I absolutely love how full of super old school places the New Orleans high-end dining scene is. There are tons of these places that remain as popular, famous, and incredible as they were when they opened well over 100 years ago. But, of course, that's not all that New Orleans has to offer. There are plenty of young upstart chefs doing extremely innovative things, evolving the long-standing culinary traditions.
There I was, seated inside of a gold-painted shipping container, face-to-face with a live-streaming 23-year-old girl in Havana. What in the world should we talk about? First, names. Then I…
Let me say this up front – I truly do LOVE garlic. But, I still wasn't really sure what to expect from a place that prides itself on being a "garlic restaurant". The Stinking Rose and their garlic-focused menu are very famous – famous enough that I had heard about them long before moving to San Francisco. I knew that pretty much every item on the menu was going to involve garlic, I was just hoping they'd be able to transform and highlight the featured ingredient in interesting and delicious ways. I really wasn't sure if this place was actually going to be good or if the garlic thing was all gimmick and schtick. All I knew for sure was that I had to check it out for myself.
Another day, another awesome, upscale dinner out in Austin. This place called Odd Duck is the sibling restaurant to chef Bryce Gilmore's also amazing, tasting menu-only hot spot Barley Swine which I had visited only a few night earlier. Similar to Barley Swine, the theme of this meal seemed to be small plates with either a pickled element, runny egg yolks, or both. The menu leans heavily toward Southern gastropub fare with plenty of clean, modern, cheffy flair and even a bit of molecular gastronomy trickery thrown in. The vibe of the decor matches the tone of the food with its use of mismatched country miscellany carefully arranged by an smart, upscale, interior designer's touch. This restaurant is pretty well known in the Austin food scene as one of the more exciting places to have a meal and it makes sense why. It has such an interesting menu that continues to experiment and evolve over time – the fervor is only going to grow as this place continues to get the industry recognition it rightly deserves like the James Beard Award Rising Star nod it just recieved.
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.
*Editor's Note 6/4/15: Perla has completely overhauled their menu, decor, and have lowered the price point substantially since posting Drop everything, I've got a new favorite restaurant in NYC. On the day we visited, Amy and I were in a celebrating mood. She had just started a new job and I've was just about to begin a new job of my own. On this occasion we were looking to treat ourselves right, to splurge on something extra special. After seeing numerous end-of-2013 lists that included the nearby and recently opened Perla, I knew I wanted to try it out and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to do it. We made a reservation only a few days in advance and were able to snag seats at the chef's counter for a Sunday evening at 6:30. It was a bit earlier than we usually dine, but what the hell, it was a Sunday night anyway.