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My Top Ten Meals Of 2011

Anyone that knows me, knows I love to eat and I am very critical of most places.  I grew up eating things like moussaka or paella every couple of weeks.  It was more likely we'd have lamb burgers with tzastiki sauce than a regular hamburger.  I can count the times a year we had pizza for dinner on one hand.  Chinese every other Friday, maybe.  Sushi once a week.  When I was younger, I had escargot at least once a week. Then we moved to Westchester and the level of food dropped significantly when dining out, but it only enhanced dining in.  My mother would make things like duck, rabbit or squab.  Sure we had boring things like breaded cutlets, spaghetti and roasts, but those seemed like oddities.  We always ate well and it changed me. 

One thing that has always been instilled in me, regardless if I'm dining in a top notch restaurant or grabbing pub grub.  The care it's made with an the company you dine with makes all the difference.  I've eaten a perfectly cooked porterhouse with someone who complained about the service (which was perfect) so much it completely ruined the meal.  I've also eaten a meal with friends were nearly everything had to be taken back, but loved it, because in the end, it was done right and I enjoyed the extended time to enjoy myself.  Most times, service means absolutely nothing to me, as long as my food isn't brought to me cold.  To me it's the experience.  To be honest, 2011 was a pretty boring year for me as far as meals are concerned, but here are my top ten.

10. An Irish Breakfast from the Irish Coffee Shop after a night of boozing.  Black and white pudding with anything makes my day.  The company was also drunk and it was a funny night.  Thankfully I wasn't driving that night.  That meal takes the drunk away...fast!

9.  My bacon bleu cheese burger at Piper's Kilt.  There is no burger better.  You can argue til you're blue in the face. I have this maybe once a week now.  I alternate with the nearly as good Eastchester burger, but usually stick with this.  Honestly, doesn't matter who I'm with.

8. Chorizo Burrito from Burrito Poblano.  I love their chili relleno, their chicken mole, their nachos and some of their other traditional Mexican dishes, but the simple chorizo burrito is my favorite.  I used to get this every Monday until my car broke down.  Now it's maybe once a month, but it's one I look forward to.

7. Chinese Wednesdays.  Hanging out with a friend we started a little tradition of having Chinese food on Wednesdays. Of course the company was the key, but how do you go wrong with boneless ribs w/ extra sauce, dumplings, fried wontons and mu shu pork?  I don't have the meal with my friend anymore, but we both still enjoy the meal and discuss it and the wonders of Chinese Wednesday.

6.  Cooking class meal with the same friend that number one was spent with.  A meat class.  That's right, meat.  Stuffed rice balls, delicate but huge meatballs, lamb chops, a pork dish and the best was the finale, a smoked sea salted strip steak with fingerling potato hash.  Ended with a peanut butter panna cotta.  We learned something and ate well.

5. This is an odd one, but this became a go-to meal for me on nights I wanted something big, but didn't want to cook or order out.  I'd take a half a loaf of bastone bread, put on a little mayo.  Then top with sliced avocado, tomatoes, red onion, shredded lettuce, a splash of balsamic vinaigrette and presto, somewhat healthy sandwich.

4.  Sushi/first date that went very well.  I let her order everything and we started off with a yellowfin dish with jalapenos that was so nice.  Then we did an assortment where we had literally tons of it, but finished off with the best for last.  My first time having uni.  Perfect night.  Special night too.

3. Thanksgiving - OK so the deep fried turkey wasn't perfect, but the sides and everything else were spot on.  MY brother did all the cooking with his wife and they, myself and my dad and grandma were all together for the first time in two years.  Perfect holiday.

2. Dinner with my father at a Thai restaurant in Ithaca.  I started off with a seafood soup and finished it off with a delicious duck dish.  Obviously the company was key, but it was a quiet night after a hectic few weeks.  A delicious wine also did the trick.

1. A lunch at a restaurant called Frankie's 457 in Brooklyn.  I went with a friend and we drank beers, had a charcuterie plate to start and then had one very good and one absolutely incredible meal.  He had the pork braciole with marinara sauce and I had a braised lamb with tarragon, crushed tomatoes and olive oil over papardelle pasta that was so silky it melted in your mouth.

As you can see, it's not always the quality of the meal.  A basic salad sandwich is my number 5 over a meat class.  A thanksgiving dinner over sushi.  I hope next year I can have some more adventurous wining and dining, but I also hope it's with people I care about.

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