In 2014, I quit my full-time office job to run a business from my laptop. This was an amazing life change for so many reasons, mainly because now I could work from anywhere and had full control over my own schedule. With this new found freedom, I decided to spend 2015 traveling the country and eating as much as possible. I visited many foodie coveted cities…New York, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco…just to name a few. Sometimes I was traveling just for fun, other times I was heading to visit Janette on a Food Network show she was shooting. That’ right, Janette hit the food-loving camera op’s jackpot: shooting a Food Network roadshow, which just so happened to be showcasing the best food in the country.
Really, this list is more of a “best of the best” things I ate this year. We had so many amazing dishes, it was hard to narrow it down. I was treated to plates from world-renowned chefs such as Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, Stephanie Izard, Richard Blais, Nick Anderer, and more culinary geniuses I’m sure I’m forgetting. These chefs create recipes that challenge each part of the palate. Food on a completely different level than anything I’ve ever made myself.
I hope you enjoy reading my list of the best things I ate this year as much as I enjoyed “researching” it. Can’t wait to hit the road again in 2016 and treat my tastebuds even more!
1. No. 7 Sub Club at No. 7 Sub – NYC
I’m fond of all types of food, but I am in L-O-V-E with sandwiches, so I’m kicking off this list with the best one I had this year. No. 7 Sub Club is honestly one of my favorite places I’ve ever been, it’s just so…cool! The NYT called the Chef, Tyler Kord, the “Willy Wonka of submarine sandwiches”.
I went with the No. 7 Sub Club: Turkey, Ham, Jalapeno Mayo, BBQ Potato Chips (Zapps!), and Pico De lettuce. If it were legal, I’d marry the shit out of this sandwich to make sure I lock it down.
2. Double Cheeseburger at Au Cheval – Chicago, IL
According to both Bon Appetit and Food Network, Au Cheval serves the best burger in the country. Everyday people line up and wait for hours in the Chicago weather just to try one.
The burger nails the meat to cheese ratio, is topped with maple-glazed bacon as well as housemade dijonnaise and pickles, and served on a melt-in-your-mouth-bun. Make sure to order it “Au Cheval style”, which adds a fried egg on top.
3. Butcher’s Block Charcuterie at Nomad, NYC
Three or four years ago I couldn’t even tell you what “charcuterie” meant, now I eat it several times per month. The Nomad served me the most impressive board I’ve had so far. Not only was the presentation gorgeous, but the foie gras was some of the best that I have ever eaten. The other accoutrements were on point as well.
I highly recommend finishing off your meal with their “milk and honey” dessert.
4. The Reggie at Pine State Biscuits – Portland, Oregon
There is no better way to start your day than by clogging your arteries. If you whole heartedly believe that, then you’ll love The Reggie at Pine State Biscuits as much as I did. They really delivered with this biscuit filled with fried chicken, cheese, and bacon – then slathered in gravy.
If you’re extra hungry, make sure you get the hashbrowns too.
5. Olive Oil Affogato at Marta – NYC
Chef Nick Anderer bakes up some of the best wood fired pizza in the country. I’m a neapolitan pizza fanatic, but somehow it was the dessert here that stole the show.
Traditionally, an affogato is made with espresso. Chef Anderer took it a different way, combining the flavors of Olio Verde, honeycomb, vanilla gelato, kumquat, and blood orange. It hits every note on the palate and is a true delight.
6. Loaded to the Gunwalls at The Aviary – Chicago, IL
There is no one in this country doing cocktails better than The Aviary. It is a bar like no other, that was started by one of the leaders in molecular gastronomy, Chef Grant Achatz. You may know him from the Netflix documentary, Spinning Plates, where he was featured with his restaurant Alinea. He has many impressive accolades, including “Best Chef in the United States” (2008).
By the time I knew I was heading to Chicago, there was no way to get reservations at Alinea, so I set my sights on the Aviary. We had a table for six, and not only was every single drink we had unique and perfectly crafted with the utmost thought and skill, but the service was impeccable. Truly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Pictured above was my personal favorite, “Loaded To The Gunwalls” with pineapple, hazelnut and Batavia Arrack. Talk about presentation!
My second favorite would have been the “O’Doyle Rules”: fried banana, clarified banana, curry, coconut powder, cilantro stems, rum, and cognac.
7. Fat Texas BBQ at Fat Sal’s – Los Angeles, CA
It is both a blessing and a curse that a place like Fat Sal’s is less than 3 miles away from my apartment (and also delivers until 2 AM!). They offer numerous “fat” sandwiches stuffed with everything from fries, cheese sticks, chicken tenders, cheeseburgers, or whatever the hell else they feel like when creating the seasonal special.
The Fat Texas BBQ is my favorite by a landslide. An extra wide garlic hero roll, stuffed with pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, crisp bacon, grilled onions, fries, cheddar and mozzarella, then slathered in mayo and honey BBQ sauce.
Whoa. Hope you were planning on taking a nap after lunch!
8. Black Seed Bagels – NYC
I still dream about the bagels I had when I was in New York at Black Seed Bagels. I heard a lot of hype about this place, saw a few killer instagrams, and decided to make my way there. I even walked right past the Dominique Amsel Bakery because I was so focused on stuffing my face with whatever carbs Black Seed was slinging.
Of course I couldn’t choose, so I went with my standard bagel order, veggie cream cheese on everything, and branched out a little with Apple, Ricotta, and honey on whole wheat. I was in heaven! Sometimes places get the bagel right, sometimes they get the cream cheese right, this place nails ’em both.
9. Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cheesecake at Ted’s Bakery – North Shore, Hawaii
Ted’s Bakery is the home of the original Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie and boy, do they know what they’re doing! As soon as we landed and picked up our rental car, we headed straight to Ted’s for a welcome meal. Naturally, I ate my dessert first.
This Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cheesecake tastes like Hawaii embodied in a dessert. Pair it with the Bento box like I did and you’ll be sure to spend the afternoon incapacitated on the beach across the street.
10. NY Kiss at Toro Bravo – Portland, Oregon
Toro Bravo is serving up both delicious and creative tapas in Portland. We were here with one of the Food Network producers and he just so happened to have worked on a show with a chef in the past. The kitchen ended up sending out dish after dish “with compliments from the chef”, so we basically got to try the entire menu.
Their speciality here is their tapas that they refer to as a “kiss”, which is an individual bite. They usually consist of only a few, carefully selected ingredients, and hit every note on the palate. My favorite was this NY Kiss: Imperial Ossetra Caviar, Chopped Egg, Chive, and Piment Basquaise Creme fraiche. It’s kind of crazy something so small and simple could leave such an impression, but that’s the power of a great chef.
11. Biscuits & Pie at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits – Chicago, IL
Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits is an adorable little shop who served me the best biscuit I had this year, as well as some damn good pie.
Their biscuits are very dense and have a sour cream base, which makes them moist and flaky. They serve them with a fresh made house jelly that changes often. I had their cherry jam, which was really tasty, but I hope I get to go back again sometime to check out the blueberry lavender.
12. Egg Royale at Petrossian Caviar – Los Angeles, CA
It was my birthday, so we indulged. The full Petrossian Caviar experience. We did not eat one thing at this lunch that didn’t somehow involve caviar, including caviar martinis.
The Egg Royale was my favorite dish here. It’s basically a warm egg mixed with the most delicious vodka cream and then topped with, you guessed it, caviar! It is divine! I would go back any day of the week just to spend $14 on a single egg again. Any. Day.
13. Yo Quiero Taco Bread at The Girl & The Goat – Chicago, IL
I was so excited to dine at Stephanie Izard’s (first female to win Top Chef) flagship restaurant, The Girl and The Goat. This place is upscale casual and serving what I would consider comfort food.
The Yo Quiero Taco Bread is what I remember most. She changes the bread options on the menu often, and I was really happy to be there when they were serving this one. This bread had the perfect crust on the outside, while still being extremely moist inside. It was served with a cheddar onion dip and pico de gallo. You know I love my toppings, so it was a big hit with me.
14. Carne Asada Toast at Juniper & Ivy – San Diego, CA
My older brother was in San Diego for work and I wanted to take him out for a nice “California” dinner. We ended up trying out Juniper and Ivy, the restararunt of Richard Blais (another Top Chef winner). He is doing some really, really cool stuff. Everything we had here was so unique. They even served their Ahi Tuna on a bed of miso shaved ice!
I thought the Carne Asada Toast was the stand out dish here. Perfectly seasoned meat and I loved the quail eggs on top.
The Twice Baked Sweet Potato is a close second. It’s like a work of art.
15. Snack Plate at Cheese & Crack – Portland, Oregon
Cheese & Crack is very….Portland. And that’s a good thing! This awesome little place serves up plates of cheese and crackers, small sandwiches and some pretty crazy ice cream sundaes. The staff is authentic and full of personality. You can really tell that this is a place of passion.
I wouldn’t be able to visit Portland without coming back….I guess that’s the crack!
I ate so many delicious things that I just didn’t have room to put all on this list, but you can see more on my instagram, or by searching the hashtag #PeezyEatsAmerica2015.