Some of my favorite places, dishes, drinks, and events of 2012.
1) Swift's Attic From décor and atmosphere to service and food, I love everything about Swift's Attic. Hard to pick a favorite dish, but Mat Clouser and Zack Northcutt are plating the best (and prettiest) octopus I've ever had.
2) Lenoir Affordable, beautiful, friendly Lenoir holds a special place in my heart – and palate. Exciting flavors on perfectly executed dishes, a killer wine list, and, oh, that brown butter pecan cake!
3) El Naranjo With its mix of modern and classic Mexican dishes, and its sleek contemporary setting, El Naranjo transports me back to Mexico City every time I dine there. New Year's resolution: I'm eating there at least once a month; plane tickets are expensive.
4) Whip In Yes, I'm a diehard regular customer, but there's something new and exciting going on every time I stop by. Whether it's new menu items, Namaste Brewing offerings, or outstanding selections at the wine bar, Whip In never sits still. Can't wait to see what's next.
5) 'Come In, We're Closed' staff meal at Uchi Authors Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy wrote the book on restaurant staff meals, and Uchi invited us to share theirs. I've had plenty of staff meals, but this one was unbelievable. Those guys eat better before work than most of us do on special evenings.
6) Austin Food & Wine Alliance's annual events The Alliance just keeps knocking it out of the park: promoting our culinary scene, giving back to our community, and showcasing local talent and products. Live Fire! and Wine & Swine are the best gastronomic events in Austin, hands down.
7) Lick Ice Creams Ice cream is my dessert weakness, and Lick just made it worse. I absolutely love everything about Lick, from the owners' story to the locally sourced ingredients and unique, delicious flavors.
8) Goat dinner at Olivia On chef Andrew Francisco's last night at Olivia, he and owner James Holmes put on a show with a seven-course goat dinner, featuring an incredible goat tartare with cajeta drizzle and caramelized Brussels sprouts. Can't wait to see what he does at Mettle.
9) Mezcal Fest at Takoba Takoba's first Mezcal Fest attracted a varied crowd, proving that the most iconic Mexican spirit is gaining popularity. To keep the party going year-round, their bar menu features many varieties, as well as clever and well-crafted mezcal-based cocktails.
10) Austin Taco Experiment I absolutely loved the return of Theo Peck's Food Experiments, this time featuring an all-out battle for the title of best taco in Austin. Every single entry was worthy of a prize, Brooklyn Beer was flowing, and a great time was had by all!
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