years and adds his own unique style to the American-inspired menu that includes black cod with shrimp fritters wrapped in shish oleaves and deepfired, arranged next to a pile of greens flecked with paper thin slices of snap peans and button size shiitakes.
–Commonwealth: Jason Fox cooks exceptional food like you’d find at a white tablecloth restaurant in a much more modest storefront in the Mission. He dehydrates cauliflower floret slices to crown his lamb cheeks which seasoned with Douglas fir and combines squid and pork belly and rests them on egg salad with tiny, crisp potato croutons and an herb vinaigrette.
–Bar Agricole: This represents a new genre of restaurants in San Francisco. While the focus is on the bar–they even have five kinds of ice depending on the type of cocktail you want–the food produced by Brandon Jew is just as good and pristinely selected. He drapes tissue-like strips of lardo around thin coins of radiches and black coco nero beans, and for main courses he may roast sand dabs, filleted tableside and served with brown butter and purslane.

• Lisa Abend

Food and travel writer, author of The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s ElBulli; twitterista.

–I got to participate in Cook It Raw’s grand adventure to Lapland. The event’s organizers, Alessandro Porcelli and Andrea Petrini, put a bunch of us professional eaters and thirteen of the most exciting chefs in the world-including René Redzepi, Albert Adrià, Petter Nilsson, and Yoshihiro Narasawa-on a night train to northern Finland. Once we arrived in Lapland, the chefs foraged and fished, then created two multi-course meals with what they found. There was a lot of reindeer on the menu (tongues sous-vided on the bathroom floor of Massimo Bottura’s room; blood splattered over ices and stirred into sauces), and enough lichen to open a terrarium store. But it was one of those magical experiences that reminds you of what food can do.

–In May, Dan Barber and I had dinner at Aponiente, Angel León’s restaurant in Puerto de Santa Maria, on Spain’s southern coast. In addition to being an excellent chef who is doing really interesting things with seafood, Angel is a creative and passionate activist for sustainable fishing. So he and Dan had a lot to talk about. Between courses-rice tinted green with plankton and tasting profoundly of the sea, a fantastic filet of horse mackeral (a fish often considered by-catch in Spain) that got its pop (literally) from roe and preserved lemons)-they swapped stories and traded ideas for future projects. Eating this delicious meal while listening to these two great advocates for the sea and the land talk about how to change the world was incredibly inspiring. By the end we were all just beaming at each other.
–I had the great good fortune to eat at elBulli twice this year. Don’t hate me.

• Derk Richardson

Senior editor, Afar magazine; freelance music and food writer; music radio host; twitterer.

–One of my favorite meals of any year has always been the February Whole Hog Dinner at Oliveto in Oakland. Once I spent three hours in the kitchen, with chef Paul Canales feeding me tastes of everything from blood pudding to fresh sausage made that moment. This year I was sent to heaven by the Tofeja del Canavese, a mixed grill of Piedmontese peasant braise of pork shoulder, little cotechino sausages, wild boar spare ribs, and pork skin rollatini with Borlotti beans. The dinner was made that much sweeter by my wife surreptitiously inviting four neighbor couples and my sister and brother-in-law for a one-week-early birthday surprise; and by the fact that it turned out to be Canales’ last Whole Hog-he left Oliveto in early December.
–Within six weeks of Daniel (Coi) Patterson opening Plum in Oakland, we ate their twice and tried almost everything on the 21-item menu, and I’ll be damned if I can decide what blew my mind the most: The mousse-like artichoke terrine, with fresh cheese, chervil and black olive vinaigrette? The dreamy turnip-apple-miso soup with pepper cream and shiso? The delicate mushroom dashi with yuba, tofu and greens? Oh, wait, give me more of those crunchy potato “chicharrones”!
–In early December we spent our last day in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City doing an unforgettable, probably unreplicable street-food tour under the wing of expat chef Geoffrey Deetz. It culminated on an alley deep in District 5 with tamarind crab. I can still conjure the taste. Fresh live crabs get delivered every few hours from the market. An assistant cleans and chops and tosses them into the wok for the cook who has heated up a fresh batch of pork-fat oil (with crispy bits of meat). He tosses with garlic, steams the crabs a few minutes, adds tamarind, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stirs. Tastes and tweaks. Cooks a couple more minutes. Piles it on a platter. Serves it with loaves of Vietnamese baguette (the bánh mì bread). Dig into the crab, sop up the sauce with bread, wash it down with a cold beer.
• David Grann
New Yorker staff writer; author of The Lost City of Z and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes

With two young kids in tow I find myself eating at their favorite spots. And one of them is Walters Hot Dog Stand, in Mamaroneck, New York, which justly attracts customers from all over. When I was with my wife in London, we made our ritual trek to Amaya Bar and Grill. It’s not cheap, but the Indian food is sensational. And, finally, I’ve spent a lot of time travelling this year in Central America, which means I get to eat plenty of my favorite food: homemade corn tortillas from the local markets.

• Camille Ford
Star of the Travel Channel’s Food Wars and Best Places Ever

Hi… My name is Camille. I’m a food addict.

Pungent cheese, raw fish, exotic fruits, and plates of spiced alchemy are just a sampling of what occupies most of my daily motivation. 2010 has fed my obsession (pun intended).

2010 has been a year of deliciousness and the list topper, the one item that has sent me on four-hour drives to the Italian market in Philidelphia, and sketchy Yonkers fridge raids is Tartufata ” ucamorganti”: dark chocolate spread infused with white truffle oils. Handmade in Florence, Italy, it has put my day to day eating in a tailspin. Nothing compared this year to the texture, taste, and lingering effects of such a sensual ingredient.

• Ryan Sutton
Restaurant critic for Bloomberg News; twitterer

When I started planning my visit to Las Vegas’ CityCenter, Adrienne, one of my closest friends, an avid foodie from Sin City, promised to be my date. That was in the summer of 2009. I arrived in January of 2010, approximately 3 months after Adrienne, in a hospital not too far from the Strip, died from cancer. She was 22. Her mother joined me in her stead for my first meal. (Adrienne was a Mina fan). It was a tough meal. But the food helped. Mina got some flack for flying in Hawaiian ocean water to poach his fish, but hey, is it any different from drinking Fiji in a bottle? The cocktails helped too. They always do. Mina put a legit guy in charge of the beverage program; they even make their own lime cordial (which makes for a solid gimlet). I spent much of my 7-day Vegas trip alone. Vegas wasn’t a party that week. It was quieter, stranger, yet very human and very beautiful city. I would often end my night at American Fish, often with a single drink. It certainly wasn’t the best Vegas restaurant I visited (that was Guy Savoy), but maybe because of that first meal with Adrienne’s mom, it’s where I felt most at home.

Alain Gayot

Editor in Chief of Gayot.com

Blended in the fancy gastronomic experiences it’s always interesting to discover a pleasing hole in the wall. Above all, a surprise always wins points. This year, in my journeys I had a fresh and flavorful ceviche at a modern restaurant called Red Crab, located in a posh neighborhood in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Served with large roasted corn kernels and chips of plantain of various kinds.

• John Mariani

Food and travel correspondent for Esquire; wine columnist for Bloomberg News.

–The chances of my ever becoming a vegan are about as good as Dick Cheney running a triathalon. So when I heard that Chef Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley had a vegan section on his menu, along with banquettes made out of cast-off leather belts, I clenched my teeth in anticipation of an evening of groaning rhetoric and floppy headed waitresses wearing “Hug a Chicken” t-shirts and Vedic mantra tattoos. It turns out, fifty percent of the menu also had tantalizing dishes like grilled petrale sole, a burger with Sierra Nevada cheese and fries, and one of the best pizzas I’ve had in ages, with guanciale ham, roasted corn, jalapeño, ricotta, and mozzarella-dishes to put vegans into a rage. I couldn’t have eaten better.
–It is assumed that you can get anything you want in NYC’s Italian restaurants, but in fact, few actually commit to a menu of food from a specific region, instead offering a pan-Italian menu with a few special dishes from Campania or Liguria or Tuscany. So the emergence of Testaccio, named after the eighth hill of Rome, which is really a mound of ancient broken wine amphoras (testae), as the only true Roman trattoria in NYC is absolutely wonderful news. Located in Long Island City, Queens, the restaurant’s menu includes one of the best, crispiest renditions of carciofi alla giudea–fried baby artichokes–you’ll ever taste. All the pastas I tasted were outstanding, from the simplest, tagliolini cacio e pepe, graced with nothing more than cheese and black pepper, to bucatini all’amatriciana, sweet with tomato, onions, and guanciale.

• David Farley

–In January I spent two weeks in Vietnam, first eating my way through Saigon, and then flying up to Hoi An to travel back down the coast until flying back to New York. My first revelatory meal in Saigon was at Pho Quynh, a corner restaurant adhering to the steel table and tile floor variety of decorating. The main dish was pho bo kho, a stewy, opaque version of pho that felt almost like goulash and pho had collided. I first had it for breakfast and I savored every bite. The broth was thick and rich and bobbing with fork-tender chunks of beef and carrots and the occasional tendon. I went back the next morning. Later, in Hoi An, I sat down at an alleyway eater for the city’s famed dish, cao lau, a porklicous bowl of rice noodles, chunks of pig, mint, and basil. This time I didn’t even wait until the next day to have it again. I ordered seconds right there on the spot.
–In February I was in La Paz, Bolivia. Maybe it was altitude sickness but I was rather underwhelmed by the food prospects there. That is, until I discovered llama meat. Dark and a bit gamey with that slight organ meat taste, llama meat was served two ways in La Paz: grilled and breaded, of which I preferred the former. I liked llama meat so much, I tried (unsuccessfully) finding it in New York.
–In April I went to Oakland to write an article about new and noteworthy restaurants that have opened up in the East Bay city recently. I was totally blown away by Commis. Chef James Syhabout, who has worked at ElBulli and the Fat Duck, is masterful pairing flavors and textures.