We are posting our year-end review tomorrow, but spoiler alert: we ate well in 2013. This year I was lucky enough to make two trips to NYC, spent a weekend in San Francisco, attend several underground dinners, visited over 60 local restaurants in WNY, went on a 10 day trip to Italy and judged over 10 events. The point is that I ate a lot this year, and most of it was good which means that it was really hard to narrow down my five favorite meals from this year. Here’s what I came up with…
Snout To Tail Dinner at Bistro Europa. This might be the only meal on this list that made feel angry and happy at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved everything about this nine course barrage of T-Meadow pork. Each course kept me interested and pushed the limits of my stomach. By the time I finished my dessert (a leaf lard brioche with raspberry jam), I was struggling to breathe, but I kept eating because the trio of Wieszala/Gedra/Raimondi were preparing some outstanding food. I still think Steve was trying to kill me that night, which would have been a pretty bad ass way to go out.
Every meal at Brick-N-Motor this summer. I might be biased on this one. Admittedly I’ve become good friends with Paul Vronman this year, who was one of the owners (he’s since opened Aunt Rosie’s in Rochester, which I’m looking forward to trying out), and they did name a special after me. But every time I visited their truck at Larkin or at the History Museum, I was very excited to see what they had that day. Their pork buns were some of the best I’ve ever had and their pastas were lights out. Their food is the best I’ve ever had from any food truck, period.
Midnight Mass IV with Chef Brad Rowell. Alli and I went to a couple Midnight Mass events this year and each one was pretty special. Whether it was the food, the company or feeling like I was part of a secret club; I really enjoyed each one. But it was the Midnight Mass meal featuring Brad Rowell from Park Country Club and the insanely delicious lobster roll/salt and vinegar chips/shandy combination that I will always remember. The giant pile of lobster, the amazing New England style roll from Ellen, the fresh and crispy chips and a really tasty ginger beer shandy really won me over that Saturday night.
Salumeri Rosciole in Rome, Italy. Alli and I were serious on our second visit to Italy. We were going to avoid tourist traps at all costs and in Rome, that’s really difficult. So Alli planned weeks ahead of time to come up with a list of trusted restaurants. First on that list was Salumeri Rosciole and I’m so glad that we picked it as our first proper meal of our trip. The food was outstanding, the restaurant is very hip and we were eating around mostly locals in a quiet neighborhood. I was so excited that we actually pulled off an ‘authentic’ Italian experience at a really good restaurant. Not to mention I had the best Burrata and Spaghetti Carbonara that I have ever had in my entire life.
Our first meal at Ristorante Lombardo. It was really hard to limit this list down to five, but I couldn’t forget about our first meal at Ristorante Lombardo this past January. Between fantastic service, a visually beautiful dining room and some of the best Italian food I’ve had in WNY, it was really a meal to remember. Somehow Chef Obarka hooked me on a salad, who knew? The pastas were outstanding and Alli still talks about their burrata. We’ve actually gone back to the restaurant a few times since and had a second and third great meal…and we are going this New Years Eve. Considering we don’t get to make 2nd and 3rd (or 4th!) visits very often, the fact that we are going out of our way to eat at Lombardo’s three times this year really means something.
Runners Up: Omakase Destination – great food in a neat setting and I was able to share it with a good friend of mine; James Beard Rehearsal Dinner at The Mansion – fun experience with our wonderful friend Christa and celebrate everything she’s done with Nickel City Chef; Our Anniversary Meal at Daniel’s – suburban dining at its finest and I was honored to have one last meal from Chef Daniel Johengen; Medina Taco Trip with the Lloyd Boys – sitting in the rain, eating some tacos at a road side stall with Pete, Chris and Teddy was pretty awesome; The Workshop at Silo City – amazing food in a gorgeous setting with close friends’ Father in law’s Birthday Meal at Tabree – happy to see Chef Bruce’s skills first hand and was glad I could show my in laws what really great local food can taste like.