100 best things we ate: Quotables

TOC Critics recall some of their most vivid food memories of the year.

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  • Photograph: Martha Williams

  • Photograph: Kate Dessa

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Bonsoiree

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

  • Photograph: Taylor Lacey

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

  • Photograph: Brendan Lekan

Photograph: Martha Williams


ENCHAYOTADAS AT LAS PALMAS
“This was just a bone I threw to a vegetarian friend at the table. It turned out to be the best part of the meal. Smug-ass vegetarians.” —David Tamarkin

NEW YORK STRIP STEAK AT EPIC
“When I write my memoir, 2010: My Year of Covering the River North Steak Beat, this aggressively seasoned, stupidly tender cut at Epic will be one of the few highlights.” —Julia Kramer

SPICY BABY CHICKEN WITH GINGER AND PEPPERS AT SPRING WORLD“This was one of the dishes Chinese food expert Rebecca Wheeler had me try in an effort to expand my Chinatown horizons. She must have thought I was an idiot. I was like, This is so good! This is so so good! Like, screaming it. And she just looked at me like, You dummy, and said, ‘Yeah, I know.’” —David Tamarkin

GOAT BHUTUWA AT CUMIN
“Goat gets a Nepalese makeover in the dish that turned out to be my favorite thing in Wicker Park in 2010 (not counting $3 whiskeys at Big Star, but at Cumin I don’t risk getting trampled to the soundtrack of Hank III).” —Heather Shouse

RABBIT AT BONSOIRÉE
“A Saturday-night ‘underground dinner’ at this BYOB was among my top meals of 2010—and certainly the most surprising. This dish may or may not return, but I can’t wait to.” —Julia Kramer

JERK CHICKEN AT TROPIC ISLAND
“Bring cash, bring your patience and don’t wear anything you don’t want to have swallowed up by the permeating smells of the smoker. You will be rewarded, and you will be back.” —Heather Shouse

SCALLOP-UNI TARTAR AT SIDE DOOR SUPPER CLUB
“This was at Side Door’s inaugural dinner, which previewed the food at the forthcoming Paris Club. It was briny and tart and also cool and lush, and it was the best use of uni I’ve tasted. Ever.” —David Tamarkin

FIRE CHICKEN AT DANCEN
“Dancen is my favorite Korean bar, mainly because the buldak (a.k.a. fire chicken) nearly blows my face off with its heat, but also because they serve soju yogurt cocktails that cool down my mouth and get me loopy enough to think my Korean is understandable.” —Heather Shouse

BENTON’S COUNTRY HAM, BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE, TOASTED BLACK WALNUTS, FRISÉE AND MAPLE-SYRUP CRUST AT ROOTSTOCK
“What I remember most about this is that I ate it at a wine bar, and yet I can’t tell you a single thing I drank that night—the food was just too good. It stole the show.” —David Tamarkin

PÂTÉ & HEADCHEESE AT VINCENT
“Look, there’s a lot of good stuff to eat at Vincent. I know that. But I can’t get over the charcuterie for two simple reasons: It’s impeccably made, and nothing pairs better with the gin list.” —David Tamarkin

SWEET-AND-SOUR TOMATO CONFIT AT CAFÉ 676
“It came to the table and I thought, Okay, it’s in a jar, it’s a preserve…it’s got all the trappings of a trendy cliché. But I couldn’t hate on it even if I wanted to. Too much flavor.” —David Tamarkin

GRAPES FROM MICK KLUG FARMS
“Remember the first time you had a raw tomato at the peak of the season? A farmers’ market strawberry after a childhood of Driscoll’s? Sorry to go all Alice Waters, but that was what it was like when I tasted the range of grapes from Klug at Green City Market at the end of the summer.” —Julia Kramer

POC CHUCK AT CHILAPAN
“I was genuinely confused by how good these three impossibly tender pork chops served with an achiote salsa were. I kept on eating it and asking, out loud, ‘How is this so tender? Who’s cooking this? What the hell is this place?’” —David Tamarkin

BLACK PEPPER BEEF TENDERLOIN AT DOUBLE LI
“Sometimes you crave crappy Chinese food—the orange chicken, the sesame beef. But I’m sticking with these crunchy, peppery, sticky little nuggets of goodness that I highly doubt are actual tenderloin but are ridiculous nonetheless.” —Heather Shouse

CHICKEN THIGH CONFIT AT KITH & KIN
“I didn’t see what all the fuss over Kith & Kin was about until I cut through this chicken’s crackly skin and reached the decadent dark meat underneath. I hope David Carrier left the recipe behind when he split.” —David Tamarkin

SALSA VERDE AT LA BOMBONERA
“On a chilly night, I ran into fellow TOC food writer Heather Shouse at the Logan Square movie theater and passed her a Styrofoam container of this garlicky, awesomely hot jalapeño salsa. Try it and you will understand what compelled me to leave a restaurant with an absurdly large quantity of salsa ‘to-go.’” —Julia Kramer

 

Southern | Brunch | Drinks | Burgers, pizza and hot dogs | Small bites | Soups and sandwiches | Fried | Bread | Desserts | Chefs | Quotables | The 101st best thing we ate: slow-cooked farm egg at June | Dish wish list (PDF)

 



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