Wednesday, December 28, 2011

There's a Newf in My Soup's Best of 2011

After scrolling through my humble contribution to the food blogging world during the past year, over 100 posts, I can honestly say, "I've come a long way, baby!" My passion for food, cooking, entertaining, writing, travel, and photography continues to grow, and this past year has been quite a journey.  In no particular order, this post recaps some of the most memorable moments of our 2011, in food and life.

At the beginning of the year, I joined French Fridays with Dorie, and began cooking my way through Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. Although I don't participate every week, a majority of her recipes have been fabulous. I gravitate to unfamiliar and unique recipes, for the challenge and learning experience. Dorie's introduction to each recipe entertains and educates, and the recipes are sophisticated, yet approachable.

In February, we traveled to New Orleans. That trip, and another wonderful cookbook, John Besh's My New Orleans, inspired many wonderful dishes throughout the year. In May, I hosted The Daring Cooks' Gumbo Challenge. I mastered the art of roux, and fell in love with Drew's Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo in the process.

Best Gumbo - Drew's Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Another winning recipe from My New Orleans is Beignets. After our early morning walks to Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, famous for beignets and chicory coffee, we had to come home and recreate these pillowy doughnuts blanketed in powdered sugar. With a more modest dusting of powdered sugar, and John's decadent dunking sauces, I was ready to open my own beignet bakery in Coronado!

Best Sunday Morning Treat - Beignets

In yet another fabulous cookbook, Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel is a winner.  The flavors in this one-pot dish are magnificent.

Best Chicken - Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs

We discovered several sandwiches this year, and it was really tough deciding on a favorite between Donald Link's Fried Oyster and Bacon, Croque-Madames, and this Pork Schnitzel and Chipotle Sandwich. This one made the finals as one of the editors' choices in Saveur's Home Cook Sandwich Challenge, but didn't make it to the winner's circle.

Best Sandwich - Pork Schnitzel and Chipotle Sandwich

We don't eat nearly enough salads, and I was thrilled to create this Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad, inspired by one on Il Fornaio's brunch menu. I developed a fondness for arugula this past year.

Best Summer Salad - Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad

If you eat mostly salads throughout the year, you have permission to reward yourself with Walnut Turtle Pie, a signature dessert at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse. Chocolate heaven. This pie won out over Bobby Flay's Throwdown Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving this year (and Bobby's Pumpkin Pie is one of my most visited posts).

Most Decadent Chocolate Dessert - Walnut Turtle Pie

While photographing one of many food and wine events we attended this year, we tasted our first Liege Waffle, made with Belgium Pearl Sugar.  I was able to order the sugar from Get a Waff and tried a few different recipes at home. After mastering these, I was ready to add Liege Waffles to the menu, along with the beignets, at my Coronado bakery!

Best Waffle - Liege Waffles

Getting back to French Fridays with Dorie, I looked through all the 30 or so recipes I've made from Around My French Table and decided this Tourteau de Chèvre deserves the highest recognition. I love that it's so unique and adaptable. The recipe provides the option of using a savory or sweet tart dough, depending on whether you plan to serve it with white wine as an aperitif, as a dessert with a drizzle of honey and fresh fruit, in the afternoon with tea, or in the morning with coffee. 

Best French Fridays with Dorie Recipe, so far - Tourteau de Chèvre

Speaking of unique - these Cherries as Olives were a surprise hit at one of our summer Concerts in the Park. These come from Chef José Andrés' Made in Spain cookbook. Fresh cherries are marinated in a mix of olive oil, orange and lemon juice and zest, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and sherry vinegar, with an optional sprinkling of Marcona almonds before serving. Please try these for your next party or picnic. They are addicting!

Best Nibble - Cherries as Olives

One of our highlights of the year was getting to know several chefs.  Chef Bernard Guillas (The Marine Room, La Jolla) is one of San Diego's most respected chefs. Recipes from his award-winning cookbook, Flying Pans, are often featured on The Marine Room's web page. I have a copy of the cookbook and love that there is a stunning photograph accompanying every recipe. It's nice to see how the chef wants his dish presented.

For Thanksgiving this year, I made Sylvie's Stuffed Turkey Breast Ballotine with Croissant Sausage Stuffing, Glazed Carrots, Cipollinis, and Apple Cider Gravy. If you're looking for an alternative to roasting a whole turkey, this dish is so impressive.

Best Holiday Dinner - Slyvie's Stuffed Turkey Breast Ballotine

Much of the fabulous food we enjoyed this year was shared with friends and family, at some of our annual events and parties. If you've followed There's a Newf in My Soup, you know we spend our summer Sundays at Coronado's Concert in the Park. eCoronado named me the unofficial Top Chef of Concerts in the Park this year because our group puts out such incredible spreads of food. We always have a culinary theme, and Childhood Favorites was one of our most memorable concerts of the summer.  Everyone shared a photo from their childhood for the blog post.

Best Concert in the Park - Childhood Favorites
Photo of Alec's Grandma Rachael

John went over the top with our Annual Halloween Party. This year's theme was Pirates, and he transformed our yard into a movie set right out of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Best Halloween Party Ever
Coronado Island Pirates Board the HMS Obsessed for a Halloween Sail

One of the funniest parties of the year was Alec's Rat Pack Party.  Nina set up a little photo booth and the boys really got into posing in the Marilyn dress and wig! Many of the photos had to be censored from the blog, but this one of Kai and Alec, with my plate of cannoli, is classic.

Funniest Party - Take the Cannoli, to Alec's Rat Pack Party

John and I work well together behind the camera, and the blog has opened a few doors this year. We've provided photography for several local food and wine events, cooking classes, and restaurants, and fly to Colorado next month to photograph a Relais & Châteaux guest ranch.

Best Photo Shoot - Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge, Coronado

Best Chef Photo - Chef Marco, Il Fornaio

My life would not be complete without plenty of pasta. We're regulars at Il Fornaio and are now considered family. We photographed two of Chef Marco's cooking classes (Risotto and Homemade Pasta), and attend the monthly Tuesday Night Tasting of the Festa Regionale Menu. This Spaghetti alla Lucana is from The Il Fornaio Pasta Book.  Chef Marco moved to Seattle, and we miss him dearly.

Best Pasta - Spaghetti alla Lucana

We continue to acquire beautiful copper cookware, and other blogalicious cookware, serveware, props, utensils, and tools. This copper Cataplana from Williams Sonoma is my favorite of the year. We also have the matching Couscoussier. I need to cook in these pieces a bit more in 2012.

Best Cookware - Copper Cataplana

When you love pasta as much as I do, you must have a few artisanal pasta tools in your kitchen! I acquired these two, courtesy of Terry Mirri at Artisanal Pasta Tools, Sonoma, CA. Although I haven't made the time to use them often enough, they are very special (see my Playing with a New Kitchen Treasure and Feel Like Makin' Gnocchi posts featuring these tools).

Best Pasta Tools - Corzetti Stamp

Gnocchi/Garganelli Board

Although you may have caught me complaining about the electric stove we acquired when we moved in June, we are fortunate to be living in a beautiful home, with a lovely private courtyard off the dining room for entertaining, and a picturesque front yard. After all the drama we went through the first half of 2011 in the old house, moving was definitely the highlight of our year.

John bought us a gorgeous grill, and we devoured the best grilled lobster, ever. Never mind that it was the only grilled lobster we had all year, but John prepared and grilled it to perfection, and we were so happy to be sitting outside, soaking up warm afternoon sun, and sharing one of many wonderful times on our new patio.

Best Lobster - Wolfgang Puck's Grilled Lobsters with Spicy Herbed Compound Butter

And finally, one last photo...the Best Bread of the year!  Three loaves of Chocolate-Cinnamon Babka contain 5 sticks of butter and over 2 pounds of chocolate.  I made these for Christmas, and the recipe can be found here, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Best Bread - Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

If you're still with me after this rather long recap of 2011, I want to thank you for reading and supporting There's a Newf in My Soup! We look forward to continuing our journey, wherever it may lead, and hope you'll come back to visit from time to time to see what we're cooking.

Eat well, drink only good wine, and have a very happy and healthy New Year.

-Denise, John & Dooley


As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.
                                                                                                  - Ernest Hemingway



Cher said...

What a great re-cap!
It's amazing what a year can do. Look forward to many more wonderful things in 2012.

bunkycooks said...

That's a fabulous recap and yes, what a year it has been! I can't wait to see what 2012 brings for us all. :-) BTW, that new pan is fabulous. You do need to cook in that more! Cheers to only good wine and great food!

Chris and Amy said...

Fantastic "Best of..." list. Made us drool! Happy holidays!

Mayor Casey Tanaka said...

Happy New Year Denise!! I can't wait for the day when you announce that Food and Wine magazine has hired you to work for them full time :-)