My boss told me that the Best of the Best Party will be on Feb. 15th at the Guthrie Theater . . . timing and details available at this link on our site . . . but until then you can satisfy your curiosity with this list of my favorite local plates of the past year.
The pile of notes I went through last week was the smallest stack I have had to navigate in years, I was gone for about 35 weeks during 2009. Hopefully next year, I get to stay home more. This list is in no order of preference. BTW, did anyone see the Sam Sifton “Best Of” piece in Wednesday’s NYT? In two places (intro and in his blurb on Buttermilk Channel), he seems to go out of his way to make the point that dining and eating are two radically different notions (agreed) but that casual food shouldn’t make year end best lists. Seems odd, best is best to me, and I can tell you that I had sandwiches this past year that rivaled some of the spendier meals I ate in some glam-tastic restaurants. It's even weirder when Sifton also includes the banh mi at Baoguette in his list just one graph after making the dullards point about fried chicken and popovers not being round up worthy. So a $5 sandwich is potentially notable, but other comfort food isn’t? Just plain weird, especially in light of the fact that as a big fan of Sifton and having read him for years, he loves dining and eating equally. Is the new gig getting to him already??? Anyway, I digress . . . . here’s my local list. Apologies for the lack of specificity in some cases . . . I can't read some of my eight-month-old scribbles very well.
- Lobster egg concoction at Bar la Grassa. When its hot and fresh from the kitchen, this killer crustacean on toast with egg and lemon blew my mind.
- Ditto the scallop benedict at Manny's. Loaded with Hollandaise and just plain old dirty good.
- Tuna crudo with pressed watermelon at Sea Change. A cliché for many, but it was so good. I am a sucker for watermelon, especially with the hot chile kick this dish brought.
- Roasted goat at Brasa. So one night I had a party at Brasa at St Paul, and Alex threw a local goat on the rotisserie for us. He will do the same for you with a little notice. Simply amazing.
- Krakowska at Kramarczuk's. A perennial best for me and I went about a year without it. One day I fell in for lunch, grabbed some pumpernickel and six ounces of the porky monster and went to town. Garlic and smoke . . . and pig . . . hmmmmmmm.
- Apples from Dierdorf's in Waconia. Does not get any better. Ditto the crystal clear freshly pressed cider on weekends. Gulped as it oxidizes in the cup. Wow.
- Chef Shack. Fuhgeddaboutit. Just about everything I got at the shack this last year at the Mill City Market was delish.
- Grilled shrimp and beef rolls at Que Nah. I love the food at this underrated University Ave. stalwart of Viet-Thai hybrid cuisine. Casual and easy to love, the roll-your-own grilled beef and shrimp plates are always on my table there.
- Fish with pickled vegetables at Tea House. If there is a better Chinese dish in town, I haven’t eaten it.
- Steamed walleye with ginger scallion at Shuang Cheng. Another rock solid dish that I am addicted to.
- Japanese snapper at Fuji Ya. Fuji Ya in Minneapolis really has picked up the ball and run with it when it comes to sourcing new and interesting seafood items for their sushi bar. My wife and I go there a lot for a quick bite, and on my last two visits, they had three types of toro, and an offering of madai to boot. Now madai is a Japanese porgy, a seabream, and while being super technical shouldn’t be sold as Japanese snapper by the waiter, I gave him a pass since porgy and seabreams are both part of the snapper family. The bigger point is that the stuff was killer . . . fresh and firm . . . and Fuji Ya needs some juice for going the extra mile in a town where all the sushi bars tend to serve the same dreck all the time.
- Tongue taco at Barrio. I kicked off my 2009 with some tongue tacos at Barrio and am still thinking about them.
- Salame e Funghi doppio uncut at Punch in Highland. If you don’t know what this means at all, I feel sorry for you.
And this just in . . . I ate twice this week at Galaxy . . . burger very good but on one trip it had a pile of what I can only discern as the identical seasoning mix splash that make the fries inedible. The fries are terrible, onion rings pretty good, root beer float was dismal. How do you blow a float?!?!?!? The ice cream was awful and the root beer was cloying and syrupy and cheap tasting. Service is odd, getting the tray removed from your car is a pain. If you have to ask, it's too late . . . anyway the place looks great and the food overall is average. I would eat a burger there in a heartbeat, but only because I am a pig and live close by. What a shame they cant get it together on the whole menu, which is about 20 items too big. Oy vey.