If one can judge a year by what one ate, then 2010 was a banner year for my gullet. Hot dogs and pot du creme, tortas, soon doo boo and meatloaf sandwiches. And burgers. So many delicious burgers. Here are the 20 tastiest things I ate this year. Want to share your list? Just comment below.
The Asado burger with yucca fries
Where: Asado, 2810 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-7770, asadotacoma.com
The burger started with a patty made of ground chorizo (a smoky Spanish pork sausage) and seasoned chuck. Smoked onions and bell peppers added a hefty flavor layer. Pan-fried provolone cheese was a brilliant textural touch when paired with crispy fried Serrano ham. A brioche bun from Macrina Bakery came glazed with a smoky poblano aioli. You won’t find creamier fries around town than the yucca fries, which are thick-sliced fries made from yucca root, deep fried and tossed with truffle oil and finished with sel gris, then arranged into a fun little Jenga stack on the plate.
Sauerbraten and potato dumplings
Where: Bruno’s European Cafe, 11725 Pacific Highway S.W., Lakewood, 253-719-7181
Sauerbraten is offered only on Saturdays because it takes five days to prepare. Prime beef started with a marinade of bay leaves and fresh herb is slow-simmered in a pot until fork tender. Gravy is the final step, made from beefy pan drippings and enriched with cream. Accompanying dumplings with mushroom gravy were ethereal puffs of potato and flour that tasted deliciously squishy.
Where: Shorty’s Grub House, 34417 Pacific Highway S., Federal Way, 253-345-9100
House-smoked meatloaf came crispy around the grilled edges and studded with garlic and onions. Topped with a splash of house-made Grubbin’ Sauce (barbecue with a sweet twist), the slab of meatloaf was stuffed into a chewy ciabatta-style roll with sweet caramelized onions.
Thai peach soup
Where: Brix 25, 7707 Pioneer Way, Gig Harbor, 253-858-6626 or harborbrix.com
A warm, puckery, pureed peach soup that chef/owner Thad Lyman calls a twist on Thai-style sweet and sour was poured tableside, spilling gorgeously over a tangle of chopped raw ahi and a relish of diced, salted cucumbers threaded with mint. The flavors were fresh, summery, vivid.
Where: Primo Grill, 601 S. Pine St., Tacoma, 253-383-7000, primogrilltacoma.com
It’s thanks to the wood oven that the pizza crust at Primo is ethereal, thin and crispy, with just the right amount of chewy resistance. The pizzas come heat-licked with slightly charred edges. The house-cured pancetta and seared radicchio pizza yielded a sweet-bitter flavor combination with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Toppings didn’t burden the crust. The prosciutto pizza got a sweet edge from a light smear of fig jam. Pockets of creamy goat cheese added sharp bite.
Where: Pacific Grill, 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-3535, pacificgrilltacoma.com
I was floored by the curry broth of the spicy ramen. It’s far more of a bright Thai-style curry than a mild Japanese curry. The broth is creamy yellow and punctuated with a back-of-the-throat note of chili heat and the bright flavor of kaffir lime leaves, a staple in Thai curry, tempered by creamy coconut milk.
Flash fried calamari
Where: Chambers Bay Grill, 6320 Grandview Drive W., University Place, 253-460-4653, ext. 112, www.
Flash-fried calamari and artichoke hearts were made lightly crunchy with a pepper-flecked coating. An unusual twist appeared in the form of fried orange chips – thinly sliced rounds of orange, peel, pith and all – that blew away my palate with the assertive blast of citrus, but without the usual bitterness that pith can bring. The kitchen secret? They soak the orange slices in buttermilk before frying.
Carnitas torta sandwich
Where: Taqueria La Fondita, gravel lot at South 38th and South G streets, 253-472-2577
The carnitas torta came on a fluffy roll with surprisingly sturdy texture. The sandwich roll was smeared with mayo and loaded with thick-cut tomato slices, a few shards of onions, pickled jalapenos, sprigs of fresh cilantro, shredded iceberg lettuce, meaty slices of not-too-ripe avocado, and a juicy layer of crispy fried carnitas punctuated with lime and fragrant with garlic and chiles. The sandwich was a flavor bomb, as well as a three-napkin adventure.
Pot du creme
Where: Rosewood Cafe, 3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma, 253-752-7999, rosewoodcafe.com
The ingredients of the pot du creme at Rosewood are straightforward and simple but wonderfully executed: Dark chocolate, heavy cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla transformed into a luscious cup of chocolate custard. It’s slow-cooked in a water bath, turning it into a pot of ethereal cream, with a smooth texture and rich chocolate flavor.
Soon doo boo
Where: Cho Dang Tofu, 9601 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253-682-1968
At Cho Dang Tofu, the Korean soup soon doo boo is served in a sizzling cast-iron pot filled to nearly overflowing with chili-spiked broth thick with silky clouds of velvety tofu and whatever meat you desire: beef, pork, mixed seafood, bacon, oyster, ham and the list goes on. Cabbage, onions and scallions add crunch to the deeply orange-hued broth.
Where: Cliff House, 6300 Marine View Drive, Tacoma, 253-927-0400, http://cliffhouserestaurant.com
Lobster cakes were sublime discs packed with meaty lobster bits, and paired with a swipe of punchy, spicy-sweet ginger wasabi aioli tempered with sweet pineapple chutney.
Fries and gravy
Where: Bite Restaurant in the Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253-238-8000 or www.hotelmuranotacoma.com
The Canadians call it poutine, but it’s called simply fries and gravy at the Bite: crispy fries covered in a rich wine sauce and Gorgonzola. At first bite, the Gorgonzola is a nice, rich tease before the heady, thick (but not too thick) gravy sauce made from demiglace, butter and zinfandel.
Where: Maxwell’s Restaurant + Lounge, 454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253-683-4115 or http://maxwells-
Farro, a chewy grain with a firm bite (it’s also spelled faro), offered a delicious nuttiness in the risotto side dish at Maxwell’s. It was made with house-made vegetable stock, then gussied up with sautéed onions and butter, then flavored with rosemary, parsley, chives, basil and sage. The creamy, rich risotto is finished with a decadent dose of goat cheese and Parmesan.
Where: Buttered Biscuit, 1014 North St., Suite 100, Sumner, 253-826-60911 or www.thebutteredbiscuit.net
The platter-sized chicken-fried steak was like an artifact dig: a foundation of two softball-sized split biscuits, topped with “Gramma eggs” (scrambled eggs with ham, sauteed peppers and onion), thinly sliced fried potatoes, a crispy, crunchy golden-fried chicken fried steak, a heavy pour of peppery gravy with chunks of sausage, and melted cheddar. Every layer tasted more perfect than the next.
Where: Green.house Restaurant, 4793 Point Fosdick Drive N.W., Gig Harbor, 253-514-6482 or www.greenhousegigharbor.com
Mahogany chicken blew away my palate with meat that was incredibly, deeply flavored. Chef/owner Robert Green’s trick to intense flavoring is a three-day marinade in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and port. Darkened skin yielded to succulent breast meat inside. Fruited wild rice accompanied the chicken.
Fried eggplant with tofu
Where: Le Le, 1012 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253-572-9491
Bite-size slices of Japanese eggplant are boiled before being coated in a crunchy flour batter flavored with soy and sesame. It’s served in a skillet with a stir-fried assortment of carrots, onions, mushrooms and red peppers and a spicy-sweet garlic-flavored honey sauce zipped up with red pepper flakes. The sweet sauce combined with the brittle crunchiness of the battered eggplant made me nickname the dish “eggplant candy.”
Italian beef sandwich
Where: Sully’s Alder Street Cafe/Lucky’s Hot Dog Diner, 909 Alder St., Sumner, 253-891-0586
The sandwich was a liberal pile of thinly sliced roast beef with an herby whiff of garlicky oregano on a crusty toasted roll. A beefy au jus accompaniment gave the option of do-it-yourself dipped or dry. Giardiniera, a vinegar-dosed relish of finely chopped peppers, onions and carrots, added sweet-hot pucker.
Mahi mahi and smoked pork tacos
Where: Masa, 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-254-0560 or masatacoma.com
Forget standing in the rain at your favorite taco bus: Tacos at Masa are the real deal. Grilled mahi mahi came wrapped in a warm tortilla and topped with lime-kissed cabbage. The smoked pork taco was a delicious, juicy mess that dripped a sweet grilled pineapple-cilantro topper.
Where: Corina Bakery, 510 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-5070, http://corinabakery.com/
Currants and caraway seeds are the secret flavor weapons in the creamy, moist soda bread (sold as special order at the bakery or served with Guinness stew at Doyle’s Public House). The cousin of anise, caraway added a delicious flavor with licorice-like notes in the buttermilk-based quick-bread batter. Soda is there, but it’s not the first note of flavor.
Mahi mahi tandoori
Where: Bombay Bistro, 4328 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-761-9999 or
The mahi mahi was an unusual tandoori find. Succulent chunks of firm, white fish were puckery with lemon and surprisingly flavored with ajwain, a cousin of caraway.