Last week, the Burlington Free Press ran an article about their food writers' favorite restaurant dishes. Not "I love chicken pot pie" but "I love the chicken pot pie at Restaurant X."
I thought the piece was pretty interesting, although I disagree with Candace Page's claim regarding the primacy of restaurants' veggie dishes over those made with meat: "While a chef can certainly ruin a good pork chop, there's not much heor she can do take make it the Ultimate Memorable Pork Chop," Page suggests.
I have access to vegetables just as luscious and fresh as those used in restaurants (I buy 'em from the exact same farmers). Same goes for butter, cream, artisan cheese, etc. I even have a French mandoline for slicing potatoes and root veggies paper thin. Unless a vegetable dish is made with demi-glace, truffles or some other premium ingredient that I can't get my hands on, I usually feel that I could turn out something similar, given the time and the inclination.
But the best pieces of meat and seafood generally go to restaurants, and aren't always available to consumers. Thus, in a restaurant, those are the things I lust after, to the dismay of my vegetarian readers. Of course, this only applies at restaurants that bother to source the best ingredients...most places serve fairly run-of-the-mill meat. At The French Laundry, I ate several such dishes, one which included meat that had been braising for days. At Barbara Lynch's restaurants in Boston; B&G Oysters, the Butcher Shop and No. 9 Park, I ate (respectively) baby scallops with miniature Brussels sprouts and pancetta in pear butter, house-cured salami and escolar sashimi that I'll never forget.
Despite this difference in opinion, though, I found that several of my favorite local restaurant dishes were the same as those listed by the BFP folks. Here's my list, in no particular order.
I've starred dishes that were also mentioned in the Free Press article. With the exception of a couple recent discoveries, I've eaten all of these dishes numerous times. I've included links to the restaurants' listings in our 7 Nights Guide to Restaurants and Bars so you can see what other people think.
~ Pho Dang: Beef Pho with brisket and rare beef (*)
~ American Flatbread: the signature salad and the Belgian-style beers (*)
~ Ground Round: Wood Creek Farm burger on Red Hen brioche with Shelburne Farms Cheddar (*)
~ Junior's Italian: pasta Bolognese and pasticciotti (my favorite Italian pastry)
~ Red Onion: the Red Onion sandwich. I can't seem to order anything else when I go there.
~ New World Tortilla: Thai chicken burrito, unwrapped.
~ L'Amante: Gnocchi with braised pork and cherries. I've only seen it on the menu once. It was sublime.
~ Green Room: Smoked trout quesadillas, anything Chef Pratt does with smoked duck or foie gras
~ Penny Cluse: chorizo and egg tacos, the tofu scram with peanut-ginger sauce, and the salad with lime-cilantro dressing.
~ Chef's Corner: smoked salmon eggs Benedict
~ Big Fatty's: smoked chicken (no bbq sauce required), brisket, collards and the unique baked beans
~ Dobra Tea: pita Dahab (with feta, olives, tomatoes and a sprinkle of cardamom), all of the tea
~ Asiana House: O'toro sashimi, Kiss the Dragon roll, lots of other maki.
~ Sonoma Station: Blue Seal steak frites
~ Cheese Outlet/Fresh Market: chicken, pasta and olive salad; potato, bacon and leek salad; spicy green beans with cashews; angel kisses. And there was a dish they had years ago (in 1999 or 2000) that they no longer have, made with grilled chicken, mango and red onion, that was just fantastic.
~ Smokejacks: seared tuna with cucumber noodles, ginger or lychee soda, cheese plate, and a lemon ginger bread pudding they once had.
~ FolkFoods (at Farmers' Market): the Ruby (with one of their awesome veggie patties, apples, cheese, sauerkraut and a yummy sauce)
~ Tamale Girl (at Farmers' Market): any tamale, I'm a sucker for dishes made with corn
~ Rookie's Root Beer (at Farmers' Market): root beer
~ Krin's Bakery (at Farmers' Market): coconut cupcakes, macaroons
I could keep going (or expound further on these delightful dishes), but I won't...
What are your favorites?