I'll be honest: I'm not particularly sad to see 2006 go. However, looking back on the year, I had some wonderful new food experiences that I will hold on to going forward into 2007 and beyond. While some of these foods have been around for a long time, they are on my list because they are new tastes that I tried in 2006, and ones that stood out above all others. The top 10 is listed in chronological order because I couldn't choose a #1 among my favorites!
DOLSOT BIBIMBAP, My Tofu House (San Francisco, California). Bibimbap has been one of my favorite dishes to order in Korean restaurants for a while, but it wasn't until this year that I tasted the bibimbap at My Tofu House. It's served in a stone pot (dolsot) and comes to the table dangerously hot. I order the beef bibimbap, but have heard that the seafood version is good as well.
FRIED QUAIL, Rubicon (San Francisco, California). I had first heard of this dish from Fatemeh, and when I went to Rubicon for the first time in February I knew I had to taste it. The quail lived up to all expectations, and the entire meal was one of the most memorable of the year.
FRA' MANI SALAMI (San Francisco, California). All of it. Any of it. Any time, anywhere. 2006 will be remembered as the year that Paul Bertolli graced San Franciscans with this top-notch salami. It's available in several types, and can be found at many Bay Area stores including Cowgirl Creamery and the Pasta Shop.
CHARSHU PORK SHIO RAMEN, Santouka Ramen (Torrance, California). I first tried Santouka Ramen in August, and it was one of the 2006 tastes that has changed my culinary point of view. With the richness of the broth combined with the bite of the perfect ramen noodles, I have a new standard against which all future ramens will be compared.
BLACK RAZBERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP FROZEN YOGURT, Kimball Farm (Westford, Mass). When in Massachusetts this summer, I had a taxing, difficult goal of eating a different ice cream every day. I'd heard that the Northeast had some of the best ice cream in the nation, and set out to find my favorite. I had ice creams in flavors ranging from local peach to green tea. But now, five months late, the flavor that I look back upon with the most fondness is not an ice cream at all -- it was a frozen yogurt.
GREYHOUND WITH PLYMOUTH GIN, The Hungry Cat (Hollywood, California). When I went to The Hungry Cat this year for my birthday, I expected to have delicious food. Among many memorable bites at that meal was my favorite drink this year -- a perfect Greyhound with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, Plymouth gin, and candied grapefruit peel. Perfection.
FRIED TOFU NUGGETS, Musha Restaurant (Torrance, California). Musha is a popular izakaya restaurant in Southern California that has a location in Torrance and one in Santa Monica. After trying it for the first time in August, I have been back several times. The tofu nuggets sound completely boring but are a revelation. The tofu seems to be mixed with seasoning and small vegetables before it is fried and brought straight to the table. Each bite of the nugget is full of flavor, and is complemented with a soy-based, vegan mayonnaise.
WILD BOAR RAGU, Oliveto Restaurant (Oakland, California). This ragu reminded me of all that is good about using a few perfect ingredients and cooking them well. Of all my tastes this year, this was the one that made me stop in my tracks and savor every single bite.
ROSEMARY CARAMEL by Shuna, private home (Oakland, California). We had a lovely holiday get-together with Bay Area Bites writers several weeks ago with great snacks and delicious wine. Shuna had taught a caramel making class that day, and brought a sample along with her. I spent most of the evening stealing bites on apples or crackers of this perfect caramel -- I couldn't get enough of it.
CREAM PUFFS, Patisserie Chantilly (Torrance, California). Patisserie Chantilly is a French-influenced Japanese bakery that I first heard about on a Good Food broadcast. Their specialty is a cream puff better than all others I have tried. If you ever take a trip to Southern California, it's worth a side-trip to try these out.
You can read my honorable mention list at my site, Life Begins at 30.
What were your top 2006 tastes? Whatever they were, I wish you many more wonderful tastes and sips in 2007.