CityBeat’s dining team had some pretty delicious moments in the running for their “Best Bite” finalists this year. Personally, I thought back to the creamy goat cheese my neighbor brought from Paris that we ate in her garden one spring night. The incredibly perfect fresh grouper at Commander’s Palace Jazz brunch in New Orleans. Caliente barbacoa from the window at Taqueria Yolandita on a cold winter day. Oh, and the Banh Xeo stuffed with blue crab that I savored in the alley outside the Green Goddess, my other NOLA favorite. Each one of those dishes was amazing and biting into them I had to close my eyes and just let the taste overwhelm me.
For me, though, there was one bite that beat the rest. Humble, not exotic, local. In fact, quintessentially Cincinnati. I was prowling downtown, looking for lunch, and I happened to go down Court Street past the grill that the Avril-Bleh & Sons Meat Market (33 E. Court St., 513- 241-2433) had set up on the sidewalk. I must have just missed the rush, because there wasn’t any line at all. I spotted a sausage that looked just right and I asked the griller what it was. A cheese mett, I learned. (Photo above provided by Roadfood.com)
A hot sunny summer day. A baseball double-header kind of day. Me, hungry, perched on the brick wall behind the public library. When I bit into that cheese mett — juicy, hot from the grill, smoky, spicy, a little gooey, on a smooshy white bun — it was so delicious. I was the happiest girl on earth. Best bite? Oh, yeah. Just remembering it almost makes December’s frostiness go away. (Anne Mitchell)
While there were certainly amazing, savory bites that I experienced in 2010, after careful contemplation I have decided that my best bite of the year occurred on a sunny October afternoon at Findlay Market.
After shopping for the usual produce and meats, I decided to treat myself at Dojo Gelato (137 Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-328-9000).
In the years since I lived in Bologna, Italy, I have been searching for an authentic gelato. Dojo Gelato produces the most dense yet creamy gelato that I’ve had since I returned to America.
Gelato is made by using more milk and less cream than American-style ice cream and it's marked by intense flavor. Dojo Gelato loves to create unexpected flavor profiles — I’ve even had guacamole gelato there! And they use fresh, seasonal ingredients in their creations.
On that October day I had a two-scoop combo of Vietnamese Vanilla and Pumpkin. The vanilla oozed fresh vanilla bean flavor which, when combined with the spicy fresh pumpkin, made for the absolute perfect taste sensation. Autumn was exemplified in that refreshing, smooth bite, and it was completely satisfying and memorable. (Bill Hatfield)
Pork Shoulder Tacos
I would happily eat authentic Mexican tacos for every meal, every day, for the rest of my life. White corn tortillas, slightly warmed, with whatever filling strikes my fancy, onions and cilantro? Heaven.
The best taco I’ve found yet in the city is at La Mexicana (642 Monmouth St., Newport, 859-261-6112) — tacos al pastor. I wake up most mornings wondering how I can get my husband to trek to Newport with me … again. Pork shoulder is marinated in tomatoes, onions, pineapple juice (yes, really) and three kinds of dried chili peppers (guajillo, pasilla, and ancho). Sliced thin and served with a variety of LaMexicana’s addictive, freshly made salsas, the pork is tangy and sweet and a little hot.
Now, where are my keys? (Candace Miller-Janidlo)
Grilled Romaine Heart Salad
Most salads don’t especially excite me, and I have never once uttered the words, “I could really go for a salad.” Salads are things that keep me busy until my entrée arrives. That said, the Grilled Romaine Heart Salad at Lavomatic (1211 Vine St, Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-1999) is not a distraction — it’s supper.
Lavomatic takes a grilled, smoky romaine heart and tops it with red onion and a cool, house-made bleu cheese dressing. As if that weren’t enough, the salad is then strewn with fresh, crumbled bleu cheese.
This salad is not for those looking for a healthy alternative. This salad is rich, warm, smoky and decadent. I can’t eat a whole one myself. Well, I could, but then I wouldn’t be able to have dessert. (Karen Christopfel)
This year a huge portion of my dining-out experiences were at Sunday brunch. At many restaurants, the Eggs Benedict has been my go-to dish. Every restaurant has its own twist on the classic, but my favorite (and my favorite dish I discovered this year) is the Benedict Otto’s at Otto’s (521 Main St., Covington, 859-491-6678).
The Otto’s version substitutes fried crispy flatbread and smoked salmon for the English muffin and ham that we’re used to. Eggs Benedict with salmon is common in Australia and New Zealand, and the fried bread gives a nice, extravagant touch. It’s delicious, a bit rich and is true indulgence. (Brian Cross)