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Best Dishes of 2013 - Part 2

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In the wee hours of last night I started on Part 1 of the Best Dishes I ate in the past year. Here, in chronological order, picking up right around mid-year, is Part 2, starting with a couple great things at the sadly now-closed BoxPark, then a trek through the Pacific Northwest, including the magnificent Willows Inn (my favorite meal of the year), along with a brief visit to New Orleans and several more great dishes here in Miami.

(You can see pictures of all of them in this 2013 Best Dishes flickr set).


Everglades Gumbo - BoxPark (Brickell) (my thoughts on BoxPark)

Chef Matt Hinckley’s version [of gumbo], like a lot of things at BoxPark from the house-made charcuterie to the “Brickell Pickles,” uses almost all locally sourced ingredients, some from rather unusual places. He makes his own andouille sausage using invasive feral pigs trapped by local farmers. Ruby red shrimp are seasonally harvested from deep waters off Florida’s east coast. Those “nuisance gators” that are often removed…

Best Dishes of 2013 - Part 1

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As the year comes to a close, it's time for New Years' resolutions, and "Best Of..." listicles. I think one of my resolutions last year was to publish my "Best Dishes of the Year" list before the calendar turned, so if I can get this post up, I will have kept at least one resolution. The "lose 20 pounds" resolution will have to wait till next year.

2013 was a good year: trips to New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle and New Orleans provided some great dining opportunities, but so did hometown South Florida. Here, in chronological order, are some of the best things I ate this past year:

(You can see all the dishes in this 2013 Best Dishes flickr set).


Vegetarian Ramen - Momi Ramen (Brickell) (my thoughts on Momi)

Though Chen has been reluctant to expand his offerings, if the vegetarian ramen I tried is any indication, he shouldn't be so worried. It was fantastic. It's not swimming in broth so the noodles can really shine, along with softened…

Wildebeest - Vancouver, British Columbia

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While our visit to The Willows Inn was the most exceptional meal of our trip to the Pacific Northwest this past summer, it was certainly not the only good one. I was particularly excited by a couple places we tried on the front end of our trip, in Vancouver. First up: Wildebeest.


Wildebeest is a new-ish place in Vancouver's Gastown neighborhood with a rustic, vaguely steampunk aesthetic, an offal-centric menu, and a naturalistic, unfussy style. The brick walls, bare bulbs and rough wood are in perfect sync with Chef Wesley Young's cooking style, which is dominated by meat and smoke.



Snacks and cocktails help set the stage. Crunchy hazelnuts are infused with seawater; buttery, bright green Castelvetrano olives are smoked. They're both great nibbles to go along with an intriguing Tequila Sazerac, served up in a little flowered granny glass. This was a delicious reinvention of the classic cocktail, using reposado tequila and mezcal in place of the rye, and a green Chartreuse …

Cobaya Nina at Scarpetta

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I'll confess, it's actually been a long time since I've eaten at Scarpetta, the Scott Conant restaurant in the Fontainebleau where Chef Nina Compton holds down as chef de cuisine. But we knew good things were happening there - I've never heard of anyone reporting anything but a great meal at Scarpetta, and Compton's performance on this season of "Top Chef" has her as the clear front-runner to take that honor. We figured we had to get in on a Cobaya dinner with her before she blew up. After the seed was planted when she helped out former kitchen companion Michael Pirolo for his Cobaya dinner at Macchialina a few months ago, it came together earlier this week.


As is our usual modus operandi, we gave no limitations other than "Cook what you want," which is what Chef Nina did for a group of forty seated at several long tables on a veranda looking out over the Fontainebleau pool. She let us know at the start, there would be no "theme," just…