Thursday, January 3, 2019

Top 10 Best Bites of 2018 #WGTravel #bestbites2018 #culinarytravel

After a fabulous extended holiday in the Houston area visiting our family and friends...and celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary...The Weekend Gourmet is back and ready to take on 2019! However, before officially heading into the new year...I want to take a final look back at 2018! Today, I'm sharing my Top 10 Best Bites 0f 2018: the best food we tasted during our culinary travel adventures last year. From casual to upscale, we sampled a broad range of cuisine...from Texas BBQ to spicy chile-infused food in Santa Fe. A key lesson we learned last year is that smaller cities like Tulsa and Jackson, MS, have very creative chefs and menu items that rival those found in much larger cities. Check out the video...then read on below for details about these fabulous menu items:

The listing below isn't a ranking...because it's impossible to rank these fabulous dishes!
  • Smoked Turkey and Smoked Boudin with Beef Cheek from Bodacious on Mobberly BBQ in Longview, Texas. BBQ is king here in Texas, and we love hitting the road to sample offerings from the pits at our state's best BBQ joints. During a BBQ road trip weekend last Spring, my team was absolutely *blown away* by the moist, flavorful smoked turkey breast and daily special boudin sausage at Bodacious On Mobberly in the East Texas town of Longview! Turkey can be tough if not cooked properly, but Chef Jordan Jackson's turkey was absolute perfection -- generously seasoned outside and remarkably juicy. The rice-based boudin was smoky and spicy, with ample pieces of chopped beef cheek meat added to the mix. This BBQ was worth the nearly 6-hour drive to Longview!
  • OBX Donut Breakfast Sandwich, Duck Donuts (multiple locations nationwide). Duck Donuts is primarily known for its delicious, warm made-to-order personalized donuts. However, they also offer a fabulous sweet-savory OBX Donut Breakfast Sandwich that knocked our socks off! A freshly fried cake donut is cut in half and serves as the sandwich bun...inside is scrambled egg, cheese, and your choice of meat -- we opted for a sausage patty. Then? The sandwich is topped with a drizzle of maple glaze and a sprinkle of chopped bacon. Is your mouth watering yet? This combination of sweet, savory...and smoky was a flavor explosion!
  • The Tavern Burger at The Tavern in Tulsa. There are burgers...and there's The Tavern Burger. This burger is packed with umami and is among the best burgers we've eaten *anywhere*! Every component is delicious -- adding up to a perfect burger. A patty made from a proprietary blend of ground meats is cooked perfectly medium...topped with earthy Stilton cheese, and a creamy Cognac-mushroom sauce. The burger comes to the table on a freshly bake challah bun with a generous serving of The Tavern's signature garlic frites. This is truly burger perfection!
  • Blueberry Cupcake at Muddy's Bake Shop in Memphis. Muddy's is one of the most popular bakeries in Mempis...and for good reason! Owner/Baker Kat Gordon serves homey baked goods that are fun, delicious, and creative. When we visited Muddy's this Summer, we sampled several items from their display case. All were delicious, but the creative Blueberry Cupcake really stood out for us! It features a moist vanilla cupcake filled with homemade blueberry compote. Then? The cupcake is topped with blueberry cream cheese icing, lemon zest sugar, and fresh blueberries. As much as we wanted to inhale this cupcake, we purposely savored every bite's layers of flavor and texture. This is a cupcake all cupcakes should aspire to!
  • Pork Belly Corn Dog at The Pig & Pint in Jackson, MS. I love it when a chef takes a familiar food and transforms it by using new, creative ingredients. When we visited The Pig & Pint en route to Memphis last Summer, their Pork Belly Corn Dog immediately caught our attention! This corn dog features smoked pork belly dipped in a house-made cornmeal batter and fried. It's served with seasonal beer-infused mustard for dipping. If you think a hot dog is good inside of a corn dog? Wait until you taste luscious pork belly. Creative, flavorful, and a bit whimsical too. This take on traditional corn dogs was easily one of the most creative and delicious foods we tasted last year!
  • Tres Leche Cheesecake at Maize Santa Fe. Maize is one of Santa Fe's best fine dining restaurants. We enjoyed one of our best all-around dining experiences there during our visit to Santa Fe last Fall. However, the dish we kept talking about in the weeks following our visit was the amazing Tres Leche Cheesecake we had for dessert! It featured layers of cake with a cheesecake filling. The slice was served atop berry coulis, with crema de Mezcal and edible strawberry "paper." Every bite was an explosion of creamy cheesecake and tres leche sauce...and bright berries. So incredibly good!
  • Tortilla Soup at Ranch de Chimayo in Chimayo, NM. Rancho de Chimayo has been serving authentic New Mexican food for five decades. Located 30 minutes outside of Santa Fe in the small village of Chimayo, Rancho de Chimayo is truly destination dining! We visited for a delicious lunch tasting with owner Florence Jaramillo this Fall. She was a welcoming hostess who recommended I try their signature Tortilla Soup. Although the ingredients are simple, the end result was mind blowing! A rich corn tortilla-enriched broth is poured over tender chicken, aromatic veggies, avocado, and cheese...and garnished with perfectly crunchy fried corn tortilla chips. This soup was a revelation -- deeply flavored and hearty enough for a meal. This is the tortilla soup that all others I try will be measured against!
  • Fried Chicken at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis. After dining on Gus's spicy, perfectly fried chicken? My entire team declared we may never be able to eat fast food fried chicken again! For us, there's fried chicken...and then there's the chicken at Gus's! The chicken is brined in spices for 24 hours, then coated in flour and fried. The end result is crunchy outside, juicy and spicy, and flavored all the way to the bone. This is the epitome of fried chicken...served with delicious homestyle sides. We first tried Gus's in Memphis...but were thrilled to know they have another 20+ locations across the country -- including one 70 miles up the road from us in Austin. If you love fried chicken, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is a must try!
  • Blueberry Scone at The Peabody Hotel's Afternoon Tea in Memphis. The Peabody Hotel is a Memphis icon...and their daily Afternoon Tea at Chez Philippe restaurant is a truly amazing foodie experience. Between the savory and sweet courses, a scone is served. The day we came for Afternoon Tea, it was a blueberry scone. It was large and looked deceptively simple. The scone was perfectly baked golden brown outside and moist inside, with a generous amount of fresh blueberries. It was served with clotted cream and preserves. So simple, yet so perfect! Months later, my social media manager and I continue to rave about this scone.
  • House-Made Cinnamon Rolls at Savoy in Tulsa. The Kelamis family's Savoy restaurant has been serving breakfast and lunch to hungry customers since 1918 -- that's a century folks! You don't stay in business that long unless you serve food that keeps customers coming back. One of Savoy's signature menu items is their dreamy house-made cinnamon rolls! They're baked fresh every morning and are on the menu until they sell get there early! Each cinnamon roll is big enough for two people to share and features a sweet yeast dough with a generous amount of cinnamon-sugar filling. After being baked to pillowy soft perfection, the warm cinnamon rolls are topped with just the right amount of sweet icing. Each cinnamon roll comes to the table warm, and it smells so amazing your mouth will immediately start to water. Just add coffee, and your Savoy breakfast is off to a perfect start!
Disclosure: The restaurants and bakeries featured in this year-end roundup provided The Weekend Gourmet team hosted dining experiences to facilitate coverage. All opinions expressed in this Best Bites 2018 feature are solely my own.

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