The JBF editors collectively checked in at hundreds of restaurants and events in 2010; here are a dozen dishes that made us sit up and pay attention (and lick our plates clean):
Curtis Duffy's Alaskan King Crab with Cucumber Consommé, Kalamansi, Floral Cream, and Lemon Balm at the James Beard Awards
The ingredient list reads like a perfume label, but there was nothing overpowering about this dish: the aromatics perfectly complemented the creamy chunks of crab. We also loved the Grant Achatz protégé’s artful presentation.
Linton Hopkin's Roast South Carolina Pigeon with Riverview Farms Cornbread, Cruze Farm Buttermilk, Wild Watercress, and Giblet Gravy at the James Beard House
The cornbread–buttermilk sauce was the real star of this modern Southern dish, a concoction that was part purée, part sauce, and totally delicious and unique.
Michael White's Fusilli with Baby Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea in NYC
It has been written about by just about every food writer since Marea opened in 2009, and for good reason. We couldn’t make a list of standouts without including Michael White’s stellar dish of fresh pasta tossed with braised baby octopus, San Marzano tomatoes, and silky bone marrow topped with garlicky breadcrumbs.
Donald Link's Fried Rabbit Liver with Fresh Herbs, Pepper Jelly, and Pickles at Cochon in New Orleans
If you've ever had rabbit liver, even if you liked it, put it out of your mind. A crostino that eats like a meal, Link's crisp-fried rabbit liver is sweetened and spiced by a homemade pepper jelly. The vinegar of the pickles cuts through the richness. And the herbs add the harmony to this jazzy hors d'oeuvre.
Biscuit Sandwich with Fried Chicken, Egg, Bacon, and Cheese at Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon
It's impossible to wrap your mouth around this caloric tower of deliciousness, but the struggle with knife and fork is worth it. It's hard to decide which part is better: the crisp, juicy, freshly fried chicken, or the giant, warm, flaky biscuit. It's all good, even better washed down with a great cup of locally roasted coffee, of course.
Sam Hayward's High-Bush Blueberry and Pound Cake Trifle at Fore Street in Portland, Maine
When he served this amazing dessert, JBF Award winner Sam Hayward was needled by locals for using high-bush berries instead of Maine's low-bush pride and joy. But we had no bush to pick. This summery trifle, with a rich custard and buttery pound cake, kissed with lemon, was a revelation.
Chicken-Liver Mousse at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, NY
It's decadent and rich—you just can't stop eating it. And it comes with delicious vinegar onions that help cut through that richness.
Barbecued Ribs at Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City, Kansas
As if the long line that snakes around the dining room and out the door of this bbq-joint-cum-gas-station-minimart isn't indication enough, one bite and you know you've found the ribs you were looking for. Tender, juicy, redolent of spice but with a definite porkiness that shines through, only two words come to mind as you drift into barbecue bliss: nice rack!
George Mavrothalassitis’s Onaga Baked in a Hawaiian Salt Crust at Chef Mavro in Honolulu
Featured on the chef's Hana Hou (greatest hits) menu, this prized local snapper is delivered to your table encased in its crust, which is then removed. The fish, which is served with a fines herb–ogo seaweed sauce, was moist and delicate, but the drama of the presentation is what really set this dish apart.
Karen DeMasco’s Sweet Corn Budino with Blueberries and Cornmeal Shortbread at Chefs & Champagne
This sunny dessert from the James Beard Award–winning pastry chef gives new meaning to corn pudding. Get the recipe here and keep it on hand for July when blueberries are in season.
Washed-rind raw-milk goat cheese from Twig Farm in West Cornwall, Vermont
Our associate editor brought home an entire wheel of this tangy, semi-soft cheese after her weekend of dairy-farm hopping in Vermont. Twig Farm’s Alpine, Nubian, and Saanen goats like to nibble on the bark of surrounding juniper trees, which contributes to the striking terroir of this unforgettable cheese. (You can view a list of shops that sell Twig Farm products here.)
Matthew Lightner’s Licorice Root with Streusel and Tahitian Vanilla at the James Beard House
Mr. Lightner staged under Andoni Aduriz several years ago, and when we tasted this dessert, it was clear that the young West Coast chef had absorbed the Spaniard’s talent for trompe l’oeil. Ash-crusted salsify root posed as and tasted exactly like a rope of black licorice, joined by nutty streusel and vanilla ice cream. It was the most delicious and successful dish we’ve tried from this visionary chef.