Let me begin by saying that anyone who invites you over for dinner is doing you a favor. Without question, hosting dinner is hard work–the shopping, the prepping, the actual cooking, plus the cleaning–and anyone who takes it upon themselves to do all of that for you deserves your gratitude. That said, sometimes somebody invites you over for dinner and then serves a meal that feels a bit, well, punishing. Often it has nothing to do with the cooking skills involved; usually it has a lot more to do with the recipe choice. Which is why I’ve decided to compile a list of ten things you should never serve at a dinner party. Avoid these ten dishes like the plague and not only will your dinner guests swoon, they’ll even help you do the dishes.
Now that I’m back from my Europe trip, I’ve had some time to synthesize my experiences eating at nice restaurants in four different countries (Scotland, England, France, and Germany). Coming from Los Angeles, where the restaurant scene is as vital as anywhere else in the U.S. right now (possibly the world), it felt a bit like stepping into a history book; or, to put it another way, like watching a bunch of classic movies after a Quentin Tarantino marathon. There’s no question that America is setting the trends these days; the hottest restaurants in Paris are all popular because they’re considered “Très Brooklyn.” What, then, might a modern American restaurant have to learn from a modern European restaurant? Here’s my attempt to answer that question with a list.
Ok, I confess, I really enjoy writing these year-end posts. Yesterday, I continued the ritual of writing up all the books that I read in a given year; here are The Books That I Read in 2013. Now it’s time to dig into the rest of the best, posts that shined in specific ways (best cake, best comments, best use of chickpeas) that didn’t make sense for any of my other round-up posts. You’ll also find out which movies, TV shows, albums, and plays Craig and I enjoyed the most this year. Away we go!
The dish that you see above (Tiger Prawn Salami from Movida in Sydney, Australia) is not one of the Top Ten Dishes That I Ate in 2013. I put it there, though, to illustrate how well I ate this year and how difficult it was to narrow everything down to the ten best dishes. My year brought me to Birmingham, Alabama (the 7-layer pecan coconut cake from Bottega would be #11 on my list), Perth and Sydney Australia, New York, Washington, and all over the city I now call home, Los Angeles. In fact, you’ll notice that 6 of the 10 items on this list are to be found in L.A. and that’s not just because I live here. It’s because of all the cities that I visited this year, L.A. remains the most dynamic and exciting food-wise. Check out my list and see if you agree.
My word, I cooked up a storm in 2013. Usually when I go through the process of choosing my best dishes of the year, the list pretty much writes itself. This year I struggled to put this in any kind of order; and when you see the dishes on my “Honorable Mentions” list you’re going to wonder, as do I, why many of them didn’t make the Top 10. Well, truth be told, these kinds of lists are arbitrary and sometimes you just have to follow your gut (and Lord knows my gut is a lot larger this year because of all this food.) Still, I feel good about my rankings here because these ten dishes really do represent my biggest cooking break-throughs of the year; they almost all caught me off-guard, sweeping me off my feet in ways that I didn’t see coming. So here they are, the Top 10 Dishes That I Cooked in 2013.
Growing up, I never really made a Hanukkah list. My mom said to me early on, “We can get you one nice gift or eight crappy gifts,” so obviously I’d pick the nice gift and each year beg for something very specific, like a Nintendo or a Super Nintendo or a Nintendo Gameboy or basically anything Nintendo made. Now that I’m adult, I make a very different sort of list when I go with Craig to Bellingham, Washington for Christmas. This is something known as a “Christmas list” and I’m supposed to put lots of things on it that I’d be happy to find under a giant green structure known as a “Christmas tree.” Actually, I really enjoy doing this and in figuring out what food things I want for myself I end up making a list that works very well as a gift-buying guide for all of you. So without further ado, here’s my Holiday Gift Buying Guide 2013.
Well, folks, this is it. I’m packing up my suitcase to head to Australia for 12 days–a journey I plan to document on the blog as I go (we’ll see how I do!)–and Craig is asking me to make a big pot of something to leave him in the fridge so he can have food to eat when I’m not here. I feel very wife-from-Babe. Coincidentally, friends at a Halloween party recently asked me to write a post on this very subject: things you can make on Sunday night that allow you to eat well on Monday and Tuesday. So here, now, is a list of dishes that meet that very criteria; most will taste better the longer they refrigerate. Also: you can store these dishes in the cooking vessels you cooked them in and put them right back on the stove to heat them up. You can also double the recipes and eat for even longer. (As for what I’m making Craig tonight, it’s Gina DePalma’s lentil soup from my cookbook, as documented by Deb here.)
[photo taken at Gjelina]
On my web browser I have a folder called “LaFOOD” and any time I see an article or a blog post about a restaurant I want to try, I save it to that folder. As you can imagine, after two years here, that folder’s grown quite unwieldy. I was just about to organize it for myself when I thought: “Why don’t I turn it into a blog post?” So what follows is a list of L.A. restaurants that I haven’t been to yet with links to the stories that inspired me to bookmark them*, organized by cuisine. Of course this list will grow and morph over time as I check off places and add new ones to my folder; but for now I think I have my work cut out for me. (* Note: some of the links are just links to the restaurants because I must’ve bookmarked them after hearing about them out in the world. Also, sometimes multiple restaurants link to the same article because that’s where I heard about them all.)