|Outside Mintwood Place, dessert at Little Bird, Posto pizza, pasta at Lupa.|
Although cooking is the focus of my blog, dining out is an important part of it too. I think the two go hand-in-hand, and I get a lot of inspiration from the restaurants we visit. My list is by no means comprehensive—I’m not a restaurant critic—but these were the meals I looked back on most fondly this year.
Best Starter: Goat Cheese & Beet Mountain Pie, Mintwood Place (Washington, D.C.). I don’t know whether “mountain pie” is an original creation by Chef Cedric Maupillier, but the slab of roasted beet encased in goat cheese and then fried was an an excellent way to start a dinner that only went uphill from there. Honorable mention: Roasted Beets with Rye, Agretti and Smoked Crème Fraiche, The NoMad (New York, N.Y.), Cauliflower Soup, Little Bird (Portland, Ore.), Smoked Cashew Salsa with Masa Crisps, Empellon Cocina (New York, N.Y.).
Best Pasta: Pappardelle with Chicken-Tomato Sauce, Lupa Osteria Romana (New York, N.Y.). Every pasta dish I’ve tasted at this Greenwich Village outpost of the Mario Batali food empire has been good, but this slightly spicy dish was expertly assembled with pasta cooked to perfection. Honorable mention: Lobster Ravioli, Fiola (Washington, D.C.), Lobster Roe Tagliatelle, Palena Café (Washington, D.C.).
Best Meat Dish: (tie) Eisenhower Stew, America Eats Tavern (Washington, D.C.) and Roasted Pork for Two, Mintwood Place (Washington, D.C.). Such a shame that America Eats Tavern was just a “pop up,” since I would really like to eat this deconstructed beef stew again someday. Perhaps Jose Andres will surprise us somehow. What makes up for it, I suppose, is the fact that I can go at anytime to Mintwood Place and enjoy Maupillier’s perfectly cooked roasted pork served with a rich, heavenly sauce. Honorable mention: Braised Pork Shoulder with Cabbage, Bacon, Apples and Chives, Little Bird (Portland, Ore.).
Best Dessert: Apple and Fig Tarte Tatin with Frozen Yogurt, Little Bird (Portland, Ore.). You can hardly go wrong with figs in dessert, which Pastry Chef Nora Antene served two ways in this sweet confection augmented by the burnt taste of caramel and the tang of frozen yogurt. Honorable Mention: Chocolate Cake with Mole Dulce and Masa Ice Cream, Empellon Cocina (New York, N.Y.), Caramel Gelato, Lupa Osteria Romano (New York, N.Y.), Milk and Honey, The NoMad (New York, N.Y.).
Best Pizza: Posto Thin Crust Pizza (New York, N.Y.). Chris and I have evolved a tradition for our trips to New York: we eat our first meal at Posto, which serves the most delectable pizzas on crust so thin it has a crispy cracker-like texture with a bit of char but still a nice softness under the toppings. If you like caramelized onions and sausage, the Salsicca Dolce can’t be beat. Honorable mention: Armand’s Pizzeria, Washington, D.C. (Armand’s—we miss you), Wiseguy NY Pizza (Washington, D.C.), Ardeo + Bardeo (Washington, D.C.).
Best Roast Chicken: Palena Café (Washington, D.C.). Frank Ruta’s brined and roasted birds are the tastiest I’ve ever had. So much flavor packed into an appropriately simple presentation. Honorable mention: The NoMad (New York, N.Y.)
Best Dish from a D.C. Food Truck: Havana sandwich, SUNdeVICH. Still the best sandwich I’ve ever had from a food truck, perhaps even one of the best sandwiches I’ve had period. The roasted pork was just perfect. Honorable Mention: Indonesian Babyback Ribs, Chef Driven; Tacos, Chupacabra.
Best Cocktail: Pins and Needles, The NoMad (New York, N.Y.). If you could create a martini by pouring the drink through a Douglas Fir tree, it would probably taste like this. Really interesting and enjoyable concoction. Honorable mention: Darkest Corner of Oaxaca (Empellon Cocina, New York, N.Y.), The Scrooge, Mintwood Place (Washington, D.C.).
Best Service: Fiola (Washington, D.C.). You might think that at its price point the service at a restaurant like Fiola would be snobby. You couldn’t be more wrong. We felt so welcome by our server who expertly walked us through the menu and wine list, always seemed to be around when we needed him and gave us space when we didn’t. Honorable Mention: Lupa Osteria Romana (New York, N.Y.), Pig + Fish (Rehoboth Beach, Del.).
Best Newcomer: Mintwood Place (Washington, D.C.). Honorable mention: The NoMad (New York, N.Y.).
Best Overall Restaurant Experience: Mintwood Place (Washington, D.C.). Honorable mention: Fiola (Washington, D.C.), Lupa Osteria Romana (New York, N.Y.), Little Bird (Portland, Ore.).