It's no secret that I eat most of my meals in restaurants. It's convenient, I don't have to do dishes
and I can seek creative culinary offerings when the mood strikes. (Also, kinda my job.) Over the last year, I've had a lot of memorable meals. Here are a few of my favorite crave-worthy items from 2013:
Favorite breakfast treat: Tomato pie (Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Riverside)
This savory, handheld quiche-like pie makes getting out of bed 100 percent worth it: buttery, flaky pie crust houses a blend of egg and cheese, thin slices of tomato (both green and red), cooked onion and a generous dusting of cracked black pepper.
Favorite salad: Greek kale salad (Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Baymeadows and Mandarin)
Organic kale tossed with homemade Greek dressing, pepperoncini, chunks of crumbly feta, salty kalamata olives, diced artichoke hearts and — in my version — hold the red onion, add chickpeas. There's something about the tangy dressing with this assortment of toppings that makes this salad shine.
Favorite soup (tie): Barley ash (Green Erth Bistro, San Marco) and BBQ pork and wonton pho
(Bowl of Pho, Southside)
These two soups couldn't be less alike, but I love them equally. The first is a thick Persian number overflowing with barley, beans and herbs and bursting with flavor. The pho is brothy, stocked with thin tangled egg noodles and pork-stuffed wontons, and quite comforting on a cold day.
Favorite lunch: Bruschetta (French Pantry, Southside)
Possibly the longest line I'll wait in for a meal, let alone lunch, is at French Pantry. Thick, house-baked crusty bread is generously buttered then topped with shrimp, artichoke hearts and
rich goat cheese, served with a heaping mound of balsamic and basil diced tomatoes atop a bed of mixed greens. Go now to get in line.
Favorite seafood: Raw oysters (Cap's on the Water, St. Augustine)
Plump raw oysters served on the half-shell with cocktail sauce, mignonette, lemon wedges and hot sauce, plus a gorgeous coastal view. Need I say more?
Favorite comfort food: Poutine
(Black Sheep, 5 Points)
Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, these hand-cut potatoes are topped with chewy, bite-sized cheese curds and cubes of housemade pastrami. Warm smoked short rib gravy is drizzled on top, tableside.
Favorite dessert: Orange crunch cake
This is probably my most unexpected food victory of the year. I had my heart set on one dessert but the waitress sold me on this one instead. It's unique and delicious. I even made sure I had a slice on my birthday, that's how good it is. Order it, love it, thank me later.
Favorite pizza: Florida Smacker with mushrooms (Brewer's Pizza, Orange Park)
I love pizza, and I've eaten a lot of it. (Seriously. I'm an expert.) Brewer's is out of the way but worth the trek every time. The Smacker is like a deep-dish pie but smaller and, perhaps most important, the cheese extends to the edge of the crust, forming a seemingly infinite surface of golden deliciousness. Add a side of ranch for dipping.
Favorite entrée: Dr Pepper-glazed short ribs with buttermilk mashed potatoes and shaved vegetables (Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, St. Johns Town Center)
The meat is perfectly fork-tender, the vegetables are thinly sliced and nicely crisp, and the surrounding glaze supplies a delightful subtle sweetness. Oh, and those mashed potatoes? Heavenly.
Favorite ethnic: Dolsot bibimbap
(Hon Korean, Southside)
A sizzling stone bowl (dolsot) full of crispy rice, vegetables galore and Korean beef goodness topped with a fried egg and hot sauce? Yes, please.