Jumping on the bandwagon, I spent today trying to figure out my favorite meals of 2009. How do I judge? Is it solely food, or do I take into account decor, service, and the overall experience? Should it be a meal that is unforgettable because it was special for more reasons than just the food?
In the end, I decided to pick based on everything, but that the only fair thing to do would be to eliminate the restaurant where we had our wedding dinner from contention, because of course, our wedding dinner was special. The food was fantastic, and I would recommend the Pineapple Grill in Maui to anyone and everyone, but for this category, I just didn't think it would be fair. I could go on and on about the hors d'oeuvres or the delicious salad with goat cheese or our appetizer plate or the amazing dessert spread or how our relatives can't stop talking about the lamb or how the service has been phenomenal every time we've been there and they were a pleasure to work with, but again, in the end, not really a fair fight to include a meal with SUCH sentimental meaning. For the same reason, I would probably exclude where we got engaged from that year, but I wasn't doing this post that year.
So without further delay, I picked two places and one honorable mention for my favorite meals of the year. Two from Maui (both from Kapalua, actually) and one from New York, interestingly enough.
We have been to Merriman's on each of our visits to Maui this year, and I think our first visit there was one of my favorite meals of the year. It was a very "non-Hawaii" day... cloudy, cool enough that I was wearing a sweater through dinner and got cold after the sunset (when the sun finally showed up). However, the food really shone that night, our server (who we were guessing surfed during the day and was a server by night) was excellent, and we saw whales FROM OUR SEATS in the dining room. It was truly incredible.
The dishes I got were also great, and I was talking about them for days afterwards. The appetizer was a special and it was white shrimp tempura over a pohole fern salad. The shrimp were from somewhere right off Oahu, and the whole dish just worked really well.
For entree (I ended up getting the same entree both times, I liked it so much) was the Big Island butterfish misoyaki with vegetables and a side of macadamia nut brown rice. Again, the whole dish worked together so well, and I was raving about the butterfish for days. I can still remember the taste of it and that makes a meal memorable for me.
Dessert was good too, but I couldn't remember what we got without looking at the pictures, so it wasn't as memorable as those two dishes. Now that I've written this, I could go for some of that right now. Our second visit was good too, but the first was my favorite between the two.
BURMESE NEW YEAR WATER FESTIVAL
In the middle of July, A and I went on a sweltering hot day to a blacktop schoolyard on the Lower East Side for the Burmese New Year Water Festival. (We also went to the Fun Fair in Queens later in the summer.) I had Burmese food before at one of the restaurants in NYC, and later represented an asylum client from Burma (not that that had anything to do with food), so I was definitely interested in trying out more Burmese food. We arrived too late to try the special dessert (they ran out already!) but we had so much other good food that we had to push our dinner reservation back a few hours and all I wanted for days afterwards was Burmese food. I would sit at work thinking about what I wanted for lunch, and it was Burmese food. Too bad for me, because I don't know when else you can get this fish noodle soup or other Burmese food except at these two food fairs in the summer! I can't wait until next year to get my fix (unless someone has other suggestions for places to go). Two of my favorite things from the fair were the fish noodle soup and the tofu salad:
They also had this orchid juice which was so good, different and refreshing. And watching the Water Festival activities was also fun. It was just a really fun afternoon with really good food, and it got me addicted to Burmese food. Memorable.
HONORABLE MENTION: SANSEI KAPALUA
We love Sansei. It's as simple as that. But since we have been there a total of six times in the past 1.5 years (yes, more than once per trip to get to that number), it's hard to single Sansei out as one of my favorite meals of the year because they've all been good (and are kind of blurring in my head right now). But we love Sansei. And the food there is memorable, just not a specific "meal" for me. So to conclude this mouth-watering post, here's the dragonfly roll we tried on our next to last visit to Sansei instead of dessert:
Doesn't all of this look delicious? I know I'm getting hungry... but it's way past bedtime, and I need to be functional to do my other year-end posts later. Happy almost new year!