Sunday, December 24, 2006

Eating L.A.'s Best of 2006: Year of the Pig?

Like film critics, apparently food writers are required to come up with their best moments in food for the year. Here are 10 or so of Eating L.A.'s top trends and favorite spots for the year:
1. Best newcomers: Mozza, BLD, Cut, Lou, Square One, and no doubt Hatfield's, except I still haven't eaten there. When you look back, it was actually a pretty good year for places that use really flavorful, high-quality ingredients. Coincidentally or not, all the newcomers are very big on piggy products like pig candy, artisanal charcuterie and thick bacon -- even Cut offers a great pork belly appetizer along with the super-pricey steaks.
2. Best rediscovered favorites: I got back in touch with my meat-eating side at old-timers Taylor's and the Pacific Dining Car. At Taylor's I found my ideal meal: a Molly salad; either the burger or the London Broil appetizer, and one of their excellent Manhattans. At the Pacific Dining Car, I had the most expertly-cooked steak salad ever for lunch, and vowed to return for a real steak. Another satisfying beef-fest was at the food bloggers dinner at Manna Korean Barbecue. I got flamed by Korean food experts, but hey, it tasted good to me.
3. Worst Asian-inspired fast food trend: the Pinkberry's invasion. These places are springing up everywhere, guaranteed to increase bad parking situations anywhere they light. All that parking angst for a few blandish flavors of frozen yogurt -- I just don't get it.
4. Best Asian-inspired fast food trend: Famima. You can actually get a solid meal at these adorable Japanese minimarts. While Christmas shopping in Glendale the other day, I picked up a very respectable warm pork bun and a triangular salmon rice ball, along with green tea mousse with a surprise red bean layer. And some rice crackers and Pockys for later. There's also warm clam chowder and grilled cheese paninis, and every kind of potato chip you could want.
5. Best tacos I had this year: I thought I hit the jackpot at El Parian in February, but a recent trip to the Echo Park Taco Zone truck may have changed my mind.
6. Best quick service trend: Upscale fast food, like Eagle Rock's Oinkster and Spitz, and gourmet fast cafes, like Cafe Surfas. Although the Oinkster gets mixed reviews, all these places have realized there's a place for really good quality ingredients, fun shakes and sodas and good desserts to go alongside well-thought out sandwiches and salads.
7. Most missed: The closure of Norman's was no surprise, since far too few customers made to the strangely-situated spot. But the roast pig was hard to beat and people who braved the Strip to get there usually loved it.
8. Best neighborhood explosion: Downtown. I still haven't checked out Royal Clayton's, Blue Velvet, Tiara or all the other places that opened Downtown this year, but it looks like there might be life in the old central city yet.
9. Best non-restaurant trend: underground dinners like Ghetto Gourmet -- like a cool dinner party at your friend's house, if your friend could cook.
10. Best new neighborhood spot: Canelé in Atwater -- nearly everything tastes just right at this convivial spot.
Wow, I'm already at 10 -- ok, here's a few runners-up:
Best continuing trend:
Izakaya like Izayoi and Musha continue to beguile with savory Japanese small plates. Many imitators springing up.
Best artery-clogging trend: haute hamburgers from the likes of 25 Degrees and Lucky Devils, topped with Maytag blue cheese and served with a Guiness milkshake, or a nice little glass of cabernet.
Best dessert:
Butterscotch budino pudding at Mozza. Now, I seem to crave fleur de sel on all my sweets.
Best meals:
It may not be the most au courant cuisine in L.A., but Thai food is pretty much my all-time favorite kind of food. So it's not surprising that perhaps my favorite meals this year were at Renu Nakorn and Swan Thai.
Best neighborhood for food overall: Can the San Gabriel Valley be considered a neighborhood? If so, the communities of Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Arcadia offer an array of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants that would take years to thoroughly explore. But I'm game to try.
Inevitable headline for next year: "Pinkberry's to scale back rapid expansion."


Anonymous said...

Best food comment of the year...
"I got flamed by Korean food experts, but hey, it tasted good to me."
Best new trend (I hope) for 2007:
Forming your own opinions despite what "experts" say. Every person is their own food expert!

Anonymous said...

You left out the most obvious superlative of all: Best Los Angeles Food Blog - EATING LA

Great end of the year list!

Anne said...

I also love Famima and the butterscoth budino at Mozza. YUM!

Lisa Wang said...

While I don't agree with you about Pinkberry(i'm one of those people who loves it, i just wrote a blog entry about my love), you're definitely right about San Gabriel. I'm Chinese and my family and I go there all the time for great Chinese food. I don't know if you've tried them but Ding Tai Fung is the BEST place for these soup dumplings, it's original restaurant is in Taipei and you still have to wait in line there. Be warned, I usually have 30-60 minutes for a table. Also, Triumphal Palace is GREAT Chinese food. New York Times just ran a story on the best restaurants in Monterey Park and they made the list.

zzi said...

Talking about San Gabriel Valley. Looking for dumplings in the Studio City-Burbank-Glendale corridor. A fav is Tung Lai Shun but I'm looking for something closer. Thanks

Anonymous said...

How can you prolong your battery for laptop.

Anonymous said...

2007 is the Chinese Red Female Pig Year - Red being equivalent to the element of Fire, and Female because 2007 is a Yin Fire year.

The Pig is the 12th and final sign of the Chinese Zodiac and the New Year begins on the 18th February. 2006 was the year of the Fire Dog and was a year of structure. This year will focus on making things comfortable and finishing off unfinished projects and achieving goals. The year of the Fire Pig is meant to be auspicious bringing good fortune and prosperity. It is an excellent year to marry and have children. However it will not be a peaceful year, wars and natural disasters, particularly those connected to fire and water such as bushfires, volcanos, floods and tsunamis will occur causing the economy to blow hot and cold. Rising real estate prices will continue and homeowners and builders will do well. Fire Pig is well known for luck in money and speculation, particularly for those who share and do good deeds for the poor.