2015 was a good year for my taste buds. In New Orleans, I discovered a dessert po’boy. In Boston, I hid away from the snow with a smoky cocktail. In Chicago, I devoured the greatest Reuben I’ve ever had. In Hawaii, I got excited about hummus for the first time ever. From a bacon-infused Old Fashioned to a s’mores baked Alaska, here are some of my most memorable bites and sips from the past year.
I thought I’d seen it all in terms of po’boys in New Orleans, a sandwich as commonplace in that city as slice shops in NYC. But my first visit to Sucre unearthed exciting new developments in my personal po’boy experiences. The dessert Mecca is famous for their macarons, chocolates, and Mardi Gras King Cake, but when you see gelato po’boy on the menu, you order gelato po’boy. Instead of crusty French bread and fried seafood, it’s scoops of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry gelato sandwiched between buttery pate a choux pastry. Whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and strawberry sauce round it out. For ingenuity alone, this thing was extraordinary, but it boasted substantial saccharine flavor and texture to back it all up, like an ice cream sundae on Lance Armstrong amounts of steroids.
Boston has my heart. Every year, there’s always so many cool, riveting new restaurants and bars to visit in my homeland. The most memorable for me this year was Wink & Nod, a modern quasi-speakeasy presided over by esteemed Boston cocktail vets. Descending into this subterranean haunt feels like falling down an opulent Clue-themed rabbit hole, marked only by an old-timey flickering light on the street. Very Paul Revere. One of my favorite cocktails of 2015 was sublime in its simplicity, crafted essentially as a bacon-infused riff on an Old Fashioned. The Cure was comprised of applewood-smoked Bulleit bourbon, honey syrup, angostura, and orange oil. Smoky and full-bodied, the heady aromas of breakfast are tempered by the splash of citrus and honey. It's a cocktail I could nurse all night long, especially when it's blustery and depressing outside.
I am seriously #blessed to live in such close proximity to Chicago newcomer Boeufhaus. The French-German steakhouse is a dazzling, lavish affair by night, offering something fresh and decadent for the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. But by day, it’s a little known fact that the restaurant serves some of the best meaty sandwiches in the city. Case in point, the best Reuben I’ve ever had the pleasure of shoveling into my mouth. The formula is pretty straightforward: corned beef, properly dense potato bread, sauerkraut, 1,000 Island. But considering the adroit attention and finesse every component gets, diligently scratch-made and piled together with smart composition, the resulting sandwich is a mile-high mess of succulent supremacy.
In terms of sweets, I’m not usually a chocoholic. But I’m also not one to turn up my nose at a s’mores baked Alaska when presented the opportunity. Even when it’s presented a week before my wedding and I have uncomfortably tailored pants to squeeze into. The dessert is the handwork of Atwood and it's the most beautiful interpretation of a s’mores dessert I’ve ever seen, with a rich and fudgy cake nestled over chocolate sauce and crowned with a gigantic dome of toasted marshmallow. There’s just something so irresistible about the combination of nutty graham cracker ice cream, chocolate cake, and gooey homemade marshmallow that made this baked Alaska so alluring. As filling as it was, you couldn’t pry the fork out of my hands.
Spending time on Oahu this year allowed me to experience some traditional Hawaiian flavors in great new ways, like taro bread BBQ pork sandwiches and guava mimosas. See also: hummus made with macadamia nuts, courtesy of the exceptional bar food menu at The ‘Ōlelo Room at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. This sunny spot really sets a new standard in terms of bar bites, uncovering new and unexpected ways to utilize local ingredients. The Hawaiian macadamia nut hummus is the perfect example, and an impressive way of maximizing an island staple. In lieu of garbanzo beans, the nuts get pureed into a rich, creamy medley alongside grilled flatbread and Hawaiian honey-infused pineapple chutney.