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Best Bites of 2011

by The Editors
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nancy.jpgIt is white truffle season, so naturally, anything with finely sliced white truffles would be memorable, but this year I made Cacio e Pepe – a delicate Roman pasta recipe made with egg tagliolini, butter (or olive oil), Cacio de Roma (a mild goat cheese) grated Romano, and lots of freshly grated black pepper. Combined with white truffles it becomes the ultimate sophisticated melt-in-your-mouth comfort food… and the aroma! Heaven!
Nancy Ellison

nectarine.jpgThe favorite thing I ate in 2011 was, without a doubt, a nectarine I had just bitten into when Obama came on TV and told us that Bin Laden was dead.  And while I admit that even a bowl of gravel would've tasted delicious upon hearing that the world was rid of this scum bag, I also remember thinking that now there was at least one more nectarine for someone else to enjoy which leads me to believe that it was an outstanding piece of fruit in its own right. – Alan Zweibel

If I see that any of my 600 Facebook friends, (of whom I really only know 14), are in New York, I tell them, “Don’t miss the cheeseburger at Prune!” – Fredde Duke

amysherman.jpgI'm going to go with the onion and raisin, chicken couscous I ate in Fez, Morocco at a private residence. It was made with love, so rich and satisfying and the lightest luffiest couscous I have ever eaten. The chicken was tender and flavorful, the sweet and savory notes so balanced. Truly a revelation. – Amy Sherman

I ate so many fabulous things in 2011 that it's hard to choose.  But there is one dish – a seasonal one, a far-away-from-home one – that I can't stop wanting: the spring sweet pea gratin at the Museum of Modern Art Cafe 2 in NY. It is a light, smooth, fragrant green pea party in your mouth with the surprise of a spicy, crunchy topping. I want it so bad! – Ilene Berg

gooeycake.jpgMy favorite thing I ate this year was the Gooey Butter Cake at Park Avenue Coffee on N. 10th Street in St. Louis, MO. They have several varieties and have been featured on the Food Network. It was decadent and delicious, and stands out as by far the very best thing I ate all year. – Seale Ballenger

julie.jpg When Chef Vic Casanova decided to update the crudo menu at Culina, he went back to the basics of what he loves about crudo. He works with the freshest fish from International Marine Products paired with clean simple preparations. I was lucky enough to get to try all of the new dishes when working on this story for KCET Food. Though I know precious little about horoscopes, maybe my passionate love of good raw fish dishes come from being a Pisces. Bring on the sushi, sashimi at Japanese restaurants and crudo at Italian ones. Chef Casanova is a crudo master- the sea urchin and Santa Barbara spot prawns are my favorite. Sitting in the beautiful Culina dining room or patio at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills enjoying expertly prepared Italian food... don't miss the desserts... makes me feel lucky to live in LA. In case you think I am a fancy lady, my other favorite meal of the year was $1 tacos al pastor at Tacos Leo, a truck parked at the 76 gas station at the corner of La Brea and Venice Blvd. – Julie Wolfson, @juliewolfson

blackraspberryicecream.jpgOh, la, la, my very favorite thing I ate this year was black raspberry ice cream we made from the wild berries growing all around our farmette. At first we battled the birds for the little fruits, waiting for them to turn from red to purple to truly black. (Some ripen every day.) We ate them like candy, and they never made it into the house. But one day I got in it my head that I wanted to make ice cream from them, so we started to collect them in a little bowl early every morning until we had enough. Still I wasn't prepared for how amazing the ice cream would taste. Out of this world! I can't wait until next summer to make it again. This time we're going to get ahead of the birds! – Susie Middleton

bruce.jpgThe absolute best thing I ate in 2011 was a piece of sushi called Kama Toro at the two-Michelin starred restaurant called Urasawa on a street called Rodeo Drive. It appeared mid-way in a 32 course meal prepared by Chef Hiro-san. This piece of fish is better known as tuna collar. It was marinated in sweet sake and soy and then cooked on a portable hibachi grill which left a cross-hatched char mark on it.  Wow!!! Nothing else came close ... except maybe this chef's foie gras cooked in a shabu-shabu broth ... or maybe it was the .... did I mention his .... wait a second ... last night I had a bowl of Grape-Nuts with Almond Milk right before bed that had to rank with ..... – Bruce Cormicle

jopicca.jpgRicardo Zarate's Patita: pig trotter stew, chorizo, potato, aji panca, peanuts at Picca Peru. – Jo Stougaard, @MyLastBite

The best thing I ate this year was homemade potato salad with Japanese mayo, pickled string beans, bacon, dill and onion. It's a combination of my favorite things – potato, mayo, vinegar and meat. Most importantly, it was made by someone who I'm in crazy in love with. Plus, it keeps well in the fridge (at least a week!) which is so great when you get hungry at odd times like I do constantly. – Amy Cao, @amycao

carolan.jpgSuch a fabulous food served to me at VINOdiVINO in the heart of Prague.  A warm and welcoming restaurant and wine bar for lovers of Italian cucina and wine.  Chef Mario D’Innocenzo showcases the best of Italian gastronomy and each dish is a treat but for me the homemade pasta topped with shaved truffles in a light cream sauce made me ooh, aah and oh oh oh!!! – Carolan Nathan

My favorite thing I ate this year was Suzanne Goin's cassoulet at Lucques at their annual Cassoulet Night this past March. It was Southwestern France on a plate but right here in Southern California! – Charles Thompson 

asiadogito.jpgI know right away what my answer is—the ITO from Asia Dog in New York, an organic beef hotdog topped with Japanese curry and homemade kimchi apples. Hands-down the best thing I ate this past year, maybe even the past few years. – Andy Dodds

pickles.jpgOK, I know this sounds bizarre, but I had some outstanding pickles this year – the first from the official "Gherkin Man" at Oktoberfest (and I can send a photo of him) and the second set was as a side dish at Todd English's P.U.B. at City Center in Las Vegas. I've always loved pickles since I was a kid – something about the briny tang to them, but I'm glad to see chefs putting a little thought into making a good pickle – and going to Oktoberfest, it grounded the idea that pickles really are "old foods." It was a form of preservation and I'm glad to see a resurgence today. Tonight, my final meal for my birthday adventure weekend in Vegas was a lobster cocktail at P.U.B. with a side of pickles. I felt like I was queen of the world – I CAN EAT WHATEVER I WANT – I'M 40, DAMMIT! – Stacy Bertinelli

husk.jpgIt was dinner recently at Husk Restaurant in Charleston, SC. It was incredible but the three most outstanding dishes were crispy fried pigs ears, thinly sliced with slow cooked white beans and house made chow-chow wrapped in Boston lettuce cups-teary eyed while eating it and crying like a two year old when it was gone. Number 2-Cheese grits (locally grown and ground) with Tennessee aged buttermilk cheddar and oyster mushrooms folded in-bubbling hot and overflowing with sharp cheese. It was such a dinner when they asked if there was anything else that we needed as our main course was being placed on the table I replied "reservations for lunch!" Number 3-For lunch I had shrimp and grits that are still making my heart skip when I think of how great a dish it was... Low country cooking at its very best! I dream of my next meal at Husk – Brenda Athanus

georgias.jpgThe best meal I ate this year was at Georgia’s Eastside Barbecue. It’s a teensy weensy place – so small in fact that the bathroom is in a bar across the street – but there’s something charming not intrusive about its size. The staff is rockstar friendly. They flaunt tats and piercings without making you feel they’re going to spit in your food for wearing khakis. My friend and I had assigned “food orgy” status to this meal before we even sat down, so we let our hearts run wild over the menu. We started with an order of the sampler platter – with ribs, Andouille sausage, and wings – everything cooked and grilled to perfection. They slow cook the ribs with a secret spice rub over beer for many, many hours. You can taste the difference between ribs slow cooked over water vs. beer. They are outstanding. We shared some fried catfish, fried chicken, and pulled pork...and cornbread, and salad, and potato salad, and garlic green beans, and a broccoli special. By the end I was in pain but I did not want to stop. I rolled home more satisfied than I had been in a very long time, contemplating a relocation of my whole life to be closer to the restaurant. – Alison Wonderland Tucker

my favorite thing that I ate was the butternut squash ravioli dish at Corsino in New York City. A seasonal menu item, it's a savory dish to be enjoyed in the warm atmosphere of the restaurant. – Haley Schultheis

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