From the humble to the sublime, these are the eight best bites we took in 2019.Nashville hot chicken sandwich at Swine & Sons. The Nashville hot chicken sandwich at Winter Park mainstay Swine & Sons (which moved into the Local Butcher earlier this year) improves on the original by smoking the chicken before breading and deep-frying it to perfection. Served on grilled buns with house-made pickle slices and creamy Alabama-style white barbecue sauce, they're spicy, juicy, crunchy and sssssssmokin' – they had it all over late-summer's over-hyped fast food chicken sandwiches.
Sweet Okayama hotate at Kabooki Sushi Sand Lake. The sweet Japanese scallop prepared by chef-owner Henry Moso as part of his omakase is seriously orgasmic. It floats in a green-apple aguachile, capped with watermelon pearls and beatified with a yuzu sunomono salad.
Lamb chops at Cafe 34 Istanbul. The majestic heap of meat in the "Ottoman Pleasure" is made even more majestic by the inclusion of the most wonderfully charred, luscious, lip-greasing lamb chops ever.
Tuorlo d'uovo fritto at Ravello. The fried egg yolk that guest chef Enrico Pivieri of Il Cavallo Scosso in Asti, Italy, prepared at Ravello's White Truffle Dinner back in February was served with a Castelmagno cheese fondue, tomato confit drops and plenty of white truffles from Alba.
Paccheri amatriciana at Sette. Thick, chewy, house-made noodles have the perfect texture, but Sette improves on perfection with their amatriciana, a tomato-based sauce with cured pancetta (like bacon, but betta), onion and chili flakes that add some heat.
Tako mole from the Agave Azul x Kabooki Sushi Omakase Ko-Lab. In early December, chefs Juan Rios and Henry Moso presented a unique omakase combining Mexican and Japanese techniques and flavors. In these tacos, rounds of Spanish octopus were set in an incredible 42-ingredient mole along with a dusting of Mexican five spice and a wakame salad.
Grilled scallops at Mama Lau va Oc. Served in the shell, the scallops came with a spicy-sweet sauce and a dollop of fish roe, as well as fried onions, but the unexpected bomb of flavor came courtesy of the coral (that is, the ovary) that was still attached. Biting into the sweet, briny, egg-filled sac drew comparisons to foie.
Sisig at Taglish. I fell in love at first bite at chef Michael Collantes' new Filipino-American restaurant inside the Lotte Plaza Market food court with the sisig, crispy pork pan-seared in garlic, tomato, onion and jalapeño, served over garlic rice, topped with a poached egg and a drizzle of garlic mayo. The poached egg adds richness, and splashing on a bit of spicy vinegar brings out all the strong, rich flavors even more. (Pro tip: Make it a combo with two crispy lumpia and a purple ube horchata.)