The 10 Best Things I Ate in 2012
Focaccia di Recco from Davanti Enoteca
Worth every penny of its $18 price, this dish, courtesy of chef Peter DeRuvo, is just one of the standouts at this Italian restaurant in Scottsdale owned by Chicago-based Francesca's Restaurants Group. A wooden board of thin and crispy baked bread, golden brown, bubbly, and filled with lusciously soft cow cheese arrives with an accompanying melting honeycomb. The sweet spread onto the savory amplifies the flavor and makes this dish one for the memory books.
Com Hen from Hue Gourmet
If you're going to take the time to indulge in the cuisine of the ancient citadel of Vietnam, you'll want to start with this one-of-a-kind dish at this counter-service eatery in Mekong Plaza, the Asian mall in Mesa. Clam broth poured over a textural potpourri of ingredients -- rice, peanuts, taro stems, pork belly, minced banana flowers, Vietnamese sesame rice crackers, and slices of green apple - makes for a complex medley of flavors with a taste as addictively peculiar as it is intense.
First Time Crepe from Crêpe Bar
If everyone's first time were as memorable as the First Time Crepe from Jeff Kraus, chef and owner of this top-notch creperie in Tempe, our lives might all be a bit sweeter because of it. A brûléed banana gets tucked inside a griddled, slightly sweetened crepe smeared with Nutella. The crepe is then sliced, brûléed, placed atop a smear of more Nutella, and artfully surrounded by more torched banana, sliced strawberries, and spiced walnuts. For a first time, this one's pretty much perfect.
Escolar with Salsa Verde, Tomatoes, and Honey from Crudo
This year, chef Cullen Campbell moved his home of modern Italian fare to the back of a shopping center in East Phoenix. And although it's tricky to find, the payoff is worth a few go-arounds in the parking lot - especially when it comes to the grilled escolar. Firm, remarkably rich, and deftly prepared, the thick chunk of fish is coated in a superb signature salsa verde made with carrot greens, basil, and lemon and resting atop tomatoes and honey for a stunning array of flavors Campbell orchestrates effortlessly.