Since the end of 2015 is near, Eater asked a group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past year. The annual survey spans eight questions from dining surprises, best dining neighborhoods, to restaurant grievances. All answers will be revealed as the week rolls on—cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Readers, add your answers in the comments below. Sixth up:
What was your single best meal in 2015?
Jane Ko, editor of A Taste of Koko
Emmer & Rye—the polenta and goat cheese panna cotta left me dancing out of the restaurant.
Brandon Watson, food editor of Austin Chronicle
On the night of one of the rockiest storms of the year, I decided that barring a sudden tornado, I was going to keep a reservation at Apis. The drive seemed to take impossibly long and I stepped into the dining room looking a bit like The Ring's Samara, but by the time the server brought out a egg toast, none of that mattered. Then came a beautiful procession of lettuces, 'nduja, morels stuffed with foie, sweetbreads, octopus...all served to the tune of rolling thunder. A very close second: Olamaie chefs Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas' joint dinner with Emeril Lagasse for the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. It was a treat to see a legend riff on the work of two of Austin's best chefs, pairing his trademark barbecue shrimp with Olamaie's equally famous biscuit.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic for Austin Monthly
Neither single, nor a meal, but the best things I ate this year, the things that haunt me, are Fixe's puffed grains with uni and gelled mushrooms, the egg toast from Apis, and the root vegetables in fermented mushroom broth from Gardner. I could eat each every single day.
Kathy Blackwell, editor in chief of Austin Way
It's a tie: My first dinner at Olamaie earlier this year made me so sweetly homesick for the Carolinas that I cried over dessert. And I'll never forget how a beautiful bowl of linguine con vongole at Vespaio at the end of an exhausting night made me feel like I was being comforted by an old friend.
Tom Thornton, food and drinks editor of CultureMap Austin
There's an experience bias here, but it was likely a plate of brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and slaw that Esaul Ramos put together at La Barbecue after I spent a morning working prep with him while researching an article.
Melanie Haupt, freelancer writer and contributor of Eater Austin
In Austin, a ladies' dinner this summer at Launderette. I think about those beets and brussels sprouts pretty much daily. I also had a really wonderful brunch, including a transcendent kouign amann, at Blue Dog Bakery in Louisville. Cocktails and the Thunderbird! Forty Twice! pizza at Hog & Hominy in Memphis.
Melody Fury, freelance food writer, blogger at Gourmet Fury, and contributor of Eater Austin
I celebrated my master’s graduation at Qui—they are absolute experts at their craft. The entire experience was exceptional and flawless.
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
At Launderette, several months ago, so these dishes are probably off the menu. Highlights included chef Rene Ortiz’s French feta toast with grilled red pepper and eggplant; charred octopus with beluga lentils and upland cress; and pastry chef Laura Sawicki’s great take on sticky toffee pudding, with a sweetened cauliflower puree (yes, it worked!), crumbles of bleu de Basque cheese, and candied ginger ice cream.
Dan Gentile, staff writer at Thrillist
A friend visiting from Corpus Christi wanted to eat something that she couldn't on the coast. We walked into Uchiko, scored those mythical Saturday night seats at the bar, and ordered omakase. From the nigiri to a few hot places, everything was exceptional. The staff seemed to be taking genuine pleasure in blowing our minds, which made the experience feel even more special.
Anastacia Uriegas, contributor of Thrillist
The Signature Tasting Menu at Apis, without a doubt. As a food person I get to try a lot of different dishes and restaurants, and often, flavor profiles and trends overlap onto each other. And, this meal really woke me up. It consists of anywhere from 21 to 26 dishes. Every ingredient is the highest quality and every meticulous detail is intentional and perfect. Here are a couple of selections from their current tasting menu: charred Spanish octopus, fermented chili, snow pea, preserved lemon, castelvetrano, and 100 day aged wagyu ribeye, pomme fondant, smoked black garlic miso. I don’t even know what some of those ingredients are...but know that I want them in my mouth.
Katie Friel, editor of Tribeza
I keep coming back to Counter 3.Five.VII. The intimacy of talking directly to the kitchen, the wonderful sommelier who has such a breadth of knowledge, it's a great experience.
Sofia Sokolove, assistant editor of Tribeza and contributor of Eater Austin
Olamaie—my parents were visiting from DC, and I'm pretty sure we had the entire menu. The service is exquisite without being fussy, and the level of thoughtfulness behind each dish is so impressive. It was just a totally delectable experience.
Veronica Meewes, editor of Zagat Austin
I would have to say my single best meal of the year was an outdoor dinner I experienced in Western Australia, set in a cove we shared with a few fishermen and some sunning seals. Each dish was made using local produce, and some vegetation that had been foraged right there from the seaside, super fresh seafood unique to the area and protein like kangaroo, emu and wallaby. Not only was the food truly beautiful and unlike anything I'd ever eaten before, but the chef, Paul Iskov, was so humble and committed to honoring the land around him and the aboriginals who'd cultivated it for generations before anyone else. It truly surpassed meals I've had at Michelin starred restaurants!
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
I indulged in Qui’s ticketed tasting menu in August, when I had the pleasure of trying crispy pregnant ants and sweet corn sprinkled on top of masa ice cream. The textures and flavors were so complex and wonderful (sweet, creamy, crunchy) that I finished my dining partner’s dish, too. I also still think about Launderette’s birthday cake ice cream sandwich and Fukumoto’s sushi on a daily basis. While not in Austin, I had the freshest poke and sushi from every single place I went to in Kauai during a Hawaiian summer vacation.