Favorite Dining Experiences of 2014

Every December, I reflect back on my favorite dining experiences of the year. Here’s 2011, 2012, 2013 and now comes this years.

In order of appearance.

Nocturne and Chromatic Kitchen Pop-Up | Denver, Colorado: When I heard about the pop-up dinner concept, Chromatic Kitchen, I was immediately intrigued. It started as a creative outlet and “testing laboratory” for Chef Dustin Beckner and Scott Mattson (of Mondo Vino). Mattson’s wife Nicole (also an owner), describes it starting as “just a couple of guys researching, listening to old jazz records and staying up late to create unique flavors and plates that could express a musical idea or articulate the mood of a recording.” Chromatic Kitchen thus turned into a beautiful evening over six paired courses, alongside the legacy of a jazz artist. It is involved and inspiring and I attended Volume #3 – an evening accompanied by the music of Thelonius Monk. You’re given the location only a week before and ours was at Arthaus, a contemporary art gallery in Denver. One of the more unique food experiences for me of the year.

Chromatic Kitchen Begins

The Girl and The Fig and Fremont Diner | Sonoma, California: In my first trip to Sonoma, for a weekend of girlfriends, wine tasting, and delicious food, my expectations were exceeded. I’d long heard about The Girl and The Fig, so I was excited when we snagged reservations and enjoyed the whimsical, cozy restaurant. As they say it’s “country food with a French passion”. The menu is seasonal and their Rhone-Alone winelist is well worth boasting over. I tried the rose wine flight, for only $12 and loved it.Not to mention, her cookbook is wonderful.

After wine tasting all weekend, the diner that unassumingly sits on the side of the road, surrounded by vineyards hit the spot. Although we had a long wait, the Fremont Diner was worth it. Known for their southern food like fried oysters, pie and cheesy grits, they don’t take reservations so first come first serve (it’s worth the wait). I love how they bring out your water in mason jars, the coffee is small batch and brought in a French press for you and their hash browns are potato “cakes” filled with lemon and parsley.

Fremont Diner - Sonoma, CA

Bozu | Brooklyn, New York: On a hybrid of a work trip plus friend trip to New York / New Jersey, I went to Bozu with my cousin in Brooklyn for his birthday. A Japanese Tapas Lounge in Williamsburg, they’re known for their “bombs” which are balls of rice, covered in fish and great toppings. The party bomb (12 pieces) is a great plethora and fun to share with a group. Try the back patio, hidden from the noise of the street, but under the stars with their exposed brick walls.

Bozu Brooklyn

Three Leaf Farm, Wild Foraged Vegetarian Farm Dinner | Lafayette, Colorado: Farm Dinners are my favorite. I go to a handful every summer, and love how you feel so connected to the food, the land, and the people who created it from top to bottom. There’s just so much more ambiance being outside, amongst your food, versus in a restaurant. Am I right? This particular farm dinner was fun, because much of the food was foraged from the land, and it was entirely vegetarian. Our entree was the most fluffy and light savory farm egg souffle I’ve had in a long time. It was with roasted hazel dell oyster mushrooms, sauteed milkweed flower, turnip chips, creamy haystack mountain chevre, millet, and arugula.  I could have had multiple of this flavorful, interesting dish.

Three Leaf Farm

Trifecta | Portland, Oregon: Portland is one of my favorite food cities in the country. I’ve always been wowed, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. On a weekend trip to see one of my best friends from college, we bar and restaurant hopped our way around the city. I loved Trifecta, a tavern and bakery with the crustiest, warmest, fresh-baked bread (and house churned butter) I’ve ever had. We had PNW oyesters, deviled eggs, pimento cheese toast, and many more goodies.

Trifecta, PNW Oysters

Hole in the Wall at Gas Lamp | Des Moines, Iowa: On a business trip to my home state, my mom and I ventured to what really is a hole in the wall at a music club/bar, The Gas Lamp. The Gas Lamp is an eclectic music venue with great beers on tap and they bring all kinds of music from punk to bluegrass through. It’s got the right kind of grunge and edge, yet brings in all kinds of people. Hole in the Wall is dubbed as a food stand / pop-up restaurant. The cooking space is a tiny room attached to Gas Lamp with barely any room to move, and the menu comes out on a small rectangular piece of paper.

Think high-end, creatively refined organic food, paired with PBR, taxidermy aesthetics, and a special menu that rotates based on his favorite seasonal foods. He’s [Zach] absolutely pushing the envelope. I loved the BBQ chicken steamed bun, covered in house BBQ sauce, jicima slaw, pickled mustard seed, and basil Noosa yogurt. Some of the most unique food I’ve had all year, in the most unassuming location.

Hole in the Wall Menu

Soulcrafting with Red Camper | Denver, CO: This “event” married two really cool businesses. The first, Soulcrafting, which brings together master craftspeople in your community, and ties people together to these experiences through learning and creation. Soulcrafting paired an evening with Red Camper.

Red Camper which ties together that desire for the open road and freedom. Red Camper celebrates “the roadtrip experience through greeting cards, journals & a picnic supply in the form of Deliciousness. It’s Summertime Preserved.”

We spent time with Maura making jam and we made an apricot, cinnamon, Colorado Montanya rum, currant jam. One we also included rosemary. It was so special to be part of something that unique, and I love what Red Camper is up to . I would have now known about her if it wasn’t for Soulcrafting’s fun concierge and experience based events.

Jamming with Soulcrafting

Fall Farm Dinner at Lone Hawk Farm | Longmont, CO: My last farm dinner of the 2014 season, was wrapped up at Lone Hawk Farm in Longmont, Colorado. Hosted by Big Red F’s Zolo Grill, the setting was beautiful. Surrounded by mountains, clucking chickens, a bounty of flowers, and a beautiful blue grass band it always reminds me why I live in this beautiful state. I hadn’t been to this farm yet, of all my farm dinner visits so it was a special one in my mind.

Lone Hawk at night

What were your favorite meals of the year? Can you believe it’s time for 2015?