This is the time of year when so many reflect on the year past and what the future might hold. I’m no different. There were many highs this year with a couple of lows but all-in-all, “it was a very good year” in my food world. It wasn’t a good year for the Guy Fieri and his Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar restaurant review that went around the world by Pete Wells of the New York Times. The whole review was written in questions the likes of “What exactly about a small salad with four or five miniature croutons makes Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar (a) big (b) famous or (c) Guy’s, in any meaningful sense?”
Managing, organizing and assisting in getting the talent for Viking Cooking Stage at 2012 National Harbor’s Food and Wine Show was the hardest, most stressful job of the year. Creating a kitchen where there is none, adapting coffee pots of boiling water for washing pots, pans etc where there was no water, schlepping half my home kitchen equipment and being prepared for all that can go wrong and usually does. For example, I had no refrigeration the day I arrived with food for the show. Luckily Chef Scott Drewno of Wolfgang Puck’s The Source in Washington DC had suggested the week earlier should I need anything they have The Sunset Room at National Harbor and I should reach out and reach out I did. All the food, audience samples and all were stored in their walk in until we had refrigeration up and running at the Viking Kitchen.
On the plus side of the National Harbor Food and Wine show was the most interesting table companions’ evening. To sit and commiserate with Sara Moulton, Nathalie Dupree, Bonnie Benwick, David Hagedorn and Cathy Barrow at Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Virtue Feed and Grain in Alexandria was the standout. Sitting down and breaking bread with culinary legends and writers from the Washington Post was a dream come true.
Best Bite: Happy Spoon at Pabu Izakaya
What Baltimore needs: A ramen restaurant, a good bowl of Asian noodles – someone, anyone!
Best Overall Dining Experience: Dining with Sinclair Broadcasting’s David Smith and his wife Jane at their Cunningham Manor estate on their patio overlooking their tiered rose garden, very Versailles looking. This was a sneak peek for the food media on their 3rd restaurant, Fleet Street Kitchen, that has since opened to rave reviews. Nothing will beat the overall experience of Chef Chris Becker’s food, the glory of dining al fresco with such an amazing view and the company. (check out the view in the slideshow).
Best sandwich in Ocean City: Roast beef sandwich with au jus at Anthony’s Carryout, 1608 Philadelphia Avenue.
Personal Best Culinary Moment: Paella for thirty people. I work part-time as a kitchen slave in Washington DC fixing lunch for scholars. Chef was out and I was left to make lunch for thirty. I hadn’t made Paella in ages, let alone for thirty people but it was a huge success. In fact, two women from Spain gave me double thumbs up. Randi Rom, special events planner and writer for FoodService Monthly will sit and say that saving her overcooked brisket was my best culinary moment and hence I was deemed that day forward as the “brisket fairy.”
Biggest culinary regret: Not being able to take advantage of going to Camp Blogaway in California which the Idaho Potato Commission was going to help underwrite. Getting to see many friends in the industry, most importantly, an opportunity to work with Denise Vivaldo, one of the country’s leading food stylist. But alas, I had the National Harbor Food and Wine project the same weekend.
New restaurant find of the year: Honey Pig Korean BBQ in Ellicott City seems to have won my heart. The best fried dumplings and I always seem to order the hangover soup.
I’m beaming moment: My first two stories for BMoreMedia.com each ranked the most read story of that month. Chomp on the Charm City Circulator Culinary Tour not only was top read for the month, I was interviewed by WBAL Radio. Foodie Queen: One Baltimore Woman’s Journey in Culinary was my second story that got top honors for most read.
They come and they go: Welcome back to the Mt. Washington Tavern who after a devastating fire made it back on the scene in just about a year’s time. Farewell to Fields Pharmacy and Café, who after 100 plus years called it quits. A very decent run but will miss their Kosher Hot Dogs and Shrimp Salad Sandwiches. After six years, I say goodbye to the Restaurant Association of Maryland Education Foundation as I rotate off their board.
Hot culinary neighborhood: Hampden/Woodberry – New restaurants blossomed; The Food Market, Birroteca, and Artifact Coffee adding to the neighborhood’s big culinary winners The Corner BYOB, Grano Emporio, and Alchemy.
My fun stories of the year: Partying on the KRI Dewaruci and Did the dog lick the deviled eggs?
Acknowledgements: To the people who made this culinary year a joy; Riccardo Bosio of Sotto Sopra Restaurant who taught me that being Italian means passion, Downtown Diane, Randi Rom, Brian Michael Lawrence, Julekha Dash, Celeste Corsaro, and Anne Boone-Simanski who have kept me laughing through some not so terrific meals, to Juliet Bodinetz-Rich whose positive attitude makes life’s tribulations seem very small, Chef Sylvia Henderson who puts up with my old age dementia in her kitchen, the husband who understands without question the nights he has to fend for himself while I’m out dining, and to the not so foodie friends Patti DeCarlo and Sandy Zeitzoff who are always there.I can’t forget Julia Child who started this all. And finally to you, my readers who make the endless hours of writing, photographs and video worthwhile. Because of you, my readers, the Dining Examiner ranks number one this year in my category nationally.
Happy New Year – may 2013 be healthy, happy and prosperous.
Dara (aka Dining Dish) Bunjon
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