Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Cook's Tour - 2014 Year in Review

Dispatch New Jersey
December 30, 2014

The end of 2014 marks my sixth year of writing The Cook’s Tour (wow!). I’d like to thank you, the readers, for taking the journey with me. I am always happy when you comment on my posts, and even more so when you tell me that you enjoyed a restaurant I wrote about, or a new food product I’ve tried, or a recipe I’ve suggested. So I thought the approaching year-end would be a great time to review where the Tour has gone this year. Come along with me as we revisit highlights!
Vetri Cookie/Chocolate Plate
January saw the recap of our wonderful post-Christmas trip to Philadelphia.  There were several great food experiences, but the definite highlight was our dinner at Vetri. As I wrote in that post, and even after a year to reflect, Vetri was one of the best food experiences ever! Expensive? Yes, but one of those “musts,” along with places like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, or Fore Street in Portland, if you are a  serious food lover.

We also visited DiNic’s in the Reading Terminal. The polar opposite of the Vetri experience, but no less delicious. Their signature sandwich, roast pork with escarole and sharp provolone is not to be missed if you go to Philly!

Also a "don't miss" is the incomparable cinnamon ice cream at Bassett's.

And rounding out January was the Super Bowl right in our own backyard! Of course, there was some grousing about traffic, crowds, etc (remember, this is New Jersey!), but all went off without a hitch. That occasion gave me a chance to repost my award-winning South of the Border Super Bowl Baskets, which you should definitely add to either your New Year’s Eve/Day menus, or February’s Super Bowl party list. They are quick, easy, and delicious!

Then the depths of winter were upon us. New Jersey, and the entire Northeast, suffered through one of the worst winters ever. In terms of blog posts, the winter was a little lean, but I did find time to bake these fabulous Nutella Brownies – make these, people! You will not be disappointed and they just might get you through the long, dark winter.

In the early spring, I visited CafĂ© Matisse in Rutherford and the new Mighty Quinn’s BBQ in Clifton. You can’t get two more different restaurant experiences if you tried. Follow the links to read about them.
Perfect Soft Shells

Since I’m starting (already!) to pine for summer, I am going to skip ahead to my July 26th article about a wonderful soft shell crab dinner we enjoyed on the deck. Just looking at the pictures makes me feel better.

September saw us heading up the GSP to Red Hat on the River in Irvington, NY. This is going to be an annual trip, I think, because it’s got two essential elements of a perfect fall road trip (good food and beautiful water views).
Lost Kitchen

Lost Kitchen

Lost Kitchen Oysters

We were lucky to get reservations at The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine during our late September trip. And it was a good thing we got there before the New York Times put the restaurant on the map because the chances of getting in there again are slim. This restaurant is right up there with the best of them. A superb culinary experience.

Palace Diner corned beef hash
Palace Diner sublime eggy, custardy French Toast
On the way home from Maine, we had one of the best breakfasts ever at The Palace Diner in Biddeford. These guys know what they're doing. Why, oh why, are there no places like this in north Jersey??? 

In November, the nice folks at the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, once again, invited me to join them on their annual NY State Dairy Tour. If you haven’t been to the Finger Lakes region of New York, you must add this to your travel planner. They've got it all up there: gorgeous lakes, great food, and fabulous vineyards.
"The Girls" at Patterson Family Farms

Rounding out the year was our trip to Austin, Texas just a couple of weeks ago for five days of BBQ! You read that right. We traveled to Austin strictly for BBQ. That post is coming in January (here's a sneak peek at what's to come):
Franklin BBQ Brisket

Here’s wishing you health, happiness, and good food in 2015!

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