Mike Winston’s Best Meals of 2015

Yes, I know this year-end list is beyond belated. Actually, I'm probably over a month late. Normally, I'm not one to make these kinds of excuses, but my life has been pretty hectic lately.As you may or may not know, I'm getting married in a couple of months, so my time has recently come at an extreme premium and I haven't been able to commit as much attention as I'd like to this little publication obsession. With that being said, over the next couple of months, I'll be playing around with post style and formatting a bit in an attempt to find new ways to rapidly pump out awesome food articles with fewer publishing limitations on my end. Please feel free to give me feedback on the new content — I'm planning to review this little experiment in a few months and we can take it from there.

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Experimental Meat-tastic Creations at Chris Cosentino’s Cockscomb

Break out the confetti and champagne!! It's a perfect ten! Chef Chris Cosentino knows exactly how to work his way into that soft spot in my heart. All it took was a few of his crazy, funky, zany, inventive, and downright delicious over-the-top meat-filled culinary creations. Yes, that's right — I'm giving this place my first and only flawless 10/10 review, so buckle up for a long one as I explain why I'm so obsessed.You may know of Chris from his many stints on food TV, but I've found myself uncontrollably drawn to him because he cooks only the kind of food that he wants to eat. With his cooking, there's no remorse for pushing people's palettes to the edge of fear. Fear? Yeah, most of his food utilizes all of the delicious miscellaneous organs and obscure cuts of meat that many other chefs won't even dare to work with that most people don't ordinarily choose to consume — frequently involving complete nose-to-tail dishes. Fortunately for me, I share his love for well-prepared organ meats.

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This Incredible Chinese-Creole Cross-Over is Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Had Before

I don't know if you've noticed, but I also don't know how you could have possibly missed it. Over the summer of 2015, fried chicken was quite the hot trend, completely dominating all mainstream food media outlets with hyped up content. With big name heavy-hitters like David Chang opening his much-hyped Fuku and Danny Meyers launching a fried chicken sandwich at his much-loved burger shop Shake Shack, seemingly everyone was scrambling to get into the fried chicken game. Every place was busy concocting their own signature breading type, fry-style, and of course secret spice blend.But, there's one fried chicken variant that I had this year that was invented long before all of this summer's madness and I still can't seem to get it out of my head. This insane fried chicken creation has literally crept into my dreams on more than one occasion like Freddy Krueger, taunting and torturing me to return from within. Unfortunately, this unconscious itch can only be scratched in one place — and this unusually creative shop called Red's Chinese is located in a way-off-the-beaten path New Orleans neighborhood called Bywater. If you're in NOLA without a car, Red's Chinese is not the easiest to access, but if you've got one, it's an absolute cannot-miss. Actually, you better book your flights to NOLA now, you're gonna want to experience this one for yourself.

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An Epic Japanese Lunch Special at Sumika in Los Altos

Unless you live in the Los Altos hills, I'm not sure why else anyone would drive out of their way to go there. It's certainly a cute little town with its own downtown main drag and array of restaurants, but it's definitely an out of the way trek from pretty much everywhere and there are similar downtowns all around Silicon Valley. But, one day at lunch a particular craving struck that I only knew how to fix at a single place. The craving? Oyako-Don. The place? Sumika.

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California Freshness at Rusty’s Southern in the Tenderloin

I always get really excited when new restaurants open, especially when they are close to enough to my home that they can easily become part of my regular dinner rotation. This particular new opening in the Tenderloin was only under a week old, but I couldn't help but find myself drawn to it. Rusty's Southern may be in a dicey part of town, but this spacious spot is serving up affordable, California-inspired takes on North and South Carolinan Southern classics. In a town desperately in need of more Southern food, what more could you ask for?

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Get Your Korean Fried Chicken on at Bon Chon in Sunnyvale

I think most New Yorkers have heard of (and had their fair share of) Bon Chon Chicken. After originating in New Jersey and expanding to NYC and truly blowing up with hype and mega-popularity, this mini-chain has now spread its reach across the US and around the world. There's even two locations out on the West Coast near me in the Bay Area – one not far from my office in Sunnyvale. Since lunch options in Sunnyvale are so scarce, I've found myself stopping in whenever the urge for a satisfyingly deep-fried lunch strikes.

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Vibrant, Authentic, & Upscale Thai at Kin Khao in Union Sq.

Kin Khao is a restaurant that's been on the tip of everybody's tongue from the moment it opened just over a year ago. Nearly everybody loves Thai food, but there is just something totally unique about the twists that Kin Khao interweaves to these regional classics that gets people buzzing. It's been written up in nearly every Bay Area publication – Hell, it's even been written up in the New York Times by Mark Bittman and was included as #6 on Alan Richman's 25 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015 in GQ. What could it be about this Thai spot that makes it so damned special?I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that both the chef and owner of Kin Khao have a pretty impressive food industry pedigree. Chef Mike Gaines spent a good chunk of time working at David Kinch's famed molecular gastronomy hot spot Manresa and the owner and restauranteur behind Kin Khao is a famed Bay Area food blogger named Pim Techamuanvivit whose passion for her Thai heritage guides the restaurant's concept. She also happens to be dating famed and celebrated Chef David Kinch who I'm sure has some tangential effect on the place. Yet somehow, with all of these compelling reasons to check this place out laid out in front of me, this was still only the first time I had gotten the chance to visit.

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Wacky Japanese Double Date Night at Suzu & Pika Pika in Japantown

One night a few weeks back, a friend who lives in SF called me to up to ask if Amy and I were free that evening. She and her fiancé wanted to go out for a dinner double-date night and it was up to me to pick the place. Amy and I were not feeling particularly great that night so we decided that ramen would be the perfect pick for a low-key double date that could provide us a delicious meal and make us feel great. I had heard particularly good things about a strange, little place in Japantown called Suzu so I selected that as the destination for all four of us to head to that evening.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin!And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.

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Solid, Rich and Soothing Ramen at Shalala in Mountain View

I've talked at length about how challenging it can be to find great lunch spots in Silicon Valley, but one item I've found no shortage of is ramen. And the competition is fierce. I've already been to Orenchi which I claimed to be the very best ramen-ya in the Bay Area, but sometimes I just don't have the luxury or time to kill two hours to drive, wait in line, and eat lunch. Sometime I need something just a bit faster. That's where places like Maru Ichi and nearby Shalala in Mountain View come in handy. Once again Mountain View is coming to my lunchtime rescue!

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