Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best of 2012!

Trying to narrow down the best of the best of the thousands of food experiences that I've had in the past year was certainly a tough job.  I have been diligently brainstorming and pouring through pictures and posts to come up with a list though. I think that I've finally managed to get my thoughts together to pick out my favorites, the things that when I decided to do this list instantly popped into my mind. So this is my list, it's my rules, and my preferences....there was no formula except for what left a lasting impression, what I could still recall to exact taste when thinking about it, and what blew me away.

So I have to start of with a couple of honorable mentions. First off the Crab Cake at Water's Edge Lighthouse that I had at the beginning of last year. Let me tell you it was stellar. Also, apple butter cinnamon buns at All Good Bakers are a must have. I was there the day Britin first made them and, oh yeah, they were delicious!

10. Sarah Fish's French Onion Soup made with Caramelized Onions Apple Cider & a pop of Amish Blue Cheese under the Gruyere. It was brilliant, that it was made with apple cider instead of beef stock so that I could eat it and still had the richness that you crave in a French Onion Soup, the pop from the Valedeon was a beautiful contrast and the whole thing just worked.

Chef Sarah Fish is the Chef/Owner of the Hungry Fish Cafe in Troy, NY.

9.Cheese! Yes you all know that I'm obsessed with cheese. Some of the most memorable ones were of course Truffle Falls from R & G Cheesemakers in Cohoes, Challenchocker, Truffle Tremor & St.Augur which were done at one of Rachel & my Epic Cheese Nights, Bayrischer Blauschimmelkase the divine blue introduced to me by Eric Paul from the Cheese Traveler, and finally....the most epic cheese night of the year, Raclette Night at Chef Dominique Brialy's, of the Epicurean Bistro & Wine Bar home. That was a sensational evening, Chef Dominique made all the traditional accouterments and served a giant wheel of raclette the way it should be done.

8.Maple Porter Ale Ice Cream. Yes, I  admit this is something I made, but it was bangin good! I developed some new flavors for my exotic ice cream class at Different Drummer's Kitchen, which by the way I will never forget for having to hand whip the ice cream! Other thing that gets an honorable mention is my salmon colubiac which was I think my favorite thing that I've made all year!

7.Ryan Huneau's Pumpkin Bisque with Candied Pepitas & Creme Fraiche. I was at the Boys & Girls Club event at Pat's Barn and there were several chefs there that day. Upstairs in a quiet corner the Mallozzi Family had a table. It looked innocent enough...well it was anything but that! It was spectacular. I couldn't move away from the table, I actually stood there at an event and had not one but two more cups of soup. If there is one thing that Chef Ryan does exceptionally well, it's making beautiful, delicate soups. If you ever get the chance you must try this one!

Chef Ryan Huneau is the Corporate Executive Chef for the Mallozzi Family of Restaurants

6.Courtney Withey's Impromptu Tasting Menu at Aperitivo Bistro. This is how it went down. I went with a fellow foodie friend to review a different chef at a different restaurant, but the chef that should have been reviewed had a conflict. So we went to Aperitivo instead....And what a beautiful turn of events that was!
Courtney has got to be one of the most gracious, not to mention talented, chefs around! For real, this girl can cook her pants offs. And trust me, go eat there before she becomes some big national star that has a place that you can never get into. So anyway, she caught us before we ordered and we ended up letting her just do an omakase. (Note to readers: best food you'll ever have is to let the chef be the artist that they are and do an omakase for you!)

The tasting consisted of an incredible 5 courses of deliciousness:

  • Fabulous Roasted Eggplant Baba Ghanoush with Housemade Grilled Pita, Oregano, Yogurt, Roasted Garlic, 
    Cucumber, Pomegranate Seeds, Chive Oil
  • Cherry Pepper Marscapone Stuffed Olive
  • Toasted Pistachio and Brie Croquette , young arugula, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic cherry compote
  • Sweet Potato Steak Fries, brown sugar caramel, bacon aioli (this dish is one of my favorite things on the planet)
  • Greens & Beans -broccoli rabe, white beans, salt pork, crushed tomato, pecorino, breadcrumbs (my friend Ginny said these were the best Greens & Beans she'd ever had)
  • Fried Brussel Sprout Agliolio with Roasted Butternut Squash,toasted garlic, red pepper flake, flat leaf parsley and lemon
By the way, all this was at lunch! It was A-Maz-Ing! 
Chef Courtney Withey is the Executive Chef of Aperitivo Bistro in Schenectady

5.Rachel Mabb's Beet & Camembert Risotto. Rachel is my best friend yes, she's also one of the most talented and award wining chefs in the area, yet she's so ridiculously humble no one knows it. I think I just blew her cover...oops. So I am one of the lucky few that gets to eat at the one and only Bitches Kitchen. So as it happened we were sitting in the BK one night and it happened to be Valentine's day, not that it had anything to do with anything. So Rachel whipped up some risotto....that was FABULOUS...with beets, camembert, corn, and asparagus. Ironically, it was Valentine's Day and the risotto turned pink from the beets, which did give us a hearty laugh. It was so good though, I now make it on a regular basis. Chef 
Rachel Mabb is the Executive Chef of Bitches Kitchen and a Culinary Instructor at the Culinary Tech Center

4.Ric Orlando's Hot Panang Curry & Fat Noodles with Crispy Calamari at New World Home Cooking and Salmon Poke at New World Bistro Bar. These two dishes were just sublime. The panang was on my first trip to Saugerties. It was brilliant! Just the right amount of heat, crispy calamari folded into it, beautiful noddles and crunchy raw veggies. I have craved that dish since September, and now it's no longer on the menu...The other dish was the Salmon Poke, which made my eyes roll back in my head. I actually wrote about it when I reviewed New World Bistro Bar in the early summer. I love Chef Ric's food, it's sexy, it's bold, and it leaves you wanting more!

Chef Ric Orlando is the Chef/Owner of New World Home Cooking and also Managing Consultant/Executive Chef for New World Bistro Bar

3.Brady Duhame's Brussels Sprouts at Prime Bar + Grill. When a chef says to you that they want to cook for you, you kind of know that you're in for a treat. Well, it was amazing. all five courses of it! The stand out star that rocked my world though were the Brussels Sprouts with Shaved Horseradish, Pearl Onions Agro Dolce, Parmegianno Reggiano. Ridiculous Amazing...the horseradish, the way it complimented the earthiness of the sprouts and the sweet astringency of the pearl onions.  
(I do have to give a shout out the Capital City Gastropub though. Their Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Grana Padano and Maldeon Sea Salt has long been something special to me since their opening day.)
Chef Brady Duhame is the Executive Chef of Angelo's Prime Bar + Grill in Clifton Park

2.Brendan Horn's Rising Star Tasting Menu at Jack's Oyster House. This was by far the biggest surprise I had all year. I had heard for a long time that Chef Brendan Horn was a young talent but I was entirely unprepared for the menu that he presented to me. It was an amazing display of technique, palate, seasonality, nuance and refinement. I literally said to a few people it was one of the single best complete meals that I've ever had. I'm going to do a full write up of it at some point because I made copious tasting notes...but this was the menu:

  • Blue Point Oysters, Champagne Migionette, Fennel Gremolata on Shaved Ice
  • Oysters Oscar - Butter Poached Crab Lobster Tarragon Stock reduced and made into cream Baked and finished with Asparagus
  • Pan Seared Diver Scallop, Julienned Pear, Sweet Potato Puree, Caramelized Apples Macerated Cranberries and Cranberry Gastrique, Deep Fried Sage
  • Cinderella Pumpkin Noodles, Shitake Mushrooms, Butter Poached lobster & Shrimp Tableside accent of Sage Buerre Blanc 
  • Burratta with Smoked Tomato Compote

Chef Brendan Horn is the Executive Sous Chef at Jack's Oyster House in Albany

1.Brady Duhame's Spring Garlic Soup with Creme Fraiche and Lobster. When I think of all the things I've eaten this year, the first thing that always pops into my mind is Chef Brady's Spring Garlic Soup. It was the first time I had met Brady. In fact, I was on my way to the movies and stopped in for a quick bite with my son. Jaime was there, and he told me that Brady had made a soup that he wanted me to try. I thought to myself...who the hell is Brady? I know every chef in this organization and I don't know who he's talking about....Well, I quickly learned who Chef Brady was and what he was all about on my first extraordinary sip of soup. That soup was masterful. It was cuisine as art. And yes, it was a food moment that I will taste on my palate for the rest of my life. 
Chef Brady Duhame is the Executive Chef of Angelo's Prime Bar + Grill in Clifton Park

Special Recognition:

Best Comfort Food - Bakhmi Goreng with Tofu at Yono's & dp An American Brasserie. Yes I eat this nearly every week. It is what I crave when I have a bad day.It's what I want on a great day. Literally every time I go to an event that doesn't have anything I can eat I head over to Yono's and scarf down some bakhmi. Yep, I have it at meetings for lunch I bring it home for dinner. Bahkmi... it just makes you feel good.

Most Creative Dish -Jaime Ortiz's winning dish from Brewery Ommegang's Hop Chef Competition: 
"Rare of the Dog"
Rare Vos and Faux Egg Shooter with a Honey Thyme Bacon Chaser...sure to cure what "ales" you!
Jaime Ortiz is the Corporate Executive Chef for Mazzone Hospitality

Best Cocktail: Robert Mack's Perfect Martini, see my bog post about that earlier this year. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree, the Bayrischer Blauschimmelkase was outstanding!! I could eat that daily. Great list!