The Year of Eating Gloriously

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Yes, this year felt a little bit more glorious than years past.  Not only because I had really, really great food – in restaurants, in homes, in hawker centers – but also, since I flew close to 80,000 miles for work and a little play, I was very fortunate to have shared many generous, heartwarming, unforgettable meals with family and old and new friends not just in Chicago, but in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, Scottsdale, Minneapolis, Houston, Manila, and Singapore, as well.  I’ve had meals this year with the highest-quality ingredients sourced from the best purveyors (and in one X-Marx Chicago dinner, foraged from a patch of green in Humboldt Park), spectacular culinary inventiveness from chefs at the top of their game,  and unexpected pairings, combinations, and cooking techniques; but more importantly, most of these meals were also celebrations with people I cared a lot about, full of remembrances, excitement, and possibilities, with personal bonds strengthened or re-ignited or instantaneously created. 

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Dining Memories of 2009

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p1010253.JPGAll my close friends know that I am as passionate and as intensely curious about food and cuisine, from sourcing to plating, as I am about theater, film, and art, but I rarely write about them on this blog (in the two years and change that http://www.fromtheledge.com/ has been alive and kicking, I’ve posted approximately 16 food-related entries as compared to 143 for theater and 57 for film).  There’s only so much time and intellectual capacity that I have in a year to write about all the things and experiences that have made an indelible impression on me, so sometimes culinary matters get shunted aside in favor of other blog topics.  And, as I have said previously, there’s so many other people in this gastronomy-obsessed city we live in who can write about food more authoritatively and vividly than I can (plus have more gut-capacity and better digital-photo-taking skills than I have) that unless the culinary experience was quite unique, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it.  So my dining end-of-year-list has always been my attempt to share the myriad of dishes and dining experiences that left an impression on me during the year past.  I’ve tried very hard to keep the list to my Chicago dining experiences this year, unlike in previous lists, but I had to make an exception for the arguably singular, but also ambivalence-inducing, dining pilgrimage I made to The French Laundry in the summer, where some of the dishes stunned me into speechlessness, but where the overall culinary point of view felt somewhat old-fashioned.  Here, then, are my top ten dining memories of 2009:

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