Another year of eating and blogging has gone by and I am stoked to have discovered a lot of thriving, great restaurants. I got to do a bit of traveling throughout the year and ate a diverse array of memorable dishes. I tried everything from new, local restaurants and cafés around my humble Hancock Park neighborhood to family run gems across the globe.
Thus, I wanted to compile a short list of some of my favorite meals and discoveries from 2012. These are the dishes that remind me of everything I love about food, culture and the thoughtful preparation that goes into what nourishes us, inspires us and makes our bellies happy. From a simple taco joint in downtown Los Angeles to an Indian feast in London, here’s a recap of my favorite eats from 2012.
Pizza East, Shoreditch, London, England - Fig, burrata, honeycomb bruschetta
Despite having incredibly delicious pizza (the best in London?), this super trendy pizza-pub has great appetizers, wines and craft beers. The seasonal fig and burrata, honeycomb bruschetta is something I’ve tried to re-create in my home to no avail. A true play on textures and favors, the sweetness of the fresh, loosely smashed figs and honeycomb on top of creamy burratta cheese and salty-crunchy bread made for a simple and perfect dish that utterly blew my mind.
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, West Village, New York – Salty Pimp and Bea Arthur
When the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck made a surprise pop-up visit to my West Hollywood neighborhood this past fall, I was definitely caught off guard. I was confused. Confused as to who was driving this flamboyant pony and rainbow designed truck, confused as to why was there such a long line of people and confused as to why hadn’t I heard of them before. Well, the New York based soft serve ice cream vendors sure turned heads and made a lot of adults, giddy with childlike glee that week.
The salty pimp (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche and sea salt in a chocolate dip) and the Bea Arthur (vanilla ice cream, sea salt and crushed ‘nilla wafers) made my list for best sweet treats last year. I can’t wait to visit their brick and mortar shop when I’m visiting New York!
Lahore Kebab house, London, England – Lamb Chops and Garlic Nan Bread
This family-run gem on Umbertson Street in London has traditional dining in the bottom restaurant and a mess hall-like casual upstairs area where families and friends BYOB and enjoy some of the most delicious and authentic Indian/Pakistani cuisine. I loved the lamb, curry dishes and garlic nan. The place is no-frills but great for traditional food on a budget when traveling.
Coffee Plus Food, Hancock Park, CA – Mushroom Frittata
This newly opened Australian style cafe has become one of my favorites for on-the-go mornings. I usually get the mushroom frittata and the Flat White (cappuccino) made from Longshot coffee. Food always tastes better when the staff makes you feel welcome. This is a true neighborhood gem.
Guisados, East LA, CA – Taco Sampler
Quite possibly, the best tacos in LA are located in a little, family run establishment in Boyle Heights. I love that at Guisados you get to order a 5 taco sampler plate (which is super affordable) and have the option of picking choosing whichever of their tasty “stewed” tacos you like. The sampler is perfect for indecisive eaters like me. Notables are the spicy cohinita pibil and the mole poblano. Oh, and do yourself a favor and get their horchata while you’re there.
Salt’s Cure, West Hollywood, CA - Pork Rib Chop
Photo by Eric Isaac
A crazy good pork chop lives here. Among other mega tasty eats like their bacon-cheeseburger and leg of lamb, when I’m in the mood for some really good All-American food, I get the mashed potatoes and the immensely juicy, bone-in pork chop. This little West Hollywood establishment has a small kitchen right in the dining area and intimate seating. They post their chalk drawn menu on their Facebook page daily so you know what to expect before you go. Everything is locally grown and raised. They also butcher in house. Word to the wise, check them out for brunch too!
Curry Up – Shibuya, Japan – Butter Chicken Curry
A small and inexpensive joint in Japan where you can have a simple plate of curry + meat, white rice with toasted almonds and raisins. Who would have thunk it? Good traditional style curry in Japan!? You can get as crazy as you want here with tons of different flavors and spices but the butter chicken curry is a (safe), really delicious bet.
Lo de Flor, Barcelona, Spain – Duck and Goose Paté
This particular paté starter has inspired me to write not just one but two posts about it. It’s definitely a dish I would not have expected to enjoy so much, but 6 months later, here I am writing about it again. I’m sure to casual paté eaters, perhaps it’s no big deal. But to someone who had previously disliked the stuff immensely, to now have tasted it in a place that not only turned me into a paté fan, but makes me yearn to fly back to Spain just so that I can have it again – it’s definitely something to write home about. The rest of the menu here is ridiculously good as well. Make sure this place makes your to-do list when in Barcelona.
Doughnut Plant, Lower East Side and Chelsea, New York – PB&J doughnut
I have a new found respect for doughnuts. Especially for the Doughnut Plant in New York City which re-introduced me to doughnuts in a moderately wild way. The place is adorned with cute donut pillows on the wall and oozing with the most comfortingly sweet aromas. When in the Big Apple I must always get their PB & J Doughnut. In doing so, I get to be a kid again in the best way. Other notables are the pistachio cake doughnut or the triple chocolate cake doughnut. As a bonus, all of their doughnuts are all-natural, made with no eggs, no trans fat, no preservatives, no artificial flavorings or colors and are made from the highest quality ingredients. It’s one of my favorite (not-so) guilty pleasures.
The famous jamón ibérico is a specialty salt-cured ham that is a must when visiting Barcelona. One particular sandwich (which was made famous when NY Times food critic Mark Bittman touted the simple tomato and ham baguette as being the best sandwich in the world) was definitely one of my favorite eats while traveling through Europe. It’s a cheeky and almost gimmicky café located on Las Ramblas, a very touristy street (think Hollywood/Highland). However, I liked the Euro sandwich’s simpleness and the slight saltiness of the very thinly sliced ham. We ended up going there twice during our trip.
Sycamore Kitchen and Bakery, West Hollywood, CA – Stumptown Coffee
I first discovered Stumptown Coffee while on a trip in Portland earlier in the year while staying at the ACE Hotel. Think of the coffee as the Intelligentsia of the Pacific Northwest. According to its Wiki page its founder Duane Sorenson is credited as being a big “part of the so-called ‘Third Wave‘ of the coffee movement,” essentially being one of those beloved neighborhood roasters who are committed to providing high-quality coffee and have a deep involvement in all stages of production – harvesting, processing and fair trading. To my delight, with the opening of Sycamore Kitchen in 2012, I can now get Stumptown by the cup or by the bag right in my neighborhood. Anyone who follows my tweets know I have a slight addiction to the stuff.
While you’re there, make sure to check out the delicious baked fresh pastries. I go daily for the blackberry lemon polenta cake or chocolate banana strudel. Though with Karen Hatfield as pastry chef you know you really can’t go wrong with any of the sweets here. If you’re lucky to be there on a day when they have their special, grilled cheese with speck and mozzarella, go on and get that too!
The Pie Hole Los Angeles, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA – Maple Custard Pie and Lemon Meringue
I had the pleasure of getting to interview the incredibly humble owners, Matthew Heffner and Sean Brennan of The Pie Hole in early 2012. I sampled some of their favorite pies which in turn became my favorites too. The maple custard pie is the West Coast’s version of the Momofuku Crack Pie (New Yorkers will know what I mean). If you’re lucky enough to get one fresh out of the oven, oh, it’s crazy good.
The lemon meringue is also worth a mention. As a chocolate person, I wouldn’t normally jump to order this, but the way they make this with fresh lemons from a neighboring California lemon farm…
Oh, man. Just, oh, man. I ate very well this year.