Favorite Plates of 2011

2011 was an incredible year for food around metro Detroit. We even branched out to our neighboring states of Ohio and Illinois to sample some deliciousness across state lines. We’ve compiled a short list of our favorite plates of 2011. Please note: this is not an exhaustive list – we ate a lot in ’11, hopefully ’12 will bring even more fantastic food.

Without further ado, here some of the most mouthwatering dishes and where to find them.

Asian Baby Back Ribs

Maria’s Comida in Hamtramck has taken aspects of Asian and Mexican cuisine, fused them together, and have created something unique and delicious. These ribs are lip smackingly tender with a tangy sauce that leaves you wanting more & more.

Baked Eggplant Salad

Having grown up surrounded by fantastic Middle Eastern food, I find myself underwhelmed at most Middle Eastern restaurants. However, the baked eggplant salad at Al-Ameer (Patch.com review) in Dearborn is flavor explosion. Think super fresh baba ghanouj mixed with chunks of fresh cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley, and mint. The simple lemon-olive oil dressing is an ideal compliment.

The Longhorn

Slows BBQ. Beef brisket. Spicy sauce. Perfection. Look at the photo – what can I add to that?

Braised Berkshire shredded pork with sweet chili mayo topped with tropical cole slaw

Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor opened our eyes to a whole new world of Cuban cuisine. We visited Eve Aronoff’s new place at least three times in 2011 (I live about an hour away) and every time was better than the last. With the recent addition of a liquor license, we might be visiting once a month in ’12. (More on Frita Batidos)

Briased lamb taco

Tria opened in early 2011 inside the newly renovated The Henry hotel in Dearborn. Contemporary design with a menu focused on sharing makes Tria one of the most exciting new places to open in ’11. These tacos are filled with tender lamb, pickled mango, and chili onions and topped with fresh cilantro. Two bites and you’re done, but oh what a pleasurable two bites they are.

Margherita Pizza

Detroit’s pizza scene has been dominated by thick crust Sicilian style pizza for years (and also every pizza chain ever seemed to have started here). However, in the past couple years thin crust is becoming more everyday than the thick stuff. Pizzeria Biga in Southfield makes some damn fine pizza. Cooked at an incendiary 900 degrees, every pizza come out with the perfect amount of char. Fresh ingredients with a seasonal focus – not fancy, just good.

Pork Neck Bone Gravy with Ricotta Cheese

We travelled a little bit this year. Back in August I visited Chicago for Lollapalooza. Of course, I hit a few choice Chicago establishments: Publican, Big Star, Quartino, and The Purple Pig. Pork neck bone gravy is one of the many small plates on the The Purple Pig’s extensive menu. Porcine centric and wine heavy, the menu is perfect for groups. I could drink this gravy. I felt a deep sadness when my cousin and I finished this plate. We did not want the last bite to happen.

"Pork and Beans"

Shortly after Chicago, I was invited on a culinary press tour of Columbus, OH. I had no idea Columbus has such a vibrant dining scene. Out of three days of eating, many memorable dishes were consumed, but this “pork and beans” from Latitude 41 resonated with me more than any other dish. Pig’s head torchon, beluga lentils, cracklins, and cherry mostarda compose this fascinating plate. Torchon refers to a method of cooking in which a meat (usually foie gras) is placed in a towel and poached. The meat is left tender and in this case then it is deep fried.

Grilled Monterey Sardines, Pepperonata

If we had to choose one place that excited us the most in 2011, it would be Bella Piatti. Chef Daniel Campbell and his crew have constructed an amazing menu that is focused primarily on northern Italian cooking. I fear some people may be put off by the sardines, but take it from me, this is a most glorious dish. Supremely flaky and a joy to eat. Bella Piatti’s menu is heavy on small plates, so gather up a few friends and head over to Birmingham and order 8-10 dishes. You can’t go wrong.

Animal Style Frites

My second (and final) culinary press tour of 2011 was in Cleveland, OH. Our final stop of the trip was quite possibly my favorite dining experience of 2011. The late night happy hour at the Greenhouse Tavern is a wondrous occurrence. From the warm bread and butter board to the crispy chicken wings confit to the frites shown above, every dish made me smile. Add to that a stellar beer list and you have a truly incredible restaurant. Chef Jonathon Sawyer, a Michael Symon protege, deserves serious adulation for Greenhouse Tavern.

Braised Duck With white bean gratin with Carr Valley Caso Bolla Mellage and roasted Cornman Farms' root vegetables

In stroke of unimaginable luck, I was invited to the Wisconsin Cheese Dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. So many times before, I’ve had duck that is either dry or too tough to eat. In this case though, James Beard award winning Chef Alex Young presented the most tender and succulent duck I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The is perched atop a bed of a luscious white bean gratin made with a nutty, savory Caso Bolla Mellage. It might be that this dish is most vibrant in my mind, but this was the most enjoyable dish I tasted in 2011.

Cookie Balls by Angela Watts

2011 was also the year of recipes for The Hungry Dudes. Although we focused primarily on restaurants, recipes became a large part of what we do. Our love of cooking culminated this year with our 25 Days of Holiday Desserts. Huge community support and interaction made these 25 recipes truly special and extra delicious. 2012 will bring even more recipes and more restaurants.

Thanks to everyone who has read and/or shared any of our posts or photos over the past year. Also, we are grateful to all of the restaurants who invite us in to eat. Finally, everyone who talks to us on Twitter, Facebook, or any other platform (lest we forget face to face), we love talking and meeting new people. Please keep it coming in 2012.

Happy New Year!

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