Best Meals and Moments in 2011

2011 have been a whirlwind for me (in a good way).

A few trips outside of New York City. Many food events that I never imagine I could ever eat my way through. The many people I’ve met through the year – familiar faces, new acquaintances and partnerships.

I am very close to finishing graduate school.

I am thankful for the many people who supported me this year – family, friends, and many others – personally and professionally.

Here are my best meals and moments in 2011. It’s in no particular order, just meals that I thought were astonishingly delicious and service was good:

Suji: Kobe beef tendon
Suji: Kobe beef tendon from Aburiya Raku, Las Vegas, Nevada

Aburiya Raku, Las Vegas, Nevada
I’ve heard very good things about this small Japanese pub for years. When I tweeted about my impending trip, a number of my followers replied back with Raku as one of the suggested places to eat. Once I step in, barely at opening time for dinner, there’s a line of people waiting for a coveted table for dinner that evening. For good reason, I never had beef tendon (seen above) that’s insanely tender and delicious. The unusual, mostly slimy uni with poached egg was actually good.

Langoustine from L’Atelier del Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas, NV

L’Atelier del Joël Robuchon at MGM Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Admittedly, I didn’t have the chance to write about this particular meal when I was in Vegas. If you had the means to splurge a meal at this very sleek, chrome, black and red restaurant I’d suggest this spot. Most memorable dish of the tasting menu back then was the crisp, wispy Langoustine, as seen above. Service was friendly and professional – not uptight at all. (I know there’s a NYC location and I’ve eaten at that location back in 2008.) Here’s my photo set of this meal.

Duck for Two: Roasted Muscovy duck with lavender honey, turnips and figs
Duck for Two (one of the portions) at Eleven Madison Park, NYC

My (early) birthday lunch at Eleven Madison Park was memorable by all accounts for a special occasion meal. Everything – food and service – was excellent from start to finish. A couple of EMP’s chefs somehow remember who I was and found it intriguing yet flattering, to say the least. (If you have the opportunity to order the Duck for Two, I highly suggest it.)

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Neck (12th course, 1st preparation) Fennel (16th course)
Corton, NYC

My actual birthday dinner at Corton pushed my boundaries in a couple of ways. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Paul Liebrandt and his team cooked their hearts out setting me and my dining companion an epic 24-course, 5.5-hour dinner. I never had such a lengthy, marathon-like meal in my entire life and I thoroughly enjoyed the cerebral food. The additional plus was to see Tony Bennett dining the same night I was there.

Me with the Beard winners (left to right): Daniel Humm, Julie Reiner, Karen DeMasco, John Besh, Dan Kluger
Me with James Beard Award winners at Mercedes Benz Anniversary Dinner

I was invited to Mercedes-Benz 125th Anniversary Dinner early November. I never imagined to be in such a prestigious private dinner and have James Beard Award winners Chefs Daniel Humm, John Besh, Dan Kluger, and Pastry Chef Karen DeMasco prepare and cook each course, even the cocktails made by Ms. Julie Reiner. It was a great meal and I never seen such beautiful cars and a red carpet entrance to any event or dinner I ever attended.

My (early) birthday cake - Pumpkin Nuage

My birthday cake from Lady M Confections, New York, NY
Lady M gave me probably one of the most greatest (early) birthday present ever – their delicious Pumpkin Nuage Cheesecake. I’ve been a fan of their fantastic desserts and pastries for years but I never expected them to gift me with a whole cake.

Shelves of boxes
Inside Ladurée, Upper East Side, NYC

Ladurée, opening in NYC. Besides this particular Parisian patisserie (technically, this location is a macaron shop more than anything else) opening and caused a frenzy with Upper East Siders, New Yorkers who cared for macarons, and tourists, it was good to meet and interview Mr. David Holder, Chairman of Ladurée and vice-chairman of the Holder Group. Murmurs of Ladurée opening a tea salon but from what I’ve heard directly from Mr. Holder back then, he’s still scouting for locations. We’ll wait and see.

Pierre Hermé tasting the macaron given out to the audience

Seeing and meeting Pierre Hermé at StarChefs ICC is like meeting a French pastry demi-god (well, he is one of them technically). Being a fanatic of his pastries and especially his macarons, I’m in awe of a pastry genius watching and picking up tips of his experiences and thoughts about how pastries are. For the brief time of speaking to him, so far, he’s not planning to open a boutique in New York City anytime soon. (Boo!) After this particular demo, it spawned my obsession of baking macarons at home.

It’s been a great year for me and I hope the same for you all. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012!

Links to the posts mentioned:
Aburiya Raku
L’Atelier del Joël Robuchon at MGM Hotel, Las Vegas (photo set)
Eleven Madison Park
Mercedes-Benz 125th Anniversary Dinner
Lady M Confections
Opening of Ladurée in NYC
Pierre Hermé at StarChefs ICC


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. Austin Scott Brooks says:

    You certainly had a fabulous year of food! All those meal choices look delicious. Happy New Year to you!

  2. Jay says:

    What a great review! I’m your faithful reader, looks like you had a wonderful year.
    Wish you good luck & happiness 2012!!!

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