2013 was a busy eating and traveling year for me. I did some serious caloric damage.
Among the happy wreckage, here are my 10 top picks, including dishes from area restaurants as well as products from locally-based companies that I wrote about in my “Food Find” column in Bethesda Magazine.
In no particular order:
Applewood bacon wrapped trio at The Grilled Oyster Company: A great starter from the delightful restaurant that won Bethesda Magazine readers’ 2013 Best New Restaurant award. An oyster, shrimp and scallop are each wrapped in a crisp bacon jacket and accessorized with a bed of Asian-influenced slaw.
Bread pudding at Fish Taco: Great desserts sometimes show up in unexpected places—in this case, Cabin John’s new fast casual fish taco joint. The warm, buttery brioche draped in salted caramel sauce and studded with raisins and pecan pralines should be on everyone’s last meal list.
Smoked burger at Bold Bite: Similarly, great burgers sometimes show up in surprising places—like at Bethesda’s haute hot dog shop. Ground chuck and a bit of brisket are first smoked over hickory sawdust in a portable smoker, and then cooked on a flat-top grill. For $4.99, the price of the basic combo (lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup, mustard), it’s the best burger bargain around.
Key lime pie at Woodmont Grill: Not too sweet, with just the right amount of tartness, this winner has a rich, custardy filling shot with fresh lime juice and lime zest. What makes it even a bigger wow is the thick pecan graham cracker crust. Only problem: the pie isn’t on the winter menu.
Fried Brussels sprouts at Range: These crisp-leafed crucifiers are showing up on lots of menus around town, but nobody does them better than Range. More distinctive dishes can obviously be had there, but I’ve always accompanied them with a bowl of Brussels sprouts.
Manoli Canoli Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Hands down, this is the most fragrant and dip-friendly olive oil I’ve had recently (not including the three-day-old olive oil I had in Italy this October, but that’s for another story). I’m now buying it by the three-liter can at Manoli Canoli restaurant at 8540 Connecticut Avenue; owner Stavros Manolakos imports it from Sparta, Greece, from his family’s olive oil company.
Roast chicken at Bistro Provence: Moist, memorable and comforting. Who knew roast chicken could be so special?
Pork dumplings at A&J Restaurant: These pencil-sized pot stickers are just one of the dishes at this venerable Rockville restaurant that make you want to eat dim sum every day. Not too greasy and bursting with flavor-packed ground pork, they’re addictive.
Grilled octopus at Wildwood Kitchen: Grilled and served with a lively piperade, this trendy sea creature is transformed into a tender, must-have appetizer.
CurvyMama Pies: Bethesda journalist Catherine Gewertz took on an additional career as an online-order pie baker, and we’re glad she did. The cherry, French silk and banana cream are amazing, and that’s just for starters.
What were the best things you ate in the Bethesda area in 2013? Shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com. In the meantime, Happy New Year and Happy Eating in 2014!