My Favorite Bites – 2013 Edition

Admittedly I eat a lot. I don’t necessary eat a lot when I eat, but I definitely do it frequently. I love the surprises that come with trying new things, but relish the comfort of perfect dishes I return to again and again. While browsing through my food photographs (planning for this post), I could almost taste the deliciousness of my year in food. And while many stand out as superior dishes, I’ve whittled down my list of favorites from 2013 to five. Behold – my new year’s countdown:

5 • Champagne Sorbet / ART Restaurant – Seattle, WA

Champagne Sorbet I feel as though a sonnet should be written about ART Restaurant‘s champagne sorbet. It’s rarely mentioned on food blogs or raved about by critics, but it’s one of the most refreshing, flavor-filled bites of my year. It perfectly danced a sweet, bubbly lighter-than-air jig on my tongue – finishing with a cool yearning for more.

4 • Pecan Praline Ice Cream / Lopez Island Creamery – Lopez Island, WA

Lopez Island Creamery Ice CreamA favorite stop on my way into the San Juan Islands through back roads near La Conner is Snow Goose Produce. The moment I walk into their open-air market, the sweet aroma of waffle cones drift off the irons and stop me in my tracks. I try (futilely) to resist the urge – meandering instead through their tables of fresh vegetables and fruits – yet always ending up at the ice cream counter. Likely every flavor is delicious, but their sweet pecan praline has won my heart. Loaded with pecans and swirled with layer upon layer of caramel, oozing with the creamiest of texture, this big-as-your-head cone likely harbors a day’s calories – but is worth every bite.

3 • Pita and Assorted Spreads / Lola – Seattle, WA

Pita and Assorted SpreadsI walk in the door for the lamb at Tom Douglas Co’s Lola, but the minute I see the assorted spreads listed on the menu I do a culinary about-face. Lola’s freshly-griddled pita easily stands alone as a favorite dish. Their pillowy rounds of warm pita are the epitome of baked perfection. Couple that with six delicious spreads, and you’ve got yourself a meal. I waffle between favorites: the spicy/cheesy/saltiness of their Kopanisti Pistachio Mavrodaphne; the deep sweetness of the Roasted Red Pepper; the cool, garlicky flavors from the Tzatziki; the depth flavor in marriage of Cauliflower and Anchovy; the creamy in-your-face garlic of the Fava Skordalia; or the sweet-savory finish of the Kalamata-Fig.

2 • Green Curry Totten Inlet Mussels / Blueacre Seafood – Seattle, WA

Green Curry MusselsSometimes dishes are recommended, other times they’re stumbled upon. Blueacre’s dish falls under the stumbled-upon category. I’ve always been a champion for their gumbo and Potatoes Minneapolis (both warranting posts of their own), but their green curry mussels were an unexpected surprise. A friend’s daughter – joining me for lunch – ordered them a few months ago and they’ve been on my mind ever since. A generous portion of not-too-big Totten Inlet mussels sit in a sea of the tastiest sauce of the year. Flavored with coconut milk, ginger, chili – the star of this dish is definitely the grilled lime. It brings a sweet-yet-citrusy flavor with just enough char to bring out rich notes that absolutely sing out to me! If there’s a perfect dish for a cold Seattle day, this is it. And yes: you’ll want to order extra bread to mop of every luscious drop of the delectable sauce!

1 • Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings / Pok Pok Noi – Portland, OR

Vietnamese Chicken WingsI’m not a wing gal. I’ve never ordered them for myself to this day. My #1 discovery made this year was in my husband’s ordering of these heavenly delights on a recent day trip to Portland. Steeped in tradition from chef Ike’s Vietnamese home, this somewhat-secret recipe involves fresh chicken wings (this is Portland, after all – so I’m sure they knew the chicken’s names) marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar – deep fried – then bathed again in Phu Quoo fish sauce and garlic. The result is an earthy, umami taste that’s strong enough to lure me into another 3-hour drive to indulge in them. “Depth of flavor” doesn’t come close – there are so many base elements at play in this dish I just want to go back and cozy-up to another plate.

Close seconds to these Top 5 bites? Creamy macaroni and cheese from Metropole Seattle; slow-roasted autumn lamb shank from BOKA’s chef Peter Birk; black cod with sunchoke medallions at Canlis; and pillowy beignets from RN74.

I love living and working in an area that offers me so very much on a culinary level and can’t wait to explore more in 2014!