The Best and Worst of 2011

Every January, we look back at the previous year to remember the peaks and valleys of our culinary adventures together. Thankfully, last year was filled with mostly positive experiences. There were a few duds, to be sure, but overall we chose our eateries wisely. Not including our year-end trip to Spain (the reviews for which will be posted in 2012), here are our picks for Best and Worst of 2011...

"THE BEST"

He Fed:

Choosing the best was exceptionally difficult this year. I had a terrific breakfast of lighter-than-air Stuffed French Toast at Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s well-appointed The Lamb’s Club in Manhattan. An impromptu, fortuitous lunch of tapas with pig’s ear and succulent calamari at The Purple Pig in Chicago nearly blew my socks off. And our San Francisco session of Red Velvet Fried Chicken at American Cupcake, with good friend Harry, sent me home with visions of sugarplums still dancing in my head. My absolute favorite experience, however, was enjoying a leisurely (to put it mildly) lunch with Juliet at Mario Batali’s Birreria, perched high on the rooftop of Eataly in Manhattan. Perfect beer and food pairings that still haunt me, making my mouth water at the most inopportune moments. Can’t wait to go back!
She Fed:

Selecting my best dining experience from last year isn’t easy, but it is fun. From foie gras to veggie, no one makes burgers sexier or tastier than Flip in Atlanta. I enjoyed the best breakfast I’ve ever had at The Lamb’s Club in Manhattan. I assumed Birreria on the roof of Eataly would be an NYC tourist trap, but the beer, wine and food were fabulous. The memory of one meal actually makes me salivate a little, however. The Purple Pig is a pork-lover’s dream, with innovative fare featuring all parts of the pig (and other meats as well). The pork neck gravy and the pig’s ear were revelations for me. The conviviality of chatting with both tables on either side of us was very reminiscent of Europe. Our server was a sweetheart of a gal who managed to make us feel special despite a crushing crowd of patrons. I truly cannot wait to go back.

"THE WORST"

He Fed:

Since we had pretty decent experiences overall, it was really tough to single out a worst pick. In most cases, these restaurants did not fail completely; there were graces to be found, but perhaps not enough to save them from the chopping block. My lunch at Food Dance in Kalamazoo, Michigan was a tale of highs and lows, from fantastic grilled octopus to confused pasta (not to mention a confused server). Blue House Bistro in Holland, Michigan also gave us a less than satisfactory meal, along with a side order of attitude that left us perplexed. A bleary-eyed breakfast at Aspen Social Club in Manhattan served me the exact opposite of The Lamb’s Club: tepid coffee, limp omelette, and poor service. At the bottom of the heap, though, Grill One Eleven in Rockford, Michigan produced an awkward, uncomfortable experience with server misinformation, pasta that tasted like nothing, and a bill that just didn’t add up. With any luck, we'll manage to sidestep negative experiences like these in 2012.
She Fed:

Picking my worst dining experiences of 2011 has been incredibly difficult. Our dinner at Seattle’s Sazerac was rushed and graceless, our server so oblivious and uncaring, that heartburn and near panic were inevitable. The awkward service, skimpy breakfast menu and downright hideous coffee at Aspen Social Club was regrettable. The heavy-handed addition of well-past-its-prime spinach to macaroni and cheese at Grand Rapids’ own Cambridge House left a bad taste in our mouths...literally. But one restaurant disappointed on many levels. The promise of authentic Creole fare compelled us to drive 30+ miles for lunch. Unfortunately, Blue House Bistro in Holland turned out to be my worst dining experience of 2011. The service was horrid, our waitress impolite. The food was a jumble of several cuisines with minimal Creole flair. And when presented, the dishes were significantly different from how they were listed on the menu with certain items missing and components not prepared in the promised manner.

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