I’m not among the ridiculous people who take photos of every single thing they eat. No, I’m only mildly annoying, taking pictures of about 75 percent of what I eat, then deleting 90 percent of that. And still, the variety of pork photos on my phone is astounding.
So, remembering my favorite things that I ate and drank in 2012 was easy: I just skimmed my photos.
Food is emotional for me. What makes a meal memorable is more than taste — there are people and places tied to the best ones. Some people have 800 photos of their kids on their phone. Me? I have cocktails and doughs and stews and tater tots and braised beef and lemons and soda floats and meatballs and champagne.
Here, in no particular order, are the edible moments I enjoyed the most in 2012:
1. Pizzas from the brick oven in our backyard. We had a wood-fired brick oven built this fall, which means that we can never move, but also that we’ve made a pretty deep dive into the world of homemade pizza. Even back when we used a pizza stone in our regular oven, I’m always amazed at how easy it is to make pizza from scratch — and how it’s better than 98% of the pizza at restaurants. (This 2% belongs to my aunt and uncle, who own an actual pizzeria.)
Making pizzas has also been a really fun way to entertain. We set out a bunch of toppings and let everyone make their own pizza, using dough we made the day before.
2. Rose. It was by far the winning wine for me this year. All summer long, from the little moments and to the big ones, it always felt right and refreshing. With rose, we toasted to our 1st wedding anniversary and to my best friend on her wedding day.
3. Charcuterie. If there’s cured meat on the menu, I must have it. The plate below is from Publican Quality Meats, a Chicago butcher shop that’s also a restaurant. We sat on the patio with friends on a beautiful, breezy, sunny summer day and I remember that the sweet coppa was spectacular.
I think it would be great if we had a “Charc Week” in conjunction with “Shark Week” this year. If any Bloomington restaurant owners happen to be in my audience, do you want to help me get that going?
4. Crostata. This is a simple, rustic Italian tart with jam that my Grandma Pia has made her whole life, and mine. When I discovered that an Italian baker here in Bloomington made crostata, I was immediately drawn to her, and in a strange turn of events, I ran her bakery for 6 weeks this summer. I made several batches of crostata each week, and though I wasn’t using my grandma’s recipe, it felt really special.
The type of jam varies by region. My grandma, who is from outside of Rome, uses cherry preserves. The baker in Bloomington is from the Venice region and uses apricot and raspberry.
5. Strawberry pancakes. I never order stuff like this, but this dish at Feast was one of the best breakfast decisions I made in 2012. The strawberries were roasted and I think the sauce was made with balsamic vinegar. These pretty pancakes were small — about the size of a coaster — and thin and stacked high. It was supremely girly. Not a culinary triumph exactly, but there was no question that it belonged here.
6. Zuni chicken. Generally I do not like chicken but I loved this iconic dish from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. It’s a whole chicken roasted in a brick oven, served with greens and a warm bread salad that is likely harboring all kinds of terrible, delicious fats.
7. Hot chocolate at the St. Regis Deer Valley. It’s the hot chocolate that put all other hot chocolates to shame. It was spiked with amaretto and Bailey’s, and, uh, likely made with whole milk. We were in Park City, Utah, for Sundance, enjoying some après-ski time on the terrace at the St. Regis. (So, let’s face it, I could have ordered a glass of water and it would have put all other glasses of water to shame.)
8. Tiny garden tomatoes. I know it’s really braggy to include things from my own garden on a list of the best things I ate last year, but I really, really love having a garden and I love even more that some things happened to grow and went on to be edible.
There were some misfires (eggplant, I’m looking at you), but our two cherry tomato plants were nothing short of overachievers — they came early, stayed late, and literally snapped the additional supports we put up halfway through the season. And they were delicious.