Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013 was what's next?

To quote Mushu from the cultural touchstone Disney film Mulan, "I liiiiiiiiiiiiiive!"  A year isn't too long of a break from blogging, is it?  I think not.  I've been thinking about starting a new activity or two in 2014 and have considered knitting, West Coast Swing lessons, drawing, and rock climbing.  Then I realized that before adding anything new, I should probably consider renewing my commitment to existing interests that I've gotten more careless about over the past year.  Music is the big one, and blogging is also on the list.  So hello again, Life As A Feast!

For this iteration I've chosen some slightly different colors, and have also decided to throw out my original "rules" for this blog.  If I feel like posting about something not exclusively food-related, so be it, though I hardly think this will turn into a confessional.

Anyhow, I'll ease into this by listing my culinary favorites of 2013.  Hopefully I don't leave out anything egregious.

Favorite restaurants in...
Chicago, IL: Table Donkey and Stick (I have no idea what "cuisine of the Alps" tastes like in the Alps, but here it was delicious)
Los Angeles, CA: Bar Bouchon (where I treated myself to endive salad, mussels, french fries, and chocolate tart at the end of second-year), Waterloo and City (I went during DineLA but would have paid full price for those three excellent courses), Native Foods (one of my local go-tos), 800 Degrees (tasty Neapolitan pizza for less than $10), MB Post (decadent brunch), EK Valley Restaurant (an oddly-named but charming, inexpensive and family-run Oaxacan restaurant)
New York, NY: Atlantic Grill (the scallops!), Russ & Daughters (bagels + lox are irresistible)
Palo Alto, CA: Terún (previously Terrone; now my go-to Neapolitan pizza spot in Palo Alto); Patxi's (for the opposite kind of pizza); Cafe220 and University Cafe (which I will never stop loving),
San Francisco, CA: Wayfare Tavern (cocktails and popovers started off a lovely special-occasion dinner), Walzwerk (comforting German food), Pizzeria Delfina (which I now like more than Pizzeria Mozza in LA)
Seattle, WA: How to Cook a Wolf (my second visit, this time with my parents)
Shanghai, China: Nanxiang Steamed Dumpling Restaurant (the 3rd floor is pricier but way better than the street level), Lang Yi Fang (classic Shanghai dishes and a killer view)

Favorite bakeries/desserts in...
Chicago, IL: Bang Bang Pie Shop (they serve pie and biscuits, all excellent, and the latter with an eclectic array of flavored butters and jams)
Davis, CA: Konditorei (their chocolate hazelnut cake and fruit tart are still the best I've ever had)
Los Angeles, CA: Copenhagen Bakery (impeccable Danish), Bouchon Bakery (macarons), Scoops (ice cream)
Palo Alto, CA: Douce France and La Boulange (both have great fruit tarts)
San Francisco, CA: Craftsman and Wolves (I really want to try their afternoon tea)
Seattle, WA: Theo chocolate factory store, Fainting Goat (gelato!!)
Shanghai, China: Lillian Bakery (egg custard tarts), Whisk (for chocolate overload)
Victoria, BC: Afternoon tea at The Dining Room at Butchart Gardens (perfect tea service, savories and sweets, and a perfectly picturesque setting)

Favorite coffee in...
Los Angeles, CA: Espresso Profeta (a little local gem), Groundwork Coffee (tasty lattes and good pastry)
Palo Alto, CA: Philz (though too expensive)
Seattle, WA: Milstead & Co. (mochas are made with unsweetened Theo chocolate)

Favorite bars or wine bars in...
Los Angeles, CA: Bigfoot West (frontier-themed whiskey bar with a disco ball, $5 happy hour, and empanadas), Napa Valley Grille (classy and quiet, but also with a good happy hour)
Palo Alto, CA: Gravity Wine Bar (reasonable flights and tasty dessert)
Shanghai, China: Southern Cross (a living room-like Japanese cocktail bar with a super-skilled bartender)

Favorite cookbook: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
Andrew and I have cooked beef kofta, carrot salad, chicken with cardamom rice, chicken with fennel and clementines, and a fish dish from this book, and everything (but especially the beef and chicken dishes) has been absolutely delicious, even when we couldn't find this or that ingredient.  The book has introduced us to spice combinations that we would otherwise have never explored on our own, and we're planning to try more recipes in 2014.

Favorite food-related book: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Even after reading this book, I've never seriously considered being vegetarian, though being a lacto-ovo-pescatarian or just giving up red meat wouldn't be too difficult (I already hardly ever cook it myself).  That said, Pollan's book gave me a much more complete view of where food comes from and what various labels (e.g. at Whole Foods) may or may not mean; as a result I've tried to be more conscientious about the food purchases I make.

Favorite savory dishes I cooked (or helped cook):
Chicken with cardamom rice, eaten with spicy carrot salad (both from Jerusalem)
Mushroom bourguignon (from SmittenKitchen)
Soup with spicy sausage, peppers, corn, pasta, and tomatoes (adapted from SeriousEats)

Favorite sweets I made: 
Banana bread (based on Andrew's grandmother's recipe)
Meyer lemon bars (Amanda Hesser)
Brownies (from Alice Medrich via Food52)
Red wine chocolate layer cake with whipped cream (adapted from SmittenKitchen)
Salted butter caramel sauce with bourbon (adapted from SmittenKitchen)

Between 2013 and 2014 I also switched from being a med student to being a grad student, moved apartments, and acquired some nifty new kitchen implements, including new spatulas, tongs, and a cast-iron skillet.  I'm excited for this new year!