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.
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.)
Most of us know the rules when it comes to cooking: wash your hands after handling raw chicken, don’t wash a cast iron skillet with soap, etc. Yet, over my many years of cooking (both with chefs and by myself), I’ve learned that certain rules are time-wasters that do very little for you or your food. Breaking these rules frees you up to focus on the stuff that really matters when making dinner. So here are 10 food rules that you don’t have to follow anymore.
I know you’re probably sick of these end-of-the-year listicles, but after a year that took me all over the country, I just had to do a list of the 10 best dishes that I ate this year. I ate so much good food, in fact, that 2012 may very well have been the best eating year of my life. I mean, I went to The French Laundry this year (for our friend Diana’s 30th birthday) so that would make good sense. But most of these meals, as you you’ll see, weren’t super fancy… Many, in fact, were quite cheap. What I’m proudest of in considering this list is how I sussed out such exceptional food in so many different cities: I have you (especially those of you on Twitter) to thank for that. And now, without further ado, the 10 best things that I ate in 2012.