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The Best Meals We Ate in All of 2011

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As is the tradition at Eater, we're rounding up the year with a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers and others to get a feel for the highlights and lowlights of the last year in eating in New Orleans. Earlier today we talked Biggest Dining Surprises. Now it's time for the best meals we ate all year, with responses related to you here in no particular order.

Herbsaint500EOY.jpgDining room at Herbsaint. [Photo: yelp / Damon R.]

Question: What was your single best meal of 2011?

Andrew Marin, Twitter personality: Mike Stoltzfus's Coquette in June. Fried oysters with ramp ranch. Pork belly with pickled peaches and black garlic. Chocolate cake with horchata ice cream and strawberries.

Paul Tuennerman, aka Mr. Cocktail, Tales of the Cocktail: My last Meal!

Randy Fertel, author, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: Le Bernardin.

Colleen Rush, editor, I've been asking chefs this question for the last few weeks, thinking it's the easiest question in the world to answer, but it really isn't. I can rattle off a list of individual dishes that are permanently embossed on my food memory palate, but "best meal" covers more territory than a single dish. So I choose Lilette because I had one meal that was ? start to finish ? about as flawless as it gets. Service, food, atmosphere ? they just nailed it. When I die, I want to come back as a bowl of seafood bouillabaisse from Lilette, and I want Ruth Bourdain to eat me.

Emily Smith, blogger, Fleurdelicious: The duck confit at Herbsaint. It's life-changing.

Brett Michael Dykes, aka Cajun Boy at Uproxx: I popped into Herbsaint with a friend who was visiting from New York on a rainy night during the summer and had a meal that I didn't want to end. Everything about it was perfect ? the food, the beverages, the service, and the company ? everything. It was one of those meals on one of those nights that just made me appreciate being alive. Oh, and I'll add this: Over the past year and half, I've made a practice of ordering gumbo at any restaurant that serves it so I can taste and compare, and Herbsaint's gumbo is my favorite in New Orleans, with the gumbo at Patois coming in a close second.

Rene Louapre, Blackened Out: Lunch at Sant Pau in St. Pol de Mer, Spain. I tend to like female chef restaurants more, must be some strange Oedipal complex. But there is more attention to detail, more refinement, more comfort in restaurants run by women. That meal was simply incredible. And now I have a huge crush on Carme Ruscalleda.

Lorin Gaudin, New Orleans Food Goddess: It was a gorgeous, inventive tasting menu at Green Goddess, with my husband and kids. We sat at a table on the alley in perfect weather, sippin fabulous cocktails, stunning wine, and every single bite of food was better than the bite before; and in Brooklyn, at Fort Defiance, the King Bee (honey comb vodka infused with darjeeling tea, lemon and prosecco) cocktails and the chicken liver pate with toasts, continues to be a dream invader.

Lauren Bierbaum, Associate Director, Partnership for Youth Development:  I think my favorite meals of 2011 were all boils, so that's a credit to my friends who perfect their own spice blends, but also to KJean's and the shrimpers of Crescent City Farmers Market.

Ray Cannata, minister, The Man Who Ate New Orleans: Too many!  I hate to be cliched, but its hard to top the Chef's Table at Commander's for our wedding anniversary.  

Fran Merkley, Events Manager, Pat O'Brien's: Birthday meal at Sylvain.

Alexander Hancock, editor, Eater NOLA: Cochon the weekend before Mardi Gras this year. A great meal is so much more than just the quality of the food. It's the feeling of authenticity and originality, it's the cocktails, the wine, the service, the people you're with, what you did before the meal and after and countless other variables. All told, that was one of the best overall dining experiences of my life.

Where was your best meal this year? Leave it in the comments.


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