Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 Taste Discoveries of 2010

So as everyone puts together his/her top 10 lists, my contribution to this annual belly-gazing focuses on my favorite tastes of the year.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to force myself to get out there and try new things. And this year I've tried a lot of different things, some bad, a lot good. Looking back at my year of digesting, I've narrowed it down to these favorite food discoveries, in no particular order.

1. 'Nduja. Italian wine bars seem to be coming back in vogue this past year, and with them are house-made charcuterie and spreads. One of the more amazing things I've tried is 'nduja, a salame spread that's served soft and warm. This particular version is from Barbacco Trattoria, the next-door wine bar of Perbacco.

2. Caramelized corn nut truffles. I like to try different types of chocolates, and at times I feel like chocolatiers are copying each other, using the same tricks of peanut butter, lavender, or salted caramel. Then I tried this caramelized corn nut truffles from Au Coeur des Chocolate, a fairly new artisan chocolatier creating new tastes that gets me all excited again.

3. Uni, or sea urchin. This technically isn't a taste I just discovered in 2010. I had uni, or sea urchin, once before but never had I had it so often or so splendidly prepared as I've had this year. Mostly because the restaurants I tried the uni at were using locally harvested sea urchin from Monterey. This particular uni dish was from Commonwealth in San Francisco.

4. Italian farro. Another ingredient popping up on restaurants' menus was farro, an Italian whole grain that's tasty and healthy. I'm definitely cooking with this on a regular basis.

5. French winter squash. The brilliant orange color of this squash caught my eye at the farmers' market. It's sweeter than butternut squash, but just as easy to work into recipes, like the soup I made with farro.

6. Brownies with frozen yogurt. This isn't exactly a discovery of a new food ingredient, but a discovery of a food combination that I never tried until this year. And that's using mini brownie bites on frozen yogurt. I typically will sprinkle fruits and maybe Oreo cookies, but at Fraiche, the mini brownies looked too good and were amazing with the creamy yogurt. Now I always look for mini brownies to top my fro-yo.

7. Padron peppers. I think I've written a lot about these peppers, known in Spain as pimientos de Padron. I found them on a lot of local menus, trying them first at Lafitte, and also (pictured above) at Tyler Florence's new restaurant Wayfare Tavern. The mild peppers are simply roasted or blistered in a skillet and served with olive oil. People say it's like playing Russian roulette when eating them because there is always one that's super hot. So far I've been lucky and have not had a really spicy one (unless I'm immune to spicy peppers and don't know I'm eating them).

8. Shishito peppers. Now, I'm not really sure, but I wonder if this shishito peppers are the same as the above padron peppers? Maybe they're the same but just have different names whether you get them from Japan or Spain? Either way, that's how shishito peppers got on my list because just like padrons, I like the mild flavor and crunchiness of these peppers.

9. Beef heart. I tried this part of the cow for the first time, and while it sounded scary to be eating a heart of an animal, the texture of beef heart was actually very meaty, almost like lamb. Maybe it was the perfect grilling at the restaurant where I tried beef heart for the first time, at a local sustainable restaurant called Mado in Chicago.

10. Chairman Bao's buns. This is the only item on my list that is specifically found at one place, and that's at the popular food truck Chairman Bao. Food trucks was THE food movement of the year in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I was skeptical about the long lines from Chairman Bao, thinking it was a lot of people standing in line because they feel they should be standing in line. But trying one of its steamed buns with creative ingredient combos made me a convert. These buns are worth standing in line for.

So that's my list. What were your favorite food discoveries? This will be my last post for 2010, so check back soon to see what new foods I discover in 2011. Happy New Year!


Charlotte said...

I just found your blog while searching for fellow San Franciscans - it's great!

This sounds a little silly, but my Japanese food-loving friends turned me onto cold soba noodles this and dipping sauce and I've been chowing down on it ever since. I always have a big supply in my pantry and have eaten it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Charlotte said...

Oops, I meant "this summer" :)

Single Guy Ben said...

Welcome Charlotte! Yes, I love cold soba noodles too with just the dipping sauce. I'll eat it in the winter too!

Carolyn Jung said...

Oooh, I still have to try those baos. As for ndjua, love the stuff. And Barbacco's is incredible.

foodhoe said...

ahh, I tried the nduja at barbacco and it had a much thicker consistency, was yours heated up I wonder? Love the chairman's baos!