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!
Laura- Pulled Pork BBQ Plate at The Ridge Pig in Nellysford, VA. I’m a sucker for ambiance and food that stands on its own with no pomp or circumstance involved. This was the perfect place to stop after a day spent wallowing in the sun at the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival (see: needed to soak up the 40 oz + of beer we had each sampled). This tiny little shack was full of the required pig kitsch items, gorgeous wooden furniture and the sweetest, smokiest smell that has ever entered my nostrils. My pulled pork sandwich was sweet and a little spicy on a wonderfully toasted bun and the sides were obviously homemade with a really fantastic mashed potato salad. Even the dubiously orange coleslaw was crunchy and tangy which went well with the smokiness of the pork. The entire table of 6 was reduced to slurping with the occasional drawn out “MMmmmMMmmm”. I’m sad no one thought to order the beef or ribs as I’m sure they would have been equally orgasmic, but I think that just means another Blue Ridge trip.
Rebecca–Meatball parmigiana hoagie at Hoagie Haven in Princeton, NJ. When you plan a trip to Princeton, everyone you know, both online and off, will tell you to make a stop at Hoagie Haven. I went once, years ago, before I knew anything about what good food was, and though I had fond memories of the cheese fries, I was a little concerned about how the follow-up experience would be nearly a decade later. Happily, I can report that this hole-in-the-wall joint lived up to my expectations and then some. The meatball parmigiana sub was hot, flavorful, just saucy enough, and perfectly cheesed. My four dining companions were all pleased with their choices as well, and my 11-year-old nephew reports that the Body Bag sandwich (a cheesesteak with hash browns, an egg, and hot sauce, among other edible accoutrements) was life-changing. Hoagie Haven is in fact a “must.”
Bob- Summer Vegetable “Ceviche” from Food and Wine. This wonderful vegetarian dish combines raw summer favorites like corn, tomatoes, peppers, scallions, with avocado and cooked Lima beans (I used edamame) and the surprise ingredient, nectarines, all marinated in a lime vinaigrette. Combined with a healthy chop of cilantro, this take on “Summer Salad” then marinates for a couple of hours. The combination of flavors is exceptional if you have fresh ingredients. A great complement to grilled fish and more.
Gretchen Giles – Road Trip Morning is a special morning. The car is packed the night before, leave-taking has been negotiated (or, as in my case, he has determined it and I’m too yellow to say otherwise), the alarm has been set, and time—that wonderful long stretch that the road trip will take—is suddenly of the essence. Let’s go! No, let’s have breakfast first.
And so, when Leon and I set out last month for a 10-day trip to take in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada, the Yellowstone swathe of both Montana and Wyoming, the little lakes of Idaho, and the sere, surprising stretch of high Oregon desert, we first saved a moment for eggs.
Our favorite breakfast place is a small hole called Dierk’s Parkside Cafe. Dierk Himself presides over the line and the place is packed on the weekends with diners hollering for homemade sticky buns and seasonal pie and duck hash and even breakfast salad. I like what is modestly known as the “Country Benedict,” in which fresh-poached eggs are tenderly laid over toasted artisanal sourdough, befriended by bacon crumbles and sauteed mushrooms, abetted by an oven-roasted tomato, napped with fresh calorie sauce, and cozily stationed next to fried potatoes. Leon likes the special, whatever it may be. He’s the easy one.
We fell in the door that day at 7:05am, just after opening, and settled in at the counter. We had the place to ourselves. Eschewing the Benedict and the special, we both had scrambled eggs and toast. Simple and satisfying, not too heavy for the anticipated 10 hours in the car, and served like we were in someone’s home kitchen, with the cook wishing us good morning, the server dreaming aloud of Yellowstone, and the car just outside, waiting to take us ahead to adventures we didn’t yet know.
Jo Hatherly: Canadian Shield Blueberry Pie, Kenora, NorthWest Ontario, Canada: Wild blueberries picked fresh in the morning, tossed with a few spoonfuls of flour and sugar in equal measure and baked until the berry juice bubbles playfully at the pastry edges is, was and always will be the best taste of August.
Berries in our region are usually small, with a slightly thicker skin than the store-bought varieties, so even when baked, they have a somewhat al-dente quality that causes them to pop sweetness all over the tongue. Grab hold of the table for that first bite.You don’t want to hit your head when you fall to the floor in a state of berry-bliss.
Wini Moranville: Terrazas Reserva Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina; $15). It took me a while to warm up to Malbecs from Argentina, but this one keys into what the fuss is all about: Rich, ripe fruit, yes, but with a brightness—akin to the astringency that lies at the heart of a dark berry. I love it lightly chilled, with meaty steaks and barbecue.
Jane: Breakfast Potatoes from Eating Rules. While there are endless recipes out there for lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts, a hot breakfast usually boils down to the choice of eggs or pancakes. Sure, there’s variation within these realms, but it’s rare that you see an ingredient on a breakfast or brunch menu that you haven’t seen before.
The potato is rarely used in an interesting way at breakfast. Potatoes in some form or another are all-too-often a boring, ketchup-slathered afterthought next to the main dish. This recipe uses potatoes as the base for the main dish, though, and puts all those vegetables you might otherwise have used in your omelette right in the frying pan with them. I was happy to find local apples to add in, as a reminder that not everything about the impending end of summer is bad!
Jacquelyn: Cinnamon Swirl French Toast. There is this local bakery everyone in Richmond loves, Montana Gold Bread Company. Their specialty is their Cinnamon Swirl bread. This bread is admittedly great just toasted with butter. BUT if you are feeling breakfasty (a continuous state of being for me), whip up some eggs, milk, and vanilla, dunk that bread and cook it in butter. Ohhhh, you’ll thank me. If you’re not a Richmonder, I bet you have a local bakery that makes something similar in your town.
Susie: Pulled pork sandwich from Ray Ray’s Hog Pit
My hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky, loves barbecue so much that they have a festival devoted to it every year, so it’s really no surprise that I love barbecue, a lot. What is surprising is that the best barbecue I’ve ever had comes from a food truck in Columbus, Ohio. The meat masters at Ray Ray’s are obsessed with the quality of their product, and it shows: every sandwich is stuffed full of tender, juicy, perfectly-smoked pork or brisket that has literally ruined every other restaurant’s barbecue for me. The last sandwich I had from there included a few of the fatty, gelatinous bits that taste like pig heaven. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Nikki Miller-Rose: Sweet Martha’s Cookies. I’m not a huge sweets eater – I like salt and I like meat, preferably both at once. So when I go to the Great Minnesota Get Together (our State Fair, one of the largest in the country), I usually load up on Pronto Pups and onion rings and gyros and steak tips on a stick, all of which I did on Saturday when attending alongside 170,986 of my fellow Minnesotans. But before I leave, I’m always sure to pick up a $15 bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies. I’ll steal a single cookie en route to my car, while it’s still hot and melty, but I think they taste best the few days after the Fair, warmed up in the microwave. Because by then, you’re no longer sick on Pronto Pups, onion rings, gyros and steak tips, and can actually enjoy the things. And while I’m still at the Fair, I think the cookies are kind of gross. They’re one of the most popular treats among attendees, and they tend to slide off their mountainous stack onto the ground all over the place. So it might have something to do with the fact that once they are sufficiently foot-stamped, the Midway turns into a sea of petite cow-pie looking greasy gum stains. Cookie down! But seriously, the things are delicious. Plus, at home you drink them with milk, which is also an option at the Fair, but milk outside in 100 degree heat is just gross and wrong.
P.S. In the 16 hours since my husband purchased them, we’ve eaten those cookies down to the point that the bucket lid can now be snapped shut.
Danguole-Grilled sweet potatoes. I just discovered the simple genius of slicing up a sweet potato and throwing it on the grill. They’ve been my go-to side dish in these dog days of summer: simple with just olive oil, salt, and pepper, or gussied up with a light brushing of maple syrup and sprinkling of cayenne. Either way, these get charred and smoky, a bit crisp on the outside, and succulently soft inside. Also, I’m pretty sure that if you were to look up “perfect late-summer dinner in my world right now” in a dictionary, there would be a photo of a big pile of grilled sweet potatoes on a bed of greens… And a cold beer, of course.
Elizabeth Bastos- We’ve been dining at Harvard’s Annenberg Hall all summer because of Husb.’s work. At first you’re overwhelmed by the architecture and feel you should be wearing a cloak and Greekifying. Oak paneling. Rose windows. Sculptures in marble of Puritan forefathers. Then you tuck into the half mile salad bar. Puritan? No. O Ye Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (we had to read that Jonathan Edward’s essay) do ye want red pepper hummus?
Yes, it’s industrial. Harvard dining services feeds over 1,000 students three times a day, but let me tell you about their egg salad. When I was kid I loved egg salad, but it was the ichor of nerds, and I was trying hard to not be Nerd Queen, so I gave it up in favor of cool kid lunch meats, of bologna and such, blech, so can I tell you how how psychologically healing, how repairing of one’s soul was this Harvard egg salad? I scooped it, Nerd Queen, and saw that I was not the only one who also went for the gherkins.
Jennifer: Rachel’s Ginger Beer. Slow-building gingery heat, a hit of lemony tartness, not too much fizz — you might be tempted to fill a growler with the fantastic original brew, but you’ve got to save room for all the variations! There’s an extra-strong-ginger version that’s as opaque as a pastis-and-water, plus a handful of changing seasonal flavors like melon-mint, blood orange, and hibiscus. At the new storefront near Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I hear you can even it get it spiked with vodka.
Dana: Parmesan Bread Pudding (Bon Appetit, April 2013) Confession: until this month, I had never had bread pudding. I had visions of decadent bread and syrupy sweetness weighted down with gross, soggy egginess. I was scared. An abundance of egg can ruin any dish for me. But I was flipping through an issue of Bon Appetit and I was drawn to the photo of Parmesan Bread Pudding. When I saw it was only 250 calories per serving, I was all, Game on. (I’m at a point in my life where a low calorie count per serving will make me say things like, “Game on.”) I substituted Rainbow Chard for the broccoli rabe called for in the recipe, and the result was a salty, hearty, flavorful casserole of bread, cheese, and yes, egg. But I’m converted. Never again will I fear the egg in bread pudding. And on that note, I need to dig out those decadent, syrupy recipes I had feared for so long. Because, you know, game on.
Kristen: Burrata and Prosciutto from Chazz- A Bronx Original. I apologize for the photo of the half eaten appetizer above, but quite honestly it was too good to worry about taking a picture before scarfing it down. The prosciutto was sweet, salty and buttery. The burrata was soft enough to dip the bread into. And the bread was crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Mixing all three together was pretty much the best thing I’ve ever had in a restaurant. I foresee many trips into the city in my future, as well as an ever expanding waistline…
Colleen Shea: Chipotle Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, from The Post Punk Kitchen.
While I’ve had this dish before, it seemed even more delicious than usual the night before my husband did his first triathlon. As I am a dutiful and supportive wife, I made sure he didn’t feel isolated in his extreme carb-loading regimen before the race; I have eaten more toast, pasta, and sushi in the past week than two normal people would in a month and it’s all been delish. This mac and cheese seems to have lent him some race-day magic, anyway: he finished 20 minutes earlier than anticipated! Warning: unless your super-power is to not cry and gibber when eating super-spicy foods, try using 2 chipotles instead of 4 in the sauce the first time you make it.
Jodi: Squash Casserole. Okay, if you’re like me the words squash and casserole kind of make your stomach feel a little queasy. Maybe it’s just the word squash. . . I don’t know. What I do know is that thanks to my CSA I have about a dozen squashes stacked up in the fridge (and that doesn’t count the ones my sister gets for her half of the share, and the ones I foist upon other friends). What do you do with a bajillion squashes?
I made this casserole (and Minnesotans, I do believe it is a casserole as opposed to hotdish, which in my mind requires some sort of Cream of Soup) and holy buckets was it delicious. Of course, I’m not entirely sure a recipe that includes butter, cheddar cheese, and an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers can be bad. If you have squash falling out of your refrigerator every time you open the door, give this one a whirl. It’s super easy to make and you probably have the ingredients already.
Shannon: “Old Fashioned” Sundae from Vessel Seattle Confession: I’m not much of a dessert girl. Salty and savory are more my vibe. But then it was my birthday, and you can’t really put a candle in a piece of fried chicken, can you? And you can’t have a birthday without some form of dessert, right?
Solution: Turn a cocktail into a dessert. No, I don’t mean having a cockail as your dessert – which I do frequently, of course. I mean a more more molecular, existential transformation. Luckily, we were celebrating my birthyday at Vessel in Seattle, a pretty dang fantastic cocktail bar, and they had a plan. An “old fashioned” sundae.
You all know the old fashioned cocktail. Whiskey (or any spirit, for that matter, if you want to be technical about the original definition), sugar, bitters, citrus, and sometimes cherries. Here’s what that looks like as a dessert: Angostura bitters ice cream, whiskey caramel sauce, candied orange, and brandied cherries. And I declare – I just might be a dessert eater, now.
Cate: Uni with salmon roe and lemon-rosemary foam from Bouley (NYC)
[Sadly, no pic, as I was by this point so enamored with the magical food that kept appearing that I ate it without snapping a photo for posterity. #sorrynotsorry]
Easily the most extraordinary thing I’ve eaten this month. You know how sometimes you go to a fancy restaurant and it actually meets and even exceeds all your expectations? Yeah. This dish did it for me (and it was only the fourth amuse course!). I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of uni, salmon roe, or foams, but this dish was executed Perfectly (with a capital P). It could not have been more well-balanced, more fresh, or more delicious. The flavors and textures were subtle and delicate, and melded together beautifully. It was surprising, even astounding, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Tasha: Harvard Cocktail. Fall is fast approaching, which means that I’m currently all about the brandy cocktails. Mmm, brandy. Naturally, there will be sidecars; but a girl cannot live on sidecars alone, and the harvard cocktail is my current favorite alternative. Named after the Harvard Club (in NYC, not Cambridge), this cocktail is totally swank and delicious. If combining a sidecar with a manhattan sounds at all appealing to you, you should try it. In a shaker combine 3-4 ice cubes, plus 1 1/2 oz Cognac or brandy, 3/4 oz sweet vermouth, 1/4 oz lemon juice, 1 teaspoon grenadine, and 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters. Shake, strain, and Mad Men that puppy out. (Recipe ℅ Bitters: A Spirited History by Brad Thomas Parsons)
S. Zainab: Neptune Burger from Neptune Oyster
One could argue that the Neptune Burger at Neptune Oyster was made extra delicious by dinner conversation about punctuation pastries and interrobangs, but a burger topped with fried oysters doesn’t require foodie grammar nerd talk for optimum enjoyment. Ordering a cheeseburger at a restaurant known for its seafood may seem blasphemous, fried oyster or no, but it did follow a giant platter of raw oysters and Neptunes on Piggyback (more fried oysters with Berkshire pig, golden raisin confiture, and pistachio aioli). Order this burger rare. Please. You won’t be sorry. The juiciness of the rare burger paired with the briny crunch of fried oyster was mouthfeel bliss. The well-seasoned, cheddar-melty beef made my palate weak at the knees. Even the bun was perfect. Toasty yet soft, with cute grill marks on top. This burger is massive (P.S. I ate the whole thing). The accompanying fries were fresh and tasty, but they could only ever be a shadow beneath the monolith of sandwiched surf and turf hogging up the plate. Neptune Oyster and its delectable burger are located in Boston’s North End, about 3,000 miles from my city of residence. And thank goodness because otherwise I’d be poor and about 50 pounds heavier.
Randall G.Hauk – alaskan halibut as served at Etta’s (a Tom Douglas restaurant)
Do you watch Top Chef?
Do you wonder, when the judges complement a cheftestant’s execution by saying, “you cooked the fish perfectly,” what that really means?
Rather, up until last Friday night I was a “Me, too.” Now I’m more of a “ah, like the ‘alaskan halibut’ at Etta’s!”
A simply seasoned and pan-fried slab of lovely, tender halibut is served atop a mound of Spanish fried rice studded with clams, shrimp, and small, crispy discs of chorizo, all accented with the magic of saffron. What vegetable you get in your fried rice depends on local seasonality, as displayed on a chalkboard behind the hostess stand, which should strike you as at least fair, if not completely sensible.
And, by all means, spare some room for the ‘triple coconut cream pie.’ It’s so good, it’s silly.
But the halibut. Fly to Seattle for the halibut. Not kidding.
Jill Guccini: Chilaquiles from Xico, Portland, Oregon. While there are new and hip restaurants popping up seemingly every day in Portland, Division Street in particular has been transformed over the last couple of years into a hip restaurant mecca, probably spawned by the astronomical success of Pok Pok. Anyway, all this newness and hipness is a little overwhelming for me, maybe enhanced by the fact that all the sparkling condos they’re building over all of the said hip restaurants leaves me feeling a little jaded. But some friends inviting us to brunch at Xico, near 39th and Division, ended up being one of the best mornings of our month. Because look at these chilaquiles! Holy crap, they are beautiful! And they tasted beautiful! Thinking of the chips on the bottom that really soaked up all the delicious salsas is making me salivate all over again. Add on top of this their ridiculously tasty and refreshing cantaloupe drink that only cost $2, and their coffee which they advertise as “the best coffee in the whole world!,” which is quite the statement but might be at least close to the truth. And while the restaurant itself was indeed quite hip looking, it still felt comfortable and unpretentious. All the employees were totally welcoming, and also really friendly about allowing our dogs on their lovely back patio. All in all, the best restaurant experience I’ve had in a long time. I’d love to go back and taste some of their other brunch options, but I’d most likely have a hard time saying no to the memory of these chilaquiles, and shovel in that perfect combination of eggs and chorizo and crema and queso and salsa soaked fresh chips once again.
Amanda Feifer: My Dad’s Amazing Submarine Sandwiches. While normally the best things I eat are ferments, this month I was visiting my parents. I love them and they’re the best, but let’s just say most of the foods I find delicious, they find unappetizing and pretty much vice versa. There are notable exceptions to this; the few foods on which we can agree. Number one on that list is my dad’s family-famous sub. Decades ago, as a teen, he worked in one of the best sub shops in Detroit, and he definitely never lost the knack. Assorted cheeses and meats, banana peppers, garden tomatoes, secret seasonings, and of course, love are all added to a soft sub (or hoagie) roll, and each sandwich is made to order. No onions for my sis, 4 kinds of cheese for me, extra tomatoes for my mom. My California-born husband gets avocados on his. The customization and the love make these the best sandwiches in the known world.
Rachel Manwill: Trout BLT from Lincoln Restaurant in Washington, DC Restaurant Week lunches are one of those rare pleasures I take from working in the heart of tourist country in downtown DC. But the offerings can be hit or miss, and I’ve had my share of disappointing meals from spots I’ve otherwise loved. In DC, Restaurant Week prices are $20.13 for lunch, $30.13 for dinner. It can be good deal, but if the meal doesn’t live up? It’s a waste. Not so at Lincoln, which typically features seasonal American small plates. They offered three courses, and I started with an amazing chilled tomato gazpacho and finished with a Plum & Coco Sundae. But in between was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever grasped with two hands. The Trout BLT came between slices of crusty toasted french bread, with red leaf lettuce, pickled red onions, crispy green tomatoes, and peach tarragon aioli. Which I promptly dribbled all over the front of my shirt and the table. (A sign of a stellar sandwich if you ask me). The fish was flakey and flavorful, not overpowered by the saltiness of the bacon, which was crispy but not overdone. I could have removed the fried green tomatoes and eaten them all by themselves. It came with a side of coleslaw that I – hater of coleslaw – devoured and a bucket of the ultimate house-made potato chips. Thank goodness this appears on the Lincoln’s regular menu, because I’ll definitely be back for more.
Sorry all. No exciting eating adventures over here. My favorite meal this month was–easily–the one served bedside, on my birthday, because I have an awesome hubby. French toast with homemade blackberry and peach jam and syrup. Peaches, plums, and blueberries. Greek yogurt with a drizzle of agave nectar. AND a polka dot napkin. Obviously I am spoiled.
Even better, when breakfast was done, I rolled right over and jumped back into a book. #BestDayEver
Robin Posey: When my dog and I venture to the Pike Place Market this time of year, we usually come away with something delicious and this time was no different. The Stone Fruits are here! The Stone Fruits are here! The eastern Washington harvest is rolling into Seattle daily, and even though a hard, late frost damaged much of the peach crop, the long, dry summer has made for some of the sweetest stone fruits I’ve ever had.
The mark was set pretty high, years ago, when my friend Guy and I drove to the Delaware coast and stopped for peaches and corn at a stand along the way. I ate one of the peaches as we drove, and wow. That peach, well, that peach was like something from a Kim Bassinger movie. It was 1996, after all. This year’s crop is dangerously close to being that delicious.
On our last trip to the Market, peaches were on their way out, but nectarines had just hit. I bought a few pounds of the Red Gate variety and the youngster manning the stand was good enough to wash and quarter one of the plump red and gold fruits. The dog and I went to a bench in the shade and I gobbled, slurped, and slobbered up a fruit as sweet and as close to ripened sunshine as we can get up here in the Pac NW – I swear, this nectarine was the mango of the Cascades, the papaya of the Puget Sound, the passionfruit of Pike Street….you get the idea. That nectarine was all about the nectar.
Walking home with my paper bag full of fruit, I thought about what a great summer we’ve had up here. Everything is delicious, sweet, sunkissed. A week’s worth of stone fruits for my cereal, salads, and snacks is really an embarrassment of riches. Maybe I’ll share. Maybe.
Amanda- Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup. My freezer was packed with homemade stock and my pantry with the ends of a few boxes of orzo. I searched for a recipe to use up both of these, and this one seemed serviceable. I made a few changes- mostly omitting the sherry and adding lemon zest, and it resulted in a yummy and light soup that’s perfect for using up veggies in your fridge. I’ll be saving this one for further use when the weather gets cold.
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