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Best Dish of the Year?


First, let me get some shameless self-promotion out of the way: I’ll be at St. Paul’s Micawbers Books (www.micawbers.com) tonight at 7 p.m. for a talk and signing of my book. Last one before Christmas! Come on down and I’ll inscribe one for your Aunt Judy. Assuming you have one. If you haven’t got one, I can either lend you mine (wonderful woman, who makes the greatest peanut butter balls on earth) or lend a shoulder to cry on: Why were no Judy’s hitherto provided unto you? Savvy planners will want to make a reservation at nearby Muffaletta for after the talk; cynical planners will note that it’s awfully easy to walk into any St. Paul restaurant at 9 p.m. and get seated immediately…

But now on to the meat of the matter: What was your best dish of the year? Seriously, I want to know. Here are three of mine, presented in no particular order.

1) Ribeye with sauteed mushrooms at Trattoria Tosca. Was this the best steak of my life? I think maybe, yes. Young Chef Adam Vickerman dazzled me with any number of his just-out-of-the-garden dishes this summer, but that ribeye was thunderous and perfectly cooked and profound.

2) Scallops with pressed cucumber at Sea Change. The raw-bar selections from Sea Change were all astonishingly good, but the composition of compressed cucumber, briny but sweet sea scallops, and good Italian olive oil told me something completely new about scallops, namely that their sweet minerality can be framed by herbal notes and the faint numbing taste of cucumber in such a way that they sing like berries. (Note of great interest to Sea Change fans: On occasional Mondays, Sea Change’s chef de cuisine, Erik Andersen, is doing a sort of omakase at the Sea Change bar; call the restaurant for details, but I’m guessing it’s phenomenal.)

3) Sea-salt French fries, goat’s milk ice cream, and heirloom tomato & local pork nachos and five-spice mini-doughnuts at the Chef Shack. The tang of the goat’s milk ice cream, the wind off the sunny Mississippi, the rich and tangy nachos… Sigh. What a great morning.

But what else? I may do a part two of this list, or maybe it will just swell in the comments. So tell me, look back over the year; anything you got giddy over? Home cooks, feel free to chime in on any ingredients you scored that led to a phenomenal meal at home.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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