My Best of 2010

February 9, 2011

Momofuku Ramen

Illness, snow shoveling, and massive cooking projects have conspired to keep me from summarizing last year’s food experiences until today. So without further ado, I present my best of 2010, following the same format as last year’s post.

Cookbook

Ideas in Food, by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. It came in just under the wire with a December 29 publication date, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be my go-to cookbook this year. I’ve already made the aero chocolate and apple and cheddar risotto; I’m looking forward to trying the rest of the recipes.

Runners-up:

Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café by Joanne Chang, and Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee. I don’t get too excited by baking books, but Joanne Chang is the undisputed queen of Boston baking. I bought the book just to have the recipes for Lemon-Raspberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream and the Chocolate Cupcakes with Crispy Magic Frosting; the rest of the recipes are a bonus. As for McGee, I’ve already written about his distillation of years of research into practical guidelines – no kitchen should be without it.

Cooking Blog

Ideas in Food, by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, is the blog that gave birth to the book. Alex and Aki use it as their online notebook, where they keep a record of their food experiments. This is where I learned about the six-minute risotto technique that supersedes the seven-minute method they published in the book.

Runners-up:

The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. It’s not a stand-alone blog, but by all rights it should be. This regular feature on the Serious Eats site shows what happens when you let an MIT-educated cook investigate his obsessions. From recreating Shake Shack burgers to coming up with the beer cooler sous vide method, nothing stops him until he gets it right. Rumor has it that this year will see the publication of the Food Lab cookbook. I can’t wait.

No Recipes by Marc Matsumoto. Marc cooks by the seat of his pants, then writes up the recipe later. He succeeded at making ramen noodles where I failed spectacularly, reason enough to check him out.

Cooking Show

Cook LIke an Iron Chef. I never would have discovered this show if I hadn’t been driven to the newly-launched Cooking Channel by the dearth of anything watchable on the Food Network (other than Good Eats, the only show still worth watching). Iron Chef Michael Symon improves on the typical stand-and-stir format by dealing with a new “secret ingredient” each week and enlisting help from members of the audience. His no-nonsense approach is a refreshing alternative to the usual chirpy, vapid “personalities.”

Runners-up:

None.

Recipe I’ve Cooked

Degustation de Porcelet. Three days in the making, this reset the bar for technical difficulty, involving pig butchery, sous vide cooking, and working with transglutaminase. And it tasted damned good, too.

Runners-up:

Momofuku Ramen. Another three-day effort that included a massive failure, but still worth the effort for that final bowl of porky deliciousness.

Boeuf Bouruignon. I managed to refine one of the oldest recipes in my repertoire and have it become the best version yet.

The 100% Homemade BLT. Nothing tastes as good as a dish in which you made every component yourself.

Single Restaurant Dish

Egg Caviar, Jean Georges, New York. Some dishes are classics for a reason.

Runners-up:

Whole Roasted Misty Knoll Chicken for Two, Craigie on Main, Cambridge. Sometimes you can be surprised by something as simple as roast chicken.

Cucumber Gin and Tonic, Journeyman, Somerville. A simple idea, presented as a palate cleanser, but one I missed when it was replaced on the menu. I still plan on replicating this dish myself.

Complete Restaurant Meal

Jean Georges, New York. My birthday present to She Who Must Be Obeyed. The classic tasting menu was a tour through the dishes that put chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten on the culinary map. They may no longer be new, but they are still untouched for inventiveness and taste.

Runners-up:

Bouchon, Beverly Hills. Perfect soupe à l’oignon, perfect steak frites, perfect bistro food from Thomas Keller.

Journeyman, Somerville. Not our first visit on opening weekend, but our second, a few weeks later. We’re still thrilled to have a restaurant of this quality just a block away from Chez Belm.

Educational Opportunity

This is a new category this year, one I hope to repeat as I continue to learn more about food and cooking.

Ideas in Food, Cambridge seminar. Are you seeing a theme here? It began with this seminar, my introduction to hydrocolloids, transglutaminase, and liquid nitrogen techniques. Most of the notes from this series got incorporated into the book, but not all. This is where I leaned to make bacon-wrapped skirt steak.

Runners-up:

David Chang, Harvard University lecture series. A look inside the head of the endlessly inventive creator of the Momofuku restaurants.

José Andrés, Harvard University lecture series. Watch the lecture, and try not to be inspired by Andrés’ enthusiasm.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

Much to my surprise, while reviewing last year’s posts, I realized that this category began with the saga of my audition for MaserChef. May future entries in this category be less painful.

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