Restaurants: The best dishes of the year

  • Article by: BY RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2013 - 3:52 PM

Critic Rick Nelson reminisces about his favorite dishes of 2012.

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From Caesar salads to pie, a look at the year's best dishes.

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

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It would help if I could read my own handwriting. I guess that's the downside of sneaking off to the restroom to hastily toss off a few written-against-the-wall notes.

Rarely organized enough to carry an actual notebook, my version of note-taking frequently relies upon any usable slip of paper that I've tucked inside my wallet: a dry cleaning voucher, a Target receipt, a half-filled Post-it Note, a dollar bill.

One particular set of chicken scratchings would have challenged even the most seasoned Egyptologist, but I finally decyphered what I'd dashed out so many months ago, and it reads something like, "Wow, best dish I've tasted this month." I amassed quite a few reactions like that in 2012. Read all about them:

  
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      At Sparks, chef Jonathan Hunt prepares the ultimate hummus, with hints of tahini and zesty smoked paprika sneaking in under a lively garlic kick. It's suitably enhanced by wedges of the kitchen's sturdy, warm-from-the-oven pita.

      230 S. Cedar Lake Rd., Mpls., 612-259-8943, www.sparksmpls.com

      Among the many gifts Steven Brown flaunts at Tilia is his soup-making ability, exemplified by a dynamite beer-cheese formula (aged white Cheddar, a Fulton-brewed ale, hints of thyme and mustard) that forever vanquished the genre's 1970s silhouette.

      2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2806, www.tiliampls.com

      One benefit of a relocated Oceanaire Seafood Room is that its signature dish -- the crab cake to end all crab cakes -- is suddenly (and happily) much more accessible. And available, for the first time, at lunch.

      50 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-333-2277, www.theoceanaire.com

      A Scandinavian hash -- tender rye spaetzle, tangy cabbage and a rich pork shoulder pastrami, all topped with a poached egg -- is one of many reasons why the Bachelor Farmer became 2012's prime brunch destination.

      50 N. 2nd Av., Mpls., 612-206-3920, www.thebachelorfarmer.com

      After just one taste of chef Ian Gray's ultra-juicy, ultra-savory and smartly embellished goat burger at the Gray House, beef and turkey seemed hopelessly dull by comparison. Oh, and the chocolate custard? Uh-maze-ing.

      610 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338, www.thegrayhouseeats.com

      Newcomer Union quickly cultivated a talker of a dish in the form of pumpkin-filled, brown butter-embellished ravioli, each bite flecked with a gentle vinegar sting. It's vegetarian cooking at its most inspired.

      731 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-455-6690, www.unionmpls.com

      Few dishes evoked a deeper sense of place more vividly than the coral-tinted herring caviar -- sourced from the dockside fish market next door -- served with crackers, diced onion and dill-infused sour cream, at the Angry Trout Cafe.

      408 W. Hwy. 61, Grand Marais, Minn. 1-218-387-1265, www.angrytroutcafe.com

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