As someone who rarely used to order takeout, I never thought I’d be turning my annual Top 10 list of the year’s best dishes into one centered solely on food picked up at restaurants to enjoy in my own home.
But 2020 has been like no year we’ve ever experienced.
It was more difficult than usual to cull my favorite eats down to only 10 mentions, because every restaurant or bakery that I visited has something wonderful to offer in these most challenging time. What’s more, each place I visited this year deserves an enormous thanks and pat on the back for persevering in this extremely difficult situation.
With 2021 around the corner, and the beginnings of a very slow return to normalcy just inching forward, I hope you’ll join me in continuing to support your local restaurants by getting takeout. Do pick up the food yourself if you can, rather than relying on delivery apps that eat into the already slim margins that restaurants reap from your order.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my Top 10 takeout picks of 2020.
Healdsburg’s J Vineyards has long made one of my favorite go-to sparkling wines.
Its new J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Brut NV ($38), of which I received a sample, is a total pleaser with yeasty, apple, and spice notes. Medium-bodied, it has a slight creaminess yet plenty of crisp acidity.
It would make magic alongside a cold seafood platter, a goat cheese salad with bitter greens, or even an egg salad croissant sandwich.
Cheers: This bubbly will ring in the New Year in style. Given the year we’ve had, you deserve to uncork a special bottle to mark the end of a supremely challenging 2020, and to toast to a hopefully much brighter and lighter 2021.
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2019
You don’t often see a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend on the market. In fact, Pine Ridge Vineyards founder Gary Andrus first created this as an experiment in the 1990s.
This wine makes me think of Tom Hardy. OK, so many things make me think of Tom Hardy.
Seghesio 2016 Venom Alexander Valley ($50) indeed carries the same name of the Marvel movie that got such pitiful reviews that even I haven’t deigned to watch it — Tom Hardy or no Tom Hardy.
I’d much rather take this Venom over that one. This inky wine, of which I received a sample, is made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes. It gets its name from that fact that the grapes grow atop Rattlesnake Hill on the Seghesio ranch in the Alexander Valley.
Its an apt name for this steep slope of impenetrable volcanic shale. The vines have to fight their way through it, and in so doing, produce tiny yet intensely flavored grapes.
The wine is fragrant with of rose water and lavender. Dried cherries and vanilla meld with earthy, graphite notes for an exceptionally silky mouthfeel with a long finish.
When it debuted in downtown Palo Alto in 2018, Bevri was thought to be the first Georgian restaurant in all of Northern California.
Russia-born Pavel Sirotin, who also works at Google, opened it with his brother and sister-in-law because he missed his favorite homeland noshes. Over the years, word has spread about this unique gem of a place, and even more so now after the restaurant was featured on a recent episode of “Check, Please! Bay Area Kids Special.” Sirotin says a lot of newcomers have discovered Bevri as a result of that show, with many of them racing in and declaring, “I want what those kids had!”
It’s all available for takeout, too. If you are a carb lover like I am, you simply must order the iconic khachapuri adjaruli ($21), the soft, puffy, canoe-shaped bread whose center is molten cheese. The bread comes packed in a pizza box so it won’t get smooshed on the drive home. A separate container of butter, and a raw egg yolk is included. Warm up the bread in a toaster oven, then plop the yolk and butter in the center, and mix it into the warm cheese. Tear off a hunk of bread, dip it into the center like fondue, and prepare to experience bread-and-cheese nirvana.
If you don’t want to contend with a raw yolk, there is also the khachapuri imeruli ($18), which is more like a flattened round bread that has a filling of soft, stretchy, mozzarella-like cheese. It’s also wonderful, but not as quite as special.