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Best of 2012

2012 brought several wonderful changes to our lives – the most obvious and profound was our baby, Oz, who was born in June. Before that we bought a home in February and have spent most of the last 10 months trying to furnish it.  With that as the backdrop, it is obvious why our travels were limited this year compared with prior years.  We were able to return to Atlanta, Austin, Chicago and Tampa this year as well as exploring new restaurants in Nashville.  We were still able to have some wonderful (if not less “fancy”) food this year and wanted to share our Best of 2012 list with you.

Restaurant of the Year:

mas tacos por favor, Nashville, TN

What characteristics would one want to have in the Restaurant of the Year?  First of all, the food should be delicious.  It should use quality ingredients. It should be consistent.  It should be a good value.  The chef should have a passion for the food. The restaurant should be inviting to both locals and those from out of town.  Service should be friendly and warm.  You should be craving the food and planning your return when you leave.

When we looked at it from that standpoint it became clear that the one restaurant that stood out to us was mas tacos por favor. Teresa Mason’s small East Nashville taqueria met all of these criteria and then some this year. Her dedication to deliver the highest quality authentic Mexican food stood out among the rest this year.  Most folks are acquainted with mas tacos as a Winnebago food truck that was a staple at the Supper and Song at imogene + willie.  But the restaurant provides many more options that we were happy to discover this year. The Sopa Tarasca (a wonderful pureed black bean soup) and Chicken Tortilla soups became almost weekly staples for us.  The Tamales, Chilaquiles, and Breakfast Tacos are also all crave-worthy.

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Honorable Mention:

Rolf and Daughters, Nashville, TN

Best Atmosphere:

Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

This was perhaps our most pleasant discovery of the year. Visually stunning. The pictures speak for themselves (see our previous post). A return here will be a must whenever we visit family in Tampa.

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Honorable Mentions: 

Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden, Austin, TX

Elizabeth Street Cafe, Austin, TX

Big Star, Chicago, IL

Dish of the Year:

The Bongo Room, Chicago, IL –

Vanilla Bean Brioche French Toast (with warm white chocolate cream, triple berry coulis, fresh berries and topped with oatmeal streusel crumbs)

Do you ever wake up in the morning and say, “Man, I wish I could have some (blank) this morning?”  Well, for us, it is this most perfect French toast.  We fear it may have ruined us forever for other French Toast.

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Honorable Mentions:

Rolf and Daughters, Nashville, TN –

Garganelli verde, heritage pork ragout, pecorino

Squid ink canestri, gulf shrimp, squid, chorizo

La Pietra Cucina, Atlanta, GA – (now rebranded as a more casual restaurant called LPC and dish not available)

Hand Cut Pappardelle with bolognese ragu and grana padana

Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Austin, TX –

Bucket O’ Chicken

Sandwich of the Year:

XOCO, Chicago, IL –

Ahogado Torta

For the second straight year a roasted pork sandwich claims our title of Sandwich of the Year.  Tender and flavorful carnitas with black beans and pickled onions and bread that stays chewy despite coming dipped in sauce.  The arbol chile sauce in tomato broth brings the heat and makes the dish.  Just make sure to get a refreshing cold drink to wash it all down.

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Honorable Mentions:

Mitchell Delicatessen, Nashville, TN –

Turkey Avocado and Bacon

Muss and Turner’s, Atlanta, GA

Smoked Salmon BLT

Bocado, Atlanta, GA

Roasted Cauliflower with Chinese and Thai eggplant, cilantro, spicy mayo

Dessert of the Year:

Legato Gelato, Nashville, TN

And the gelato flavor of the year is Banana…oh wait, it is Graham Cracker. No, that isn’t it, it must be Burnt Sugar and Bourbon Brittle.  Or was it Dark Chocolate combined with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla.  But, shoot, that Coffee is fantastic too.  Oh well, we can’t decide which flavor we love the best so we will just say that all of the flavors are our Dessert of the Year. If you don’t believe us, just go sample a bunch of flavors yourself and thank us later.

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Honorable Mentions:

GT Fish and Oyster, Chicago, IL

Salted caramel tart with bananas, chantilly cream and chocolate

Edison food + drink lab, Tampa, FL

edison cruellers with cardamon glaze, carrot ice cream, white raisin purée (deconstructed Carrot Cake)

Drink of the Year:

Tie:

Mindy’s HotChocolate, Chicago, IL

Cappucino with Burnt Honey Infused Milk

And

Barista Parlor, Nashville, TN

Salty Tennessee Whiskey Caramel Latte

We went back and forth on trying to decide who’s espresso drink reigned supreme this year. Finally, we decided that Mindy’s and Barista should share the title.  Normally we aren’t ones for extra sweetened espresso but both of these may have changed our minds for good.

Honorable Mentions:

Chateau Guirdaud Sauternes ‘88 (from our friend ‘s cellar at a special dinner at Midtown Cafe, Nashville, TN)

Topo Chico mineral water with a lime (Dee Dee’s drink of choice while pregnant)

Bite of the Year:

Barista Parlor, Nashville, TN

Pop’s Waffle

Very few times will you ever find a Belgian waffle and have it taste this light, crisp and delicious. This waffle gets it right, made with Hatcher Dairy buttermilk, Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Maple Syrup.

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Honorable Mentions:

The Purple Pig, Chicago, IL

Tomato Smear

Do-Rite Donuts, Chicago, IL

Cinnamon Crunch doughnut

Food Obsessions 2012:

Calabrian Hot Chiles from DeSano Pizza Bakery, Nashville, TN

These chiles come standard on their delicious Diavola pizza but we just couldn’t stop there.  We get a few cupfuls of these guys, put some more on top and then polish off the rest afterwards.  Antacids not provided by DeSano.

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Bananas – the banana gelato from Legato Gelato started a summer long craving for anything banana in desserts for us.  Whenever it was on the menu, we’d get it.  We also loved the banana in the GT Fish and Oyster dessert (see above).

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