Despite wrestling with a shortage of cooks, skyrocketing rents, rising business costs, and ever increasing competition, restaurants in the Bay Area and elsewhere did themselves proud this year, turning out food that was delightful, delicious, and unforgettable.
What dishes do I still dream about long after taking the last bite?
Here are my Top 10 eats of the year, in no particular order, of which I’d gladly have seconds, even thirds, if I could.
Not your average chocolate chip cookie.
Does the world really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe?
You bet, if it’s by Nancy Silverton.
The renowned pastry chef can do no wrong. At least in my book. Over the years, I’ve made many of her recipes, and none have ever disappointed. She’s also the co-owner of my favorite pizza joint, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, as well as nearby sister restaurants Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca.
“Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies” is from her newest cookbook, “Mozza At Home” (Alfred A. Knopf), of which I received a review copy. It was written with James Beard Award-winning journalist Carolynn Carreno.
It’s a dirty little secret that most chefs don’t cook much at home. They just don’t have the time. Silverton was the same way for many years, until a trip to Italy reconnected her to the pleasures of cooking for friends, family, and even herself.
A tart full of tender apples and delicate custard.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Me? I’m grateful for good health, great friends and family, and a writing career, that though a wild roller-coaster ride at times, has brought enormous satisfaction, wonderful opportunities, and a contingent of loyal, supportive readers who are the very best anyone could ever ask for.
And I’m glad for “Apple Custard Tart.” Because it’s equally delicious and appropriate for the Thanksgiving feast or for the lazy, spent morning after.
Don’t rush out to the mall that Friday. Instead, enjoy a slice of this pretty tart with a cup of coffee or tea, and a retelling of the fun, delightful moments that happened during the holiday night before.
This straightforward recipe is from “Butter Celebrates! Delicious Recipes For Special Occasions” (Knopf), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Rosie Daykin, owner of Butter Baked Goods in Vancouver.
From Roy’s dark chocolate panettone — fit for a king or queen. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
When I told my husband, who is notoriously frugal (he’d call himself, “cheap”), that I was writing a story about a pastry chef who makes a $50 panettone, he was beside himself.
He rolled his eyes, completely flabbergasted. Who in their right minds, he thought, would pay that much for an Italian Christmas bread that you can get for a song on the shelves at Cost Plus?
Then, I cut him a thick slab of the handmade dark chocolate panettone made by From Roy’s of Richmond. He put a forkful in his mouth. He let out a sigh. Then, he actually said, “OK, I can see paying $50 for this.”
Breakfast is served — by Chef Lee Anne Wong at her Koko Head Cafe.
Honolulu’s Koko Head Cafe
OAHU, HAWAII — Even if you think you’re not a breakfast person, you will be after eating at Chef Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Cafe.
The down-home Hawaiian diner entices from the get-go, as I found when I was invited in as a guest two weeks ago.
Three years ago, the former “Top Chef” contestant made the big move to Hawaii from New York, after falling for a local farmer.
Shortly afterward, she opened her lively joint that serves only breakfast and brunch.
Whether you favor sweet or savory, you’re sure to find something to enjoy.
Each day, there is a different dumpling offered.
For us, that meant Breakfast Bruschetta ($6) — toasted bread slathered with macadamia yogurt and garnished with fresh tropical fruit. I’d eat this every morning quite happily.