The 3rd Annual Top 100 Best Things

We ask readers for their recommendations, we ask Facebook and Twitter, we check our notes, we ask friends and colleagues: what were the best things you ate and drank last year?

An alien to this planet would think we live on sweets and pasta, as they dominate the Top 100 again for the third year. On the flip side, we are seeing more votes for primary producers — one of our favourites this year was the tweet that recommended the honey crisp apple, to our way of thinking a very good thing. Top dishes come from great raw material and we won’t keep good producers in business unless we purchase their products.

Trends? Put an egg on it. Lovers of runny eggs are thrilled to bits. Everybody else, not so much.

Whichever camp you belong to, there’s much food for thought and some great eating and drinking to be done. We have room for 35 in this issue along with photos by Curtis Comeau and To Be in Pictures. Find the rest in our online edition and refer to it often.

We could publish a novel with the amount of words written about our top dish. Perhaps offered by English majors who, after a long night discussing David Foster Wallace at Three Boars, crave nourishment next door at Farrow? Keep them coming, we loved every word.

Farrow Grick Middle Sandwich

1. Farrow Grick Middle Sandwich
Andrew Ironmonger (Andrew the ironmonger?) was one of the multitude to nominate the Grick Middle sandwich from Farrow. “It is the most balanced sandwich; the soft yolk burst in the first few bites, coating sandwich and fingers in bright orange rich deliciousness; the crispness of the fresh greens and the light use of jam. Farrow incorporates local ingredients whenever they can. Their bacon alone is deserving of the award of best, custom-made by Sangudo Farms. In an ocean of over-processed, can’t-tell- if-this-egg-is-real-or-not early morning options, Farrow is the lighthouse saving the famished from drowning in artificialness.”

Uova da Raviolo

2. Bar Bricco Uova da Raviolo
A whole egg cooked inside ravioli with ricotta, then showered in a lavish dusting of pecorino. We watched Chris Hyde prep this knock-out dish early one evening — carefully cracking the egg on to a whisper-thin layer of rich eggy pasta he had made earlier that day, gently crimping the top layer, then gingerly sliding the tray into the refrigerator. Thank God eggs are good for us again. The dish is delicious shared, with a glass of bubbly in hand.

Grilled Octopus

3. Cibo Bistro Grilled Octopus
Octopus is hellishly difficult to get right, and Cibo’s dish hits the mark, tender grilled octopus with a warm cannellini bean salad in a spicy lemony vinaigrette, the smoky flavours created by the grill playing off the briny meat. Their most recent incarnation of arancini, the savoury rice balls so beloved of their customers, is wild mushroom with sage and brown butter, also a big favourite with voters. We are also fans of the richly-flavoured braised oxtail, in fact, we’re fans of the whole menu.

Pizza Bianco Rapini e Salsiccia

4. Rosso Pizzeria Pizza Bianco Rapini e Salsiccia
Is it the wood-oven fired crust with its tasty burnt bits and chewy texture? Is it the variety of toppings in the right proportions? Voters love Rosso pizza. We’ll call the white pizza with rapini and fennel sausage the winner but the funghi dal bosco breakfast pizza and the classic red- sauced Rosso with spicy soppressata also have rabid fans.

Tagliatelle Bolognese

5. Corso 32 Tagliatelle Bolognese
A perennial favourite with diners and Top 100 voters due to its depth of flavour, savouriness and perfect texture. Soulful cooking abounds in this stylish room; refreshing rainbow trout with almonds, radicchio, cavolo nero and pink lady apple; the cavatelli with the pork and fennel sausage ragu; sweet and sour beets with pistachios and aged ricotta, it’s all delicious.

6. Privada Wine and Tapas Charcuterie and Bread Plate
What one voter had to say; “Privada has a wonderful ambiance and offers tasty variety in a small menu. Cheeses and fresh-made bread are a terrific start to the meal. The two young chefs’ daily specials offer great creative variety and are always mouth-wateringly delicious. Owner Kaylan Como and his staff welcome customers and take time to explain the chef’s offering. A special mention to our favourite server Melissa whose vivacious attitude always enhances the dining experience.”.
Beet and Pear Salad

7. Rge RD Beet and Pear Salad
One reader rhapsodized about the beet and pear salad, another the Scotch eggs, and let’s not forget the unmentionable bits, where chef/ owner Blair Lebsack does culinary alchemy with the parts of the animal we would rather not think about. So many wonderful dishes in a room that makes us feel as though we’re in a rock star’s farmhouse. Another accolade, reaching number four on EnRoute’s 2014 Canada’s Best New Restaurants list. Bravo!

Sunworks Farms

8. Sunworks Farms
Sunworks has a lot of fans, particularly for their organic, practically hand-raised chicken. Owner Ron Hamilton spends almost every Saturday morning grilling turkey sausage for Old Strathcona Market shoppers to try before they buy. We applaud their dedication to raising good food.

House-Made Goat Ricotta

9. Corso 32 House-Made Goat Ricotta with Rosemary Oil, Maldon Salt and Crostini
House-made soft cheese served with crostini. Simple? You bet. Easy? Not on your life. The reason people tell us they dream about this appetizer? The perfect balance of flavours — oil, sea salt, cream and toast. Try to have just one.

Pastrami Pork Cheeks

10. Ampersand 27 Pastrami Pork Cheeks, Braised Red Cabbage and Rye Spaetzle with Sauerkraut Crème
There’s a lot to love about Ampersand 27’s menu; the excellent flatbreads, the large and small plates, the pickle menu, but it was this dish captured the voter’s attention. Served with braised red cabbage, crunchy rye spaetzle and sauerkraut gentled with cream, Ampersand 27’s version of pork with red cabbage is a modern take on a traditionally humble dish. The cheeks are brined, dried, seasoned to chef Nathan Bye’s specifications, then lightly soaked and steamed, typical of the care and attention of this kitchen.

11. Cavern Ploughman’s Lunch
Many shout outs on Twitter for the Cavern’s ploughman’s lunch, a riff on the classic English board of cheese, pickles and bread. Caverns’ version may include Canadian cheddar, or one of their other well-conditioned cheeses, slices of baguette, piquant chutney and pickled onions. Have it with Newcastle Brown Ale and raise a glass to the queen.
12. Sabor Bacon-Wrapped Dates
We’re loving the direction Sabor restaurant is moving in, with more fresh Ocean Wise fish and many voters’ favourite, bacon-wrapped dates.
Warm Brioche

13. Wildflower Grill Warm Brioche
The warm brioche served at the Wildflower Grill is a reminder that it’s the grace note that people remember — the friendly smile while taking your coat, the amuse bouche and this incredible house- made, just-baked, crispy-crusted warm brioche. The little things do count — they create true hospitality.

Three Point Vodka

14. Three Point Vodka Eau Claire Distillery
Alberta-grown spirit from Turner Valley. Small batch, premium priced, put it on your wish list, it’s that good.

15. Thanh Thanh Noodle House Beef with Lemongrass in Spicy Coconut Sauce
Charles Rothman was the first to talk about Thanh Thanh’s toothsome beef dish. Thanks Charles!
16. Red Star Pub Grilled Cheese
Not your typical pub food and not your typical grilled cheese. Though, what does typical mean anyway? All pubs should have food this good.
17. Earth’s General Store Organic Espresso Blend Coffee
“This espresso blend of three roasts is my daily morning mantra,” said Scott Whetham.
Drinks at Three Boars

18. Drinks at Three Boars
Best beers @ThreeBoars said the tweets. We wanted something more specific so asked barkeep Chuck Elves for the most popular drink these days. He said:

Gins & Needles

1¾ oz Spirit Bear gin
¼ oz Dolin dry vermouth
½ oz Spruce Syrup
Dash Scrappy’s cardamom bitters

Stir and strain into glass

Float Fernet Branca on top

Riverbend Gardens

19. Riverbend Gardens Fresh Corn
“Fresh corn from Riverbend Gardens. Love that Janelle and her family work that beautiful piece of land so we can have such amazing vegetables all summer. Hats off to Janelle,” said Cindy Jewell. Cindy, you said it! Riverbend Gardens is a city treasure.

Popcorn Chicken

20. North 53 Popcorn Chicken
North 53 has simplified their offerings, created a more casual atmosphere, and the cooking of chef Filliep Lament is seriously good. Twitter raves about the popcorn chicken pictured here. We also like the whole roasted chicken with the haggis-influenced stuffing. Yup, oats and innards, try it if you dare.

21. Hardware Grill Buffalo Mozzarella on a Crostini
Crystal Armstrong talks about the perfect bite at Hardware Grill. “Buffalo mozzarella on a crostini laced with fennel jam made in houseand a little salt — so crazy delicious, it was like a happy new year fireworks party with each sweet, savoury, creamy bite.”

22. Duchess Bakeshop Croissant
Buttery, flaky scrumptiousness. Their macaroon remains the most sought after in town.

Tzin Wine Tapas bacon apple crostini

23. Irvings Farm Bacon Apple Crostini at Tzin Wine & Tapas
Chef Corey McGuire makes tasty food out of the tiniest kitchen in town. There’s no lack of big flavours from the small space, such as the popular bacon and apple tapa— braised Irving’s bacon with a smidge of apple-scented mayo and apple compote accented with maple syrup and balsamic, finished with a bit of Calvados (Normandy apple brandy) gastrique on a crostini.

24. Rostizado Chilean Sea Bass Ceviche
Rostizado’s Chilean sea bass ceviche comes highly recommended from the twitterverse.
25. X1X Nineteen Ahi Tuna Twist
X1X Nineteen’s ahi tuna appetizer served on a spoon with spicy Thai noodles and a garnish of Asian-inspired slaw is still a winner. Voters’ also love the winter menu’s deeply-flavoured lamb shanks.
26. Café Blackbird Blackbird Pie
Many voters like the vegetarian pie at this new Crestwood café, including Sylvia Cheverie; “Super yummy creamy mushroom pie, a must try if you’re in the west end.”
27. Cally’s Teas Scones
This whimsical teashop on Whyte Avenue has a very good baker. The scones are exactly as they should be; delicately textured, best eaten with a slather of jam and a cup of tea.
Polish Blood Sausage Eggs Benedict

28. New York Bagel Café Polish Blood Sausage Eggs Benedict
Another delish offering via Charles Rothman — blood sausage eggs benny at the south side’s New York Bagel Café.

29. Continental Treat Fine Bistro Goulash with Potato Pancake
A must eat at the Whyte Avenue fixture is their richly-flavoured goulash with the crispy potato pancake. Voters also love the warm atmosphere of the room and the dill pickle soup.
30. Tres Carnales Fish Tacos
What’s not to love about the fish tacos at Tres Carnales?
Little Italy Pasta

31. Little Italy Pasta Chicken Prosciutto Mac and Cheese
Little Italy Pasta in Acheson has loyal and happy customers who love the chicken prosciutto mac and cheese and the spicy escarole with sausage and tomatoes.

32. Whimsical Cakes Bacon Caramels
We were bombarded with online odes to Whimsical Cakes, generally containing several exclamation marks. Intrigued, we went and discovered new ownership with a whole new vibe plus some delish candy. Voters love the not red red velvet cupcake (a well-made vanilla cupcake) and the bacon caramels.
33. Empress Bakery Bismarck
The Bismarck, aka the jelly donut, is just not worth it if it’s not done right. Why spend all those sugar calories on something meh? This simple bakery near K&K makes the prefect Bismarck — yeasty, jammy, optional sugar dusting, as far from meh as you can get. Get them when they’re warm at 11am. But don’t wait too long, they’re gone by noon.
Hazeldean Bakery

34. Hazeldean Bakery Apple Fritter
If we’re going to chat about bismarcks we have to chat about apple fritters and the best are at the Hazeldean Bakery for about a dollar. It’s what fried dough aspires to, crispy and sweet with an ethereally light and fluffy interior.

35. The Honeycrisp Apple
The most delicious apple developed in Canada in the past 50 years.
36. “The pork belly with steel cut oats at Three Boars is phenomenal. I think it is the best dish in Edmonton.” – Mandy MacRae
37. The Glass Monkey’s pappardelle,
made with house-made noodles and slow-roasted pork shoulder, envelops the diner in a blanket of earthy wild mushroom-scented luxuriousness.
38. The Marc’s
Customers adore their prix-fixe menus created by chef Brian Cruz celebrating the Alsace, and new this year, the Loire Valley. Delish food and drink at a very good price in deepest darkest January when we need it most.
39. The west end Italian Centre pizza
Thin, and crispy, with the ideal ratio of topping to sauce and crust.
40. The Common’s chicken potpie and chicken and waffles
have a stellar rep with our readers; we’re also fans of their pan-roasted salmon and the spaghetti squash with pine nuts and feta. Love the Common’s reasonable portion size.
41. Readers love Bonton Bakery’s cranberry raisin nut bread, the stone-ground whole wheat and hazelnut mille-feuille. We also like the robust selection of condiments and dips for last-minute dinner parties and hostess gifts.
42. The Sugarbowl’s lamb burger is a perennial on the Tomato Top 100 — goat cheese and juicy, savoury lamb, served with crispy fries and their house-made catsup.
43. We are huge fans of Izakaya Tomo ending up there more times a week than we would like to admit. Favourites? Tonpei yaki, omelette, pork and cabbage with okonomi and fluttering bonito flakes; also the richly flavoured pork belly in broth, delicate salad rolls, seaweed salad, Japanese beers and the credible saké list.
44. Drift Food Truck’s pork belly sandwich. Can’t wait to check out their new resto on 124 street, opening in late spring.
45. Winter City Signature Drinks
Top two drinks: a tea-spiced eggnog and a Manhattan-ish cocktail called the Traveling Mercies. We’re just happy we live in a city that has a signature drink. See this month’s Wine Maven.
46. Characters Fine Dining
Undoubtedly the most affordable wine list in town, with some outstanding verticals and icon wines worth the splurge.
47. Boulangerie Bakery’s purple wheat bread.
48. Bar Bricco’s panzanella salad (seasonal).
49. The Italian Centre sandwich, the almost foot long beauty of a bun, layered with cold cuts, cheeses and special sauce, is preferred by legions of fireman and footballs alike.
50. The carnivore’s delight, Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse and the grilled linguiça de porco, aka pork sausage.
51. Dauphine Bakery’s high tea.
The charming spot on 104 street offers a lavish and delicious high tea — keep in mind you must book two days in advance.
52. “The rib eye steaks from Acme Meat Market, melt in your mouth buttery goodness.” – Sandra Keating
53. Mona Mushrooms keeps good cooks inimpeccably fresh and dried mushrooms all year long.
54. 7-Eleven Jamaican beef patties.
Whaaaa? The tweet came from Western Living’s Tracy Hyatt who knows her way around flavours. We were so intrigued we not only hustled over to 7Eleven to try one, we asked Tracy to write a story about them. Find it in the May/June Tomato.
55. Love Bua Thai pretty, intimate room, the beef salad with its spicy dressing gentled by cooling mint, and banana leaf-wrapped halibut with fresh basil and lime leaves.
56. Peas on Earth veggies.
The Peas on Earth stand at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market is a Saturday ritual for many readers.
57. Gramma Bears butter tarts, found at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market, remain an all-time favourite treat of Tomato readers.
58. Confetti Sweets cookies — all of them.
59. Cookie Love’s ice cream sandwiches
60. Shanghai 456 xiao long bao (steamed pork buns) and wor tip (fried beef dumplings). If you crave dumplings like we crave dumplings, go here.
61. Manor Bistro’s nasi goring.
62. Our readers love Pinocchio Ice Cream’s coconut, bacio and eggnog flavours best of all. We love the single serving size, a manageable indulgence.
63. Paddy’s Cheese carries exceptional British cheeses from London’s Neil’s Yard Dairy along with superb Alberta cheeses.
64. Emily Swan had this to say about The Ticket Eatery: “The owner is down to earth and, when he first opened, was the only guy running the show. If I were to nominate one bite (which is difficult) it would be the Devine Swine pizza. The combination of back bacon, sliced fig, caramelized onion, and fresh mozza is to die for.”
65. Sun Dog vegetables.
66. Inhale the intoxicating, full-on aromas of Zinter Brown’s mint sauce. Pour over steamed carrots, or have with hot or cold meats.
67. The Cheesiry Pecorino and in season, the creamy and speadable Fresco. New this year are limited production cows milk cheeses.
68. “Green chilaquilas from Three Amigos in Duggan, “ Cindy Gange-Harris
69. “How about the shepherds pie at The Dish?” – Al Cosh
70. Piccolino Bistro’s mussels
71. Seggiano Fig Ball (seasonal) just the ticket for a holiday cheese board.
72. Faith Cisareira is a big fan of Elm Cafe’s grilled cheese sandwich, “the mushroom and spinach specifically.”
73. We can’t imagine life without Gull Valley tomatoes
74. “The pork shoulder paired with a sharp Asian slaw at TZiN. It’s a new addition to their menu, smoky and fantastic.”
75. VestaGardens heirloom tomatoes
76. West Country Herbs
Greg from West Country Herbs keeps good cooks in basil almost year round, as well as sturdy thyme, arugula and rosemary plants for the garden.
77. “The Irish from Sailin’ On’s food truck is divine! I just wish it was available in the winter.”- Calli Stromner. We also love the coconut chip bacon and their toothsome curry sauce-laden fries.
78. “Chef Matt Phillips where’s the beef arancini?” – Eva Pang
79. The Violet Chocolate Company. “Unbelievable chocolate!”- Cara Agar
80. SABOR_YEG Cornish Hen
81. Feast & Lounge’s breakfast cinnamon buns and badass biscuits.
82. Bloom Cookie Co. cinnamon sugar cookie
And the maple coconut bacon cookie made with Sailin’ On’s coconut bacon.
83. “Any wine off the enomatic at The Wine Room as described by Brian Welsh,” says Cindy Gange-Harris.
84. “The 70 per cent Brazilian dark chocolate bar from Choklat!” says Leanne Vicen.
85. We have it on good authority (Corso 32’s Ramon Miranda no less) that Ralph’s Handy Mart, near the Red Ox Inn, has amazing fried chicken.
86. Phil’s Fudge Factory maple walnut fudge, maple bacon fudge and, the salted caramel roll.
87. Chelsey Peters-Elliott wrote, “Frickin’ Delights donuts! All of them but, seriously try the Earl Grey.”
88. The Glass Monkey burger with Sylvan Star Gouda — love the chunky grind of the burger.
89. From Facebook: Is heaven potato chips in the burger? We think so. The BBQ Crunch burger at Jacks Burger Shack and also their fry dip, a malt vinegar aioli.
90. Readers are loving the Korean-style pickled brussel’s sprouts with ginger and chili and the spicy tropical dills with pineapple made by Mojo Jojo’s Pickles. Find at Strathcona farmers market.
91. Edmonton Heritage Fest’s mango lassi
92. Bliss Bakery’s maple cinnamon Danish.
93. “I nominate the amazing pork from Serben Free Range Farm. “ Teri Coombes
94. Golden Rice Bowl dim sum
95. Metro Cinema’s popcorn. Bet you can’t go to the Garneau Theatre and not have some.
96. Tuna tataki at St Albert’s Ohana-Ya
97. Coffee and the caramels at the District Coffee Co.
98. “The popcorn chicken hearts at Daravara Pub are top of my list.”
99. “Must say that the local, organic huge beef tenderloin at the Harvest Room is the best steak I have ever had in my life!”
100. “My vote for best ever of anything is Country Kitchen Mustard, specifically the tequila lime. It’s crazy good.” – Liam Taylor
101. The UofA Heritage Egg Program eggs. Check out their website.