Food Riot contributors are insatiable and insatiably curious eaters, so we asked them to pick the single best things they ate this month. The collection below represents home cooking, restaurants, store-bought goodies, and all kinds of cuisine. Hope you’ll find something new to taste!
Jackie: I made the Pioneer Woman’s Marlboro Man Sandwich and onion strings. This has become a staple in the Pascucci house. The yummiest steak sandwich I’ve ever had and also the yummiest onion rings, though the combination is only for the brave. Try it out and tell me how much you love me.
Amanda: Pork Belly Tacos from Boka Kantina in Richmond, Virginia. Boka Truck (slogan: Takos For Your Mouf) is my favorite Richmond food truck, and now they’ve opened a restaurant location RIGHT BY MY HOUSE. The pork belly taco with white cheddar and chili aioli was the perfect combination of meaty and crispy, salty and savory. I ate it so quickly I forgot to take a picture. #sorrynotsorry If you ever find yourself anywhere near Richmond, hunt down the truck or come visit the restaurant. Try the Asian style tacos, too- they come with your choice of meat, kimchi, sesame aioli, and fresh herbs.
Shannon – Bone marrow with chorizo and calamari at Little Bird Bistro in Portland, OR. It’s no secret that I love offals. Bone marrow, specifically. Usually I’m a bone marrow purist – just give it to me with some bread and a butter knife, and I’ll be drooling in the corner in no time – but when Little Bird in Portland, OR promised me this bone marrow insanity with calamari, chorizo, pickled chilies, and oregano pistou (yes, I had to Google that too), all over squid ink flat bread, I had to acquiesce to the fanciness. And oh, dear god, it was the right thing to do.
Derek – Arborio Flour Crusted Calamari at Pomodoro East in Nashville, TN. It was hard to pick a particular dish from my two trips to Pomodoro East this month. Everything was spectacular: the stuffed portobello was creative, the braised rabbit and papperdelle was incredible, the bombolini were delightful little bombs of fried sugar, and so on. But the calamari ultimately won. Dusted with arborio flour and quickly fried, these calamari are perfectly crisp, with a coating that stays on and highlights the slightly chewy tenderness (what? paradox!) of the squid. The sauces—tomato caper and lemon aioli–complement but don’t overshadow the main event. Just writing about it, at 9am, makes me want more. Squid for breakfast!
Jodi – Cowboy Caviar. I’d never even heard of cowboy caviar until the other night when I was trolling the Internet for a southwest turkey burger recipe (I ended up inventing my own recipe that featured a lot of chipotles in adobo sauce, jalapeno, and some garlic). Hoo boy! I have no idea what kind of alchemical juju happens when you combine such simple ingredients, but hot damn this stuff was delicious. I made up a batch for our weekly Sunday Night Family Dinner using this recipe (only I added jalapeno since I had some from the aforementioned invented burger recipe), and it was so delicious that not only did I have a second serving (my brother-in-law and I joked about just grabbing the entire bowl and a spoon) at dinner, I came home and promptly dished myself up a third serving. If you get tired of the traditional chips and guac, or salsa, I recommend mixing up a batch of this deliciousness. I’m making some for a pot luck I’m going to this weekend and I already can’t wait.
Rebecca-Breakfast for dinner, at home! Breakfast for dinner, or B-for-D as we’ve come to call it Chez Schinsky, is the simplest of pleasures. Impossible to screw up, tasty, and so comforting. I know this. And yet I’m surprised by its awesomeness anew every single time. The husband and I have developed this tradition with our dear friends, fellow Rioter Laura and her fiancé, wherein every time their power goes out during a storm (which is a lot because Richmond power grids are wonky), they clean the perishables out of their fridge and roll over to our place for an epic B-for-D feast. Sausage, bacon, pancakes, hashbrowns, biscuits, eggs scrambled up with cheese and onions and peppers. If it can be breakfasted, we breakfast it. It’s so good that at this point, I kinda-sorta-not-so-secretly look forward to big storms with the hopes that we’ll some B-for-D action out of them. I mean, you drink bourbon with your real breakfast and people will judge you. Bourbon with breakfast-for-dinner? Get on that.
Rachel – Dessert Poutine. We’re saying goodbye to all our favorite Calgary eateries, including the Big Cheese poutinerie. They do a chili dog poutine, a Notorious P. I. G. poutine, a Montreal smoked meat poutine (with pickle). But since we were already saying goodbye to Clive Burger that day, we went for the dessert poutine. Fries tossed in cinnamon and brown sugar, topped with cream cheese icing and caramel sauce. It’s basically a hundred tiny churros.
Marge – Grilled octopus pinxo at Vera wine bar in Chicago. Every year around my birthday, my best friend (also named Maggie, also born June 25,1984) and I take each other out to dinner somewhere fancy. We like to try a new place each year, but this time we made an exception and returned to Vera, the lovely Spanish wine bar serving up brassy small plates and lovely European wines in Chicago’s West Loop. The main reason for this decision was the grilled octopus we had last year. I am pretty sure the dish has changed since then, but suffice it to say it didn’t disappoint. Generous hunks of grilled octopus arrived swimming in silky olive oil and a splash of (maybe sherry?) vinegar with toothsome lima beans and big slices of tender fingerling potatoes. As we learned from co-owner Elizabeth Mendez, the octopus is cooked in a low-temperature water bath for hours before it’s grilled to order, which allows it to remain tender on the inside while achieving a beautiful char on the outside. Paired with a rosé THAT THEY HAVE ON TAP, and we were in heaven. Could Vera’s octopus be enough to draw us back for year three? I don’t see why not.
Dana: Cast-Iron Skillet Bake (Goat cheese, rosemary, and honey). On a recent trip to San Diego, I visited Babcock & Story, a bar in the Hotel del Coronado, where parts of the classic film Some Like It Hot was filmed. Babcock & Story is a sports bar with decidedly un-sports bar-like food. Exhibit A: their cast-iron skillet bakes. This particular rendition features creamy, melty, stinky goat cheese, honey, and a few sprigs of rosemary, all cozied up with slices of roasted, syrupy pear. The whole mess is baked in a teeny cast-iron skillet and topped with hearty slices of bread for constructing the perfect pieces of toast, topped with cheese, honey, and roasted pear. I was sharing this dish, which I came to realize was probably wise but ultimately a bit of a bummer. I wanted this little cast-iron dream all to myself. And when I left the table, I was definitely cheese drunk.
Nikki — Greasy Chinese takeout food, homemade. The best thing I ate this month certainly isn’t going to compete with the likes of octopus or dessert poutine or bone marrow and chorizo (honestly, I’m drooling), but it was kind of perfect in its own way. We’ve been looking to scale back a bit eating out and such, but still love the greasy takeout food on the weekends. After digging through Food Riot Recipes, I found this superbly simple and easy recipe for Chicken Fried Rice from IowaGirlEats.com.
Using some of the leftover rice I dug out of the fridge, along with random veggies and eggs, I made a knock-out meal that maybe cost $5 and was done faster than it would take the delivery person to get to our house. With a glass of the Kolsch my husband just brewed, and a night of Doctor Who reruns, it was the best kick back and relax excuse yet.
Kristen – Sweet and Spicy Calamari. I’m a casual fan of calamari. I usually like it as long as the sauce is good and I don’t have to eat the little dangly leggy ones. So when I tried the sweet and spicy calamari at Coastal Flats in Tyson’s Corner, VA, I wasn’t so optimistic. I thought it would just be another plate of the usual. Oh I was so wrong. The plate lacked all the spindly little spidery ones which was already a plus. The best part though, was the sauce that the calamari was smothered in. Absolutely delicious! It was sort of a sweet chile sauce but about 100x times better. I liked it so much that I ordered more sauce specifically to dip the shrimp in that I had ordered for my dinner. If I could figure out what the sauce was, I’d use it in every recipe! Since then I’ve been craving another plate. Wonderful!
Liberty – Orange ginger spring rolls. These delicious beauties come from The Blue Mermaid Island Grill in Portsmouth, N.H. I’ve been eating at the Blue Mermaid for almost twenty years, and these are my favorite thing on the menu. (The sweet corn fritters are a close second – they’re like donut holes disguised as responsible grown-up food.) The spring rolls are a zing of ginger combined with the sweetness of peanut sauce and orange flavor. They’re perfect. The different textures – crunchy vegetables, peanuts, fried outer shell – are delightful. And they come in an edible fried ruffle-thing that looks like the Little Mermaid’s garter. Also, when I eat them, I always think of this. And this. They look kinda like a food version of an alien face hugger. All these things add to their awesomeness. In fact, I’m going to have them for lunch again right now.
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