2009 Fantasy Meal

January 5, 2010

Linda and I wish our readers a healthy, happy and tasty 2010.

Two years ago, inspired by Chuck, I composed a fantasy meal of the best and most interesting dishes of 2007. It was quite a popular posting. I have now done the same with dishes we enjoyed in 2009 except that, in the interest of adventure and discovery, I have excluded all meals at restaurants with one or more Michelin stars. You can click on the restaurant name above each dish to read the whole blogpost. The dishes described and photographed are usually full courses. Of course, if one really had such a tasting menu, the courses would be a lot smaller.

La Campana, Rome
Puntarelle in salsa di alici

When I had this plate, I said that it would probably be the last time I would ever have puntarella, because when I return to Rome, it will not be in January, as it was in 2009; puntarella is only available in mid-winter. Only the Romans know how to shred it and soften its bitterness with an anchovy sauce. I had it four times during our week in Rome; this was the best.

Hünkar, Istanbul
“Hünkar beğendi”

This creamy eggplant purée was originally invented for a foodie Ottoman sultan (Abdülaziz) in XIXth Century! The eggplant must be grilled over very hot large chunks of wood charcoal as they do in Turkey; it is puréed with garlic and a bechamel sauce. One eats a lot of puréed eggplant in Istanbul; this was the best we had.

Izote de Patricia Quintana, Mexico City
Camarones al Mole de
Shrimp in hibiscus mole sauce garnished with hibiscus flowers and a corn torte.
The shrimp were fresh and juicy. The hibiscus mole sauce was flowery and just right. It was garnished with dried hibiscus flowers (top end of the mole smear in the center.) The fresh corn torte with mole inside (top) was superb.

Osteria « Le mani in pasta », Rome
Spaghetti pescatora all’astice.
This may have been the best dish of our stay in Rome. The sauce had a light tomato base. It included shrimp, squid, clams and mussels along with generous pieces of lobster which brought it to a higher level.

 Millésime 82, Nice
Rouget barbet
à la plancha, salade tiède de coco

I think it is quite a feat to get crispy skin on a filet of delicate fresh rouget without overcooking it, but the chef accomplished it well here. The light tomato sauce on the thoroughly cooked coco beans was just right.

15 East, NYC
Squid Ink Risotto

sea urchin, grilled squid, sweet garlic emulsion

This was superb. The rice had a lovely squid ink flavor and just the right texture. The generous glob of uni in the middle added an elegant richness. The grilled squid on the side was a further development of the flavor with more substance; it was enhanced by the hatch-work garlic emulsion underneath. Bravo.

Körfez, Istanbul
Seabass in salt.



This is the house specialty, sea bass covered and baked in salt, served with butter and soy sauce. It was absolutely delicious, one of the best pieces of fish I have ever had. The butter and soy sauce, while not Turkish, was subtle and just right, adding a bit of umami. A bowl of mixed vegetables was served alongside; they added some substance without competing.

Le Relais des Moines, Les Arcs-sur-Argens 3
Ris de Veau en escalopines snacké,
spaghettinis frais aux truffes de la Saint-Jean

The sweetbreads were seared with no butter or oil in a non-adhesive pan or on a plaque. It brought out their best.The fresh pasta ribbons dressed with summer truffles in butter were the perfect non-assertive, but elegant, base. Their softness was just right with the crispness of the sweetbreads. 

Pujol, Mexico City
Venado en recaudo negro

The filet of venison was coated with “black recaudo”–a seasoning paste which contains burnt tortillas and chiles, black pepper, garlic, annatto and oregano. The burnt ingredients are soaked to remove the bitter flavor and ground with the remaining spices. The venison was then roasted; the three thin slices were served on a banana purée with more black recaudo around the edges.

FIG, Charleston SC
Fudge Farms Pork Shoulder

kabocha squash purée, rapini, roasted grapes, pine nuts

The pork had an excellent flavor. The squash had an uncomplicated flavor while the rapini, a type of turnip green, braised with a bit of something peppery and served with the roasted grapes and pine nuts was complex. It was a beautiful winter combination.

Le Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet
The cheese basket at Le Montrachet

This regional selection of perfectly ripe cheeses was part our fine dinner at this lovely inn in Burgundy.


Ristorante Bovio, La Morra
Gelato ai marroni e tartufo bianco

Chestnut ice cream sprinkled with nuts was topped with white truffle shavings.

Biko, Mexico City
Sopa de coco su tapioca y mango

The mango slices had been wrapped around a delicious thick cream. The tapioca and coconut cream had saffron in it.

Telepan, NYC 3
Oloroso Sherry Custard

caramelized blood oranges & pecan florentine

Oloroso sherry is a wonderful flavor for a custard. The orange slices added a needed citrusy accent and the pecan tile textural contrast.

I hope you enjoyed this little fantasy adventure. Stay tuned in 2010 for more.

5 Responses to “2009 Fantasy Meal”

  1. Laurent Says:

    Very interesting post Michael ! Nice to repeat this initiative.

    Looking forward to meet you soon !

    Best wishes for 2010


  2. sue girdwood Says:

    Mike — The idea of that sea bass cooked in salt has convinced me that Istanbul should be my next overseas adventure. I have heard that the grilled food there is fabulous, and your blogs a few months back — those fabulous markets — conjured up wonderful taste escapades.

    Your fantasy meal is terrific!

  3. kristin Says:

    It all sounds so absolutely delicious, I can’t decide if I should be hopping a plane to Rome or Istanbul or Mexico City. Inspiring.

  4. Foodista Says:

    Thanks to your advice, I went to mani a pasta last week during a trip to Roma. I’ve also been to La Rosetta. What wonderful meals !! I will soon post about restaurants i’ve tasted in Roma

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