2017 was one of my favorite years for food. I enjoyed so many vibrant, punchy, and creative dishes. In contrast to the kaiseki-heavy and refined restraint of last year, 2017 was all about bold, indulgent deliciousness!
Since I have the biggest sweet tooth, I’m kicking off my most memorable bites with my favorite pastry of 2017!
Favorite Pastry – Walnut Whiskey Kouign Amann, Manresa Bread, Los Gatos, CA
This year, Manresa Bread began experimenting with Kouign Amann fillings. My favorite was the extra buttery, walnut whiskey version that reminded me of pecan pie. Butter inside butter – how could you go wrong? I only wish this were available longer than that one day I saw it at my local farmer’s market! Luckily their original Kouign Amann is available year round.
Best New Discovery – Canh Chua, Secret Garden, Saigon, Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine was already my favorite food. I crave a fish sauce heavy bun cha and enjoy a cold vermicelli bun with lemongrass pork. But it wasn’t until my trip to Vietnam that I learned about canh chua soup. The tamarind broth is extra tangy and sour in the best way. Even in the stifling Southern Vietnam heat, I found myself throughly enjoying a steaming bowl of canh chua.
Best Elevated Bite – Iberico Char Siu, Eight Tables, San Francisco, CA
I went back and forth between the Peking duck, dong po pork belly, and char siu from Eight Tables for this category. All three flavors evoke childhood memories for me. The one I ate most often was homemade char siu made from cheap pork. Chef George Chen took this familiar Chinese staple and elevated it by using Iberico pork. The familiar flavors with the quality iberico melted in my mouth and melted my heart.
The Surprise Hit – Wood Roasted Cabbage, Shaya, New Orleans, LA
Let’s be honest, roast cabbage is not an exciting sounding dish. Thank goodness our waitress said it was Chef Alon Shaya’s favorite item on the menu, because I had completely passed it over. The cabbage layers were roasted this to amazing, buttery consistency. The muhammara (red pepper dip) and tahini just added to the unexpected goodness.
The Blast from the Past – Custard apple/sweetsop/sugar apple, Vietnam
Strolling around the markets of Vietnam, I recognized a fruit that was vaguely familiar. After seeing it a few times, I realized this fruit was a custard apple, aka one of my favorites as a child visiting Taiwan. As I took my first bite, the distinct creamy texture and taste immediately brought back found memories. It was probably a good decade or two since my last experience! How lucky I feel to re-familiarize myself this sweet fruit!
Most Fun Bite – Caviar Bump, Sparrow + Wolf, Las Vegas, NV
Chef Brian Howard: “Have you ever done a caviar bump? Hold out your hand.” Enough said.
The One I’m Still Dreaming About – Collard Green Melt, Turkey and the Wolf, New Orleans, LA
Collards, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and plenty of butter. I don’t know how Chef Mason Hereford does it, but his crazy creations strike a perfect balance of familiar yet innovative. The food was so accessible, yet so unforgettably delicious that I felt like a queen feasting on the best sandwich ever.
What a delicious 2017! I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings. Happy New Year!