Top 10 dishes of 2015

Being a professional glutton is a tough job. Each year, I scarf my way through shameful amounts of food. By year's end my belts need extra holes and my cholesterol needs lowering. But it's not all bad news as I am privileged to have experienced some culinary inspiration not to mention tasted some mighty fine meals.Here are my picks for the best and most memorable dishes of 2015 (in no particular order):

Loka

1
620 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1E4

In-house cured charcuterie: A lardo's soft and silky pork back fat is fantastically rich and creamy; and a sophisticated and nicely chewy lamb prosciutto coupled with a magnificent mushroom parmesan salumi might just rival Bar Raval's own in-house curing program. And believe me that is saying something.

Café Boulud

2
60 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M4W 0A4

Poulet a la broche: Something as simple as a whole roast chicken is completely satisfying. After the theatrical presentation of the entire cooked bird stuffed with rosemary and rotisserie potatoes in a copper pot, it's swiftly whisked back to the kitchen for carving. Though the skin could have been crispier, these are the juiciest pieces of poultry you will ever taste. Sorry, Swiss Chalet. Grapefruit givre: Created by pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira from Boulud Sud in NYC, it is perhaps the most screamingly clever dessert ever. If the James Beard Foundation could give out a separate award just for dessert, this would be the one to get it. Composition alone makes it a medalist, but rarely if ever do you see such whimsical form and function coming together in such symbiotic sweetness. Served on a bed of ice with dried rose petals, yarns of sesame halva top a frozen fruit peel like a white toupee, concealing other delights like rose loukoum and a palate cleansing grapefruit sorbet. Le wow.

Antler

3
1454 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y6

Jamaican venison patty: It may look like a snack food, but it's as important as any expert entree. Slipped into a white paper sleeve with the Antler logo stamped on the front (nice touch), it’s the best version of any meat patty I can recall. The house made dough is so fine it's almost translucent, making it easy to see the mound of ground meat within with as much flavour as a well-simmered stew. And the delicately spicy dipping sauce with scotch bonnet is not blow-your-head-off hot thanks to being blended mostly with red peppers. Make no mistake: this is not the meat patty you're used to seeing under a heat lamp at the corner convenience store.

Bar Raval

4
505 College St, Toronto, ON M6G 1A5

Sobrassada: If you think this is all meat, you'd be dead wrong. It's 75 per cent pork fat that cured in-house for at least two months, creating an original spread like a slightly spicy sausage sans the casing. Mark my words, this is the kind of influential food that will in time trickle down and appear on menu openers everywhere.

Stelvio Restaurant

5
354 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2A2

Zigeuner: Looking like a prop from a horror movie set, this dish is a cross between shawarma and shish kabob, a description that barely does it justice. Essentially meat on a stick, the beautifully grilled beef is rolled around a huge wooden skewer the size of a small rolling pin with its own wood drip tray. In the Alps, it's eaten directly off the stick, but we polite and provincial locals will be tempted to use a knife. Any way you decide to eat, you'll devour the tender flank steak wrapped over pancetta and sprinkled with rosemary. And though a bit pricey for what looks like a small amount of meat with no accompaniments, it should be on everyone's bucket list for the novelty alone.

Barque Butcher Bar

6
287 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2M3

Chorizo ribs: Barque made its reputation on its smoked meats and Barque Butcher Bar is no different. Thickly cut and full of meat, these ribs haven't a gram of fat on them. Its pimento paste and garlic flavour is not only addictive, it mimics the spice signature of an actual chorizo sausage. Served in a warm, small, cast iron pan, with tangy ribbons of pickled vegetables, this dish, though pricey for the portion, is worth every penny.

On a cold, snowy Edmonton night, nothing says lovin’ like a cup of hot chocolate. It’s no surprise this drink was originally dubbed the “elixir of the gods.” Regardless of the variety you select, or whether you opt for the simplest hot chocolate on the menu, all I can say is ... don’t forget the marshmallows.
Whether you’re looking for a classic soup and salad or something a little different, Montreal has plenty of cozy places that deliver more bang for your buck. Order it to-go when you need to get back to the office, or linger over a cup of coffee to catch your second wind. The word “pricey” needn’t apply to these Montreal lunch places with famous meals for under 10 big ones.
Handling a hangover is really a matter of degree. Sometimes a glass of water is all you need. For the other times, when food is the only cure, try these fine establishments.
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