For the record, I am one lady who will travel any lengths and be completely comfortable in any type of ambiance in my quest for good food; be it a Michelin Star rated restaurant or a hole in the wall without even the bare necessities. With all this traveling for the relentless pursuit of food, it’s hard trying to narrow down the “best” bites. Especially, since I whole heartedly believe that any dish made with love equals deliciousness.
The restaurant business, whilst a rewarding and creative endeavor takes a grueling toil on a chef and their staff. Before I reveal my favorites, I want to commend each and every one of them for their efforts and hard work. who works endlessly on their feet for the love of food. With each look, every flavor, the aroma, I learn a little bit more about the creator and bask in the culmination of tastes.
So without further ado, I present to you the Best of the Best Bites of 2013 (in no particular order). Bites that render me ‘speechless’ and make my foodie soul moan in delight!
My weakness and adoration for French cuisine is known far and wide. The search for the best French food without crossing the ocean took me to Montreal and Quebec City. Each and every meal I had been absolutely fabulous (fabuleux). That said, I have to pick a “best”! Normally I’d agonize about a decision like this, but this year it was a breeze. The winner was Chef Martin Piccard’s restaurant Au Pied de Cochon. Simply put, it was the BEST dining experience of 2013. Each bite, every sip, the presentation, service, portions, cost to quality ratio – scored a perfect 10 in my book. From the decadent Foie Gras to the perfectly cooked House Pasta with umami licking sauce house made Charcuterie, rich Blood Sausage, exquisite Duck Magret in Mushroom Sauce, and the divine. It was THE irreproachable dining experience of my life…
With Au Pied de Cochon, I didn’t just leave thinking, I just got a meal that good for that price, but rather, OMG!, I just got a meal that Good.
…reminiscing over, back to earth, rather more appropriately, this segment…
New Delhi, my home town has taken bounds and leaps since I left India in its expansion of cuisines. In recent years the Delhiites (as the residents of New Delhi are called) have embraced all international cuisines with open arms and thereby crated a demand for authentic “other than Indian food”. That said, where can you find the “best” Indian food? Naturally, India. This year’s discovery is attributed to the distinguished Mr. Rocky Mohan co-founder of Delhi Gourmet Club. The place food lovers meet created for the informed pursuit of good food by ‘Mr Old Monk’ and acclaimed cookbook writer Rocky Mohan, food blogger Atul Sikand (Sikandalous Cuisine), and the much-acclaimed food and wine writer Sourish Bhattacharyya.
On Mr. Mohan’s recommendation I visited The Indian Accent, the brain child of acclaimed Executive Chef Manish Mehrotra. From the melting in your mouth Foie Gras stuffed Galawat, textural inter play of Tuna Bhel Ceviche, adorable mini pressure cooker Kala Namak Palate Cleanser, perfect blend of sweet, savory, and spicy Potato Sphere Chaat, unbelievably luscious Dal Mohrabadi, and impeccably presented Pav Bhaji. Chef Manish Mehrotra sets a new bar for Indian fusion cuisine with his pioneering contemporary cuisine. It’s not surprising that The Indian Accent has won accolades all over the world.
Heading back to my current home, Orlando and the opening of the new Italian restaurant Siro Urban Italian Kitchen at World Center Marriot. Executive Chef Anthony Burdo literally swept me off my feet with his Veal Meatballs. The decadent meatballs were lightly dressed with Chef Burdo’s grandmother’s Pomodoro recipe. Now that is how a tomato sauce should be: fresh, lightly fragrant, and flavorful. Oh, they were delightful! Eggplant Caponata, delicately sweet, savory, and creamy; simple yet decadent Roast Bone Marrow, ridiculously good Burger with house made bun, delightful Buccatini with Red Lead Sauce, and not to forget the ultra-light, airy, piping hot Zeppole. Executive Chef Burdo and Siro’s simple philosophy of cooking playful, and artisanal Italian food that stays close to your heart and roots had me host my 40th. Yes, people indeed I turned the big four O in 2013.
The hand-pulled noodles at Nudo Noodle House in the heart of Montreal’s China town was the most surprisingly delicious dish I tasted. Freshly pulled noodles to order was a sight to behold and taste. Master noodle maker skillfully starts with one cylindrical rope of dough, pulling, tugging, folding, and weaving his hands back and forth as if playing an accordion, stretches out the dough to create perfectly thin strands of one singular, unbroken string of dough. Fascinating!! The noodle is cooked al dente and added to a deep and flavorful broth of your choice – Exquisite!
I have had a lot of great food this year, but I can’t stop thinking about the Blood Pudding at Chez Boulay’s Bistro Boreal in Quebec City. I accept that blood pudding is not every one’s cup of tea. But if you were to ever venture to that path, I highly recommend the bistro’s Blood Pudding Duo with cabbage and leek pudding, roasted apples and potato puree will have you moaning!!
The next entry is so close to my heart that I am tempted not to share it, so that it can be my secret. But that wouldn’t be fair to Chef Kevin Fonzo, he deserves a standing ovation for his annual lavish Truffle dinner. Each and every time I dine at K Wine Bar, Chef Kevin does not cease to amaze me with his phenomenal culinary skills. Since it was my night “off” I didn’t take any pictures. Hopefully, the menu highlights are proof enough of the decadent feast. Foei gras torchon, Lake Meadow quail egg, fingerling potato, duck leg confit; Braised Seely’s Ark Rabbit with wild mushroom and truffle risotto; Roast scallop, black trumpet mushroom, escargot; Roast 12 hr truffle infused Lake Meadown farm guinea hen; Porcini dusted filet, crispy bone marrow in red wine sauce; White chocolate tiramisu, rose water, berry coulis, white truffle. Oh, oh! Did I make you drool?
Even though “Wine” technically isn’t food. I can’t help but share highlights of my new found respect and obsession for Wine. I immersed in the world of wine with Level 1 of CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) and am presently working towards achieving Level II, Certified Sommelier Certification. I whole heartedly agree with the Italians: Wine and Bread are as essential to an Italian dinner as a fork and knife (if not more). Along with olive oil they make “Santa Trinita Mediterranea” – the Mediterranean Holy Trinity. Highlights of my wine tastings in 2013 were:
Taste, Learn, & Experience DOCa Rioja with Vibrant Rioja: Rioja seminar and wine tasting led by Master Sommelier Joseph Spellman followed by a tasting of DOCa Rioja’s new vintage releases showcasing 110 Rioja wines including library wines and wines made from rescued indigenous grape varieties. Amongst the Rioja’s I managed to taste the ones that stood out personally for me were: 1994 La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Reserva (library vintage), 1969 Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva (library vintage), 2009 Vivanco Coleccion Maturana Tinta (indigenous), 2005 Beronia Gran Reserva (such personality), 2001 La Rioja Alta “904″ Gran Reserva (permanent spot in my racks), 2005 Maetierra Dominum “QP” “Quatro Pagos” (reserva), 2005 El coto, 2008 Propriedad (cosecha), 2003 Lopez de Heredia Blanco “Gravonia” (blanco), and 2012 Cune Rosado (rosado).
Fine wine and spirits importer, Kobrand Corporation, annual ‘Kobrand Tour d’Italia,’ where their iconic Italian wine makers showcased their upcoming releases. So be it Italy’s vibrant and racy whites like Pinot Grigio, from Fernando Pighin & Figli or Bollini, big and powerful Amarone from Masi Agricola; majestic Barolo and Barberesco from Michele Chiarlo; Sangiovese – one of the greatest red grapes of Italy, producing the romantic Chianti from The Folonari family, Tuscany’s most revered wine Brunello di Montalcino from Silvio Nardi; avant-garde Super Tuscan from Tenuta San Guido, Tenuto del Cabreo II Borgo, and Tenuta Sette Ponti; classic Orvieto from Tenuta di Salvino; solid Carignano blend from Agricola Punica; or spicy and herbaceous Nero d’Avola from Feudo Maccari, Kobrand Tour d’Italia, showcased the breadth and diversity of Italian wines where each wine expressed unique site specific terroir. A tasting any wine aficionado would have been proud to attend.
Stacole Fine Wine Trade Show Tour: Stacole Fine Wine, a member of the Vintner Group, led by Master Sommelier Ms. Laura DePasquale (VP & GM Florida), hosted their annual industry tasting at the illustrious Norman’s at Ritz Carlton, Orlando. From classed-growth Bordeaux to New World upstarts, the exquisite wines displayed spoke for themselves. Stand out Wines of the day: Besserat deBellefon Brut Vintage 2002, 2009 M. Chapoutier Domaine Tournon Ladys Lane Shiraz, 2008 G.D. Vajra “Bricco Delle Viole” Barolo, 2011, Carbonnieux Blanc, Graves, Robert Biale, Martinelli, 2010 Paul Hobbs “Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard”, and Smokehead Islay Whiskey.
Its been said that the difference between a Good meal and a Great meal is that, with the former, you finish the meal thinking, “The Food was Good“. With a great meal, you can’t help but think, “Life is Good“. Do share your Great meals of 2013 with me in the comments.