I usually like to get this list wrapped up while the year is still fresh in my mind and 2008 is already starting to feel like a dark, distant memory. But if the NCAA feels comfortable concluding their 2008 season on January 8th, I guess it's okay that my year-end wrap-up gets posted around Elvis' birthday.
If you'd asked me this morning – bleary-eyed and tired from watching the BCS Championship Game last night – how I felt about 2008 from a Hungover Gourmet standpoint I probably would have said that it was a disappointing year. But then I got some coffee in me and started jotting down all the great tastes I experienced, excellent meals I had, fun trips I took, and the wonderful people I spent time with and guess what? 2008 was pretty darn good after all!
Here's some of the highlights from the past 12 months...
TASTE OF PHILLY: Excellent cheesesteak shop in Denver of all places. Run by Philly-area ex-pats the place features pics of Mike Schmidt and Amorosso's roll boxes, not to mention meaty, delicious steaks.
NEW RECIPES: I frequently fall into recipe funks and end up making the same things over and over but I did add some new options to the rotation this year including Thai Tilapia, Summer Shrimp Salad Sandwich, Slow Oven Cooked Ribs and a couple new ways with pork chops. I also rediscovered my love for big bowls of Tuna Mac Salad during the summer.
COSTCO MEATS: Speaking of chops, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about purchasing meat in bulk at a place like Costco. How wrong I was. Their pork chops, so thick and meaty that I end up splitting them in half, have become a "must have" in our freezer and I've never been disappointed with any of the meats I've purchased there, whether it's an expensive cut of beef for entertaining or a huge boneless pork shoulder to be slow cooked and pulled for sandwiches.
CULINARY EXCURSIONS: I was lucky enough to take two food-and-drink-packed trips in 2008, one to Seattle and a southern road trip that took us from MD to GA and OBX. Both featured so much great food and good times it'd be impossible to summarize them here though I will single out the Cuban Sandwich at the King & Prince in GA and the Deep Fried Banana Leaf Wrapped Chicken Thighs at Ayutthaya in Seattle.
THE TERRACE STACKER: I love me some multi-tiered burgers and this heart-stopper from The Terrace Tavern on LBI is no exception. Any time you combine a mushroom cheeseburger with two thin slices of pork roll you've got me.
GREAT MEALS IN BALTIMORE: We didn't get out as much this year as we usually do, but when we did it was usually pretty great. Top dishes for me: Choucroute Garni (Chameleon Cafe); Spicy Curry Catfish (Saigon Remembered); Flounder Stuffed with Crab Imperial (Michael's Steak & Lobster House); Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab, Crystal Wonton Soup (Jumbo Seafood); Mashed Potatoes (Todd Conners); Chicken Liver Pate, Crabcake (Patrick's Restaurant); Coq au Vin (Rocket to Venus); and the consistently awesome sushi at San Sushi Too in Towson.
INDULGENCE: Edy's Fun Flavors Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. I'm not a sweets lover and could usually take or leave any ice cream you put in front of me. But it's a good thing this coma-inducing blend of vanilla ice cream with chunks of peanut butter cups (probably my favorite candy ever) and fudge isn't usually available within 50 miles of me.
BACON AND BEER: These two are already great on their own but when you start putting them in other things I love, well, let's just say you have a customer for life. To wit, Bacon Salt, Baconnaise and Yuengling Lager Barbecue Sauce.
JULY 27: Maybe the best food day of the year. With friends in from out of town we decided to go grab lunch at Mama's On the Half Shell where I indulged in their awesome Oyster Po Boy Sandwich, Clams Casino and several draft PBRs (perfect for sitting outside on a warm summer day). After lunch we drove to Little Italy and stopped at Vacarro's (my fave Baltimore bakery/dessertery) where we picked up sherbert, pistachio ice cream and tiarmasu. From there it was home where Chris whipped up a couple homemade pizzas, one of which could only be described as decadent.
THG GETS SOME PROPS: I've been writing The Hungover Gourmet in some form or another since the early 1990s when it debuted in the pages of Exploitation Retrospect, my drive-in movie and pop culture zine. Since then we've added a print version of THG, this blog, a Yahoo Group and a website not to mention a continuing column in the pages of Carbon 14. Writing can be sorta lonely, so it's always nice to find out that not only are people reading what you wrote but that they're also enjoying it. 2008 saw THG appear with fellow area food bloggers at the Great Tastes Food & Drink Festival in Baltimore, featured on both Food Candy (more than once) and SlashFood, added to UrbanSpoon, and splashed across the pages of The Zine Yearbook. Thanks to everybody who took the time to write, comment, mention or link to us, send a product in for us to try, or show their support in any way. Changes are in store for 2009 as well as the publication of the long-overdue THG #11 but I'll leave all the details for an upcoming post.
What are some of your favorite food & drink meals, memories and experiences in 2008?