Elizabeth Large's Top 10 Most Memorable Meals Of The Decade

December 30, 2009|By ELIZABETH LARGE

When I decided to do my most memorable meals of the decade for my almost-end-of-the-year Top 10 list on my blog (baltimoresun.com/diningatlarge), I couldn't decide whether it should include both memorably good and memorably bad meals or not.

But I didn't want to be too Scrooge-like, so I stuck to the good ones, year by year.

2000: The now-closed M. Gettier's in Towson (3 1/2 stars): The best entree was lamb prepared two ways on the same plate: a fall-off-the-bone tender shank is arranged with a juicy pink chop on a bed of cabbage braised with cream.

2001: My one four-star restaurant was Tapas Teatro in what was then not Station North. I raved about the roasted eggplant, the grilled chicken with cumin and the lamb chops in rhubarb sauce. As you can see, I go with the sure bets a decade later.

2002: My only four-star meal was at the Tasting Room in Frederick. I loved the pork with roasted peach compote; swordfish steak with flavors of char, lemon, olive oil and garlic; panko-crusted shrimp; and veal chop over saffron risotto.

2003: In a year where I had 3 1/2 -star meals at Rudys', Bicycle, Rooster Cafe in Columbia and Abacrombie, the one I ended up giving a "Restaurant of the Year" award to was Abacrombie (under former owners). I mentioned the seafood pot-au-feu and chicken with savory bread pudding in particular.

2004: I gave four stars to both Big Bad Wolf's House of Barbeque and Julia's in Centreville; but for a memorable meal, I have to go with Julia's red snapper with a julienne of vegetables, avocado, little wonton pillows stuffed with lobster and mayonnaise flavored with garlic, ginger, lime and Chinese mustard.

2005: Charleston's new small plates, fixed-price menu got the nod this year with four-star food including lobster, peaches and limas; confit of pork with black-eyed peas; braised veal shoulder with grilled sweetbreads; and many other daintily proportioned dishes.

2006: The new four-star Salt Tavern topped my list this year, with explosively good New American food, from the foie gras-topped mini-burger to the house-made ravioli stuffed with duck confit. Not to mention the seared tuna and the lamb stroganoff with fresh spinach and noodles.

2007: I would have to put our 3 1/2 star meal at b in the "quietly memorable" category, with perfectly executed bistro fare such as chicken "osso buco," salads and wonderful soups, pizza and wild rockfish with polenta.

2008: I had no four-star meals last year, but I did enjoy my dinner at Fin Steak & Seafood in Fells Point, which promptly closed. Maybe I'll mention the 3 1/2 star gourmet bar food at the Hamilton Tavern, which included a special that evening, salmon with avocado sauce, spinach and empanadas.

2009: This is my hardest to decide, perhaps because I'm too close to it. My meal at Volt was certainly memorable, but the food at the Prime Rib was flawless. Sometimes simple done right trumps even wildly creative and wonderful but with a few slips.

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