12 Most Memorable Bites of 2010

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Lee Klein
Buena Vista Deli's Quiche
I can't say with certainty that these are the best meals I had over the past year -- I'm probably forgetting a taco grabbed on the road to Homestead or something. But these 12 dishes somehow seared themselves most upon my memory, which is what a great plate of food tends to do. Here then, in month-by-month order (more or less), are my delicious dozen for 2010:

Monkfish Cheeks at Palme d'or
So many of Philippe Ruiz' creations are memorable, but this one really stands out: Succulent flakes of pristine fish sumptuously pooled in smoked Pinot Noir reduction sauce, atop a bed of beets, asparagus, carrots, morels, and baby pattypan squash -- each vegetable impeccably prepared.

Quiche Lorraine at Buena Vista Deli
My wife and I stopped in off the street for an afternoon snack, and the quiche had just come out of the oven a short time before we entered. It was so very custardy, with buttery pâte brisée. We couldn't have done better had we ducked into a cafe on the streets of Paris.

3 Amigos Taco Plate at Aguacates
I can't say the tacos at this Doral Mexican restaurant are better than some I sampled in SF's Mission District, but they were better than the ones I had anywhere locally. You get a choice of soft corn or flour tortillas -- I went with the former, and also chose pork al pastor, pork carnitas, and steak carnitas as the fillers. Lettuce, tomato, jalapeños, sour cream, and whatnot are spooned on top by the counterperson if you so desire, and all manner of salsas at a separate salsa bar. I mainly went with onions, cilantro, and lime, and a better $6.95 can't be spent. Plus you get corn chips.

El Topo Roll at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Looking back, there was a decided lack of sushi joint reviews this past year, and not many memorable non-review sushi meals either. Of the many rolls I did get to sample, El Topo stands out -- and not just because it's wacky. How wacky? It's a pressed roll cut into rectangular wafers of Atlantic salmon, rice, shiso leaf, and jalapeño under melted mozzarella cheese and crispy bits of onion. As I wrote in the review: The combo is sweet, hot, salty, and weirdly delicious -- as a dish named after a hallucinogenic cult movie should be.

Grilled Octopus at AltaMare
May not have had much sushi in 2010, but I sure did encounter a lot of octopus dishes. Chef Stojanovic's version topped all others, the tenderly charred tentacles resting upon warm farro grain flecked with chorizo and accompanied by grilled lemon, green tomato, and saffron aioli. Who could forget such flavors?

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