The Five Most Memorable Things I Put in My Mouth in 2011

That's right, laugh it up. Although the title of this post wasn't my idea, I did consume a fair share of noteworthy eats in 2011. Whether crazy-delicious, crazy-exotic, or just crazy-crazy, many have managed to make quite an impression. Here are five of the most significant. 

5. Pan-Seared Scallops from Citizen Public House Although my review of this Scottsdale restaurant from former Cowboy Ciao chef Bernie Kantak was in June, I can still close my eyes and taste this stellar dish. An excerpt from my write-up may say it best: "I first felt the tenderness of the scallop and the smooth texture of the grits. Then there was something smaller, more solid. I bit down. The pop of a corn kernel gave way to its sweet flavor, mixing with roasted corn-flavored grits, salty bits of bacon, fresh-cooked greens, a sugary sauce, and the delicate, buttery flavor of a properly prepared scallop."

4. Moist Brisket from Texas BBQ House Barbecue is always a testy topic, but there was no denying that this piece of meat from the new 'que joint in South Phoenix (by way of Lockhart, Texas) left an impression on me I'd stand up for any day. From my review: "A slice of moist beef brisket was handed to me on bright white butcher paper, cozily curled up in the center, its aroma causing me to swallow in anticipation. I plucked it from its paper nest, tilted my head back, let it dangle a bit, then dropped it in my mouth, letting its warmth rest on my tongue before lazily chewing the tender meat, salty and fatty, savoring its slow-cooked, smoky flavor."

3. Flying Jacob at Beaver Choice The dish wasn't the only memorable part of this tiny Tempe eatery of Polish, Canadian, and Swedish eats with a name that gets you giggling, the entire experience was. And when I think of the Flying Jacob, I think of owner and chef Hanna Gabrielsson excitedly explaining it and the memory warms my heart. From my review: "But of all Gabrielsson's flavorful Swedish cuisine, none gets more exotic than the Flying Jacob. Invented by an aviator, this Swedish casserole arrives looking like lava that has pooled in a pie tin. Its unusual ingredient mix of marinated chicken, bananas, peanuts, and mashed potatoes baked in a chile cream sauce makes for a mix of sweet, salty, and creamy followed by a slow heat and a flavor sensation most of us outside Sweden's borders have not been fortunate enough to savor."

2. Helado de Lucuma from Villa Peru Until I tried this delicious dessert at Villa Peru in Tempe, now under the ownership of Lima-born chef Walter Salazar, I would have thought lucuma was some kind of new prescription drug. From the review: "This orange-colored ice cream made from lucuma, a tropical fruit grown primarily in Peru, has a taste all its own: a bit nutty, a bit like custard, a bit like pumpkin. No wonder it's the country's third most popular ice cream flavor after vanilla and chocolate."

1. Papaya Salad with Crab and Stinky Fish at Pete's Thai Cuisine "I didn't say it was good, I said it was wow," I explained to another Chow Bella writer after he tried this dish from Pete Pholtosa's new Thai restaurant in Sunnyslope. True, considering the wide variety of palates from other cultures, but, well, wow. From the review: "I give her credit for smiling only slightly upon witnessing my first bite of the slightly tart, grated papaya strips mixed with juicy tomatoes and crunchy beans that, without warning, was followed by a hell-hot, stinging heat courtesy of slices of red Thai chiles, then an intense fish flavor from the sauce of pieces of salty crab and fermented fish poking up from the plate. My expression must have been priceless."

What say you, Valley diners? Any noteworthy munchies consumed in 2011 worth giving a shout-out to?

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld