These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: 2011

I started doing an annual recap of my favorite annual eats a few years ago, and it's a blog entry I've always enjoyed writing. Like I said last year, it's like looking at a yearbook, but without the "See you next year! Never Change!" crap.

From sensational seafood to a providential pizza experience, and everything in between, the meals and bites have been amazing this year. As always, I've had the perfect, charming date in my husband, gerg, along with smart, zany friends and family who are usually willing to share bites with me. If you're reading this, and you were there, thank you.

Here are my 10 favorite edibles from 2011 in no particular order:

The once-in-a-lifetime treat - aerated foie gras with pickled beet, mashad plum, and brioche - at wd~50 in New York was dizzying and delectable. Gerg and I ate it, with a wide-eyed expression conveying, "Holy hell this is good." Read this for a technical BrEaKdOwN: "He makes a terrine, breaks it, re-emulsifies it, and then places it in a food saver type container with a one-way valve. The container goes in the cryovac machine, the pressure aerates the foie." - Global Chefs. Photo by

Taking in a cheese, sausage, pepperoni, onion, and garlic at Grimaldi's Pizza in Brooklyn before it closed in December 2011 proved to be providential. "For those of you keeping score at home, here's where we're at: the beloved coal-oven pizzeria in Brooklyn was supposed to have closed (their lease was up) and moved next door last month, so that the space's original pizzaiolo, Patsy Grimaldi, could start work on his new pizzeria in the old space. The new space, at 1 Front Street, has been subject to some Department of Buildings drama over Grimaldi's plan to install an illegal coal-fired brick oven, and there is currently a stop work order on the address. So, in short: Grimaldi's as we've known it appears to be closed for good, with no re-opening date in sight. Better head over to Queens if you want a taste of the not-quite-original coal brick-oven pizzeria." - from

Pizza Night at the Stone Barn in Nelson, WI was scenic. Along the back roads of the Mississippi River there’s a charming pizza farm, and it serves on the weekends (unlike A to Z’s pizza night). If you’re planning a weekend autumn trip through the Mississippi River Valley, the Stone Barn in Nelson, Wisconsin, is a fun stop, especially via motorcycle. We ordered the Stone Farm supreme, and we liked their house-made, Italian, pork sausage. Bring a frisbee, or a deck of cards, and be prepared to hang out. It might take awhile to get your pie, but are you really rushing when you're eating at a pizza farm in rural Wisconsin?

Early in the 2011 season, I told gerg that I'd make a 6 foot submarine sandwich when the Packers made it to the Superbowl. I called at least ten bakeries in the Twin Cities before I found one that would bake a 6 foot loaf of bread. For $40, we secured our loaf, and constructed our "Raji's Rocket." Half club, half Italian, with plenty of pickles and olives on the side, the rocket sustained the whole gang (except the vegetarians) during the game and for several meals after the game. The Green Bay Packers won the that Superbowl, and hopefully I'll be making another one this year! Go Pack!

My 2011 birthday trip for lunch at Le Bernardin in New York was probably the edible highlight of the year. The crispy black bass with pickled cucumbers and a black garlic-persian lime sauce was flawless. So was the shrimp with mâche and wild mushroom salad, topped with shaved foie gras, and a light white balsamic vinaigrette. Oh, and I forgot to mention how delicious the baked Maine lobster with caramelized endive-pear "terrine", and whiskey-black peppercorn sauce was. My celebrity chef crush, Eric Ripert, wasn't available for a wink, but the coat check girl's decolletage was. Ohh la la! Photo by rolala loves.

When my husband asks me what I want for supper, the following usually comes to mind in any particular order: Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean. I like Korean food, and I like Sole Café in St Paul. Their kimchi jjigae with tofu is good—a hot and steamy bowl of stew made with their house-made kimchi, tender onions, and tofu. The thin, tangy, spicy, red pepper broth is balanced by a side of white rice which helps cool and recalibrate your palette after every three bites or so, as do the five small plates of seasoned vegetables (namul) that are placed at your table.

While in San Francisco for Dreamforce 2011, I dined solo at Ame. My meal was a tasting from the Sashimi Bar. A suave gentleman speaking Italian dropped the eye on me, but my meal was the star of the show. The seafood was slapping me with seaweed it was so fresh. My meal from the bottom left - clockwise: 1) sashimi of Santa Barbara sea urchin and spot prawn in aonori ocean gelee, 2) cuttlefish staff meal (center) with Santa Barbara Sea Urchin and trout roe, 3) tempura “poke” with ogo seaweed, hawaiian sea salt and green onions, 4) kaisen salad with Japanese cucumber, Hijiki, Tobiko caviar and yuzu soy vinaigrette, and 5) sea bass crudo with olive oil, lemon, and sea salt.

For our 3rd anniversary, gerg and I rode our Honda Nighthawk motorcycle to Niagara Falls. On our return trip, we swung by Bortell's Fisheries in Ludington, MI for some fried perch and cold beer. As we ate at a picnic table and watched the sunset, we thought, "this is the best thing ever," and we were right. "Jane and Michael Stern named the 110-year-old fish depot one of America's Top Ten Seafood Shacks, of the ilk of The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, and the Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco. Bortell's Fisheries seafood of choice is Great Lakes whitefish, but the menu also includes walleye, catfish, trout and smelt, all sold by the piece or pound." - from

This summer was all about food trucks in the Twin Cities. The truck that consistently satisfied and delighted, and the truck that had me daydreaming about griddled cornmeal dough patties overflowing with local meat, veggies, and spicy sauces was Hola Arepa. My favorite was the slow-roasted pork arepa stuffed with saucy shredded pork, black beans, and cotija cheese. While the sauces of the slow-cooked meats are bold and spicy, they’re not hot, unless you add one of their signature hot sauces. I like their mild Hola Sauce, made with mangoes, yellow peppers, and other “super secret” herbs and spices.

Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis serves a Sunnyside pizza that is reminiscent of a Sunday brunch with crunchy toast, salty bacon, and sunny-side up eggs. The crunchy, chewy, wood-fired crust of the Sunnyside is baked with folds of La Quercia guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's jowl or cheeks), slivers of melted pecorino; a splash of cream; browned, buttery leeks; and framed in the middle, is a just-set egg. From southern Tuscany to Hoboken, especially on the Pizza alla Bismark, people enjoy rich egg yolk with crunchy pizza crust. Tear off the crust, and dip it in the egg yolk. You'll be b'eggin for more! -- Ok, sorry about that. That was a bad joke, but my dad would LOVE it.

Other notables:
- So many of Carrie's sweets, and learning how to make bahn zeo and really good papaya salad with both of the Vonos.
- The potted duck meat with fresh bread and mustard at Tilia
- My awesome chocolate, coffee, salted caramel birthday cake made by Sarah
- 6lbs of the illest sausages in a crockpot by Cohen
- Aimee and Jon's camp stove eggs n' salmon saving me from certain destruction due to
- The popovers and honey butter at Bachelor Farmer
- The beef tenderloin at Ag in
Niagara Falls

My past year's recaps can be found below:
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2010
2009: A Few of My Favorite Edible Things

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]