Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Minxeats Best of 2012 Part One

By necessity, we Minxes spent a goodly portion of early 2012 dining in restaurants. You'll find out why soon enough. For the most part, we ate well, and in some cases, very well. Without further ado, here are our favorite restaurant dishes for 2012.

In January, we had an incredible Restaurant Week dinner at Ten Ten, in Harbor East. Their ricotta dumplings in a cheesy sauce were just about perfect.

Also in January, I sampled several varieties of bao at Eddie Huang's Baohaus, a tiny storefront in the East Village (New York). While the pork belly version of this Taiwanese treat was delicious, I may just have enjoyed the fried chicken version more. But damn, I'd eat any of them again.

In March, we tried Republic Noodle, a pan-Asian joint in Federal Hill. Sadly the restaurant closed because they couldn't get a liquor license. Honestly - I really don't care about boozing it up with dinner, but apparently other folks do, I guess. In any case, the Northern Thai-style chicken wings were ah-may-zing. I want to eat them right now.

In April, we sampled the wonders of Aldo's, in Little Italy. Everything was excellent - decadent, rich, flavorful - so it's hard to pick just one course to love. My personal favorite was the Tournedos Rossini, a perfect little filet topped with foie gras. I don't generally like filet, but this piece of meat made me understand why other folks buy the hell out of it. Unfortunately, there's no photo, as we were trying to be nice and not use flash.

In May, we wined and dined at the Prime Rib. The Sun recently named it the #1 restaurant in Baltimore, and it's pretty easy to see why. The food is all of very high quality, simply prepared with care, and the service is perfect. Friendly, generous, welcoming, and on-the-ball, but without the coddling found at some other high-end restaurants. While I really enjoyed the enormous oysters Rockefeller, I loved the juicy prime rib even more.

Later that month, we ate the best crab cake in Baltimore at Koco's. 'Nuff said.

May was full of good eats. We tried Pabu, Baltimore's first izakaya, and enjoyed pretty much everything we put in our mouths, from the food to the delicious sake and cocktails. Even the sweet potato beer. But my favorite dish, which I think about from time to time, was the okonomiyaki, a cabbage-filled kinda-omelette with crab. I was even inspired to make a home version of the dish.

June took us to Great Sage, a vegan restaurant in Clarksville (near Columbia). We're obviously not vegans, or even vegetarians, but damn if we didn't love our meal there. I particularly enjoyed the "crab" cake, cleverly made with hearts of palm. It's not Koco's, but it was far better than many real crab cakes I've eaten in my life.

Our favorite burger of the year came from Hamilton Tavern. (Ignore those onion donuts on the plate - they were a disappointment.) The patty was the perfect size, and the horseradish cheddar and sugared bacon were the perfect accompaniments. I haven't eaten a burger with that much flavor in a long time.

In July, we paid a visit to the newly-opened Earth, Wood, & Fire. We sampled one of everything on the menu, and while we really enjoyed the thin-but-chewy-crust pizza, I think my favorite dish was the asparagus with shiitake "bacon." Not only was it really delicious, with a lovely grilled flavor, but it was also visually appealing.

We took a rather large hiatus from restaurant dining. It gets expensive! But in November, we went to the Food Market in Hampden and had some lovely pork belly with a brown sugar crust.

And finally, in December, I had a really swell truck lunch from Charm City Gourmet. The scallops with creamed corn and prosciutto bacon was really delicious, and satisfied the scallop cravings I'd been having for most of the year.

So that's it for favorite restaurant dishes of 2012. Stay tuned for our favorite home-cooked delights of the year!

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