This year, Cody and I did a lot of eatin’ and imbibin’, but there are some things that stick out among the roughly 1,095 meals—FYI, that's 365 days multiplied by three—we had this year. Here are the best things we ate in 2017, from our home in Virginia Beach to as far as the Ligurian coast.
Judging from the first couple items here, I asked myself, "What does this say about me?" It says this: None of my pants fit me anymore. That’s exactly what it says.
Shiptown’s Atlantic Beach Pie
Perhaps it’s the crust. Or the creamy, supple lemon filling. Or that it makes me nostalgic for my grandma’s lemon meringue pie. The Atlantic Beach Pie from Shiptown was ordered every. single. time that I dined there this year, which was too many to count. With Shiptown closing at the end of 2017 and reopening as a deli under a new moniker, I admit I’m getting a little teary-eyed. Though, I’m comforted knowing that everything owner Stephen Marsh creates will be just as delicious as the last. Who knows, maybe this pie will still be on the menu. (Pretty please?)
New Earth Farm’s Corn Cookies with Jalapeño Glaze
I cannot get this cookie off the brain. My encounter with this cookie happened when I visited New Earth Farm’s new on-site market for the first time. Since my home is a little far from the farm, I knew I should probably stock up on some goodies to hold me over until the next visit. After laying heaps of veggies, sausage, pear and fig butter and a couple mini sourdough loaves on the counter, I read the label for the cookies and thought to myself, “Ooh, that sounds fun!” I don’t even think we completely exited the farm grounds before I practically inhaled this corn-based concoction. It was tender, yet delightfully crunchy all at once. Flecked with green, jalapeño bits in the glaze, the frosting was gracefully painted across the top of the cookie. I have yet to have this cookie again, but I’ll be dreaming of its sweet and savory goodness until the next time.
Authentic Italian Limoncello
I can still feel the warmth on my face from when we hiked from Corniglia to Vernazza in Italy this past September. Stopping along the trail to either catch our breaths or finish the last nibble of focaccia or cheese, the last thing we expected was a bar mid-hike overlooking a cliff and the bluest blue sea you could imagine, even on a cloudy day. Once I saw some fellow hikers enjoying limoncello, I knew that I, too, shall be having a glass of that lemony bliss. I’ve had my fair share of limoncello, but this was divine. Subtly sweet, an enveloping tartness encompassed this classic Italian digestif. (I could easily go on about everything we devoured while in Europe, but I’ll save that for a later travel post.)
I’m a simple man with a simple plan. Sides are overrated. All I need is a slab of meat and a tall frothy beer, and I can call it a day.
Hearth’s Oven Roasted Half Chicken
This was the tastiest, crispiest, most tender and juicy chicken I’ve ever had. I’ve always liked chicken—I mean, who doesn’t—but I don’t get super excited about it. I’ve long thought that even the best cooked chicken couldn’t come close to how much I love me a good cut of steak.
I was wrong, and Hearth let me know it. The skin was ever so crispy, while the breast and thigh remained tender and moist. The herbed crust added a wonderfully complex element as well. Hearth’s chicken proves that sometimes the simplest meals are the most memorable.
Every Crudo from Shiptown
One of the many things that Shiptown knocked out of the park and kept me coming back for was their rotating crudo. One of the first dishes I ever ate there was a steelhead trout crudo with black garlic, pickled watermelon, fresno chile and green onion. The fatty, succulent trout just melted in your mouth with every bite and was especially elevated by its punchy accompaniments. All the dazzling, unique flavors sent my palate a-roarin’!
Vintage 2012 Le Freak by Green Flash
If you haven’t had Green Flash's Le Freak, and you call yourself an IPA fan, you need to get your hands on a bottle of this magical serum. With a 9.2 percent ABV, this puppy stands on its own two feet, and then some. It’s not one of those over-the-top hoppy beers, either. This Belgian-style IPA takes elements of a Belgian tripel and a traditional American imperial IPA and marries them into one perfect brew. The Belgian yeast and dry hops come together for a very tasteful blend of breadiness and hops. And boy does this beer age well. A generous friend of ours happened to give us a few of these bad boys from the cellar, which were aged since 2012. The flavor was tamer, yet more complex and expressive. Don’t fret if you can’t get your hands on the vintage since this brew is equally excellent when it’s fresh.
Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Stout Sauce
Using the leftover pan drippings of a thick-cut, perfectly seared, medium rare filet mignon, we created a sauce this year that took this to the next level. (Disclaimer: I am a firm believer in keeping steaks simple. With a good cut of beef, you need nothing more than salt, pepper and a good sear. The taste of the beef alone speaks for itself. Having said that, the drippings can make for a perfect sauce to drizzle on top.)
Typically, we mix in some butter and red wine, then let it reduce—that’s the quick and easy way to go. However, one day, we took it to the next level and cooked down a large bottle of Guiness Stout until it was syrupy and thick. We then added it to the drippings along with a heap of crumbled blue cheese and butter. After whisking this together and pouring it over the steak, I have to tell you this is the best steak sauce I’ve ever tasted. The pungency of the blue cheese coupled with the malty boldness of the stout and the savory steak made for a darn good meal. Don’t worry, there will be a recipe down the road.
We're excited to continue cooking, eating and sharing more of our recipes and travel stories with you in the New Year. Stay tuned!