This is the second time that I have listed my top 10 tastes for a year. The flavor highlight of this year was a three-week trip to Vietnam at the beginning of the year. Truth be told, I could easily list at least 10 tastes I had there that rocked my world. But in order to give a little balance to the list, I’ve chosen just two from that trip and the others from other travels and from my home city.
As with last year, these tastes are in chronological order.
Pepper Leaf Pork at a street vendor, Hanoi.
People often ask me about the best thing that I ate in Vietnam. I usually hedge on the answer because it’s a difficult one. But often, my mind travels back to this bite. It was pork wrapped in a leaf — pepper leaf or betel leaf, I don’t remember — and grilled. The whole package was then wrapped in lettuce with condiments.
Grilled Goat at the Boiled Goat Inn, Ho Chi Minh City.
It was a hot day in Saigon when my friend and I decided to try the Boiled Goat Inn. The menu had five items: boiled goat meat, fried goat meat, roasted goat meat, mixed sour goat meat and “goat meat boiled with Chinese medicine.” We ordered the roasted goat meat which involved our cooking it at the table on small grills and then wrapping the goat meat in lettuce and dipping it. Fantastic.
Bun Cha Ca at Bodega Bistro, San Francisco.
I’d never eaten Bun Cha Ca until I had it at the most famous place to eat it in Hanoi. It was very good there, but I actually really love the Bodega Bistro rendition that I ate when I returned to San Francisco. Noodle Pie does a great job of describing this dish. It’s basically white fish in oil with saffron, dill and peanuts. The large amount of dill and the side of rice noodles, salad wraps and herbs makes this a wonderfully fresh tasting dish.
Mushroom Pizza at Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Portland.
I wrote about this when I first tasted it, and eight months later, I am still thinking about the delicious pizzas at Ken’s. Like so many things on this list, part of the deliciousness of the taste was also wrapped up in the experience of the night: great friends, great wine, and a wonderful trip.
Lamb Popsicles at Vij’s, Vancouver.
I spent a few days in Vancouver over Memorial Day weekend, and ate a delicious meal at Vij’s, an upscale Indian restaurant that is world renowned for it’s cuisine. The lamb popsicles are served with a fenugreek cream curry, heavily spiced and delicious.
Malted vanilla ice cream with peanut brittle and milk chocolate chunks at Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco.
As was evident when I posted this post outlining my ice cream forays for a week in July, I love this ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery . I’ve had to force myself to try other flavors at the Creamery because every time the aforementioned ice cream is available, I gravitate straight to it.
Porchetta sandwich made with Roli Roti Porchetta, San Francisco.
One of the fun additions of the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market this year is that Thomas, the roaster at Roli Roti has started making a drop-dead amazing porchetta along with his rotisserie chickens. It’s not always available, but when it is, Thomas offers it by the pound or in a sandwich. He sprinkles it with sea salt and rosemary. On the day that Jeanne and I canned tomatoes, we picked up some of the porchetta and made our own sandwiches at home with Della Fattoria ciabatta, Philippe’s mustard, and a tomato. Heaven.
Fresh shelling beans with pork soffrito and the panino at SPQR, San Francisco.
I know that I should shut up about SPQR already, but I can’t help myself. SPQR gets two tastes of my year. The shelling beans are offered as part of the small plates, and it’s a bowl of soupy beans topped with crispy pork that is homey and comforting and I want to lick the bowl every time I have it. The panino is basically a grilled sweet dessert sandwich that has a dulce de leche style filling with pears and is topped with chocolate and fleur de sel. It’s an “Oh my God” dish, as many people — friends and strangers — who I have made taste it exclaim that upon their first bite.
Bone marrow dumpling at the Schneider home, Oakland.
When I was invited to Derrick and Melissa’s house for dinner in November, I knew that I was in for a treat. The best taste of the night was a crispy fried ball on top of the salad that was full of bone marrow. This bite epitomized perfect tastes — it was just one small bite that left me wanting more and more.
I hope you had as many wonderful tastes in 2007, and wish you many more for 2008!