Laura Shunk's top five meal memories of 2010

Categories: The Dish

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One of the best meals I ate this year started this way
Cafe Society writers consumed hundreds of meals in restaurants over the course of 2010, but a few really stood out. Next week, several of those writers will be serving up memories of their favorites (and we encourage you to post yours, too).

In the meantime, here are my top five meal memories of 2010:

Melted leeks and pizza at Pizzeria Basta, 3601 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder

My first date with my current boyfriend was supposed to be lunch and a beer, but it turned into a marathon tour of the Boulder gastronomic scene. Stop three was Pizzeria Basta, where we posted up to the bar and chattered away before the wood-fired oven. We shut up, though, when the melted leeks were placed in front of us, decadent and buttery, topped with lardons of bacon and dusted with salt. The dish was simple -- and it was perfect. By the time our pizza arrived, I'd decided my future man friend was a good egg. And so was the egg on top of our pie, poached center oozing forth, coating pork belly and arugula with its contents, a gooey complement to the airy, crisp crust.

The Hovey, Darwin's Ltd., Cambridge, Massachusetts

Every year, I meet friends in Boston for a wine expo. It's a touristy event, an exhibition hall full of people trying to say intelligent things about the nose and the palate but eventually giving up and just getting trashed. This year, head pounding the morning after, I braced myself against the cold of a February morning in Boston and trudged down to Darwin's for the Hovey, a magical concoction that sandwiched a runny, overeasy egg, thick slabs of cheddar, crisp bacon and chunks of sweet, smooth avocado between two halves of a flaky, buttery croissant. And when I consumed that perfectly engineered hangover-kicking breakfast, there was absolutely nothing wrong in the world.

Green Chile, Chubby's, 1231 West 38th Avenue

That I missed the original Chubby's for, oh, my entire childhood is both upsetting and baffling, but I'm glad that was remedied in 2010. One drunken night a couple of months ago, some friends and I forked over plenty of cash to a cab driver to make an out-of-the-way stop at the take-out-only, flier-plastered establishment. Foil-wrapped green chile-stuffed grilled cheese was maybe the best drunken munchie food I've ever found, and the porky stew, spicy enough that the only way to put the fire out was to just keep eating it, was just as good coating a burrito and smothering a pile of fries. I've made up for the former gap in my knowledge with frequent stops at Chubby's since then, but you never forget your first time.

Ramen, Ippudo, New York City

It's practically criminal to return to the same restaurant in New York City, especially when you've got precious few meals to consume in the Big Apple, but every time I return for a visit, I have a hard time resisting the pull of Ippudo. Because the nest of house-made ramen noodles swimming in delicate, creamy broth and topped with quivering slices of crisped, fat-laced pork loin might be my favorite food in the entire world. I've grown equally attached to the necessary pre-dinner ritual, when I stand with friends for an hour in the dark, frenetic bar, sucking down Kirin on draft while we wait for a table, curbing hunger with lightly fried shishito peppers and steamed buns bursting with braised pork doused with sweet, spicy sauce.

The entire apps board, Colt & Gray, 1553 Platte Street

The first time I went to Colt & Gray was in the early spring, when I met a friend for a daytime cocktail ... and didn't leave until the place closed. Over the course of that epic stretch of time, I ate my way through the entire list of appetizers, beginning with the puffy gougeres, which cracked delightfully under my teeth, unleashing a mini cascade of sharp, creamy blue cheese. After that, the rich, tender trotters, fried crispy and served with fresh frisee and biting mustard, went straight to my heart, but it was the bone marrow -- velvety, decadent, heaped generously on warm toast with sweet, sticky caramelized onions -- that really sealed the deal. I fell completely in love with the place, and I've whiled away many hours at the bar since.

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