The 14 Best Dishes I Ate this Year

A highly personal list of the best dishes I ate in 2022. I eat a lot. Only a few dishes made the cut.

2022 was good and bad. I spent a lot of time in Florida looking after my father and in Arizona looking after my mother. I got to visit New York City (THE City as my friends from college will tell you) not just once but twice. I divided a month in Europe into an incredible culinary and history adventure in Naples and Rome, Italy, and relaxing family time in Switzerland. And I have the good fortune to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where I ate my way through San Francisco, the North Bay (Marin, Sonoma, Napa), Oakland and beyond.

From food trucks and pop-ups to sit-down restaurants that still have the gumption to grace a table with linen, excellent eats are everywhere. These are just some of my favorites. I hope you will share some of yours!

The Best Dishes of 2022

stuffed squash blossom at Re Lazzarone, Naples, Italy

My boys and I discovered this petite restaurant after a visit to the nearby National Archeological Museum. The walls are graced with drawings of Maradona, who famously played for the local soccer team, and there was the blissful hum of an air conditioner in July. Stuffed with Neapolitan salame and ricotta, zucchini flowers are flash-fried, the flower crisp, the cheese creamy, the entirety impossible to stop eating.

  • Mijoté beef tartare, San Francisco
beef eye of round at Mijote, San Francisco

The tight menu of six nightly dishes lists the tartare simply as “beef eye of round, geen bean, pistachio,” giving little hint of the floral and rhubarb tang or cured egg yolk that elevated a classic raw beef dish into something entirely unexpected.

melons at Liliana, San Francisco

Chef Seth Stowaway serves the same menu of Michelin one-star Osito at its adjoining bar/restaurant, Liliana. I stopped by for a glass of wine and discovered a plate of chef’s seasonal caroselli melon. Amplified with almond salsa macha, crispy garlic and finger lime, the dish was a play on sweet and sour, crunchy and soft and a whole lot of umami. Every melon deserves to be treated this well.

  • Bodega banh cuon, San Francisco

We’ve all had rice paper roll, no? Luminescent, the ground pork and wood ear mushrooms straining to escape their glistening rice paper wrapper, the dish is not elegant. But one dip in the nuoc mam with a slice of fried garlic and fresh cilantro will have you thanking the restaurant gods that owner Matt Ho was able to stay in the business.

banh cuon, rice paper rolls, at Bodega restaurant, San Francisco
  • Singapura five spice pork roll, New York City

Its tofu skin fried until crisp and glazed with spicy-sweet sauce, its minced pork and shrimp seasoned with fragrant five-spice, an appetizer captured the essence of culinary Singapore in a single dish. It was so good, I ordered another.

five spice pork roll at Singapura, New York City
  • Angler radicchio with XO sauce, San Francisco
red radicchio with Parker House rolls

Having waxed rhapsodic about the whiskey-paired meal and the XO-drizzled radicchio, I am here to remind you of the chicory’s delicate sweetness balanced by the savoriness of fish sauce, an ideal salad course for a meal aswirl with balanced brininess at every turn. Don’t forget to wear your bib – sauce splashes are common.

tofu lunch at Izakaya Gazen in Los Angeles

Served as a spin on a bento box, house made tofu – fresh, in salad and as a dumpling – was revelatory both for its flavors and its textures. Miso soup, seaweed salad and green salad complete the meal.

  • Bear bison tartare, Napa
bison tartare, Bear at Stanly Ranch, Napa

Great chefs know how to hook a food writer using texture and flavor. Chef Garrison Price utilizes a toolkit of cheffy tricks – colatura (a type of garum) to buff out the beef and add briny flavor, cured egg yolk shaved and sprinkled for a one-two punch of creamy, zingy flavor, and tendons turned into puffy crisps – adding grace and elegance to an earthbound dish.

  •  Arlù, eggplant timbale, Rome
Parmigianina Sfiziosa at Arlu, Rome, Italy

Ok, ok, the actual name of this dish is Parmigianina Sfiziosa. My translation into English from Italian may not be adequate to describe the thinly sliced, fried eggplant layered with tomato sauce and cheese and baked before it is served with pesto and Parmesan. Discovered at a restaurant just outside the walls of Vatican City where the beautiful hum of air conditioning was again most welcome.

  • Ancora celery Caesar, San Francisco
celery Caesar salad at Ancora, San Francisco

As I wrote earlier this year, celery can have a bad rap but chef Nicholas Anichini pulled together crispy bits and crunchy flavors in a way that made sense for the anise-flavored green, amplifying the humble ingredient to a new, better-than-you-can-make-at-home place.

If you take away the harissa, Valbreso feta cheese, herbs, pickled onion, and charred scallion aioli that make this sandwich utterly irresistible, you still have the superior meat on a bun. But don’t do that. Appreciate what chef has done here and keep ALL the flavors.  

  • Sula Fuyu persimmon salad, Sausalito

The reincarnated restaurant at the Lodge at Cavallo Point unites fromage blanc, endive and red oak lettuces, dried cherry and hazelnuts with a Sherry dressing into a salad that not only showcases each ingredient’s flavor but makes the greens irresistible.

sweet potato tacos, coffee and hot sauce and a salad at Camino, San Francisco

Roasted until creamy then topped with pickled onions and radish before wrapped in a fresh blue corn tortilla, the humble sweet potato becomes something grand.

halibut sandwich at The Speakeasy, Novato, Marin County

Chef Munther Massarweh understands that less is more. Placed onto a bun (gluten-free for me), arugula and tomato and a tartar sauce plumped up with griddled lemon turns a fish sandwich from leftover fare into a centerpiece.

Other exceptional dishes:

Oysters at Paseo, Mill Valley and at Teleferic Barcelona, Los Altos, California

Lobster XO at Animo, Sonoma

Eggplant basil at Z& Y, San Francisco

Gnesdo at Birch & Rye, San Francisco

Garlic noodles with crab at Bistro Viz, San Anselmo, California

Crudo at Sorella, San Francisco

Crab wrap at Delicious Dish, Sonoma (also wrote about them in this Eater piece)

Hot dog at Schaller & Weber’s Stube, New York City

Buckwheat bhel, Sona, New York City

Sushi rice with ikura and raw beef at Ernest, San Francisco

Grilled asparagus at Table Culture Provisions, Petaluma, California

Floating pond dessert at iChina, Santa Clara, California

Rose hip salmon at Cellarius Kitchen at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Napa

Enchiladas mole poblano at Colibri, San Francisco

Stuffed gluten-free pasta at Fauno Bar, Sorrento, Italy

Gluten-free pizza at Pizza in Trevi, Rome (I would brave the Trevi crowds to eat here again)

Crudo at Big Alma, San Francisco

Lobster thermidor at The Vasper, New York City

Pork tacos at Lagunitas, Petaluma, California

Enchiladas de mole at Ofrenda, Cave Creek, Arizona

Misoyaki black cod at Anzu, San Francisco

Mushrooms at Terrene, San Francisco