Saturday, December 30, 2006

the year in food

SF Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer just published his Top 10 new restaurants of 2006, a companion to April’s Top 100 list. Making the grade are former cool things of the day Tres Agaves, Ame, Kaygetsu, Dosa, NOPA and Coi as well as Redd and Ad Hoc in Napa and Poleng Lounge and Terzo in San Francisco. Inspired by Mr. Bauer, I thought I would recap my year in food.

(at least) one cool thing recommended a number of other new establishments: Range (a 2005 Bauer pick), Bartolotta (in Vegas), Shabuway, Gochi, Old Port Lobster Shack, Mantra, Lure, Hu-Chiang Dumplings, Liou’s House, Blue Agave, The Counter, Nihon Whiskey Lounge, Maverick, Tai Pan and the Mission location of Little Star. Mantra changed chefs and Blue Agave in Fremont folded, but everywhere else seems to be thriving.

Old favorites received their share of attention too: La Bodeguita del Medio, Fiesta del Mar, Sakae Sushi, Ti Couz, Nobu (in Vegas), Uncle Frank’s BBQ, Tamarine, Pizza Antica, Pancho Villa, The Creamery, Patxi’s Pizza, Koi Palace, Incanto and Quince.

I was fortunate to be able to try places others have been raving about: Maravilla (in Ojai), Chris’s Fish and Chips, Santa Ramen, Millbrae Pancake House, Fresca, Everett & Jones BBQ, Texas Smokehouse BBQ, Pizzeria Pico and Thanh Long. And, in two cases, restaurants I thought were good but not great vaulted into a more exalted category thanks to outstanding meals: Ozumo and Sushi Sam’s.

Coverage extended beyond restaurants. To Stuart’s delight, I discussed cheese: Brillat-Savarin, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Fromage d’Affinois, Goat Gouda and Cheese from Spain. Oddly for those who know me, I mentioned things purchased in a supermarket: Bonne Maman Peach Preserves, Crab Cakes, White Nectarines, Pink Grapefruit Yogurt and Dr. Bob’s Ice Cream.

Reviews included specialty items like: cannele, Ice Cream at Fenton's, Mitchell's and Rick's, Gelato at La Copa Loca, Cream Puffs at Beard Papa, Chocolates at Cocoa Bella, Fuku Wa Puku Puku and Mac Pie. And, special events like Tapas and Chocolate Tasting.

Of course, what is life without tasty beverages like: Moet & Chandon, pomegranate juice, Italian wine, Turley Zin, sake, Paul Hobbs Cabernet, Smith Woodhouse Port, White Tea Snapple and Sambazon Acai Smoothies.

Finally, there were the recipes: Bread Pudding, The 24 Hour Omelet, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Butternut Squash Soup. And, my favorite category of all, the guest contributions: Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Honey, MiMe’s Café, Ino Sushi, Banana Joe’s Pineapple Frosty, Fleur de Sel Caramels, Better Butter, and the Pomegranate Martini.

My thanks to all of my lunch and dinner companions, guest contributors, event organizers, recipe testers and inspirers for a very delicious 2006!

1/3 update: the San Jose Mercury News published a list of their favorite meals in 2006. Among the listed are Gochi, Old Port Lobster Shack and (not surprisingly) Manresa