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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Best Bites of 2015: Blair's Picks

by Blair Loup

At the end of last year, Jay and I teamed up and narrowed down a list of the 10 best bites of food Jay had that year. In 2015, Team Bite and Booze grew to a team of three, and Jay, Sydney and I have traveled extensively throughout this year.

We all curated our own lists of the five best things we’ve eaten this year. It wasn’t easy, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go through any personal turmoil in making this decision.

These are the five most delicious, life-changing, fork dropping, emotionally involved bites I had the pleasure of eating this year.

Torta Ahogada at Araña New Orleans, LA

I’m not typically in the mood for sandwiches. It is what it is. I can’t explain it, but I could eat this any day, any time. All of the flavors and textures are everything I want: savory, fresh, pickled, spicy, sweet. The bitter/fruity nature of the chili sauce that drowns the torta harmonizes the dish like a rug that ties a whole room together. Every time I think about this dish or see this picture, I fight the urge to drive to New Orleans.

Torta Ahogada: Slow Roasted Pork on Bolillo Bread, Black Bean Purée, Avocado, Crema, Cotiga Cheese, Cumin Pickled Onion,  Spicy Chili Dipping Salsa
Torta Ahogada: Slow Roasted Pork on Bolillo Bread, Black Bean Purée, Avocado, Crema, Cotiga Cheese, Cumin Pickled Onion,
Spicy Chili Dipping Salsa



Smoked Duck Banh Mi Waffle at Waffle Champion Oklahoma City, OK

I had zero expectations for the Oklahoma City food scene when Jay shipped me off in May, and it blew me away. There are several places I wanted to try that weren't on our schedule, and I honestly can’t wait to plan a trip there soon. Seriously. Picking one item off of the menu at Waffle Champion is challenging, so I went with my heart. The smoked duck was on point; the pickled red onion gave a nice crunchy, acidic bite, and I’m all about pickled fresh jalapeños on anything. The right amount of duck fat soaked into the waffle, which made my life. If you’re ever in OKC, go to Waffle Champion and order this.

Smoked Duck Banh Mi Waffle packed with pickled veggies, jalapeño, and cilantro mayo
Smoked Duck Banh Mi Waffle packed with pickled veggies, jalapeño, and cilantro mayo


Beet Salad at Compère Lapin New Orleans, LA

I love beets. I’m not ashamed of that, and if there’s an item on a menu with beets on it, I will have it. I got the chance to hang out at Compère Lapin interviewing head bartender Abigail Gullo for my Women in Booze series. We talked about seasonal menus, and when she realized my appreciation for beets, she had them send out their beet salad. These perfectly, and I mean perfectly, roasted beets atop house made ricotta, a little Kale pesto, pistachios, and a rocking ciabatta toast point made me emotional.

Roasted Beets, House Ricotta, Kale Pesto, Ciabatta Photo Courtesy: Compère Lapin
Roasted Beets, House Ricotta, Kale Pesto, Ciabatta
Photo Courtesy: Compère Lapin


Besh Shrimp at The Second Line Oxford, MS

Born and raised in Louisiana, I’ve never really caught on to the whole New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp thing. I can appreciate it, and I think it tastes okay, but it’s not my favorite Louisiana dish. Recently on a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, at Chef Kelly English's  Second Line, I had the best BBQ shrimp dish of my life. Obviously named after one of Chef Kelly’s mentors, John Besh, this New Orleans style BBQ shrimp dish had me on that feeling you’re supposed to get when you bite into a York Peppermint Patty. Executive Chef Meredith Pittman runs a tight ship at the Lousiana-inspired eatery with a lovely staff of devoted and talented students. I could eat these Besh Shrimp until the end of my days. It legit made me feel feelings.

Besh Shrimp at Second Line in Oxford, MS
Besh Shrimp at Second Line in Oxford, MS



Mole Burrito at El Limon Wayne, PA

When I took a trip up to Wayne, Pennsylvania (outside of Philadelphia) for one of my best friends’ graduation from Villa Nova, he took me to a local Mexican Taqueria, El Limon. Authentic Latin American cuisine is one of my soft spots, but the mole at this place is unreal. We tried several menu items there, but I dreamt about this mole the rest of the trip. That’s right…we went back for more. The cravings were so strong; I had to have that roasty, toasty, spicy goodness twice in one week.

Mole Burrito at El Limon in Wayne, PA
Mole Burrito at El Limon in Wayne, PA