2011 Roundup: The Best New Finds [Food]

I’ve already re-capped my favorite things to make, but sometimes its nice to have someone else cook for you, too. Since I spent my time between three different cities in 2011 [C’Ville, Philadelphia, and NYC] I was able to try tons of new places and developed some new obsessions. All of the dishes and restaurants listed here are the ones I’ll return to again and again [and again, if the budget allows…].

Favorite Vegetarian Dish: I dream about the vegetarian chile relleno from Zocalo in Charlottesville. I legitimately have dreams about it. Its stuffed with black beans and corn and comes on a bed of smoked tomato grits. Smoked. Tomato. Grits. It’s crunchy, creamy, goodness. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike have been telling me about this dish for years, but I didn’t get around to checking it out until this fall. Coupled with ZoCaLo’s awesome cheese plate, its a meal to die for. Aannd now I’m drooling.

with a cilantro-honey glaze.

Favorite Vegan Dish: I raved about Khyber Pass just a few days ago when I did a brief run-through of our trip to Philadelphia, but that wasn’t our first trip there. I can’t remember how we stumbled upon the place, but it’s one of the most vegan-friendly beer halls I’ve encountered. We had some awesome vegan dishes there this year, including vegan empanadas, vegan sandwiches, and vegan red velvet treats; however, it’s not an exaggeration to say that both Shaun and I crave their vegan pulled-pork nachos. Plus #1: you can get them in a half order [COME ON, BEER RUN]. Plus #2: vegan pulled pork. Spicy, vinegar-y, and on a bed of fresh tortillas with green chiles and green onion. It’s such a creative dish – who would ever pair barbecue with nachos? But it works. And it’s vegan. And I love, love, love it. Paired with their beer list [which also denotes when a beer is not vegan – and yes, that’s possible] = heaven.*

beer cheese soup too...

Favorite New Restaurant: I’ve now had three meals at Tavola in 2011, and each one was unique, delicious, and stunning. The restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create classic Italian food in one of the most romantic atmospheres in C’Ville. It completely earns its “Best of C’Ville” for best new restaurant, over and over. Go-tos: the burrata, the seasonal vegetarian pasta, and the Nero d’Avola. It’s our official in-town special occasion place that might be a little too close to our house.

New Tapas Joints: I’ll spare you my rant on Mas in Charlottesville, and skip to the good part – the awesome tapas places I discovered in 2011:

  • Amada in Philadelphia, one of Jose Garces’ beauties, puts Mas to shame. Their tapas and sangrias are gorgeous, their menu is creative, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. It might sound silly and simple, but the chickpeas and spinach dish there is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly cooked and perfectly spiced. I remember feeling stuffed after Shaun and I ate there, not because we ordered too much, but because each dish had such huge flavors they exploded off of the tiny plates. They have awesome sangria concoctions, too.
  • I ruffled some feathers when I declared C’Ville’s Al Hamraa one of the best tapas places I’ve tried; however, I stand firm in that conviction. It may not be as fancy as Amada, but its charm is in its simplicity and its desire to maintain and disseminate tradition. Plus, the spices in Moroccan food are right up my alley: harissa, chile peppers, cumin, cilantro, mint, love.

For Dessert:

  • I don’t have photos from either of these places because my visits predate the blog; however, I finally stopped in to Lula’s Sweet Apothecary in the East Village this summer – a completely vegan ice cream & candy parlor – and tried their answer to the “blizzard”: vegan cake batter ice cream blended with ginger Newman O’s. Oh my god. Like I said last week, another situation in which I just can’t understand why anyone wouldn‘t eat vegan regularly.** Its all-natural and was so creamy you’d think there was a pound of heavy cream in it, but its actually free of the cholesterols and saturated fats we get all-too-much of.
  • This summer, I also finally tried Momofuku Milk Bar and stumbled upon my absolute favorite dessert – birthday cake truffles. Pastry Chef Christina Tosi [a JMU grad, as Shaun will proudly tell anyone] is known for her quirky, creative desserts, but man, these funfetti truffles take the cake [and also come in cake form *hint hint* BIRTHDAY]. I also recommend the crack pie and compost cookie. Not going to lie, we almost got our wedding cake from them.

Favorite Restaurant, Overall: My love for Zahav in Philadelphia will surely outlive 2011. And 2012, 2013, 2014-2050.***  We found this Israeli restaurant through Philly Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2010 list, and I imagine it made their list for 2011, too.  Their Tay’im [“Taste of Israel”] tasting menu [three courses, $36] is literally the best value. Ever. Plus, they have a lock-down on all of the Israeli wines in Philadelphia – you can’t get any of their wines in any wine shop. I can’t describe to you how perfect this place is…you’ll just have to try it for yourself. Reservations recommended.

* Shaun’s honorable mention vegan dish, he would like you to know, is the vegan chicken salad from Whole Foods.

** But see, Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake Truffles.

*** In the alternative, if the Mayans were right, my love for Zahav will outlive December 21, 2012.


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Food, Recipes


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/courtney-marello/1a/375/b30 Tumblr: http://abarrelofoddsandends.tumblr.com/


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