The Yearly Digest

Our editors share their favorite meals of 2015

It's been yet another delicious year for Tasting Table editors.

While New Year's resolutions are all about cutting back on this, eating less of that, the only resolutions we'll be making for 2016 are to find foods that beat our favorites from 2015. Travel along with us from the Languedoc to the Lower East Side as we reminisce about the forkfuls we loved most this year.

Karen Palmer, Editorial Director

I was fortunate to travel quite a bit this year, so here are my non-NYC picks:

• Everything bagel spice should be used on, well, everything, as evidenced by the Everything Roti at The Progress in San Francisco, a playful bite from an equally playful menu.

• I found burger heaven in two cities: at Chicago's Au Cheval, served on a Dijonnaise-slathered bun with a fried egg and the thickest slab of pepper-crusted bacon, and at My Brother's Bar, the oldest operating bar in Denver, where the no-frills burger is served with an ingenious condiment tray stocked with pickles, peppers and more.

• The dreamiest Key lime pie, done as a little tart topped with peaks of brûléed meringue, at Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, California. Not too sweet, not too tart, just right to eat at a table overlooking the Pacific.

• An overflowing platter of fruits de mer, loaded with shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, aioli and little packets of Président butter, eaten right next to the Gruissan salt marshes at La Cambuse du Saunier in the Languedoc.

Veal agnolotti dressed simply with a tomatoless veal ragù and brought to the table by the restaurant's charming, slightly ornery owner, Pino, at Trattoria Masuelli in Milan.

Kat Kinsman, Editor at Large

• I'd been living a taco lie all the days of my life until a friend took me for a sampler platter at the Echo Park outpost of L.A. mini chain Guisados. Corn tortillas as thick as a place mat, ladled lavishly with tinga de pollo, chicharrón, cochinita pibil and more slow-simmered meats have me looking at cross-country flights on the regular.

• The handmade 20-yolk pappardelle at Atlanta's BoccaLupo would be enough to loft this into my year-end top 10, but topped with a Tuscan kale kimchi, it's a cross-cultural hug of a dish and became an instant obsession for me.

• File under: sounds suspicious, tastes sublime. After a meal spent giggling with glee at the irreverent, excellently crafted vegetarian neoclassics at Dirt Candy's new Lower East Side digs, the ice cream salad simply undid me. You don't know that you need lettuce sorbet, beet ice cream, goat cheese ice cream and walnut cake croutons in your life until you have them. Then you cannot live without them.

• Honestly, I could cite every single dish I tried at Raleigh, North Carolina's wood-fire-fueled Death & Taxes: 93-day-aged steak, ember-cooked brassicas, the best whole roasted fish I've ever eaten. But my entire party took turns eating country ham vinaigrette dressing out of a bowl with our fingers, so I'm gonna have to go with that.

• The whole damn center column of the menu at Alon Shaya's modern Israeli masterpiece, Shaya, in New Orleans. Just order it. It's like falling in love with a song written in a language that sounds vaguely familiar, but you suddenly ache to master.

The courtyard at El Presidio, Mazatlán | Photo: El Presidio

Ryan Grim, Deputy Editor

• I was at Estela late one night, a little overserved from an earlier party and feeling loose. I went to the bathroom, where I saw a piece of decorative fruit on a small plate. It was yellow and orangish and looked like an apple or a weird persimmon, but I wasn't sure and wanted to know. I broke off a piece of its dry flesh and tasted it. It was pretty good, but I still couldn't place it. Back at my table, I asked the server, "What's the fruit in the bathroom?" She said she didn't know and that she would ask someone who did. A few minutes later, she came back to the table and said, "It's an inedible pear." I was like, Man, even the inedible food at Estela is good. That night, among other things, I had the lamb ribs, and it was the best dish I ate all year.

• The pig's head at glutton's dream Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal came with a whole lobster stuffed into its gaping mouth. Sprigs of parsley were tucked into its nostrils, and flakes of gold leaf were heaped onto its snout. I gnawed on its tender face meat until the place closed.

• I went to Mazatlán, Mexico, for a food festival, and they threw a party at La Concha El Cid, a hotel restaurant on the beach. Long banquet tables with big trays and three-tiered platters held thousands and thousands of giant shrimp piled on top of each other. There was shrimp everywhere. Sometimes a few shrimps would fall to the floor when a guest moved a few onto his plate, and no one seemed to care, because there was such an abundance of shrimp. It was like the "Too Much Tuna" sketch from Kroll Show but with shrimp, and it was oh so real, not a prank. They also served plum ice cream that people in the know said tasted like semen.

• I ordered a can of Downeast cider at a bar and was very impressed. I asked for another can and even went to the company's adorable cartoon-filled website to see where else I could find it in New York. Turns out, there's a spot a few blocks from my apartment that sells it. I'm pretty happy about that. I haven't gone there for the cider yet but will one of these days. There's not much else to say here; I just wanted to give an honest endorsement of Downeast cider. If you like cider, you should try it.

A plate at Mission Cantina | Photo: Tasting Table

Devra Ferst, Senior Editor

Bowls of cream and still-warm hummus topped with pounded chile paste, ground lamb and toasted pine nuts at a hole-in-the-wall alongside the souk in Ramallah is pretty much my dream lunch. Tear pita, dunk, repeat. Follow with sweetened mint tea.

• In an effort to convince an Aussie friend of the greatness of Mexican food, I took him to Cosme and Mission Cantina in one night. The sweet and supple scallops cut to the same size as the turnips at Cosme made every bite an intriguing surprise. Needless to say, he no longer hates on Mexican cooking.

Everything, literally everything, at Verjus in Paris. I know I'm supposed to pick only one thing, but I just can't. I took home the menu and put it in a freakin' frame the meal was so good.

• If something tastes like summer and the ocean, it's likely to win me over, and no dish embodies New York summer more than the fish tacos at Rockaway Taco, topped with slaw and guacamole and polished off with a glass of pineapple drank.

Elyse Inamine, Editor

• The sign outside this teensy, six-seat ramen-ya plopped in a quiet alley in Ginza says "Soba," but really there's ramen inside, specifically, velvety, intensely chicken-y paitan ramen. A tip from my globe-trotting pal who treated me to wd~50 during his last NYC visit (while I footed the bill for Ramen Setagaya), Ginza Kagari is sparse inside, almost temple-like in atmosphere but crazy indulgent in its noodles and commands a line for its excellent chicken-based ramen, the best I've slurped all year—and I eat a lot of ramen.

• I love carbs—I'm currently nibbling on slightly stale brioche hot dog buns. So, naturally, I knew I'd be into the combo of brioche and caviar on the menu at one Chefs Club dinner in New York City. It was a throwback to the over-the-top, once-signature dish at Vintage Cave in Honolulu, back when Chris Kajioka was in charge of the kitchen. He revived the dish one last time at Chefs Club—smoking and crisping the buttery brioche and layering salty pops of caviar—for the most luxurious little bite I missed when he left.

• Only a few food things have triggered tears for me, things you would expect like an extravagant Eleven Madison Park feast or my auntie's ozoni come every New Year's morning. And then there's something you wouldn't expect, like plain old pizza from Totonno's off on Coney Island. I'm not a pizza fanatic like senior video editor Dave Katz. I can't rattle off the lineage or anything revelatory about this particular pizza parlour, but biting into the thin, coal-blistered crust covered in nothing fancy—cheese, sausage, sauce—was almost spiritual.

• You cannot go to Oahu and not grab a dinky, neon pink bag of malasadas from the legendary Leonard's. It's the Portuguese love child of a yeasted doughnut and the best dinner roll you've had—puffed and speckled with sugar on the outside, pocked with tiny airholes inside for the best few bites you can get on the island. The last time I was there, I walked about half an hour (parking is a struggle), but getting these little guys hot from the fryer is totally worth it.

Abby Reisner, Editorial Assistant

• I don't like doughnuts. I don't like cream cheese frosting. But then I had a pumpkin doughnut with cream cheese glaze from Monuts Donuts in Durham, North Carolina, and those sentences are now complete lies I'll continue to tell myself. I ate six doughnuts with just one other person—and could have easily done six more.

• The best part about the agave wine frozen margarita at NYC's Hotel Tortuga is its unpredictability. One night it takes three glasses to feel a buzz; the next, you're gone after three sips. It's a coin toss that results in sweet, slushy joy either way.

• For the first time in my life, I didn't eat cake on my birthday. I would have once thought this sacrilegious, but it was because I'd recently fallen in love with the sweet potato pie at Candle Cafe West in New York City. My mom secretly talked her way around its three-day order policy ("She just ran the marathon! It's her birthday! There must be a way!") and surprised me with a whole pie.

• An almond croissant from Maison Kayser remains my all-time favorite food that you can purchase in New York. I truly don't understand how something can taste so good, every time.

The Dining Room at The Progress, San Francisco | Photo: Ed Anderson

Katy Peetz, Associate Food Editor

• This fall, while eating through Vermont's quaint cafés and apple orchards, I came across the quince tarte tatin at Vergennes Laundry. Deep rose and jammy quince halves were nestled into buttery puff pastry, and with each bite, I fell in love all over again.

Hirohisa in NYC deservedly received one Michelin star this year, and in my opinion, it's wasn't only because of its awesome sashimi and service, but also because of its Uni Don Shokuji (uni rice bowl). It was my most indulgent snack of the year, with its generous amount of creamy, briny and luscious uni atop perfectly cooked Japanese rice.

Xiao Dong Bei takes a juicy braised lamb rack with the meat almost falling off the bone, coats it in cornstarch and fries it until crispy. Then, a next-level move happens: The whole rack gets doused with a crunchy, fried and extremely addicting spice mix of crushed chiles, sesame seeds, garlic and loads of cumin seeds. If you have trouble finding the Dong Bei-style cumin lamb ribs on the menu, just point to the picture of it hanging on the middle wall!

Joanna Harkins, Editorial Intern

• I firmly believe chicken and waffles to be one of the culinary world's greatest accomplishments. Food? in Fredericksburg, Virginia, does it so darn well. Fried chicken with perfectly crunchy skin and waffles that don't get soggy. Tied together with your own personal shot of maple syrup, not too much but not too little. Here, it's all about texture and that balance of savory and sweet.

• My dear friend, Justine, turned me on to Brooklyn's Il Passatore this past winter, and its spaghetti alla carbonara has been haunting my daydreams ever since. These guys are the real deal when it comes to Italian food: expertly cooked pasta with specks of pancetta, luxurious egg yolk sauce and, of course, plenty of pecorino and fresh pepper. So simple yet so satisfying.

• In 2015, I became obsessed with The Sun Prairie cocktail at Donna in Brooklyn. It may be pretty in pink, but it's got a bitter kick. The drink also uses one of my favorite underutilized and oft-misunderstood liqueurs: crème de violette. I resolve to drink more of these in 2016.