Saturday, December 30, 2006

Top 10 Food & Drink Things I Loved in 2006

I've been mulling this topic over for a few days but I've finally come up with Top 10 Food and Drink Things I Loved in 2006. It was a good year with some great meals, memorable trips and fun encounters... here goes in no particular order. (That's me at right at Howard's Pub on Ocracoke Island... note its absence from this year's Top 10. What a disappointment!)

Our New Kitchen... this was HUGE, considering the overall hideousness of the kitchen when we bought this house in fall 05. Still waiting to pick out a backsplash and put up curtains, but having a brand new kitchen from top to bottom with new appliances, lots of workspace and places to hang out and entertain has made a world of difference in how much we like the house.

The Arrival of Wegmans... the store actually arrived in 2005 but it wasn't until this year that I truly embraced it. While I love going up to the store and finding pretty much anything I need (though I couldn't find lobster or fish stock today) I also love the fact that it has had an impact on other local stores, many of which are now stocking organic produce, free range meats, and other specialty products they never carried two years ago.

Food Blogs... most of the mainstream food and drink publications bore me. I'd much rather know what somebody like me thought, not what somebody who's getting paid for their opinion thought. Finding blogs about everything from cocktails and food TV to competitive eating and burritos reminds me every day of what it's like to be truly passionate about something.

The Freakin' Frog and Black Butte Porter... when my brother and I visited Las Vegas back in June, a trip to The Freakin' Frog was at the top of our list. And it did not disappoint. Stuck at the end of a strip mall across the street from UNLV, the Frog has an exceptional beer selection, a dizzying assortment of whiskeys, and food that's quite decent for bar standards. More important, the people working and drinking there were great, making us feel welcome and at home. Plus, we discovered a new favorite beer, Black Butte Porter which we've begun importing to our homes via the Internet. Long live technology!

A Visit to the White House... no, not THAT White House, the one down in Atlantic City. Talked about breathlessly by friends and critics alike, a White House cheesesteak hoagie was one of three things on my mind as I celebrated my 40th. The sub lived up to its rep as did the White House itself, complete with characters both in front of and behind the counter. A landmark to the old days as the glitz and glitter of the casinos encroaches more and more on the old neighborhoods.

Chameleon Cafe and Hank's Oyster Bar... when I tried to zero in on the best meal I had all year these two places kept coming to mind. Chameleon Cafe's simple, yet satisfying regional menu was amazing, elevating it to "go to" status for special occasions. Hank's (located in DC) was no less stunning a meal, complete with some of the best mussels I've ever had (besting Mama's and Saigon Remembered, both in Baltimore), not to mention a top notch lobster roll sandwich.

My LA Fast Food Trip... I think I spent about 36 hours in LA during our trip this fall, but was able to pack in trips to Rubio's, Tommy's Original, In-N-Out and Pinks, not to mention Doughboy's. As much as I gained in weight I also gained in appreciation for some of the things I just can't get out here in the East.

Meeting the Black Widow... a few months after I watched her shatter her own world record for crabcake eating I got to meet the one and only Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas while I was attending eBay Live in Las Vegas. As sweet and genuine in person as she is ruthless and competitive in the eating arena, it was a true treat to chat with this legendary competitive eater.

The Double R Bar Burger... despite other chains' attempts to lure me away with multi-tiered burgers featuring cheesesteak and laundry lists of toppings, the simplicity of the Double R Bar Burger (cheeseburger topped with deli ham) keeps calling me with its siren song. And you know what? It doesn't disappoint me to this day. Sure, I have to drive an hour to have one made properly, but it's worth it. It's so worth it.

THG's Endurance... the news that Tower Records, the largest distributor of The Hungover Gourmet, would be going under gave me pause, and for a brief moment I considered pulling the plug on the newsletter. But you know what? I'm having too much damn fun with it. 2006 marked the first anniversary of The Hungover Gourmet Blog and the publication of THG #10 (okay, well they'll be here any day now) and doing the newsletter is more satisfying than any self-publishing venture I've participated in over the last 20 plus years.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Mile High Meatloaf Sandwich at Harvest House Diner in Cinnaminson, NJ; the organic, fair trade coffee at Einstein Bros; the amazing sandwiches at Hash House A Go Go in Vegas; the Basil Mussels and Sizzling Steak at Saigon Remembered; and the Natty Boh documentary and the subliminal messages it contained that had me drinking the Boh for about 12 weeks this summer.


Anonymous said...

I loved In-N-Out in SoCal, and Pinks was good when I visited West Hollywood one day. But I still have a special fondness for Del Taco and its tacos al carbón. Mmmmm. Also the only fast food place I know of with crinkle-cut french fries. Damnit, they need to work their way out here!

Dan said...

I've never been to a Del Taco but you're the second fan to mention them recently. Looks like they're creeping closer but not quite close enough for a roadtrip!