The Best and Worst of 2012

Each year, we look back at our adventures and independently select our Best and Worst experiences. Thankfully, 2012 gave us much about which to be happy, though a few bad apples threatened to ruin this year’s crop. Keep in mind, your mileage may vary; if you have dissenting views, please feel free to drop us a comment. We’re considering “redemption” visits to venues that might be worthy of further consideration, and we’d love to hear your positive take on places we’ve previously found lacking. But, for now, on with the show!

He Fed:
A “best” selection must excel at food, drink, and overall experience. They are places I want to visit again and again, experiences that aren’t necessarily perfect but memorable and worth repeating. Searsucker exudes a cool, laid-back vibe but primarily entices with original menu selections that forced us to return for both breakfast and dinner. Baker & Banker in San Francisco, CA gave me the best braised octopus I’ve ever had. Our adventure at Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA wasted a day of our vacation in the most memorable way imaginable, with great brews and fantastic food. Ultimately, however, Cal Pep in Barcelona, Spain turned out to be the most amazing experience, where we tried innumerable local dishes, rubbing elbows with strangers, and even making friends with a few.
She Fed:
2012 provided us with plenty of travels and gastronomic adventures. Cal Pep in Barcelona was an absolute showstopper with unbeatable service and innovative food.; the generous cava pours certainly didn’t hurt. We had such a great breakfast at Searsucker in San Diego that we opted to go back for dinner the same night. Dinner at Kefi in Manhattan was downright magical with the most delicious meatballs I’ve ever had. But my top vote goes to Trillium Haven due to spectacular food and an extreme adherence to sustainability. They’re taking farm to fork to the next level, utilizing local and regional products exclusively. You’re not getting a Diet Coke here; Trillium Haven refuses to carry a national name brand product not manufactured locally. In these economic times, that’s a brave move.

He Fed:
I feel bad selecting a worst experience because we always go into any adventure with high hopes, but when those hopes are dashed, it makes this list. Cranker’s Brewery gave us defrosted deep fried snacks and uneven service, not to mention ho-hum beer. Shockingly, Le Bernardin in Manhattan turned out to be an uncomfortable dining experience with good but not great seafood dishes, along with a couple clunkers that, when coupled with the extravagant bill, left a bad taste in my mouth that lingered. Likewise, despite my overall appreciation of Graydon’s Crossing, their Stone Brewing dinner did a disservice to the great beer and dissatisfied everyone in our dining party with lukewarm dishes and less-than-spectacular execution. On the bottom of the heap, though, is Licari’s. Seldom have we endured a more uncomfortable restaurant visit and lackluster food. We should have heeded the hostess’ invitation to try back another time, rather than choke down dry pizza and dodge bussing tubs.
She Fed:
The lack of attention to detail, overcooked bone-riddled salmon, and ho-hum service made Leo’s a disappointment. Because it’s always ranked highly, I’m hoping we caught them on an off night. However, we had out of town guests we wanted to impress and Leo’s fell short on most counts. Likewise, Licari’s overly dry pizza, ill-mannered hostess, and completely unprepared staff (both front and back of house) made for an unfortunate evening. Pre-fab burger patties and frozen french fries, both improperly cooked, paired with uneven service at Bobarino’s pushed them to the forefront. But in looking back at 2012, the multi-course Stone Brewing beer pairing dinner at Graydon’s Crossing tops my list . While the beers were incredible, Graydon’s turned out ice cold food, empty mussel shells, and tough chewy meat. In addition, instead of creating an innovative menu to highlight the nuances of the food, Graydon’s chef chose to simply cook the food in the beer it was to be paired with or used the beer as an ingredient. Not very imaginative.

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