Introducing a new tradition for Eater San Diego, a closeout of the year in food with a survey of friends, food media, industry experts and bloggers. This year, we asked the group questions that ranged from their thoughts on Restaurant Break-Ups to 2013 Dining Predictions and we'll be posting their unedited responses throughout the week. We've already covered the Top Restaurant Standbys, Top Newcomers, the One Word to Sum Up the Food of 2012, Top Dining Neighborhoods and the Biggest Dining Surprises. Our experts now share their memories of the best meals they ate this year. Readers, feel free to play along and add your own answers to this year-end food survey in the comments.
[Erizo Baja Fish House & Market by Candice Woo]
Q: What and where was your single best meal of 2012?
Barbarella, Diary of a Diva columnist, San Diego Reader: Wine Vault & Bistro (Fine food served pre-fixe style at a price you can't beat)
Michele Parente, Features Editor, U-T San Diego: Addison. My friend's 50th birthday dinner was a once-in-a-lifetime, multi-course gastronomic event. (Full disclosure: Addison is owned by my boss but there's can't be a conflict of interest when everyone else on the planet is in agreement that it's — by far — the best restaurant in San Diego County.)
Kirk K., mmm-yoso: In November, Sang, a member of the late Naomi Wise's "posse" put together a wonderful dinner at A.R. Valentien. I was quite humbled and honored to be invited. The food was excellent; the Oak Fire Smoked Oyster Rockefeller and the Lamb Bacon Wrapped Guerrero Negro Scallops come to mind. And though the food was wonderful; my best memories were of the stories and great folks I had the pleasure to meet.
Roddy Gibbs, Rodzilla Reviews: TBL3 at George's Modern —I already mentioned George's being the best place to showcase all of what San Diego has to offer, and the TBL3 menu. ??Close second— Private dinner at Bobby Pascucci's home (owner of Ariccia Italian Market in La Jolla) Foie was still legal, fantastic fresh pastas, and the best porchetta anywhere.
Caron Golden, Local Bounty columnist, San Diego Magazine: Chef Luke Johnson's chef tasting menu at The Sky Room at La Valencia. I'm heartbroken it's closing.
Alice R., Alice Q. Foodie: The multi-course menu Olivier Bioteau made for me at Farm House Cafe for my birthday.
Amy Granite, The Grubby Bitch columnist, San Diego CityBeat: The pepper steak meat pie and chicken curry pasty from Deli South Africa in Clairemont Mesa blew my mind. It's a wholesale business with a small storefront and café — what's lacking in ambiance, you'll get back tenfold in flavor — with the owner Graham cooking all his family's South African recipes. He grows curry right there outside the place, blends his own spices, and makes these one-pot wonders (besides the pies) that are some of the best home cooking I've had in San Diego — ever! The flaky, buttery pastry on the pies is second to none. My first meal here in 2012 was definitely an OMFG moment.
Jane Bills, Let There Be Bite: Javier Plascencia's Mision 19 pop-up dinner at El Take It Easy.
Marcie Rothman, FoodbuzzSD: My house, with best friends for Thanksgiving, with a bbq'd Heritage Turkey (from Heritage Foods), and a magnum of Laurel Glen Cabernet, 1985 that drank perfectly. No really, ethnic food in this town is likely the best.
Keli Dailey, restaurant and bar reporter, U-T San Diego: I'm starting to sound like I work on the other side of the border. But let me quote myself from a U-T San Diego article that ran this summer: "I found a meal I've looked for my whole life. At Corazón de Tierra (Heart of the Land), chef Diego Hernández turns Mexican gastronomy into pure-tasting anthropology." This guy belongs in any story about the new gourmet Baja California. Yes, he's been on Bourdain and Zimmern's radar. Does that give him more culinary cred? Absolutely. But tasting the chef's delicate head cheese (a jellied pork terrine) or oyster gratin with Swiss chard and bits of fried lamb is all the convincing I really need. My taste buds don't care about TV appearances. Hernández made the best meal I've had in forever (and it was a lunch tasting menu!)
Josh Kopelman, publisher, Dining Out Magazine: The Lerach's Berry Diner is tough to top....but El Bizcocho Beer vs Wine #6 or Finale dinner with Gavin Kaysen was amazing too.
Amy Finley, contributor, Riviera Magazine: It was Luke Johnson cooking at Sky Room. Among other dazzling courses, he made a beautiful tomato soup that layered tomato water with jewel-like peeled baby heirlooms and wisps of basil. The experience was as light and ethereal as a kiss. In a food scene grown worshipful of local produce, that dish most perfectly, modestly, and simply captured the flavors of high summer. And I liked the Luke didn't want to work the room or discuss his food. He was a cook's cook.
Erin Jackson, San Diego contributor, Serious Eats: Eating my way through the entire dessert menu at Nine-Ten, followed by an amazing burger dripping with cheese and a mule shaken with St-Germain. No amount of fist-pumps could successfully express my joy, but I sure tried.
Candice Woo, editor, Eater San Diego: Javier Plascencia's Erizo Baja Fish House & Market in Tijuana — really exciting local seafood preparations and Mexican craft beer. His Erizo pop-up at El Take It Easy in December confirmed my love. If Javier would open something similar in San Diego, my immediate and future dining needs would be met.