Random year end list

Everyone has end of year lists so I figured I would make some random Best of 2009 list as filler because I probably won’t post again until after the new year.  So here goes…
Best meal of the year has to be from Graham Elliot in Chicago.  So many courses, so many incredible tastes.
Best lunch was Blackbird Three-Course (butternut squash bisque, California sturgeon, and grape sorbet) Probably the best lunch I have ever had. 
Best Wisconsin meal of the year was Wild Tomato Pizza.  Not fancy but everything was perfect. Killer pizza made with Wisconsin ingredients.  
Kitchen Discovery of the year was definitly the pressure cooker.  Purchased at Goodwill, this has become my most used cooking vessel.  No more planning out braised meals a day in advance.  Perfect pork belly in 45 minutes, beef stew in 25, carnitas in 25 too. 
Over-hyped food trend that I actually loved: Burgers
Burgers were everywhere this year.  I think part of it was due to the recession (burgers are cheap) and the other part was due to all these Celebrity Chefs hyping the burger.  I subscribe to all the major food magazines and Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Saveur and Food and Wine all had burger issues.  I also saw a Rachel Ray Magazine with a burger gracing the cover. As much as I love them by the first week in December I hit the burger wall.  I had a mediocore burger at Rock Bottom in Milwaukee and said “I am officially sick of burgers”    I have sworn off burgers until the new year.  I just needed a break. Nonetheless I had a lot of great ones in 2009.  Here are 5 that I tried for the first time in 2009:
Rockit Burger – Rockit Bar and Grill in Chicago – One 0f the best burgers around. 
Ruby Tuesdays Blue Cheese & Bacon Burger – Hands down the best chain restaurant burger I have ever eaten
AJ Bombers – Might already be the best burger in Milwaukee
Taylor’s Peoples Park  – They opened last December and I have been enjoying their geat burgers ever since.  My favorite is the Central Park Burger which features sautéed onions, mushrooms, and an addictive Gorgonzola-goat cheese remoulade sauce. Order with some sweet potato or truffle & parmesean fries.
The Centraal Burger (Cafe Centraal) – excellent with the smoky black salt adding an interesting taste to the beef, which is topped with Gruyere cheese and mushrooms.  The mussels at Centraal are to die for as well.
Cookbooks of the year
I didn’t buy too many new cookbooks this year.  In fact I put some of mine in the attic because the collection was getting too crazy. I kind of blame Half Price Books and their bargain area where I have found countless great cookbooks for under 3 bucks. Amazon’s used book deals don’t help matters either. I still have some relases from the past year that I would like (Ad Hoc at Home, Michael Symon’s new book, and the updated version of Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything.”
Michael Ruhlman: Ratio Not so much a cookbook (though there are recipes) but a great guide on how to use ratios to achieve perfect results, especially with baked goods, while still allowing the inner chef (the one that thinks they cannot bake because of all the rules) to still be creative.
Donald Link: Real Cajun: Not since Paul Proudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen Cookbook has someone captured the essence of Louisiana cooking.  Link’s stories surrounding the recipe make this read more like a book than a collection of recipes.
Adam Perry Lang: Serious Barbecue.  I love the shit out of Steven Raichlen’s grilling books and Bobby Flay’s books on grilling speak to my love of Mexican and Southwestern ingredients and flavor profiles but this has become my favorite barbecue and grilling book.  Every recipe I have tried has been packed with flavor and his tips and techniques are awesome.  Who would have known that using beef stock base as a rub on brisket would yield such amazing results?
Also on the non-food related side of things here are my favorite 10 albums released this year though not in any particular order:
House Boat – The Delaware Octopus
Riverdales – Invasion USA
Jetty Boys – Sheboygan
Marked Men – Ghosts
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
NOFX – Coaster
Dopamines – S/T
Teenage Bottlerocket – They Came from The Shadows
Banner Pilot – Collapser
Dear Landlord – Dream Homes 

2 thoughts on “Random year end list

  1. Great list. I’m firmly there with you on a few of these — including AJ Bombers (definitely great burgers, probably the best in the city), Ratio… and Phoenix. Just purchased that baby on itunes in late December, and it led us right on into the new year.

    Happy New Year, Jeff! And may 2010 bring more good eats!

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