Friday, December 31, 2010

10 for '10

Sam Sifton, who has the best job on Earth -- restaurant reviewer and food critic for The New York Times -- wrote up a list of his favorite restaurant meals of the past year.

And so, I thought: "Hmmm ... what have I, who so relish my food, eaten this year that was particularly spectacular?" (Yeah, I'm sorta stealing Sam's intellectual property here; let's call it an "homage," instead, shall we???) I started thinking back and looking through my blog posts to come up with a sampling.

But then, how would I arrange this? Would I stick to restaurant meals, to avoid the ego-coddling of including my own recipes? Well, I'm pretty enamored of some of the things I've prepared this year; why shouldn't I take pride in a job well done??? Would they have to be dishes I've already written about or ones I had pictures of? For the most part I do have a record, between my own personal blog and my writings for

And then I just thought: "Stop deconstructing and obsessing! If you liked it, share it with your loved ones!!!"

So, in no particular order -- 'cause I had enough trouble making the decisions about what to include on the list, let alone having to decide which was incrementally better than another -- here are my 10 favorite foods from 2010:

Olives all'Ascolana (fried stuffed green olives) at Silvio's Organic Pizza. Fresh and hot from the oil, fragrant, crispy, tender, salty, juicy, and utterly unique, these little tidbits were a fabulous treat! You could very possibly devour platesful of the addictive little things before you realized you'd overdone it. Fortunely they're served only by the dozen, so that you don't have to worry about excess. But no one said you couldn't order another round ....

The cheesy potatoes Tom's sister, Sandy, served at the family's Christmas gathering. Tom has told me that I shouldn't take pictures at the holiday meals for fear of being thought a tad ... um ... odd (shall we say?) by his loved ones, so I can't show the dish to you. But they were a creamy, rich, gooey, luscious, soul-soothing mass of hash browns baked in a thick sauce of sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese. Who needed to eat the ham (which I actually couldn't, because of the sodium nitrite which gives me migraines) when you could just indulge in the bliss of the potatoes???

The maple-glazed salmon from Tom's birthday lunch at The Real Seafood Company. It was sweet, it was tender, it was flaky, and it didn't have the raw center that many trendy chefs pass off as "rare." (If I want sushi I'll order sushi; and, as you can see from the descriptive blurb under my blog title, I never order sushi!) The salmon was cooked to absolute perfection. That it was served along with fennel (one of my very favorite foods) that paired perfectly in a slaw along with green apple strips, as well as being accompanied by tender-crisp roasted vegetables, only made it more delicious. The pumpkin cheesecake served for dessert was lovely, but the salmon was absolutely the star of my meal. This plate was vibrant and colorful and nutritious, but it gave every impression of being truly decadent.

A true work of art at Giordano's Restaurant and Pizzeria in Chicago: a deep-dish spinach pizza. Handmade just for us, there were nearly 45 minutes of anticipation before Jeremy and I laid eyes upon this beautiful specimen. Once it arrived, it was difficult to destroy its perfection ... and yet, of course we did! Pure hedonism, a doughy crust layered with cheeses and spinach and sauce -- an utter masterpiece from its tantalizing appearance to its seductive aroma, and finally its rich, salty, yeasty, sweet, savory, spicy, explosion of flavors. This pizza was unbelievably, indescribably fabulous!

The banana pudding ice cream from Happy Cream Ice Cream and Deli in Detroit. (Oh, my heart is broken! I just found out the shop has closed when I looked for the link! Very sadly, another small business owner's dream has died ....) Not only is there divine intervention connected to this ice cream, as I ate it on the night Tom and I were visited by an angel; but it was so rich, so creamy, so smooth, so generously portioned, so infused with love and pride by the man who recommended it to me with a smile ... oh, it was utterly sublime. Every part of the comfort food that is banana pudding -- from the custard to the banana slices to the softened vanilla wafers -- was contained in that paper cup. It was a thing of true beauty. I am so, so thrilled that I was able to try it while the shop was open!

My triple orange brownies absolutely had to make this list! Still warm from the oven, these are too soft to be considered fudgy; and yet, there is a sticky layer of combined chocolate and marmalade at the bottom that is reminiscent of a candy filling. The orange flavoring doesn't overtake the chocolate, and neither is it hidden -- instead, the two predominant players do a seductive dance wrapped tightly in each other's arms, moving in unison as their hips sway and their passion ignites. These are so good that you will be spoiled and may never want to eat any other brownies again. I'm not kidding -- make the recipe for yourself and you'll find that I speak truth.

The Mexican chocolate loaf cake baked by the River Street Bakery and bought at the Ypsilanti Food Co-Op. This "cake baby," as Tom and I called it as we lovingly cradled it to make sure it didn't get mushed (since it was so tender), was an intensely deep, dark chocolate cake with a thin chocolate glaze ... after all, who can have too much chocolate??? When we first took tiny tastes of it, we thought it was rich and delicious; we were also very impressed at how moist it was, given that the cake is vegan. As the flavors lingered on our tongues and we compulsively consumed more and more of it with no ability to resist, the hints of cinnamon and cayenne started to shine through. There was nothing too spicy or overpowering, merely chocolate paired with perfect complements.

Shalimar, where Tom's and my favorite meal is Murgh Saagwala (chicken with spinach), Dumm Aloo (potatoes in a spiced tomato-yogurt sauce), and -- of course! -- the assorted naan. Yes, I should be picking one of those items and featuring it; but read my last post about this amazing restaurant -- how could I ever possibly choose just one item, when the entire place is one great big "favorite"??? Tom and I ate dinner at Shalimar on our first date ... it has tremendous sentimental value to me, in addition to extraordinary and luscious food. The ambience is sophisticated and romantic, the service is professionally polite rather than effusive, and the food is perfectly spiced and prepared exquisitely. Thus, this entire meal constitutes a favorite rather than any individual item ... no further explanation needed!

Note: For those who read about our recent anniversary breakfast at The Broken Egg and are feeling a bit confused because you thought our first date had been there rather than at Shalimar: Tom and I started that date with breakfast at The Broken Egg. We proceeded to go for a long walk and then warm ourselves up with tea. After that, we found we were hungry and in need of dinner ... thus a meal at Shalimar. It was all on our first date! It was just a 15-hour date ... :)

Love Bugs from Decadent Delight, which are kinda sorta reminiscent of Twinkies. But they are Twinkies not on steroids, but rather Twinkies which have gone to finishing school to acquire some sophistication. These treats are not just adorable and a perfect size to share with someone you love. They are tender, flavorful cakes frosted and coated with any number of tempting options, enrobing pastry cream or chocolate or Jeremy's personal favorite -- a passion fruit filling that could easily just be eaten with a spoon without any other flavors or textures intruding upon the sensual experience. Everything I've ever eaten at Decadent Delight -- from tarts to cookies to cakes to cinnamon rolls -- is absolutely swoon-inducing.

Roasted Cheddar-Herb Almonds, which are a very recent addition to my repertoire but an exceptional and noteworthy one nonetheless. These give every indication, upon first inspection, of being everyday almonds that have a bit of something stuck to them. Try one ... go on. To quote Jeremy when he first tasted them: "Mmmmmmm ...." No words, just closed eyes and "Mmmmmmm ...." Salty, savory, a variety of flavors from the mixed herbs -- each sensation offers something different and enticing for your tongue. You'll find yourself swiping a few more, then a few more after that. You'll give up any pretense of just nibbling and grab them by the handful with abandon. Yes, these almonds are that good. They really are ....

There were many, many other items that coulda been contenders: the spiked Granny Smith applesauce or the coconut macaroons from my dinner at eve ... the Zzang! bar from Zingerman's ... the buttery pumpkin cake that Sandy served at Tom's family's Thanksgiving feast ... the fabulous array of beautiful foods (grilled salmon and potatoes and sweet potatoes and salad and so much more!) served at a lovely dinner by Tom's and my dear friend Martha ... the French chicken with fennel from Joan Nathan's new cookbook ... my good friend Marcie's creamy salmon blintzes ... the cheesecake I made for Jeremy's birthday last January, from a recipe that was first given to the family at the baby shower held for my ex-husband's impending birth in 1960 ... my beloved friend Wendy's buttercream frosting, made from her grandmother's recipe, for which a cupcake is a mere carrier for the addictive fix ... a hot dog eaten on a gorgeous summer day ... the roasted squash soup topped with a blue cheese crouton at The Real Seafood Company ... my own ginger shortbread cookies ... the peppermint Jo-Jo ice cream from Trader Joe's, with crushed cookies mixed into it ... the gingerbread cookies that my good friend Doris shared with me ... peanut butter granola from the Ypsi Co-Op ... the gorgeous salad with fresh oranges and strawberries that I ate at my Mother's Day lunch at the Sidetrack Bar and Grill ... the sweet-tart chocolate-covered Balaton cherries that my dear friend Marilyn gave me for my birthday ... the gingery granola that was part of an extraordinary gift basket from my priceless boss/friend, Rob ... my Mafioso pasta sauce ... the summer rolls and potstickers at Big Bowl in Chicago ... the cream-filled puff pastry at Silvio's ... the raw vegan chocolates that Tom's friend/co-worker Daniel makes ... Talenti gelato, any flavor ... Honeycrisp apples ... garlic scapes grown by my fellow Michigan Lady Food Blogger Diana Dyer, served on pasta and in salad ... the garlicky cream sauce with mussels at Conor O'Neill's (which we'll be feasting on again for Jeremy's birthday, January 10, so stay tuned!). I could go on and on, but I'm getting hungry!!!

There's a beautiful Italian phrase which sums up the year in food for me: Chi mangia bene sta molto vicino a Dio. ([KEE MAHN-juh BEH-neh stah MOHL-toh vee-CHEE-noh ah DEE-oh) = He who eats well is closest to God.) God has blessed me enormously this year with good food, and especially with loved ones to share it with. May each of you be granted those blessings as well in 2011 ... :)

Smart and Trendy Moms


Leanne said...

Yummmm-O!! I'm so excited to see a few Chicago locals here - and will surely have to try them out (although have to admit -there is a Giordanos within a 5 minute ride from our home - Can you say DANGER!!!!) LOVE your list and everything on it!

NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT read Mary's recap of her favorite 2010 foods when it's 1) 11:26PM and 2)when you are hungry. NOT a good idea!


Unknown said...

Anyone who names their blog "Food Floozie" is my kind of woman! LOVE IT!
I am a new follower from Follow Friday 40 & over (ouch)... can't wait to read more of your blog!
Happy New Year to you!

Nicole said...

Yummy Yum Yum Yum.

Happy New Year!! So glad we became blog friends this year! You are my favorite foodie!

Jana said...

Suddenly I am starving! I am following from the Smart and Trendy Moms blog hop. Happy New Year! Jana

Miriam said...

You know what?! I have a very good friend in Italy from Ascoli. It's about an hour outside of Rome and those stuffed and fried green olives where created and made famous there. It made me smile to see them on your site. Have a great weekend celebration!! Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Anonymous said...

Stopping by via the Friday Hops to follow and to say hello.
Have a great New Years!

Cranberry Morning said...

Oh my goodness! So many choices here. Who wouldn't get OCD about this! Maple-glazed salmon sounds amazing. But Silvio's fried stuffed green olives are almost good enough reason to drive all the way to Ann Arbor! (or at least obsess over until I can get there!) Also especially attractive are the Love Bug Debutantes. I can see that Ann Arbor isn't just another place on the map.

Love reading your blog, Mary. Happy 2011 to you and yours.

Karen Harris said...

Those olives make my mouth water! Have a very safe and happy New Year and I can't wait to see what you make in 2011.

Candace said...

Food glorious food....
I'm so happy to have found your blog. I could have enjoyed every one of those wonderful meals that you have described. Loooooove. :)

Happy New Year, Mary!

Miller Racing Family said...

Looks like some fabulous food. I love the love bugs. I hope you had a great Christmas and may you have a fabulous 2011!

Unknown said...

These are all such amazingly tasty picks!! I had the hardest time trying to narrow down my top 10 too!! Guess that's a good thing, right?
Happy New Year to you and Tom and Jeremy!!

Russanna said...

Found your blog from the Blog hop. So excited to check it out and am now following from

Retail Therapy Lounge said...

THat pizza look so good!

Found you on a blog hop and am your newest follower - Would love for you to check out my blog and follow back if you like it.

Check out my "retail therapy" giveaways and enter a few, there are some great products to win.

I also have a fantastic weekly blog hop.


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