Top 10: The Memorable Eats Of 2009


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You know it’s been a good year when you are able to say this: 2009 was when I began to eat for a living.

I’d always been a devotee of affairs of the stomach. I may have written about fashion and other lifestyle areas for a living but baking, braising, trying new recipes, eating out — those were what consumed me when weekends rolled around. 

Luck has its ways of finding you, however. Now, on the precipice of 2010, I’m beginning to close out a lunar calendar year of cooking and eating with my family in Singapore as research for my book, “A Tiger In The Kitchen.” 

My journey so far has taken me many places — France, where I had the loveliest gingery champagne cocktail with friends old and dear; China, where my father and I went in search of my great-grandfather’s footprints in the village of his birth. And, of course, Singapore, where my aunties and maternal grandmother have been plying me with meals, recipes and much, much love along the way.

With all that I’ve packed into 2009, it’s hard to decide what the highlights have been. But, inspired by some stellar Top 10 gastronomic lists out there (definitely check out Sam Sifton’s list of Top 11 dishes in New York in the New York Times), I decided to give it a go.

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 memorable eats of 2009. 

Enjoy, buon appetito and listen, let’s do this again in 2010 …

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Panettone: The Seven-Day Bread


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If you are among the people who believe that nothing says “The Holidays” like a festive loaf of panettone, let me just say this: You are mad.

This bread, it is evil.

It will drive you insane, make you tear your hair out. You may find yourself repeatedly staring intently at an unrising bowl of taupe glop, thinking, “Just, why, God, WHY?”

I mean this for the folks out there attempting to bake it, that is. (If you’re the sort who buys panettone in a store then, sure, go for it. I’m sure that’s pretty harmless.)

The problem I had here was holiday spirit.

Recently, I found myself so infused with the stuff that I decided to tackle panettone for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge

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The 12-Hour Bolognese


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I used to think Martha Stewart was high maintenance — but that was before I encountered Heston Blumenthal.

Yes, the man — chef/owner of the three Michelin-star Fat Duck in Bray, U.K. — is a molecular gastronomy genius responsible for tongue-boggling dishes like powdered anjou pigeon and scrambled egg and bacon ice-cream.  

But let’s take something like, say, bolognese, one of the most basic dishes in classic Italian cooking. It should be fairly easy to make … well, except that this is Blumenthal we’re talking about.

His bolognese recipe includes this instruction: “Cook for at least six hours.” And this would be taking place after a good two hours or so of cooking and prep work.

By the time my Blumenthal bolognese was done, it was 4:30 a.m. and the ragu had taken a total of 12 hours to make. I was mad at my oven, my bolognese — while also plotting a trip to Bray to give Blumenthal a piece of my mind.

But then I had my first spoonful of the ragu, a rich and muscular concoction that was beefy and hefty but also so, so, so sweet. Each morsel had just the slightest hint of licorice and the beef was so tender that I wondered if it was possible that I was actually feeling it melt on my tongue.

It was, in short, a joy to eat.

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East Side Social Club: Not Quite Monkey Bar Lite


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“Let’s meet here,” I had said, noting an Eater.com post that called the new East Side Social Club “a sleek sexy spot for the Monkey Bar rejects.”

My “been everywhere” friend Bob’s immediate response? “I never get rejected at the Monkey Bar.”

Good point.

Even so, East Side Social Club held some intrigue. Opened by Billy Gilroy (owner of Macao and Employees Only), with celebrity photographer Patrick McMullen as an investor and Devon Gilroy, who’s clocked time at Chanterelle and A Voce, helming the kitchen, the restaurant had generated plenty of buzz well before its doors officially opened last week.

The menu was designed to be Italian, with some modern American dishes with a locavore bent tossed in. And the cocktails, given Papa Gilroy’s other establishments, promised to be interesting.

We had no big complaints about either, really — the price and the ambience, however, were another matter altogether.

If you’re expecting anything like the fashionable, genteel comfort of modern supper clubs like Graydon Carter’s Monkey Bar, you’re going to be a little disappointed.

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Terzo Piano: Where Chicago Is The Art


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Terzo Piano is a restaurant that literally makes your heart skip a beat the moment you walk in.

With its high ceilings, crisp, white furniture, spare decor
and wall of glass windows providing a sweeping view of Chicago old and
new, it’s the embodiment and reflection of the city’s stunning Mies van der Rohe-infused skyline.

On a clear day, when light is pouring in, sending angular shadows shooting across the pristine, gleaming furniture, the space is just breath-taking. This restaurant, which just opened in the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern wing in May, truly does the city justice.

All of this, of course, combines to set some incredibly high expectations for the food itself.

But that, it turns out, is another story.

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