Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014: Favorite Food-Related Items

What were some of my favorite food-related items of the past year?

Let me continue my collection of lists of my best recommendations and favorites of the past year, 2014. Yesterday, I provided a list of my Favorite Restaurants of 2014 and now I want to address my favorites for other Food-Related Items, from markets to books, from donuts to candy. This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable matters I have experienced and posted about over the past year.

This is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. But all of the items here have earned my strong recommendations and I hope you will enjoy them as well. For more food-related items, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.

Favorite Food Trade Event: For the fourth year in a row, I have selected the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) as my favorite. It is a massive trade event, a three day event showcasing purveyors of seafood and related vendors. You'll find tons of free seafood samples and learn plenty, from sustainability to cooking. Plus, the New England Food Show is held in the same venue, offering samples of food, drink and even alcohol. The Seafood Show is an engaging event and I wrote twenty posts about the show this year. It also helped that I won the 4th Annual iPura Tweet & Blogfest for my coverage. The Seafood Show is compelling on many levels and I look forward to attending the next SENA in March 2015.

Favorite Food Magazine: For the fourth year in a row, Lucky Peach easily prevails as my favorite. This quarterly magazine is eclectic and irreverent, with fascinating articles, essays, recipes, and more. I eagerly devour each issue when it is released and its quality has remained consistent. It entertains and educates, as well as providing much for reflection. If you love food and are not reading Lucky Peach, then shame on you.

Runner-Up Favorite New Food Magazine: A quarterly magazine, the Modern Farmer is a fascinating look at the connections between us and the foods we eat. Farmers all over the world take center focus, and the articles are informative, thought provoking and and practical. I've read several of their issues so far and it has consistently offered much of value to any food lover. It is a more serious food magazine, but it isn't pretentious. Another must read.

Favorite Food Book: The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax was a thought provoking look at food trends and provided me topics for three Rants: Lazy Food WritersEating With Your Ears, and Lazy Chefs, Written in an easy manner, it provides plenty of interesting information, and also makes you think more closely about a variety of food issues. All food lovers, and especially food writers, should check out this book.

Runner-Up Favorite Food Book: The Language of Food, by Dan Jurafsky, explains and expounds upon various food-related words, as well as examining the role of words in everything from menus to restaurant reviews. It is part history and science, psychology and etymology. If you love food, it is an excellent read, one which will intrigue and interest you, as well as make you think of food in different ways. And it too fueled three different posts, Rant: Sex Drugs & Restaurant Reviews, The Origins of Ceviche, Tempura, and Fish & Chips, and Rant: Menu Secrets & Sacrificing Choice.

Favorite Food Contest: An epic Sushi Battle pitted Chef Tim Cushman of O Ya against Chef Hisayoshi Iwa of Sushi Iwa in Japan in three rounds of sushi creation. I was fortunate to be one of the judges for this event which was televised for a Japanese station. Each chef had their own distinctive style, and both created compelling sushi so it was extremely difficult to select a winner. In their own way, both chefs made winning dishes, being true masters of their craft. Once the show airs, I'll try to provide a link so everyone can watch.

Favorite Cheese Shop: When it comes to cheese, the suburbs reign supreme with the Concord Cheese Shop, which commonly stocks 150-200 cheeses, including many local cheeses. The staff is very knowledgeable and passionate about their cheese, and they are always seeking out new cheeses for their stock. Besides all that cheese, they also carry a variety of other gourmet foods as well as wines and beers. It is an excellent destination for many reasons.

Favorite Beef: This year, wine from Uruguay made a major impact on my taste buds, and another Uruguayan product thrilled my palate too, Del Terruño Beef. Free range and grass fed beef, this was a delicious meat, tender and flavorful, with a nice gamey taste. This is a beef for any meat lover, especially those seeking cattle that have been raised well and sustainably. It is available locally and I strongly recommend you find some to enjoy.

Favorite Restaurant Meat Dish: I've long been an advocate of eating rabbit, especially as it is such a nutritious meat. Chef Michael Scelfo has created an exceptional comfort food dish, his Chicken Fried Rabbit at Alden & Harlow. A perfectly crispy coating holds a pate-like mix of rabbit and pork belly, and it is simply decadently delicious. Bursting with flavor, as well as some umami-goodness, it will transform anyone into a rabbit lover.

Favorite Offal Dish: At Ribelle in Brookline, their Sweetbreads dish, with coppa, sage brown bitter and celery root, was sublime, simply superb from the first to the last bite. A great combination of flavors and textures, I almost wanted to order a second dish just to enjoy more of it. This is also a dish that almost any food lover would savor, if they simply tasted it, and didn't worry that it is an organ.

Favorite New Condiment: A group of students from the Harvard Business School created their own version of gochujang, an important Korean condiment, which they have named Korean Summer SauceTheir sauce is made from red pepper paste, honey, plum extract, sweet rice wine, garlic, sesame oil and soy. I enjoyed the taste of this condiment, its savory flavors, with a mild spiciness, a hint of sweetness, and some umami goodness. It is a versatile sauce, and belongs in your kitchen.

Favorite Unusual Food: This category is a tie between the Insects I ate at Miya's Sushi and the Guinea Pig I enjoyed at Alpamayo. At Miya's, I savored a Cricket Maki roll as well as Nine Spice Sashimi with crispy black soldier fly larvae. Tasty and sustainable, insects are eaten all over the world, though many Americans still shy away from eating them. Guinea Pig is a Peruvian staple, and it does remind me of chicken, with mild white and dark meat. Expand your culinary horizons and try something more unusual for dinner.

Favorite New Seafood: At Miya's Sushi, I enjoyed much more than just the insects, and was also introduced to a new seafood, Cannonball Jellyfish. Rather than a gelatinous texture, it was more springy like a gummy bear, and almost had a crispness to the exterior. It was surprisingly tasty, and is now added to my list of favorite seafoods. Not all jellyfish is the same.

Favorite Restaurant Desserts: Every dessert I have eaten at Besito has been delicious and compelling, from their Pastel de Chocolate to their Tres Leches Cake, from their Pudin de Chocolate to their Churros. They taste homemade and will please any sweet tooth. Many restaurants do one or two desserts well, but it is harder to find a restaurant that does all of their desserts well.

Favorite Chips At the Boston Wine Expo, I sampled Pasta Chipsoven baked crackers made from pasta. There are five different flavors including Alfredo, Marinara, Spicy Tomato Herb, Garlic & Olive Oil, and Sea Salt. I was impressed, and nearly addicted, with these chips, which were thin but sturdy, had appealing flavors and a nice crunch. The Garlic & Oil was one of my favorite flavors, with a strong garlic taste, though I also very much liked the Alfredo, which had a prominent cheese kick. The chips are strong enough for even a thick dip, though I like them just the way they are.

Favorite Chicken Wings: At Red Heat Tavern, their Mesquite Smoked Wings, with a sweet Thai chili sauce, are slow cooked during the day in their unique Josper Oven, and then later crisped up prior to being served. Honestly, these were some of the best wings I've tasted in some time. There was a delightful crispiness to the outer skin, and plenty of tender meat inside. The sweet, and slightly spicy, taste was accompanied by a nice smokiness, all of the flavors blending together harmoniously. I could easily eat these wings by the dozen and they receive my highest recommendation.

Favorite Tofu: Tofu? Yes, I haven't been a fan of tofu in the past but I have been converted, or at least have found a compelling tofu. At Abriya Raku, a Japanese restaurant in Law Vegas, they make their own Tofu, which was smooth and creamy, with a clean taste rather than some of the bland, rubbery tofu I have had elsewhere. Their homemade tofu makes for an excellent palette for a variety of ingredients and tastes, and I would order it again and again.

Favorite Food Issue: Once again, one of the most important, and sometimes controversial, food issues I addressed this year was seafood sustainability. I have tried to cover a variety of issues, seeking to delve behind the science and rhetoric. The importance of this matter cannot be underestimated, but it is sometimes difficult to get to the truth behind the issues. In July, I started posting a new Seafood post on nearly every Tuesday, and will continue to do so through 2015. You can find links to many of my latest Seafood posts here.

Favorite Fake Food Controversy: In this age of social media, when April Fool's Day comes around, it seems everyone is aware of it so it is difficult to get away with a prank. It takes lots of planning and strategy to be able too fool people on this day. This year, I posted a prank, my The Great Purple Debatewhich was able to fool some people. It helped that I laid some groundwork earlier in the week, posting some teasers and hypothetical questions. It will be even tougher to get away with another prank in 2015, but I'll try again.

What were some of your favorite food-related items this year?

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