2011 Gastrobits Awards

>> Monday, January 2, 2012

As 2011 is now over, it seems only natural to have some sort of concluding post to round out the year. While some other bloggers have done some form of 2011, I decided to go ahead and do the "geeky" thing and give a bunch of different awards.

Kitchen 1540 - Seared Foie on Volcanic Stone
Before I get to the awards, I'll go ahead and give a preview of what is in store in 2012. For most of the past year, I've only done one post per week. Starting sometime (soon) in the next year, I'd like to start updating twice a week. While I would love nothing more than to give the same detailed review coverage twice a week, it's probably unlikely that I will be able to. To that end, I've come up with two new "types" of blog posts:
  1. The Flash: The Flash will be a smaller review. Sometimes I go to a restaurant by myself and I only order a few things. I mean to go back and visit and order more things, but I don't get around to it. Rather than sitting on these reviews, I'm going to start giving some coverage of these places. Restaurants featured in The Flash will not be eligible for awards until they have been flashed at least 3 times.
  2. Interrupt: Besides the initial posts on China, I've largely kept my coverage San Diego based to this point. The interrupt will feature coverage of restaurants outside of San Diego (primarily in Orange County and LA). Some interrupts will be longer and feature full tasting menu reviews while others will be more like a flash. Restaurants featured as an Interrupt are eligible for awards.
In the new two-update per week format, my tentative plan is to have one post be the same full-length review that I have been posting up to this point, and the other post be either a flash or interrupt.

The Awards:
Now that the business is out of the way, let's go ahead and get to the awards. Some of the content you will see will likely be things that you haven't seen in a post up to this point, and may be featured in a post in the near future. Being geeky means that I'm going to have to have a ridiculous amount of awards, so here are the award categories: Note - Items featured in one category are not eligible in another category
  • Best Protein Encased by Carbohydrates - This award is meant to encompass any form of sandwich, taco, burger, or other meaty filling surrounded by some sort of carb.
  • Best Savory Baked Carbohydrate with Toppings - This award is meant to name the best pizza, flatbread, or similar concept food item.
  • Best Ethnic Indian Dish
  • Best Ethnic East Asian Dish 
  • Best Ethnic European Dish
  • Best Ethnic Latin Dish
  • Best American Dish
  • Best Dessert
  • Best Food Truck
  • Best Random Unexpected Item
  • Best Overall Raw Dish
  • Best Overall Cooked Dish
  • Best Progressive Meal
  • Best Overall Dish
Best Protein Encased by Carbohydrates
Blanca - Lamb Burger
The lamb burger from Blanca was the winner for me in this category. The lamb was a grass fed, happy pastured free range lamb from Bakersfield, and was cooked medium rare and juicy. The bun was baked in house, lightly buttered, toasted, and the correct bread to meat ratio. The cheese was a truffled pecorino that added a large amount of flavor to the dish. While this burger was originally going to be showcased in the fine dining burger shootout, I never did manage to go to enough fine dining restaurants and just order a burger. Also, I figured it wouldn't be fair to feature this burger in that category any longer as Blanca is long closed...

Devilicious - Soft Shell Crab Club
The Soft-shell crab club at Devilicious features a soft shell crab with bacon wrapped in a cheesy sourdough sandwich. What really makes this dish for me was that the soft shell crab is of high quality and fried just right so that the flavor of the roe in the crab is still retained.

Best Savory Baked Carbohydrate with Toppings
Pizzeria Mozza - Fennel Sausage Pizza
The fennel sausage with the leeks and fennel pollen really brought out all the flavors in this dish. Combined with the legendary Mozza pizza crust and this pizza was easily ran away with the victory.

Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano - Brunoverde
While Pizzeria Mozza had an excellent pizza, the Brunoverde still holds the top spot for me of San Diego pizzas. The Brunoverde has the exact correct balance of richness and pepperiness, and was a white pizza on top of it.

Best Ethnic Indian Dish:
Surati Farsan - Dahi Puri
The Dahi Puri contained exceptional balance of flavors, and really surprised me that I could find a dish of that caliber in a (relatively) small mom and pop place. The key to this dish for me was the tamarind date mint water.

Best Ethnic East Asian Dish:
Da Dong - Peking Duck
The Peking Duck in Beijing was exceptional. The way the skin was fried along with how well the rest of the duck was cooked to maintain flavor and moisture was a real surprise for me. I also enjoyed how Da Dong had three different methods for eating the duck.

Ikko - Black Truffle Uni Chawanmushi
The flavor of the uni permeated into the entire Chawanmushi. Above the top layer, there was a layer of black truffles that added an amazing richness to the entire dish.

Best Ethnic European Dish:
Cavaillon - Black Truffle and Scallop Veloute
While I was underwhelmed by some of the other dishes at Cavaillon, this dish left me completely satisfied. The richness and purity of flavor in the veloute was extremely impressive to me. Alone, the veloute was already amazing, but coupled with some raw slices of scallop and black truffle, and this dish was elevated to a higher level.

Blanca - Charcuterie Selection
I was ready to award this for just the Ciccoli, but then I remembered there was a charcuterie that contained duck mousse, lamb speck, and even a chicharrone. This plate was almost too much to hope for and contained an amazingly fine selection of high quality charcuterie.

Best Ethnic Latin Dish:
Super Cocina - Birria Soup
The goat soup at Super Cocina contained a healthy dose of that low and slow gelatinous broth as well as some very tender goat meat. The combination of spices in the soup was a great flavor combination and contained just the right level of spice to compliment the goat.

La Playita - Super Crazy Tostada
This ceviche from La Playita contained all of the various seafoods available at the restaurant - fish, octopus, scallop, shrimp. While it was a huge portion, it had an amazing combination of flavors and was well-prepared.

Best American Dish:
Whisknladle - Maine Diver Scallops
The Maine Diver Scallops were loaded with flavor and cooked perfectly. The capelin roe that topped each scallop was a truly amazing touch as the saltiness of the roe added a nice taste of the sea and contrasting textural element to the dish

Blanca - Sous-vide Brisket
The sous-vide Brisket dish at Blanca was one of my favorite dishes of the year. One of the best ways to sum up the dish was a comment I heard about the dish from another diner - "Wow, is this what beef is supposed to taste like?" The preparation of the dish really highlighted the grass-fed flavor of the beef along with a great meat to fat to chewiness ratio.

Best Dessert:
Nine-Ten - Strauss Yogurt Panna Cotta
The Strauss Yogurt Panna Cotta contained the best overall composed dessert. The panna cotta had the correct texture and the additional elements on the plate added a balance of sweet, sour, and crunch to round out the dish.

Blanca - Goat Cheese Semifreddo
What set this dessert apart from the rest of the field was the inclusion of the fizzy melons with the dessert. This allowed the dessert to act as a palate cleanser along with being a great dessert in its own right. However, the fact that it was also a palate cleanser is what kept it from being just the best overall dessert.

Best Food Truck:
As the only food truck to get a dish into another category, it comes as no surprise the Devilicious was my favorite food truck of the year. The only real question to me is if any other truck can knock them off the pedestal in 2012...

Best Random Unexpected Item:
Rancho Valencia - Ramp Butter (top)
Not only was the ramp butter delicious, fellow blogger Gourmand's Review and I still talk about it in hushed reverent whispers. It's a shame that I didn't get a good photo of the butter in the foreground.

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine - English Pea Veloute
While the veloute wasn't a real surprise, the syringes that it came served in was a big surprise, and it was a lot of fun to eat. To add to the surprise factor, the coating of espresso at the nozzle added a great touch of flavor and really elevated the dish.

Best Overall Raw Dish:
Blanca - Still Life of Local Waters
The Still Life is one of Chef Gavin Schmidt's signature dishes, and it is well deserved. The still life has a great deal of umami from the dashi covering that completely complements the high quality seafood items encased. The smoked avocado puree adds the great smoky depth of flavor which is contrasted from the sweetness of   the apples.

Best Overall Cooked Dish:
TBL3 @ Georges - Onion
The Onion at George's was a huge surprise to me. Each layer of the onion peeled and contained a slice of black truffle, and the entire dish was cooked in a precise technical manner. The dish really captured the essence of the truffle. The comte provided a great contrast in saltiness and milky flavor. Another truly wonderful element of the dish was the aroma, which was entirely of the truffle.

Best Overall Progressive Menu:
Blanca - Last Supper
With the way the awards were stacking up, it should come as no surprise that Blanca earns top honors. On attending the final meal at Blanca, I was treated to a his/her menu containing one of every item off the menu at Blanca. In terms of breadth, this menu was extremely impressive. However, what was more impressive was simply that every dish was extremely well executed and tasted amazing.

Best Overall Dish:
Blanca - Dumpling
To find the best overall dish of 2011, you have to go all the way back to the first tasting menu I had of the year. The pork dumpling with foie gras and black truffle was easily the best and most memorable dish of the year for me. The dumpling was brought out in small cups with lids that when lifted completely enveloped the room in the wonderful truffle aroma. To top off the richness, the inclusion of foie gras threw this dish over the top. The dumpling itself was well constructed and the dumpling skin was hand rolled of the exact correct thickness.

With the start of the blog in 2011, I truly had my best eating year of my life. I met many wonderful people and had many great experiences. It will be tough to top the year, but I'm excited to try and make 2012 even better than 2011! I hope you loyal readers have enjoyed the ride so far in the year and will continue to follow me in the future. The comments I get about my blog from the readers is what inspires me to continue. Please don't hesitate to add some feedback now and again to keep me going. :)


Robert January 4, 2012 at 12:47 AM  

Glad to know that you like 'Dahi Puri', I tried that in India but not really into that. But it is the most popular street food or "小吃" in India.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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