3…2…1… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I am counting down the final hours, minutes and seconds of 2011.  Before I launch into a NEW YEAR of food fun, I thought I would take a look back on this year of my eating, drinking and all things food related and “countdown” the highlights.


7.  Cranberry Mustard from the Wisconsin Cheeseman.  My turkey sandwiches would not have been the same without this delightful little condiment.  I got a jar in January and I can honestly say that as long as the company continues to make this product, I will have a jar in my refrigerator going forward.

6.  Best of Soup Appetizer at The Chart House Restaurant. The perfect appetizer for this soup lover who wanted to try ALL the soups on the menu. Three perfect tasting size portions, in a beautiful formation of ramekins, included a New England style Clam Chowder, a sherry kissed Lobster Bisque and a chilled Gazpacho.

5.  Jersey Devil Chocolates.  I have tried a lot of spicy sweet chocolate bars and products from all over the world but this brand knocked out the competition.  Dark chocolate, chipotle chili and cranberries are combined in a delicate balance of exquisite goodness.  I found Jersey Devil Chocolates to be the ultimate chocolate bar / candy treat this year. 

4.  Short Ribs.  This year more than any I heard about (or I read about) Short Ribs dishes. I realized, at some point, that I had never tried a Short Ribs preparation. Sure enough, a favorite restaurant had a Short Ribs special one evening and I was able to remedy my situation.  I was impressed and I must pull this protein choice into upcoming 2012 menus.

3. LAMB Osso Buco.  It was an inspired choice by my cousin to swap the traditional veal shank with lamb shank.  It was an awesome spin.  It fortified my love the idea of putting one’s own mark on a dish with a swap or addition.

2. The Burger at Christopher’s Restaurant & Bar at The Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, NJ.  I thought it was greatThis year it won New Jersey Monthly Magazines “The Great Burger Showdown” for Central Jersey and took Second Place for the whole state. It really left an impression on me (I want one right now!) and I hope to try some of Christopher’s other fare in the next year.

1.  Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I made this recipe (found in his book Good Eats: The Early Years)and will never look at chocolate chip cookies the same way.  This is the only chocolate chip cookie recipe I will use going forward.  It was soooooo good, that non-dessert eaters in my life were eating these cookies.  Thank you, Mr. Brown, THANK YOU!!!


7.  Post Hurricane Irene Coffee.  I think I was the last person to believe that Hurricane Irene was in fact going to slam into the Northeast in August.  I remember thinking and saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I guess some part of me did believe it was going to happen and that part of me was my coffee addict.  I brewed a GIANT pot of coffee just a few hours before I lost power.  The next morning, still in the dark, I heated my coffee on the gas stovetop.  It wasn’t the BEST coffee ever but it was the best coffee that day and I loved it.

6. Unoaked Chardonnay.  I had never heard of this type of wine before this year.  As I am not a lover of Chardonnay because of the oak, I was excited to try this style.  I thought it was a nice option.

5. Fig Mojito at The Frog and the Peach in New Brunswick, NJ.  It was probably 105F the night I ordered this and what wasn’t to love? This refreshing mojito was having a love affair with a muddled fig… why yes, I’d love another.

4. Lavender Tea.  This is a weird thing I do – I like to brew tea from just the leaves (not flowers) of my lavender plants.  Last year, my plants did terribly and yielded little.  However, this year the plants sprang back to life, very healthy and I welcomed my brew with a splash of lemon and bit of honey back into my beverage playlist.

3. Strawberry Daiquiri at Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick, NJ. This was a fantastic cocktail made with fresh, delicious seasonally ripe strawberries.  It wasn’t too sweet, it had just the right amount of pucker, and it magically, momentarily turned my date into Ernest Hemingway.  It just swept me away.  The bars at Catherine Lombardi and (at the sibling restaurant) Stage Left pay homage to the very best artistry of and highest appreciation for spirits and mixology.

2. Heartland Brewery Flight.  I had a lot of smiles over this flight of 8 samples (I think it was close to 24 ounces, and yes, I shared it- I HAD to!!) I happened to try this at the Empire State Building location in the thick of the holiday season, so I was able to sample the Empire Premium Beer and the Old Red Nose Ale brews too.

1. Hendrick’s Gin.  When I drink I gin martini I drink it desert dry to enjoy the gin, and enjoy I did with this spirit.  A dear friend turned me onto it and I am so glad he recommended it – an instant favorite find of 2011.


4. Cookie/Cake Decorating.  I really pushed myself to improve my cookie/cake decorating skills this year.  I had a lot of fun and I think everyone enjoyed the final products.  I can’t wait to challenge myself further in this area in 2012.

3. “The Food Wife”.  I loved the episode of The Simpsons aired in November called “The Food Wife” in which Marge and the kids become food bloggers.  It was hilarious!

2.  Ceramic Non-Stick cookware.  How great is this stuff?!?!?  I love it! I have one small frying pan I bought at a discount store and I have enjoyed using it so much, I must replace my other/older non-stick cookware ASAP.

1. Vita-Mix. I am in heaven with this Rolls Royce of blenders.  It is an amazing machine and multi-tasker.  This tool was the best of the best of a very good year in food, indeed and will no doubt shine throughout 2012 and beyond.

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