Sunday, January 18, 2009

Belated Best of...'08

I'm bringing back the somewhat annual "Best of..." list, a list that bloggers with failing long-term memory compile to recall some of the finer places they've eaten, wines imbibed and random good times. How bad is my long-term memory? I forgot to write a "Best of" list last year. The most recent one dates back to Best of...'06. Here's what I said then.

As for '08, here goes:

Best Meal (Italia): I know everyone hates when the big match ends in a tie, but that's okay here on this blog. Yes, there are two winners for '08: fittingly, one is from the South, the other up North.

On 4th of July, we went to Il Braccionere located at the very top of Ischia. It's easy to spot from the ferry boat. Look for a light on the top of the highest point on the island, then look up again. We ate heaping portions of roast coniglio (rabbit) served in a ceramic bowl. Finger-licking good, as the Colonel used to say.

A few months later we found ourselves in Northeast Piemonte, in the city of Biella. There, you can find Ristorante Baracca (there's no truth to local rumors they will be changing the name to Ristorante Baracca Obama after Tuesday's swearing in ceremony), famous for its boiled tongue. My initial report can be found here.

Best Meal (fuori Italia): This is a long overdue nod to my favorite (regular) restaurant in London, Brindisa, a few paces from Borough Market, por tapas bonitas. It's one of the highlights always of my regular trips to London these days. The acorn-fed joselito is always a pleaser, as is the fritatta.

A very close second for '08 was Naka Naka in Chelsea (the other Chelsea -- the west side of Manhattan) for really nice sushi and a duck appetizer that was out of this world.

White: I usually jot down the names of pleasing lesser known producers (and lesser known varietals) for this annual list. When it comes to wine, I'm a silly populist, I guess. Here's my fave for '08: a 2007 Pinot Gris from the valdaostano producer Lo Triolet. Marco Martin, the name behind this wine, really needs to invest in a proper web site, one that can help us find/order his very distinct wines. Simple, pleasing, reasonably affordable. Also, his Gamay '07 is an exceptional red, a table full of stinco-eating Italians agreed.

Red: Staying close to Rome, it's Casale del Giglio's Mater Matuta '04. It's a shame the price keeps going up, maybe a sign they're doing something right with this vintage.

Usually, Il Sette Bello adds beaches, gelato and films to this list, but I'm going to leave it at just wine and food for 2008. It's all I can remember.

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