Tasting 2002

The year in food

Demi Epicurious
Demi Epicurious (Photo By John Anderson)

Virginia B. Wood's Top 10 Savory Bites

1. Lamb Ribs at Gonzalez Food Market: Out of all the delicious Texas barbecue I tasted in preparation for the Southern Foodways Alliance Taste of Texas barbecue field trip last summer, Steve Lopez's smoky, toothsome lamb ribs were the most outstanding bite of barbecue by far.

2. Roast Chicken at Lambert's: Thank God the low-fat police haven't found this dish. Suffice it to say that after one robust serving of this moist, tender chicken encased in expertly seasoned, perfectly crisped skin, you'll realize that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are an abomination that should be banned.

3. Lobster Heaven at Demi Epicurious: Big, sweet chunks of lobster meat bathed in buttery golden broth as Lobster Shooters to open the meal and then a few more folded into the voluptuous mashed potatoes as a side dish. An embarrassment of riches.

4. Saffron Supper at Vespaio: From the first mouthful of velvety, saffron-scented lobster bisque to the last creamy spoonful of Saffron Risotto with seared diver scallops, shrimp, and crabmeat, it was a spectacular meal.

5. Summer Garden Salad at Asti: The summertime farm-to-table dinner honoring Deborah Madison featured a wonderful salad that was fresh, simple, local, and organic: whisper-thin slices of cucumber and vine-ripened tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and crumbles of salty ricotta salata dressed with good olive oil and lemon juice. The best of summer.

6. Rellenos en Nogada at El Mesón: Marisela Godinez served this national dish of Mexico as a special the entire month of September, and I made several visits to enjoy big poblano peppers stuffed with savory pork and dried fruits, fried in a delicate egg batter and napped with a creamy sauce of goat cheese and ground walnuts, garnished with pomegranate seeds.

7. Brillat-Savarin Cheese From Grape Vine Market: Cheesemonger Ike Johnson chose this extravagant triple-cream for the Eat, Drink, Watch Movies Babette's Feast cheese course, and its richness was just the right contrast to a tart endive salad in tangy pomegranate vinaigrette.

8. Gorgonzola Dolce, Honey, & Candied Walnuts on Grilled Sourdough at Schlotzsky's: Renowned artisan baker Nancy Silverton was in town promoting the joint venture with our homegrown local sandwich chain, demonstrating many remarkable sandwiches from her new book. This one was my favorite.

9. Pane Pugliese at Sweetish Hill: Austin's original French bakery makes the best Italian breads in town for my money, and this hearty, round, 3-pound loaf with the crackly crust is my favorite by far.

10. Corn Soufflé at Jennifer's Thanksgiving Dinner: A friend named Judy brought an elegant corn soufflé made from a colonial Williamsburg traditional recipe. It was uniquely American, historically correct for the holiday, and absolutely fabulous.

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