Fantasy meal of the best dishes of 2012

December 30, 2012

For 2007 and 2009, following the example of other restaurant bloggers, I created fantasy meals with selections of the best and most interesting dishes from our dining adventures during the year. This is a third effort in the series. 2010 and 2011 were skipped not because there wasn’t enough material, but because there was too much.

Our travels in 2012 were somewhat limited by Linda’s November 2011 replacement of a knee and her slow recovery. We did, nonetheless, manage to get to Catalonia, Paris and Aquitaine, which are represented below along with our home bases in NYC and on the Côte d’azur. Selecting the dishes was not easy and many fine ones had to be left out. Some of those selected were from meals which were not consistently great, but were of interest. You can go to the blogpost for the whole meal of each dish by clicking on the name of the restaurant in blue. I have left out wines, which would have been too complicated to include, but they are always an essential part of our enjoyment.

A lobster roll at Atera in NYC.

Chopped lobster meat was inside a yeast meringue sandwich creating an elegant, fresh opener.
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Gamba Roja de Dénia at Quique Dacosta in Dénia


Giovanni, the assistant maître d’hôtel who was in charge of us that evening, told us that Dénia prawns are fished off-shore at 800 meters depth where their food has no photo synthesis, creating extra depth of flavor. They are barely cooked in seawater and refreshed in it. Eaten with the hands, ours were absolutely delicious. It was a shame to have only one each. Alongside was a cup of prawn shell bisque.

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Petits pois at Akrame in Paris

Fresh seasonal peas were served with garlic-flavoured black crumbs of pain de mie, hazelnut sauce and hazelnuts. A stick of liquorice was grated on at the table.

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Gamba con alcachofas at Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar

Local, fresh shrimp were served with small spring artichokes prepared three ways: braised, deep fried and puréed. The flavors were bright and superb. This dish was all the more enjoyable as a more basic version of shrimp with artichokes has been a standard in Spanish cuisine for a long time.


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Softshell Crab Karaage, Corn Tempura, Yomogi Leaf at Neta in NYC

Karaage is a deep frying technique similar to tempura, but using a light flour coating instead of a batter. It was perfect for the soft shell crab and the leaf. Underneath is a mound of sweet corn tempura.  They said that the Mugwort leaf was foraged in Central Park, which would make it a slightly different variety than the Japanese Yomogi. It had a slightly bitter, sage-like flavor that contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the corn and crab.

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Skate 홍어 Red Pepper Threads, Sesame Leaf, Clam Consommé at Jungsik in NYC.

The skate was perfectly cooked, slightly browned, but still firm. The clear clam consommé poured around it brought out the flavor without competing, as did the vegetables underneath the skate. The sesame wafer added a bit of crunch and a bit of another flavor.


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Asperge verte du Midi, copeaux de vieux Comté, morilles au jus, l’oeuf en coque d’asperge at Le Carré des Feuillants in Paris

The two asparagus stalks, and the two morels under their foam, were exceptionally flavorful. Thin slices of aged Comté cheese covered the peeled stems. The ball was a soft boiled egg surrounded by thin asparagus slices and lightly deep fried.

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Steamed lobster with uni mousse at Soto in NYC.

Layers of steamed Maine lobster and uni mousse in lotus wrap were garnished with smoked uni and caviar creating a very rich, delicious dish.

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Le Demi-Homard Rôti, Légèrement Fumé à la Cheminée et l’Endive Douce-Amère, Confite au Lait de Coco at Les Prés d’Eugénie

This lobster dish has been a specialty of Michel Guérard for many years. It is partially cooked and halved lengthwise. The meat is removed, sliced, sauced, put back in the shell (with the whole claw in the head cavity) and smoked just before serving. The sweet and sour endives in coconut milk are a recent change to the accompaniment.

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Dried Beet, trout roe, crustacean sauce at Atera in NYC

The beet had been dried and heavily charred. Inside it had a rich, lovely flavor which dominated the good, but subtle, garnishes.

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Turbot rôti sur arrête, en écaille de vitelotte, fines asperges et jus d’ortie at Tante Louise in Paris

A wedge of turbot, with its bone in the middle, had been baked with faux scales made of blue potato on top. The turbot had the gelatanous characteristic of a good piece and delicious flavor. The nettle sauce was unusual and just right.

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Charred Corn Soup with Grilled Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Espelette Peppers and Chive Oil at Mas (la grillade) in NYC.

The sweetness of the caramelized corn blended nicely with the smokiness of the mushrooms.

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Veal Brisket, za’atar, plum, mustard at WD-50 in NYC

Veal briskets were cured for six hours in maple syrup, honey, salt, and za’atar, an Arab herb and spice mixture. Then they were cooked sous-vide, thinly sliced and served with plum slices, pickled spring onions, green garlic and excellent, appropriate wafers made with mustard and egg whites.  The veal had a lovely flavor, like an elegant corned beef, enhanced by the other garnishes, while the wafers added flavorful light crunch and bite.

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Pichón asado y reposado sobre un estofado cremoso de trigo duro, toques de patata trufada y salsa especiada at Lasarte in Barcelona.

A flavorful and perfectly roasted breast of pigeon rested on a creamy stew of durum wheat; alongside was truffled potato purée.

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La Belle Côte d’Agneau de Pays Grillée ‘‘en Manchette’’ Oignon Doux au Four, Petit Ragoût de Gros Haricots at Les Prés d’Eugénie

The lamb chop was beautifully presented on a grill over a bed of wood coals on a tray.


The flavor from the grilling of the top quality lamb was exquisite. With it were diced vegetables and a roasted sweet onion filled with a parmesan cream. Alongside was a bowl of white beans cooked in a lightly curried sauce.

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Fougeru Briard affiné à la truffe at Le Carré des Feuillants in Paris.

This brie cheese had been interleaved with ferns and black truffle bits. It was in perfect condition. The spray of little salad greens offset it well.

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Le chocolat Moelleux chaud au « Guanaja » et son entremet caramel aux saveurs épicées et citronnées, sorbet cacao at Le Figuier de Saint Esprit in Antibes.
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This plate of three dark, rich chocolate creations was superb. On the left, in the bowl, is a warm, soft cake surrounding hot, molten chocolate. In the back is a wedge of cake with lemon and caramel layers surrounded by chocolate icing. On the right is a scoop of rich chocolate sorbet.

Well, that brings back great memories. I hope that you enjoyed this fantasy meal and that 2013 will bring you good health and good eating. Our big event will be three weeks in Japan starting in mid-March. You will be able to join us there through our blog. Happy New Year.

4 Responses to “Fantasy meal of the best dishes of 2012”

  1. Floris Oyevaar Says:

    Hi Michael & Linda
    First let me thank you for providing me with such a great palate-caressing blog, that I really enjoy reading. My wife and I know several of the restaurant, especially on the Côte d’Azur, where we live. I also wanted to share with you a little restaurant, a jewel in our view for exquisite dishes and good price/quality rapport, at the bottom of Fayence. If you have not heard of La Table d’Yves, try and find an occasion to go there, like we did today for lunch. Well worth it!

    Happy New Year and enjoy Japan.
    Regards/Floris & Patricia


  2. Dear Michael and Linda,
    On a very cold day in Manhattan, Karl and I have been viewing these mouthwatering dishes from these relatively new wildly interesting downtown restaurants. We’ve made a list and are going to be certain to try them. Thanks for the overview of the products of these wonderful chefs and the great photography!

    Happy dining in 2013!

    Patricia and Karl.

  3. Sally McKinney Says:

    Oh my! Always a big fan of fantasy, your post hit the spot. I try to arrange fantasy dinner parties with fantasy guests (that is the food is real and the guests are real but they are invited to “play the part” of the character I assign in advance during dinner). As you can imagine, some of the parties are more successful than others. Wish I could serve your fantasy dinner at my next but then that would spoil the fantasy, wouldn’t it.

    Happy New Year and dining to you both,
    Sally

  4. sue girdwood Says:

    Michael and Linda —

    What a glorious treat for the eye and for the palate-of-the-mind, scrolling through your fantasy meal for 2012. Sophistication and skill at every level, and wonderful to conjure up the flavours from your descriptions. Here, near the Queensland border, in the heat of the Aussie summer holiday season, days go by punctuated by the smell of barbecuing meats. Your blog is a perfect antidote!!

    Thank you for the pleasure your postings provide and may the New Year bring more wonderful meals and good travelling.
    Best,
    Sue


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