It was the first time in ten years that I did not do any international travel. Not Taiwan, not Canada, not even Mexico. But I did visit some great American cities for the first time... Niagara Falls and Downtown Buffalo (NY), Washington (DC), and Portland (OR), all of which have awesome food and require more visits in the near future.
Thank you to all those that traveled with me in 2012. Since I did not get to visit Taiwan this year, a special thank you goes out to all those that brought my favorite pineapple cakes from Sunny Hills and Chia Te back from Taiwan for me. Bonus brownie points for you.
2012 was the year that saw the demise of foie gras in California. I never thought the ban would go through, but alas, all good things must come to an end. I will admit I did panic just a little bit, which resulted in an eight course gorge on the fatty goose liver. Never. doing. that. again. ever.
It was the same year that I had uncontrollable cravings for fried chicken, pork belly, bacon. It did not matter how it was prepared, which restaurant made it, or whether I made it at home... I just could not get enough of those three things. Some of the most satisfying fried chicken came in a brown paper box from Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken in Culver City.
It was also the year that I found myself searching for contemporary American fare... restaurants that used farm-to-table, local, sustainable ingredients... and celebrity chef dining. Yes, Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Gordon Ramsay, Rick Bayless, Stefan Richter, and Thomas Keller... gentlemen, you did well. Sir, did you drop that? Let me help you pick up all those names you dropped just now. Ha. I also found myself returning to my favorite Michelin starred restaurants on the two coasts: Providence in LA and Jean-Georges in NY. The most unforgettable was most definitely Dave Chang's $200 succulent pork shoulder at Momofuku Ssam Bar. What a beast. My friends and family absolutely annihilated Miss Piggy. No kidding.
For me, 2012 was all about carpaccio, ceviche, crudo, and charcuterie. Quartino in Chicago served up an awesome duck proscuitto, and Olympic Provisions in Portland had the best quality and selection overall. But the charcuterie from Bow & Truss in North Hollywood was tops. It was fun and whimsical and brought delight throughout the entire meal. These meals confirmed for me that the age old tradition of curing and salting a quality, fresh cut of meat is the way to go.
There were so many food and travel adventures in 2012 that I did not have enough time to blog about all of them. Some of the year's best culinary discoveries and most memorable meals were simply unblogged. For example, at the beginning of the year my eyes were opened to khanom bueang, also known as Thai tacos, on a Six Taste food tour of Thai Town in Hollywood. They were found in the back corner of Silom Supermarket. The crisp, little crepe-like wafers of skin curl around a layer of coconut cream. They are then topped with salted coconut or sweet shavings of egg yolk. Thanks to Lalita and Wanda for taking us on tour. These little things were irresistible.
Later in the year I was introduced to Vietnamese bun bo hue, a homey beef noodle soup that comes from Central Vietnam. Instead of rice noodles (pho), bun bo hue uses actual noodle noodles (if that makes any sense), and it is drowned in a beef broth with thicker cuts of beef, beef tendon, pigs feet, and pork blood. Right before diving into the bowl of noodles, cabbage, banana peel, soy bean sprouts, mint, and a fermented chili paste are added. Whether I had it for the first time at Bun Bo Hue An Nam in San Jose or at Nha Trang in San Gabriel (twice also), my face dripped with sweat. Thanks Vickee and Connie for taking me. Every time was exhilarating. Really. If you sweat like me, Nha Trang is probably a more comfortable space for you to indulge in this big bowl of noodle soup.
Some of the best meals, such as the multi-course one I shared with Ken and Tiffany from The Royce at The Langham in Pasadena, were not mentioned a single time on S.O.F.A.T. Blog. Too much food, too little time to write.
With all these delicious meals and adventures during 2012, I reconfirmed three things that I may have already known.
No. 1. Breakfast is still my favorite meal of the day. Huckleberry in Santa Monica has some great breakfast selections. I love that they can make healthy breakfast dishes without sacrificing taste. The poached eggs with fresh vegetables and pesto are a personal favorite.
No. 2. I love Taiwanese food, and Taiwanese people make some damned good Taiwanese food. Was that enough Taiwanese in one sentence for ya? A bowl of braised pork over rice from Why Thirsty (滷肉飯 or lu rou fan in Mandarin) is Taiwanese simplicity at its best.
No. 3. Nothing can beat home cooking. Whether it's mom's beef noodle soup, dad's stir-fried udon or my own pasta dishes, the food that comes from a familiar kitchen is the best. Familial comforts, parental love, and childhood nostalgia are ingredients that no restaurant has in its pantry.
That is it for this 2012 post. There are still some food and travel posts that will just have to wait to be blogged. I just realized I have never posted about any of the delicious food I had in Portland or any of the food in the last five trips to New York. Insane. But until the next post, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.