(12) Buckwheat scone from Crumb at the Green City Market - real, full-on buckwheat flavor without sacrificing texture. Impressive.
(11) Eggplant parm sandwich at Lucia - bright flavored sauce, breading stayed crisp for a long time and didn't overwhelm flavor of the eggplant.
(10) Smoked paprika and cheddar croissant from Crumble & Flake in Seattle - I'm not usually a fan of attempts to mess with a croissant, but this was remarkable.
(9) Corn sundae at Spoon and Stable in Mpls - Hard to believe that dessert at this place could top what was already a tremendous meal, but it did.
(8) Creamed hard boiled eggs with truffled mornay and toasted brioche at Taus Authentic - decadence at its very best.
(7) Gnocchi short rib ragu trattoria Ultimo - pillowy texture, light as a cloud with an intensely meaty sauce. A real surprise from such a humble byob storefront.
(6) Blood orange flan at Salero - soft and luscious with intense acidity and sweet bitterness from a saba caramel
(5) Isaan sausage at Mott Street. Juicy, funky, spicy - hard to believe that a hip place like this is making better Isaan sausage than the great, authentic Thai restaurants in Chicago. But it's true.
(4) Clams with Chinese sausage in some kind of amazing broth at Bad Saint in Washington DC. All around, perhaps my favorite meal of the year. The hype is completely justified.
(3) Chermoula marinated sturgeon at Honey's - served with a charred tomato vinaigrette - a dish that had both intensity and finesse. The most memorable thing at what was my favorite new Chicago restaurant of the year. The chestnut pasta with truffles was almost as good.
(2) Tomato salad at The Loyalist - height of season tomatoes with surprising bits of pear that worked wonderfully. An amazing salad, though they kept it on the menu a week too long. Not as good second time, early fall when local tomatoes were just OK.
(1) Fries at Roister - yes, fries are at the very top of my list. These were fried so perfectly and had such great potato flavor that that might have made the list even without the visually mesmerizing and utterly delicious bonito flakes that took them over the top.