My 2018 was a great year for dining. There was so much competition for my annual list of favorite bites, that I added a runner up to each category. Too many good options to recognize!
Without further ado, here are my winning bites of 2018.
Runner Up – Rose Confit de Framboise Choux à la Crème, Popelini (Paris, France)
I’ve always enjoyed creme puffs, but it wasn’t until Popelini that I realized how good a little puff could be! The four flavors I tasted (Fruit de La Passion, Citron, Rose Confit de Framboise, Caramel Beurre Salé) were all excellent, but the Rose Confit de Framboise was my clear favorite. The simple, lovely outer presentation mirrored a similar interior of pink rose water custard with a vibrant fuchsia dot of candied raspberry.
Winner – Cheesecake, Tickets (Barcelona, Spain)
This cheesecake looked like a mini wheel of cheese, accompanied by sweet cookies. The combination of fluffy, decadent cheese filling and subtle white chocolate hazelnut rind stole my heart from the first bite. There was no contest, the Ticket’s Cheesecake immediately won its place as my favorite dessert of the year (and favorite dessert I’ve had to date).
Best Surprise Hit
Runner Up – Everything Donut, Bun Appétit (Fremont, CA, USA)
I prefer a fresh-made, still warm original Krispy Kreme over the photogenic $5 doughnuts. Bun Appétit’s savory Everything Donut was a pleasant exception. The 24 hour raised brioche was spot on that day – the perfect amount of fluff, sweetness, butter, and tang. The chive whipped cream cheese filling and outer dusting of everything seasoning made me question all my doughnut perceptions.
Winner – Beef Tartare Cacio e Pepe, Atomix Bar (New York City, USA)
I love that the Korean fine dining spot Atomix offers elevated bites at their walk-in bar. I was able to experience a sense of their greatness when I couldn’t grab a full tasting reservation.
I don’t particularly enjoy most tartare, but the mixologist so highly recommended their Beef Tartare that I decided to try it. This was an amazing play on pasta, with the tartare in long, spaghetti-like ropes and covered in a mountain of shaved parmesan and pepper. I inhaled this and even found myself craving more. Oh yes, the cocktails are exceptional as well.
Runner Up – Early Spring in Sonoma, Singlethread Farm (Healdsburg, CA, USA)
The intricate opening course at Singlethread Farm restaurant was a stunning table spread of small Japanese-inspired bites nestled in a forest vibe setting. A visual delight!
Winner – Crispy Egg Yolk with Mushroom Gelatine, Disfrutar (Barcelona, Spain)
Disfrutar’s custom egg holder with a chicken and ladder was an adorable and fun way to spruce up what would be plain looking fried egg yolk. The crisp outside with the runny egg yolk and mushroom was so enjoyable to eat.
Runner Up – King Crab Tacos, Tickets (Barcelona, Spain)
The King Crab for this taco dish was the best crab I’ve tasted – perfectly sweet, plump, and tender meat. Combined with the leaf and potato taco “shell” and the garlic aioli, this Tickets special was standout.
Winner – Seeds and Grains, Atelier Crenn (San Francisco, USA)
Seeds & Grains is a course that varies ingredients seasonally. The concept is similar though – an intricate table-side preparation including grinding of seeds and mixing of oils. My assembled dish had nice pop from the trout roe, crunch from the seeds, creaminess from the duck fat, and bold flavor contrast of salty, tangy, sour, and sweet. Just magical.
The combination of presentation, process, and flavor propelled this Atelier Crenn creation to top of my favorite dishes of 2018.