Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Top 10 Restaurant Dishes of 2010!!!

So…after a very long week, I’m finally back from Cyber Siberia!! Hope everyone had a lovely New Year’s weekend. We spent New Year’s Eve with family seeing The King’s Speech – a great movie, by the way!  We followed it up with a yummy Italian dinner at Carrabba’s. We were back home in our jammies before midnight to ring in 2011 with some fizzy pomegranate sangria! Before moving forward with 2011, I want to take a moment to reflect back on some of my favorite restaurant dishes of 2010. I love to cook, but I also love exploring new restaurants almost as much. I was lucky enough to taste some really amazing dishes last year. Here they are…in no particular order.

1.  Doughnut Sampler, Doughnut Plant (New York). After seeing Doughnut Plant featured on Food Network, we knew we HAD to make it by to sample their artisan doughnuts this summer. It took a subway and cab to make it to their Lower East Side location, but it was so worth it!! We sampled several of their delicious doughnuts: tres leche, fresh blueberry, chocolate blackout, and creme brule...but the tres leche doughnut knocked our socks off!! Imagine a cake doughnut that’s moist and tastes like tres leche cake. Heaven.

2. Shack Burger, Shake Shack (New York). We saw Shake Shack featured on a travel show just before our trip to New York this summer. We try not to eat things we can easily get back home when we travel…but turns out it was an easy walk from our apartment. We were tired our first night in town, so we decided to walk over for a quick dinner. It was so good that we went back for another one before we left town! Everything is made in house, and the ingredients are top-quality. The burgers are blended from three meats: hand-ground chuck, sirloin, and brisket. It all adds up to a gourmet burger experience that we’re still talking about!

3. Carrot Cake French Toast, South Congress Café (Austin). What's better than carrot cake? Carrot cake made into a lovely brunch dish!! If this doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will: freshly baked carrot cake dipped in cinnamon-vanilla egg batter and grilled golden brown. Served with pure maple and cream cheese-pecan syrups. Heaven on a plate…and only 1.5 hours from Casa Garcia!

4. Entremes Surtido, Frontera Grill (Chicago). We’re huge fans of Rick Bayless, and this was our second visit to his flagship restaurant. The entire meal was worth the 2-hour wait for a table, but this appetizer platter was especially memorable: cheesy quesadillas, crispy taquitos with sour cream, tangy ceviche tostadas, crunchy jicama salad, and sublime guacamole…add a tasty margarita on the side, and it was the perfect start to a fantastic meal! This was my first time trying ceviche...and I now LOVE it!!

5. Buratta Caprese, Dough Pizzeria Napoletana (San Antonio). San Antonio isn’t really known for its pizza, but this place is the real deal! We ordered this starter/salad on our last visit and were blown away. Fresh tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic reduction, and creamy house-made burrata. Burrata is basically a fresh mozzarella dome with creamy homemade ricotta inside. I could have made a meal just of this, but I did manage to eat a slice or two of their amazing wood-fired pizza.

6. French Onion Soup, Balthazar (New York). There’s onion soup, and there’s THIS: the holy grail of French onion soup, in my humble opinion. This legendary French bistro is a New York landmark, so we made reservations for dinner after a classical performance at Carnegie Hall. We decided to split a crock of this soup as a starter. Once we tasted it, we were using dueling spoons fighting for the last bite!! Amazingly simple ingredients cooked to perfection. And melted cheese is never, ever a bad thing!

7. Bread Pudding Souffle, Brennan’s (Houston). Brennan’s Houston is a very special place for Michael and I. We've celebrated many special occasions there over the years, including our wedding reception in 2003. This Houston institution burnt to the ground during Hurricane Ike in 2008. This was heartbreaking for us, but we were eager to return last year, after they rebuilt and remodeled. Our favorite dessert there is the bread pudding soufflé…bread pudding made into a heavenly soufflé and topped with whiskey sauce at the table. Yes, it’s rich…but oh-so-worth-it!

8. BBQ Sampler, The Salt Lick (Austin). The Salt Lick regularly makes the “best BBQ” lists for Texas and the entire country. In a state that's known for serious BBQ, that's saying something! We had been there once, many years ago…but we made the drive out this summer. This place is literally in the middle of nowhere, about 15 miles outside of Austin. People come from miles away to eat here, so there’s always a wait. But? You’re rewarded with perfectly smoked BBQ and delicious side dishes.

9. Cheese Popover, BLT Prime (New York). As you can tell, we ate very well in New York!! We celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday at this wonderful steakhouse. When you’re seated, they bring out these amazing cheese popovers and butter with your drinks. They’re steamy, chewy, and downright addictive!! We all oohed and ahhed over them…they gave me the recipe, but I’ve yet to make them at home. Maybe I can make a mini version in a muffin pan? Our steak dinner at BLT Prime was one of the BEST meals we had last year...or any other year for that matter!

10. Tie: Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza, Giordano’s (Chicago) and Lombardi’s (New York). I know there’s a heated debate over who's pizza is best: New York or Chicago. We refuse to take sides...we’re equal opportunity pizza lovers at Casa Garcia! We can’t pick one as our favorite. Giordano’s is stuffed-crust, full of ingredients, and gooey-rich…one or two pieces will fill even the biggest appetite. Lombardi’s is literally THE FIRST pizza restaurant in America. Their pizza is thin, brick-oven baked, and amazing!! The ingredients are top-notch. It’s just so good!! In case you're wondering why there's no pics of the Giordano's pizza? We were in such a hurry to dig in and eat our pizza that both my shots came out blurry!

One of my food mottos is: have camera, will travel...I love to take pictures of the foods we sample during our travels. You know you're a true food lover when some of your fondest travel memories are the foods you ate!! I can truly say that 2010 was a fantastic foodie year! I'm very excited to see what 2011 has in store! A return trip to Chicago for July 4th is already on the calender (for the rescheduled U2 concert!)...


  1. So, I really want to make everything you posted. My husband would surely appreciate it before he takes off again! How I wish I could travel and eat good food. I mean, I am only an hour's drive from France, but I also have very small people hehe. So happy you're back online. Hope you had a fantastic New Year!

  2. All your meals look so good. I should think about doing a best meals post as I had some really good ones this year.

  3. What a wonderful post, Wendy! YUM! I know what you mean about memorable meals, though. Fifteen years ago, we traveled through Memphis on our way to Cape Girardeau and we stopped for lunch at The Rendevous. I'd never had pork ribs before (my mom never cooked pork, except in the form of bacon) and I ordered beef ribs. Our waiter, Lonnie (YES, I still remember his name!) persuaded me to try the pork, telling me he'd buy them back if I didn't like them. I almost stabbed him with my fork when he wandered past our table acting like he was going to take my unfinished plate ... hehe

    Also noticed one other thing ... are you gearing up in anticipation for wonderful things to come? Your title says "Top Ten Dishes of ... 2011"!!! LOL Seriously - loving the blog - it's so much fun, and so very well done! :)

  4. @Sommer: I saw a recipe online for a Fake Shack Burger, so maybe you can make one at home? The Balthazar soup recipe should also be online...or maybe see if you can find the cookbok.

    @Tastemonials: Hi! Do was so fun to relive my favorite food memories while I wrote this post!

    @Laura: Fixed the title...that's what I get for posting at 630 in the morning! I saw The Rendezvous on a BBQ Best of show on TV recently. It looks GOOD!

  5. Great round-up of restaurant dishes from 2010. A wonderful list. I'm intrigued by the carrot cake French toast. Perhaps I'll experiment with that one for breakfast one morning. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year :-)

  6. She's baaa aaack! Missed you! Love all your meals!

  7. good to have you back Wendy :)
    delicious round-up and I'm with you on those doughnuts, the best ever

    hope you're having a wonderful evening

  8. Alas.... I've never been to New York, Chicago or Austin... but now I have something to aspire to!!! Thanks for the list!

  9. that shake shack burger looks unreal!

  10. @Trish: It's a loaf of carrot cake/bread. They told me they oven-toast it briefly then dip int he egg wash. It's off the hook, and I assume you could do it w/leftover banana bread as well. If you try it, let me know how it comes out!!

    @Veronica & Green Girl: It's so good to be back blogging...I was getting so twitchy being offline!

    @Kim: You should come to Texas...SA and Austin are only 70ish miles apart. Lots of good eats!!

    @Claire: The Shack Burger is amazing...not typical fast-food stuff. Everything is made inhouse and it's just so good. The owner is Chef Danny Meyer, who also has Union Square Cafe in NY. I

  11. Being in the Chicago area, I l loved reading your take on Frontera Grill and Giordano's pizza. both are wonderful, but Giordano's is more accessible than Frontera Grill. Frontera Grill doesn't take reservations, and the doors open at 5pm, so you better be there by 5pm, because by then the line wraps around the block, no kidding. It is well worth the wait, though

  12. Becky - We're planning to dine at Topolo and Alinea on our next visit in July. Michael has family on the south side, not far from Midway Airport. We stay with them and take the El wherever we need to go!

  13. Looks like you've had some fabulous meals this year! I visited Lombardi's with my family on my first visit to NYC and LOVED it - hopefully I'll make it back someday :)

  14. I'm so glad you are back! I also saw the King's Speech and it was great! I loved that you included some Austin bites on your list. I have got to try that carrot cake french toast! And I've heard great things about that pizza restaurant in San Antonio. I'm tempted to make a date night with Ryan there! Thank you for sharing this with me. I hope your weekend bursts forth in hope and joy!

  15. I dream of the day that I will dine at ANY of Rick Bayless's restaurants. Lucky you! Nice post.


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