Favorite Meals from Eat It Up Guests (Part 1)

source: Jesse @ FoodSpotting, foodspotting.com/394310-jesse-
source: Jesse @ FoodSpotting, foodspotting.com/394310-jesse-

Starting today, we’ll begin posting a series of blog posts featuring favorite meals from several of our podcast guests from 2012. We simply asked them “What was your favorite/most memorable meal(s) from 2012?” and hoped for the best. Some sent long answers detailing meals at some of the best restaurants in the world while others simply sent a couple sentences; in both cases we really enjoyed reading the responses and learning about some new places that we need to try. Meals ranged from local dives to home cooked meals spent with family to trips across the country. We’d like to thank everyone who participated in both our podcasts and these articles, hopefully you ate as well as our guests did.

Today is Part 1 of 5, they’ll be posted every day this week. We hope you enjoy and look forward to more 2012 Year End Coverage!

Okay. So. I’ve had a lot of amazing meals this year (many of them with you!) and it was really hard to pick a favorite at first. There were some that were a series of incredible dishes, and some that were great because of the company, and some that were great because they were different from anything I’d ever had.

But… I have to say that the best thing I ate in 2012 was the corn waffle dessert with ice cream and macadamia nut brittle that Jennifer Boye made for the Nickel City Chef special show for Visit Buffalo Niagara. I was judging, and as soon as I tasted it I felt like time had stopped–the way I feel with the best wines I’ve ever tried. The combination of sensual waffle and sweet-salty macadamia brittle and creamy ice cream was just overwhelming; months later, THAT’S the dish I can still taste when I close my eyes. Every bite.

I have been going to Joe’s Deli for years. Having been a North Buffalo resident a few years back, the place had me hooked and I still like to go there for lunch on my days off. Normally, I stick to one of their many sandwiches, but finally this past summer, their special menu offered the dish that had been alluding me for some time: pork belly tacos (pictured above). The tacos came in a set of three, containing a generous slab of the best pork belly I have ever tasted. The fat was just perfectly charred and the meat was so flavorful. The crisp from the cabbage, which should be mandatory on all tacos moving forward (suck it watery lettuce!), provided a nice contrast in texture, and the sweet and spicy sauce was the perfect topping. This may be the best taco in town.

Zaytinya Spreads: Taramosalata, Tzatziki, Htipiti (source: FB page)
Zaytinya Spreads: Taramosalata, Tzatziki, Htipiti (source: FB page)

I would say Fuji Grill. I started with a Tokyo green salad (which is always awesome) and then the Tsunami roll that has scallop and crab.

I had sort of abandoned Mediterranean food over the past few years – I attribute that to Falafel Bar’s departure from downtown Buffalo. I’m a big fan of Washington-based Spanish modernist chef Jose Andres, and I had been to several of his restaurants in the past, including Jaleo, Oyamel, and the Bazaar in L.A.  We spent a few days in D.C. this past summer, and tried out Andres’ Mediterranean-themed restaurant, Zaytinya. Let’s say it reawakened my love for that cuisine. The service was, as always, impeccable, and the food was simply amazing. Small meze plates came out as soon as they were ready and we feasted on fresh, warm pita bread, hummus, lamb, tzatziki, shawarma, meatballs, – all of them delicious, all of them done in a mish-mash of textures and flavors (pictured above). I can’t wait to go back, and in the meantime I’ve rediscovered the Falafel Bar in its new location.

Orange Beef
Orange Beef from Peking Quick One
  • Brian Mietus, Executive Chef/Managing Parter at Bacchus (Ep #44)

Mid summer with my wife in the back yard. No kids… Pork Milanese, Panznella salad and Sauvignon blanc.

My first most memorable meal of the past year hands-down is Le Bernardin in NYC. Chef Eric Ripert has 3 Michelin stars for a reason. I love seafood, and that was by far the best I’ve ever had. Second would be Erbaluce in Boston. It’s authentic Italian and a bunch of us had a huge feast there. Third is a tie. My first time at Peking Quick One (their authentic Chinese menu is amazing) and the “Turkey Sandwich” at Bistro Europa. It’s become a yearly tradition. After spending thanksgiving day with our families we all head over to the Bistro and indulge in a sandwich consisting of Ellen’s homemade bread, leftover turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, some naughty bit from a pig (this year was lardo), and a generous shaving of white and black truffles.

Octopus Torchon from Canoe in Toronto.
Octopus Torchon from Canoe in Toronto.

I have the pleasure of eating amazing things on a semi-regular basis, so the bar is high for meal of the year. If I have to really narrow it down, in 2012 I had two food experiences that were especially notable because of their level of luxury, refinement, setting, and service—in addition to the more obvious requirement of being very good in flavor, variety, and preparation.

The first was the tasting menu at Mike A at Hotel Lafayette. It is hard to be a little daring, modern, and comforting all at once, and that is exactly how I would describe Chef Forster’s efforts there. It doesn’t hurt that bar manager Tony Rials simultaneously knocked my socks off with some of the best food and drink pairings I’ve had in all of my life.

The second would be a 3+ hour lunch at Canoe in Toronto. An excellent experience on so many levels. I really enjoyed myself, and the octopus torchon (pictured above) was divine. I cannot wait to go back.

I think that it is only fair to mention that part of why both of these meals were so good was that I enjoyed them surrounded by people I respect, admire, and enjoy. If you have that, it elevates the entire dining experience, no matter where you are.

Here are my favorite restaurant meals of 2012:

Bonefish Grill [2/12]: I had an evening special Antarctic Butterfish Monaco, grilled with sauteed spinach, feta, and artichoke hearts, in a lemon-basil butter sauce, accompanied by the evening’s vegetable of sauteed garbanzo beans and spinach in a marinara sauce, and, as my choice of a side, garlic mashed potatoes; it was exquisite, and perfectly proportioned (I hate large portions of food).

Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza [11/24/12]: …a wonderful, homemade, chicken soup from the specials menu, with noodles, lots of veggies, and big chunks of real chicken—it was as good as the soup my mother made or my wife makes (I dare not say whether it was better!); a burrata with marinated escarole, roasted roma tomatoes, honey-balsamic roasted shallots, and pancetta, on a toasted baguette—I had the soup and the burrata as a light lunch, and the combination was perfect (the burrata was like a bruschetta with maximum flavor)… and [an] ice cream sandwich, described as espresso ice cream sandwiched between homemade pizzelle with a Nutella sauce…delicious.

Also, on a previous visit [9/3/12]: I experimented with an evening special: a salad of warmed (and lightly battered) goat cheese with figs and prosciutto over arugula. It was out of this world! The sweetness of the goat cheese and the figs (two small, quartered figs, plus a kind of fig jam) combined with the savory quality of the prosciutto and arugula made for a wonderful combination.

If I had to choose one of these, it would be Rocco’s.

Gumbo from Chester's
Gumbo from Chester’s

I always have such a hard time narrowing down to pick a favorite of anything, especially when it’s food-related. One of my favorite dishes that I cooked this year was definitely my mom’s Butternut Squash Soup recipe which can be found on my blog. It’s rich and creamy and comforting and it just tastes like Fall to me. Everyone I’ve made it for has raved about it and I love that it tastes decadent but is secretly healthy and low cal.

As for memorable restaurant meals around Buffalo, my parents and my boyfriend and I discovered Chester’s Cajun Grill in East Amherst together during restaurant week this year and it was so good that my boyfriend and I went back a week later and saw my parents were back too at the same time! Their chili and gumbo (pictured above) are delicious, the clams casino are out of this world and I recommend the Cajun crab cakes or the Whole Hog Southern Pork Platter. It’s a small place but everything I’ve eaten there has been delicious and they have a great selection of flavored vodka at the bar which I always appreciate. It was definitely the hidden gem we discovered in 2012.


Check back tomorrow for more favorite meals from more Eat It Up guests with Part 2!

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