SanDiegoVille's Best Bites Of 2015 | Evidence Of A Year Well Spent

January 2, 2016

It's that time of year again! Although we had 15+ family members venture to America's Finest City for the holidays, we found some time to sit back and reminisce over our best bites of 2015. From fried chicken to octopus, pancakes to cheesecake, we reveal what tickled our tongues and invoked culinary bliss over the course of a wonderfully delicious year.

Not that it needs to be said, but we love to eat, and although we do so at least a couple times a day, 365 days a year, there are only a limited number of dishes that seduce, creating a really, truly memorable experience. You know what I mean - that eyes closed, sit back and chew in amazement type ecstasy? That's what these 12 offerings did for us. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are our best bites of 2015. Try to find them if you can!

In the very beginning of 2015, we journeyed down to Valle de Guadalupe for a 6-course, winter bounty dinner at Deckman's en el Mogor, where guest chef, Andrew Spurgin, offered an other-worldly soup that made our toes curl. Melding Japanese and French culinary styles, Chef Spurgin's delicate bone broth consume/dashi was an absolute work of art packed with complex, thoughtfully placed flavors, including a slice of fresh caught Baja yellowtail, a grilled Manilla Clam, black charcoal gnocchi, beech mushrooms, pink turnip, red watercress and serrano pepper. Unfortunately for you all, there is no way to get this dish other than begging Chef Spurgin to replicate it, which may require a trip down to Baja, because, heck, things just taste better there.

Speaking of things tasting better in Baja, I had the best pancakes of my life (sorry Mom) at the San Felipe Marina Resort during an exploratory trip. Sided by crispy bacon, creamy butter, ripe grape tomatoes, fresh orange slices, and an egg over easy, this was the perfect breakfast. I'm pretty sure that my fellow diners were uncomfortable by the noises of satiation I was making while stuffing my face with these pancakes. This breakfast dish was absolutely exquisite in every way, yet so simple.

The Lodge At Torrey Pines hosted a most-exclusive James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Dinner this year with Food Network star Beau MacMillan and James Beard Foundation Award winner Carrie Nahabedian, as well as A.R. Valentien Chefs' Jeff Jackson, Kelli Crosson, and Olivier Bioteau. Although the overall experience was incredible and all the food fantastic, what I'll remember most are the oak-roasted oysters Rockefeller that were served during the appetizer portion of the meal. Holy hell were these delicious!

I'm not usually a "dessert guy," but Chef Karen Barnett Blair hit my sweet tooth at this year's Chef Celebration Master Pairing at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station. Her passion fruit goat cheesecake was creamy, tropical and just plain perfect. I'm not sure if this is a staple item on her menu at her restaurant Small Bar, but it definitely should be. 

We visited Mess Royale in Hillcrest when they first opened, and I've since made a concentrated effort to avoid the place for fear of becoming addicted to the candied bacon bites. Honestly, these things should be illegal because they are that ridiculously good. The name is perfect, as these things are truly meat candy. Crispy, tender, sweet and delicious, Mess Royale won the pork belly game for me in 2015. 

Upscale fried chicken was at the forefront of culinary trends in 2015, and my favorite this year came from Chef Antonio Friscia at Rustic Root in San Diego's Gaslamp. Crispy, moist and fried to perfection, this dish was true comfort. Chef Antonio has since departed from Rustic Root, so we cannot vouch for the chicken any longer, but if and when Chef Antonio returns to San Diego's restaurant scene, ask him to fry you up some bird.  

The year of Baja cuisine was 2015 and Chef Javier Plascencia was the fearless leader. If you haven't heard of Plascencia's Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy, your head must have been buried in the sand all year. Never, ever, ever go to one of Plascencia's restaurants without ordering the octopus. The 'Prince of Pulpo' does it just as good as anyone can, and Bracero's wood-grilled octopus with black bean and squid ink sauce, achiote, jalapeno, green garbanzo and habanero-peanut salsa is, alone, worth the visit. Tender and filled with intense flavor and texture, this dish was everything we hoped for and more from Plascencia's most northerly eatery.

Pacific Beach's Iron Pig Alehouse makes amazing Texas-style barbecue and has a vast selection of craft beer. Their Thursday night pastrami special or smoked brisket both could have easily made this list if not for how addictively delightful the hickory smoked chicken wings are. Really, there is no reason to attempt to describe these wings. Just go and try for yourself. Heck, bring a group and eat everything.

When it came to my table during a Sunday brunch sesh, I really had no idea what to expect or what the dish even was, but then I tasted Catania's Eggs All'Amatriciana and it was love at first bite. Baked eggs, Swiss chard, guanciale (Italian cured meat), white beans, fontina cheese and crispy breadcrumbs come baked in a crock and every bite is a savory blend of flavors and textures. I wake up on the weekends thinking of this dish.

The first time we had the beef birria taco from Telavera Azul's Chef Priscilla Curiel was at this year's Baja Chefs at the Point Fundraiser at Stone Liberty Station. The young and talented chef has since gone on to win The Blind Burro's most recent Taco Fights competition with this same dish, and rightfully so. It's everything a taco should be and tastes, literally, like it came straight from Mexico. Find. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.

I used to be averse to making the trek to Coronado, but after a weekend staycation exploring the 'island', my opinion drastically changed. I also used to avoid spending more than $15 for a burger, but Hotel Del Coronado delivered me this beauty beachside and I realized that you can't put a price on pure happiness. This barbecue bacon burger was fantastic, especially when gorged on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Treat yo'self - a lesson learned in 2015!

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I travelled to Arizona to visit a longtime friend. While there, I insisted we had to visit the renown Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix to try what many publications have deemed the best pizza in America. Although I'm not going to concede that it's the 'best' pizza I've had, it was really, really delicious. The above pie is half Wiseguy (wood-roasted onion, house smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage) topped with mushrooms, and half Rosa (red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, rosemary, pistachios) topped with prosciutto. If you go to the Phoenix area, make it a point to visit Pizzeria Bianco.

Well there you go - our best bites of 2015. Please check out our best bites from years past (2014, 2013, and 2012) and get out there and start eating!