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All About Food:

Naming the top 10 tastes of 2009

January 01, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

It’s time for another one of those top 10 lists. This is a list, in no particular order, of the favorite dishes that we’ve eaten this year. What it’s not is a list of the 10 best restaurants in Laguna. That list would probably be pretty much the same from one year to the next, with an occasional newcomer or a shift in the order. We try to eat and report on all kinds of restaurants in town and we have found that if you order well, there is something enjoyable in each one of them. So, here are our 10 favorite dishes for ’09.

1 The opening of Watermarc, with its small plate menu brought us a number of tasty new dishes but our favorite was the warm, blue cheese pear tart. Three bite-sized crunchy pastry cups all in a row, were filled with mild, melted blue cheese and topped with tiny cubes of red wine-poached pears. They were absolutely marvelous. The buttery crust, the perfect marriage of blue cheese and pear, and the slight sweetness from the red wine syrup added up to a compelling combination.

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2 At Brussels Bistro, mussels is the dish to order. The mussels themselves are delicious: small, sweet and tender with six different preparations offered. We thought the Provençal was fabulous. The slightly licorice flavor from the Pastis and the thin shreds of basil were the perfect marriage for the light tomato broth, accented with big chunks of lightly cooked fresh tomatoes. The juices at the bottom of the casserole pot were simply irresistible, and we soaked them up with their very good, very crusty French bread. Monday through Wednesday they offer a special “all you can eat” dinner of mussels with Belgian fries and a free beer or glass of wine for $24 and if you ask for more, you can choose them prepared a different way.

3 From the small plate menu at Café Zinc, we loved the spanakopita. The filo dough had just a few layers, so that it was flaky and crispy all the way through. It was wrapped around a superb filling of spinach and feta cheese flavored with dill — one of the best we’ve ever had. It comes with a cup of Tuscan white bean soup and some spears of braised asparagus on a bit of salad. The fresh tasting soup was a very light, delicate tomato broth accented by a few large white beans and diced potatoes, then finished with a touch of rosemary and spiciness.

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