The 10 Best Things That I Cooked in 2012

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You’ve gotta admit, I cooked some really good things this year. So many, in fact, that narrowing this list down to ten took some work. But I’m confident that these ten dishes are the dishes that dazzled the most, the ones that made me pat myself on the back most vigorously, praising my myself in a British accent: “Well done, my lad, well done!” So join me for a gay romp through a year of cooking in my new L.A. kitchen.

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10 Signs You’re in a Good Restaurant

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I thought this was an original idea for a post but, just to be sure, I Googled the title. Turns out there are several posts with the same name. That almost caused me to click “delete” but then I thought, “Well, if I don’t read any of those posts and write my own take on the subject, that might still be useful.” So here you are, based on my own experiences as a frequent diner at restaurants (the above photo is from a recent meal at Cafe Boulud in West Palm Beach) and as someone who cooked in almost 50 restaurant kitchens while researching my cookbook, 10 Signs You’re in a Good Restaurant.

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Ten Food Books That Changed My Life

The first food book that I ever read (and the first food book that changed my life) was Calvin Trillin’s Feeding A Yen. I don’t recall what led me to it, but I remember the first chapter incredibly well: Trillin’s daughter no longer lives in New York and he thinks he can woo her back if he rediscovers the pumpernickel bagel that she loved in her childhood. This feat of food writing–which deftly juggles comedy, pathos, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the New York bagel scene–immediately revealed to me that food writing didn’t have to be stuffy or pretentious. Though Trillin takes food seriously, he doesn’t take himself too seriously; his lightness of touch is unmatched in the business. Which is why this book tops the list (though the rest of the list is no particular order); it’s the book that made me want to be a food writer.

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2011 Highlights

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It’s not every year that you finish a cookbook, move to a new city and find a used DVD of Doug Henning’s “The Magic Show” at Amoeba Music. But that’s what 2011 delivered, along with trips to Portland, Oregon, California (where I ate with many food bloggers), Atlanta and–a personal favorite–New Orleans, Louisiana. (We fell in love with it.) Come along with me, then, as we explore the year’s highlights before we tumble into 2012.

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10 Ways To Fix A Mistake in the Kitchen

[Image via RoboPencil]

Everyone makes mistakes in the kitchen. Kim Kardashian got engaged in the kitchen and Justin Bieber fathered a baby in the kitchen. Look: it happens.

Some people freak out when a mistake happens: “Oh my God! This is a disaster! I’ll never cook again!” Other people employ a series of tactics to recover from their mistake. That’s what this post is about; here are 10 Ways To Fix A Mistake in the Kitchen.

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10 Things That You’re Doing Wrong Hosting a Dinner Party

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One of the best things about being a home cook is the opportunity to show off your cooking chops to family, friends and loved ones at a dinner party. Some out there plan dinner parties meticulously; every detail is accounted for, from the crystal that’s to be used for the wine, to the palate cleanser between entrees and dessert. Others go about things much more casually: the grill is fired up, sausages and burgers and passed around on a platter, and beer is a do-it-yourself affair. Grab your own from the ice bucket.

Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is the kind of dinner party that I like to throw. And after years of throwing them (almost eight years, to be precise) I’ve learned a thing or two. And for those of you who are new to throwing dinner parties, here are some things that you might be doing wrong. (Consider this a corollary to my Huffington Post piece: “10 Things That You’re Doing Wrong at Restaurants.”)

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My Top 10 Restaurant Dishes of 2008

There are 15 days to go in 2008, so there’s definitely a chance I’m being too hasty with this list of my favorite restaurant dishes of 2008. But reading through my archives, these were the dishes that popped out immediately, that triggered specific synapses in my brain to fire darts into my salivary glands, making me hungry to repeat the experience of eating these dishes all over again. Are you ready for the reveal? Let’s start with the best.

#1: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Gramercy Tavern

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It’s highly controversial to declare the greatest pulled pork sandwich of my life to be a sandwich crafted and created in New York City, but I’m a controversial kind of guy: this sandwich, brought to life by Gramercy Tavern chef Michael Anthony, is pure bliss on every level. The meat comes from Ossabaw pigs, the bread comes from Balthazar, and somehow the balance of all the components–including the coleslaw and pickled onions on the side–make this my favorite restaurant dish of 2008.

#2: Banana Cake, Momofuku Milk Bar

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Dessert is my weakness, my constant indulgence, my chosen vice. I eat lots of dessert, make lots of dessert, and it’s very rare for me to encounter a dessert that feels entirely new; but such was the case with the banana cake at Momofuku Milk Bar which I ate, for the first time, only a few weeks ago. It’s a beguiling cake: layered in a way you’ve never seen a cake layered. Sure, there’s the cake layer–and the cake itself has an extraordinary texture, almost like a meringue–and then there’s a fudge layer (yes, a whole layer of fudge) and THEN there’s the banana layer, which glows a phosphorescent yellow. It’s a memorable cake, a dangerous cake; if you live in the East Village, beware–one bite, you’ll be back so many times, you’ll need a personal trainer.

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The Top 10 Greatest Dishes of All Time

as determined by me, at 12:05 AM, in no particular order.

Almond Cake

Pasta (my #1, if I was ranking)

Caesar Salad

Rib-Eye Steak

Roast Chicken

The Prune Hamburger (it has lamb in it)

The Anchovy Pizza at Franny’s

Cassoulet

The Lobster Roll at Pearl Oyster Bar

and

Bagels

Notes:

1. I realize that this list doesn’t really hold together, that bagels aren’t really a “dish” in the same way that cassoulet is a dish.

2. But, in my defense, these were the first 10 foods I thought of when asked to compile a “Top 10” list, so that has to count for something, right?

3. I once pitched this post to Craig and he said he didn’t get it. “So are you talking about restaurant dishes or just foods in general? It doesn’t really make sense.”

4. Craig isn’t here right now, he’s en route from L.A.

5. Craig’s parents are here, though, they’re in town for his graduation. I made them dinner tonight: Caesar salad (on the list!), lasagna (not on the list) and almond cake (on the list!) I’m a man of my convictions.

6. What’s on your list of The Top 10 Greatest Dishes of All Time? No need to write them in order. Or to have your list make sense. Just make sure to write it at 12:05 AM.