Since 2012 we have asked our friends about their favorite meals of the year and it’s become an enjoyable tradition. We don’t provide many guidelines for what we want in return. These meals can be home cooked, at their favorite local restaurant or can be from their travels and they can write as much or as little as they’d like.
Today we have a special post from Chef Steve Gedra of The Black Sheep. A frequent contributor to our Favorite Meals post, Steve sent us some fantastic answers this year and we decided to give him his own post for the second year in a row. You can read all of the other parts from 2017 here.
Steve: First off, I’m always honored to be a part of this, even though my opinion matters little, but who fucking cares! I don’t!
So 2017 was a banner year for me since Ellen and I bought Europa 8 years ago. I got to sneak out to some fantastic dinners thanks to my ever-improving squad. Thanks, squad!
Me and my little Man-Baby Manny Ocasio joined Willie “Beamen” Petersen and Nate “Beardsley” Beardsley in NYC to hit up Eleven Madison Park in January (pictured above via Facebook). EMP went on to win “Best Restaurant in the World” that is bestowed upon the lucky recipient on an annual basis by some amalgamation of Food Illuminati. I don’t give a shit about that, but a lot of people do. I just wanted to get swole and treated like a Duke. EMP did not disappoint in either facet. They have “Dream Makers” on the staff that listen to your conversations and try to steer your experience to your desire on the fly. That’s fucking rad, and they absolutely pulled it off. They took us into the kitchen and gave us some sort of absinthe drink with sumac that was as visually stunning as it was delicious. The amuse consisted of four root vegetable preparations that blew us away, with the standout being the celery root and truffle. I was blown away by the simplicity and care that was provided throughout the experience, ending with as much Calvados as you could drink and their granola in a jar to enjoy in the morning. I realized that night, among many others in my career, how little I know about this business. Truly humbling and incredible.
On the local tip, the best meal I had was actually a dessert tasting but on by the peerless Colleen Stillwell and her crew from Butter Block at Midnight Mass (Donnie edit: YOU SHOULD FOLLOW THIS PAGE) in September, held at the Black Sheep. I was continually impressed not only by what I consumed, (I admittedly have a crazy sweet tooth, that’s part of the reason I married a pastry cook), but most of all by Colleen’s poise, graciousness, and attention to detail. She was also not afraid to tell me to do some knife work over again, and I respect the fuck out of that so much. Colleen is the benchmark that every cook in this town should aspire to, I know I do.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll wrap this up with my last great few meals I had in London. If you would like to discuss your favorite meals with me, you know where I’ll be. I’ll buy the first and third drinks. I was lucky enough to have made it through the maze of life in cooking and hit 40 years of age in October. My wife Ellen, being the amazing person she is, surprised me with a trip to London for three days. So…. We got hooked up with a Yank expat via Raven Ford of Big Ditch, and had a proper English lunch at a spot called Brawn. It was a prix fixe program with three courses, with an option for a cheese upgrade (you know we hit it). Our new friend gave us the rundown of what was happening with restaurants in London while we drank orange wine and smashed some braised veal belly. Tremendous spot overlooking a flower market that pops up every Sunday. That night we got curry delivered to the hotel, and that may have been the best meal I had all year. Snuggling with Ellen is far too rare for my liking. We also hit up Ottolenghi in Islington where I had the best eggplant dish of my existence ( I’m obsessed with eggplant). There’s a fucking ghost at Table 14 in that restaurant, just FYI. The next night we plowed through 80,000 Arsenal fans to belly up to the legendary St John. We were dealt some of the worst service I’ve seen alongside some simply fantastic food. The highlights were the ubiquitous marrow with parsley and a jaw droppingly simple smoked freshwater eel with bacon and mashed potatoes. The server was an absolute prick, however. Even if you don’t have a Michelin star, you should never answer a guest’s question thusly—“What kind of fish is that?’. “It’s a piece of fish.” Once again, big lesson learned for us.
Thanks for the ears and the support Buffalo. We look forward to creating and sharing great experiences with you in 2018!